Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Legal News for Fri 3/29 - SCOTUS-Bound Nuclear Waste Case, SBF 25 Years for Fraud, Texas AG Investigates Boeing Supplier and Facebook Spying Revelations

Legal News for Fri 3/29 - SCOTUS-Bound Nuclear Waste Case, SBF 25 Years for Fraud, Texas AG Investigates Boeing Supplier and Facebook Spying Revelations

U.S.'s Supreme Court-bound nuclear waste dispute, Bankman-Fried's 25-year fraud sentence, a Texas AG investigation into Boeing's supplier, and Facebook's spying revelations.
Canada in the abstract, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: Canada Created

On March 29, 1867, a pivotal moment in legal and political history unfolded as the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, laying the groundwork for a united and independent Dominion of Canada. This act was a monumental step, not just for the territories involved, but for the concept of nation-building and governance in the 19th century. It provided a structured constitution for Canada, which at the time, united the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province (which was subsequently divided into Ontario and Quebec) under a single federal government. This legislative move was pivotal in defining Canada's national identity and sovereignty.

The British North America Act, also known as the Constitution Act of 1867, is celebrated for introducing a federal system of government, allocating specific powers to the provinces and others to the federal government, a structure that has endured and evolved. It also established the bicameral legislature comprising the House of Commons and the Senate, adopting a parliamentary system modelled after that of the United Kingdom. This act not only marked the legal birth of Canada but also set a precedent for the peaceful transition of power and the creation of new nations through legislative means.

The passage of this act was the culmination of a series of conferences and negotiations among the leaders of the British North American colonies, reflecting a mature and collaborative approach to nationhood. It addressed the pressing need for a united front in the face of external threats and internal discord, particularly the Fenian raids and the threat of American expansionism. When the act took effect on July 1, 1867, it did not merely create a new country; it established a framework for democracy, rights, and governance that Canadians continue to build upon. This legislation stands as a testament to the enduring values of unity, cooperation, and self-governance, marking March 29 as a day of significant legal and historical importance in the creation of the Dominion of Canada.

The U.S. is facing a growing legal dispute over nuclear waste storage, likely headed for the Supreme Court, following conflicting appellate court decisions regarding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) authority to license two proposed storage facilities. The most recent decision from the Fifth Circuit Court vacated a license for Holtec International to store spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico, similar to an earlier ruling against a Texas facility by Interim Storage Partners (ISP). These decisions oppose a prior ruling from the District of Columbia Circuit, which approved the ISP facility's license, highlighting a significant legal split.

Holtec and ISP, along with government support, are expected to challenge the Fifth Circuit's decisions, suggesting a Supreme Court review could overturn them. This legal stalemate underscores the challenges of finding a solution for the 86,000 metric tons of nuclear waste stored across 33 states. Efforts to establish a permanent site have been stalled, notably with the withdrawal from the Yucca Mountain project, leading to temporary storage proposals. The Supreme Court's potential involvement could resolve the legal impasse and address the broader issue of nuclear waste management in the U.S.

US Efforts to Store Nuclear Waste Poised for High Court Review

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the now-defunct FTX cryptocurrency exchange, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a fraud involving $8 billion stolen from customers, marking a significant moment in his rapid fall from grace. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan imposed the sentence after finding Bankman-Fried guilty of seven fraud and conspiracy charges related to FTX's 2022 collapse, rejecting the defense's claims that customers did not lose money and deeming Bankman-Fried unremorseful. Despite apologizing for the impact on customers and colleagues, Bankman-Fried did not admit to criminal actions and plans to appeal both his conviction and sentence.

The sentencing reflects the severe consequences of defrauding investors and customers in the financial industry, underscoring the message from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland about the accountability awaiting those who commit financial crimes. Kaplan highlighted the significant losses incurred by FTX customers, equity investors, and lenders to the Alameda Research hedge fund, founded by Bankman-Fried, totaling over $11 billion in losses. This led to an $11 billion forfeiture order to compensate the victims.

Prosecutors had requested a sentence ranging from 40 to 50 years, while Bankman-Fried's defense argued for a significantly shorter term, portraying him as an awkward but non-malicious figure who attempted to recover customer funds post-collapse. Despite efforts to distance Bankman-Fried from infamous fraudsters and emphasize his mathematical decision-making, the court remained focused on the extensive harm caused by his actions.

Bankman-Fried's status as a prominent political donor and figure in the cryptocurrency space, known for his commitment to effective altruism and significant contributions to political causes, was also scrutinized. His detention since August 2023, due to concerns over witness tampering, and the judge's recommendation for his incarceration near San Francisco, highlight the gravity of his offenses and the legal system's response to financial malfeasance in the emerging cryptocurrency market.

Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 years for multi-billion dollar FTX fraud | Reuters

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has initiated an investigation into Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc, a key supplier of parts for Boeing, due to ongoing issues with some of these parts. This inquiry comes in the wake of Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun's announcement of his departure by year's end, following a series of concerns raised by regulators and airline customers, notably after a panel detached from a 737 MAX 9 jet in January.

Texas attorney general opens investigation into parts supplier for Boeing | Reuters

Details have emerged regarding Facebook's extensive history of spying on its users' encrypted communications across various apps and services, highlighting a broader issue of online privacy exploitation by numerous entities. In 2018, Facebook was discovered using a "privacy protecting VPN" called Onavo as spyware to monitor user activity on other platforms, an operation that had been sanctioned by CEO Mark Zuckerberg under "Project Ghostbusters." This project aimed to intercept and decrypt encrypted app traffic from users of Snapchat, YouTube, and Amazon, effectively conducting a large-scale "man in the middle attack" to spy on users. The strategy involved developing spyware capable of accessing data before encryption, utilizing the Onavo VPN, acquired by Facebook in 2013 and repurposed for espionage without clear disclosure to users.

Internal documents from a lawsuit against Facebook's parent company, Meta, reveal that high-ranking Facebook executives were aware of the ethical and security issues posed by such surveillance but proceeded regardless. This revelation is part of a class action lawsuit filed in 2020, accusing Facebook of spying on users and lying about it. The case underscores the lax consumer privacy protections in the U.S. and the vast, loosely regulated ecosystem of data surveillance that compromises personal information for profit, often under the guise of anonymization. Despite numerous privacy scandals, there has been little meaningful action from Congress to address these concerns, particularly when lobbyists for companies like Facebook aim to eliminate competitors like TikTok. The situation raises alarms about the potential for future scandals that could finally prompt legislative action on privacy.

Details Emerge Of Facebook’s Long History Of Spying On Encrypted User Communications Across Different Apps And Service | Techdirt

Joseph Haydn, pencil sketch

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), was a towering figure in the Classical period of Western music, and holds a foundational place in the history of symphonic and chamber music. Born in Rohrau, Austria, Haydn's musical journey began at a young age, leading him to become a choirboy at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Despite a challenging start, Haydn's undeniable talent and relentless work ethic propelled him into the circles of the Esterházy family, one of the most influential patrons of the arts in Austria, where he spent much of his career as a court musician.

Haydn's contributions to music are monumental, having composed over 100 symphonies, numerous operas, string quartets, piano sonatas, and two celebrated oratorios, "The Creation" and "The Seasons." His work laid the groundwork for future generations, earning him the titles "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet." Through his innovative structures, development of musical motifs, and the exploration of dynamic contrasts, Haydn shaped the Classical style, influencing contemporaries and successors alike, including Mozart and Beethoven.

Haydn's legacy is not just in his compositions but in his approach to music as a vibrant, living art form. His ability to infuse his works with wit, humor, and deep emotion speaks to his profound understanding of the human experience, making his music timeless and universally admired.

Featured Piece: Symphony No. 77 in B flat major, IV. Allegro spiritoso

This week, we feature the exhilarating final movement, "Allegro spiritoso," from Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 77 in B flat major. Composed during the zenith of Haydn's career in the late 18th century, this symphony exemplifies Haydn's mastery in orchestrating dynamic contrasts and his flair for thematic development.

The Symphony No. 77 is part of Haydn's middle-period works, where he experimented with form and harmony to expand the expressive capabilities of the symphony. The "Allegro spiritoso" movement, in particular, showcases Haydn's skill in creating engaging musical narratives that are both intellectually satisfying and emotionally compelling. This movement is characterized by its spirited tempo and the lively, joyful themes that dance throughout the piece, providing a fitting conclusion to the symphony.

Listeners will appreciate the movement's clever use of dynamics, the interplay between the orchestral sections, and the seamless transitions that propel the music forward. It's a testament to Haydn's ability to compose music that feels fresh and invigorating, demonstrating why he remains a central figure in the classical music canon.

As we explore "Allegro spiritoso," let us appreciate the genius of Haydn, whose music continues to inspire and delight audiences around the world.

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at