The US Supreme Court sided with the SEC that it can punish corporations for fraud by making them forfeit ill-gotten gains, but the 8-1 decision by Justice Sotomayor does impose some limits.
The Supreme Court on Monday affirmed the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to force defendants to forfeit money acquired through investor fraud but placed new limits on the practice.
In an 8-to-1 decision written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court said the money must be for the benefit of investors and cannot exceed the actual profits that came from the wrongdoing. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the law does not give authority to the SEC for the practice, which is called disgorgement.
The commission typically wins more than a billion dollars a year in disgorgement orders from federal courts. They are distinct from fines, which the SEC uses to punish wrongdoing.
After blockbuster decisions last week regarding federal protection for LGBTQ workers and the program shielding undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, Liu v. SEC was the only decision announced by the justices Monday, and it is unclear whether more will be released later this week.
It was an indication that the Supreme Court’s term may run longer than its usual conclusion at the end of June.
An extension would be the result of the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted the court’s schedule and the difficulty of resolving the controversial cases that the court accepted this term.
The social distancing required by the pandemic led the court to cancel oral arguments in its grand courtroom in March and April, which typically is the last month for oral arguments. Instead, the justices held arguments via telephone in May. None of the 10 cases heard that month have been decided.
There are still 14 major decisions to be released, and Monday the 29th is the only scheduled day for opinions. It's very possible that the Court will slide into July in order to get everything released, with major cases on Trump's tax returns and state restrictions on abortion yet to be issued.
As far as new orders for next term, the Court once again refused to take up any new cases, effectively giving the Trump regime a win on tariffs.
The Supreme Court on Monday decided not to hear a case brought by U.S. steel importers against tariffs that President Donald Trump imposed on steel imports in 2018, effectively ending the legal challenge and leaving the steep duties in place on imports from Europe, China and many other countries.
The decision could embolden Trump to take further tariff actions without worrying that the Supreme Court will strike them down. It puts the onus on Congress to decide whether it wants to rein in Trump's tariff powers. So far, neither the Republican-led Senate nor the Democratic-led House has shown much interest in that.
Although the U.S. Constitution gives Congress jurisdiction over trade, Trump imposed the tariffs under the Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which gives the president broad powers to restrict imports to protect national security.
The American Institute for International Steel, which represents importers of foreign-made steel, argued the law is unconstitutional because it imposes no limits on the president’s discretion to take action. As a result, the law is an improper delegation of legislative authority and a violation of the separation of powers, AIIS said.
The import group did not have an immediate comment on the Supreme Court's decision to not to hear its complaint, thus ending a nearly two-year legal battle. Both the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. Court of Appeals also sided with the Trump administration in previous rulings on the case.
The Supreme Court's decision is no surprise, except perhaps to the steel import group's lawyers, said Bill Reinsch, a former Commerce Department official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"This issue came before the court some years ago in a different case, and the court upheld what Congress did. That is basically what the court did this time — it honored its own precedent," Reinsch said.
More pain ahead for American consumers in the era of the Trump Depression.