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Legal News for Weds 5/29 - PwC Sells ChatGPT Enterprise, TX Judge Transfers CFPB Lawsuit to DC, Illinois Sports Wagering Tax and Combating Biofuel Credit Fraud

Legal News for Weds 5/29 - PwC Sells ChatGPT Enterprise, TX Judge Transfers CFPB Lawsuit to DC, Illinois Sports Wagering Tax and Combating Biofuel Credit Fraud

PwC becoming the first reseller of ChatGPT Enterprise, a Texas judge transferring a CFPB lawsuit to DC, Illinois's new sports wagering tax, and combating biofuel tax credit fraud.
A tanker truck going around a roundabout, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: House Un-American Activities Committee Probes Hollywood

On May 29, 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began its infamous investigation into communist influence in the Hollywood film industry. This marked the start of a series of public hearings aimed at identifying and eliminating alleged communist subversion in American cultural institutions. The HUAC's probe into Hollywood was driven by the fear that communist ideology was being subtly propagated through films and entertainment, which were seen as powerful tools for shaping public opinion.

The investigation led to the subpoena of numerous writers, directors, and actors, many of whom were questioned about their political beliefs and associations. The most notable outcome of these hearings was the creation of the "Hollywood Ten," a group of screenwriters and directors who refused to answer the committee's questions, citing their First Amendment rights. These individuals were subsequently blacklisted by the industry, effectively ending their careers in Hollywood.

The HUAC hearings had a chilling effect on the film industry, leading to widespread censorship and self-policing by studios to avoid further scrutiny. This period is often remembered as a dark chapter in American history, reflecting the intense paranoia and political repression of the early Cold War era. The Hollywood blacklist persisted for many years, and its repercussions were felt long after the initial hearings concluded.

The HUAC's actions in 1947 set a precedent for future investigations into alleged subversive activities, influencing American political and cultural landscapes for decades. This event underscores the tension between national security concerns and the protection of civil liberties, a balance that continues to be a contentious issue in modern times. The Hollywood probe by HUAC remains a significant example of how fear and suspicion can lead to widespread violation of individual rights and freedoms.

PwC has become the first reseller of OpenAI’s ChatGPT Enterprise, aimed at business use, marking a significant step in the adoption of AI tools in the corporate world. This agreement will also make PwC the largest user of this AI product. The deal is part of a broader trend among Big Four accounting firms, which are increasingly incorporating AI into their services. PwC had previously announced a $1 billion investment over three years to integrate AI into its operations, enhancing the efficiency of tasks such as auditing and tax accounting.

Joe Atkinson, PwC’s chief products and technology officer, highlighted that the firm’s experience with AI will help them effectively market these tools to clients, offering significant advantages over traditional methods. PwC’s substantial deployment of ChatGPT Enterprise will set it apart in the market, as the firm aims to lead clients through their AI adoption journey. 

As of now, PwC’s largest clients are already engaging with generative AI for various functions, including marketing and customer service, utilizing advanced AI capabilities that surpass traditional chatbots. The rest of the Big Four firms—Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and KPMG—are also making substantial investments in AI, forming partnerships with major tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and IBM to enhance their services.

PwC First to Resell OpenAI’s ChatGPT Enterprise to Clients

Yesterday, May 28, 2024, a federal judge in Texas transferred a lawsuit challenging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) rule on credit card late fees to Washington, D.C. This decision marks the second time U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman has moved the case from his court in Fort Worth, following a federal appeals court's recent decision to relinquish jurisdiction. The CFPB seeks to defend a rule capping credit card late fees at $8, a key component of President Joe Biden's administration's effort to combat "junk fees."

The transfer to Washington, D.C. could benefit the CFPB, as it is now in a jurisdiction where the agency is based. This case involves major plaintiffs, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Bankers Association, who are challenging the rule. The CFPB has argued that the rule is necessary, citing that credit card issuers collected over $14 billion in late fees in 2022, with an average fee of $32.

