Source: U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
From press release (Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI):
Apple Inc. has used a complex web of offshore entities – including three foreign subsidiaries the company claims are not tax resident in any nation – to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes, a bipartisan investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found.
The subcommittee will spotlight Apple’s extensive tax-avoidance strategies at a Tuesday hearing. Witnesses will include Apple CEO Tim Cook, other Apple executives, Treasury Department officials and outside experts. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., subcommittee chairman and ranking member, respectively, will also issue a 40-page memorandum with findings and recommendations.
The subcommittee, which previously explored tax avoidance by other multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries, found similar practices at Apple. In addition, the subcommittee review discovered an unusual tax scheme: Apple’s claim that two key offshore companies are not tax residents of Ireland, where they are incorporated, or of the United States, where Apple executives manage and control the companies. One of those Irish subsidiaries has paid no income taxes to any national tax authority for the past five years.
CREW Releases New Report Examining the Influence of High Frequency Traders in Washington
Source: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a new report, Rise of the Machines, detailing the growing political influence of high frequency traders in the nation’s capital. High frequency trading, a complicated and controversial method of securities trading, has begun drawing scrutiny from government regulators, prompting skyrocketing lobbying spending and campaign contributions by the industry.
CREW studied the lobbying and campaign contribution records of 48 companies that specialize in high frequency trading. Between the 2008 and 2012 election cycles, these firms’ campaign contributions soared by a staggering 673 percent, up from $2.1 million during the 2008 election cycle to $16.1 million during the 2012 cycle. Over this time period, these firms contributed more than $21 million to federal candidates, party committees, PACs, and super PACs.
Additionally, since 2008, these firms have spent more than $10 million lobbying Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. These companies’ total lobbying spending jumped 93 percent between 2008 and 2012, from $1.4 million to $2.7 million. The biggest single-year increase came between 2009 and 2010, while Congress debated heavily lobbied provisions of what would eventually become the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administraion — Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review
Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review (PDF)
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration\
IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to review for indications of significant political campaign intervention. Although the IRS has taken some action, it will need to do more so that the public has reasonable assurance that applications are processed without unreasonable delay in a fair and impartial manner in the future.
WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
TIGTA initiated this audit based on concerns expressed by members of Congress. The overall objective of this audit was to determine whether allegations were founded that the IRS: 1) targeted specific groups applying for tax-exempt status, 2) delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications, and 3) requested unnecessary information from targeted groups.
WHAT TIGTA FOUND
The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. Ineffective management: 1) allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months, 2) resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications, and 3) allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued.
Although the processing of some applications with potential significant political campaign intervention was started soon after receipt, no work was completed on the majority of these applications for 13 months. This was due to delays in receiving assistance from the Exempt Organizations function Headquarters office. For the 296 total political campaign intervention applications TIGTA reviewed as of December 17, 2012, 108 had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some for more than three years and crossing two election cycles).
More than 20 months after the initial case was identified, processing the cases began in earnest. Many organizations received requests for additional information from the IRS that included unnecessary, burdensome questions (e.g., lists of past and future donors). The IRS later informed some organizations that they did not need to provide previously requested information. IRS officials stated that any donor information received in response to a request from its Determinations Unit was later destroyed.
WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED
TIGTA recommended that the IRS finalize the interim actions taken, better document the reasons why applications potentially involving political campaign intervention are chosen for review, develop a process to track requests for assistance, finalize and publish guidance, develop and provide training to employees before each election cycle, expeditiously resolve remaining political campaign intervention cases (some of which have been in process for three years), and request that social welfare activity guidance be developed by the Department of the Treasury.
In their response to the report, IRS officials agreed with seven of our nine recommendations and proposed alternative corrective actions for two of our recommendations. TIGTA does not agree that the alternative corrective actions will accomplish the intent of the recommendations and continues to believe that the IRS should better document the reasons why applications potentially involving political campaign intervention are chosen for review and finalize and publish guidance.
Interim Investigative Report – Improper Contracting and Procurement Practices Utilized to Circumvent the Competitive Bid Process
Interim Investigative Report – Improper Contracting and Procurement Practices Utilized to Circumvent the Competitive Bid Process (PDF)
Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Inspector General
While we identified misuse of position and mismanagement within OPM, we did not identify any evidence that Director Berry engaged in any inappropriate conduct. During our investigation, w e learned that Director Berry established an initiative within the agency that directed OPM department heads to proactive ly address poor performance. OPM personnel later referenced the Director’s initiative when communicating about Mr. Liff, which may have contributed to the pressure or time sensitivity perceived by certain individuals.
