Securities Attorney Briefing 8 December 2016

Securities Attorney Tom Krebs


JPMorgan Hit Hardest as EU Fines Euribor Trio $521 Million

JPMorgan Chase & Co., HSBC Holdings Plc and Credit Agricole SA were fined a total of 485.5 million euros ($521 million) for rigging the Euribor benchmark as European Union antitrust regulators wrapped up a five-year investigation into the scandal. The trio colluded to rig the Euribor rate and exchanged sensitive information to suit their trading positions in correlated derivatives markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules, the European Commission said on Wednesday in an e-mailed statement. JPMorgan was fined 337.2 million euros, HSBC got a 33.6 million-euro penalty and Credit Agricole must pay 114.7 million euros. “The participation in such schemes was very lucrative for the banks,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust commissioner, told journalists in Brussels, adding that it’s very difficult to make an exact estimate of their profits. “Tiny movements of the Euribor rate can have a huge impact given the trading volumes at stake.” The EU’s investigation into Euribor manipulation was strained three years ago after Credit Agricole, JPMorgan and HSBC refused to join a multi-bank settlement with four other lenders including Deutsche Bank AG and Societe Generale SA. Since then, the holdouts have been a thorn in the commission’s side — successfully delaying the process and showing up the regulator for its handling of the case. JPMorgan “did not engage in any wrongdoing with respect to the Euribor benchmark,” Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for the bank in London, said in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously defend our position against these allegations, including through possible appeals to the European courts.” Credit Agricole in a statement said it “firmly believes that it did not infringe competition law” and that “it will appeal the commission’s decision.” The fine payment “will not affect the 2016 financial statements given the provisions set aside previously,” the Montrouge, France-based bank said. HSBC said it “did not participate in an anti-competitive cartel,” and is also considering its legal options, according to a statement.

Ally, Enemy or Both? Saudi Arabia’s Many Roles in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Fifteen years, half a trillion dollars and 150,000 lives since going to war, the United States is trying to extricate itself from Afghanistan. Afghans are being left to fight their own fight. A surging Taliban insurgency, meanwhile, is flush with a new inflow of money. With their nation’s future at stake, Afghan leaders have renewed a plea to one power that may hold the key to whether their country can cling to democracy or succumbs to the Taliban. But that power is not the United States. It is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is critical because of its unique position in the Afghan conflict: It is on both sides. A longtime ally of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has backed Islamabad’s promotion of the Taliban. Over the years, wealthy Saudi sheikhs and rich philanthropists have also stoked the war by privately financing the insurgents. All the while, Saudi Arabia has officially, if coolly, supported the American mission and the Afghan government and even secretly sued for peace in clandestine negotiations on their behalf. The contradictions are hardly accidental. Rather, they balance conflicting needs within the kingdom, pursued through both official policy and private initiative. The dual tracks allow Saudi officials plausibly to deny official support for the Taliban, even as they have turned a blind eye to private funding of the Taliban and other hard-line Sunni groups. The result is that the Saudis — through private or covert channels — have tacitly supported the Taliban in ways that make the kingdom an indispensable power broker. More:

What It’s Like to Be an Immigration Attorney in the Final Weeks Before the Trump Presidency

Donald Trump’s formal ascension to the presidency is still weeks away, but for non-Americans living in America, fears of what he will do once in power mean that many are starting to evaluate their options now. The fate awaiting undocumented immigrants, beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—President Obama’s executive action known best as DACA—and high-skilled workers from abroad remains unclear in the wake of Trump’s election. And uncertainty about the fate of millions of workers also means uncertainty about the economic repercussions of Trump’s inflammatory-yet vague policy prescriptions on immigration, a key driver of the American workforce. The lack of clarity has left many turning to immigration lawyers not just for their professional services, but also for reassurance. But that can be difficult to provide. “It’s hard to know where to start,” says Claudia Slovinsky, an immigration and nationality attorney in New York who founded her firm in 1980. “There’s a lot of anxiety out there. We’re all human beings, you sort of stretch out to all of these very incredibly awful possibilities, which produces even more anxiety. Everything changed overnight.” It might be easy to forget that the sitting president has deported over 2 million immigrants, more than all presidents of the 20th century combined. “It’s not like things have been great for immigrants in the last 25, 20 years,” Slovinsky explains. “It’s not like, ‘Oh man, there were no deportations and now there are going to be deportations.’” But still, Trump’s rhetoric about deportation, immigrants, walls, and religious bans was more incendiary than what most have seen in generations of national politics, leaving many to worry over where the president-elect will draw a line between campaign bluster and actual policy. There are already millions of people who, for years, have endured America’s long-lasting legal limbo. As they well know, day-to-day life continues, but not without a persisting sense of vulnerability—a fear that the worst possible outcome is always looming. More:

How a 7-year-old Aleppo girl on Twitter became our era’s Anne Frank

The harrowing farewell message came Sunday, just three short sentences. “We are sure the army is capturing us now. We will see each other another day dear world. Bye.” It was signed “Fatemah,” the mother of Bana al-Abed, a 7-year-old Syrian girl who amassed more than 200,000 Twitter followers as she and her family have documented their struggle to survive in war-ravaged Aleppo. Fatemah indicated that the Syrian army was closing in on the rebel-held neighborhood where her family had fled after their house was destroyed last week in a bombing. And then, Bana’s Twitter account was abruptly deleted. Her mother started the Twitter account in late September, and Bana — a petite child with long dark hair, big brown eyes and a lilting voice — quickly became the newest symbol for the horrors unfolding in Syria. She shared her fear of the nightly bombings, tweeted photos of obliterated buildings and chronicled the quiet moments spent with her little siblings. Social-media users and international media outlets quickly took notice. More than seventy years after a Dutch teenager penned the diary chron­icling her family’s life hiding from the Nazis, Bana has become the Anne Frank of the Syrian civil war — except this time, the world is watching the story unfold in the present, moment to moment, with no sense of how it will end. On Oct. 4, she stood beside a garden piled with rubble. “This is our bombed garden. I use to play on it, now nowhere to play,” she said. On Oct. 14, she sat with one of her two little brothers on the floor of their home, scrawling words in blank notebooks. “We are writing to forget the war,” she tweeted. Four days later, she stood in the middle of a ruined street, holding her arms up to the sky, grinning in her white hooded sweatshirt. “I am very happy because it’s raining,” she wrote. More:

Trump’s ‘Wall’ at Mexico Border Vanishing as GOP Lawmakers Bolt

The Mexican border wall that Donald Trump promised in the campaign doesn’t really have to be a wall, says Representative Dennis Ross, a member of the president-elect’s transition team. “The ‘wall’ is a term to help understand it, to describe it,” says Ross, a Florida Republican, adding that it “really means ‘security.’ It could be a fence. It could be open surveillance to prevent people from crossing. It does not mean an actual wall.” Even the president-elect’s closest allies in Congress are working to redefine Trump’s top campaign promise, which many view as too costly and impractical for securing the 1,933-mile border with Mexico. Most illegal immigration can be halted with fencing, more Border Patrol agents and drones, they contend. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday suggested using approaches that simply make the most sense. “Conditions on the ground determine what you need in a particular area,” Ryan said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Trump himself briefly backed away from the idea of a fortified wall days after the election by telling CBS he’d accept fencing in some areas — but revived his promise last week to a roaring crowd in Cincinnati. “We will construct a great wall at the border, dismantle the criminal cartel and liberate our communities from the epidemic of gang violence and drugs pouring into our nation,” Trump said. More:

China calls Iowa’s Branstad ‘old friend’ after report he picked as ambassador

China said on Wednesday the governor of the U.S. state of Iowa, Terry Branstad, was an “old friend” after a report that he had accepted an offer from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to become the next U.S. ambassador to China. “We welcome him to play a greater role in advancing the development of China-U.S. relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily press briefing when asked about the Bloomberg report. Lu did not confirm the story and said China would work with whoever became ambassador. Branstad’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. Trump’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an interview with Fox News, David Bosse, deputy executive director of the Trump transition team, said: “I think there’s talk of that.” He said Branstad may join Trump at a planned appearance on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, which is part of a national victory tour to thank supporters. If Branstad’s appointment is confirmed it may help to ease trade tensions between the two countries, the world’s two biggest agricultural producers, diplomats and trade experts said. Branstad called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “long-time friend” when Xi visited Iowa in February 2012, only nine months before he became the Chinese leader. It suggests that Trump may be ready to take a less combative stance towards the world’s second-largest economy than many expected, trade experts and diplomats said. Tensions have been worsening since Trump, who has said he intends to declare China a currency manipulator when he gets into office and has threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese goods coming into the U.S., defeated Hillary Clinton in last month’s election.


U.S. Supreme Court Hands Down Three Unanimous Rulings

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down three unanimous rulings on Tuesday, including a victory for Samsung in an ongoing patent dispute with Apple. The justices also sent the case back to lower courts for further hearing. In State Farm v. U.S. ex rel. Rigsby, the Court sided with two whistleblowing sisters who accused insurance giant State Farm of misclassifying damage to Louisiana homes after Hurricane Katrina. State Farm had urged lower courts to toss out the False Claims Act lawsuit because the whistleblowers’ former lawyer had broken a court seal on the case. But the justices disagreed. “It is proper to infer that, had Congress intended to require dismissal for a violation of the seal requirement, it would have said so,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court. In its third decision, Salman v. United States, the justices broadened federal prosecutors’ power in insider-trading cases. Bassem Salman was convicted after buying stock based on inside information from an extended family member. That family member had received the information from Salman’s brother-in-law, who handled mergers and acquisitions for Citigroup. Salman argued he couldn’t be held liable because his brother-in-law hadn’t benefited from the exchange. The Court upheld Salman’s conviction, citing a lower-court ruling that said gifts of inside information to a family member still violated the law even without a quid pro quo.

Insiders ‘Back On The Hook’ After Supreme Court Trading Decision

For two years, stock traders and the attorneys who represent them said insider-trading law was a muddle, with no one knowing what exactly is or isn’t legal. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it had “easily” settled the question. No one doubted that a trader who paid cash to an insider for privileged information faced prison. But what about the trader who got the tip from a friend or golfing buddy as a mere gift? Is it illegal to trade on that? In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court declared that it is. And that eliminated the confusion that had plagued insider-trading law since December 2014, when a New York-based appeals court made it harder for prosecutors to bring such cases. “The Supreme Court’s decision is pretty simple,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. “The Supreme Court said today that the law is what we always thought it was” — that simply making a gift of inside information “can trigger insider-trading liability.” In other words, Henning said, both the CEO who makes a gift of secret news to his brother-in-law on the back nine, and the brother-in-law himself, remain at risk for an insider-trading conviction — even if there was no cash exchanged between the two. “Golf buddies, roommates and others are back on the hook,” Henning said. The ruling came in the first insider-trading case to be considered by the Supreme Court in two decades and answered a question that had divided federal appeals courts. It restored some, though not all, of the leverage lost by prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the 2014 case. “The court stood up for common sense and affirmed what we have been arguing from the outset — that the law absolutely prohibits insiders from advantaging their friends and relatives at the expense of the trading public,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York said in an e-mailed statement. “Today’s decision is a victory for fair markets and those who believe that the system should not be rigged.” The decision likely undercuts efforts by some Wall Street figures to overturn their insider-trading convictions. Among those watching the Supreme Court case were former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director Rajat Gupta, hedge-fund manager Doug Whitman and Galleon Group co-founder Raj Rajaratnam. They and others have been trying to overturn their convictions on grounds that the Supreme Court soundly rejected on Tuesday — that tippers must get a tangible benefit to be at risk of prison. The Supreme Court said there was no such requirement. More:

Wells Fargo Killing Sham Account Suits by Using Arbitration

In congressional hearing rooms and on national television, Wells Fargo has vowed to make things right for the thousands of customers who were given sham accounts. The bank’s new chief executive, Timothy J. Sloan, in his first week on the job, said his “immediate and highest priority is to restore trust in Wells Fargo.” But in federal and state courtrooms across the country, Wells Fargo is taking a different tack.

The bank has sought to kill lawsuits that its customers have filed over the creation of as many as two million sham accounts by moving the cases into private arbitration — a secretive legal process that often favors corporations. Lawyers for the bank’s customers say the legal motions are an attempt to limit the bank’s accountability for the widespread fraud and deny its customers their day in open court. Under intense pressure to meet sales goals, Wells employees used customers’ personal information to create unauthorized banking and credit card accounts in a far-reaching scandal that has rattled the San Francisco bank to its core, forcing the retirement of its longtime leader, John G. Stumpf, and enraging regulators and politicians of all stripes. The bank’s arbitration push in recent weeks is fanning those flames anew. “It is ridiculous,” said Jennifer Zeleny, who is suing Wells Fargo in federal court in Utah, along with about 80 other customers, over unauthorized accounts. “This is an issue of identity theft — my identity was used so employees could meet sales goals. This is something that needs to be litigated in a public forum.” In arbitration, consumers often find the odds are stacked against them. The arbitration clauses prevent consumers from banding together to file a lawsuit as a class, forcing them instead to hash out their disputes one by one and blunting one of most powerful tools that Americans have in challenging harmful and deceitful practices by big companies. Strict judicial rules limiting conflicts of interest also do not apply in arbitration, enabling some companies to steer cases to friendly arbitrators, according to a 2015 investigation by The New York Times. Arbitration is also conducted outside public view, and the decisions are nearly impossible to overturn. More:

Source: Trump transition team requested security clearance for Flynn Jr.

Washington (CNN) Officials from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team attempted to distance themselves Tuesday from Michael G. Flynn — the son and former top aide to his father, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is Trump’s pick for national security adviser and was involved in the transition effort.