Judge Pittman, a Trump appointee, previously blocked the rule from taking effect, basing his decision on a 2022 ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the CFPB's funding structure unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court overturned this ruling on May 16. The CFPB plans to seek the removal of Pittman’s injunction, although the plaintiffs have other arguments to prevent the rule from being enforced. The transfer is seen as a strategic move to place the case in a more favorable venue for the CFPB.

Texas judge again transfers lawsuit over card late fee rule to Washington, D.C. | Reuters

Illinois is on the verge of implementing a progressive tax structure on sports wagering, which could see tax rates as high as 40%. The Illinois General Assembly has passed an amendment to a bill that introduces a graduated tax rate for sports wagering receipts. Businesses with sports wagering receipts between $30 million and $50 million will face a minimum tax rate of 20%, while those with receipts exceeding $200 million will be taxed at the maximum rate of 40%.

This progressive tax structure is a pioneering approach in the sports betting industry and could serve as a model for other states considering the legalization and taxation of sports betting. Illinois aims to maximize state revenue from this rapidly growing industry without stifling its competitiveness. The state’s approach balances the need for significant tax income with maintaining a healthy market.

Illinois's model contrasts with other states like New York, which has a flat 51% tax on gross gaming revenues. Illinois's graduated system introduces a level of progressivity, that is higher rates for entities with higher revenues, potentially influencing other states to adopt similar frameworks. For instance, New Jersey is considering raising its sports betting taxes to a uniform 30%, it remains to be seen if the Garden State may consider an Illinois-style graduated rate system. 

Revenue from vice taxes, including those on gambling, is crucial for states facing budget deficits. However, it's essential that the revenue generated from such taxes be allocated effectively to offset the social costs associated with these activities. In the case of sports wagering, funds should support public health initiatives, addiction treatment programs, and educational campaigns.

Illinois's progressive tax on sports wagering aims to balance industry growth with regulation. If the revenue is used appropriately, Illinois could become a comprehensive model for other states to follow, focusing not only on revenue potential but also on mitigating the larger social impacts of increased sports betting.

Illinois Eyeing Sports Wagering Tax Up To 40%

In my column this week, I address the urgent need for a proactive approach to combat biofuel tax credit fraud. A recent audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration highlighted significant flaws in the administration of these credits, revealing that many are awarded without proper documentation. This system's reactive nature allows fraud to flourish, as the IRS can only issue deficiency notices after fraudulent claims are filed.

Biofuel tax credits, intended to promote renewable fuel production and use, have been a cornerstone of U.S. energy policy since 2004. However, the current law's limitations prevent the IRS from denying credits at the time of filing, enabling schemes that exploit information delays. To combat this, the IRS should be given the authority to enforce registration requirements and deny non-compliant claims proactively.

Implementing a track-and-trace system could also help by uniquely identifying and tracking each gallon of biofuel through its production and distribution journey. This would create multiple checkpoints, making it challenging for fraudsters to repeatedly claim credits on the same fuel.

Past fraud cases, such as the Washakie biodiesel fraud and schemes involving Gen-X Energy Group, illustrate how easy it is to exploit the system. Fraudsters cycle biofuel between refineries and distribution points, claiming new credits each time, or recycle biodiesel back into feedstock to produce more biodiesel for additional credits.

The IRS is currently hampered by Section 4101 of the tax code, which allows taxpayers to claim credits without meeting registration requirements. This loophole leaves the IRS to address fraud only after it has occurred, often too late to recover lost funds.

A track-and-trace system, used successfully in other industries, could ensure that each gallon of biofuel is tracked from refinement to consumption, making it harder for fraudulent activities to go unnoticed. By assigning unique identifiers and logging each step in a database, this system would create an auditable chain of custody.

Addressing these vulnerabilities requires legislative action to empower the IRS to deny fraudulent claims at the point of filing. Strengthening enforcement capabilities and closing existing loopholes will help safeguard the integrity of biofuel tax credits and ensure they serve their intended purpose.

To Combat Biofuel Tax Credit Fraud, We Need a Proactive Approach

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