The Regulatory Week in Review: November 4, 2016

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Supreme Court will hear case about transgender guidance, SEC is investigating Wells Fargo, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • Wells Fargo’s quarterly filing to regulators revealed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating the bank—an investigation that comes in addition to ongoing investigations into the bank by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the state of California, and which is reportedly likely to focus on whether Wells Fargo should have disclosed to its investors the fact that it was being investigated for opening unauthorized consumer accounts before a $185 settlement between the bank and the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) was announced in September.
  • The Council of the District of Columbia voted 11-2 to move forward with a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide and that, if the proposal clears a second vote to become law, would make Washington, D.C. the first “first predominantly black community” in the country to legalize the practice. A spokesperson for Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reportedly stated that the Mayor “expects the bill to become law,” but some opponents have reportedly expressed concern that the measure carries risks of  racial abuse, including that older black residents “may be steered to an early death.”
  • The Federal Election Commission (FEC) approved a notice of proposed rulemaking on technological modernization, which proposes changes to over 100 regulations related to election contributions made be electronic means—such as via internet-based payment processors or text messaging—in order to reflect changes in technology and adapt regulations to novel forms of payment, including bitcoin.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) expressing concern about a proposed rule from the IRS that would eliminate some valuation discounts for businesses, which reduce the amount of tax due upon transfers of business interests in closely-held corporations and partnerships. In its proposal, the IRS stated that, because the new regulation will not have a “significant economic impact” on a substantial number of small businesses, a regulatory flexibility analysis is not required, but the SBA countered that the regulations would be “a large departure from current IRS policy and industry practice” and that the regulations would in fact have a negative impact for many small businesses.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved a final order that settles charges that the merger of Koninklijke Ahold and the Delhaize Group—organizations that own several grocery store chains, including Stop & Shop and Hannaford—would probably be anticompetitive by requiring the companies to sell 81 of their stores to seven buyers, and requiring FTC approval before one of the buyers, Supervalu, resells a store to a third party.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • NPR’s Planet Money has been producing a series of podcasts investigating the Wells Fargo scandal, which concerns the allegations that the bank opened as many as two million bank accounts without customers’ permission.  In the first episode, Planet Money interviewed former Wells Fargo employees about the corporate culture that may have contributed to the scandal. In a follow up episode, the podcast discussed the way Wells Fargo allegedly used an obscure employment form to make it extremely difficult for outspoken ex-employees to get jobs at other banks.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published its annual report on carbon dioxide emissions and fuel economy trends for personal vehicles, which includes data on cars, car sport utility vehicles (SUVs), truck SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and vans. EPA found that the average fuel economy for vehicles released in model year 2015 was 24.8 miles per gallon, a record high and a 28% increase from model year 2004, and that carbon dioxide emissions were—at 358 grams per mile—the lowest they have ever been.
  • A new report from the White House’s Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience evaluates the Obama Administration’s accomplishments on climate change and identifies three “major areas” for continued improvement in building resilience to climate change: capitalizing on technology and science-based tools, better promoting climate resilience among “agency missions, operations, and culture,” and supporting local communities in their own efforts at building climate resilience. The report highlighted the need to foster “comprehensive preparedness,” and included a total of 17 recommendations that were grouped into the three major areas.