Archive for the ‘Regulation’ Category

Each day this week we’ll be highlighting some of the anti-regulatory bills that Public Citizen and our allies have been pushing back against this fall.

Midnight Rules Relief Act or the “Three-Year Presidency” Act

Photo courtesy Johan Jonk Stenström/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Photo courtesy Johan Jonk Stenström/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Congressional conservatives already have a mechanism for denoting their disapproval of new public protections finalized during the fourth year of an administration. In an effort to further strengthen their power to curtail or weaken these lifesaving standards, congressional conservatives introduced the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 5982). The bill would amend the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to allow a blanket disapproval of all regulations finalized near the end of presidential terms.

H.R. 5982 is based on a fatally flawed premise – namely, that regulations which are proposed or finalized during the so-called “midnight” rulemaking period are rushed and inadequately vetted. In fact, the very opposite is true. There are currently dozens of public health and safety regulations that have been in the regulatory process for years or decades, including many that date from the Obama administration’s first term. Some even predate the current administration.

H.R. 5982 would empower Congress to use the CRA – a process that is rushed, nontransparent and discourages informed decision-making – to block, at the 11th hour, rules that have completed the journey through the onerous rulemaking process. Members of Congress do not have to articulate a valid policy rationale – or any reason at all – in support of CRA resolutions of disapproval. Resolutions of disapproval not only nullify the regulation in question, but also prohibit a federal agency from issuing any other regulation that is “substantially the same” in the future, unless specifically authorized to do so by a future act of Congress. Accordingly, broad disapproval resolutions would wipe out huge swathes of agencies’ authority to address pressing public threats, potentially forever.

H.R. 5982 was shelved when lawmakers left at the end of September, but is set to reappear in the post-election congressional work term often called a lame duck session. Then, expect to see it move rapidly through the House floor process, be voted on and shuttled to the Senate.

Unfortunately, the whack-a-mole game is not over. The above bills are only a small taste of some of the legislation still to come. Right as Congress was departing for a six week recess, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-32) introduced a nefarious bill attacking federal agency guidance documents like the U.S. Department of Education’s campus sexual assault guidance and equality guidance. In the next Congress, conservatives will be fully armed with new, sneakily-named but destructive and pernicious anti-regulatory bills, and it’s our job to stop them.

To learn more about joining the fight to stop legislation that attacks public protections, please visit the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards website at The only way to win whack-a-mole is with more hammers!

Each day this week we’ll be highlighting some of the anti-regulatory bills that Public Citizen and our allies have been pushing back against this fall.

REVIEW Act or the “Endless Corporate Lawsuits” Act

Photo courtesy Eric Parker/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Photo courtesy Eric Parker/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Industry has a long history of running to the courts to block or delay public protections that would cut into their massive profits. As a gift to their industry donors, House conservatives crafted the Require Evaluation before Implementing Executive Wishlists Act or the REVIEW Act (H.R. 3438).

The REVIEW Act would make our system of regulatory safeguards weaker by requiring courts to review “high-impact” regulations to automatically “stay,” or block the enforcement of such protections, until all litigation is resolved– a process that takes many years to complete.

If passed, it would add several years of delay to an already unreasonably slow rulemaking process, invite more rather than less litigation, and rob the American people of many critical science-based public protections, especially those that ensure clean air and water, safe food and consumer products, safe workplaces, and a stable, prosperous economy.

H.R. 3438 would reverse one of the most fundamental and settled legal principles in our regulatory system. Under current law, courts are allowed to use their discretion to determine if it is appropriate to issue an injunction blocking the enforcement of a regulation while it is being challenged in court.

By Lisa Gilbert and Michael Tanglis

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Wells Fargo to do the right thing.

John Stumpf, Wells Fargo’s recently retired CEO, admitted in a congressional hearing that he first learned about his own bank’s problem with millions of fraudulent accounts in 2013. After three years of evasions and excuses, this week he resigned.

Image courtesy Tyler/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Image courtesy Tyler/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If the bank’s deflection of blame onto more than 5,000 low-level employees is any indication, customers waiting for Wells Fargo to take responsibility for its mismanagement, pay back customers and repair damaged credit scores could be waiting a very long time. So here are some steps you can take to see if you’ve been a victim of Wells Fargo’s fraud and what to do if you suspect foul play.

If you use Wells Fargo’s online banking system, sign in and look for accounts or transactions you do not recognize. If you do not use their online platform, signing up is a good way to monitor your banking activity. If you see something that looks suspicious, get in touch with the bank. You can either contact customer service, visit a local branch to speak with a representative or call their dedicated hotline set up in the wake of the scandal.

