Welcome to the third edition of the Revolving Door Project’s Corporate Crackdown Project newsletter! Presented by the people who infuriate the sponsors of other newsletters.
Every two weeks, we’ll be sending a summary of what the Biden administration has and hasn’t done to police and publicize white-collar crimes and big business abuses. Check out our reports on specific Cabinet departments and our piece for Democracy Journal on “What Biden’s Message Should Be”!
If you have any feedback, suggestions, criticisms, or what-have-you, get in touch any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we have…
9 Hits: Closing in on toxins, the EPA is ramping up its enforcement by banning the use of weedkiller diuron and increasing its detection of PFAS chemicals in public water. Plus, the SEC’s new ‘Cyber Unit’ and DOL officials are keeping a close eye on the inclusion of cryptocurrency in Fidelity’s 401k plan.
10 New Cases: Why is the Biden Administration subsidizing Amazon’s anti-union activities by approving another $10 billion federal contract with the company? And on Wall Street, banks continue to profit off of predatory overdraft fees, while the CIA’s venture capital fund is circumventing disclosure laws by investing in a SPAC.
Additional Reading: This thread of FTC Chair Lina Khan’s incredible accomplishments, from American Economic Liberties Project Executive Director Sarah Miller.
The CFPB Fined Bank Of America $10 Million For Illegal Garnishments Of Thousands Of Customers Accounts. “The CFPB’s order requires Bank of America to refund or cancel imposed fees from unlawful garnishments, review and reform its system for processing garnishments, and pay a $10 million civil penalty.” [CFPB, 5/4/22]
The Biden Administration Reduced The Lands Available For Drilling In The Arctic. “The administration announced on Monday that it would return to an Obama administration plan that would enable the government to lease up to 52 percent of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas exploration. It reverses a Trump-era plan that would have opened up 82 percent of the reserve.” [The Hill, 4/25/22]
SEC Chair Gary Gensler Reiterated Concerns With Lack Of Bond Trading Transparency. “‘The academic research overwhelmingly finds that post-trade transparency improves efficiency and competition in the markets they serve, Gensler said in prepared remarks to the City Week conference hosted in London.” [Politico, 4/26/22]
Apple Opened A Self-Repair Store After Enforcement Pressure Against Repair Restrictions From The FTC. “The launch of the store on Wednesday comes after advocates for the ‘right to repair’ movement long pressured lawmakers and tech companies to give consumers the option to fix gadgets themselves.” [CNN, 4/27/22]
The EPA Proposed Rules To End The Use Of Weedkiller Diuron Due To Cancer Risks. “EPA has proposed to end the use of the weedkiller diuron on most food crops, citing cancer risks to people who are exposed as well as danger to bees and other wildlife.” [E&E, 4/29/22]
The SEC Doubled Its Crypto Enforcement Team To 50 Full-Time Staffers. “The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced Tuesday that it will close to double its cryptocurrency enforcement division, adding another 20 positions to the Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit — which has been newly renamed from the ‘Cyber Unit.’” [The Verge, 5/3/22]
CFPB Director Rohit Chopra Announced It Would Revive A Mostly Unused Procedure To Examine Fintech Firms. “The CFPB said Monday it is reviving a mostly unused procedure to examine nonbank companies that it believes pose risks to consumers, in a move that expands the bureau’s authority to regulate financial technology firms.” [Politico Morning Money, 4/26/22]
The Department of Labor Said It Had “Grave Concerns” With Fidelity’s Move To Include Bitcoin Among Investment Options In 401ks It Manages. “The move by Fidelity, which administers 401(k)-style accounts for more than 20 million participants, came weeks after the Labor Department published guidance on March 10 highlighting serious concerns about cryptocurrencies in 401(k) plans.” [The Wall Street Journal, 4/28/22]
The EPA Announced Three Avenues To Protect The Public From PFAS Chemicals In Water. “The actions announced today advance progress under the Biden-Harris Administration’s Plan to Combat PFAS Pollution by improving methods to detect PFAS in water, reducing PFAS discharges into our nation’s waters, and protecting fish and aquatic ecosystems from PFAS.” [EPA, 4/28/22]
CASES RELEVANT TO CURRENT RULEMAKINGS
