Mar 16, 2022 • 6M

🗞️ MLB's Deal, Zelle Scams, & Justice Recusal

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This week: Major League Baseball reaches a deal to end the lock-out, Zelle finds itself becoming a scammer’s paradise, & if Ketanji Brown Jackson should recuse herself from a future case. Plus, Amazon may be facing a DOJ probe, & Biden says nyet to vodka.

MLB Avoids Striking Out For The Season

It's game on for Major League Baseball. After a more than 3 month lock-out (which lead to the first interruption of regular-season games since the 1994-95 season), a collective bargaining agreement between players and owners seems to have been reached. As NPR reports, the key issues that led to this lock-out were salary minimums and maximums, player arbitration rules, and the size of bonus pools. 

  • Under the new agreement, players will report to a shortened Spring Training on Sunday, March 17, with higher pay for new players, and provisions to incentivize competitive deals between teams.

  • "Our union endured the second-longest work stoppage in its history to achieve significant progress in key areas that will improve not just current players’ rights and benefits, but those of generations to come," Tony Clark, head of the players' union, said in a statement.

A History of Exploitation

According to the New York Times, the league was an $11 billion-a-year business for owners before the pandemic. Yet, the average player salary has plateaued, and about 60% of players are paid the league minimum (which this new contract raised from $570,000 to $700,000). Moreover, salary arbitration (which allows for pay raises), normally requires 3 years of player experience even when the average career length is 4 years. This system has led MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to admit "we have a payroll disparity problem."

The Verdict

Clearly, unions have power and can help those most vulnerable in a situation. Hopefully, this high-profile union victory can be a role model for others, and prove that collective bargaining works—even in such uncertain economic times as now.

💸 Is Zelle Becoming A Scam Network?

Zelle, the payment app created by 7 American banks as a response to Venmo, is becoming a popular tool for fraudsters. But even in the face of increasing criminal activity, the banks are failing to act on the problem and washing their hands of the matter. 

  • 18 million Americans were defrauded via payment apps in 2020, notes Javelin Strategy & Research. And fraud scams for the year reached $43 billion, according to Business Wire.

  • While banks are very aware of the situation, they're failing to act. Federal regulation holds an individual responsible for money lost if they initiated the transfer themselves—and so, banks argue they shouldn’t be liable for refunds. In a response to the New York Times, Wells Fargo declined to comment on specific cases, saying instead that "we are committed to following all regulations governing transactions…we are actively working to raise awareness of common scams to help prevent these heartbreaking incidents." Citibank responded to the Times similarly.

Me-To-Me Scams

As The Hustle explains, there are 3 main scam types run on Zelle. The first, which we noted last month, is a "romance scam" that involves making the victim believe they are dating the scammer, then asking the victim for money. The second involves cryptocurrencies, normally convincing the victim of a great investment opportunity in crypto that then never materializes. And the third-most-common scam type is a "me-to-me" scam, which involves the victim giving various personal details to the scammer, therefore, giving them access to their bank account.

The Verdict

It seems that banks are happily resting on their laurels with Zelle. They've managed to build a platform that is double the volume of Venmo. So why fix something that—for them at least—isn't broken? Until customers begin dropping Zelle over this matter, and/or demanding action, banks likely won't act.

🏛️ Ketanji Brown Jackson Faces A Potential Recusal

Ketanji Brown Jackson has yet to be confirmed as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, yet she's already facing a potential conflict of interest. Brown Jackson currently serves on the Harvard Board of Overseers (though her term ends this year), but it has led some to ask that she recuse herself from Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard — a case that may decide the future of race-based admissions and affirmative action in the college system.

  • Calls for Judge Brown Jackson to recuse herself from the case are loud from Republican lawmakers, but the legal community is split. "There’s the question of perception — public perception," Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman told the Harvard Crimson. "For that reason, one could imagine her thinking seriously about whether she might want to recuse, so as to avoid any such perception, however, mistaken that perception might be."

  • Yet, even as a member of the Board of Overseers, Brown Jackson was never directly involved in Harvard’s admissions process.

The UNC Case

Even if Brown Jackson is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice and recuses herself from the Harvard case, it would still leave her to try the University of North Carolina case also challenging affirmative action. Professor Feldman noted to the Harvard Crimson that the UNC case is "more important" because the university is a public school, and thus is a "state actor". 

The Verdict

It seems like good news to Brown Jackson that the biggest attack Republican lawmakers and media personalities can level against her is a call for recusal. That being said, it's deeply ironic that the Court's first Black woman to serve will have to sit out a case that helps decide the future of race-based admissions in this country, and then leaves the remaining ratio of the court as 6:2 conservative.

📤 What Else We're Forwarding

Delivering Justice: Congress believes a senior Amazon executive lied in sworn testimony about their use of data to compete, reports Ars Technica. As such, the House Judicial Committee has asked the DOJ to investigate the tech giant. 

Biden Says Nyet: Biden signed an executive order banning the import of several key Russian products including vodka, diamonds, and caviar, says CNBC. The move will cut off the Kremlin from $1 billion in projected revenues. 

🎧 Music We’re Working To

This week, we’re listening to Rodelius & Story, a duo of the Grammy-nominated American composer, Tim Story, and Austria-based German composer Hans-Joachim Roedelius. As long-time friends and colleagues, they’ve collaborated on many projects including the acclaimed studio albums Lunz (2003), Inlandish (2007), Lazy Arc (2014), Lunz 3 (2019), and most recently 4 Hands (2022). A collection of alternating duets on a single piano, 4 Hands omits minimalistic patterns, with unusual harmonic twists.

4 Hands - Roedelius & Story
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✌🏽 Raad