Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Weds 7/19 - Wachtell Exoduses, Universities Fight Endowment Tax, Visa and Mastercard Antitrust v. Square, Ethics for SCOTUS and Trump J6 Probe Target

Weds 7/19 - Wachtell Exoduses, Universities Fight Endowment Tax, Visa and Mastercard Antitrust v. Square, Ethics for SCOTUS and Trump J6 Probe Target

In today’s episode we have Wachtell Lipton exoduses, universities fighting an endowment tax, Visa and Mastercard antitrust suit, an ethics code for SCOTUS and Trump is a target of J6 probe.

On this day in history, July 19 1911, the first state law in the US allowing for censorship of movies was passed in Pennsylvania. 

The Pennsylvania State Board of Censors, established on July 19, 1911, under P.L. 1067 by Governor John Kinley Tener, was the first such organization in the United States and was renowned for its stringency. The Board's main responsibility was to review all films before they were released in Pennsylvania, approving only those that met moral standards and rejecting films deemed corruptive. Although the board was funded in 1913, it wasn't until 1914 that the first board members were appointed by Governor Tener. P.L. 534, enacted on May 15, 1915, expanded the board's size from two to twenty-two members. The board, which had fluctuating staff numbers throughout its history, had offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh, with most of the film screenings occurring in Philadelphia, fiscal supervision in Harrisburg, and film approval seals distribution in Pittsburgh.

The State Censorship Board required that all movies intended for review be accompanied by their respective scripts, and affidavits confirming the authenticity of translations had to be provided for foreign films. The Board's standards, as per Section twenty-two, dictated that the film's marketing material should adhere to the same criteria as the film itself. The State Archives records, encompassing the fiscal years of 1935 through 1949, demonstrate that the Pennsylvania State Board of Censors assessed a sum of 24,235 movies during this timeframe. Concurrently, the Board mandated modifications in 2,226 unique films and prohibited the screening of seventy-six films completely.

Prominent Wall Street law firm, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, recently saw two of its corporate attorneys, Sabastian Niles and Gordon Moodie, depart to take up roles in-house. Inc. announced the appointment of Sabastian Niles as its new chief legal officer. Niles had previously advised Salesforce in negotiations with Elliott Investment Management LP, an activist investor that acquired a significant stake in the software company. Gordon Moodie has moved to AI startup Harvey as the chief product officer. Harvey, which is bringing artificial intelligence to the legal industry, has secured $21 million in investment funding. This follows another high-profile departure from Wachtell earlier this year, when Andrea Wahlquist Brown joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Wachtell expressed support for Moodie's new venture and was pleased about Niles's recognition by Salesforce, a long-valued client.

Wachtell Partners Take Jobs at Salesforce, AI Startup Harvey (1)

Universities are fighting against a 1.4% tax on their large endowments, a battle expected to intensify as the focus on legacy admissions intensifies in Congress. The endowment tax, targeting over two dozen schools with substantial endowments per student, was implemented by Republicans in 2017 as a method to fund tax cuts. However, the recent Supreme Court ruling ending race-based affirmative action may give new momentum to proposals aiming to modify this tax, with the goal of supporting low-income students and targeting wealthy universities with exclusive admission practices. The issue of legacy programs has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, providing potential ground for bipartisan cooperation to amend the tax law. This coincides with the expiration of provisions from the 2017 tax law, creating an opportunity to review this and other related provisions. Lawmakers are considering various proposals, from increasing the tax to phasing it out for universities that support low-income students. Over a dozen universities have already reported lobbying on this issue. However, any movement on this issue is expected to take time.

Endowment Tax Eyed After Supreme Court Affirmative Action Ruling

Harvard and other wealthy Massachusetts schools with legacy admissions hit with tax proposal that would raise hundreds of millions

Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. are facing an antitrust lawsuit, lodged by Block Inc. (previously Square Inc.), over allegedly inflating credit card interchange fees. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, claims that the two card companies conspired to maintain market power by imposing elevated fees on the Square payment platform. Square contracts directly with Visa and Mastercard to handle transactions for millions of merchants, and it is the direct payer of these fees. Block argues that these inflated fees have resulted in increased retail prices paid by consumers. In addition to this, Block claims that Visa and Mastercard have raised a complex and unavoidable fee that Square pays, based on the number of a merchant's locations. Square merchants, however, pay separate fees for payment services and not the interchange fees. Visa and Mastercard have yet to respond to the allegations.

Visa, Mastercard Hit With Antitrust Suit Over Credit Card Fees

Senate Democrats are championing a bill aiming to establish a binding ethics code for U.S. Supreme Court justices following reports that some conservative justices have failed to disclose certain financial transactions and luxurious trips. Unlike their counterparts in the federal judiciary, the Supreme Court's nine justices are not bound by any formal code of conduct. Proposed by Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the bill mandates new requirements for financial disclosures and recusals in case of potential conflicts of interest. Criticizing the court for its inability to self-regulate, Democrats argue that Supreme Court justices should be held to the same standard as all federal judges. However, the bill faces a challenging path to approval in the Senate and the Republican-led House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have interpreted the ethics reform as an attempt to tarnish the court's reputation and believe it should continue to set its own rules. The legislation would also introduce a mechanism to investigate alleged violations of the code of conduct.

US Senate Democrats pursue Supreme Court ethics legislation | Reuters

In the least surprising news this week Former U.S. President Donald Trump disclosed that he has been named a target of a grand jury investigation into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election result. This represents the strongest indication yet that Trump might face federal criminal charges concerning his actions following his election loss to Joe Biden. The investigation pertains to Trump's attempts to remain in power, which include alleged pressuring of officials with false claims of voter fraud and an attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters. Despite his potential legal troubles, Trump remains the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. A series of related criminal investigations into Trump and his allies are also underway, with Michigan's Attorney General announcing charges against 16 Trump supporters. Additionally, Trump is facing criminal charges for retaining national security documents unlawfully after his term. Trump has consistently dismissed these investigations as politically motivated.

Trump says he is a target in US 2020 election probe | Reuters

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