On January 29, 2019, TechCrunch released an investigation finding that Facebook had been paying users as young as 13 for unlimited access to their data. Facebook marketed the application, not available through the iOS app store, to users aged 13-to-35 by offering to pay $20 per month plus referral fees for downloading and using a “Facebook Research” app. The app, once downloaded, provided Facebook with unrestricted access to all private data on the users iPhone including messages, photos and videos, and website usage. This was not the first app launched by Facebook to track user’s data, Apple removed a similar app called Onavo from the app store in 2018. This app is a clear violation of the 2011 consent decree Facebook signed with the Federal Trade Commission.
Ever since the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, concerns surrounding data privacy and protection have been growing. Both government agencies and individual users have particularly been concerned on how their data is being collected and used on social media websites such as Facebook. Germany has taken action in response to such concerns and recently took a step against Facebook’s collection of data in a decision that outlawed Facebook’s entire advertisement regime.
In order to operate, non-profit organizations rely heavily on the ability to fundraise. The government leaves the regulation of that “charitable solicitation” to individual states, with most requiring formal registration to engage in such activities. With firms vying for organizations’ business to hire consultants to obtain funds, and ethics and oversight firms highlighting the careful approaches that must be utilized to appropriately raise funds for non-profit operations, charitable organizations may find themselves confused and threatened in the space between needing charitable solicitation to survive and maintaining regulatory compliance to engage in the activity itself. While the threats of penalties and sanctions are large and imposing, it appears that few organizations ever face their true weight. Charitable organizations must, of course, comply with each state of registration, but is the fear instilled equal to the reality of the consequences of non-compliance?
The current Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and former Loyola University Chicago School of Law professor Eric D. Hargan was sworn into his position as the Deputy Secretary on October 6, 2017. Since then, he has been working on assisting providers to help them better understand the intricacies of the Stark law by gathering provider concerns about present governing efforts. All of this work is being done in an effort to shift the healthcare system away from fee-for-service care and towards value-based care in what Hargan is calling the “Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care.” Hargan stated that “removing unnecessary government obstacles to care coordination is a key priority for this Administration.”
On January 15, 2019, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to update its federal regulations governing the use of certain cannabis-derived ingredients in food, beverages and dietary supplements. As writers of the Hemp Farming Act, Wyden and Merkley, initiated the removal of the hemp plant and derivatives of Cannabis sativa from the list of controlled substances under the Controlled Substance Act. The Hemp Farming Act passed as a provision in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and thus, legalized the production and sale of industrial hemp and hemp-derived compounds, including cannabidiol (CBD).
Roe v. Wade has been a controversial Supreme Court decision ever since it was decided in 1973. Critics have tried to overturn it multiple times over the years. Some states have attempted to circumvent the ruling and implement their own abortion laws, while other states have implemented laws to solidify it in the event the decision is overturned. On the 46th anniversary of the opinion, New York passed a new abortion law called the Reproductive Health Act, which has caused an uproar across the country. In addition, this month the Supreme Court ruled to stay on a Louisiana Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (“TRAP”) law. The question becomes how will states comply with the ruling of Roe v. Wade when its future seems unknown.
All attorneys, in every jurisdiction in which they are admitted to the bar and in every area of practice, have an obligation to comply with that jurisdiction’s Rules of Professional Conduct. However, the past few decades have shed light on the unusual practices of attorneys in the entertainment industry, particularly on how they handle conflicts of interest. Generally, these attorneys encourage clients to waive conflicts of interest, and those clients are all too happy to do so. This practice only serves to further blur the lines in an already complicated area of legal ethics.
On December 22, 2018, for the third time in a year, the United States government shut down. Almost two years into his presidency, President Trump, feeling pressure to accomplish one of his many promises from the campaign trail, requested $5.7 billionfrom Congress to fund his proposed wall at the border of the United States and Mexico. Following negotiation efforts by Senate Democrats, the standoff between the President and the Senate ended in a financial default, triggering a partial shutdown. The shutdown became the longest in U.S. history on January 19, 2019, beating the previous 21-day recordset by the 1995-1996 shutdown. The shutdown left an estimated 380,000 government employeeslocked out of work without pay and an even greater 420,000 employees working for no compensation at all, including employees of the IRS. With one of the United States’ most important governmental bodies being almost completely stalled by a lapse in funding, it begs the question: what happens to taxes during a shutdown?
Although the nation’s longest-ever government shutdown has ended, agencies forced to furlough employees and shutter temporarily are still facing the effects of the funding gap. On January 25th, President Trump agreed to sign a continuing resolution that will reopen and fund the federal government through February 15th. The government reboot means that the roughly 800,000 federal employees furloughed or forced to work without pay should expect to receive their back pay soon, but the thirty-five-day suspension of government functions comes with significant aftershock. While various regulatory agencies scramble to address their backlog of work, life for Americans who interact with these agencies has been hindered indefinitely.
On January 28, 2019 the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released Regulatory Notice 19-04 announcing a 529 Plan Share Class Initiative encouraging firms to self-report potential violations. Broker-Dealers are encouraged to consider self-reporting under the initiative if they have identified specified failures in connection with 529 plan recommendations, and have the ability to assess the impact of the failures. Firms have until April 1st to notify FINRA in writing if it has decided to self-report.