Monthly Archives: March 2018

On Drug Pricing, States Step In Where Washington Does Not

Posted by Samantha Staudt.

 

One in five Americans have reported that they have skipped medicine doses or failed to fill a prescription each year because of the cost of the medicine.  This statistic is outrageous and states have to start doing something about it because the federal government will not.  Certain states, like Nevada, have passed a new law that manufactures must disclose more information about why drug prices are rapidly increasing.  In the past few year, prices in Nevada have increased as much as 325 percent, so this law will help regulate the prices of prescription drugs.  Maryland provides another example of steps that must be taken in an order to regulate drug companies.  The attorney general sued generic drug manufacturers whose prices rose more than fifty percent in a year.  States are partly responsible for the funding of the Medicaid program, spending more than 20 million dollars a year on prescription drugs for public employees and prisoners.

Drug manufacturers have recently pushed opioids while denying and misunderstanding their addictiveness.  This may be enough to cut the political power of the pharmaceutical industry.  This statistic is not settling well with anyone and more than 100 states have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies related to tobacco.  This is in an effort to recover the costs of dealing with the epidemic of addiction and overdoses.  Oklahoma’s attorney general, Nolan Clay, is making strides to fixing this rising issue by refusing to accept donations from drug companies.

Of course, pharmaceutical companies fight the big changes that would affect the company.  The industry has been at the top of the lists for lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions at the same time managing to block reform proposals.  During Nevada’s fight to lower drug prices, drug companies hired more than seventy lobbyist to descend on the bill.  When state drug pricing bills pass, the drug industry challenges them in court.  There have been several lawsuits filed, but none have succeeded yet.  In order to prevent drug companies from overpricing prescription drugs, states must enforce regulation laws immediately.

Samantha is a finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

 

 

 

 

The IRS Fears Bitcoin

Posted by Elizabeth Win.

Dollar bills might as well be worth as much as computer paper now. Cryptocurrency has been on the hot seat for the past few months because of its financially growing nature and easy accessibility. Now, as we are starting to see a slow downfall of people investing in Bitcoin; the I.R.S. is starting to detect serious problems with the millennial choice of currency. One of their main concerns is that this cryptocurrency fad has created another giant, financial bubble. If this bubble were to burst, this Bitcoin “bust” could wipe out millions of spectators leading to a huge loss in tax revenue.

A main contender to this potentially huge loss is Bitcoin’s anonymity. For those unaware, Bitcoin’s underlying technology, blockchain, thrives on anonymity. When a person makes a transaction, the transaction only links through an electronic address, making blockchain more attractive to buyers. Now, the I.R.S. has many problems with this missing identification of creative transactions. The anonymity fuels the underground economy, a significant factor in the source of lost tax revenue. Most of the underground economy is conducted through cash transitions; however, what the I.R.S. fears is that cash will slowly transition to cryptocurrencies because of its convenience. An anonymous buyer of bitcoin can easily pay fewer taxes by cheating the cryptocurrency system – also known as major tax evasion. The solution? The government might have to accept the hardships of directly taxing cryptocurrencies and raise tax rates in order to offset the loss of revenue. Understand that the public would highly disagree with this solution, they generated a smarter response: a switch from taxing income when it is received to taxing income when it is spent. Although this switch would require a “major overhaul of the tax code,” many economists support this decision and believe it is future of the economy.

On the contrary, the I.R.S. understands cryptocurrencies offer major reductions in the cost of financial transactions, making it very appealing to the lower classes. There would also be less reliance on banks, which would increase the power of the Federal Reserve to control money. However, the opportunities are too great for tax evasion and illegal operations that the I.R.S. cannot continue to allow it. Although the cryptocurrency economy is growing steadily, it will need to find a way to prevent tax evasion while preserving anonymity in order for it to survive and stay attractive to buyers. For cryptocurrencies to be successful, societies will have to learn to trust the government, a very difficult task for many to grasp. With the rise of extremely advanced technology, it is inevitable that the economy will eventually transition to the cryptocurrency movement. Figuring out how to smoothly transition from worthless green pieces of paper to slick, glassy pieces of technology worth thousands of dollars each, the challenge to adjust will be difficult by eventually necessary.

