Zillow Faces CFPB Scrutiny, Amazon Mulls Pharma Play, and SEC Drains Big Law
Escape the daily flood of Trump news dominating the Washington headlines with this roundup of big regulatory developments. Zillow is facing CFPB scrutiny, Amazon is mulling a pharmaceuticals play, Democratic state AGs move to defend a key part of Obamacare, and the SEC is boosting its ranks in new hires from Big Law. And here’s a story about ducks at the U.S. Capitol.
Blue states move to defend the ACA. A group of Democratic state attorneys general, including California’s Xavier Becerra and New York’s Eric Schneiderman, on Thursday told a federal appeals court that the Trump administration can’t be relied on to defend certain cost-sharing provisions of the Affordable Care Act. A judge rejected the provisions awhile back, and health regulators—then in the Obama administration—took the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Trump’s White House win set up a thorny clash: the U.S. House, which brought the suit, against HHS, now represented in the appeal by the Jeff Sessions-led U.S. Justice Department.
“In this litigation, the House of Representatives attacks a critical feature of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—landmark federal legislation that has made affordable health insurance coverage available to nearly 20 million Americans, many for the first time,” the state AGs wrote in their filing, signed by California Solicitor General Edward DuMont. “If successful, the suit could—to use the president’s expression—’explode’ the entire act. Until recently, states and their residents could rely on the executive branch to respond to this attack. Now, events and statements, including from the president himself, have made clear that any such reliance is misplaced.” The Washington Post has more here, and Reuters here.
Zillow is facing CFPB scrutiny. Real estate giant Zillow Group Inc. has disclosed in a regulatory filing that the company faces a renewed consumer-finance investigation by the Obama-era Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. “For years many industry participants wondered if allowing their real estate agents or loan officers to engage in co-marketing on Zillow Group applications and websites posed a risk to their companies under RESPA. The industry may soon know the answer,” according to a post at Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Finance Monitor blog.
Zillow said in its SEC filing: “We continue to believe that our acts and practices are lawful and that our comarketing program allows lenders and agents to comply with RESPA.” HousingWire.com has more here on the CFPB’s warning.
Trump’s tax plan is good for … lobbyists. “If the push to find tax breaks to eliminate is a headache for companies, it’s a bonanza for their lobbyists.” The Washington Post spotlights the business boon for industry lobbyists brought on by Trump’s pledge to reform U.S. tax laws. A key takeaway from the Post’s report: “The brawl underscores the difficulty in simplifying the tax code, which is riddled with deductions, exemptions and other provisions that save their industries billions of dollars. While many business groups say they want to eliminate ‘unnecessary’ tax breaks, they typically mean eliminating other people’s tax breaks.” More at The American Lawyer on the firms that rule the D.C. swamp.
Meanwhile, the SEC is draining Big Law. Five Big Law alums jumped to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, securing key slots under Chairman Jay Clayton, a former Sullivan & Cromwell partner who reported making $7 million at the firm last year. Willkie Farr & Gallagher rainmaker Robert Stebbins will become the general counsel to the securities agency, the NLJ reports.
Anybody want to get high? Here’s a complication from the rise of recreational weed: “Finding people to fill jobs is really challenging,” one human resources official in Denver told The Washington Post. The Post spotlighted a new report from Quest Diagnostics that said increases in drug use have driven workplace drug positivity to its highest levels in 12 years. Quest based its analysis on more than 10 million drug tests in the workplace.
Speaking of legal drugs. Amazon.com might make a pharma play. Amazon’s debating whether to move into pharmaceuticals, CNBC reports. The move would pose certain regulatory hurdles. “Prescription transfer laws and e-prescribing make it a little more difficult than putting something in a cart and checking out,” Stephen Buck, co-founder of GoodRx, told CNBC. The Washington Post has more here and Fortune here.
Here’s some stuff you can’t (yet) get online. OSHA this week suspended an Obama-era rule that would require companies to report electronically accident and injury data, The Washington Post reports.
Tell me what you’ve got on me. Bradley Linskens, a senior bank examiner at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency this week sued the agency for details about any investigation that led to his removal in April from his oversight of Wells Fargo. Linskens’ FOIA suit also goes after any communication OCC had with reporters at Reuters and CNN, which published stories about Linskens’ suspension.
Don’t call it a ‘sandbox.’ The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission this week unveiled a new initiative designed to give financial technology companies better feedback. J. Christopher Giancarlo, the CFTC acting chairman and a proponent of a “do no harm” approach to fintech, didn’t use the phrase “regulatory sandbox”—where startups can face fewer restrictions as long as they play nicely.
Covington & Burling counsel Anne Termine emails: “As progressive as this effort might be for the CFTC, it is not the same as a regulatory sandbox, as other regulators around the world have embraced. Acting Chairman Giancarlo’s stated main agenda since assuming leadership of the agency is to clean up the morass of regulations and rules promulgated since the passage of Dodd-Frank. He believes that engaging with fintech in this fashion is one step towards accomplishing that goal. Whether it will also help those in the fintech industry avoid unnecessary regulation remains to be seen.”
Hands off those energy regulations, OK? U.S. environmental regulators sought public comment about rules and regulations the agency should think about dropping. The EPA received tens of thousands of comments—many from advocates who advised leaving protections alone. “One commenter simply wrote the word ‘No’ over and over, 1,665 times,” The Washington Post reports.
“That ain’t gonna happen.” “Break up the banks? That ain’t going to happen,” Rick Hohlt, a longtime lobbyist, told Bloomberg this week. “You need legislation to do that. And the chance of that is about zero.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that breaking up the country’s big banks—separating investment banking from commercial—”would be a huge mistake.”
Source: Law Journal