🗞️ California Wants "Order Details" on Amazon, Crypto Regulations are Coming, & DeSantis's Stunt
This Week: California enters the ring against Amazon, The Feds unveil a first-ever Crypto regulation framework, and we’re questioning the legality of DeSantis's political stunt. Plus, the GRE vs. LSAT, Johnson & Johnson tries to rewrite corporate law, and an update on Trump's legal woes.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, claiming the e-commerce giant's dominance is harming the state's 25 million customers. The case alleges that the online retailer sets a price floor by penalizing sellers on Amazon who list lower prices on other websites. Punishments include removing the “Buy Now” button from product pages, reports The New York Times. Should the case succeed, it could have a nationwide impact.
“If you think about Californians paying even just a little bit more for every product they purchased online over the course of a year, let alone a decade, which is what is at issue here, the collective magnitude of harm here is very far-reaching,” AG Bonta said in a news conference.
California's suit follows the District of Columbia's own 2021 lawsuit against the so-called “Everything Store”. Karl Racine, attorney general for DC, said Amazon was engaged in anticompetitive practices to maximize profits at the expense of customers and third-party vendors. However, a Superior Court Judge threw the case out earlier this year for insufficient evidence.
“Similar to the D.C. attorney general — whose complaint was dismissed by the courts — the California attorney general has it exactly backward. Sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in our store,” a spokesperson for Amazon told The Times.
The European Investigation
The European Union is set to begin its own antitrust investigation against Amazon after Bezos & Co. failed to provide any substantive commitments to remedy the antitrust claims. The Silicon Valley behemoth's submission was “weak, vague and full of loopholes,” third-party signatories advised the EU, notes TechCrunch. The bloc will likely investigate “competition concerns linked to [Amazon's] use of third-party data.”
What do DC, the EU, and California have in common? Apparently, the same antitrust lawsuit. Amazon can only fight this for so long before one of these suits succeeds.
🎧 What We’re Listening To
Today we’re listening to the Belgian artist Stromae. The “Alors on danse” hitmaker is back after an 8 year hiatus. And his new album shows that he hasn’t lost any of his talent, combining electrobeats with searing social commentary. He goes to dark places rapping about the unspoken difficulties of parenthood, the stigma of women working in the sex industry, loneliness, and depression — but his quiet optimism shines through.
A long-awaited framework for cryptocurrency and digital asset regulation has been released by the White House. The report comes six months after President Joe Biden called for federal agencies to analyze the risks and benefits of the market in a March 2022 Executive Order. CNBC noted that the main priorities of the framework are “consumer and investor protection; promoting financial stability; countering illicit finance; U.S. leadership in the global financial system and economic competitiveness; financial inclusion; and responsible innovation.”
Talk of a potential Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC, or effectively a digital US Dollar) has also been brought up. “You wouldn’t need stablecoins; you wouldn’t need cryptocurrencies, if you had a digital U.S. currency,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said of the idea. “I think that’s one of the stronger arguments in its favor.”
The Fed's framework comes as cryptocurrencies and digital assets are undergoing a substantial market correction that has uncovered various ponzi schemes and other scams, including, most notably — TerraCoin.
The Next Buffett?
As the crypto market is in flux, crypto exchange platform FTX and its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, have ramped up efforts to become the industry's central player by infusing various companies with cash. “We still have a fair bit left to deploy, if and when it’s useful or important,” the so-called “crypto king” said of the billions he’s earmarked for various acquisitions and loans, writes CNBC. Bankman-Fried’s open pockets have led some to compare him to Warren Buffet. Yet, he’s hesitant about the parallels — saying, “First of all, I don’t think Warren Buffett would call me the next Warren Buffett. To the extent there is a parallel recently, it’s been looking at which assets are in a place where they pretty badly need capital.”
As we’ve written here time and time again, the crypto and broader digital assets markets are long overdue for federal regulation. The system has played host to large-scale fraud schemes, money launderers, and other illegal players. A regulated market can only help stabilize and grow the economy.
Reports that Florida Governor (and potential 2024 presidential candidate) Ron DeSantis sent 50 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts have covered the news for days. Now, some are beginning to raise questions over the legality of the political stunt. As NPR notes, immigration law experts believe DeSantis has engaged in human trafficking. “An enticement like that, regardless of whether you sign a waiver, is fraud and that is part of the definition of human trafficking,” Elizabeth Ricci, an immigration lawyer in Florida, said. “I think that everybody on those planes has a case as a direct result of being transported by the governor.”
DeSantis is using $12 million from the state’s budget “to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens out of Florida,” which is confusing because they weren’t even found to be in the state. DeSantis has argued that they were potentially trying to get to Florida as their ultimate destination.
“What we're trying to do is profile: 'OK, who do you think is trying to get to Florida?' If they get in a car with two other people, there's no way we're going to be able to detect that,” DeSantis said in a press conference.
While DeSantis has been flying migrants from Texas, the state's own governor, Greg Abbot, who like DeSantis is up for reelection in November, has been bussing migrants to Washington, D.C. As The New York Times reports, migrants arrested at the border have been offered two choices: a $50 bus ticket to San Antonio, or a free ticket to D.C. The mayor of the district has said that 4,000 migrants have arrived by bus since May, and it has led to a 10% rise in homelessness.
Is DeSantis taking reelection campaigning into dangerous new territory? It's yet to be seen and potentially adjudicated, but regardless, a political stunt that plays with the line of human trafficking is a hyper-polarizing act.
🎊 Legal Ops 101 - Building Your Team
We’re putting on yet another panel centered on legal operations with three incredible names in the space: Janine Dixon (Legal Ops Manager, Meta), Neshade Abraham (Global Head of Legal Ops, Etsy), and Cindy Kaneshiro (Director of Legal Ops, Nutanix).
They’ll be discussing:
How to secure budget
Who your first hire should be
How to integrate legal ops in to your department
How to scale your legal ops team
Thursday, September 29th at 12 pm PT | 3 pm ET
📤 What Else We're Forwarding
GRE Dominance: The majority of law schools now accept GREs as a substitute for the LSAT, Law.com writes. The trend began in 2016 with Arizona Law.
J&J's War: Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has been fighting a consumer protection case using an inventive legal strategy. The New Yorker details the scheme and says that its outcome will shape how many corporations do business.
Mar-A-La-No-Go: Federal Judge Aileen Cannon rejected the Justice Department's demand to continue its review of classified documents seized from Mar-A-Lago, reports Politico. Instead, Cannon has ordered a special master, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, to oversee the matter. As soon as Judge Dearie asked the Trump legal team why they believed the documents were declassified, they refused to respond — claiming the answer was a potential legal defense.
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See ya next week!