However, a government source tells CNN that the Trump transition team had requested a security clearance for the younger Flynn. When asked about the request for clearance on CNN’s “The Lead,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence wouldn’t answer Jake Tapper’s repeated questions about whether he knew the transition team sought security clearance for Flynn Jr. Instead, Pence repeated that the younger Flynn was merely helping his father with scheduling and administrative matters — and no longer is doing so. Pressed on seeking a security clearance for Flynn Jr., Pence said: “Well, whatever the appropriate paperwork was to assist him in that regard, Jake, I’m sure was taking place. But that’s no longer the case.” “All of our families want to be helpful, and four weeks to the day from Election Day, we’ve got a lot of work to do. But Mike Flynn Jr. is no longer associated with Gen. Flynn’s efforts or the transition team, and we’re focused eyes forward,” Pence said. For months, the younger Flynn has spread deranged conspiracy theories, including one making the unfounded and nonsensical accusation that a pizzeria in Washington is a secret home of a Satanic pedophilia cult. On Sunday, that wild lie almost had tragic consequences, with a North Carolina man entering the restaurant armed with guns. The younger Flynn continued to defend the baseless “PizzaGate” theory later Sunday evening. “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many ‘coincidences’ tied to it,” he tweeted. On Tuesday morning, Pence said that the younger Flynn had no role on the transition.

A transition spokesman, Jason Miller, later amended that statement to acknowledge that Flynn had worked for the transition, though he downplayed it as merely “helping out with scheduling and administrative work.” Trump transition team officials would not elaborate as to why the younger Flynn was no longer doing work for them, or the circumstances under which he left. A source familiar with the situation said Flynn Jr. was asked to leave, with Trump giving the direct order for the move. Both Flynns have faced criticism for pushing false conspiracy theories in recent months. In a speech in August, the elder Flynn falsely claimed that Florida Democrats voted to impose Islamic Shariah law at the state and local level. He made similar comments in a speech in Dallas. “In the state of Texas — your legislators, your state representatives, your state senators, there’s a bunch of them that would be willing to have Sharia law imposed in the state of Texas,” Flynn said. CNN’s KFile previously reported that the younger Flynn has posted racially insensitive tweets and frequently shares unfounded conspiracy theories, including the claim that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would be tried for treason if Trump were elected. He also posted a unfounded story claiming hackers would release a video of former President Bill Clinton raping a teenage girl. In one post, he said so-called alt-right social commentator Mike Cernovich, who frequently shares unfounded news stories, “a source I trust.” In a Facebook post from October, Flynn shared a fake news story claiming Obama flaunted an erection to female reporters in 2008. Flynn tweeted multiple times unfounded claims about Sen. Marco Rubio’s “coke house, gayish dance troupe, and foam parties.” He also frequently re-tweets Paul Watson, editor for the conspiracy website InfoWars, sometimes using the hashtag “#infowars” himself. The younger Flynn has also frequently used the term “cuck” — a shorthand slur for cuck-conservative, which combines the words cuckold and conservative. And he often labels Obama, Clinton, CNN, “Saturday Night Live” and others communists.

Gun Control Advocates Find a Deep-Pocketed Ally in Big Law

In Congress and in the Supreme Court, the gun lobby has racked up some crucial victories in recent years. It won again last month when Donald J. Trump, buoyed by the gun lobby’s money and support, secured an upset victory in the presidential election. On the defensive, gun control advocates are now quietly developing a plan to chip away at the gun lobby’s growing clout: Team up with corporate law firms.

After the Orlando nightclub massacre and a string of other mass shootings, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Covington & Burling; Arnold & Porter; and four other prominent law firms formed a coalition with gun control groups that until now have worked largely on their own. Together, the firms are committing tens of millions of dollars in free legal services from top corporate lawyers who typically bill clients $1,000 an hour or more. This effort is highly unusual in its scale. Although law firms often donate time to individual causes, and some firms have worked on gun control on a piecemeal basis, the number and the prominence of the firms involved in the new coalition are unheard-of for modern-day big law. Other firms are expected to join in the coming months. More:

Health Insurers List Demands if Affordable Care Act Is Killed

The nation’s health insurers, resigned to the idea that Republicans will repeal the Affordable Care Act, on Tuesday publicly outlined for the first time what the industry wants to stay in the state marketplaces, which have provided millions of Americans with insurance under the law. The insurers, some which have already started leaving the marketplaces because they are losing money, say they need a clear commitment from the Trump administration and congressional leaders that the government will continue offsetting some costs for low-income people. They also want to keep in place rules that encourage young and healthy people to sign up, which the insurers say are crucial to a stable market for individual buyers.

The demands are a sort of warning shot to Republicans. While the party is eager to repeal the law as quickly as possible, and many have promised a replacement, its members are sharply divided over what shape any new plan should take. If they do not come up with an alternative, more than 22 million people would be left uninsured, including the more than 10 million who have bought individual plans on state marketplaces. On Tuesday, Marilyn Tavenner, the chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a leading industry trade group, warned that the state marketplaces were already on unstable financial footing. Failing to continue the funding aimed at low-income Americans, she said, would have far-reaching consequences because the business would become much tougher for insurers. More:

GOP still splintered over Obamacare after Pence meeting

After meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Tuesday to hash out plans to repeal Obamacare, top Senate Republicans are no closer to resolving an issue that’s splintering the GOP heading into the start of Donald Trump’s presidency: how long to give themselves to replace the law. Pence communicated that the incoming administration is prepared to work closely with Congress on the issue, senators said, but did not dictate how long the transition period should last. That decision will affect millions of Americans’ health care and send insurance companies scrambling to adjust. “The view on that probably is in a constant state of evolution, based on who you talk to,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP leader. “The question is: What’s that duration? Structurally, it’s at this point an open question. We’re hoping to get some direction.” The only firm plans are for the Senate to kick off the repeal effort as soon as Jan. 3 by passing a budget resolution — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling it the “Obamacare repeal resolution” — that sets the table to repeal the Affordable Care Act on a simple majority vote. Then, shortly after Trump is sworn in, Republicans aim to have a repeal bill on his desk to sign. It’s what comes after that moment of catharsis that Republicans are struggling with. Lawmakers have proposed putting off the effective date of repeal from as little as six months to as long as three years to come up with a replacement — and give insurance markets a chance to prepare. Several senators suggested at the meeting with Pence that additional measures from Congress or the administration may be needed to address rising insurance premiums and avoid roiling the insurance markets in the period between repeal and replace, attendees said. The length of the transition is pitting hard-line conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz and members of the House Freedom Caucus, who favor a relatively speedy replacement, against Senate leaders who are pushing the three-year option. More:

Why For-Profit Colleges Are Undaunted by the Trump University Case

Strayer Education, Inc., the company that owns the for-profit Strayer University, hadn’t experienced a sudden, significant increase in its stock price in more than a year. Then, as November 9 came to a close and it was clear that Donald J. Trump had won the election, the company’s stock jumped from $58 to $66 per share. It wasn’t the only for-profit college to see a boon after the presidential votes were tallied—even those that have faced federal probes, like DeVry and the University of Phoenix, saw their stock values rise. This was quite a change from the reasons for-profits have usually appeared in the news—often simply a chronicle of which ones had just closed their campuses or filed for bankruptcy—amid the Obama administration’s second-term crackdown on select for-profit institutions accused of engaging in unscrupulous recruiting practices and making unfulfilled career promises. Perhaps investors in the for-profits were optimistic about President-elect Trump’s promises to undo as many government regulations as possible. Or perhaps, given that Trump had once operated a for-profit real-estate seminar series, branded as a “university” bearing his name, they saw in him someone who supports for-profit colleges, too. That particular institution, of course, was recently embroiled in a class-action fraud lawsuit, which Trump settled 10 days after the election to the tune of $25 million (though he said on Twitter that he would have prevailed). On its face, the Trump University settlement would appear to signal caution to those with a stake in for-profits, namely colleges whose business practices have already come under scrutiny. But nearly everything about this particular fraud case was an outlier, from the brazenness of Trump University’s “playbook,” to its high-dollar class-action settlement, to the fact that it made it to court (and, thus, also the public record) in the first place. A central tenet of one of the complaints in the class-action lawsuit, Cohen v. Trump, was that operating Trump’s seminars as “Trump University” (which went on until 2010), was a blatantly fraudulent act. That is, per the Cohen complaint, not only did the events not offer direct access to Trump’s real-estate “secrets,” but the operation conferred neither degree nor certification, making it unlike any actual university. Although Trump himself claimed in a promotional video that the seminars’ faculty consisted of hand-selected “professors and adjunct professors” whose quality rivaled those in the Ivy League, the events instead allegedly delivered independent sales contractors, paid in commission. Additionally, the Cohen complaint alleges participants filled out detailed financial statements, ostensibly for the purpose of setting investment goals, but actually “to assess the liquid assets that each student has to spend on the next Trump University program.” While the first seminar was offered free of cost, according to the complaint, it upsold to a “Fulfillment Seminar” costing $1,495, which was followed by a $34,995 “Gold Elite” program. (Trump’s answer to the Cohen complaint either denied all allegations of wrongdoing, or claimed Trump was “without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth” of those allegations.) More:

Donald Trump to Boeing: ‘Cancel order’ for new $4B Air Force One

Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that he wants to cancel the Pentagon’s order with Boeing for a new $4 billion Air Force One, as the president-elect keeps playing hardball with American businesses. Shares of Boeing stock dropped in premarket trading after the tweet. “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Mr. Trump tweeted. Later, Mr. Trump said the spending on the new airplane was “totally out of control.” “It’s going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program, and I think it’s ridiculous,” he told reporters in a rare appearance in the lobby of Trump Tower. “I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.” More:

Trump Bashes Boeing After CEO’s Mild Criticism

Seemingly out of nowhere on Tuesday morning, President-elect Donald Trump bashed Boeing on Twitter, declaring the company’s costs “out of control,” and saying the government should cancel an order with the company for two new Air Force One jets. As it turns out, that seemingly random outburst against the aerospace company came within an hour after the Chicago Tribune published a column quoting Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg offering some tepid criticism of Trump’s aggressive trade rhetoric against China. “Muilenburg suggests the Trump team, and Congress, back off from the 2016 anti-trade rhetoric and perceived threats to punish other countries with higher tariffs or fees,” read the column, by Robert Reed. “Instead, he suggests they get down to the business of advocating a stronger U.S. agenda during ongoing or upcoming trade negotiations with other countries. ‘If we do not lead when it comes to writing these rules, our competitors will write them for us,’ he said.” Trump has not definitively stated that the Tribune column was the impetus for his anti-Boeing remarks, but the president-elect is famous for using Twitter to respond, in real-time, to perceived slights in the media. Most recently, observers noticed that Trump’s tweet calling for the banning of flag burning came within minutes after Fox & Friends—a show on which he frequently appears and watches—aired a segment about college students burning the flag in protest of a Trump presidency.

Ben Carson did not live in public housing

Some supporters of President-elect Donald Trump have praised his choice of Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, noting that the retired neurosurgeon had lived in public housing himself. Except he didn’t. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in an attack on House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi Monday, inaccurately claimed that Carson lived in “government housing.” “Ben Carson is first HUD Sec to have actually lived in gov’t housing. Fancy Nancy Pelosi says he’s not qualified; is she racist or just dumb,” Huckabee tweeted. The New York Times issued a correction Monday after saying that Carson aide Armstrong Williams originally told the paper that Carson was raised in public housing. “Using information from a close friend of Ben Carson, the nominee for housing secretary, an earlier version of this article misstated that Mr. Carson spent part of his childhood in public housing,” the Times wrote. “The friend, Armstrong Williams, said Monday that Mr. Carson had never lived in government housing.” Huckabee later apologized for tweeting the inaccurate information and said he had been relying on the Times — which he jabbed as a “fake news” site. Carson has said he was raised “in the ghetto” and “in dire poverty.” “Dr. Carson’s mother worked 3 jobs at a time to keep them out of public housing, but he grew up around many who utilized housing programs,” Williams tweeted Monday.

Biden raises possibility of 2020 presidential bid

Vice President Biden on Monday raised the possibility of a presidential bid in 2020. “I am going to run in 2020,” Biden told a group of reporters in the Capitol when asked about his political future. “What the hell man, anyway.” Asked if he was kidding about running, the 74-year-old paused before saying he is “not committing not to run.”  “I am not committed to anything,” he added. “I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening.” It would be surprising if Biden decided to continue his decadeslong political career, which many assumed would end once President Obama and he leave the White House next month. Biden will be 78 in 2020 and would by far be the oldest person ever to win a major-party presidential nomination if he became the Democrats’ standard-bearer. After months of toying with a presidential run this cycle, Biden announced last October that he would not mount a bid. He said he ran out of time “necessary to mount a winning campaign” while mourning the loss of his son, Beau, to cancer. He instead spent 2016 campaigning for Hillary Clinton. More:

Ohio lawmakers pass ‘heartbeat’ abortion legislation

Ohio lawmakers approved a bill that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception, clearing the way for one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the United States if it becomes law. The Republican-led state House of Representatives and Senate passed the so-called “heartbeat” measure late on Tuesday, sending it to be signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich. Kasich, an abortion opponent, has in the past questioned whether such legislation would be constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide more than four decades ago, but states were allowed to permit restrictions once a fetus was viable. Some states, particularly those governed by Republicans such as Ohio, have sought to chip away at a woman’s right to end a pregnancy.

Lower courts have struck down similar “heartbeat” laws in North Dakota and Arkansas and the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on those rulings in January. But now, with Republican President-elect Donald Trump having the opportunity to fill at least one Supreme Court vacancy, conservatives in Ohio hope that the legislation can withstand a challenge in court. “A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward,” Senate President Keith Faber told the Columbus Dispatch. “It has a better chance than it did before,” Faber said of the bill’s chances of surviving a constitutional challenge, according to the Dispatch. The heartbeat legislation has been approved twice before by the state’s lower house only to fail in the Senate. More:

Beware of This New Phishing Scam That Looks Like an Amazon Email

Holiday shopping season is in full swing, and not surprisingly, is a popular destination. But if you’re one of the millions of people to recently order an item from the e-commerce giant (or you’re still browsing around for present ideas), be aware of a sneaky new phishing scam. As Inc. reports, both Amazon Prime members and regular customers have reported receiving fake (yet very official-looking) emails that appear to come from Amazon asking them to re-enter their credit card information. The email’s subject line says, “Your order cannot be shipped.” According to AARP’s blog, the full message reads: Hello,There was a problem processing your order. You will not be able to access your account or place orders with us until we confirm your here to confirm your account. We ask that you not open new accounts as any order you place may be delayed. For more details, read our Amazon Prime Terms & Conditions. Recipients who follow the email’s instructions and click on the link are taken to a convincing “Amazon” page. There, they are invited to input their names, address, and credit card info (including the expiration and CVV security code). Once they hit Save & Continue, they’re automatically guided to the real Amazon website. Hopefully you’re now on high-alert, and you won’t fall for this scheme. But, as AARP reminds us, you should never click on an embedded link in an email from Amazon (or, for that matter, any other company). Instead, check to see whether the items mentioned in the email are ones you’ve actually purchased (you can head to Amazon’s “Your Orders” section to jog your memory if need be), be suspicious of typos and spelling mistakes, and hover your cursor over any URLs provided and the sender’s email address to take a close look—phishing scams will notoriously use URLs similar to the real deal. If you do recognize an Amazon email as fake, don’t just ignore it. The New York Times recommends reporting to them by forwarding the whole message as an attachment to And since phishing schemes are likely to continue (and even grow) in the weeks leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah, check out Amazon’s list of tips for avoiding payment fraud.

Time magazine names U.S. President-elect Trump Person of the Year

Time Magazine has named U.S. President-elect Donald Trump Person of the Year, citing the upheaval in American politics brought about by the election campaign and victory of the New York businessman.

“It’s hard to measure the scale of his disruption,” Time said in its announcement on Wednesday, noting Trump’s eclectic career as real estate magnate and reality television star before winning the highest office in the land. “For those who believe this is all for the better, Trump’s victory represents a long-overdue rebuke to an entrenched and arrogant governing class,” it said. The magazine said its short list included Trump’s rival in the 2016 presidential race, Democrat Hillary Clinton, as well as Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan and singer Beyonce. “It’s a great honor, it means a lot,” Trump told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview shortly after the announcement.


Luther Strange to run for Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange declared his candidacy for Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, becoming the first high-profile name to enter the ring. Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, is still months away from confirmation to his position, but the announcement of his nomination last month set off maneuvering for the seat. In a statement released by a Strange for Senate campaign — formed last week — the attorney general said his first focus would be supporting Sessions’ nomination. He declined to discuss specifics of any campaign he might mount. “The voters will make the ultimate decision about who will represent them, and I look forward to making my case to the people of Alabama in the months to come as to why they can trust me to keep protecting and fighting for our conservative values,” the statement said. If Sessions wins confirmation, Gov. Robert Bentley will appoint his successor, but will also have to schedule an election for the seat. Bentley said in an interview last month he would look for someone who would help Trump carry out his agenda. Strange’s statement did not mention Trump or Bentley’s appointment power, which could be awkward for both the governor and Strange. The House Judiciary Committee last month suspended its investigation into Bentley’s possible impeachment over allegations that he used state resources to pursue an extramarital affair and attempted to stop then-ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier from cooperating with a criminal investigation of then-House Speaker Mike Hubbard. The attorney general requested the committee suspend the probe because its work “might intersect with certain issues and witnesses.” In a statement last month, the committee said the attorney general’s office was conducting “a separate investigation of the governor.”

Strange’s office declined comment Tuesday afternoon on what if any investigations into Bentley are taking place, or Strange’s role in them. Russ Garber, an attorney representing Bentley in the impeachment, said last month he was not aware of any investigation into Bentley by the attorney general.

Raised in Homewood, Strange earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Tulane University in New Orleans. He worked as a Washington lobbyist in the 1980s and 90s and later founded his own law firm.

Strange ran for lieutenant governor in 2006, narrowly losing to former Gov. James Folsom, Jr., a Democrat. In 2010, he ran for attorney general, defeating incumbent Troy King in the Republican primary and Democrat James Anderson, now a Montgomery County circuit judge, in the general election.

The attorney general continued former Gov. Bob Riley’s offensive against gambling in his first term, shutting down VictoryLand in Macon County and bringing an unsuccessful lawsuit against electronic bingo at casinos operated by the federally-recognized Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Strange’s office also negotiated a settlement with BP over the 2010 Gulf oil spill, which wreaked economic and ecological havoc on Mobile and Baldwin counties. His office also began an ethics investigation into Mike Hubbard, an Auburn Republican who helped lead the GOP takeover of the Alabama Legislature in 2010. Strange recused himself from the investigation, but Hubbard accused Strange of using the investigation to knock him out of the 2018 gubernatorial race.  A Lee County jury convicted Hubbard on 12 felony ethics charges in June, leading to his removal from office. Hubbard, who maintains his innocence, has appealed his convictions. More:

Gun-wielding Alabama Mannequin Challenge leads to 2 arrests; weapons and drugs seized

A gun-wielding Mannequin Challenge video led to the arrest of two men and the seizure of several firearms and marijuana at a north Alabama home. The video, which shows several people in still poses holding guns, led Madison County Sheriff’s investigators to serve a search warrant at 5012 Powell Drive N.W. in Huntsville around 5 a.m., said Capt. Mike Salomonsky. The video has been shared nearly 86,000 times since it was posted to Facebook on Nov. 9. Those arrested are Kenneth Fennell White, 49, and Terry Brown, 23. White is charged with first-degree possession of marijuana and possession of a firearm by a violent felon. He is being held in the Madison County Jail with bail set at $30,000. Brown is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and loitering. Once he was taken to the jail, authorities found marijuana in his possession and added a charge of promoting prison contraband. His bail is set at $3,800. Two handguns, an assault rifle and a shotgun, along with several rounds of ammunition and magazines were seized at the home, Salomonsky said. Investigators also discovered several bags of marijuana that were packaged for resale along with scales and a device used for grinding the drug. A computer also was taken into custody for intelligence gathering, Salomonsky said. The investigation into the video began shortly after it was posted nearly a month ago, but further information was needed for investigators to get a search warrant, Salomonsky said. The Huntsville Police Department and agents from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also helped with the investigation.

In Alabama, you can be sentenced to death even if jurors don’t agree

Ronald Bert Smith walked into a Huntsville, Ala., convenience store with a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol on Nov. 8, 1994, and shot clerk Casey Wilson to death during a robbery captured on video. A jury in August 1995 unanimously convicted Smith of capital murder. Then the jurors, in a 7-5 vote, recommended that the judge sentence Smith to life without parole instead of death. So why, 21 years later, is Smith, now 45, set to be strapped down to a gurney and executed by lethal injection on Thursday? The answer lies in Alabama’s death-penalty law, the only one of its kind in the country.