Accountable.US Found Major Wall Street Banks Made $1.2 Billion On Predatory Overdraft Fees Which The CFPB’s Proposed Rules On Overdraft Fees Would Prevent. “Accountable.US found seven major banks raked in $1.2 billion worth of overdraft and non-sufficient fund fees in 2021 – amounting to over 12% of the nearly $10 billion in profits they made in the same year.” [Accountable.US, 4/26/22]
The CIA’s Venture Capital Arm Aims To Buy An Arms Contractor Through A SPAC To Avoid Disclosure Laws, Which The SEC’s Newly-Proposed SPAC Regulations Could Prevent. “TOP LEADERSHIP FOR Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, have quietly launched a separate “blank check” fund that stands to fuel astronomical fortunes for former intelligence officials.” [The Intercept, 5/5/22]
Senator Sanders Called On The Biden Administration To Stop Federal Contracts To Companies Violating Labor Laws. “He’s urging Biden to create a new executive order that prevents companies that violate labor law from being eligible for government contracts. And asked if Biden has fallen short in his union support thus far as president, Sanders said bluntly in an interview: ‘Yes, he has.’” [Politico, 4/24/22]
Senator Elizabeth Warren Endorsed Three Different Legal Methods For The Executive Branch To Override Drug Patents In A Letter To HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This letter describes three of these tools: the ‘government patent use power’ codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1498, and the Bayh-Dole Act’s ‘royalty-free license’ and ‘march-in rights.’ These tools are integral, longstanding, and legitimate parts of our patent system. Together, their directed use can help the government obtain fair prices for prescription drugs.” [Letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, 4/22/22]
A Sweeping Buzzfeed News Investigation Found Under KKR’s Ownership, Deaths And Staff Turnover Skyrocketed For A Provider Of Services For Severely Intellectually Or Developmentally Handicapped People. “KKR focused on expanding the business even as a crisis mounted in its group home division, where conditions grew so dire that nurses and caretakers quit in droves, a state prohibited the company from accepting new residents, and some of the most vulnerable people in its care suffered and died.” [Buzzfeed News, 4/25/22]
The Securities And Exchange Commission Can Require Public Companies To Disclose How Their Executive Bonuses Are Tied To Corporate Performance, Which Bloomberg Tax Data Shows Is Rarely The Case. “Corporate-governance advocates want the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to spell out more about how they calculate the financial metrics they use for bonuses, and how executive pay is tied to performance more broadly.” [Bloomberg Tax, 4/25/22]
Evergreen Action Laid Out A Multipart Plan To Update Anti-Pollution Regulations On The Power Sector. “We know that stronger standards are needed to regulate fossil fuel power plants—as they are a major source of air and water pollution, and many of these safeguards are now woefully outdated.” [Evergreen Action, 4/28/22]
Starbucks Planned To Exclude Newly-Unionized Locations From A Round Of Pay Raises And Benefits, Which Is Potentially Illegal Worker Discrimination. “Starbucks announced Tuesday that it was raising pay and expanding training at corporate-owned locations in the United States. But it said the changes would not apply to the recently unionized stores, or to stores that may be in the process of unionizing, such as those where workers have filed a petition for a union election.” [NYT, 5/3/22]
The DOJ’s Corporate Prosecutions Reached Historic Lows During Biden’s First Year. “Only 90 corporations either pled guilty or were found guilty of federal crimes in 2021, despite ostensible policy shifts by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) toward tougher enforcement.” [Public Citizen, 4/25/22]
Biden Can Refer The Postal Service’s Decision To Buy A Gas-Powered Fleet To The Council On Environmental Quality And Potentially Overrule Corporate Trumpist Louis DeJoy. “[F]aulty assumptions led the USPS to grossly overestimate the total cost of ownership for electric vehicles ($30,000 more than for gas-powered vehicles, according to its report), which in turn prompted the decision that an all-electric fleet was impractical. But the USPS cost analysis is inconsistent with those of major delivery companies, like UPS and FedEx, who are in the process of electrifying their fleets to improve their bottom line.” [The New Republic, Mekedas Belayneh, 4/25/22]