While combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration also shifted the direction of policy in a number of legal and regulatory areas during its first 100 days. We examine the initiatives, executive orders, nominees and legislative developments that reflect the new administration’s long-term priorities, as well as congressional and federal agency actions, in arenas such as consumer finance, corporate governance, employment, energy, the environment, infrastructure, sanctions and anti-money laundering, tax, technology and trade.
Regulation and Enforcement
White House, Congress Seek To Reverse Trump-Era Regulations
The White House and Democrats in Congress hope to use a fast-track process to unwind many last-minute Trump administration rules.
Closer Scrutiny Expected of Corporate Conduct
Although there have not yet been significant changes to existing policies, key nominations to date and early enforcement initiatives signal close scrutiny of corporate conduct to come.
Shifts in US Trade Policy in Certain Areas but Continuity in Others
Early indications of the Biden administration's trade policy show few changes with respect to China, important developments in disputes with Europe and an emphasis on enforcement of trade agreements like the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Increased Funding Would Support IRS Drive To Audit More Partnerships and Wealthy Individuals
The IRS would use a significant increase in its enforcement budget to conduct more examinations of partnerships and high-net-worth individuals who invest in them.
Antitrust Enforcement Expected To Intensify
The Biden administration’s first two antitrust picks are known as founders of the “hipster antitrust” movement, and their selection suggests that aggressive enforcement will continue and likely intensify.
Early Changes for Employers and Employees
A series of employment-related actions signals the likelihood of additional measures and legislative proposals under the Biden administration. Employers should expect a decidedly pro-worker tilt.
Congressional Investigative Priorities Emerge
Congressional hearing topics and requests for information suggest Democrats will launch expansive probes on topics ranging from antitrust reform and drug pricing to worker safety and economic inequality.
Infrastructure, Energy and the Environment
Infrastructure Plan Relies On Federal Loan Programs
The over $2 trillion American Jobs Plan proposes large investments under a broad definition of infrastructure, prioritizing electric vehicles, a more resilient electric grid and expanded high-speed broadband access, in addition to traditional transportation. Direct financing from federal loan programs will play a large role in the implementation of this plan.
Carbon Reduction and Environmental Justice Drive Energy Policy
In addition to addressing ways to reduce carbon emissions and add new transmission capacity, FERC appears to be looking for opportunities to promote environmental justice. Agency action may not be the last word if courts are asked to review FERC’s most controversial initiatives.
Climate Change a Focus of Environmental Policy, Infrastructure Plan
President Biden has taken a number of actions aimed at achieving his goals of a carbon-free power sector and a net-zero carbon emission economy, and has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least half. Addressing climate change is also an important part of his sweeping infrastructure plan.
Sanctions Remain Key; Implementation of Sweeping Anti-Money Laundering Legislation Begins
The new administration will adapt sanctions to its own policies and frame new anti-money laundering rules.
Racial Equity and Fair Lending at the Forefront of Consumer Financial Services Enforcement
The Biden administration's most consequential action to date in the area of consumer financial services has been its announcement of nominees supporting an aggressive enforcement agenda, with a focus on racial equity and fair lending.
SEC Primed To Act on ESG Disclosure
The SEC has been clearly focused on ESG disclosure issues since the start of the Biden administration and has taken steps toward developing more guidance on the matter.
ESG in the Political Law Arena
Political activities of corporations have not been spared from the increasing scrutiny on ESG matters, with rising demands that corporate PACs justify their contributions based on candidates’ voting record on ESG issues.
Participants in the blockchain and digital asset space hope for clear rules and guidance that will foster innovation and place the U.S. in a leadership role in this evolving industry.
A Growing Focus on Cybersecurity
The administration has signaled an intent to collaborate with the private sector on cybersecurity issues but also to hold companies accountable through enforcement actions.
Supreme Court Developments
The Biden administration’s actions involving pending U.S. Supreme Court cases suggest it will not be shy in asserting fundamentally different positions from its predecessor’s in matters before the Court. In addition, how the Court rules on cases affecting businesses this term will shed light on emerging alignments among the justices.