Elizabeth is a marketing and information technology major in the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Battle for Control of Consumer Agency Heads to Court

Posted by Johnny A. Guerrero.

This article was published by the New York Times on 26 November 2017 and was written by Stacy Cowley.  The article illuminates the tension between a high-ranking government civil service official, Ms. Leandra English, and the President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump.  To further understand this dilemma, one has to first comprehend what is “the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” and what do they do.  For starters, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “was created six years ago to oversee a wide variety of financial products, including mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts and student loans” (Cowley).  With this in mind, one can say that the bureau was a regulator created in the aftermath of the global financial crisis that hit the New York Stock Market Exchange harshly.  The “Regulatory Agency,” also referred to as (CFPB) was created by the Obama Administration to protect consumers from the tyrants of Wall Street.  Thus, the agency is charged with overseeing financial products and services, as noted.

The tension raised because Ms. English, the deputy director of the bureau, was not willing to step down from her post because she believed that the President could not fire or replace her.  So, she “filed a lawsuit late Sunday night on 26 November 2017 to block Mr. Trump’s choice of someone else from taking control of the agency on Monday morning, 27 November 2017” (Cowley).  Ms. English was defending her cause because Congress gave the agency infrequent independency and autonomy to protect it from political interference.  Thus, the bureau’s director “is one of the few federal officials the President cannot fire at will” (Cowley).  However, the President nominates the agency’s director, who is subject to the approval and confirmation of the United States Senate.  Ms. English was not nominated by former President Obama; she was appointed director by the agency itself because the director, Mr. Richard Cordray, brusquely stepped down on Friday 24 November 2017.

To add more fire to the already burning wood, Ms. English, a seasoned agency veteran who rose progressively through the agency’s ranks, was being replace by Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s budget director.  Paradoxically, Trump wanted someone who saw the bureau as “sad, sick, a joke” (Cowley), and who openly supported legislation to eliminate it, as the agency’s new director.  Ethically this is not right.  Why appoint someone who speaks harshly about the agency to be its head?  Mulvaney, a white-collar professional, many believed would undo what the bureau had achieved since its conception, which was to protect consumers from the abusive debt collectors and politics of Wall Street Financiers.  This notion becomes eloquent with Senator Dick Durbin’s, a Democrat from Illinois, metaphor: “Wall Street hates it (the Agency) like the devil hates holy water” (Battle for Control of Consumer Agency Heads to Court, New York Times Article).

However, even though one may think that the President’s choice is ludicrous, he as the Head of the United States Government has the authority to appoint whoever he wants as the head of any Federal Government Agency.  Ms. English did not have the grounds to veto the President’s decision; after all the actual director, Mr. Cordray, was the one who resigned.  Therefore, it is the President’s duty to appoint a new head leader for the agency.  The law regarding Presidential Nominees is clear, “not grey.”  One must hope that Mr. Mulvaney does a good job protecting the American People from the Wall Street Tyrants, as he swore to do.

 

Johnny is in the dual B.A/M.B.A program at the College of Arts and Sciences (political science, minor in history) and the Stillman School of Business (management and finance), Seton Hall University, Classes of 2018 and 2019.

 

Source:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/business/trump-cfpb-consumer-agency.html

 

NY Court of Appeals Says No Difference Between Private and Public Posts In Discovery

Posted by Ryan Simoneau.

The National Law Review recently posted an article on February 20, 2018 discussing the impact of the N.Y. Court of Appeals decision in Forman v. Henkin, a personal injury case. Forman, the Plaintiff, claimed she suffered spinal and brain injuries when she fell off the Defendants horse. Before the accident, the Plaintiff admitted to having an active Facebook account on which she posted pictures of her active lifestyle. After the accident, she claimed her life changed and she could no longer continue her active lifestyle and could barely type coherent messages. During discovery, the Defendant asked the court to compel the Plaintiff to provide full access to her Facebook account, regardless of whether it was public or private. At trial court level, the discovery (or electronic discovery) request was limited to photos before and after the accident and those relevant to her difficulty to type. When appealed, the appellate court limited the photographs provided in court. The court based its decision on another case, Tapp v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, in which it decided, “[t]o warrant  discovery, defendants must establish a factual predicate for their request by identifying relevant information in plaintiff’s Facebook account- that is, information that contradicts or conflicts with plaintiff’s alleged restrictions, disabilities, and losses and other claims.” The Court of Appeals, however, disagreed. They determined that public versus private did not matter in regards to social media and reinstated the trial court’s ruling.

