This Week in Regulation

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President Trump issues a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, an internal review of the OCC shows ineffective oversight of Wells Fargo, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • President Donald Trump issued a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. The order directs federal agencies to follow guidelines that keep foreign contractors from bidding on federal projects and to review and reform the H-1B visa program for skilled workers. Harkening back to the “America First” rhetoric of his campaign, President Trump promised the order “declares that the policy of our government is to aggressively promote and use American-made goods and to ensure that American labor is hired to do the job.”
  • The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a report explaining how the OCC failed to address the alleged Wells Fargo fake account scandal sooner. The report comes after public outrage stemming from an alleged incident involving Wells Fargo employees—under pressure to meet sales goals—opening up 2 million accounts without customer permission. OCC’s internal review revealed that the regulator had known about 700 cases of whistleblower complaints as early as January 2010 yet failed to address the issue. Wells Fargo was fined $185 million in September after an investigation by the OCC and other authorities.
  • As part of an executive order issued by President Trump targeting the Obama Administration’s energy regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would start reassessing Obama Administration rules reportedly intended to cut down on methane emissions by oil and gas companies. The American Petroleum Institute, in addition to a number of oil and gas companies, petitioned EPA in 2016 to reexamine the rules, and in response EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt informed the petitioners that EPA will be reevaluating its fugitive emissions monitoring requirements.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case deciding whether the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law allowing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to regulate debt collectors, applies to Santander Consumer USA. Santander reportedly claims it does not qualify as a debt collector under the FDCPA because Santander bought the loan debt it holds from CitiFinancial. The borrowers, on the other hand, reportedly argue in their class action against Santander that the FDCPA does apply, regardless of the CitiFinancial purchase.
  • The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the Trump Administration for revoking protections for wolves, bears, and other wildlife in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges. The Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit, prompted by Congress’ use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule, challenges the constitutionality of the CRA. The Center alleges that the CRA infringes on the powers of the executive branch and seeks the Court to “declare that the CRA’s prohibition on future rulemaking ‘in substantially the same form’ as the Refuges Rule is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers.”
  • Although some it expect it to be a blockbuster treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, baricitinib — Eli Lilly’s new oral medication to treat rheumatoid arthritis—was not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA said additional information was needed to determine appropriate doses of the drug and address safety concerns.
  • Marijuana advocates are pressing Congress to provide protections for recreational and medical marijuana companies, seeking to bar the U.S. Department of Justice from cracking down on companies that comply with state laws. Under the Obama Administration, the federal government refrained from enforcing the federal ban on marijuana in the 29 states that have allowed medical use of marijuana and the 8 states that have legalized recreational use of the substance.
  • Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed legislation eliminating tax credits for wind power, proposing to replace the credits with a tax on wind power. Although the legislation reflects constituents’ desire for the state to turn its attention to funding for education, the credits had reportedly encouraged investments in wind power, which in turn provided funding for other areas like education. Jeff Clark, president of the Wind Coalition, reportedly voiced concerns that the “future is unclear” for energy in Oklahoma because “industries and investors of all types will be hesitant to step forward with new capital intensive investments.”

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In an article for the Brookings Institution, Jon Valant examines the “summative rating” of primary and secondary schools in light of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires states to send their ESSA compliance plans to the U.S. Department of Education. These plans contain each state’s approach to summative ratings of schools—a number, letter, or description gauging school quality, which is calculated by determining the criteria appropriate to assess schools, measuring that criteria using measurements like growth and efficiency, and assigning weights to those criteria. Valant argues that policymakers should be aware of “political considerations” and “the psychology of simplified ratings” in “responsibly” creating ESSA summative ratings.
  • According to a recent report from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR), the nomination of Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University professor Neomi Rao to serve as the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) indicates the Trump Administration is taking seriously its stated goal to cut regulations. The report suggests that Rao’s “scholarship and other public statements reflect a deep distrust of federal agencies and their role as policymaking institutions within our constitutional system of government.” The report’s authors conclude that Rao’s nomination poses a threat to public protections and provides the Trump Administration with a significant leverage to interfere with the agency decision-making process.