Thirty-one states have the death penalty, and 30 of them require unanimity from a jury in crucial phases of sentencing. Not in Alabama, where a jury can impose a death sentence with a vote of at least 10 to 2. The jury may also recommend life imprisonment, as it did in Smith’s case, but the judge can overrule jurors’ findings no matter what they decide. Until recently, two other states kept Alabama company — Delaware and Florida. But each has now revised its code in light of state and federal court rulings, leaving Alabama isolated. And while the State Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty statute law as constitutional as recently as September, the defense bar as well as experts on capital punishment are seeing increasing pressure on Alabama to make jury unanimity the law and do away with judicial override. More:


Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump

DALLAS — I am a Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. Since the election, people have asked me to change my vote based on policy disagreements with Donald J. Trump. In some cases, they cite the popular vote difference. I do not think presidents-elect should be disqualified for policy disagreements. I do not think they should be disqualified because they won the Electoral College instead of the popular vote. However, now I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office. Fifteen years ago, as a firefighter, I was part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks against our nation. That attack and this year’s election may seem unrelated, but for me the relationship becomes clearer every day. George W. Bush is an imperfect man, but he led us through the tragic days following the attacks. His leadership showed that America was a great nation. That was also the last time I remember the nation united. I watch Mr. Trump fail to unite America and drive a wedge between us. Mr. Trump goes out of his way to attack the cast of “Saturday Night Live” for bias. He tweets day and night, but waited two days to offer sympathy to the Ohio State community after an attack there. He does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage. This is unacceptable. For me, America is that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan envisioned. It has problems. It has challenges. These can be met and overcome just as our nation overcame Sept. 11. The United States was set up as a republic. Alexander Hamilton provided a blueprint for states’ votes. Federalist 68 argued that an Electoral College should determine if candidates are qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence. Mr. Trump shows us again and again that he does not meet these standards. Given his own public statements, it isn’t clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him. I have poured countless hours into serving the party of Lincoln and electing its candidates. I will pour many more into being more faithful to my party than some in its leadership. But I owe no debt to a party. I owe a debt to my children to leave them a nation they can trust. Mr. Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief. During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, “he would be a dangerous president.” During the campaign Mr. Trump even said Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. This encouragement of an illegal act has troubled many members of Congress and troubles me. Hamilton also reminded us that a president cannot be a demagogue. Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader. “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” installment, arrives later this month. I am not taking my children to see it to celebrate evil, but to show them that light can overcome it. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s pick for national security adviser, has his own checkered past about rules. He installed a secret internet connection in his Pentagon office despite rules to the contrary. Sound familiar? Finally, Mr. Trump does not understand that the Constitution expressly forbids a president to receive payments or gifts from foreign governments. We have reports that Mr. Trump’s organization has business dealings in Argentina, Bahrain, Taiwan and elsewhere. Mr. Trump could be impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses to financial conflicts of interest. He has played fast and loose with the law for years. He may have violated the Cuban embargo, and there are reports of improprieties involving his foundation and actions he took against minority tenants in New York. Mr. Trump still seems to think that pattern of behavior can continue. The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience. I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be. Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again.

Morning Money

FIRST LOOK: FINANCIAL TRADES PUSH ON CFPB — The Consumer Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America, and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions are sending a letter to Congress on Wednesday pushing for substantial changes to the CFPB.

Via a person familiar with the effort: “These trades have been working with both parties to secure a bi-partisan CFPB structure. With the current Senate rules, it is going to come down to the some eight Senate democrats up for reelection in 2018 who are in states President-elect Trump won. This is an opportunity for members of Congress to show they can work together.

“Speculation is that President-elect Trump could remove [CFPB Director Richard] Cordray on Day 1. No one knows for sure. This letter hopes to provide a balance at the CFPB. Elizabeth Warren rolled the dice Secretary Clinton would win. Now her CFPB is in jeopardy. If regular order is not achievable, there are many options for leadership to consider to achieve this goal.”

THE LETTER urges the next Congress “to pass legislation that will create a five-person, bipartisan board to govern the … CFPB as one of the many commonsense regulatory improvements you will consider next year.” Full letter.

SEC WATCH — MM hears from a connected former Hill staffer that Republicans are ready to go ahead with the nominations of Lisa Fairfax, a Democrat, and Hester Peirce, a Republican for two open seats on the Securities and Exchange Commission. The question now, according to this source, is whether Democrats will agree to unanimous consent to fill the open seats.

“Both of them have been cleared on the Republican side,” the source said. “The real question is whether Democrats would object to unanimous consent. It would be ironic if Democrats who have been pushing for more diversity among financial regulators stand in the way. Could be some interesting fireworks between now and the end of this Congress. If they don’t get another commissioner there will be no quorum come Jan. 20th” when Chair Mary Jo White leaves.

TRUMP’S BULLY PULPIT — POLITICO’s Ben White and Lorraine Woellert: “For corporate America, Donald Trump is quickly putting the bully in the bully pulpit. The president-elect has already singled out Rexnord, Carrier and Ford Motor for attacks over their plans to ship jobs out of the United States. And on Tuesday he lashed out at aerospace giant Boeing …

“The concern among executives and free market conservatives is that Trump will tweet first and ask questions later if he hears about plans he doesn’t like, potentially hitting stock prices, turning public opinion against companies before they have a chance to explain themselves and chilling investment. … ‘It’s the president of the United States, the man with the biggest microphone in the world, who just might suddenly one day single you out for abuse,’ said David Boaz, executive vice president of the free-market Cato Institute.”

UNCHARTED WATERS — “Trump’s highly aggressive approach — which includes threats of heavy tariffs on U.S. companies that make products outside the country — represents a sharp historical break from recent presidents, especially Republicans, who took a more hands-off approach and generally avoided direct criticism of individual companies.

“‘What we’ve seen from Republican presidents is mostly cheerleading for those companies that are performing well. Going after individual companies and making them out as evil-doers is not really the American style,’ said Larry Jacobs, a presidential historian at the University of Minnesota.

“‘What Trump is doing is giving the kind of rough treatment that is historically reserved for foreign leaders,’ he said. ‘These are publicly traded companies responsible to shareholders and under tremendous global pressure, and that’s what they are responding to.’” Read more.

BOEING OFFERS TALKS — Bloomberg’s Rick Clough, Anthony Capaccio, Alan Levin and Kevin Cirilli: “Boeing Co. executives told officials on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team that the cost of a new version of Air Force One could be lowered if the government agrees to reduce its requirements for the plane, people familiar with the discussions said.

“The company’s executives reached out to Trump’s staff after the Republican said on Twitter on Tuesday that plans for a new Air Force One should be canceled because of ‘ridiculous’ costs. The missive put in Trump’s sights both a plane that is one of the most visible symbols of the American presidency and a firm that is the nation’s largest exporter.” Read more.

THE WAY WE LIVE NOW — Republicans apparently no longer trust free markets. According to the latest Economist/YouGov poll, 57 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement from VP-elect Mike Pence that “The free market has been sorting [the economy] out and America’s been losing.” Just 33 percent of Democrats agreed. Read more.

OBAMA DID HIS OWN CARRIER-STYLE DEAL — POLITICO’s Danny Vinik: “A plant critical to a major industry in a Midwestern state was facing a financial crisis, forcing it to make a drastic business decision that would cost nearly 1,000 blue-collar workers their jobs. The president and his staff, alerted to the potential crisis, swooped in. Working tirelessly behind the scenes, they negotiated a multi-million dollar package of state tax breaks, saving the plant — and the jobs.