The Court of Appeals did not grant full access to the Plaintiff’s social media to protect her privacy, yet does not see a difference between public and private Facebook posts. Typically in personal injury cases, the Defendants will ask the court for full, unrestricted access to social media which is oftentimes unwarranted and called a metaphorical fishing expedition. The Court of Appeals held that the information compelled has to be “appropriately tailored and reasonably calculated to yield relevant information.” What this means is that the request cannot be overly broad and burdensome, but relevant. This ruling mimics Federal procedure, specifically Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26.

I am torn on the fairness of treating all Facebook posts the same regardless of whether it is private or public. In the 21st century, social media is becoming more and more popular. People utilize Facebook and Twitter as if they are personal diaries. Sometimes a physical diary could be relevant to a case, I’m sure, but it seems like an invasion of personal privacy. On the other end, social media utilizes the internet and the internet is not private so it should all be treated the same. I believe that in social media discovery (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), the court should use this appeal as a precedent and continue to limit requests to what is relevant but privacy settings should not matter.

Ryan is an undecided business major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Link: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/ny-court-appeals-no-difference-between-private-and-public-posts-discovery

Palantir Ordered to Open Books

Posted by Ashley Scales.

On February 22, 2018, Palantir was ordered to open their books to an investor who was seeking U.S. fraud probe.  The judge ruled, “Data analytics and security company Palantir Technologies Inc. must open its books to early investor Marc Abramowitz.”  Abramowitz wants to investigate possible fraud and misconduct at the esteemed private U.S. Company.  He sued the firm after a 2015 falling out with the company’s chief executive officer, Alexander Karp.  The lawsuit claims that Palantir prevented Abramowitz as well as many others from selling their stock in the privately owned company, while allowing sales by Karp and Chairman Peter Thiel.

Judge Joseph Slights of the Delaware Court of Chancery said that Abramowitz showed “a proper purpose of investigating potential wrongdoing and a credible basis to justify further investigation.”

Through the KT4 Partners LLC fund he manages, Abramowitz invested an initial $100,000 in Palantir in 2003.  According to Judge Slights’ 50-page opinion, Abramowitz’s investment is now estimated to be worth about $60 million.

Abramowitz and Karp had a close relationship until their falling out in 2015.  Karp “verbally abused” Abramowitz and accused him of taking intellectual property from the company.  Soon after their falling out, Abramowitz tried to sell his stock in Palantir, but he claimed that the company blocked the deal by making an offer of newly issued stock to the potential buyer.  According to Slights, Abramowitz began pursuing information from Palantir while he considered suing the company for blocking the sale of his stock.  In September 2016, in response to the potential claim against the company, Palantir sued Abramowitz for supposedly stealing trade secrets.  In a comment, Palanti said that they plan to continue to pursue their case against Abramowitz.

Abramowitz brought his case to Delaware in March 2017.  Palantir claimed that Abramowitz “should be denied information because he was likely to use it to build his lawsuit over the blocked sale”.  Judge Slights ruled, “Abramowitz could investigate Palantir’s lack of annual meetings, corporate amendments that limited KT4’s rights and the company’s sales of stock”.  However, Abramowitz would not be allowed to investigation Palantir’s value or Karp’s compensation.

Ashley is an accounting major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

 

Washington State Sick Leave Law

Posted by Wasif Rahman.

Voters in Washington, who have taken on a role to guarantee paid sick leave to those working in the state recently, brought the Paid Sick Leave Act into play. The new law calls for employers to give workers an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours that they have worked. It also restricts when employers would be able to demand medical documentation from employees. While the new law may seem ideal for those working in the State of Washington, it poses a major problem specifically for airlines and its passengers. The problem was first pointed out by Airlines for America earlier this month.

