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How a Proposal for German Corporate Criminal Reform Would Affect Privilege and Internal Investigations

If the Corporate Sanctions Act is adopted in current form, German in-house counsel may face challenges with investigations. Read


EU Regulators Finally Clarify Scope of GDPR

Answers to the pressing questions: "Does the GDPR apply to my organization, and if so, to what extent?" Read


Blockchain Basics: Global Regulations

Blockchain’s regulatory landscape is unsettled and constantly shifting. Here's what to watch on the horizon. Read


California AB 51 Bans Mandatory Employment Arbitration Agreements

Wide in scope but short on certainty, this law raises several questions and will likely face legal challenges. Read


Around the World: Disability Law Changes

Globally, more than 100 million people live with a major disability. Here's an overview of new disability laws. Read


In Brief

Today's Top Story

Athletics Body to Tighten Rules After Nike's Vaporfly Helps Records Tumble: Sources

World Athletics, the global athletics ruling body, reportedly plans to tighten regulations governing shoe technology amidst a debate over the impact of Nike's Vaporfly running shoes. World Athletics expects to announce the findings of a review into technology used in road and track shoes by the end of January. The ruling body told Reuters (24 January, Phillips, Kelland) that it believes "there needs to be a greater clarity on what is permissible in elite sport and in our competitions." A number of runners who recently broke world records have used Vaporfly shoes, sparking a debate over whether the sneakers are assisting in technological doping. Vaporfly combines carbon plate and ultra-springy compressed foam. Regardless of how World Athletics rules on Vaporfly shoes for professional runners, recreational and amateur runners will still be permitted to use the shoes. For its part, Nike said it respected World Athletics, but affirmed that it does not "create any running shoes that return more energy than the runner expends." Current regulations state that a running shoe cannot be used to give a runner an unfair advantage. Strava, the global social network for athletes, said in its 2019 review that the median marathon finish time for runners in the Vaporfly model Next% was 8.7 percent faster than runners wearing the next fastest shoe, the Adidas Boston.

From "Athletics Body to Tighten Rules After Nike's Vaporfly Helps Records Tumble: Sources"
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Regulatory Developments

US Regulator to Review Recommendation on Fiat Chrysler's Jeep Complaint Against Mahindra

A US regulator said it will review part of a recommendation made last fall that India’s Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd. infringed upon the intellectual property rights of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep SUV design. Reuters (23 January, Klayman) reports that the International Trade Commission on Wednesday said it would review an administrative law judge’s initial determination last November that Mahindra’s Roxor off-road utility vehicle infringed on the “trade dress” of Fiat Chrysler's Jeep. The judge recommended in November that the commission bar entry of Mahindra vehicles or parts that infringe and issue a cease-and-desist order. Trade dress refers to the aspects of a product that stand out and make it known to the public as one particular product. Fiat Chrysler said Jeep’s grille and round headlights were distinct to the brand and therefore fell under trade dress. If the ITC recommends a form of remedy, the US Trade Representative would have 60 days to approve, disapprove, or take no action on that determination.

From "US Regulator to Review Recommendation on Fiat Chrysler's Jeep Complaint Against Mahindra"
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Finance

Central Banks Warm to Issuing Digital Currencies

A new report from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) found that about 10 percent of central banks surveyed in 2019 said they were likely to offer digital currencies within the next three years. The Wall Street Journal (23 January, Isaac, Ostroff) reports that the 10 percent of central banks would cover about 20 percent of the population. The proportion of central banks likely to issue digital money almost doubled when the horizon was stretched to six years, the BIS said. Digital currencies, or cryptocurrency, have steadily gained popularity in recent times, and could offer faster settlements of payments and the potential to allow people to bank directly with a central bank. Still, the rise of cryptocurrency has not been without controversy, as Facebook's planned Libra digital currency has attracted criticism from regulators. In November, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the US central bank does not currently have a plan to introduce a cryptocurrency, pointing out that US residents tend to be more attached to their cash than residents of other countries.

From "Central Banks Warm to Issuing Digital Currencies"
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Tax Issues

Mystery Central American Firm Targeted in Crackdown on Tax Plot

A Central American financial institution is suspected of helping clients worldwide evade taxes and launder money, according to tax investigators from the United States, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom coordinating a crackdown. A group of tax enforcement agencies said Thursday that the unnamed firm may be helping clients "conceal and transfer wealth anonymously." Bloomberg (23 January, Davison, Voreacos) reports that the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement, or J5, shared intelligence and used search warrants, subpoenas, and interviews this week to investigate the matter. The J5 formed in 2018 to fight international tax crime and money laundering. It wasn't immediately clear why the J5 publicized the operation before taking public action in court.

From "Mystery Central American Firm Targeted in Crackdown on Tax Plot"
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Energy

Natural Gas Price Collapse Has Shale Drillers Hitting the Brakes

As US natural gas prices plummet to 1990s-era lows, production is finally showing signs of a slowdown after years of runaway growth, reports Bloomberg (23 January, Malik). Data shows that output from the continental United States has dropped to the lowest level since September, driven by weak prices rather than poor weather. Explorers have been completing fewer wells in Appalachia and in Louisiana’s Haynesville shale since the second quarter of 2019, data from BloombergNEF and the US Energy Information Administration show. BNEF analyst Tai Liu says output could fall even more in the near future.

