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  • CFPB updates TRID Small Entity Compliance Guide and Guide to Forms

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On May 15, the CFPB released the 2018 updated versions of the “Know Before You Owe” mortgage disclosure rule Small Entity Compliance Guide (versions 4.1 and 5.2) and Guide to Forms (versions 1.5 and 2.1). Because the optional compliance period with the 2017 TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID) extends through October 1, the CFPB updated both versions of each guide. Additionally, all four versions are updated with the 2018 TRID changes (covered by InfoBytes here), which will become effective prior to the end of the 2017 optional compliance period.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance TRID Mortgages Mortgage Origination Regulation X Regulation Z Consumer Finance CFPB

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  • Macau real estate developer sentenced for bribing UN officials

    Financial Crimes

    On May 11, Judge Vernon S. Broderick of the SDNY sentenced a Macau real estate developer to 48 months in prison and ordered him to pay a $1 million fine, $302,977 in restitution, and forfeiture of $1.5 million.  In July 2017, a jury convicted the developer of two counts of violating the FCPA, one count of paying bribes and gratuities, one count of money laundering, and two counts of conspiracy.  The conduct centered on the developer’s role in bribing UN officials in order to build a new multi-billion dollar conference center in Macau.   

    Five other defendants have been charged; four have pleaded guilty to various charges, and one passed away and the charges against him were dismissed.  Of the guilty pleas, two are awaiting sentencing.  The other two received sentences of seven months (conspiracy to defraud the United States) and 20 months (bribery).

    Prior Scorecard coverage of this matter can be viewed here.

    Financial Crimes International FCPA Bribery

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  • FINRA, SEC reach settlements with Chinese broker-dealers over anti-money laundering compliance

    Financial Crimes

    On May 16, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the SEC reached settlements (here and here) with a Chinese-based broker-dealer following an inquiry and investigation into the firm’s anti-money laundering (AML) programs. According to FINRA, the broker-dealer allegedly failed to implement reasonable processes to ensure that its AML programs were able to detect and report potentially suspicious transactions, particularly those concerning penny stocks. In addition, FINRA claimed the broker-dealer’s AML program compliance testing was “inadequate and failed to uncover any of the deficiencies in the firm’s trade monitoring.” In a separate investigation conducted by the SEC in conjunction with FINRA’s inquiry, the broker-dealer reached a settlement over allegations that it failed to, among other things, file suspicious activity reports as required under the Bank Secrecy Act or comply in a timely fashion with SEC record requests. Under the terms of the settlements, the broker-dealer agreed to pay $5.3 million to FINRA for systemic anti-money laundering compliance failures and $860,000 to the SEC. In agreeing to the settlements, the broker-dealer neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of the findings.

    The SEC’s investigation also resulted in settlements with a second broker-dealer and its AML officer for allegedly violating the Exchange Act and SEC financial recordkeeping and reporting requirements for not reporting the suspicious sales of billions of penny stock shares. The broker dealer agreed to pay a civil money penalty of $1,000,000 to the SEC, was censured, and was ordered to cease and desist from causing or committing any violations or future violations of the SEC’s suspicious activity reporting requirements. The AML officer was assessed a $15,000 civil money penalty and barred from association with any broker, dealer, investment advisor, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agency, or national recognized statistical rating organization for a period of three years, among other things.

    Financial Crimes FINRA SEC Enforcement Anti-Money Laundering Bank Secrecy Act Securities

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  • OFAC sanctions Iranian bank officials, Iraqi bank, and others for moving millions of dollars to Hizballah

    Financial Crimes

    On May 15, U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on the governor and a senior official of the Central Bank of Iran, an Iraqi bank and its chairman, and a key Hizballah official, for allegedly funneling millions of dollars on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to Hizballah. Pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism,” the individuals and entities were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The actions, which follow a May 10 action taken against individuals and entities who materially assisted in the conversion of millions of U.S. dollars to fund IRGC-QF’s malignant activities, “seek to stifle Iran’s ability to abuse the U.S. and regional financial systems.”

    However, OFAC clarified that sanctions on the officials of the Central Bank of Iran do not extend to the bank itself. Following President Trump's decision to cease participation by the U.S. government in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, sanctions on the bank will be re-imposed August 7, and on November 5, additional sanctions will be re-imposed on persons knowingly engaging in certain significant transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Iranian sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Iran Iraq International

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  • DOJ, CFPB agree to early termination of consent order with indirect auto lender

    Lending

    On May 15, the auto lending branch of an international automobile company (indirect auto lender) reported in an 8-K filing that the DOJ and CFPB had reached an agreement that the indirect auto lender has met the requirements for early termination of a consent order entered into in 2016 over allegations of unfair lending practices. As previously covered in InfoBytes, a joint agency investigation under ECOA found that the indirect auto lender’s policies allowed for dealers to mark up a consumer’s interest rate on the retail installment contract above the established risk-based buy rate. The parties currently await final court approval of a joint stipulation and proposed order for early termination of the consent order from three years to two years in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

    Lending Fair Lending DOJ CFPB ECOA Auto Finance Consumer Finance

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  • Georgia amends state code provisions related to financial institutions

    State Issues

    On May 3, the Georgia governor signed into law an act amending provisions of the Official Code of Georgia applicable to the state’s Department of Banking and Finance (Department) and financial institutions generally, including banks, credit unions, licensed sellers of payment instructions, and mortgage lenders and brokers. Among other things, HB 780 grants the Department and/or its commissioner (i) powers to authorize state chartered financial institutions to exercise powers authorized by federal law but not authorized under state law; (ii) the authority to remove individuals employed by state chartered financial institutions, including officers and directors; and (iii) the ability to establish a process for state chartered financial institutions to “exercise rights and powers authorized solely under federal law.” HB 870 also amends the Official Code of Georgia to provide for the Department’s licensing of mortgage lenders and brokers. The law took effect on May 3, and does not apply to litigation pending as of March 9.