“It sounds like Carrier, the deal that President-elect Donald Trump just negotiated to save 700 factory jobs in Indiana, and which has critics up in arms that he’ll use his power in the White House to selectively pick winners and losers. But no: The plant was a Pennsylvania oil refinery, the president was Barack Obama, and the agreement happened in 2012” Read more.

TRUMP DEFENDED — Allan Sloan in the Wash. Post: “I’m no fan of … Trump’s … But when it comes to bodyslamming big companies like Carrier that want to move jobs out of our country to make Wall Street happy by keeping reported profits rising, Trump and I are totally on the same side. This despite the fact that many people disapprove of Trump smacking Carrier around.

“Let me explain. On the whole, I think our country’s much better off than it used to be, Trump’s “Make American Great Again” mantra notwithstanding. But when it comes to calling out giant corporations for anti-social behavior, I think we’re worse off than we were. Maybe — just maybe — a big, fat dose of public shaming from the president-to-be and some of his big hitters will get some of these companies to behave less badly” Read more.

TRUMP SOLD HIS STOCKS — POLITICO’s Lorraine Woellert: “Trump sold all of his stock in June, missing out on a market rally kicked off by his own election. Trump spokesman Jason Miller announced the selloff Tuesday during a phone call with reporters. Reporters had asked Miller about Trump’s holdings in Boeing, which the president-elect had criticized on Twitter, complaining about the company’s cost for building a new presidential plane.

“‘The president-elect sold all of his stock back in June,’ said Miller, who did not respond to questions about why Trump sold or exactly when. As a businessman running for president, Trump held millions of dollars worth of stock in companies including Apple, Caterpillar, Exxon Mobil, JPMorgan Chase, General Electric and Alphabet. By selling in June, Trump missed a historic market surge that has been buoyed by rising oil prices, strong economic data and investors bullish on the prospect of financial deregulation” Read more.

DRIVING THE DAY — The Trump transition team holds its big breakfast fundraiser breakfast in NYC. The $5,000 per ticket event will raise money to fund the transition. Trump will appear at the event will feature Treasury nominee Steve Mnuchin among others and scores of lobbyists eager for face time with the incoming administration … CNBC’s “Squawk Box” will broadcast live from the Business Roundtable meeting in DC and will interview lots of CEOs as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan … SIFMA holds Its annual State of the Industry press briefing at 9 a.m. in NYC … At 10:00 a.m. a group of CEOs will announce the “Paradigm for Parity” aimed at increasing the role of women in top corporate jobs.

NEW IN WONK WORLD — Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman: “[O]ur data show that the bottom half of the income distribution in the United States has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s. From 1980 to 2014, average national income per adult grew by 61 percent in the United States, yet the average pre-tax income of the bottom 50 percent of individual income earners stagnated at about $16,000 per adult after adjusting for inflation.

“In contrast, income skyrocketed at the top of the income distribution, rising 121 percent for the top 10 percent, 205 percent for the top 1 percent, and 636 percent for the top 0.001 percent. … It’s a tale of two countries. For the 117 million U.S. adults in the bottom half of the income distribution, growth has been non-existent for a generation while at the top of the ladder it has been extraordinarily strong” Read more.

HOW ‘TRUMPONOMICS’ CAN HELP EUROPE — POLITICO’s Francesco Guerrera: “The markets are loving the ‘reflation trade’ — the promise of big spending, tax cuts and looser rules for banks and the likes held out by the U.S. President-Elect. But is there a way that The Donald’s economic policies could actually help the Old Continent? UBS’ Karen Olney has identified a few, in a new report.

“European companies’ profits would love a ‘reflation’: In fact, Corporate Europe would benefit more from reflationary policies than its U.S. counterpart, according to Olney. And that’s not just because around a fifth of European companies’ sales go to the U.S.. It’s also because some sectors, like energy, mining and construction, are relatively more sensitive than their U.S. peers to a pick-up in economic growth and inflation”

TRUMP VS CORDRAY — American Banker’s Kate Berry: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its director Richard Cordray are on a collision course with … Trump in what may become a nasty legal and political showdown over the limits to executive power. A key question is whether Trump will attempt to fire Cordray soon after assuming the presidency next month even though there is a pending court appeal challenging his authority to do just that.

“Many legal experts said there’s sufficient legal wiggle room for Trump to fire Cordray, who has been a thorn in the side of congressional Republicans and the financial industry … Up until recently, the prevailing analysis was that Cordray couldn’t be removed until his term expired in 2018 unless he was fired ‘for cause.’ That changed in October, when a federal court said that the president did not need a reason to remove the CFPB director” Read more.

HOT CLICK — Bloomberg has a new interactive graphic: “The Money You Pay Apple Without Even Knowing It’ explains how Apple skirts US taxes on overseas profits by stashing them — tax-free — in U.S. government bonds.”

TRUMP TO HUDDLE WITH TECH BIGS — POLITICO’s Tony Romm: “Trump’s senior advisers have invited executives from tech giants including Apple, Facebook and Google to Trump Tower for a meeting next week to discuss the issues facing their industry … The Dec. 14 gathering — the most prominent outreach between Trump and Silicon Valley since the election — will bring the nascent administration face-to-face with an industry that Trump himself often skewered on the 2016 campaign trail” Read more.

KOSKINEN DODGES IMPEACHMENT — Via POLITICO: “The House voted to refer a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to the House Judiciary Committee in a bipartisan rebuke of conservative House Freedom Caucus efforts. The referral motion passed 342-72, averting a floor vote on whether to impeach Koskinen after outgoing House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan introduced a privileged resolution to impeach him Tuesday at 5”

TRUMP TRANSITION REQURES NDAs — POLITICO’s Nancy Cook: “Trump transition team members had to sign a code of ethics with a pretty significant lobbying ban, but they’ve also had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to make certain they keep all of their work confidential, according to a copy obtained by POLITICO.

“The agreement legally bars transition staffers from disclosing info about major portions of the transition work, like policy briefings, personnel material, donor info, fundraising goals, budgets, contracts, or any draft research papers. It also demands that if anyone on the team suspects a colleague of leaking material, he or she must tell transition team leadership. And it gives the Trump team grounds to tell those who run afoul of the rules: ‘You’re fired.’” Read more.

PROGRESSIVE RESISTANCE — Rootstrikers has a new petition featuring over 20 progressive groups urging rejection of several Trump nominees including Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross. Read more.

MATTIS RIDER ON CR — POLITICO’s Burgess Everett: “Republicans are betting that Senate Democrats won’t shut the government down over a GOP effort to speed the confirmation of retired Gen. James Mattis as Donald Trump’s defense secretary.

“GOP leaders slipped in a provision into a must-pass government funding bill Tuesday that would streamline confirmation of Mattis next year by fast-tracking legislation to grant him a waiver to serve in the Cabinet. Mattis needs a special exception passed by Congress to allow him to skirt a requirement that ex-military officials are out of service for seven years before they can become secretary of defense; Mattis left the military in 2013.” Read more.

VETO THREAT — POLITICO’s Zachary Warmbrodt: “The White House is threatening to veto a House bill that would give Congress a greater ability to rein in the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve as they negotiate new international capital standards for the insurance industry.

