Welcome to "The Watchdog," which will keep a close eye on regulatory agencies and how their actions impact the lives of everyday Americans. Though the rules and regulations they write -- from determining how much arsenic is allowable in your drinking water to whether your favorite TV show can drop the F-bomb in primetime -- affect all of us, their deliberations and the way that lobbyists influence their decisions receive very little coverage. To make sense of these debates, follow the implementation of health care and financial reform and decipher the minutia of the Federal Register, "The Watchdog" is on the case. If you have any tips, send them to email@example.com.
04/06/2011 11:29 AM EDT
Things Go Better With Koch
The Center for Public Integrity takes a penetrating look at the pervasive influence of the Koch brothers, the owners of the country’s second-largest private corporation.
It's a must-read:
At an EPA hearing last summer, representatives from Koch Industries argued that moderate levels of the toxic chemical dioxin should not be designated as a cancer risk for humans.
When members of Congress sought higher security at chemical plants to guard against terrorist attacks, Koch Industries lobbyists prowled Capitol Hill to voice their opposition.
And when Congress moved to strengthen regulation of the financial markets after recent collapses, Koch Industries — a major commodities and derivatives trader — deployed a phalanx of lobbyists to resist proposed changes.
04/06/2011 11:08 AM EDT
The Wake-Up Call: Shutdown Could Freeze Investigations
• A government shutdown could freeze investigations by federal regulators. Steve Crimmins, former Chief Litigation Counsel of the SEC's Enforcement Division, tells Compliance Week that a shutdown could impact the agency's enforcement and investigative functions:
"With the investigative staff, it is impossible to know which of the junior staff is about to hit “pay-dirt”—in other words, uncovering some on-going fraud where investor money needs to be frozen immediately before it's stolen or shipped out of the country, he says. “So effectively, you shut down hundreds of ongoing investigations, some of which are approaching critical mass, even though people don't know about it,” Crimmins says.
At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a shutdown could have a devastating impact on the agency's efforts to protect Americans from workplace hazards. Back in 1995, right before the most recent shutdown occurred, then-Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich told department managers that "Most of our activities protecting workers from hazards at the workplace, occupational safety and health, most of those activities will cease.”
According to Safety + Health Plus, "Reich told his staff only “imminent dangers” to life or property could be investigated. That would lead to about 95 percent of workplace safety complaints going unanswered, according to a DOL press release issued at the time. During the briefing, then-OSHA administrator Joseph Dear said the agency, at that time, received about 400-500 complaints from workers each day. Only about 200 of the 2,300 OSHA employees would still be working during the shutdown, he added."
• Watch today's House Financial Services Committee hearing on the leadership structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
• Transocean executives are keeping most of their "safety" bonuses, despite reports that five execs are donating $250,000 to the families of the 11 workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
• The influx of new and proposed global structured finance regulations is likely to delay the return of a 'normalised' market by at least 12 months, according to Fitch Ratings in a new report.