President’s Summer Policy Update

CEI President Kent Lassman recently wrote to supporters with an update on CEI’s policy work and media coverage. The post below is adapted from that letter. An earlier post covered recent news events around Washington, D.C.

CEI’s legal team, specifically Ted Frank and the Center for Class Action Fairness, received glowing coverage this month in Bloomberg Businessweek for their success to minimize grossly unfair and outrageous outcomes in the class action system.

[Ted] Frank and a short list of people like him have been particularly effective on pushing back on disclosure-only settlements. Critics call such settlements a merger tax…. But substantially fewer lawsuits are being filed than just two years ago. That change is largely attributable to Frank and those he’s encouraged.

Class action litigation, like all systems susceptible to political manipulation, has been twisted by people trying to profit without creating or adding value. Our work – ably supported with high-profile recognition – is changing the incentives for bad actors.

Among bad actors in government, few can claim to have done as much harm as the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is charged with protecting the environment in accordance with several relevant laws, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. This is the same agency, however, that was responsible for the devastating pollution leaked into Colorado’s Animas River in 2015 through incompetence. By banning DDT, EPA caused pestilence to ravage elm trees across North America and led to millions of preventable deaths due to malaria in Africa. It is the same agency that at best ignored, and at worst covered up, reports about dangerous lead levels in the water of Flint, Michigan. Whether it’s water, a beloved species, or even the lives and well-being of people, the EPA has a spotty record.

CEI’s Will Yeatman has a new study digging into another massive harm perpetuated by the EPA. The EPA has shifted some $1.5 billion of private funds toward green energy projects through regulatory enforcement proceedings. Despite Congress rejecting similar Obama spending proposals, EPA officials have used legal settlements to direct money that would have otherwise be paid directly into the U.S. Treasury toward politically favored pet projects. A policy that picks certain industries for preferential treatment is bad enough, but one that wastefully diverts resources from more promising avenues and undermines the authority of Congress to determine federal spending is far worse.

The cryptocurrency community is starting to take notice of CEI’s legal work. Most recently, our team filed an amicus brief in United States v. Coinbase, defending the digital currency broker and its customers from an abusively overbroad subpoena from the Internal Revenue Service. Our brief also highlights the crucial point that the data sought by the IRS is not Coinbase’s to give. Consumers have a property right, protected through contract, in their own data. We’ll keep you posted on the case as it develops.

John Berlau and Dan Press are also doing important work on finance regulation with a new study on an old idea. Believe it or not, there is a resurgence of interest to resurrect the Great Depression-era wall between commercial and investment banking first created by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Despite being swept away by bipartisan majorities (and a signature from Bill Clinton) in 1999, some members of Congress would like to see it make a return. As they say on the Internet, read the whole thing. It is a good report.