🗞 Kanye Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is, Congressional Stock Trading, & Trump's Subpoena
This Week: Kanye thinks “controversial” viewpoints need a home too, the debate over how Congress members buy and sell stocks, and the former president has another legal battle to add to his roster. Plus, Jay-Z's cognac kerfuffle, and gaming the CLE in Maine.
The federal government has an ethics problem: regulators and members of Congress who make laws governing trade rules, industry regulations, and more, also own stocks in the very companies they are overseeing. As the Wall Street Journal reports, while there is a law to block such conflicts of interest, it is rarely if ever enforced. Take Mark Wu, for example: tapped by President Biden to help craft key trade policy regarding online retailers and other Silicon Valley tech companies, Wu simultaneously held $1 million of Amazon stock. When an agency chief of staff asked Wu to sell the stock or recuse himself from crafting the digital trade policy, Wu resigned. “Violations often go unpunished,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “When a problematic holding is identified, if the official resists selling it, the rules often are waived. The result is a system that largely relies on government employees to police their own stock investing”
Between 2019 and 2021, some 97 members of Congress sat on committees that gave them key insights into companies they either bought or sold stocks in, reports The New York Times. And the practice is legal.
The 2012 STOCK Act, continues The Times, allows members of Congress “to buy and sell stocks, bonds and other financial instruments as long as they do not trade on inside information and disclose any transactions by themselves or immediate family members valued at $1,000 or more within 45 days.”
Changing The Rules
A bill in the House is attempting to tighten the rules on what members of Congress can and can't do with stocks. “The American people don’t want us day trading for profit, and engaging in active trading of the very equities that are connected to the policies that we are deciding on and voting on every day,” Republican Representative Chip Roy, a co-sponsor of the TRUST Act, told The Times. But Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was not as keen on the idea, saying that US Representatives are part of “a free-market economy. They should be able to participate in that.”
It doesn't seem like a controversial stance to say that federal legislators and regulators alike should face strict rules and scrutiny over their personal stock dealings. Yet, it remains unclear if this renewed talk of bills like the TRUST Act is a political show ahead of the midterms or a real effort that may pass.
🎧 Required Listening
Lawtrades Founder & CEO Raad Ahmed was featured on the Start-up Society blog & podcast talking about everything from law school to fundraising for a new venture. Ahmed covers how his obsession drives Lawtrades and keeps him turning out new goals.
Meet the Entrepreneur #26 - Raad Ahmed, Lawtrades
Kanye West (who now goes by 'Ye') announced last week his intentions to buy the social media platform, Parler. West found himself locked out of his Twitter and Instagram accounts in recent weeks following antisemitic comments. Now he seems to be doubling down on his idea of free speech. “In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” Ye said in a statement, notes TechCrunch. The details of the sale are not yet known.
Parler, which has become notorious as a breeding ground for far-right and hate groups, released its own statement on the deal. “The proposed acquisition will assure Parler a future role in creating an uncancelable ecosystem where all voices are welcome,” the company said. “This deal will change the world, and change the way the world thinks about free speech,” George Farmer, the company's CEO, added in his own statement. “Ye is making a groundbreaking move into the free speech media space and will never have to fear being removed from social media again.”
According to Rolling Stone, Parler was dropped from Amazon cloud services as its ties to the January 6th insurrection became known. Apple and Google also blocked the platform's app from their stores.
Twitter, Parler, et al.
As Ye vies to make a haven for conservative opinions, Elon Musk is touting his own free-speech ideas as he continues with his Twitter acquisition. “I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump,” Musk said in May, writes Vanity Fair. “I think that was a mistake.” Meanwhile, Jessica Gonzalez, the co-CEO of Free Press, fears Musk's Twitter will “see prolific conspiracy theories, and white supremacists return to the platform and a lot more people who hold power and who are willing to use platforms to spread hate and harassment campaigns.”
If 2016 brought Facebook's role in elections (and Democracy writ large) into question, 2024 may be a test for other social media platforms. Moreover, it's becoming clear that freedom of speech means different things to different people depending on which side of the political spectrum you fall on.
📹 TikTok on the Clock
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Yes, TikTok may be the app of Gen Z — but it’s never too late to be the cool lawyer/paralegal/ops-consultant keeping up with the times. Not to mention, Matt’s been pushing some pretty funny clips on our page. Give us a follow.
🕸 P.S. — Keep sending your horror stories, we’d love to feature them in a post.
Former President Donald Trump has been subpoenaed to testify before the January 6th committee. The House committee issued the subpoena on Friday after months of testimony, which they say points to Trump as the mastermind behind the January 6th insurrection. “As demonstrated in our hearings, we have assembled overwhelming evidence, including from dozens of your former appointees and staff, that you personally orchestrated and oversaw a multipart effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to obstruct the peaceful transition of power,” Representatives Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney wrote to Trump, cites The New York Times. Yet, it is unclear if the former president will appear before the committee at all. And all this again a backdrop of multiple other legal cases facing Trump.
Trump himself has called the subpoena and the committee “a total bust,” says NPR. And a lawyer for the former president said “We understand that, once again, flouting norms and appropriate and customary process, the Committee has publicly released a copy of its subpoena. As with any similar matter, we will review and analyze it, and will respond as appropriate to this unprecedented action.”
On the same day Trump was indicted, Steve Bannon was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress. Bannon, who ran Trump's campaign and then became an outside advisor to the administration, flaunted a Congressional subpoena. Peter Navarro, the former White House Trade Advisor, was similarly indicted and will face trial next month, says The Times.
The issue of extraordinary circumstances continues to come up in Trump's legal battles. Yes, subpoenaing and even indicting a former president should not be taken lightly. But that doesn't also mean that a former president is above the law in any way.
📤 What Else We’re Forwarding
Jay-Z's Suit: Did Bacardi mismanage or even purposefully tank Jay -Z's cognac brand? Bloomberg Law details the rapper’s lawsuit as he tries to get to the bottom of things.
CLE You Later: What happens if you have your legal assistant complete your CLE? Law.com reports on a Maine attorney who did just that and is now suffering the consequences.
And, here’s a short from last week.
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