Monthly Archives: February 2018

Power Struggle Within the White House

Posted by Ryan McNeilly.

 

Something we have come to know as Americans is that three things are certain in life. We will live, we will die, and we will pay taxes. Currently in the news, President’s Trump new tax plan has become the hot topic of discussion. People are disappointed to see another tax cut come about that seems to benefit the top 1% of society. Even some of the richest man in the world, like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, are speaking up against the new plan because they feel that they do not need more money. They think they need to be giving more of it away so that people who live from paycheck to pay check can have a little bit more leeway and a better opportunity to increase their standard of living.

This article posted by Politico looks at this tax law and delves deeper to see what is occurring behind the scenes. They set the stage by opening the article with “A political battle over the fate of hundreds of regulations and other guidance for the new tax law may soon land on President Donald Trump’s desk, forcing him to choose between two of his favorite Cabinet members.” This alone is enough to capture the attention of any reader. As you continue to read you come to find out that the two Cabinet members they are talking about are Steven Mnuchin the Treasury Secretary and Mick Mulvaney the White House budget director.  The President must decide who will get to define the laws and regulations within the tax act.  This is crucial because the vision of the treasury differs from the view of the budget director.

This dispute has a greater impact than people see because now two crucial sectors of the White House will now be pitted against one another. With this occurring internally, it could hinder the President’s goal for growth. His goal is to get this plan into action, but he will not be able to unless an agreement occurs. The article states “OIRA and Treasury have been going back and forth for years over which entity should have final say over the department’s regulations.” This pressure has increased because of the decision date is slowly approaching. Politico speculates that the OMB has already made a deal with the White House. If this is true, then the OMB will get control of regulations and guidances for this tax act. None of this is confirmed so now we must wait and see how this internal debacle sorts itself out.

 

Ryan is a finance and information management systems major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Source:

Link: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/23/tax-law-white-house-power-struggle-364885

A Major Flaw in Safety Regulation

Posted by Alex Law.

 

A lawsuit had been filed on Wednesday, February 14th, against the New York and Atlantic Railway Company for the unfair treatment of 18 railway workers. According to one of the railway workers, Mario Pesantez, the railway company has denied the workers safety equipment, as well as withholding proper training. Furthermore, Pesantez claims that he was told to attend his work station by climbing over a chain-link fence by his employers. On the account of unfair treatment and low wages for vigorous labor, railway laborers have decided to take matters into their own hands by confronting the company in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The New York and Atlantic Company tries to undermine the lawsuit by stating: “These allegations are baseless and without merit. The individuals making these employment claims were never N.Y.A.R employees, and as such, their claims are directed at the wrong party.” However, Kristina Mazzocchi, a lawyer for the railway workers, strongly disagrees with what the company asserted. According to Mazzocchi, the railway workers have “worked full time and were paid weekly, in cash.” In other words, these workers are official employees of the company  that have been mistreated for years as they were subjected to dangerous tasks while being under paid. An example of a task that were completed under dangerous circumstances was for Franklin Lopez, a railway worker, to “squeeze beneath derailed cars” in order to put the derailed cars back onto the track. In other words, Lopez had to complete his task fearing the possibility that he would be crushed to death.

According to the article, it seems that New York and Atlantic Company had experienced criticisms in the past in regards to their safety regulation and the treatment of workers. Specifically, the company has neglected to properly train the workers in using particular equipment for completing their tasks. It is also important to recognize that these workers had watched YouTube videos in order to learn how to perform different undertakings. Additionally, the labor workers faced discrimination when the article states: “Those workers, the suit added, were given a segregated and substandard changing area, subjected to racial slurs.” Based on these accounts, it is ultimately unacceptable for the railway company to under-pay their workers based on the notion that the workers had to face such circumstances. With that said, there is a major indication that the New York and Atlantic Company suffer from a flaw in their safety regulation.

Alex is a marketing major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2021.

Source:

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/nyregion/railway-workers-lawsuit-discrimination.html

 

Should Bitcoins Be Taxed?

