Inside Compliance - January 16th, 2020

Inside Compliance (Jan 16th, 2020)

Court secrecy hurts consumer protection / PG&E still not compliant / Sicilian mafia members arrested for agricultural fraud

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1. In an investigative report published Thursday, Reuters makes the case that the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other regulators are stymied by the secrecy of the U.S. court system. Reuters highlights the case of an all-terrain vehicle, Yamaha's Rhino, that tipped over easily and caused numerous deaths. Though there were numerous lawsuits, the CPSC only got on the case when a concerned citizen brought the incidents to the agency's attention. "In an analysis of some of the largest mass defective-product cases consolidated in federal courts over the past 20 years, Reuters found 55 in which judges sealed information concerning public health and safety," according to the report. Congressional efforts to introduce more transparency have been thwarted by business interests. - REUTERS

2. PG&E, the beleaguered Californian energy utility, told a federal judge Wednesday that it has fallen short of complying with all the fire prevention steps mandated by its criminal probation. The company was convicted of gas-pipeline safety violations in 2016 and more recently has been implicated in tragic Californian wildfires. The utility said it had fallen short of its commitments to repair and replace damaged power lines and cut fire-hazard tree vegetation. “Perfect compliance would require nothing less than round-the-clock surveillance of all trees within striking distance of PG&E’s equipment to identify and abate any hazard as soon as it arises,” the utility said. - BLOOMBERG

3. Sicilian police on Wednesday arrested 94 people, including alleged mobsters, who are said to be involved in a massive European Union agricultural subsidies fraud. Prosecutors say the Sicilian mafia has received more than $11 million since 2010 for "ghost" tracts of land that were either non-existent or government-owned. Two rival families were said to be behind the fraud -- clans that had put aside their differences for the lucrative scheme. Many small farmers in the area say that mafia members are intimidating them into selling their lands. - THE GUARDIAN

4. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday defended his decision to save struggling regional airline Flybe even as British Airways' owner International Airline Group filed a complaint with the European Union. The Johnson deal is believed to remove tax burdens for Flybe, and rival airlines say that would give the regional carrier an unfair competitive advantage. But a government spokesman said there's precedent for helping “viable businesses with genuine short-term difficulties." Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, countered, “Taxpayers should not be used to bail out individual companies, especially when they are backed by well-funded businesses.” - FINANCIAL TIMES

5. North Carolina insurance regulators are asking a court to appoint a temporary receiver to run hundreds of private companies, many of which are heavily indebted, owned by insurance entrepreneur Greg Lindberg. Lindberg's companies have loaned more than $2 billion to other Lindberg-owned entities, and the state-controlled insurers have argued in North Carolina court that he's diverted funds for his personal use. Lindberg denies the claims. Separately, Lindberg is being charged by the federal government with bribing an insurance commissioner. - WALL STREET JOURNAL

6. Telemaque Lavidas was found guilty Wednesday in a New York federal court of insider trading. Lavidas leaked information about a biotechnology company, where his father was a board member, to a Greek stock trader. Thus far, Lavidas is the only person to go on trial in what's been described as a wide, global ring of insider traders that allegedly included a Goldman Sachs vice president as well as London and Swiss traders. Lavidas faces up to eight years in prison. - DEALBREAKER

7. Responding to a recent rise in check fraud, banks may soon turn away from paper checks and replace them with electronic payments. Attempted check fraud nearly doubled in 2018 to $15.1 billion, according to a survey released Wednesday by the American Bankers Association. “It has been the fastest-growing fraud at our bank,” said David Frady, a bank executive at Hancock Whitney Bank, a southeastern regional bank. Though check usage has declined with the rise of electronic transfers, checks still are the most common form of payment between businesses. - WALL STREET JOURNAL

8. A lawyer for Navinder Sarao, the British trader largely responsible for the Flash Crash that erased $1 trillion in stock value, told a Chicago judge that their client is too childlike to serve time in prison. The lawyer describes the 41-year-old as someone who collects stuffed animals and prefers the company of children. “He cannot turn off his autism and focus on what is important … [even] with his life on the line," said attorney Roger Burlingame. The trader pleaded guilty to wire fraud in 2016 and is set to be sentenced on Jan. 28. But the federal government also believes Sarao shouldn't be jailed, given his autism. - BLOOMBERG

9. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is seeking a compliance risk specialist. The specialist will assess the quality of the Fed's compliance programs by conducting regular tests. Candidates should have at least eight years of relevant experience in the financial industry.

10. Wells Fargo is seeking a compliance manager in the corporate risk department. The manager will oversee a team that provides an enterprise-wide assessment of risk. Areas of interest include financial crimes, technology risk and regulatory compliance. Candidates should have seven years of risk-management experience.

Paul Wachter is a California-based journalist who has written for The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, ESPN, and other publications. You can follow him on Twitter @PWachterInside

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