China Almost Finished Building South China Sea Missile Structures

China is apparently nearly finished with construction of buildings that could house missiles in the highly disputed South China Sea, according to U.S. officials.

Reuters reports the buildings have retractable roofs and there are nearly two dozen structures. Fox News reports China constructed the structures on three islands that are built on former reefs, which already have airstrips on them.

CNN reports China responded by reiterating its claim that they have sovereign rights over the islands.

Reuters reports the Trump administration has said the building of the artificial islands is illegal.

Homeland Security Releases New Guidelines for Regulating Illegal Immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security has released new guidelines on how it will prosecute illegal immigrants. We told you about these guidelines last week, memos signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly. The Associated Press reported DHS would be deploying up to 100,000 troops to “round up” -- as they called it --- undocumented immigrants.

The Trump administration formally released the guidelines Tuesday.

Some of them include the hiring of 10,000 ICE officers and agents, making illegal immigrants who are criminals a priority for deportation and the development of a standardized method of collecting and reporting data on illegal immigrants who are apprehended by ICE.

The Washington Post reports in a conference call with reporters a DHS official said, “We do not need a sense of panic in the communities.” The official said the guidelines are not meant to lead to mass roundups or deportations -- he said the DHS does not have the time or resources to implement mass roundups.

Trump Picks H.R. McMaster for National Security Adviser

President Trump has chosen Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond "H.R." McMaster for the National Security Adviser role. The decision comes a week after Michael Flynn resigned and Robert Harward turned down the job.

Trump made the announcement at his "Winter White House," Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. The New York Times reports Trump had been at Mar-a-Lago interviewing candidates for Flynn's replacement.

McMaster said he was privileged to be chosen and is proud to continue his service to America. He is the current director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center.

VP Mike Pence Reaffirms U.S. Commitment to EU

Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed President Trump's commitment to a partnership with the European Union.

Pence spoke in Brussels, hoping to alleviate some concern European allies have over Trump's statements about NATO, Russia, trade deals and Brexit. "The United States commitment to the European Union is steadfast and enduring. President Tusk, President Trump and I look forward to working with you and the European Union to deepen our political and economic partnership. We are separated by an ocean, but joined by a common heritage," Pence said.

The BBC reports European Council President Donald Tusk said the meeting was "truly needed" after new and what he called sometimes surprising opinions has been expressed.

Should Structured Settlements Be Sold under a Fiduciary Standard? Part II

Earlier in February, “Speaking of Settlements” discussed the higher standard that has been applied to sales of investments to consumers and considered whether a fiduciary standard should be applied to members of the structured settlement profession. In this edition of “Speaking of Settlements,” host Mark Wahlstrom continues the discussion and explains why he believes the time has come for the fiduciary standard to apply in to the sale of structured settlements.

Wahlstrom points out that the AIG class action suit alleges some deceptive practices and nondisclosure of information on pricing and compensation. In addition, the Department of Labor by rule imposed a fiduciary standard on the sale of investments to prospective retirees. President Trump has recently directed the Labor Department to examine the rule and consider whether it should be relaxed. It seems apparent that many, perhaps most, of the DoL strictures will be eliminated or softened so that commission investment products sold to retirement account investors will not be subject to Fiduciary rule standards.

The question might then be asked: What does all of this have to do with structured settlement annuity funding? Wahlstrom points out that the structured settlement profession has historically been exempt from the fiduciary standard rule and from the more rules of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners requiring “greater training, compliance, disclosure and suitability standards for the sale of annuity contracts in twenty-seven states, a number which is certain to grow in the coming months, as more states adopt these standards as well.”

Wahlstrom, a thirty-year veteran in the structured settlement profession, notes that “our little niche profession seems to sit here in a quiet, sheltered place where the same rules applied to retirement investors, retail annuity investors and others, simply don’t apply to us.” Structured settlement sellers are not required to perform a suitability standard analysis as part of the setting up process. Structured settlement annuities are set up for people not always equipped to make sound investment decisions, and the annuities are irrevocable, but there is no regulatory oversight of the process.

Wahlstrom believes this situation will change. Inevitably, there will be a “move toward a fiduciary, full disclosure standard and a clear declaration of whether we are agents, brokers, advisers or registered representatives at the time a recommendation and sale is made.” He notes that a recent Wall Street Journal article reported that major banks and brokerage firms plan to keep the protections of the fiduciary standard even if the DoL rule is relaxed. “Most of the ‘Big Guys’ are deciding that self-policing and setting a higher bar is good business and will avoid issues in the future.”

It is time, says Wahlstrom, for the structured settlement profession to set a higher bar for itself and apply a fiduciary standard to structured settlement sales. “Full disclosure with honest and clear communication of what role we are playing when giving advice, coupled with a compensation model that makes clear who are clients are, as well as the cost of our services, is not just a good standard, it’s good business.”

Mark Wahlstrom, President of Wahlstrom & Associates, founded of one of the nation's first plaintiff only structured settlement firms in 1983 and is a renowned specialist in settlement planning, structured settlement annuities, structured legal fees, and the administration of large, complex multi-claimant settlements using qualified settlement funds and trusts. He has also become widely known over the last decade for his innovative development of an online broadcast platform, Sequence Media Group, upon which he has produced hundreds of hours of shows for The Legal Broadcast Network, and The Settlement Channel, with the content being of interest to attorneys, paralegals, judges and settlement professionals all over the United States. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.