If you cannot achieve a satisfactory resolution, one option is to file a complaint with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). If you suspect you have been the victim of fraud or a fake account was opened in your name, the CFPBwants to hear about it.

Another way to identify malfeasance is to obtain a credit report. If your credit score took a hit for unknown reasons and you are a Wells Fargo customer, it’s worth investigating the possibility that it might be related to an account that was opened in your name without your permission. If that appears to be the case, you should contact your local law enforcement and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

A final option is to close your Wells Fargo accounts. The widespread fraud was the result of a 16-year cross-selling frenzy in which bank management put enormous pressure on workers to open as many new accounts as possible, with a goal of eight per household. Since turnabout is fair play, it may be that the best response to the Wells Fargo scandal is for consumers to leave them with none at all.

If you close your current accounts, think carefully about where you want to open new ones. It is likely that community banks and credit unions may be safer and more trustworthy alternatives than another megabank because they are smaller and therefore closer and more responsive to their customer base.

This scandal happened in no small part because megabanks are simply too big to manage. In two congressional hearings, Stumpf demonstrated as much when he repeatedly pleaded ignorant in response to even the most elementary questions about his bank’s operations and sales practices.

Megabanks tend to copy each other’s “successful” strategies and management practices, so it’s entirely possible that other large banks may have indulged in a similar cross-selling frenzy with similarly fraudulent results.

In fact, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Bank of America COO, Thomas Montag, attended a banking function wearing a hat and T-shirt with the words “Cross Sell“ on them – the practice at the heart of the misconduct that led to the government imposing a $185 million fine on Wells Fargo.

We don’t know what misdeeds regulators will uncover at other megabanks in the months and years ahead, but the 2008 financial crash demonstrated that these banks put profits ahead of what’s best for their customers and the country.

If there’s one lesson we can take away from the Wells Fargo scandal, it’s that if banks are too big to fail, too big to jail and too big to manage, they’re also probably too big to trust.

Gilbert is the director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Tanglis is a senior researcher for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. This article  originally appeared on Huffington Post.

Each day this week we’ll be highlighting some of the anti-regulatory bills that Public Citizen and our allies have been pushing back against this fall.

Regulatory Integrity Act (H.R. 5226) – passed on Sept. 14, 2016

Photo courtesy Julia Rubinic/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The so-called Regulatory Integrity Act (H.R. 5226) should have been named the “Don’t Tell the Public Act.” After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used social media to inform the public about its impending protective rule for clean water and invited the public to submit comments on the rule, conservatives wanted to stop federal agencies from harnessing the power of social media.

H.R. 5226 aims to significantly undermine federal agencies’ ability to engage and inform the public in a meaningful and transparent way regarding its work on important science-based rulemakings that will greatly benefit the public. The bill would strictly prohibit agencies from issuing “public communications” that “emphasize the importance” of a particular agency action unless the communication has the “clear purpose of informing the public of the substance or status” of the particular action. It applies to a wide swath of regulatory actions including rulemakings, guidance documents, policy statements, directives and adjudications.

H.R. 5226 would severely impede, rather than enable, agency use of new communication technologies, most notably social media platforms, to reach and inform the public on lifesaving protections.

Each day this week we’ll be highlighting some of the anti-regulatory bills that Public Citizen and our allies have been pushing back against this fall.

Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act (or the “Stiff the Victims Act”) – passed on Sept. 7, 2016

Photo courtesy Johan Jonk Stenström/Flick under CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

After the 2008 financial crisis, one of the ways that big banks made amends was by providing funding to over 2,000 organizations that provide counseling on housing or legal aid to communities.

Letting third parties, like nonprofit organizations, provide relief is crucial when injured individuals are hard to identify or harm is difficult to monetize. This was certainly the case in the housing crisis and also common when there are ecological impacts or public health hazards caused by violations of environmental laws.

In an effort to shield industry from paying settlements that compensate injured parties, conservatives drafted the misnamed Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act (H.R. 5063). H.R. 5063 would cut off any kind of payment to third parties, other than direct forms of payment for “actual harm.” The bill aims to prohibit settlement agreements where the United States is a party from including certain payment terms to non-federal actors, also known as third-party payments. In order to make sure victims are properly compensated, settlement terms that result from a federal enforcement action sometimes include payments to third parties to advance programs that assist with recovery, benefits and relief for communities harmed by lawbreakers if a court finds that such payments further the objectives of the enforcement action.

H.R. 5063 would undermine law enforcement goals by reducing the availability of suitable remedies to address these kinds of injuries to the public caused by illegal conduct. This bill is a gift to industry lawbreakers that comes at the expense of families and communities impacted by injuries that cannot be addressed by direct payments but whose suffering still deserves compensation.

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