Posted by Chenglu Xia.

In his article, “Bitcoin Will Be Taxed as an Asset: Israel Tax Authority,” Samburaj Das states that Israel government will have a new regulation on cryptocurrency. The official tax authority is making a change, transferring bitcoin’s role from the cryptocurrency to an asset. However, Israel’s official authority is not the only one that regards bitcoin as an asset. The IRS also did the same thing; it admits the importance of bitcoins, but the precondition is that bitcoins should play a role of asset rather than cryptocurrency and should be taxed proportionately. I believe this change can make bitcoins market legal, which will also benefit the worldwide economy. If any transaction of bitcoins will be taxed, it will lead to stronger and more sustainable economic growth without some illegal transactions.

Nowadays, bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency around the world. It has two main characteristics. Primarily, it’s a kind of digital currency rather than fiat currency, such as USD. Moreover, it’s decentralized which use a process called mining. This process use advanced technology with some complex mathematic formulas to produce specific codes. At the beginning, most investors prefer to use this kind cryptocurrency to avoid taxation.  Meanwhile, they can exchange bitcoins with fiat currency, also goods and services; and, it is difficult to track those transactions, which encourages the black market to use this cryptocurrency to carry on illegal transactions.

However, I’m considering about bitcoins’ credibility. There is no guaranteed operating organization. Bitcoin is just a virtual currency and there is no regulation when it first appeared on the Internet. I am wondering why there is an increasing number of people using this currency. In China, I heard that most people just buy bitcoins for investment. It is the similar situation with the investment in stocks, which means that most people do not regard bitcoins as a currency. They only invest in it because of high profits, although it comes with high risk. Personally, I believe that there are some organizations which use bitcoins to do illegal transactions, making high profit. Thus, bitcoin becomes a tool used for illegal purposes, which attracts the attention of national legislature. Thus, it’s profound, meaningful and effective to make the decision of taxing transactions of bitcoins.

Chenglu is an accounting major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Sources:

https://www.ccn.com/bitcoin-will-see-taxation-asset-not-currency-israel-authority/

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/040515/are-there-taxes-bitcoins.asp

 

 

 

 

Liebeck v. McDonalds Revisited

Posted by Paul Kikta.

 

The lawsuit that I decided to evaluate was Liebeck vs. McDonalds. Liebeck vs. McDonalds is a 1994 product liability lawsuit about the hot coffee McDonalds sold. On February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico accidently spilled coffee on herself. This coffee was dangerously hot to the point where it caused her third degree burns through her clothes in seconds. She endured burns that covered six percent of her body. Because of this, she recovered for two years after being hospitalized for eight days.

This arrived to higher-level court through a lack of a compromise. At first, Mrs. Liebeck wanted $20,000 to settle the case, but McDonalds refused and countered with $800. That money is not enough for Mrs. Liebeck because it does not cover her medical expenses. When it went to court, the jurors saw her third degree burns, facts that McDonalds served their coffee 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the industry average, and other testimonies that McDonalds’ coffee have burned hundreds of adults and children. Liebeck’s lawyer, Kenneth Wagner, claimed McDonalds’ coffee way too hot in comparison to other competitors. The average temperature of coffee served is between 135 and 140; however, McDonalds was at 190, which means that burns happen at a significantly faster rate. The plaintiff also learned that “McDonalds had faced over 700 claims by people who had suffered burns from the coffee from 1982-1992. Some of these claims involved full-thickness burns similar to those suffered by Ms. Liebeck” (Welman). After admitting a claim such as that, it looked very good for Mrs. Liebeck to achieve victory.

