January 29, 2022

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Statement by Attorney General William P. Barr on the Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

15 min read

Attorney General William P. Barr has released the following statement:

“On behalf of the Department of Justice, I extend my deepest sympathy on the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Justice Ginsburg led one of the great lives in the history of American law.  She was a brilliant and successful litigator, an admired court of appeals judge, and a profoundly influential Supreme Court Justice.  For all her achievements in those roles, she will perhaps be remembered most for inspiring women in the legal profession and beyond.  She and I did not agree on every issue, but her legal ability, personal integrity, and determination were beyond doubt.  She leaves a towering legacy, and all who seek justice mourn her loss.”  

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  • Military Child Care: DOD Is Taking Actions to Address Awareness and Availability Barriers
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundOut-of-pocket costs for military families who use DOD-subsidized child care are largely driven by policies that vary by service. DOD establishes income-based fee ranges for on-installation child care, but each service sets its own fees and discounts within these parameters. As a result, in school year 2010 the per-child costs that families from the same income categories paid for on-installation care varied by service and installation. For example, the monthly per-child cost for a family with an income of $50,000 could have ranged from $335 to $518. Families’ costs for off-installation child care through private providers are also affected by policy differences among the services. All services offer subsidies for off-installation care that are intended to make families’ costs comparable to those for on-installation care. In an effort to offer benefits to more families, some services use a fixed cap to limit the subsidy amount. In school year 2010, the Air Force and Navy capped their subsidies at $200 per child per month, and families in these services had higher average monthly costs for off-installation care than Army and Marine Corps families, and also had higher costs than what they would have paid for on-installation care. For example, on average, Navy families using off-installation care paid $87 more per month than they would have paid for on-installation care, while Army families paid $63 less. Other factors, such as the number of children in care, also contributed to families’ costs for off-installation care. DOD and the services’ recent policy changes reduced differences among and within services in families’ costs for on-installation care, and DOD plans to further reduce these differences in the next 3 to 5 years. While the effects of these policy changes on individual families’ costs for off-installation care vary by family, families in services with fixed subsidy caps will likely continue to have higher average costs than families in services that do not.Military families face two main barriers to obtaining DOD-subsidized child care: lack of awareness and insufficient availability. According to DOD officials and based on GAO’s group discussions, some families remain unaware of subsidized child care, particularly off-installation care, despite DOD’s efforts to provide information at pre-deployment briefings, and through other outreach efforts. Families who are geographically isolated from an installation, such as reservists and recruiters, may be less likely to be aware of subsidized care. The individual services have taken steps to increase awareness of DOD-subsidized child care, such as establishing positions for professionals who educate families about child care options. However, even families who are informed about DOD-subsidized child care may face barriers obtaining it due to a lack of available space at on-installation centers and a scarcity of eligible child care providers off installation. The shortage of on-installation child care spaces resulted, in part, from heavy deployment demands, and DOD has responded by approving construction projects that it anticipates will provide over 21,000 new child care spaces using fiscal year 2008 through 2010 funding. DOD and the services have initiatives under way to increase the availability of eligible off-installation providers. In addition, DOD is developing an agencywide system that will provide servicemembers a central place to request both on-installation and off-installation child care. DOD plans to pilot the system in the spring of 2012 and intends to market it DOD-wide to servicemembers once it is fully implemented. The agency is in the process of contracting for the development of a marketing plan.Why GAO Did This StudyAbout a million military servicemembers serve the United States while raising a family, and many need reliable, affordable child care. Paying for high-quality child care can be challenging for these families, so the Department of Defense (DOD) offsets costs by subsidizing on-installation child care centers and offering subsidies for approved off-installation care providers. Deployments related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan increased the demand for child care. The extent of military families’ out-of-pocket child care costs for those using subsidized care are not known, and families may face barriers to obtaining DOD-subsidized care. GAO was mandated to examine: (1) the out-of-pocket child care costs paid by military families who use DOD-subsidized care; and (2) the barriers, if any, to obtaining DOD-subsidized care, and what has DOD done in response.To address these objectives, GAO reviewed DOD policies and guidance; interviewed officials from DOD, its contractor that administers DOD’s off-installation child care subsidies, and organizations that support military families; reviewed DOD fee data for school year 2009-2010 (school year 2010) and school year 2010-2011 (school year 2011); and analyzed child care costs for a random probability sample of 338 families using off-installation care in school year 2010. GAO conducted nongeneralizable discussion groups with military parents at two large military installations.GAO is not making recommendations in this report.DOD generally agreed with the report’s findings and also provided additional information on several specific points in the report.For more information, contact Kay E. Brown at (202) 512-7215 or brownke@gao.gov.
