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  • NYDFS fines global banking firm $205 million for alleged FX violations

    Securities

    On June 20, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) announced a $205 million settlement with a global banking firm to resolve allegations that the bank engaged in unsafe and unsound practices in its foreign exchange (FX) trading business. According to the consent order, the bank did not implement and maintain sufficient controls to identify and prevent unsafe and unsound activities conducted by certain FX traders. Among other things, the order states that FX traders (i) used electronic chatrooms to coordinate trading activity with competitors to improperly affect FX prices; (ii) engaged in a practice known as “jamming the fix,” which entails accumulating a large trading position and subsequently making aggressive trades with the intention of moving the fix price in a desired direction; (iii) disclosed confidential customer information to competitors through electronic chatrooms; and (iv) mislead customers by hiding markups on trades. In addition to the fine, the bank is required to improve its internal controls and programs to comply with applicable New York State and federal laws and regulations, submit a written plan to improve its compliance risk management program, and provide an enhanced written internal audit program.

    Securities NYDFS Enforcement Bank Compliance Foreign Exchange Trading

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  • New York Fed report finds CFPB oversight does not significantly reduce volume of mortgage lending

    Lending

    The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (New York Fed) released a June 2018 Staff Report titled “Does CFPB Oversight Crimp Credit?” which concludes that there is little evidence that CFPB oversight significantly reduces the overall volume of mortgage lending. The report compared the lending outcomes of companies subject to CFPB oversight with smaller institutions below $10 billion in total assets that are exempt from CFPB supervision and enforcement activities, as well as lending outcomes before and after the CFPB’s creation in July 2011. Using HMDA data, bank balance sheets, and bank noninterest expenses, the report concluded, among other things, that (i) CFPB oversight may have changed the composition of lending—supervised banks originated fewer loans to lower-income, lower-credit score borrowers; (ii) there has been a drop in lending to borrowers with no co-applicant by CFPB supervised banks; and (iii) there has been an increase in origination of  “jumbo” mortgage loans by CFPB supervised banks. The report noted that its results do not speak to the effect of the CFPB’s rulemaking, such as the TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure rule. 

    Lending CFPB Bank Supervision Mortgages Enforcement Mortgage Lenders

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  • OCC releases recent enforcement actions, issues $12.5 million penalty for BSA/AML compliance deficiencies

    Federal Issues

    On June 15, the OCC released a list of recent enforcement actions taken against national banks, federal savings associations, and individuals currently and formerly affiliated with such entities. The new enforcement actions include cease and desist orders, civil money penalty orders, and removal/prohibition orders. The consent order described below was among those in the OCC’s list:

    On April 14, the OCC issued a consent order and $12.5 million civil money penalty order against a New York-branch of an international bank for alleged deficiencies in the branch’s BSA/AML compliance program.  The alleged deficiencies included the failure to file timely Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) as well as deficiencies in the branch’s compliance with Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) requirements. Among other things, the consent order requires the branch to (i) develop and implement an ongoing BSA/AML and OFAC risk assessment program; (ii) adopt an independent audit program to conduct a review of the bank’s BSA/AML compliance program; and (iii) ensure the branch has a permanent and experienced BSA officer. The bank has neither admitted nor denied the OCC’s findings. 

    Federal Issues OCC Enforcement Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering SARs OFAC

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  • CFPB fines installment lender $5 million for improper collection and credit reporting practices

    Federal Issues

    On June 13, the CFPB ordered a South Carolina-based installment lender and its subsidiaries to pay $5 million in civil money penalties for allegedly making improper in-person and telephonic collection attempts in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) and inaccurately furnishing information to credit reporting agencies in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to the consent order, between 2011 and 2016, the company and its subsidiaries (i) initiated collection attempts at consumers’ homes and places of employment; (ii) routinely called consumers at work to collect debts, sometimes after being told they were not allowed to receive calls; and (iii) contacted third parties and disclosed or were at risk of disclosing the existence of the consumer’s debt. The CFPB also alleges that the company and its subsidiaries failed to implement reasonable credit reporting procedures and failed to correct inaccurate information furnished to credit reporting agencies. In addition to the $5 million civil money penalty, the company and its subsidiaries must (i) cease improper collection practices; (ii) correct the credit reporting errors; and (iii) develop a comprehensive compliance plan.

    Federal Issues CFPB CFPA UDAAP FCPA Enforcement Debt Cancellation

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  • SEC settles RMBS supervision and improper markup allegations with brokerage firm

    Securities

    On June 12, the SEC issued an order against a brokerage firm to settle allegations that it violated antifraud provisions of federal securities laws when it failed to properly supervise traders who persuaded customers with false or misleading statements to overpay for residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). According to the SEC, the firm misled customers about how much the firm paid for the securities and illegally profited from the improper markups that were, in some cases, allegedly more than twice as much as what the customers should have paid. The order claims that the firm did not charge a traditional commission on the transactions, but rather derived profits “from the difference between the price at which [the firm] sold securities and the price at which it had purchased them.” Additionally, while the firm had policies and procedures to monitor and prevent excessive markups on RMBS transactions, they were “not reasonably designed and implemented.” While neither admitting nor denying the SEC’s charges, the firm agreed to be censured for failing reasonably to supervise its traders, to pay a fine of approximately $5.2 million, and to pay more than $10.5 million in disgorgement and interest to affected customers.

    Securities SEC RMBS Settlement Enforcement

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  • Federal banking agencies release policy statement on interagency notification of enforcement actions

    Federal Issues

    On June 12, the OCC, Federal Reserve, and FDIC (collectively, “Federal Banking Agencies” or “FBAs”) published in the Federal Register a policy statement on interagency notification of formal enforcement actions to assure ongoing coordination after the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council rescinded its 1997 revised policy statement on “Interagency Coordination of Formal Corrective Action by the Federal Bank Regulatory Agencies.” According to the new policy statement, when making a determination to bring a formal enforcement action, an FBA should evaluate whether a potential enforcement action involves the interests of another FBA and if so, should notify the agency prior to notifying the financial institution about the pending action. The notice to the FBA should contain enough information for the agency to take necessary action to examine or investigate the financial institution.  The statement clarifies that the policy is not intended to substitute or replace the informal communication that routinely occurs between FBAs in advance of an enforcement action.

    Federal Issues FFIEC FDIC Federal Reserve OCC Enforcement

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  • Court approves $12 million settlement between FTC and student debt relief company

    Courts

    On June 8, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California approved an order requiring an owner and his multiple student debt relief companies (defendants) to pay almost $12 million to settle allegations that the defendants violated the FTC Act and Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) when marketing and selling student debt relief services. As part of a coordinated effort between the FTC and state law enforcement called Operation Game of Loans, the FTC filed a complaint in September 2017 alleging the defendants, among other things, charged upfront and monthly fees to enroll students in free government programs to manage student loan debt, but did not perform any services. Additionally, the FTC alleged that the defendants marketed themselves as associated with the Department of Education and called consumers listed on the Do Not Call Registry. Under the settlement order, in addition to the nearly $12 million fine, the defendants are permanently banned from: (i) advertising, marketing, promoting, offering, or selling debt relief or credit repair products or services, or assisting others in such activities; (ii) misrepresenting or assisting others in misrepresenting information relating to any products or services and, specifically, financial products or services; (iii) making any misleading or unsubstantiated representation or assisting others in making any such representation about the benefits, performance, or result of any financial product or service; and (iv) engaging in any unlawful telemarketing practices. The defendants neither admit nor deny any of the FTC’s allegations.

    Courts Consumer Finance FTC Federal Issues Enforcement Student Lending Debt Relief

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  • FTC reports on certain 2017 enforcement activities to the CFPB

    Federal Issues

    On May 17, in response to a request from the CFPB, the FTC transmitted a letter summarizing its 2017 enforcement activities related to Regulation Z (TILA), Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act), and Regulation E (Electronic Fund Transfer Act) for the CFPB’s use in preparing its 2017 Annual Report to Congress. The FTC highlighted numerous activities related to the enforcement of the pertinent regulations, including:

    • Payday Lending. The FTC acknowledged the continued litigation against two Kansas-based operations and their owner for allegedly selling lists of counterfeit payday loan debt portfolios to debt collectors in violation of the FTC Act, previously covered by InfoBytes here.
    • Military Protection. The FTC identified the July 2017 military consumer financial workshop and the launch of the new Military Task Force (previously covered by InfoBytes here and here) among the activities the agency engaged in related to protecting the finances of current and former members of the military. The FTC also noted continued participation in the interagency group working with the Department of Defense on amendments to its rule implementing the Military Lending Act.
    • “Negative Option.” For actions under the Regulation E/EFTA, the FTC highlighted numerous “negative option” enforcement actions, in which the consumer agrees to receive goods or services from a company for a free trial option, but if the consumer does not cancel before the trial period ends, the consumer will incur recurring charges for continued goods or services. Among the actions highlighted is a case in which the FTC imposed a $179 million judgment (suspended upon the payment of $6.4 million) settling allegations that the online marketers’ offers of “free” and “risk free” monthly programs for certain weight loss and other products were deceptive.
    • Auto Loans. The letter highlighted, among others, the FTC action against a Southern California-based group of auto dealerships that allegedly violated a prior consent order with the FTC by misrepresenting the cost to finance or lease a vehicle, previously covered by InfoBytes here.

    Federal Issues FTC Act Payday Lending FTC Auto Finance Enforcement Military Lending Act Department of Defense CFPB TILA Consumer Leasing Act EFTA Congress

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  • District Court holds that FTC investigation and initiation of enforcement proceedings do not qualify as final agency actions subject to judicial review

    Courts

    On May 29, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the FTC’s motion to dismiss a declaratory-judgment action filed by several California-based companies that provide student loan processing services, along with their CEO/primary shareholder (plaintiffs). In August 2017, having allegedly learned that the FTC “was in the final process of gathering information to file a lawsuit against one or more of [the] [p]laintiffs on the purported and factually unsupportable basis that the [c]ompanies made misrepresentations to consumers” and violated the TSR’s debt relief service provision, the plaintiffs filed for instant declaratory relief under the Declaratory Judgment Act, seeking a declaration that the Telemarketing Sales Rule’s (TSR) debt relief provisions did not apply to them or, alternatively, that they were in compliance with the provisions. In February 2018, the FTC filed an enforcement action against the plaintiffs alleging that their collection of fees in advance of providing services violated the FTC Act and the TSR, and seeking injunctive and equitable relief. The FTC also moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ declaratory judgment for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

    According to the order granting the FTC’s motion, the court agreed with the FTC that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)—not the Declaratory Judgment Act—is the exclusive, proper vehicle to obtain judicial review of a federal agency’s action. The court then held that the plaintiffs failed to satisfy the two prerequisites for judicial review under the APA, that (i) the agency’s actions constitute as a “final” agency action, and (ii) there exists no other adequate remedy in court. Specifically, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the FTC’s “investigation into the lawfulness of the [plaintiffs’] actions and initiation of enforcement proceedings” qualified as a “final” agency action subject, and that the plaintiffs’ alternative “adequate remedy” was to be had in the enforcement action brought against them by the FTC, where they would be able to present all of the same defenses and arguments they sought to advance in their declaratory judgment action.

    Courts FTC Enforcement FTC Act Telemarketing Sales Rule Administrative Procedures Act

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  • FTC settles with North Carolina-based debt collection business and its principals

    Consumer Finance

    On June 4, the FTC announced settlements with a North Carolina-based debt collection business and its principals resolving allegations that the business violated the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by making false, unsubstantiated, or misleading representations regarding debt owed on payday loans or other debts and threatening legal action. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the business allegedly used a variety of “trade names” that sound like law firms to threaten individuals if they failed to pay debt they did not actually owe or that the defendants had no right to collect. The terms of the settlement call for a $2.7 million judgment against the business and one of the principals, as well as a $1.8 million judgment against the remaining principal, with all parties jointly and severally liable for approximately $1.6 million. The judgments will be partially suspended after defendants surrender certain assets. The settlements also prohibit all defendants from debt collection activities as well as from buying or selling debt in the future.

    Consumer Finance Debt Collection FTC Act Enforcement Settlement

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