Archive for the ‘Admin and Regulatory’ Category

Government Complexity and the New Federal Healthcare Mandate

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

As a follow up to my last post (“U.S. government operations can be incredibly complex”), I wanted to provide a chart of the new U.S. health care system.  Healthcare represents 17% of the U.S. economy.  Unfortunately, Obamacare was passed with no one having actually read the bill.

Obamacare is modeled on Romneycare, the system in place in Massachusetts since 2006.  In the several years since Romneycare has gone into effect, healthcare costs have soared far beyond the national average.  Massachusetts now has the highest health insurance costs, the highest medical costs, the fastest rising costs and the longest waits for doctors in the nation.

Complexity itself is a major problem in organizational function.  The chart below does not bode well for the nation as a whole.  A larger version of the chart can be accessed here.

How to Develop, Sell and Maintain Gear for the Military

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

U.S. government operations can be incredibly complex.  The KISS philosophy (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) doesn’t always apply even when those involved want it to, due to numerous laws and regulations.

The chart below, a summary published by the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisitions University, covers the process for purchasing equipment.  It serves as a pictorial roadmap of key activities in the systems acquisition processes.  It is available here in greater detail (You can click on any box within the chart on that page to zoom in.).  The back of the chart is available here.  This is version 5.3 of the chart; version 5.4 is available, but is not interactive.

Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Congress passed, and President Bush signed on October 3, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, H.R. 1424 (the “Act”).  The purposes of the Act are twofold:  It authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury (the “Secretary”) to restore stability and liquidity to the U.S. financial system and to do so in a manner that protects home values, college funds, retirement accounts and life savings; preserves home ownership and promotes jobs and economic growth; maximizes overall returns to American taxpayers; and provides public accountability to the exercise of that authority.

That’s a tall order.  The key provision involves a Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”).  Under this program, the Secretary, through an office of Financial Security that is to be established, may purchase up to $700 billion in financial institution assets.  The assets must be residential or commercial mortgages or securities, obligations or other instruments relating to such mortgages originated on or before March 14, 2008 or other financial instruments that the Treasury determines necessary.  They may be purchased from all U.S. institutions of all sizes, including the licensed U.S. branches and agencies of foreign banks.  The Treasury can manage and sell the assets or enter into financial transactions regarding any purchased asset.

Some other provisions that sought to increase financial stability include an increase in FDIC deposit insurance from $100,000 per account to $250,000 per account until December 31, 2009 and an authorization for the SEC to suspend mark-to-market accounting.

The Act also included a number of unrelated provisions relating to tax relief, tax cut extensions, an R&D tax credit,  tax incentives, mental health and creating environmentally-friendly jobs, among others.

The House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, offers a section-by-section summary of the legislation here.

Copyright Flowcharts and Checklists

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

I am a big fan of flow charts, process maps and checklists in streamlining and organizing work.  While the downside is that you might miss important detail, I believe that the gains usually outweigh the costs in time saved and energy expended.

I previously highlighted Erik Heels’ excellent drawing that explains copyright law in my post here.  IP law firm Bromberg & Sunstein has a useful flowchart for determining when U.S. copyrights in fixed works expire.  Federal copyright law states that a work is “fixed” when it is embodied in a tangible medium of expression.  If a work is not fixed, it is not eligible for federal copyright protection, although it may have protection under state law.

Cornell University has posted a chart, Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, that details copyright duration in a different format.  The Copyright Advisory Network of the American Library Association offers a Digital Copyright Slider to determine if copyright protects a work that first was published in the United States.

The Copyright Management Center at Indiana University offers a Checklist For Fair Use.  U.S. copyright law basically defines “fair use” to mean that one can use a copyrighted work without infringing on the copyright.

Finally, on a more general level, Professor Lionel S. Sobel has produced a flowchart, a Copyright Navigator, a digital annotated concept map of the fundamentals of U.S. copyright law.

Federal Acquisition Regulations and then some …

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Rules that govern purchases made by the federal government’s executive agencies are known as Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs). They’re available in the Code of Federal Regulations at 48 C.F.R. § 1 and at the FAR Home at Acquisition Central, the government’s website for the federal acquisition community and the government’s business partners. Acquisition Central also has the FARs available in a variety of downloadable formats, along with proposed rules, compliance guides, references and other pertinent information.

48 C.F.R chapters 2-99 contain the supplemental acquisition regulations of specific federal agencies. Acquisition Central has hyperlinks to each agency and its procurement regulation websites. These include the DFARs, the supplementary acquisition regulations of the Department of Defense (Military branches also have their own supplementary acquisition regulations.). The National Archives and Records Administration publishes most current titles of the C.F.R. online.

Ken Larson, a SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) Volunteer Counselor, has a blog dedicated to small business federal government contracting. Deborah Kluge has a detailed website on doing business with the federal government and a blog on writing proposals for government grants and contracts.

Working in a Regulated Industry – Dos and Don’ts

Monday, January 7th, 2008

The average company in the mortgage brokerage world is just a mom and pop business with a few people. Regulation is one reason that the industry is highly fragmented. Residential mortgage lending and brokerage is highly regulated in the United States by the federal government and by each state agency. As the President of a mortgage brokerage, one of the primary obstacles to our growth is complying with ever-changing regulations.

So how do you keep up with regulations and make sure you stay in compliance? First, join the relevant trade organizations, so you can keep up with changes. For example, in Massachusetts, I’m a member of both the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) and the Massachusetts Mortgage Association (MMA). They keep me in the loop of both proposed changes and those that actually occur.

Second, make sure your required forms and disclosures are up-to-date and accurate. Again, belonging to national and state trade organizations helps on this count.

Third, invest in your employees. Make sure they are educated on both the relevant law and regulation and also on when and how to complete required forms and disclosures. Having educated employees also makes them better at their jobs, and customers are better served. Your company will do better because many competitors don’t bother to invest in their employees.

Fourth, audit employees’ work both during and after a transaction occurs. For example, during a mortgage transaction, when a mortgage consultant (salesperson) transmits a file to the processing center, the processor makes sure that the forms and disclosures are completed correctly. If a disclosure needs updating during the transaction as a result of a change in program or rate, then the consultant or processor, depending on the type of disclosure, is required to make it. When a transaction is completed, senior managers review files to make sure they comply with the law. If there is an document that should be completed differently, then it is reviewed with the employee. In other words, there is constant training as a result of this audit.

Fifth, make sure all of your files are in order. In our case, this not only means completed or withdrawn mortgage transaction files, but all other files we are required to keep by law. These include financial books and records and advertising (In Massachusetts, for example, one must keep all mortgage advertsing, even intangible items like radio scripts, for three years.).

What’s the result of doing all of the above? Regulators may schedule reviews or pop in unannounced. It shouldn’t matter. If your files and records are in order and completed properly, you’ll come across as a professional. The regulators will realize they’re dealing with pros, an above-average company in the industry. They may spend less time during the review and you’ll come out shining. I know, because we’ve received the highest rating during all of our compliance reviews to date.

I’ve discussed the dos of working in a regulated industry. What are the dont’s? They’re exactly the opposite of the above. Ignore the basics and you’ll end up with heavy fines, bad publicity and perhaps, even being shut down.