SO I WAS A LITTLE OFF ON MY BET ABOUT THE PROPORTION OF PUERTO RICO BONDS HELD BY SMALL INVESTORS, BUT MY ARGUMENT, THAT CHANGING THE RULES ON THEM WOULD BE BAD, STILL HOLDS
On Friday I posted about the Puerto Rico debt crisis and pointed out that there will undoubtedly be individual investors who will be adversely affected if the government changes the rules on those investors’ priority for repayment. According to a report from CNN Money that I hadn’t seen when I wrote that post, but that is dated February 22, about 45% of Puerto Rico’s bonds are held by individual investors, either directly or through mutual funds. So I was a little off when I said I’d be willing to bet that the majority of the bonds are held by small investors.
My point still holds about why changing the rules would be very bad. In fact, if the figures in that CNN Money report are accurate, nearly a third of the bonds are held by individual citizens of Puerto Rico. So changing the rules on priority will hurt a substantial number of Puerto Ricans whose savings are invested in their homeland. How is it fair to change the rules on them after they made those investments?
IF THIS REPORT ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT ANGLING TO UPSET THE LEGAL PRIORITIES OF PUERTO RICO’S CREDITORS IS CORRECT, IT’S VERY, VERY BAD
The premise of a commentary published yesterday on The American Interest site is that the government is floating a plan to take away from the holders of Puerto Rico bonds their legally established priority for payment. I’m reserving judgment on whether or not that premise is going to come to fruition, but if it does, it’s really not good.
I know it’s easy to think that the holders of those bonds are a bunch of Wall Street fat cats who don’t deserve to be paid ahead of the citizens of Puerto Rico. In fact, I’m sure that the people who are floating this plan (if that’s what is happening) are depending on exactly that sentiment.
That course of action and the sentiment underlying it are wrong for two reasons: (1) I’d be willing to bet that the majority of the Puerto Rico bonds are owned, not by Wall Street investors, but by main street investors, in the form of mutual fund accounts held by individuals for retirement savings and income; and (2) if investors can’t rely on the promises that are made when municipal bonds are sold, then bond financing for municipal governments will become either much more expensive or nonexistent. In other words, it will hurt the little guys that the government wants you to think they are protecting.
After an outage earlier this month, the IRS recently announced that it has resumed processing individual and business tax returns. The IRS also said that the only impact on returns filed during the outage was a delay in processing, and filers whose returns were held up by the outage do not need to take any additional action.
If you’re not planning to file until later (or if you are deliberately planning to file at the last minute), take a look at my newsletter about this year’s filing deadline.
SO THE MARICOPA COUNTY ASSESSOR HAS GONE BACK TO A POSTCARD SIZE MAILING, BUT THE CONTENT IS STILL THE SAME
In my February newsletter I said that the notices of valuation distributed by County Assessors in Arizona used to be postcards but now are usually letter-sized pieces of paper. Well, I guess I was wrong. I saw a notice of valuation from the Maricopa County Assessor yesterday. It’s a postcard-sized mailing.
Everything else I said in my newsletter and my follow-up blog post, however, still holds. If you think the valuation of your property is too high, come talk to me (or my colleague) about filing a petition for review.
LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE THESE DAYS, PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO TURN THE ARGUMENT ABOUT UNLOCKING THE TERRORIST’S IPHONE INTO A POLITICAL BATTLE
The whole issue about unlocking the terrorist’s iPhone is being portrayed as a political dispute over privacy versus law enforcement, but that isn’t how I’m looking at it. I don’t think I have an opinion on whether or not Apple could be ordered to give the government existing information that would allow the government to unlock the terrorist’s iPhone. That isn’t the question, as I understand it. The question is whether or not a court can order Apple to take affirmative steps to create access to the terrorist’s iPhone for the use of the government. Apple would have to produce not existing information, but a newly created engineering solution. Am I wrong about that?
If I’m right about that, then what law permits a court to order a private company to produce something new for the government’s benefit? Am I missing something?
ANOTHER CASE OF A GOVERNMENT TRYING TO USE ZONING LAW TO CENSOR CRITICISM OF ITS USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN
A long time ago I reported on a story about a city in Missouri that tried to use its sign code to get rid of a sign criticizing the city’s use of eminent domain. Now a town in Virginia has apparently done pretty much exactly the same thing, with the same result: blatant attempts to restrict signs based on the content of the messages are going to get shot down just about every time, as they should.
Via Overlawyered, again.
The story that appeared earlier this week about a guy who was supposedly arrested for failing to repay his student loan left out a few key details. According to a post on the Georgia Bankruptcy Blog, the arrest happened because the guy repeatedly failed to appear for court proceedings (proceedings that are entirely ordinary in a debt collection case) after being ordered to do so.
AN EXPLANATION OF THE LEGAL RATIONALE (SUCH AS IT IS) BEHIND A FEDERAL COURT ORDERING APPLE TO HACK INTO A TERRORIST’S IPHONE
When I first heard about a federal magistrate’s order, made at the request of the FBI, that Apple must provide to (actually, create for) the government the means to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone, I immediately thought like a lawyer. How can a court order someone, who isn’t even a party to a prosecution or investigation, to act to assist law enforcement in obtaining evidence? That’s not the same a court issuing a subpoena to someone who’s not a party to the case for records or data that’s relevant to the case. No, the court is telling Apple that it must make something to create access to the data, i.e. create software that will allow the FBI to get data from the terrorist’s phone.
After some looking for an explanation of the legal rationale for the court’s order, I finally found one today. There’s a federal law adopted in 1789 (you read that right, and not it’s not a typo, a law adopted 227 years ago) that “empower[s] courts to issue orders that are necessary to carry out other legal functions,” according to the item at the link. The FBI relied on that law to get the court to order Apple to have its engineers create new code to unlock the phone.
That seems like a pretty weak rationale to me. Does that law really allow a judge to order a company to make something so that the government can get access to data on a product the company sold?
I’m also wondering about the procedure that was employed to produce this order. According to something I read somewhere else, Apple wasn’t informed of the proceeding that led to the order. I’m guessing (I used to be up on this stuff, but my employment as a law clerk for federal judge was almost 30 years ago) that it’s one of those situations where the court can issue a subpoena to someone who isn’t a party to the case, then if the non-party objects to the subpoena, the court will hold a hearing to allow the non-party to present its objection. So I presume that sometime soon, Apple will get to try to persuade the court to reverse the order. I’ll be watching for reports on that outcome.
It’s a subject that comes up every year at this time when property owners in Arizona start receiving the notices from the County Assessors telling the owners the valuation and classification of their property for the upcoming tax year (2017). If a property owner disagrees with the valuation and/or classification, there is a relatively simple process available to appeal the Assessor’s determination, but there are of course time deadlines to be met. You can read all about it in the publications section of deconcinimcdonald.com.
I didn’t mention in the newsletter, but I will mention here, that I’m not the only lawyer in my firm that handles property tax appeals. There are several of us, including one who seriously qualifies as a guru on state and local tax matters.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.