From "Natural Gas Price Collapse Has Shale Drillers Hitting the Brakes"
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Pharmaceutical

Drugmakers Rush to Develop Vaccines Against China Virus

Several drugmakers are racing to develop vaccines that could protect against the new respiratory virus originating in China, as fears mount it could spread more widely. Moderna, Inovio, and Novavax all said Thursday they plan to create a vaccine for coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has killed more than a dozen people, reports the Wall Street Journal (24 January, Loftus, McKay). Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia are also trying to develop a vaccine against the strain. The earliest experimental vaccines could be ready for human testing in a few months, though it would take longer for any potential drug to be available for widespread use. Coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in China and has spread to other countries in Asia since it first emerged last month. A man in Washington state has also been diagnosed with coronavirus, making him the first confirmed patient in the United States. There are presently no known treatments for the coronavirus. Without an available vaccine or treatment, US government agencies have been mobilizing to limit the virus’s spread, including screening international travelers carefully at airports.

From "Drugmakers Rush to Develop Vaccines Against China Virus"
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Transportation

Waymo to Test Autonomous Trucks and Vans in Texas and New Mexico

Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet Inc., said Thursday it would test autonomous trucks and vans in Texas and New Mexico, according to Reuters (23 January). In a tweet, the company announced it would use its minivan Chrysler Pacifica and long-haul trucks to test "new transportation solutions" in the two states. Waymo, considered a leader in the global race to deploy autonomous vehicles, earlier this month said its vehicles had covered more than 20 million miles on public roads since the company's creation in 2009.

From "Waymo to Test Autonomous Trucks and Vans in Texas and New Mexico"
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Economic Outlook

PG&E Announces Deal to Exit Bankruptcy, but Governor Balks

Pacific Gas & Electric, the giant California utility, said Wednesday that it had resolved differences with its creditors over how to restructure the company, clearing one of the last major hurdles to its exit from bankruptcy. But the New York Times (23 January, Penn, Eavis) reports that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has already declared PG&E's plan to be insufficient. A series of wildfires in California that have been attributed to PG&E's equipment drove the utility into bankruptcy, and Newsom's approval of its eventual reorganization plan is required for PG&E to take part in a US$20 billion fund intended to help shield the state’s utilities from damage claims in future fires. Newsom is concerned that the deal does not offer enough protections to California residents worried about losing their power again. He is also reportedly opposed to the financial aspects of the utility's reorganization plan. But Newsom's path forward is not clear, as PG&E's bondholders have approved the utility's plan. If he pushes forward with opposition, he could alienate bondholders and delay payments to wildfire victims.

From "PG&E Announces Deal to Exit Bankruptcy, but Governor Balks"
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Fairway Files for Bankruptcy with a Plan to Keep Some Stores Open

Fairway Market, the New York grocery staple known for its gourmet food and packed stores, said Thursday that it filed for bankruptcy with a plan to sell five stores, according to CNN (23 January, Meyersohn). Fairway has 14 stores total. As of now, Fairway has reached a stalking horse agreement with Village Super Market, the owner of ShopRite, to sell up to five New York stores and a distribution center for US$70 million. Other companies are permitted to make bids on Fairway's assets throughout the court-run process. Fairway said it would continue to negotiate the sales of its other stores. Fairway CEO Abel Porter said in a statement that a sale is the best way to preserve jobs and position Fairway for "long term success under new ownership." This is the second time in four years that Fairway has filed for bankruptcy. Experts said Fairway should have taken more drastic steps in its first bankruptcy.

From "Fairway Files for Bankruptcy with a Plan to Keep Some Stores Open"
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Trade Issues

Lagarde Sharpens Focus on US-EU Trade Tensions

European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde said Thursday that the ECB will pay close attention to trade talks between the United States and the European Union. The ECB left its policy mix unchanged Thursday, extending a long period of easy money as the export-focused eurozone economy struggles to rebound from a slowdown in global trade, reports the Wall Street Journal (23 January, Fairless). Lagarde has previously attributed a slowdown in economic growth in the eurozone to trade tensions. Global trade tensions eased recently when the United States reached a trade deal with China and the United Kingdom voted to move ahead with Brexit. Still, uncertainties have lingered in the eurozone, and there is no indication now that growth will pick up in the future. Investors currently expect the ECB to remain on hold for at least 18 months, according to futures prices, as the bank conducts a sweeping review of its policy goal and tools.

From "Lagarde Sharpens Focus on US-EU Trade Tensions"
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Environment

Trump Rolls Back US Water Pollution Controls

The Trump administration is set to scrap protections for US streams and wetlands, repealing Barack Obama's Waters of the United States regulation, according to the BBC (23 January). Proponents of the regulatory rollback said it would help US farmers succeed. The old regulations applied to more than half of wetlands and hundreds of small waterways in the United States. Farmers said the Obama-era rules were too broad and made it difficult for them to operate without taking great lengths to protect small waterways on their properties. Under the new regulations, landowners and property developers will be able to pour pesticides, fertilizers, and other pollutants directly into millions of miles of the nation's waterways for the first time in decades. Critics said the change will be destructive for US waterways, and some environmental groups have already challenged the new rules.

From "Trump Rolls Back US Water Pollution Controls"
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