A Fiduciary Rule

The Obama Labor Department, under the suzerainty of Tom Perez who is now the Progressive-Democratic National Committee Chairman, enacted a rule that allowed individuals to hale into court principals of employer or union retirement plans for the crime of charging commissions for their actions.  The rule also redefined “investment advice fiduciaries” to include broker-dealers and financial-insurance agents whose activities are limited to selling financial products.

The 5th Circuit struck the rule as illegal.  That’s good news for all of us.


The Trump Labor Department has said it won’t enforce the rule and is working with the SEC on a new one….

The PRC and Intellectual Property Theft

In the absence of any serious legal protections against intellectual property theft in the People’s Republic of China, businesses operating there are engaging more and more in sweeping conference rooms there for bugs and equipping personnel with sanitary burner phones for use while in the PRC.

That’s a start for those willing to put their proprietary information at risk through a business venture inside the PRC or with a PRC-based business anywhere, but it’s inadequate by itself, as illustrated by this bit of naivete by the linked-to piece’s author:

An Unintended Consequence

The health coverage plan providers, companies like Humana, Aetna, Anthem, et al., are gaming the Medicare system to keep their Medicare bonuses coming in.  Surprise.

It seems that when Obamacare was passed, it included a system of paying bonuses from Medicare to those plan providers that got sufficiently high ratings on the quality of their plans.

But wait….

Medicare ranks privately managed plans…on a five-star quality scale and provides financial bonuses to providers of top-ranked plans. [A plan-holder’s] plan was set to be downgraded, which would have cost Humana its bonus. So the company merged plans covering [the plan-holder] and more than a million others into different contracts with higher scores. That preserved the bonuses.

Biofuel Mandates

The Wall Street Journal had a piece titled Biofuel Mandates Are a Bad Idea Whose Time May Be Up that centered on the possibility that these might get watered down, or even eliminated, sometime “soon.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard, which forces oil refiners to mix corn-based fuel into gasoline, is one of history’s great policy boondoggles.

Well, NSS.  The only things it’s done of practical consequence have been to serve as a backdoor subsidy for farmers and to drive up the cost of corn, corn substitutes, and food that eats corn.  And to drive up the cost of gasoline and to create ethanol fuel-related automobile engine maintenance costs.

The Russian Attitude Toward Rule of Law

And the value of any contract with Russia.  These are demonstrated by Russian behavior regarding Russian natural gas flowing through Ukraine to western Europe.

Having won an arbitration dispute with Russian-controlled Gazprom over natural gas shipments to Ukraine, Gazprom and the Kremlin decided not to honor the ruling or the commitment:

Russia is tearing up its contracts to supply Ukraine with natural gas, sparking another stand-off between Moscow and Kiev and raising fears of new gas supply shortages across Europe during the winter.

In response,

Tariffs and National Security

In response to President Donald Trump’s of tariffs to be applied to imports of steel and aluminum at some unspecified in the (presumably relatively near) future and coming from as yet unnamed nations, Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said

I believe there is absolutely no impact on America’s national security from imports of steel and aluminum from Japan, which is an allied nation.

I agree in principle with the generally negative attitude toward tariffs.

However, Seko has misunderstood the national security question. Stipulate that Japan (and the Republic of Korea, another staunch ally and key exporter of steel to us) is a strong and reliable ally.

Big Government and Responsibility

The Progressive-Democratic Party-run States and the Republican-run States are demonstrating what they think of the intelligence and capability of ordinary American citizens.

The roughly half of states controlled by Republicans are therefore moving aggressively to roll back the law widely known as Obamacare, while the smaller number of Democratic states are working to bolster it.

One party does not believe that Americans in a free market, here for health care and for health care coverage plans, are capable of making sound decisions.  They need Big Government to think and act for them.  The other party believes the opposite: the ordinary man is fully capable of thinking for himself and doesn’t need Big Government to tell him what to do.

Statutes, Judges, and DoJ

The Supreme Court last Tuesday heard a case between Microsoft and DoJ concerning whether the emails of an alleged drug dealer must be turned over to the government pursuant to a search warrant to that effect.  The catch is that the emails are stored exclusively on servers in Ireland—nominally beyond the reach of the US’ long arm of the law.

The statute in question is the Stored Communications Act, enacted 30 years ago before email and similar electronic communications were available.

Investment Acumen

Investment managers at Harvard and the State of Hawaii—and a potful of others—have made big bets [sic] on the low volatility of the stock and bond markets and on the apparent permanence of that low volatility.

After interest rates collapsed on the heels of the financial crisis, they [pension funds, endowments, and family offices] ran into challenges paying pensioners and filling university budgets, and added riskier bets on hedge funds and venture capital in the hopes of winning better returns.

Don’t Pay It

The Federal National Mortgage Association, Fannie Mae, the government-run (never mind that it’s supposedly only government-sponsored, it began life as a government agency, it was set out on its own and failed, and now it’s under Federal Housing Finance Agency management regulation) mortgage securitizor, is failing again.  And now this agency wants a taxpayer bailout.

Fannie said Wednesday its regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, would seek a fresh taxpayer infusion of $3.7 billion from the Treasury Department as a result of the loss [of $6.5 billion in the last quarter alone]….