In conclusion, our investigation has raised serious concerns a bout the stewardship of taxpayer funds by HRS and FSC . In this instance, Federal contracting procedures designed to promote economy, effectiveness, and efficiency were bypassed . This is consistent with the findings of the DOL – OIG ’s investigation .
Scholarly journals need to ensure that their peer reviewers act constructively, respect confidentiality and avoid conflicts of interests, according to new guidelines launched by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)
The COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers set out the basic principles and standards that all reviewers should follow during the peer review process.
“Peer review plays an important role in ensuring the integrity of the scholarly record” stresses Dr Irene Hames, who coordinated the guidelines for COPE.
“However, despite the fact that there are now an estimated 1.8 million articles published every year in about 28,000 peer-reviewed scholarly journals, reviewers too often come to the role without any guidance and many may be unaware of their ethical obligations.
“We hope that the new guidelines will provide much – needed guidance for researchers, be a reference for journals and editors when briefing their reviewers and act as an educational resource for institutions when they are training their students and research ers.”
COPEʼs membership comprises leading international publishers , who are responsible for more than 7,600 of the worldʼs top scholarly journals , including Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, Taylor and Francis, Palgrave Macmillan, Wolters Kluwer and the New England Journal of Medicine.
Source: United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
JPMorgan Chase & Company is the largest financial holding company in the United States, with $2.4 trillion in assets. It is also the largest derivatives dealer in the world and the largest single participant in world credit derivatives markets. Its principal bank subsidiary, JPMorgan Chase Bank, is the largest U.S. bank. JPMorgan Chase has consistently portrayed itself as an expert in risk management with a “fortress balance sheet” that ensures taxpayers have nothing to fear from its banking activities, including its extensive dealing in derivatives. But in early 2012, the bank’s Chief Investment Office (CIO), which is charged with managing $350 billion in excess deposits, placed a massive bet on a complex set of synthetic credit derivatives that, in 2012, lost at least $6.2 billion.
The CIO’s losses were the result of the so-called “London Whale” trades executed by traders in its London office – trades so large in size that they roiled world credit markets. Initially dismissed by the bank’s chief executive as a “tempest in a teapot,” the trading losses quickly doubled and then tripled despite a relatively benign credit environment. The magnitude of the losses shocked the investing public and drew attention to the CIO which was found, in addition to its conservative investments, to be bankrolling high stakes, high risk credit derivative trades that were unknown to its regulators.
The JPMorgan Chase whale trades provide a startling and instructive case history of how synthetic credit derivatives have become a multi-billion dollar source of risk within the U.S. banking system. They also demonstrate how inadequate derivative valuation practices enabled traders to hide substantial losses for months at a time; lax hedging practices obscured whether derivatives were being used to offset risk or take risk; risk limit breaches were routinely disregarded; risk evaluation models were manipulated to downplay risk; inadequate regulatory oversight was too easily dodged or stonewalled; and derivative trading and financial results were misrepresented to investors, regulators, policymakers, and the taxpaying public who, when banks lose big, may be required to finance multi-billion-dollar bailouts.
The JPMorgan Chase whale trades provide another warning signal about the ongoing need to tighten oversight of banks’ derivative trading activities, including through better valuation techniques, more effective hedging documentation, stronger enforcement of risk limits, more accurate risk models, and improved regulatory oversight. The derivatives overhaul required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is intended to provide the regulatory tools needed to tackle those problems and reduce derivatives-related risk, including through the Merkley-Levin provisions that seek to implement the Volcker Rule’s prohibition on high risk proprietary trading by federally insured banks, even if portrayed by banks as hedging activity designed to lower risk.
See also: Exhibits (PDF)
Source: PLoS ONE
Surveys in various countries suggest 17% to 80% of doctors prescribe ‘placebos’ in routine practice, but prevalence of placebo use in UK primary care is unknown.
We administered a web-based questionnaire to a representative sample of UK general practitioners. Following surveys conducted in other countries we divided placebos into ‘pure’ and ‘impure’. ‘Impure’ placebos are interventions with clear efficacy for certain conditions but are prescribed for ailments where their efficacy is unknown, such as antibiotics for suspected viral infections. ‘Pure’ placebos are interventions such as sugar pills or saline injections without direct pharmacologically active ingredients for the condition being treated. We initiated the survey in April 2012. Two reminders were sent and electronic data collection closed after 4 weeks.