    State Issues State Legislation Mortgages Bank Compliance

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  • Maryland announces settlement with mortgage servicer over property inspection fees

    State Issues

    On May 14, the Maryland Attorney General announced a settlement with a mortgage loan servicer to resolve allegations that it charged homeowners illegal inspection fees. According to the announcement, the servicer allegedly charged borrowers for property inspections that were done when the borrower was in default on their payments, in violation of a Maryland law, which prohibits passing on such inspection costs. The mortgage servicer ceased the practice in 2014  for forward mortgages and in 2016 for reverse mortgages, according to the Attorney General’s office. The settlement requires the mortgage servicer to (i) refrain from engaging in the same practice in the future; (ii) complete the return of almost $1 million in collected inspection fees; and (iii) pay nearly $500,000 in penalties and costs.

    State Issues Mortgage Servicing Settlement Home Inspection State Attorney General

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  • Maryland expands scope of unfair and deceptive practices under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, increases maximum civil penalties

    State Issues

    On May 15, the Maryland governor signed HB1634, the Financial Consumer Protection Act of 2018, which expands the definition of “unfair and deceptive trade practices” under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MPCA) to include “abusive” practices, and violations of the federal Military Lending Act (MLA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The law also, among other things:

    • Civil Penalties. Increases the maximum civil penalties for certain consumer financial violations to $10,000 for the initial violation and $25,000 for subsequent violations
    • Debt Collection. Prohibits a person from engaging in unlicensed debt collection activity in violation of the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act or engaging in certain conduct in violation of the federal FDCPA.
    • Enforcement Funds. Requires the governor to appropriate at least $700,000 for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and at least $300,000 to the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation (OCFR) for certain enforcement activities.
    • Student Loan Ombudsman. Creates a Student Loan Ombudsman position within the OCFR and establishes specific duties for the role, including receiving, reviewing, and attempting to resolve complaints from student loan borrowers.
    • Required Studies. Requires the OCFR to conduct a study on Fintech regulation, including whether the commissioner has the statutory authority to regulate such firms. The law also requires the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission (MFCPC) to conduct multiple studies, including studies on (i) cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings and (ii) the CFPB’s arbitration rule (repealed by a Congressional Review Act measure in November 2017).

    State Issues UDAAP SCRA Military Lending Act FDCPA Student Lending Arbitration Civil Money Penalties Fintech Cryptocurrency State Legislation

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  • Court holds text message advertisements sent by internet domain provider do not violate TCPA

    Courts

    On May 14, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted an internet domain provider’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the platform used by the company to send text message advertisements did not qualify as an “autodialer” under the Telephone Communications Protection Act (TCPA). The plaintiff filed a putative class action in 2016 asserting that the company, without his consent, sent him a single text message offering a discount on new products in violation of the TCPA. The company filed for summary judgment arguing that the platform it uses to send messages is not an “autodialer.” Citing to the recent D.C. Circuit decision in ACA International v. the FCC (covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert) which narrowed the FCC’s 2015 interpretation of “autodialer”, the Court agreed with the company. The Court held that the text was not sent automatically or without human intervention because the company had to “log into the system, create a message, schedule a time to send it, and perhaps most importantly, enter a code to authorize its ultimate transmission.”

    As covered by InfoBytes, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a notice seeking comment on the interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in light of the recent D.C. Circuit decision in ACA International.

    Courts TCPA Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Autodialer

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  • 3rd Circuit reverses district court’s decision, rules TILA provisions misapplied to unauthorized-charge suit

    Courts

    On May 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit reversed a district court’s decision, holding that the lower court, among other things, misapplied a TILA provision under Regulation Z that requires cardholders to dispute charges within 60 days of the “first periodic statement that reflects the alleged billing error.” According to the opinion, the plaintiff-appellant filed a suit against the bank after he was allegedly rebilled for a $657 fraudulent money transfer charge that originally appeared on his statement in July 2015. The charge was originally removed from his account but reappeared in mid-September of that year after the bank claimed the charge was valid after verifying transaction details. The plaintiff-appellant challenged the decision in writing, and later filed a complaint against the bank, alleging he had “timely submitted a written notice of billing error,” and that the bank “had neither credited the charge nor conducted a reasonable investigation” and imposed liability of more than $50. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim, which the plaintiff appealed.

    At issue, the three-judge panel determined, were two provisions under TILA: (i) the “Fair Credit Billing Act” (FCBA), which stipulates that creditors must “comply with particular obligations when a consumer has asserted that his billing statement contains an error,” and (ii) the “unauthorized-use provision,” which requires certain conditions to be met before a credit card issuer can hold the cardholder liable, up to a limit of $50, for any unauthorized use. The panel first addressed the district court’s finding that the bank’s obligations under FCBA were “never triggered” because his written notice came 63 days after the July statement first included the charge. The panel held that, because the plaintiff-appellant’s August billing statement showed a credit to his account for the charge and that “there was no longer anything to dispute” and no reason to believe his statement contained a billing error, the 60-day time limit should have started when the bank rebilled him in September. In addressing the second issue, the district court held that plaintiff-appellant was not entitled to “reimbursement” under the unauthorized-use claim. However, the panel opined that he was not seeking reimbursement but rather “actual damages,” for which the statute does provide relief. “We conclude that a cardholder incurs ‘liability’ for an allegedly unauthorized charge when the issuer, having reason to know the charge may be unauthorized, bills or rebills the cardholder for that charge,” the panel wrote.

    Courts Third Circuit Appellate Fair Credit Billing Act TILA Regulation Z Consumer Finance

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