Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Power of Police Unions

  • Stephen Rushin, Police Disciplinary Appeals, 167 U. Pa. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming, 2019), available at SSRN.
  • Dhammika Dharmapala, Richard H. McAdams, and John Rappaport, Collective Bargaining and Police Misconduct, available at SSRN.

While riding with officers, conducting interviews and coding policies for my forthcoming book, Camera Power: Proof, Policing, Privacy and Audiovisual Big Data, I was struck by the influence of police unions—or lack of a strong union—in shaping body camera recording policies and limits on using the video to evaluate and discipline officers. Delving into the literature on police unions, I was impressed to read the work of prolific professors using innovative methods to systematically collect and analyze data on the influence of police unions. I would like to spotlight two recent important empirical studies on police unions.

Analyzing a large dataset of police union contracts, Stephen Rushin’s latest article illuminates how collectively bargained protections in the police disciplinary appeals process can impede efforts to address potentially problematic officers. The findings are particularly disturbing and compelling when read in conjunction with an important new study by Dhammika Dharmapala, Richard H. McAdams and John Rappaport. This dream team of interdisciplinary scholars offers the first quasi-experimental evidence that conferring collective bargaining rights on sheriffs’ deputies is associated with about a 45% increase in violent incidents. Continue reading "The Power of Police Unions"

Understanding ICOs: In Code We (Shouldn’t) Trust?

Shaanan Cohney, David A. Hoffman, Jeremy Sklaroff, & David A. Wishnick, Coin-Operated Capitalism, Columbia L. Rev. (forthcoming 2019), available at SSRN.

So-called “initial coin offerings,” or ICOs, are the new IPOs. In the last two years, ICOs became one of the hottest new investment opportunities in the rapidly growing market for crypto-assets—and one of the hottest topics of discussion among policy-makers and capital markets experts. Just like everything else that belongs in the general category of “fintech,” ICOs are fascinating and mysterious to most of us, legal scholars. What exactly are these “tokens” or “coins” that are being sold to investors in lieu of the traditional shares and bonds? Are they investment contracts, products, or club membership cards? Are they money? Should they be regulated, and under what set of rules? These are just some of the questions the acronym “ICO” triggers in the lawyer’s restless mind.

In a new article, cleverly titled Coin-Operated Capitalism, a team of authors with varying expertise (including a computer scientist and a scholar of contract law) explain ICOs by using an example of Coca-Cola raising money for its network of vending machines by issuing tokens to be used for purchasing cans of coke from those machines. Unlike the imaginary Coca-Cola project, however, ICOs involve purely digital “tokens” and “machines” that reside on blockchains and are embodied in software codes. As the authors explain, the key forms of this software—known as “smart contracts”—are encoded “if-X-then-Y” rules that govern the functionality of specific tokens sold in individual ICOs. To many ICO (and, more generally, crypto-tech) enthusiasts, this fully automated functioning of the issuer-investor relationship is a great virtue: by eliminating the need to trust humans, smart contracts supposedly eliminate the possibility of fraud or other misbehavior by company managers and insiders enjoying significant informational advantages over outside investors. In this techno-utopian narrative, there should be no need for legally mandated disclosures, regulatory oversight, or court enforcement of investors’ rights: the software code would simply deliver the results intended by the contracting parties, in an impeccably efficient and transparent manner. Continue reading "Understanding ICOs: In Code We (Shouldn’t) Trust?"

An Empirical Assessment of the Likely Impact of the International Provisions of the TCJA

Dhammika Dharmapala, The Consequences of the TCJA’s International Provisions: Lessons from Existing Research, CESifo Working Paper No. 7249 (Oct. 31, 2018), available at SSRN.

The international provisions of the Internal Revenue Code are among its least well understood. Public Law 115-97, known informally as the “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” (TCJA), made significant changes to those provisions. One of the best evidence-based articles exploring the likely effects of those changes is Dhammika DharmapalaThe Consequences of the TCJA’s International Provisions: Lessons from Existing Research, CESifo Working Paper No. 7249, a second version of which was posted on SSRN in late October. In it, Dharmapala reviews the existing econometric literature and uses that literature to project the likely long-term consequences of those changes. Anyone interested in international tax policy will benefit from working through his evidence and conclusions.

Although Dharmapala initially defines his task in broad terms—“to review the most important of these new international tax provisions and to discuss their potential consequences, drawing on existing scholarly literature”—he ultimately narrows his focus to ownership distortions, distortions that implicate what is known in the literature as “capital ownership neutrality.” He does not, for example, explore generally the likely effects of TCJA on incentives to offshore business operations or incentives to income-shift within a consolidated group. Instead, he notes that pre-TCJA, (1) “US MNCs [multinational corporations] [were] disfavored as vehicles for global portfolio investment” and (2) “the US tax imposed upon the repatriation of dividends created an incentive to delay repatriation, and led to the accumulation of cash holdings…in foreign affiliates,” and asks whether the new changes are likely to ameliorate or exacerbate these distortions. Continue reading "An Empirical Assessment of the Likely Impact of the International Provisions of the TCJA"

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