We surveyed 1715 general practitioners and 783 (46%) completed our questionnaire. Our respondents were similar to those of all registered UK doctors suggesting our results are generalizable. 12% (95% CI 10 to 15) of respondents used pure placebos while 97% (95% CI 96 to 98) used impure placebos at least once in their career. 1% of respondents used pure placebos, and 77% (95% CI 74 to 79) used impure placebos at least once per week. Most (66% for pure, 84% for impure) respondents stated placebos were ethical in some circumstances.
Conclusion and implications
Placebo use is common in primary care but questions remain about their benefits, harms, costs, and whether they can be delivered ethically. Further research is required to investigate ethically acceptable and cost-effective placebo interventions.
See: 97 Percent of UK Doctors Have Given Placebos to Patients at Least Once (Science Daily)
Source: Open Secrets
Over the past several years, both spending on lobbying and the number of active lobbyists has declined. A number of factors may be responsible, including the lackluster economy, a gridlocked Congress and changes in lobbying rules.
CRP finds that the biggest players in the influence game — lobbying clients across nearly all sectors — increased spending over the last five years. The top 100 lobbying firms income declined only 6 percent between 2007 and 2012 but the number of registered lobbyists dropped by 25 percent.
The more precipitous drop in the number of lobbyists is likely due to changes in the rules. More than 46 percent of lobbyists who were active in 2011 but not in 2012 continue to work for the same employers, suggesting that many have simply avoided the reporting limits while still contributing to lobbying efforts.
Whatever the cause, it is important to understand whether the same activity continues apace with less disclosure and to strengthen the disclosure regimen to ensure that it is clear, enforceable — and enforced. If there is a general sense that the rules don’t matter, there could be erosion to disclosure and a sense that this is an "honor system" that isn’t being honored any longer. This is important because, if people who are in fact lobbying do not register, citizens will be unable to understand the forces at work in shaping federal policy, and therefore can’t effectively participate in policy debates and counter proposals that are not in their interest. At a minimum, the Center for Responsive Politics will continue to aggregate, publish and scrutinize the data that is being reported, in order to explain trends in disclosure — or its omission.
Source: PLoS Medicine
- Online social media and digital technologies have facilitated formation of communities of individuals engaged in establishing and conducting health research projects. The results of such participant-led research (PLR) have already appeared in leading biomedical journals.
- These projects involve research with human participants. Hence, what are the requirements for ethical oversight? To what extent is standard ethics review also suitable for PLR?
- A comparison of PLR with standard research reveals six areas that are of potential relevance to ethical oversight: institutionalization, state recognition and support, incentive structures, openness, bottom-up approach, and self-experimentation.
- The distinctive nature of PLR requires adaptation of ethical oversight standards to the character of such research. These should strike a balance between protecting interests of research participants and achieving promised benefits of PLR.
- The appropriate form of ethical oversight for PLR projects depends on which of three categories they fall into. If they meet the “institution-plus” criterion, standard ethics review applies. If not, then the appropriate form of oversight depends on the application of a minimal risk criterion.
Preserving and Enhancing the Responsible Conduct of Research Involving Children and Youth: A Response to Proposed Changes in Federal Regulations
Source: Society for Research in Child Development
For the first time in twenty years the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS, 2009) is considering changes to federal regulations governing research. The Common Rule provides the basis for government regulations and Institutional Review Boards (IRB). Proposed changes will have a significant impact on Institutional Review Board evaluation of research involving infants, children and adolescents. For example, such a revision can serve to rectify or exacerbate often observed IRB inconsistencies and over-estimation of probable harms when applying “minimal risk” or “exempt” criteria to research involving minors. Proposed revisions may also affect the feasibility of research on adolescent risk that requires waiver of parental or guardian permission to be successfully implemented. Further, recommendations for a new category of “informational risk” based on current and emerging advances in analysis and storage of bio-specimens and information technologies for archival research will have significant influence on ethical procedures required for collection and storage of longitudinal and cross-sectional data. Given the importance of any rule change to the con – duct of science related to children, the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) convened the SRCD Task Force on Proposed Changes to the Common Rule. The purpose of this report is to alert policymakers, scientists, and participant groups to proposed changes most relevant to research involving children and to provide recommendations for ensuring the responsible conduct of child and adolescent research in the final regulatory changes.
Source: Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics
When an adult suffers from a disorder that impairs his or her capacity to consent, may another person enroll that individual in research? The answer, it appears, is not a simple "yes" or "no," but rather "it depends."
