Bramwell's Lunch Beat: Did Lois Lerner Really Use That Word?

Jul 31st 2014
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Camp Hopes Estate Tax Will Be on Its Way Out

An article in Bloomberg said that Republicans are considering voting this year to repeal the U.S. estate tax, according to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R.-Mich.). He told reporters that many recently elected U.S. House members haven't had a chance to vote on the issue. "It's been a long time since we've had a vote on total repeal", he said. "Obviously, I don't believe death should be a taxable event."

"Just taking up time with stuff that's not going to go anywhere", said Representative Earl Blumenauer (D.-Ore), also on the Ways and Means Committee. "It's sad, because it just sort of signals the end of that vision of tax reform, which Dave took a real shot at."

The measure would probably pass the House—already more than half of its members are co-sponsoring a repeal bill. However, President Barack Obama and many Democrats are against repeal, and are even considering expanding it, so the proposal stands little chance of becoming law. Currently, Americans have a $5.34 million per-person exemption from the 40 percent tax. The IRS collected $13.1 billion in estate taxes in fiscal year 2013.

GOP Alleges that Lerner Email Used Naughty Words

According to a WSJ report, earlier this week House Republicans released a series of emails from 2012 that sho0wed that former IRS official Lois Lerner used the terms "crazies" and "***holes" in a discussion about conservative figures.

After the release, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) said these emails show "Ms. Lerner's deep animus toward conservatives" as well as her "mistreatment of conservative groups was driven by her personal hostility toward conservatives." The article said Camp sent the emails to Attorney General Eric Holder and called on the Justice Department to investigate the matter "aggressively" or appoint a special counsel. A department spokesman said",We have received the letter and are reviewing it."

The article said that the IRS inspector general last year concluded that the agency had targeted conservative groups for unnecessary extra scrutiny as they attempted to gain tax-exempt status. Democrats contend left-leaning groups eventually came under IRS analysis as well. The inspector general has said investigators found no evidence of a political motivation for the IRS actions.

Bank of America Faces Major Bill in Mortgage Case

A New York Times DealBook article says that Bank of America and federal prosecutors are continuing to try to reach a deal on the bank's sale of troubled mortgage securities. However, they're still far apart, according to the article, even though the bank has raised its offer.

Apparently, the sticking point is the size of any cash penalty, according to those briefed on the meeting. The Justice Department is asking for about $17 billion to settle the case, more than $10 billion in the form of a cash penalty and the rest in "soft dollar payments" that will be used to actually help homeowners. The bank, meanwhile, was only willing to ante of $13 billion, including $4 billion in cash. The bank narrowed the gap on Wednesday, sources said, raising its cash offer to about $7 billion and its total proposal to about $14 billion.

Meanwhile, a federal judge has ordered Bank of America to pay a nearly $1.3 billion penalty in another federal mortgage case. This ruling comes nine months after a jury found Bank of America liable for selling questionable loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Whose Fault was the Rollout

"Failure is an orphan", the old saying goes. But that isn't going to stop anyone from trying to figure out whose fault it is, according to an article in USA Today. The article notes that a new report finds that the government "did not plan well or properly provide oversight for the new federal health exchange launched last October."

The Department of Health and Human Services "needs a mitigation plan to address these issues", wrote the report author, William Woods, director of acquisitions and sourcing management for the Government Accountability Office. He noted that unless the government "improves contract management and adheres to a structured governance process, significant risks remain that upcoming enrollment periods could encounter challenges."

A new contract for site management was given to Accenture Federal Services in January after the original contractor, CGI Federal, was "essentially dropped" after the poor launch. The article noted that Accenture's original contract for $91 million has increased to more than $175 million, and some site features are still problematical, according to the report.

U.S. Chamber Pitches Disclosure Reforms to SEC

As noted in a piece in Compliance Week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness is taking a lead in the movement toward corporate disclosure reform. It has released a new report it wants the SEC to consider.

The article lists some of the key suggestions in the report, including disclosing in Form 10-K the "general development" of a business, disclosing financial information for different geographic areas in which a company operates, and describing principal plants, mines, and other materially important physical properties.

As a longer term project, the Chamber recommends that the SEC review Compensation Discussion & Analysis (CD&A) and Management's Discussion and Analysis (MD&A). The article quoted the report: "The complexity of the SEC's rules and interpretations, coupled with the technical nature of the broader subject of executive compensation, means that in-depth expertise is required to understand what CD&A requires a company to disclose."

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