In her case victory, the jury granted 2.7 million dollars for spilling coffee on herself. After the case ended, many authors published articles about her victory, agreeing or disagreeing with its result. To me, it does not seem fair that she won that much money unless her hospitalization bills and recovery costed that much. She just became a millionaire because of an action that she could have avoided if she paid attention. I think that the lawsuit also took into account for the hundreds of other cases with coffee burns- the lawsuit punished McDonalds to lower their coffee temperate and Mrs. Liebeck was the fortunate one on the other end. Due to many political and public statements on the case, “Ms. Liebeck … entered into a settlement with McDonalds … which the parties agreed would remain secret, has never been revealed to the public despite the fact that the case received extensive public reporting” (Welman). The result of a very controversial case that the public pressured showed that it helps to create more fairs results of the case. Everyone agreed that Liebeck should win but not to the extend she got.

Paul is an economics/ mathematical finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Source:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/darryl-s-weiman-md-jd/the-mcdonalds-coffee-case_b_14002362.html

 

Crowdfunding Regulation: Too Much or Too Little?

 

Posted by Abigail Murphy.

 

A way to raise money, fund a project, or venture from a large number of people for a small startup in the earliest stage money sounds simple. Not so much. Every so often, there are crowdfunding campaigns gaining popularity via Facebook newsfeed, twitter feed, and emails. These campaigns come with issues of the right amount of regulation and increasing issue of inequality of funding portals.

After years of back and forth, in October 2015 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) implemented Title III of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. JOBS allowed startup companies to safely use the internet to offer securities to investors. Prior to 2012, the internet could not be used to match investors and startup ventures due to the “general solicitation rule.” In a short 6 years, the SEC has developed their stance that the internet as a matchmaker for investors and startups is solicitation to a lacking concern for the inequality of funding portals.

A funding portal is the basic platform for the fundraising to take place and act as an intermediary. Both the funding portal pursuant and the broker-dealer must be registered through the SEC, however rising inequality have expressed that regulation is not enough. Concerns are expressed due to argument of crowds vs. expert’s wisdom, including liability. Wisdom for a crowd verses one single investor is never going to be definitive, while a single expert’s wisdom could be too specific. In addition, some are urging the SEC to reevaluate the liability of both parties in a crowdfund due to the easy loophole of fraud. If experts are considered the investors of crowdfunding, do their duties violate under the 1940 Advisers Act? Is crowdfunding an indirect security? This act set grounds for investors to follow and a guideline for compensations, economic activity, and other indirect securities. If the experts end up being categorized as investors, then they too are responsible for any fraudulent financial activity.

Personally, I believe that the overturning of the 2012 JOBS solicitation rule and the 2015 implementation of Title III of JOBS is all still very new. There are no past comparisons of any type of money exchange and investment to base crowdfunding off of. As this topic gains popularity and a crowd does flock to crowdfunding, there will be a need for heavier regulations on the liabilities and registration to create an ethical and financially stable funding portal. I was surprised to read about such an open ended definition when it comes down to the investor vs expert responsibilities in relation to the Advisers Act in 1940. Crowdfunding is an innovative way and already has several fundraising success stories. Over the next few years it will be interesting to see the investor return reports. As long as the finances stay in line, and both the crowdfund pursuant and the investors stay happy I see no issue in allowing the internet to play a role in matchmaking.

Abigail is an economics major at the Stillman School of Business, Class of 2018.

Source:

http://scholarship.law.unc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4958&context=nclr

 

 

NFL May Have Violated the NJ Consumer Fraud Act

case involving a fan who claims he was overcharged for tickets to the Seahawks-Broncos game is headed to the NJ Supreme Court. He paid $2000 each for two tickets worth no more than $800.

NJ law protects plaintiff and consumers like him against inflated prices by requiring at least 95% of the tickets to be sold to the general public. According to plaintiff, the NFL only sold 1% in a nationwide lottery.

Plaintiff expects the class action will result in the NFL paying millions to those fans who paid more than the face value of their tickets.

Patchy Bitcoin Oversight Poses Hazards for Investors, Regulators Say

Posted by Shahrani Bhatti.