The conduct of important research on disorders that affect many individuals. A growing population in our country suffers from illnesses that may affect decision-making, such as dementia, mental retardation, or, in certain instances, severe neuropsychiatric disorders. To illustrate this point, consider Alzheimer’s disease ("AD"). As the most common cause of dementia, the current and projected impact of AD is immense. An estimated four to fifteen million people are expected to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2047. Beyond the quantitative impact of AD, the personal and relational costs of the disease are staggering. Patients in later stages may not recognize family members and often lose many of their core human traits and abilities. Many patients face institutionalization because of the common, yet extremely challenging, behavioral and psychiatric expressions of the disease. The financial costs are also significant. Current annual costs, both direct and indirect, approach $100 billion in the United States alone. It is urgent that research on this disease be strongly encouraged and facilitated.
CRS — Lobbying Registration and Disclosure: The Role of the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
On September 14, 2007, President George W. Bush signed S. 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-81), into law. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) amended the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-65, as amended) to provide, among other changes to federal law and House and Senate rules, additional and more frequent disclosures of lobbying contacts and activities. This report explains the role of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate in implementing lobbying registration and disclosure requirements and summarizes the guidance documents they have jointly issued.
Under the HLOGA and predecessor lobbying laws, the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate manage the registration, filing, and the collection of documents submitted by the lobbyists and lobbying firms. Prior to the HLOGA, lobbyists were required to file paper documents with both the Clerk and the Secretary. These forms are now filed electronically and jointly with the Clerk and the Secretary. In addition, the Clerk and the Secretary are responsible for making documents publicly available and reporting incorrect or false filings to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Beginning in December 2007, the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate issued joint guidance documents for HLOGA implementation. The guidance document identified eight substantive changes to the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, and discussed how the Clerk and Secretary interpret and implement the HLOGA’s provisions. In addition, the guidance document provided direction on successful completion of quarterly registration and disclosure documents, the new semi-annual reporting requirement, and interpretation of the Clerk and Secretary’s role in referring non-compliance to the U.S. attorney.
Since its initial issuance, the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate, pursuant to 2 U.S.C. § 1605, have conducted periodic reviews of existing guidance and have issued multiple updates. Most recently, the document was updated on December 15, 2011, “to incorporate … verbal guidance regarding the listing of the client names when work is performed on behalf of a third party,” and emphasize the requirement to report when a state and local government is the client.
For further analysis on the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act and the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), see CRS Report RL34166, Lobbying Law and Ethics Rules Changes in the 110th Congress, by Jack Maskell; CRS Report RL31126, Lobbying Congress: An Overview of Legal Provisions and Congressional Ethics Rules, by Jack Maskell; CRS Report RS22566, Acceptance of Gifts by Members and Employees of the House of Representatives Under New Ethics Rules of the 110th Congress, by Jack Maskell; and CRS Report R40245, Lobbying Registration and Disclosure: Before and After the Enactment of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, by Jacob R. Straus.
Source: Institute of Medicine
Falsified and substandard medicines provide little protection from disease and, worse, can expose consumers to major harm. Bad drugs pose potential threats around the world, but the nature of the risk varies by country, with higher risk in countries with minimal or non-existent regulatory oversight. While developed countries are not immune, – negligent production at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy killed 44 people from September 2012 to January 2013 – the vast majority of problems occur in developing countries where underpowered and unsafe medicines affect millions.
It is difficult to measure the public health burden of falsified and substandard drugs, the number of deaths they cause, or the amount of time and money wasted using them. The FDA asked the IOM to assess the global public health implications of falsified, substandard, and counterfeit pharmaceuticals to help jumpstart international discourse about this problem. At the international level, productive discussion relies on cooperation and mutual trust. This report lays out a plan to invest in quality to improve public health.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
Broadcast and Cable Television
Requirements for Identifying Sponsored Programming Should Be Clarified
GAO-13-237, Jan 31, 2013
A Completed Comprehensive Strategy is Needed to Guide DOD’s In-Transit Visibility Efforts
GAO-13-201, Feb 28, 2013
Department Of Justice
Executives’ Use of Aircraft for Nonmission Purposes
GAO-13-235, Feb 26, 2013
DOD’s Aerospace Control Alert Basing Decision Was Informed by Various Analyses
GAO-13-230R, Feb 28, 2013
The Number, Role, and Ownership of Pharmacy Services Administrative Organizations
GAO-13-176, Jan 29, 2013
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Workforce Participation Requirement Waivers
GAO-13-423T, Feb 28, 2013
US Department of Labor releases toolkit to help businesses combat child and forced labor in global supply chains
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs today introduced Reducing Child Labor and Forced Labor: A Toolkit for Responsible Businesses, the first guide developed by the U.S. government to help businesses combat child labor and forced labor in their global supply chains.
