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  • Treasury Announces FSOC Executive Session on July 28

    Federal Issues

    On July 21, the Treasury Department announced that on Friday, July 28, Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin will preside over an executive session of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). According to a Treasury press release, the preliminary agenda includes:

    • a discussion about Volcker Rule recommendations presented in the Treasury’s June 2017 report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Banks and Credit Unions”;
    • an update on annual reevaluation requirements for designating nonbank financial companies; and
    • a discussion regarding pending litigation brought against FSOC.

    Consistent with FSOC’s transparency policy, the meeting may be made available via live webcast and can be viewed after it occurs. Meeting minutes for the most recent FSOC meetings are generally approved at the next meeting and posted online soon afterwards.

    Meeting minutes for past meetings are available here.

    Readouts for past meetings are available here.

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FSOC Treasury Department Volcker Rule Nonbank Supervision

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  • OFAC Assesses $2 Million Penalty Against International Oil and Gas Company for Violations of Ukraine-Related Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On July 20, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a $2 million civil money penalty assessed against an international oil and gas company, including two of its U.S. subsidiaries, for alleged violations of OFAC’s Ukraine-Related sanctions regulations. OFAC claims that, in May 2014, the company impermissibly dealt in services of a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation who had been placed on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDNs) by signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with the individual. Although the company claimed that it believed such actions were permissible, OFAC noted that the “plain language of the Ukraine-Related Sanctions” clearly indicates otherwise. In particular, OFAC stated that the sanctions blocked “any property and interests in property, and prohibited any dealing in any property and interests in property, of a person so designated.” In addition, the sanctions expressly forbid U.S. persons from “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person,” and, according to OFAC, do not differentiate between an individual’s “personal” and “professional” capacity—a distinction the company tried to make.

    Thus, concluded OFAC, information available at the time of the alleged violations “clearly put [the company] on notice that OFAC would consider executing documents with an SDN to violate the prohibitions in the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations.” The $2 million penalty was the largest that OFAC could impose under statute. OFAC imposed the penalty based on the following factors: (i) the company did not voluntarily self-disclose the violations; (ii) the company demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by disregarding clear warning signs; (iii) the company’s senior-most executives knew of the official’s status as an SDN when it executed the legal documents; (iv) the company caused significant harm to the sanctions program by dealing with a senior official of the Russian Federation; and (v) the company is a sophisticated and experienced oil company that has global operations and routinely deals in goods, services and technology subject to U.S. economic sanctions and export controls.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Treasury Department OFAC

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  • House Appropriations Committee Approves Fiscal 2018 Funding Bill Designed to Overhaul Existing Financial Regulations

    Federal Issues

    On July 13, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2018 financial services funding bill by a vote of 31-21. The bill totaling $20.231 billion—$1.284 billion below fiscal year 2017 and $2.483 billion less than President Trump’s budget request—incorporates several provisions of the Financial CHOICE Act designed to, among other things, overhaul existing financial regulations and restructure the CFPB. The bill provides funding for the Treasury Department, Judiciary, SEC, Federal Reserve, CFPB, and other related agencies. According to the press release issued by the committee, the bill “provides the funding necessary for federal regulators to do their jobs in a timely and appropriate manner, while stopping burdensome regulations before they can damage [the] economy irreparably.”

    A summary of the bill is available here.

    A copy of the legislative text of the bill is available here.

    A copy of the bill report is available here.

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation Financial CHOICE Act Treasury Department SEC Federal Reserve House Appropriations Committee

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  • President Trump Issues Executive Order Extending OFAC Review Period of Sudanese Policies and Actions

    Federal Issues

    On July 11, President Trump announced an extension to the review period established by Executive Order 13761 (EO). EO 13761, issued by President Barack Obama, provided additional time for OFAC to review the policies and actions of Sudan to allow the opportunity to revoke certain sanctions based on positive findings regarding the Sudanese government’s actions. President Trump’s new EO extends the review period to October 12, 2017. For additional information regarding EO 13761, please see OFAC’s Frequently Asked Questions.

    Federal Issues Executive Order Sanctions OFAC Treasury Department

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  • Credit Reporting Agency Assessed Damages of $60 Million for FCRA Violations


    On June 20, a federal jury found that a major international credit reporting agency had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), awarding damages of $60 million. When performing credit checks, the agency allegedly had failed to distinguish law-abiding citizens from drug traffickers, terrorists, and other criminals with similar names found on the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control database, sometimes confusing plaintiffs with individuals on the watch list. The jury determined that the company (i) “willfully fail[ed] to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the OFAC information it associated with members of the class’’; (ii) “willfully failed to clearly and accurately disclose OFAC information in the written disclosures it sent to members of the class”; and (iii) “failed to provide class members a summary of their FCRA rights with each written disclosure made to them.” The class members were awarded just under the maximum for statutory damages, in addition to punitive damages of more than six times the statutory amount.

    Courts Fair Credit Reporting Act Treasury Department OFAC

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  • Judge Issues Ruling Ordering Unused Consumer Redress Funds to be Deposited in the Treasury


    On June 20, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered that leftover funds from a $50 million settlement must be transferred to the Treasury, ultimately ruling against a memorandum filed by the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, and Vermont (State AGs) that sought to redirect the remaining $15 million to be used to “train, support and improve the coordination of the state consumer protection attorneys charged with enforcement of the laws prohibiting the type of unfair and deceptive practices alleged by the CFPB in this [a]ction.” (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) Notably, the judge stated, “the State AGs’ proposal does not reflect the [settling] parties' true intent . . . Nowhere in the Final Judgment or the Redress Plan is there any language supporting the State AGs’ view that leftover funds should broadly aid consumers.” The judge opines further that “[c]ondoning an unintended use of the settlement funds—in the absence of any other equitable relief reasonably related to the allegations of the Complaint—would be tantamount to misappropriating funds that otherwise should be in the public fisc.” The judge further noted that had the State AGs’ memorandum been granted, it would “permit State actors . . . to hijack a significant portion of the settlement funds under the guise of ‘consumer protection,’ all for the purpose of underwriting a project that principally benefits the States.”