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  • Financial Stability: Agencies Have Not Found Leveraged Lending to Significantly Threaten Stability but Remain Cautious Amid Pandemic
    In U.S GAO News
    In the years before the economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and others assessed the potential risks to financial stability that leveraged loans and collateralized loan obligation (CLO) securities may pose. Generally, leveraged loans are those made to businesses with poor credit and high debt, and CLO securities are backed by these loans. FSOC and others found that riskier borrower profiles and looser underwriting standards left leveraged lending market participants vulnerable to losses in the event of a downturn. After the COVID-19 shock in March 2020, loans suffered record downgrades and increased defaults, but the highest-rated CLO securities remained resilient. Although regulators monitoring the effects of the pandemic remain cautious, as of September 2020, they had not found that leveraged lending presented significant threats to financial stability. Based on regulators' assessments, leveraged lending activities had not contributed significantly to the distress of any large financial entity whose failure could threaten financial stability. Large banks' strong capital positions have allowed them to manage their leveraged lending exposures, and the exposure of insurers and other investors also appeared manageable. Mutual funds experienced redemptions by investors but were able to meet them in part by selling leveraged loan holdings. While this may have put downward pressure on already-distressed loan prices, based on regulators' assessments, distressed leveraged loan prices did not pose a potential threat to financial stability. Present-day CLO securities appear to pose less of a risk to financial stability than did similar securities during the 2007–2009 financial crisis, according to regulators and market participants. For example, CLO securities have better investor protections, are more insulated from market swings, and are not widely tied to other risky, complex instruments. FSOC monitors leveraged-lending-related risks primarily through its monthly Systemic Risk Committee meetings, but opportunities exist to enhance FSOC's abilities to respond to financial stability threats. FSOC identified leveraged lending activities as a source of potential risk to financial stability before the COVID-19 shock and recommended continued monitoring and analysis. However, FSOC does not conduct tabletop or similar scenario-based exercises where participants discuss roles and responses to hypothetical emergency scenarios. As a result, FSOC is missing an opportunity to enhance preparedness and test members' coordinated response to financial stability risks. Further, as GAO reported in 2016, FSOC does not generally have clear authority to address broader risks that are not specific to a particular financial entity, such as risks from leveraged lending. GAO recommended that Congress consider better aligning FSOC's authorities with its mission to respond to systemic risks, but Congress had not done so as of September 2020. GAO maintains that changes such as broader designation authority would help FSOC respond to risks from activities that involve many regulators, such as leveraged lending. The market for institutional leveraged loans grew from an estimated $0.5 trillion in 2010 to $1.2 trillion in 2019, fueled largely by investor demand for CLO securities. Some observers and regulators have drawn comparisons to the pre-2008 subprime mortgage market, noting that loan origination and securitization may similarly spread risks to the financial system. These fears are being tested by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly affected leveraged businesses. This report examines assessments by regulators, FSOC, and others—both before and after the COVID-19 shock to the economy—of the potential risks to financial stability stemming from leveraged lending activities, and the extent to which FSOC monitors and responds to risks from broad-based activities like leveraged lending, among other objectives. GAO examined agency and private data on market size and investor exposures; reviewed agency, industry, and international reports; and interviewed federal financial regulators and industry participants. GAO recommends that the Secretary of the Treasury, as Chairperson of FSOC, conduct scenario-based exercises intended to evaluate capabilities for responding to crises. GAO also reiterates its 2016 recommendation (GAO-16-175) that Congress consider legislative changes to align FSOC's authorities with its mission. FSOC neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but said that it would take further actions if it determined necessary. For more information, contact Michael E. Clements at (202) 512-8678 or ClementsM@gao.gov.
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  • Private Health Coverage: Results of Covert Testing for Selected Sales Representatives Listed on Healthcare.gov
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Since 2014, millions of consumers have purchased individual market health insurance plans through the health insurance exchanges—or marketplaces—established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Sales representatives listed on Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) healthcare.gov website can also sell other types of health coverage arrangements that may cost less but may not cover all pre-existing conditions as comprehensive PPACA-compliant plans do. GAO performed 31 covert tests on selected sales representatives listed on healthcare.gov. These tests involved stating that the (fictitious) applicant had pre-existing conditions—either diabetes or heart disease—and requesting coverage for these conditions to see if the sales representative directed the applicant to a comprehensive PPACA-compliant plan or a PPACA-exempt plan that does not cover what the fictitious applicant requested. As part of these tests, GAO gauged whether the selected sales representatives engaged in potentially deceptive practices, such as making false or