On January 30th of 2018, U.S. regulators made it known that they feel Congress should expand regulation of the bitcoin as well as a growing number of other cryptocurrencies. Their reasoning being that the currency is not subject to investor-protection laws. The chairmen of the SEC and the CFTC told senators that the exceedingly popular cryptocurrency has surmounted state regulation. This is only one of a growing number of concerns, as U.S. banks are taking a step forward and stopping credit card purchases of bitcoin in addition to bitcoin prices dropping dramatically as governments in China, India and South Korea have placed restrictions on cryptocurrency trading.

The chairmen continued, saying that in order to regulate cryptocurrencies and protect investors, Congress would need to become involved as the SEC and the CFTC hold no power in regards to the market of products like bitcoin. At a testimony earlier this year, Christopher Giancarlo of the CFTC said that if they were given jurisdiction in this situation that it would be a, “dramatic expansion of the CFTC’s regulatory mission.”

Both market regulators have also halted illicit operations that have attempted to capitalize investors’ growing desire for returns similar to that of bitcoin’s skyrocketing $17,900 in only December of last year. The SEC has also stopped initial coin offerings, a fundraising method that has accumulated billions from investors in exchange for the issuance of new digital currencies like the bitcoin, as the demand for them continues to grow. Chief of the SEC, Mr. Clayton said that unlike the bitcoin, however, that these other issuances leave the issuer vulnerable to federal anti-fraud and investor-protection laws. Because of unregulated exchanges, Chief Clayton says, market prices can intensely rise.

While the bitcoin is still mainly unregulated, its derivatives are continually inspected. The CTFC has examined how these tokens should be allotted for trading. Mr. Giancarlo has come up with a new process for other duplicate tokens of the bitcoin, which consist of intensified information sharing agreements between exchanges and the CFTC, and agreements by exchanges to coordinate launches with CFTC’s staff.

I believe cryptocurrency regulation is a necessity at this time. Investors need to be protected from fraud. If the U.S. begins to regulate these currencies, then other countries may also follow suit. The cryptocurrencies may also grow and lead to an increased number of jobs which can only benefit the U.S. economy. If this benefits the U.S. economy, a larger standard of living will persist and the U.S. will become a more powerful country — as a high standard of living among people, high GDP and a good economy are the defining features of powerful countries. Cryptocurrency may give the current U.S. national currency a run for its money, but in the long run, the benefits will outweigh the costs as cryptocurrencies are easier to manage and track as the exchanges are basically exclusively carried out online.

Shahrani Bhatti is an economics major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Bank of America Settles Overdraft Lawsuit for $66.6 Million

In 2017, Bank of America came to the agreement to pay $66.6 million to end its lawsuit accusing it of high rate of interest and fees from customers, who have checking accounts that were overdrawn for several days. The amount of interest and fees Bank of America charges was decided unlawful. The case was a lawsuit between the company and the federal government. The lawsuit began in 2016 and the final settlement of this lawsuit was disclosed in San Diego’s federal court on November 3, 2017.

According to the final settlement, Bank of America has been overcharging interest and fees for over five years (since February 2014) and the bank has made a huge amount of profit by overcharging customers. The settlement was predicated on the fact Bank of America needed to “stop charging for extended overdrafts,” which at the time the customers, who have overdrawn their account, will not have to pay the extensive amount of interest to Bank of America. The decision made by the court will save customers about $1.2 billion. After the court decision was made, Bank of America had its attorney sent out an email to customers indicating that “Bank of America account-holders will no longer have to endure these charges.”

This is a great example of how business law made by the federal government could protect customers. Bank of America used to charge a $35 fee for overdrawing their accounts, and if customers want to continue using their account, they will have no choice but pay this high extensive fee. The lawsuit perfectly shows that federal government protects the people’s right as customers and helps them to be fairly treated by large corporations.

Zhanli Peng is a finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Reference:

Aubin, D. (2017, November 02). Bank of America settles overdraft lawsuit for $66.6 million. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bank-of-america-overdrafts/bank-of-america-settles-overdraft-lawsuit-for-66-6-million-idUSKBN1D22ER