Requiring airlines to conform to the Paid Sick Leave Act for their flight crewmembers is problematic since they are already subject to employment laws of their home state. This new law would enable those same crewmembers to also take advantage of Washington’s employment laws, including the Paid Sick Leave Act, if they are to pass through the state during their shift. Airlines for America filed a lawsuit against the State of Washington in the U.S. district court and subsequently released a statement noting, “airlines cannot operate their nationwide systems properly if flight crews are subject to the employment laws of every state in which they are based, live, or pass through”[1]. The defendant, the Department of Labor and Industries for the state of Washington, made no remarks on Airlines of America’s statement. Airlines for America suggests that Washington’s law promotes, to some degree, more crewmembers calling in sick as the airlines would have certain limitations to when they would be able to demand medical documentation to verify whether a crewmember is actually sick or not. They claim that if it gets to a point where enough crewmembers are calling in sick, it would lead to flights either being cancelled or delayed since there wouldn’t be enough flight crewmembers to serve the passengers. This would lead to severe disruptions not only at Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington but across all airports through out the country. From the airlines standpoint, it would be detrimental to their business having to tell their customers & passengers that they cannot serve their needs. Airlines also claim this new law violates the constitution.

Ultimately, this law is unfavorable to airlines as their passengers would have to face an increase in cost & time for their travels. On top of that, passengers are not purchasing these tickets for the flights to be cancelled or delayed. This isn’t only a major inconvenience for airliners but also for passengers. As of now, a few of the other airlines that have sued Washington State include JetBlue, United and Southwest.

Source:

[1] http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/airlines-sue-over-new-washington-state-sick-leave-law

Wasif is a mathematical finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Fed Limits How Much Wells Fargo Can Grow

Posted by Brandon Bartkiewicz.

 

It has been almost two years since the Wells Fargo scandal broke into the headlines. It is not out of the ordinary to see a bank involved in shady activities; just look at the recession. However, in 2016, Wells Fargo committed a truly unforgivable crime, identity theft and fraud on a massive scale. To refresh, Wells Fargo had “… secretly opened millions of deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by customers, and that ultimately harmed those who had entrusted their financial affairs with the bank”. The goal of this was to create an illusion of more “sales” (accounts being opened). They did this by transferring money between accounts without permission of the accountholder. These activities were highly encouraged by an incentive system in place that would reward employees for opening accounts. Everyone was in on this; bank managers pressured their employees, and the executive board of Wells Fargo knew this was going on and did not stop it. By August 2017, the investigation found that as many as 3.5 million unauthorized accounts existed in Wells Fargo’s records.

The news of this wide scale fraud fueled a settlement with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Los Angeles legal officials, totaling $185 million in penalties. Along with this, Wells Fargo would give “… $80 million in refunds — $64 million in cash and $16 million in account adjustments — to more than 570,000 auto loan customers who were charged for auto insurance without their knowledge.” As it should be, the bank is now in financial trouble as it tries to cover all of the direct and indirect costs relating to the scandal. However, the Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve is not done disciplining the bank. Due to their “widespread customer abuses and compliance breakdowns,” the bank is now restricted from growing any more than its total asset size in 2017.  Along with this, the bank will remove some of the senior ranking executives in the company.  This is done to ensure that Wells Fargo will have sound business practices before it can grow again.

Personally, I believe that punishments handed down by the Federal Reserve were suitable for Wells Fargo. It provides a clear message to all banks that business malpractice is unacceptable and will be punished by harsh penalties. No bank should be able to get away with using client money and creating unauthorized accounts for personal gain. I wish the American legal system were stricter with companies so it would deviate them from doing illegal acts like this in the first place. What I did not like about this case was the fact that there are still plenty of people who have been long time officials of the company and are still employed by Wells Fargo. If you keep many of the same old pieces in place at a company, something like this is bound to happen again.

Brandon is a finance major in the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Source:

Link: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/02/02/fed-limits-wells-fargos-growth-citing-consumer-abuses/302973002/

 

 

 

 

The Interpretation Of “Harm” In New Jersey Product Liability Should Be Revisited

Posted by Nicholas Rizzi.

