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  • OFAC Sanctions Ten Additional Venezuelan Officials Connected to Venezuela’s Electoral Process

    Financial Crimes

    On November 9, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against ten current or former officials of the government of Venezuela for “undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela.”  The designation follows October 15, 2017 state elections in Venezuela, which were “marked by numerous irregularities that strongly suggest fraud helped the ruling party unexpectedly win a majority of governorships.”  Under the sanctions, issued pursuant to Executive Order 13692 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), all assets belonging to the identified individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from having any dealings with them.

    See additional InfoBytes coverage on previously issued Venezuelan sanctions here and here.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions

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  • Third Treasury Report Calls on HUD to Reconsider Application of Disparate Impact Rule to the Insurance Industry

    Federal Issues

    On October 26, the U.S. Treasury Department published a report outlining a number of recommendations for ways to manage systemic risk primarily within the asset management and insurance industry.  A section of the report, however, also discusses HUD’s potential application of the disparate impact rule to the insurance industry—specifically related to homeowner’s insurance. The report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities—Asset Management and Insurance,” is the third in a series of four the Treasury plans to issue in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13772 (EO), which mandated a review of financial regulations for inconsistencies with promoted “Core Principles.” (See Buckley Sandler Special Alert on the EO here and InfoBytes coverage on the first two reports here.)

    HUD is authorized to adjudicate housing discrimination claims and issue rules relating to the Fair Housing Act. According to the report, Treasury recommends that HUD reconsider the use of the disparate impact theory to the insurance industry. The report notes a number of problems and challenges that would arise from applying disparate impact to the insurance industry. In particular, the report identifies potential challenges because (i) “state insurance regulations ordinarily prohibit the consideration of protected characteristics in the evaluation and pooling of risk” and at least one state expressly prohibits the collection of this data; (ii) the rule could impose unnecessary burdens on insurers and lead to actions that are not actuarially sound in an effort to avoid underwriting practices that may result in disparate outcomes; and (iii) it may be inconsistent with the McCarran-Ferguson Act and other existing state laws.

    The report also recommends, among other things, that Congress clarify the “business of insurance” exception that generally excludes these services from the CFPB’s jurisdiction. The report recommends clarification to this exception to eliminate uncertainty about the CFPB’s jurisdiction and the potential overlap between the Bureau and state insurance regulators. A fact sheet accompanying the report further highlights Treasury’s recommendations to evaluate systemic risk, streamline regulations, rationalize international engagement, and promote economic growth.

    Federal Issues Department of Treasury FHA Asset Management HUD Disparate Impact CFPB Systemic Risk Insurance

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  • Treasury Department Issues New Sanctions, Launches Terrorist Financing Targeting Center in Middle East

    Financial Crimes

    On October 25, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke before the Future Investment Initiative Conference about the newly established Terrorist Financing Targeting Center initiative (Center), co-chaired by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Mnuchin praised the new Center, stating, “The creation of this Center is a major step forward in our ability to disrupt the finances and operations of terrorist organizations” and calling the Center “a catalyst for additional multilateral actions against terrorist financiers. The Center is a result of a strategic agreement, signed in May, between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Qatar, and the U.S.

    Additionally, the Treasury Department also announced the imposition of sanctions against “nine individuals and entities that finance and facilitate terrorism” and aid other transnational threats in the Middle East.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Department of Treasury Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • Treasury Releases Report Criticizing CFPB Arbitration Rule

    Federal Issues

    On October 23, the Treasury Department released a report criticizing the CFPB’s arbitration rule (Rule)—finding the Rule did not satisfy the statutory prerequisites under the Dodd-Frank Act for banning arbitration agreements. Specifically, the report concludes that “the Bureau has not made a reasoned showing that increased consumer class action litigation will result in a net benefit to consumers or the public as a whole.” Like the OCC’s findings (as covered by InfoBytes previously), the Treasury Department found that the Rule will result in increased costs to consumers as affected businesses are unlikely to absorb the new financial costs associated with increased class action litigation. Moreover, the report notes that (i) the CFPB’s data shows that the majority of class action lawsuits deliver no relief to consumers; (ii) that despite the rule’s high costs, the CFPB did not demonstrate the Rule would help increase compliance with federal consumer laws; and (iii) the CFPB failed to consider less burdensome alternatives to the rule.

    In addition to the Treasury Department, the Rule is also under scrutiny by Congress and the subject of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other financial industry groups (previously discussed in InfoBytes here and here, respectively).

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Department of Treasury CFPB Arbitration

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  • G-7 Releases Follow-Up Report on Fundamental Elements for Cybersecurity Assessment

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On October 13, G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors released a report titled G-7 Fundamental Elements for Effective Assessment of Cybersecurity in the Financial Sector to provide guidance on G-7 countries’ (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) expectations for effective cybersecurity assessments for the financial sector. The non-binding fundamental building blocks contained within the report build upon guidance issued last year by G-7, and provide tools for institutions to evaluate the performance and assessment of cybersecurity practices. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) In the current report, G-7 outlines five desirable outcomes organizations can strive to achieve when developing cybersecurity capabilities, along with five assessment components assessors can use when developing effective practices for cyber risk management.

    “Cybersecurity, particularly in the financial sector, is a top priority for the United States, and we are pleased to work with the members of the G-7 to advance a common approach that enhances resiliency," Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin stated in a press release announcing the report. “Technology has become the global engine driving innovation and economic growth, and it provides a channel for the financial sector to engage customers and counterparties. However, this trend brings increased cyber risk, which is real, dynamic, and evolving.”

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Department of Treasury G-7

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  • U.S. Government Revokes Certain Sanctions on Sudan Following Review Period of Sudanese Policies and Actions

    Financial Crimes

    On October 6, the U.S. Government announced, effective October 12, the revocation of certain economic sanctions against Sudan and the Government of Sudan (GOS) as a recognition of sustained positive actions in connection with efforts to cease hostilities, improve humanitarian access, promote regional stability, and address the threat of terrorism. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the announcement follows a joint review conducted by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development that began in January 2017 as required by Executive Order 13761 and amended by Executive Order 13804. The Secretary of State issued a contemporaneous report concluding that, despite GOS’ demonstrated improvement in the areas that led to the issuance of Executive Order 13761, there remain a range of concerns. As such, while the comprehensive sanctions program has been lifted, certain sanctions and trade restrictions remain in place. Specifically:

    • the national emergency, established in Executive Order 13067 with respect to Sudan, remains in effect;
    • U.S. sanctions related to the conflict in Darfur, pursuant to Executive Order 13400, remain in place;
    • The U.S. Government maintains the authority to designate Sudanese persons according to other relevant sanctions authorities; and
    • Sudan remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which will continue to impose restrictions on certain dealings involving Sudan, including U.S. foreign assistance and restrictions on defense exports and sales.

    Following revocation of the sanctions, U.S. persons will no longer be banned from engaging in most transactions previously prohibited by the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (31 C.F.R. Part 538).

    The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the revocation, along with a new general license that authorizes certain transactions.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Department of Treasury Department of State Executive Order

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  • Treasury Report Calls for Extensive Regulatory Relief to Capital Markets

    Federal Issues

    On October 6, the U.S. Treasury Department published a report that focuses on capital market oversight and outlines challenges and recommendations to reduce regulatory burdens. The report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Capital Markets,” is the second in a series of four the Treasury plans to issue in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13772, which mandated a review of financial regulations for inconsistencies with promoted “Core Principles.” (See Buckley Sandler Special Alert here.) The report notes that while certain capital market regulatory framework elements function well, there remain significant challenges. Specifically, the report recommends—among other things—reducing fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in the U.S. regulatory structure. This includes focusing on effecting changes to promote efficiency and more clearly defining regulatory mandates that would allow agencies to issue joint rulemaking and foster coordination. 

    Treasury’s recommendations focus primarily on market regulations but also build upon themes identified in the first report published in June 2017, which primarily focused on solutions for providing relief to banks and credit unions. The second report identifies recommendations, actions, and associated “Core Principles” within the following categories:

    • “promoting access to capital for all types of companies, including small and growing businesses, through reduction of regulatory burden and improved market access to investment opportunities”;
    • “fostering robust secondary markets in equity and debt”;
    • “appropriately tailoring regulations on securitized products to encourage lending and risk transfer”;
    • “recalibrating derivatives regulations to promote market efficiency and effective risk mitigation”;
    • “ensuring proper risk management for [central counterparties] and other financial market utilities because of the critical role they play in the financial system”;
    • “rationalizing and modernizing the U.S. capital markets regulatory structure and process”; and
    • “advancing U.S. interests by promoting a level playing field internationally.”

    A fact sheet accompanying the report further highlights Treasury’s recommendations to streamline regulations.

    Federal Issues Department of Treasury Securities Capital Requirements Risk Management

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  • OFAC Settles Alleged Sudanese Sanction Violations with Connecticut-Based Paper Company

    Financial Crimes

    On October 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had reached a $372,465 settlement with a Connecticut-based paper company for three alleged violations of Sudanese Sanctions. OFAC asserted that the company “facilitated the sale and shipment of . . . Canadian-origin paper from Canada to Sudan” in April and December 2013. OFAC alleged that each instance of this conduct, which the company did not voluntarily self-disclose, violated OFAC’s Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 538. Had the company not settled, OFAC determined that civil monetary penalties ranged from approximately $445,000 to $853,746. In establishing the penalty, OFAC considered that the company: (i) “exhibited reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by failing to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care with regard to the apparent violations”; (ii) “attempted to conceal the ultimate destination of the goods from its bank”; (iii) knew that supervisory or managerial personnel “had actual knowledge of and were actively involved in, or had reason to know of, the conduct that led to the apparent violations”; (iv) is “sophisticated” but had a non-existent, inadequate compliance program; and (v) failed to initially cooperate with OFAC’s investigation by submitting “materially inaccurate, incomplete, and/or misleading information.” As for mitigating factors, OFAC determined that (i) the company has no prior sanctions history with OFAC, and (ii) the company took remedial action by implementing an OFAC compliance program.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Settlement Department of Treasury OFAC

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  • Trade Groups Lobby for Exemption of Small Independent Mortgage Lenders from CFPB Examinations

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 18, the Community Home Lenders Association and the Community Mortgage Lenders of America sent a joint letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin urging relief for smaller independent mortgage bankers from CFPB supervision, enforcement, and vender management audits. Specifically, the trade groups requested support for legislation that would help eliminate the risk of enforcement actions from the CFPB for smaller nonbanks. The letter cites the conclusions drawn in the Treasury Report on financial regulations, released in June (this report was a product of the February Executive Order, covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert). Of particular interest from the trade groups was the report’s conclusion that Congress should repeal the CFPB’s supervisory authority and return the supervision of nonbanks to state regulators.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Mortgages CFPB Examination Vendor Management Department of Treasury

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  • HUD IG Blames Ginnie Mae for Inadequate Supervision; HUD IG Concludes HUD Did Not Follow Requirements When Forgiving Debts

    Federal Issues

    On September 21, the HUD Inspector General (IG) released an audit report of Ginnie Mae’s oversight of nonbanks in the mortgage servicing industry. The report found that Ginnie Mae did not adequately respond to the growth in its nonbank issuer base; a base, the report notes, that tends to have more complex financial and operating structures than banking institutions. The IG found, among other things, that Ginnie Mae may not be prepared to identify problems with nonbank issuers prior to default, requiring additional funds from the U.S. Treasury to pay back investors in the event of a large default.

    On the same day, the IG also announced a report which found that HUD did not always follow applicable requirements when forgiving debts and terminating debt collections. The report determined that HUD’s review process for evaluating debt forgiveness or collection termination was not thorough enough to ensure that statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements associated with this process were met—such as ensuring DOJ approval was obtained when required.

    Federal Issues HUD OIG DOJ Ginnie Mae Mortgage Servicing Mortgages Debt Cancellation Nonbank Supervision Department of Treasury

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