“In a statement of administration policy, the White House Office of Management and Budget said the bill by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) would tie the hands of U.S. representatives ‘in an unconstitutional manner’ and prevent them from negotiating. The White House criticized the bill for tapping SEC funds as a means to offset $7 million in costs projected by the Congressional Budget Office” Read more.

PENCE PLEDGES TO SLASH REGS — POLITICO’s Andrew Hanna: “”During his address, Pence pledged to work with the think tank in overturning regulations crafted by the Obama administration. ‘We’re going to be working closely with Heritage Foundation,’ Pence said. “It’s long, long been talking about regulatory reform.’ Pence promised that a Trump administration would repeal Obamacare and would cut taxes for working families, small businesses, and farms ‘before this spring.'” Read more.

EU APPROVES MICROSOFT DEAL — WSJ’s Natalia Drozdiak: “The European Union on Tuesday approved Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn Corp., after the software giant agreed to safeguards to assuage antitrust concerns.

“The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said it was clearing the deal on the condition that, postmerger, Microsoft allowed other professional networking sites access to programming commands for its Office applications and cloud-computing services for the next five years. It must also grant computer manufacturers the option not to install the LinkedIn shortcut on desktop devices, the EU said.” Read more.

INSIDER TRADING CASE RULING — NYT’s Adam Liptak: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled in favor of prosecutors in a major insider trading case, saying that gifts of confidential information from business executives to relatives violate securities laws.

“The case, Salman v. United States, concerned trading by Bassam Salman based on information from his future brother-in-law, then a member of Citigroup’s health care investment banking group. Prosecutors claimed that the brother-in-law, Maher Kara, passed information to his brother, Mounir Kara, known as Michael, who then passed the information to Mr. Salman.”Read more.

THIS SCANDAL STILL? — FT’s Rochelle Toplensky and Martin Arnold: “Brussels will on Wednesday hit HSBC, JPMorgan and Crédit Agricole with multimillion-euro fines for rigging the Euribor interest rate benchmark, closing a five-year cartel probe into a scandal that shook the financial world.

“The pending Brussels decision ties up loose ends from multiple probes into rate-rigging that have already resulted in €1.8bn of fines. These have covered around 11 institutions in separate conspiracies to fix the Japan-focused Yen Libor, Swiss-Franc Libor and its European sister benchmark Euribor.” Read more.

PUERTO RICO PUSH — POLITICO’s Colin Wilhelm: “Lawmakers are making a last-minute effort to include economic relief for Puerto Rico in an end-of-year funding package for the federal government.

“The Treasury Department has advocated for extending the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, and more federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid to the island. All would have to be done through legislation.” Read more.

EUROS STUCK IN CHINA — FT’s Charles Clover: “Several European companies in China have been unable to remit dividends abroad following the introduction of new exchange controls, the first indication that Chinese attempts to curb capital outflows are causing problems for foreign businesses.

“The measures, which included complex approval procedures for sending money out of the country, were introduced on November 28. They appear designed to shore up China’s foreign exchange reserves following a period of unprecedented outflows of capital that have sent the renminbi down almost 6 per cent against the US dollar this year, putting it on track for its worst year on record.” Read more.

POTUS Events

10:00 am || Receives the Presidential Daily Briefing

All times Eastern

Floor Action

The House meets at 10 a.m. with first votes around 2 p.m. and last votes around 5:30 p.m. Today’s House agenda: The Senate gavels in at 9:30 a.m. with at least two roll call votes related to the Cures Act and the National Defense Authorization at 2 p.m.

AROUND THE HILL— Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Luis Gutierrez and Lucille Roybal-Allard hold a 9:45 a.m. press conference on Dreamers in HVC Studio A. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Ted Deutch hold a press conference on GOP efforts to overhaul Medicare at 11 a.m. in 608 Dirksen.

Sens. Patrick Leahy, Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner and Rep. Tom Emmer hold a 12 p.m. press conference on Cuban entrepreneurs in Russel 328A. Reps. Elijah Cummings and Eric Swalwell hold a 2 p.m. press conference in HVC Studio A on a bill targeting foreign tampering with elections.

Starting at 3 p.m., Sen. Chris Coons kicks off a series of bipartisan tributes to Vice President Joe Biden on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Sens. Tom Carper, Orrin Hatch, Patrick Leahy and others will also participate.


Avoid Identity Theft; Learn How to Recognize Phishing Scams

Simply ask for it. That’s the easiest way for an identity thief to steal your personal information.

Each day, people fall victim to phishing scams through emails, texts or phone calls and mistakenly turn over important data. In turn, cybercriminals try to use that data to file fraudulent tax returns or commit other crimes.

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax industry — all partners in the fight against identity theft — urge you to learn to recognize and avoid phishing scams.

We need your help in the fight against identity theft. That’s why, as part of the Security Summit effort, we launched a public awareness campaign that we call Taxes. Security. Together. We’ve launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals.

It’s called “phishing” because thieves attempt to lure you into the scam mainly through impersonations. The scam may claim to be from a friend, a company with whom you do business, a prize award – anything to get you to open the email or text.

A good general rule: Don’t give out personal information based on an unsolicited email request.

Here are a few basic tips to recognize and avoid a phishing email:

  • It contains a link. Scammers often pose as the IRS, financial institutions, credit card companies or even tax companies or software providers. They may claim they need you to update your account or ask you to change a password. The email offers a link to a spoofing site that may look similar to the legitimate official website. Do not click on the link. If in doubt, go directly to the legitimate website and access your account.
  • It contains an attachment. Another option for scammers is to include an attachment to the email. This attachment may be infected with malware that can download malicious software onto your computer without your knowledge. If it’s spyware, it can track your keystrokes to obtain information about your passwords, Social Security number, credit cards or other sensitive data. Do not open attachments from sources unknown to you.
  • It’s from a government agency. Scammers attempt to frighten people into opening email links by posing as government agencies. Thieves often try to imitate the IRS and other government agencies.
  • It’s an “off” email from a friend. Scammers also hack email accounts and try to leverage the stolen email addresses. You may receive an email from a “friend” that just doesn’t seem right. It may be missing a subject for the subject line or contain odd requests or language. If it seems off, avoid it and do not click on any links.
  • It has a lookalike URL. The questionable email may try to trick you with the URL. For example, instead of, it may be a false lookalike such as You can place your cursor over the text to view a pop-up of the real URL.
  • Use security features. Your browser and email provider generally will have anti-spam and phishing features. Make sure you use all of your security software features.

Opening a phishing email and clicking on the link or attachment is one of the most common ways thieves are able not just steal your identity or personal information but also to enter into computer networks and create other mischief.

Learning to recognize and avoid phishing emails – and sharing that knowledge with your family members – is critical to combating identity theft and data loss. Businesses should educate employees about the dangers.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry joined as the Security Summit to enact a series of initiatives to help protect you from tax-related identity theft in 2017. You can help by taking these basic steps.

To learn additional steps you can take to protect your personal and financial data, visit the Taxes. Security. Together. page. Also read Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.

Share this tip on social media — #IRStaxtip: #Avoid Identity Theft; Learn How to Recognize Phishing Scams. #IRS

About Thomas Krebs

Securities litigation, regulation and compliance attorney.