Product liability cases are far from straight forward; recently the Sinclair v. Merck & Co., Inc., 195 N.J. 51 (2008) celebrated its ten year anniversary.  Within this complex case, the court misinterpreted the product liability statute, in which it “decided that economic losses were barred by the act and, furthermore, ipse dixit that Consumer Fraud Act claims were likewise barred (Law Journal Editorial Board).

The court decided that the definition of “harm” was to be interpreted as physical injury or damaged property as opposed to being harmed economically.  The main reason this is brought up again, is because the case was being celebrated, when in fact it should be considered for reevaluation.

“The UCC’s warranty claims in non-“harm” cases still stand . . . numerous courts still apply the CFA, notwithstanding Sinclair” (Law Journal Editorial Board).  The courts left no explanation for their decision to define harm as they did, and for this reason, it should be reconsidered.

Overall, I believe that just like in this situation, product liability cases are not clear cut, but especially in this situation, courts should reevaluate cases as times change.  It’s unfortunate for those who may have been excluded from a fair ruling in the past, but it is better to reevaluate and get it correct, than to continue issuing unfair rulings.  People have the right to be protected from product liability, and in order for that to occur, the court should have to elaborate on what caused them to interpret the word “harm” in the way they chose to do.

Nicholas is an undecided major in the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.    

Tighter Federal Regulation On Cryptocurrencies Is Reasonable

 

Posted by Xiaoxie Zheng.

Now, more and more countries are beginning to regulate bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In this essay, I’ll focus on bitcoin. Unlike the French currency, there is no national credit endorsement behind bitcoin, and no guarantee of legal significance. It is implemented by the rules set by a group of people. Here are the main features of bitcoin:

First, there is no intermediary. The bitcoin publishing process is only controlled by the algorithm, and it is very difficult to control the centralizing mechanism.

Second, there is no inflation. Limited by the algorithm, the total supply of bitcoins is controlled and will never exceed 21 million.

Third, there is openness and transparency. Through technology, transactions are transparent and transaction costs are low.

Bitcoin is thoughtful. But the value of bitcoin is far from stable. The price of bitcoin can rise more than 100%, and sometimes it can collapse overnight. On the one hand, when it comes to determining value, it is difficult to do; on the other hand, the holder of bitcoin may be more speculative in his or her investment, which is not the ideal currency circulation function.

The problem with bitcoin is that hackers are a big threat. On June 19, 2011, a security hole in the Mt.Gox bitcoin trading center caused the price of one bitcoin to drop from $15 to a penny. In August 2011, the bitcoin exchange, MyBitcoin, was hacked, and more than 78,000 bitcoins worth $800,000 were missing.

As for the relationship between bitcoin and the economy, it has theoretically eliminated inflation and brought about deflation. In addition, the openness of technology is the intrinsic “spiritual value” of bitcoin, and therefore the competition of a large number of new virtual assets is inevitable. Its homogeneity itself leads to the risk of impairment of value and internal collapse.

Some countries have adopted a strict ban on bitcoin, such as Ecuador and Bolivia. But prohibition is not the best way to handle the matter. Comprehensively denying the authenticity and financial connotation of bitcoin and digital assets will not detract from its significance in financial transactions.

The lack of oversight of bitcoin can pose a significant systemic risk. The chaos of the digital asset floor and the trading platform can bring systemic risks. For example, money laundering is a public safety hazard. As a result, it is difficult to restrain speculation and the financial risks brought by it. Instead, governments cannot strictly regulate it under the current financial legal framework, nor can it effectively protect financial consumers.

The US Congress is right to impose stricter federal regulations on these emerging asset classes.

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

Source:

https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/us-congress-sets-sights-on-federal-cryptocurrency-rules

President Trump Blocks Broadcom-Qualcomm Merger

President Trump blocked the impending merger between Singapore-based, Broadcom, and U.S.-based, Qualcomm, over concerns that it would affect national security. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States investigated “the national security implications of the deal last week over concerns that it would hamper U.S. efforts to develop 5G wireless networks and other emerging technologies. CFIUS on Monday recommended that the president veto the deal.”

The President cited “‘credible'” evidence of risk to our national security. We would lose a company with the ingenuity and technology to build the next-generation of wireless networks.