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Administrative Law & Regulation

The Climate Change Investigations – Fair Regulation of Markets or Executive Overreach that Chills Free Speech?

Litigation Practice Group Teleforum Monday, August 01, 02:00 PMFederalist Society Teleforum Conference Call

Climate change activists have for the past year been urging the Department of Justice and state attorneys general to investigate ExxonMobil, think tanks, and other corporations and organizations that have expressed skepticism or otherwise presented contrary views either on the science or the policy of climate change regulatory action. These calls include members of Congress petitioning the DOJ to investigate whether Exxon and its “brain trust” violated civil RICO, an ongoing Martin Act investigation launched last fall by the New York Attorney General, and more recently, subpoenas issued by the US Virgin Islands and civil investigative demands from the Massachusetts AG. A press conference on March 29, 2016 attended by former vice-president Al Gore, represented that these calls for investigations are supported by a coalition of 20 attorneys general. The next day a majority of state attorneys general, 29 in all, issued a press release that they would not be joining in that call for investigations or other regulatory action, citing respect for the rule of law and the First Amendment. Asserting that good science embraces disagreement and the chilling effect on research when the government decides what is “truth” and what is “fraud,” these majority states revealed a stark divide in our polity about the proper role of the executive branch – state and federal – in formulating, enforcing and financing climate change policy.

At the March 29, 2016 press conference, former vice-President Gore asserted that “our democracy’s been hacked” and that these state and federal enforcement actions were necessary to remedy Congress’s and other legislative inactivity. In this Teleforum, Andrew Grossman – who has been involved in both defending targets of the subpoenas and in challenging the lawfulness of their issuance – will discuss some of the legal and policy questions implicated by this division between the states, and the executive branches and Congress. Should a corporation’s published research that expresses concerns about climate change be grounds for civil RICO or other regulatory action? Would such potential liability disincentive research? Should the government decide what is truth and what is not in the historically uncertain arena of science? Should those matters be decided in legislative hearings with the opportunity for the expression of multiple views on the science, policy, and proposed solutions? Should there have to be a substantiated allegation of unlawful conduct before such investigatory powers are wielded? Who has been defrauded? Is there harm in forcing corporations and think tanks to open up their records, research and communications – isn’t that a good way to determine whether there has been fraud on the energy markets? On the other hand, has Exxon sold oil or raised capital by claiming climate change is not affected by fossil fuels? Are consumers/investors uncritical consumers of industry information? What are the pros and cons of legislative action, inaction or accretional action versus sweeping state and federal executive enforcement actions? What regulatory authority or past practice provides a template for these investigations, and what are their practical and historical goals and outcomes? Do think tanks have a different status vis-a-vis the First Amendment than a for profit business selling fossil fuels, and if so what role, if any, does the source of their funding play?

Featuring:

  • Andrew Grossman, Partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP and Adjunct Scholar, The Cato Institute
  • Moderator: Margaret A. (Peggy) Little, Partner, Little and Little,  Director, The Federalist Society's Pro Bono Center, and Foundation Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law

Trillions of Dollars at Stake: The Internet of Things - Podcast

Telecommunications & Electronic Media Practice Group Podcast
Neil Chilson, Jamie Susskind, Eric Wenger, Kelly A. Donohue July 21, 2016

Cisco and other industry leaders estimate that the Internet of Things (the “IoT”) has the potential to inject trillions of dollars of value over the next decade into both the public and private sectors. It holds tremendous promise to transform and improve our lives, generating unprecedented opportunities in the way we govern and are governed, the way we do business, and the way we manage our daily activities. We stand at the cusp of an era in which everything from cars to cows can be given an Internet address and connected to the IoT network.

This rapid expansion of new technologies and capabilities brings new technical, legal, and policy challenges to the forefront. The IoT has undoubtedly caught the attention of federal policy makers, as demonstrated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (“NTIA”) recent request for comments. There are many potential touchpoints in the IoT ecosystem for regulators and policymakers, from addressing spectrum requirements to ensuring the security of systems to establishing data protection frameworks. Unfortunately, the risk of overregulating or promulgating inconsistent regulations runs high.

