April 27, 2017 by Rena Steinzor

White Collar Crime and the Trump Administration

Cross-posted by permission from the Columbia Blue Sky Blog.

The Obama administration had a mixed record on white collar crime. On one hand, it extracted $4 billion and a guilty plea from BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill. On the other hand, it allowed HSBC, then the fourth largest bank in the world, to sign a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) over charges of laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel and serving as a banker for illicit regimes in Burma, Cuba, Iran, Libya, and Sudan. The bank paid $1.256 billion in penalties, but because it never admitted its crimes and controlled such vast amounts of money, the payment looked more like a cost of doing business than punishment. In fact, the Obama administration Department of Justice (DOJ) under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder and Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer used DPAs more often than did any other administration. Holder and Breuer repeatedly explained such settlements as necessary to avoid putting corporations out of business and inflicting collateral damage on innocent employees and shareholders. Holder told senators who questioned the HSBC settlement that he thought some institutions were, in effect, too big to jail. When …

April 26, 2017 by Katie Tracy

Every worker has a right to a safe job. Yet on an average day of the week, 13 U.S. workers die on the job due to unsafe working conditions. An additional 137 lives are lost daily due to occupational diseases – mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, among others. 

On Friday – Workers' Memorial Day – we will stand with the families, friends, and colleagues of fallen workers to remember each of them as individuals whose lives represent much more than a statistic. We will also renew our vow to fight for workers' rights so that every single person who leaves home for a job in the morning returns at the end of the day with all their limbs accounted for and with their health intact. 

Workers, advocates, and forward-thinking companies have already developed many worthy ideas to improve working conditions across the nation. Some basic changes we could make that …

April 25, 2017 by James Goodwin

If Donald Trump has learned anything over the last 100 days, it's that unlike in golf, you can't call a Mulligan on the beginning of your presidency, no matter how much it might improve your score. 

These last few months have been long on scandals and failure (Russian probes, the spectacular implosion of Trumpcare, etc.) and short on policy accomplishments, particularly in the legislative realm. This sad state of affairs has left Trump's PR team looking to inject some positive spin into the 100-days news narrative any way it can, and the Congressional Review Act (CRA) seems to be their go-to vehicle for doing just that. 

Using the long-dormant law's expedited procedures, and almost entirely along party lines, conservative leaders in Congress have pushed through a raft of CRA "resolutions of disapproval" that target a wide range of Obama administration-era regulations for repeal …

April 20, 2017 by James Goodwin

As the clock ticked closer to the end of the work day a few Fridays back, the Trump administration quietly made an announcement certain to put smiles on the faces of many corporate interest lobbyists in and around the DC Beltway: Neomi Rao, a little known but very conservative law professor at George Mason University's Scalia Law School, would be the nominee for Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The announcement probably went unnoticed by most of the working class families and low-income communities that Trump calls his base, but it may just have a huge impact on their health and well-being. 

As the next "regulatory czar," as the position is popularly known, Professor Rao is set to play a key role in the Trump administration's efforts to roll back the kind of public safeguards that we count on …

April 13, 2017 by Evan Isaacson

The City of Baltimore is wrapping up an $800 million upgrade of its largest sewage treatment plant. At the same time, the city is starting a $160 million project to retrofit a drinking water reservoir; is in the midst of a $400 million project to realign a major section of its sewer system; and is spending several million on projects throughout the city to manage polluted runoff from its streets and other paved surfaces.

And these are just a few of the city's many infrastructure projects to upgrade drinking water and wastewater facilities, improve the systems of pipes that deliver clean water to homes and, separately, sewage to their treatment plants, and begin to deal with the thousands of acres of pavement that channel filthy water into the city's harbor.

Managing our need for water is both expensive and complicated. If you consider the challenge involved in …

April 12, 2017 by James Goodwin

Steve Bannon's crusade to deconstruct the administrative state took two big steps forward last week, concluding with Donald Trump nominating George Mason University Law School professor Neomi Rao as his "regulatory czar." CPR will publish a new report on the role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator during the Trump administration in the days to come, but for now, I want to focus on the first big development: Acting Administrator Dominic Mancini's new memo providing agencies with guidance on how to comply with Trump's Executive Order 13771

The unenviable task Mancini and his team faced was trying to rehabilitate the almost cartoonishly absurd executive order by transforming its amateur-hour delusions about how the regulatory system works into a serious policy program. Specifically, the memo addresses several key issues related to Section 2 of the order, which requires agencies (1) to …

April 11, 2017 by Karen Sokol

Last month, President Trump released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which calls for sharp cuts to many agencies in order to fund increases in defense and military spending. Hardest hit is the Environmental Protection Agency. Already underfunded, EPA will simply not be able to carry out its statutory mandates to keep our environment clean and healthy if subjected to Trump's proposed cut of 31 percent. Rather, the Trump administration asserts that the agency would "primarily support States and Tribes in their important role protecting air, land, and water in the 21st Century." It's hard to imagine how EPA could do that, however, as the budget also slashes federal funding of state environmental programs by almost half

The state grant program exists because of the recognition that states do have an essential role in the protection of our nation's environment but that they …

April 10, 2017 by Matt Shudtz

Thank goodness for state-level policymakers who are resisting the Trump administration's extreme policies. Attorneys general from around the nation are making headlines by fighting Trump's discriminatory immigration ban. Governors from both major political parties stood up to the attempt to strip away health care from millions of hard-working Americans and their children. And mayors and law enforcement officials are lifting up undocumented residents and recognizing their many contributions to our society, rather than assisting in the indiscriminate roundups Trump has demanded.

These headline-grabbing acts of resistance are helping to preserve core values of our society from an administration that seems to have no recognizable guiding principles. Meanwhile, quietly and in great number across the country, state and local policymakers are taking other steps to Trump-proof the institutions that form the backbone of our civil society.

Shining a light on some examples of these small acts …

April 7, 2017 by Michelle Zemil

It was Ronald Reagan who popularized attacks on regulations when he was on the campaign trail in 1980, and since then, the tactic has been an inescapable feature of our political landscape. The false claims about environmental regulations, job creation, and the economy have been repeated so frequently and for so long that many Americans don't even question them. Yet no matter how many times a fallacy like this is repeated, it remains untrue. 

President Trump and his administration have repeatedly promised to add momentum to the U.S. economy by throwing out environmental safeguards, especially those from the Obama era. At the signing of the March 28 executive order against federal action on climate change, Trump said that it will "start a new era of production and job creation." But is that claim based on facts and evidence? Is it even realistic? 

The Saturday before …

April 5, 2017 by Sidney Shapiro

This op-ed originally ran in the Raleigh News & Observer.

The civil justice system in North Carolina exists to protect people and their property from unreasonable actions by others. One of the longest standing causes of action in civil courts is for nuisance claims, which allow you to bring suit when your neighbor creates a condition on their property that interferes with your ability to use and enjoy your property, such as excessive noise, poorly stored garbage that might attract vermin or foul odors.

Yet, House Bill 467, which is being fast-tracked through the legislature, would prevent hundreds of rural landowners from recovering more than token damages even if a court were to decide that the corporations responsible for factory farming have committed just such a nuisance.

Nuisance suits are already limited to addressing conditions that are unreasonable for the area where they occur. They also protect …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 27, 2017

White Collar Crime and the Trump Administration

April 26, 2017

Workers' Memorial Day: Honoring Fallen Workers, Fighting for Safer Jobs

April 25, 2017

New CPR Project - CRA by the Numbers: The Congressional Review Act Assault on Our Safeguards

April 20, 2017

New Report: Trump's New 'Regulatory Czar' and the Continuing Assault on Our Safeguards

April 13, 2017

Baltimore's Experience May Yield Lessons for Senate as It Debates Integrated Planning Bill

April 12, 2017

The Key Ingredient in Trump's Anti-Reg Two-for-One Executive Order? Fuzzy Math

April 11, 2017

How Trump's Proposed Cuts to EPA Disempower States