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Showing posts with label Congress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Congress. Show all posts

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Schneider proposes (more) insider trading reform for Congress; background guarantees to outrage

Ever feel like it's harder and harder to pay higher and higher bills, even while the news raves about low unemployment, a rising stock market, and the rich get richer?  Feel like our members of Congress are out of touch and only working to line their own pockets?

Not all paranoia is delusional.  Fuel your outrage with Money, Power, and Radical Honesty: A Look at Members of Congress' Use of Information for Financial Gain, an article published by attorney Spencer K. Schneider, once my teaching and research assistant, in the Pepperdine Journal of Business, Entrepreneurship & The Law in November.  Here is the abstract.

Cleared of wrongdoing due to lack of evidence, Senators Kelley Loeffler and David Perdue continued their bids for re-election, and control of the Senate, in the Georgia run-off. Both Senators Loeffler and Perdue traded stocks in the run-up to the COVID-19 crisis after receiving classified briefings. These are just two of many instances of members of Congress profiting after receiving classified information. While the American public remained uninformed as to the true crisis looming as COVID-19 spread, members of Congress received private briefings and quietly sold securities such as travel and hotel related interests, and purchased other securities, such as remote-work software and medical equipment related interests.

Many members of Congress also profit from federal money earmarked to increase the value of their personal land deals, from access to IPOs, and from corporate board seats. While corporate executives, members of the executive branch, and ordinary citizens are subject to strict insider trading laws, members of Congress sail through loopholes and exceptions that are hand-crafted for their benefit. This article reviews proposals for fixing the problem before proposing a comprehensive solution focused on limiting the financial opportunities for members of Congress and strict reporting requirements.

While many proposals to address this problem exist, none come close to preventing members of Congress from profiting in these often nefarious ways. To ensure that members of Congress work on behalf of the American Public—and not their own pocketbooks—the comprehensive and drastic reform articulated in this article is required.

Spencer K. Schneider
Mr. Schneider worked on a piece of this article when he was still a law student under my tutelage.  I remember being flabbergasted by the background section, and then, in January 2021, thinking that we all should be at the Capitol ramparts, but for different reasons.  What's perhaps most disheartening is that past purported reform efforts in Congress have been devoid of will or insincere in execution. I know that Schneider worked hard on his reform proposal and sought advice from skeptical experts. Whether meaningful reform will precede frustration-fueled revolution in this country is anyone's guess.

The article is Spencer K. Schneider, Money, Power, and Radical Honesty: A Look at Members of Congress' Use of Information for Financial Gain, 14 J. Bus. Entrepreneurship & L. 296 (2021).  Schneider is licensed in Massachusetts and bar pending in his present home state of California.

UPDATE, Jan. 28: Less than a week after I posted this item, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah published a nice exposé on congressional insider trading, incorporating some of the same data that fueled Schneider's article and my ire:

Sunday, September 12, 2021

FOIA committee ponders access amid privatization

I had the great privilege last week to speak to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee, working under the aegis of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on the subject of access to the private sector in the public interest.

The OPEN the Government Act of 2007 augmented FOIA to follow public records into the hands of government contractors.  But the federal FOIA's reach into the private sector remains extremely limited relative to other access-to-information (ATI) systems in the United States and the world.  U.S. states vary widely in approach; the vast majority of state open records acts reaches into the private sector upon some test of state delegation, whether public funding, function, or power.  The same approach predominates in Europe.

The lack of such a mechanism at the federal level in the United States has resulted in a marked deficit of accountability in privatization.  The problem is especially pronounced in areas in which civil rights are prone to abuse, such as privatized prison services, over which the FOIA Advisory Committee and Congress have expressed concern.  By executive order, President Biden is ending the federal outsourcing of incarceration.  But access policy questions remain in questions about the past, in waning contracts, and in persistent privatization in some states.

As I have written in recent years, and examined relative to ATI in the United States, Europe, and India, an emerging model of ATI in Africa advances a novel theory of private-sector access in the interest of human-rights accountability.  I was privileged to share this model, and the theory behind it, with the committee.  I thank the committee for its indulgence, especially OGIS Director Alina Semo for her leadership and Villanova Law Professor Tuan Samahon for his interest in my work now and in the past.

Monday, November 11, 2019

For Veterans Day, let's push through Congress bipartisan Feres doctrine waiver for medmal claims

Veterans Day Painting.  (Details at end of story.)
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) authorizes tort actions against the U.S. federal government, waiving the government's sovereign immunity in its courts, subject to tight constraints.  The FTCA yields to the Feres doctrine, a rule of law named for the Supreme Court case that recognized it in the years following World War II.  The Feres doctrine disallows lawsuits by active-duty military for personal injury or death.  The Feres doctrine makes sense on the face of it, lest every injury in combat become a tort claim under the laws of the states. 

But the Feres doctrine's logic breaks down at the margins.  Increasingly in recent decades, healthcare has become big business and very expensive.  Military personnel have become dependent on the government for routine care.  And cases have been reported of medical malpractice at government hospitals: cases that unquestionably would yield medical malpractice claims in the comparable civilian context.  Insofar as the Feres doctrine is supported by a sort of "assumption of risk" by soldiers who go off to war, that theory feels ill fit to stateside medical mistakes in childbirth or prenatal care, or failure to diagnose terminal conditions

In spring 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert. in a challenge to this operation of the Feres doctrine (case at SCOTUSblog; details at and Stripes).  CBS Morning reported in August on the story of Sfc. Richard Stayskal, a Green Beret, now terminally ill, whose cancer was misdiagnosed, and on his emotional congressional testimony.


Bills (S.2451, H.R.2422) (not the first of their kind) that would authorize medmal tort claims for military personnel are stalled in House and Senate committees.  Fox46 Charlotte recently called out Sen. Lindsey Graham as an obstacle in the Senate for the bipartisan Sfc. Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019.  I hope Veterans Day might occasion placement of this fix on the short list of what Congress should be doing besides playing politics for the cameras this week.

(Image: Caroline Beattie, a senior at Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Fla., painted a portrait of her Economics and Government teacher, for the school's Veterans Day program. Her teacher, Maj. Jennifer Pearson with the Air Force Reserve’s 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., photographed the painting Nov. 6, 2019.  U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Jennifer Pearson.)