"Encouraging businesses to reduce child and forced labor in their supply chains helps advance fundamental human rights that are at the core of worker dignity, whether here in the U.S. or abroad," Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a video message announcing the toolkit.
The free, easy-to-use toolkit was unveiled during an event at Labor Department headquarters for representatives of government, industry, labor and civil society organizations that are at the forefront of efforts to prevent labor abuses in the production of goods. Speakers included Carol Pier, acting deputy undersecretary of ILAB; Eric Biel, acting associate deputy undersecretary of ILAB; and David Abramowitz, vice president of policy and government relations at Humanity United.
The toolkit highlights the need for a social compliance program that integrates a company’s policies and practices to ensure that the company addresses child labor and forced labor throughout its supply chain. It provides practical, step-by-step guidance on eight critical elements that will be helpful for companies that do not have a social compliance system in place or those needing to strengthen existing systems. An integrated social compliance system includes: engaging stakeholders and partners, assessing risks and impacts, developing a code of conduct, communicating and training across the supply chain, monitoring compliance, remediating violations, independent review and reporting performance.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
This report is part of a broader effort by the Department of Education to identify and disseminate practices and policies to assist efforts to improve the validity and reliability of assessment results. The report draws upon the opinions of experts and practitioners who responded to the Department’s Request for Information (RFI), the comments and discussions from NCES’ Testing Integrity Symposium, and, where available, policy manuals or professional standards published by State Education Agencies (SEAs) and professional associations.
The report focuses on four areas related to testing integrity: (1) the prevention of irregularities in academic testing; (2) the detection and analysis of testing irregularities; (3) the response to an investigation of alleged and/or actual misconduct; and (4) testing integrity practices for technology-based assessments.
A review of the United States Office of Research Integrity annual reports identified 228 individuals who have committed misconduct, of which 94% involved fraud. Analysis of the data by career stage and gender revealed that misconduct occurred across the entire career spectrum from trainee to senior scientist and that two-thirds of the individuals found to have committed misconduct were male. This exceeds the overall proportion of males among life science trainees and faculty. These observations underscore the need for additional efforts to understand scientific misconduct and to ensure the responsible conduct of research.
IMPORTANCE As many of humanity’s greatest problems require scientific solutions, it is critical for the scientific enterprise to function optimally. Misconduct threatens the scientific enterprise by undermining trust in the validity of scientific findings. We have examined specific demographic characteristics of individuals found to have committed research misconduct in the life sciences. Our finding that misconduct occurs across all stages of career development suggests that attention to ethical aspects of the conduct of science should not be limited to those in training. The observation that males are overrepresented among those who commit misconduct implies a gender difference that needs to be better understood in any effort to promote research integrity.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scienitsts)
Most federal employees in the executive branch of government are not subject to a broad, overall prohibition on so-called “moonlighting.” Rank-and-file employees of the government are generally free to take an additional, compensated job outside of their federal work, subject to certain specific “conflict of interest” limitations.
High-ranking officials of the government, on the other hand, may be prohibited from taking any outside compensated private job if they are presidential appointees, and may otherwise be limited in the type of outside employment and the amount of private compensation they may receive if they are non-career officials receiving compensation from the federal government over a particular amount.
For most employees of the federal government, other than high-level appointees and non-career officials, outside employment opportunities and activities are prohibited when they create a “conflict of interest” for the employee with respect to his or her official duties and responsibilities for the government. The Office of Government Ethics expressly provides in regulation that such a “conflict of interest” will arise in two circumstances: (1) when the activity is expressly prohibited either by statute or by a specific agency regulation concerning such conduct; and (2) when general “conflict of interest” principles and rules would require that an employee recuse or disqualify himself or herself from participating in governmental matters to such an extent as to “materially impair” the employee’s ability to do his or her duty.
This report examines general statutory restrictions on certain types and categories of outside, compensated employment activities by federal employees, and surveys specific agency and departmental regulations prohibiting particular types and areas of outside, compensated employment activities for employees of that agency or department.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen CBP Efforts to Mitigate Risk of Employee Corruption and Misconduct
GAO-13-59, Dec 4, 2012
Causes and Consequences of Recent Bank Failures
GAO-13-71, Jan 3, 2013