misleading statements about coverage or omitting material information about coverage. All 31 sales representatives GAO contacted appropriately referred GAO's fictitious applicant to a PPACA-compliant plan. The majority of sales representatives also explained that a PPACA-exempt plan would not cover the applicant's pre-existing condition. None of the sales representatives GAO contacted engaged in potentially deceptive marketing practices that misrepresented or omitted information about the products they were selling. The results of GAO's covert tests are not generalizable to all sales representatives listed on healthcare.gov. Why GAO Did This Study PPACA directed each state to establish an exchange—referred to as a state-based exchange—or elect to use the federally facilitated exchange established by HHS. Each year the exchanges offer an open enrollment period during which eligible consumers may enroll in or change their coverage. Consumers enroll in the federally facilitated exchange through HHS's healthcare.gov website, and some state-based exchanges have chosen to use this website for enrollment. While individual health insurance coverage is generally regulated by states, starting in 2014, PPACA established a number of new federal requirements for individual health insurance coverage. For example, PPACA prohibited insurers from excluding coverage or charging higher premiums for pre-existing conditions. HHS regulations also require sales representatives that assist with or facilitate enrollment in PPACA-compliant plans sold through healthcare.gov to provide consumers with correct information, without omission of material fact, and refrain from marketing or conduct that is misleading. Sales representatives that are listed on healthcare.gov may also sell other types of health coverage arrangements that do not have to comply with some or all of PPACA's individual market requirements. As a result, the arrangements may be less expensive, but offer fewer benefits compared to PPACA-compliant plans. PPACA-exempt health coverage arrangements may be attractive to consumers, particularly those who find it difficult to afford PPACA-compliant plans. However, such arrangements generally do not need to follow PPACA's requirement that plans in the individual market be presented to consumers in defined categories outlining the extent to which they are expected to cover medical care. As a result, depending on how they are marketed and sold, PPACA-exempt arrangements could present risks for consumers, if, for example, they buy these plans mistakenly believing that coverage is as comprehensive as for PPACA-compliant plans. GAO was asked to obtain insights on the marketing and sales practices of sales representatives specifically listed on healthcare.gov. In this report, GAO describes the results of covert tests it conducted involving selected sales representatives listed on healthcare.gov when contacted by GAO undercover investigators posing as individuals needing to purchase health insurance to cover pre-existing conditions. GAO investigators performed these covert tests (i.e., undercover phone calls) from November 2020 to February 2021. GAO also discussed the oversight of PPACA-exempt arrangements with senior officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services within HHS, as well as officials from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and reviewed information they provided. For more information, contact Seto J. Bagdoyan at (202) 512- 6722 or bagdoyans@gao.gov or Howard Arp at arpj@gao.gov.
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  • [Protest of Forest Service Contract Award for Publication Support Services]
    In U.S GAO News
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    In Crime News
    Medical device manufacturers Alere Inc. and Alere San Diego Inc. (collectively, Alere) have agreed to pay $38.75 million to resolve allegations that the companies violated the False Claims Act by billing, and causing others to bill, the Medicare program for defective rapid point-of-care testing devices. 
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    In Crime News
    A South Florida tax preparer was sentenced today to two years in prison for perpetrating a scheme to fraudulently obtain over 100 COVID-19 relief loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
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    In Crime News
    On Thursday, August 13th, Attorney General William P. Barr visited Cheyenne, Wyoming to lead a roundtable discussion with over 30 Wyoming police chiefs, sheriffs and other members of state and local law enforcement. The Attorney General was joined by U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen, DEA Acting Director Tim Shea and Interim Director of Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Forrest Williams. The Attorney General in his opening remarks conveyed his gratitude for the critical work local law enforcement officers do every day to protect their communities.
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  • University Researcher Pleads Guilty to Lying on Grant Applications to Develop Scientific Expertise for China
    In Crime News
    A rheumatology professor and researcher with strong ties to China pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal authorities as part of an immunology research fraud scheme. Song Guo Zheng, 58, of Hilliard, appeared in federal court today, at which time his guilty plea was accepted by Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.
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    In Crime News
    The United States has intervened in six complaints alleging that members of the Kaiser Permanente consortium violated the False Claims Act by submitting inaccurate diagnosis codes for its Medicare Advantage Plan enrollees in order to receive higher reimbursements.
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  • As Pandemic Lingers, Courts Lean Into Virtual Technology
    In U.S Courts
    As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has dragged on, a small number of courts have begun conducting virtual bench trials and even virtual civil jury trials in which jurors work from home. Here is a review of ways courts are using electronic communications to deliver justice during the pandemic.
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