Our experts discussed the current and future regulatory landscape of the IoT. Is the NTIA’s proceeding a harbinger for more regulation in this nascent space? What is the correct framework to ensure the successful deployment of the IoT? Is there any role for government? What policy decisions could make or break the evolution of the IoT?

Featuring:

  • Neil Chilson, Attorney-Advisor to Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, Federal Trade Commission
  • Jamie Susskind, Legislative Counsel, Senator Deb Fischer
  • Eric Wenger, Director for Cybersecurity and Privacy Policy, Global Government Affairs, Cisco
  • Moderator: Kelly A. Donohue, Partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc. - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 7-12-16 featuring Mark Miller
Mark Miller July 12, 2016

On May 31, 2016, the Supreme Court decided United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc. Hawkes Co. (Hawkes) applied to the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for a Clean Water Act permit to begin extracting peat from wetlands in northern Minnesota it was preparing to purchase. After attempting to discourage the purchase, and initiating various administrative processes, the Corps ultimately issued an Approved Jurisdictional Determination (Approved JD) asserting that the wetland contained waters of the United States, thereby creating a substantial barrier to development by Hawkes. Hawkes filed suit in federal district court to challenge the Approved JD, arguing that it conflicted with the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The district court dismissed the suit on the grounds that the Approved JD was not a “final agency action” as defined by the Administrative Procedure Act, and therefore not yet subject to judicial review. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed that judgment and remanded the case, holding that an Approved JD did constitute final agency action ripe for judicial review.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ determination that the property at issue contains “waters of the United States” protected by the Clean Water Act, constitutes “final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court," and is therefore subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act.

By a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Eighth Circuit. Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that an Approved JD is a final agency action judicially reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Chief Justice’s majority opinion was joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Kennedy filed a concurring opinion, in which Justices Thomas and Alito joined. Justice Kagan also filed a concurring opinion. Justice Ginsburg filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

To discuss the case, we have Mark Miller, who is Managing Attorney, Atlantic Center, Pacific Legal Foundation.

Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 7-12-16 featuring Joshua P. Ackerman
Joshua P. Ackerman July 12, 2016

On March 1, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual) operates a self-insured employee health plan through a third-party administrator. Vermont state law requires such plans to file with the State reports concerning claims data and certain other information. When Vermont subpoenaed claims data from Liberty Mutual’s third-party administrator, Liberty Mutual sued and argued that the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempted the Vermont statute. The district court found no preemption and ruled in favor of Vermont. On appeal a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed and held that ERISA preemption did apply.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether the Second Circuit erred in holding that ERISA preempts Vermont's health care database law as applied to the third-party administrator for a self-funded ERISA plan.

By a vote of 6-2, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Second Circuit. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that ERISA’s express preemption clause requires invalidation of the Vermont reporting statute as applied to ERISA plans. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan. Justices Thomas and Breyer also filed concurring opinions. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined.

To discuss the case, we have Joshua P. Ackerman, who is an Associate at Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP.

Commissioner Ajit Pai on the FCC Television Set-Top Box Proposal - Podcast

Telecommunications & Electronic Media Practice Group Podcast
Ajit V. Pai, Alexander Okuliar July 01, 2016

In this teleforum, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai talked about the FCC’s proposed rulemaking to transform the pay television industry and competition for the television set-top boxes sitting in millions of homes across the country. The proposed rule seeks to unbundle the sale of programming from the sale of set-top boxes. The FCC wants third party technology companies to “build devices or software solutions that can navigate the universe of multichannel video programming with a competitive user interface.” The proposal has sparked tremendous debate among pay-television providers, technology companies, state and federal lawmakers, the Administration, and others. Advocates for the proposal think it could spur competition and unlock value for consumers with better and cheaper solutions for accessing video programming. Others believe the Commission’s proposal interferes with free market forces, creates more problems than it solves, and could compromise consumer privacy.

What is the FCC’s proposal? What are the implications for consumer privacy, advertising, and free market competition? Is a compromise possible? Commissioner Pai will explore these and other issues in this important teleforum, explain his dissent to the proposal, and offer us his vision for moving forward.

Featuring:

  • Hon. Ajit V. Pai, Federal Communications Commission
  • Interviewer: Alexander P. Okuliar, Partner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP