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Legal News for Thurs 3/7 - Dartmouth Basketball Union, Cigna Deals for Wegovy and Zepbound, Hunter's House Testimony and FTX-BlockFi Settlement

Legal News for Thurs 3/7 - Dartmouth Basketball Union, Cigna Deals for Wegovy and Zepbound, Hunter's House Testimony and FTX-BlockFi Settlement

Dartmouth basketball's union wave, Cigna's obesity drug coverage deals, Hunter Biden's House testimony request, and the FTX-BlockFi settlement.
A fancy Lord being thrown out of a castle, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: UK’s House of Lords Becomes Elected Body

On March 7, 2007, a pivotal moment in British legal and political history unfolded as the House of Commons, Britain's lower house of Parliament, voted in favor of transforming the House of Lords into an elected body. This significant decision marked the beginning of the end for the centuries-old tradition of appointments based on noble birth, a system that had shaped the composition of the United Kingdom's upper chamber of Parliament. For hundreds of years, the House of Lords had been composed largely of hereditary peers, bishops, and appointed life peers, a reflection of a hierarchical society rooted in aristocracy and privilege.

The vote by the House of Commons was not just a legislative act; it was a profound statement about the evolution of democratic principles and the push for greater accountability and representation in the UK's legislative process. The move towards an elected House of Lords aimed to enhance the democratic legitimacy of the Parliament by ensuring that members of the upper house were chosen by the public or their representatives, rather than by accident of birth or political appointment.

This historic vote was the culmination of years of debate and reform efforts aimed at modernizing the United Kingdom's parliamentary system. Previous attempts to reform the House of Lords, including the significant House of Lords Act of 1999, which removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House, laid the groundwork for this dramatic shift. The 2007 vote was a clear indication of the changing attitudes towards governance and representation, emphasizing the importance of aligning the UK's legislative bodies with contemporary democratic standards.

The decision to make the House of Lords an elected body faced both applause and criticism. Proponents argued that it would lead to a more democratic and transparent legislative process, while detractors raised concerns about the potential implications for the balance of power and the traditional roles of the Houses of Parliament. Regardless of the varied opinions, the vote on March 7, 2007, remains a landmark in the journey towards reforming one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world, reflecting the ongoing evolution of democracy and governance in the United Kingdom.

The Dartmouth College men's basketball team's decision to unionize, with a 13-2 vote in favor of being represented by the Service Employees International Union on March 5, could potentially initiate a wave of unionization across Ivy League schools. This move comes after a protracted legal battle culminating in a National Labor Relations Board official's February 5 decision, recognizing the athletes as employees under the National Labor Relations Act, despite Dartmouth College's ongoing appeal. This decision represents a significant challenge to the NCAA, which has been entrenched in legal disputes regarding athletes' labor and employment rights. Dartmouth's case, while seemingly atypical due to the school's lower-profile athletic program and lack of scholarships or deals for name, image, and likeness (NIL) for its players, reflects a broader discontent with current NCAA policies. Economic and legal experts suggest that the lack of NIL deals makes unionization more appealing for athletes at Ivy League schools, where players often balance academics, sports, and part-time jobs without athletic scholarships.

The resurgence of union activity at Dartmouth, highlighted by undergraduate dining hall workers' successful organization with SEIU Local 560, demonstrates a wider trend of labor organizing in higher education. The legal struggle for the Dartmouth basketball team is far from over, indicating that future unionization efforts at other institutions may encounter similar challenges. Dartmouth College's steadfast position that its athletes are not employees, juxtaposed with the NLRB's contrasting view, underscores the ongoing debate over the classification and compensation of college athletes. This case, and the broader movement it may inspire, challenges longstanding norms regarding athlete compensation and labor rights in college sports, signaling a potentially transformative period in the relationship between student-athletes and collegiate athletic programs.

Dartmouth Players’ Vote Poised to Spark Ivy League Union Wave

Cigna Group has entered into agreements with Eli Lilly & Co. and Novo Nordisk A/S to enhance coverage for obesity medications, specifically aiming to mitigate the financial burden on employer-sponsored health plans for drugs like Wegovy and Zepbound. These deals, orchestrated through Cigna's Express Scripts pharmacy benefits manager, introduce a novel financial guarantee, capping annual spending increases for these medications at 15%. This initiative is designed to broaden access to these in-demand treatments by offering companies a safeguard against the soaring costs associated with GLP-1 treatments. Adam Kautzner, president of Cigna’s Express Scripts, highlighted the unprecedented demand for weight-loss medications and the financial strain they impose on employers, with some witnessing annual spending surges of 40% to 50%.

Express Scripts, serving 120 million individuals under various health plans, is now offering EncircleRx, a program that besides the drug coverage, includes patient support aimed at fostering lifestyle changes essential for the drugs' effectiveness. This program represents a strategic response to the challenges of covering high-cost obesity treatments, providing a structured framework for managing these expenses. Despite the reluctance of Lilly and Novo to discuss the specifics of their agreements with Cigna, these partnerships signal a significant shift towards addressing the affordability and accessibility of obesity treatments. The deals reflect a broader industry challenge in balancing drug costs with patient access, amidst calls from insurers for drug manufacturers to lower prices. Cigna's move to revise its long-term earnings growth forecast upwards underscores the financial implications and potential benefits of these strategic agreements in managing the costs of high-demand medications.

Cigna Strikes Deals With Lilly, Novo for More Obesity Coverage

The Republican-led House Oversight Committee has formally requested Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, to testify in an open hearing on March 20 as part of their ongoing impeachment investigation into the president. This inquiry has scrutinized Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine and China during the time his father was vice president from 2009 to 2017, although no evidence implicating Joe Biden in any wrongdoing has been found. Alongside Hunter Biden, the committee also extended invitations to three of his former business associates to appear for testimony. Despite previous indications from Hunter Biden that he would only testify publicly, he participated in a closed-door deposition with the committee last month after facing potential contempt charges. During this contentious deposition, Hunter Biden emphasized that his father had no involvement in or benefit from his business activities. Hunter Biden's legal team has acknowledged receipt of the committee's latest request and plans to respond in writing.

US House Republicans ask Hunter Biden to testify in open March 20 hearing | Reuters

FTX and BlockFi, both of which declared bankruptcy in 2022, have reached a settlement agreement where FTX will pay BlockFi up to $874 million. This settlement follows lawsuits between the two companies over financial dealings and loans made to each other before their respective financial collapses. A significant part of the settlement, $250 million, is to be prioritized for BlockFi, with the balance contingent on FTX's ability to repay its own customers and creditors. The relationship between the two firms became complicated after a market crash in 2022 exposed FTX's misuse of customer funds, leading to BlockFi turning to FTX for rescue financing. Furthermore, FTX has committed to an additional payment of $185.3 million to BlockFi to cover funds held in FTX trading accounts at the time of the collapse. Despite the agreement, full repayment to FTX customers remains uncertain, and BlockFi has indicated that it is unlikely to fully repay its interest-bearing account holders, projecting that they might only recover between 39.4% and 100% of their account values. The deal also includes BlockFi's decision to withdraw its lawsuit concerning 56 million Robinhood shares previously pledged as collateral, which were seized by the U.S. Department of Justice following FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried's arrest and subsequent conviction for embezzling $8 billion from FTX customers.

FTX reaches settlement with BlockFi, may pay up to $874 million | Reuters

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
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