The Regulatory Week in Review: March 25, 2016

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The DOL takes a step toward regulating retirement investment advisers, OSHA issues a rule to protect workers from silica dust, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • The Obama Administration reportedly has indicated that it is attempting to finalize a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule by early April aimed at curbing retirement investment advisers’ potential conflicts of interest by bringing them within the ambit of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)—a move that President Obama has asserted is essential for ensuring “that retirement advisors put the best interests of their clients above their own financial interests,” but that some Senate Republicans and life insurance companies have railed against for what they claim was the DOL’s hasty development of the rule, which “prioritized expediting the drafting process at the expense of thoughtfully considering and addressing concerns from industry experts.”
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized its rule aimed at “improv[ing] protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust”—a substance released into the air, such as during construction and hydraulic fracturing, that has been found to cause cancer and silicosis when inhaled—by mandating that employers add ventilation to job sites, supply employees who faced significant exposure with medical examinations, and ensure workers are not exposed to more than 50 micrograms per cubic meter every shift rather than the reportedly previous level of 100 micrograms, among other requirements to reduce employees’ contact with silica dust.
  • Ahead of the G-7 summit in May and the G-20 summit in September, France’s President François Hollande reportedly announced that he intends to encourage countries at both summits to adopt international regulations aimed at decreasing prices of medicine—an issue several United States presidential candidates have discussed, including Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who proposed policies to expand generic drugs competition and set a maximum for patients’ out-of-pocket medicine costs, and Republican candidate Donald Trump, who reportedly proposed in January to change a law that currently prevents negotiations between Medicare and pharmaceutical companies about medicine prices.
  • The Canadian province of Ontario promulgated a regulation that bars the police from asking an individual for identifying information arbitrarily or due to the individual’s race, except in situations where the police officer is inquiring as a result of an investigation into a “reasonably suspect[ed]” committed offense and certain other circumstances, in an effort to “ensure that those interactions are conducted without bias or discrimination.”

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In a paper recently published by Moody’s Analytics’ economy.com, five authors, including Jim Parrott, former housing adviser to President Obama, Gene Sperling, former director of the National Economic Council for Presidents Obama and Clinton, and Lewis Ranieri, the “father” of the mortgage-backed security, proposed a plan to reform the mortgage finance government sponsored enterprises (GSE) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The proposal involved merging the companies and having them create and guarantee securities from purchased mortgages.
  • A new report from the RAND Corporation analyzed the regulatory challenges associated with “self-driving” vehicles. The report pointed to a need for uniform national regulation since different state laws would make it difficult to use these vehicles across state lines. It also predicted that many taxi, truck, and bus drivers could be out of work if this technology became more common.
  • In a forthcoming paper, Professor Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School hypothesized that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) may require cost-benefit analysis. He argued that in some cases, failure to conduct cost-benefit analysis makes agency decisions arbitrary and capricious if the agency does not have a good reason.