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB DOJ State AG Litigation Treasury Department

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  • OFAC Updates: New Sanction Designations and Additions to Specially Designated Nationals List

    Financial Crimes

    Recently, OFAC announced implementation of sanctions against several entities and individuals designated for, among others, materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial support to certain foreign entities. In addition, OFAC updated its list of Specially Designed Nations (SDN) and announced a settlement agreement with a Canadian-based motor vehicle finance company.

    North Korea Suppliers of Weapons Proliferation Programs. On June 1, OFAC announced it was taking action against six entities and three individuals in response to their involvement in North Korea’s continued efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The announcement targets the country’s military, nuclear, and WMD programs, in addition to its overseas financial operations. The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with the designees, and further states that “any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked.” John E. Smith, the Director of OFAC, stated, “Treasury is working with our allies to counter networks that enable North Korea’s destabilizing activities, and we urge our partners to take parallel steps to cut off their funding sources.” These sanctions are in addition to those imposed earlier in April on eleven North Koreans and one associated entity (see previous InfoBytes coverage here).

    Iraq-Based Chemical Weapons Developers. On June 12, OFAC announced, for the first time, designations against individuals involved in the development of ISIS’ chemical weapons. The sanctions were 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 property and interests in property of the two individuals identified in the designations, subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked, and “U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”

    Settlement Agreement with Motor Vehicle Finance Company. On June 8, OFAC announced it had reached a settlement with a motor vehicle finance company as a result of transactions by its Canadian based subsidiary. The enforcement action claims the majority-owned subsidiary, which “specializes in various forms of financing in the [U.S.] for purchasers, lessees, and authorized independent [auto] dealers,”—between 2011 and 2014—allegedly violated 13 Cuban Assets Control Regulations by leasing vehicles to the Cuban Embassy in violation of OFAC’s Blocked Persons and SDN list, which prohibited transactions with Cuban government entities. The company voluntarily self-disclosed the alleged violations and agreed to remit $87,255 to settle its potential civil liability.

    Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions. On May 24 and 25, OFAC made additions to the SDN list, which designates individuals and companies who are prohibited from dealing with the U.S. and whose assets are blocked. Transactions are prohibited if they involve transferring, paying, exporting, or otherwise dealing in the property or interest in property of an entity or individual on the SDN list. Additions to the list were made under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations against several Mexican and Colombian individuals and entities.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Treasury Department Enforcement Auto Finance

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  • Treasury Audit Report Analyzes Responses to Threats by Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On May 23, the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General issued an audit report presenting the results of its study into how, and to what extent, the Treasury’s Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (TFFC) addresses threats to international financial systems. The OIG reviewed TFFC—which is responsible for leading and assisting tasks forces, including the Anti-Money Laundering Task Force—to determine how its collaboration efforts with the national security community and other federal agencies identifies and addresses “threats to the international financial system from money laundering and other forms of illicit finance.” According to the findings, while the majority of federal agency officials interviewed for the report were satisfied with TFFC’s collaboration efforts overall, others believed enhanced collaboration efforts were warranted. The OIG also found that TFFC failed to establish “policies or procedures for collaboration or a mechanism to monitor, evaluate, and report the results of its collaborative efforts as recommended by the Government Accountability Office” in a 2009 report. Accordingly, the OIG recommended that TFFC develop and improve upon the necessary policies and procedures needed to monitor the effectiveness of “interagency collaboration,” as well as address areas of concern regarding collaboration efforts with foreign countries. TFFC agreed with these recommendations and stated it is currently working to improve interagency collaboration.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering OIG Treasury Department Financial Crimes

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  • House Passes Financial CHOICE Act of 2017

    Federal Issues

    On June 8, by a vote of 233-186 with no Democrats voting in favor of the bill and one Republican voting against, the House passed the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (H.R. 10), as amended, which would repeal or modify provisions of Dodd-Frank and restructure the CFPB. Committee Report 115-163 accompanying House Resolution 375, which provided for consideration H.R. 10 and recommended that the resolution be adopted, outlines the provisions introduced to overhaul existing financial regulations. Included were five additional amendments incorporated into H.R. 10 introduced by members of Congress:

    • Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.): “Revises provisions subjecting certain FDIC and National Credit Union Association functions to congressional appropriations, relating to appointments of positions created by [H.R. 10], and providing congressional access to non-public [Financial Security Oversight Council] information”;
    • Rep. Joseph Hollingsworth (R-Ind.): “Allows closed-end funds that are listed on a national securities exchange, and that meet certain requirements to be considered ‘well-known seasoned issuers’”;
    • Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.): “Expresses the sense of Congress that consumer reporting agencies and their subsidiaries should implement stronger multi-factor authentication procedures when providing access to personal information files to more adequately protect consumer information from identity theft”;
    • Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.): “Requires the Department of Treasury” to submit a report to Congress regarding its efforts to work with Federal bank regulators, financial institutions, and money service businesses to ensure that legitimate financial transactions along the southern border move freely”; and
    • Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), “Requires the [General Services Administration] to study the [Consumer Law Enforcement Agency’s] real estate needs due to changes in the Agency’s structure. It would then authorize the GSA to sell the current CLEA building if CLEA’s real estate needs have changed and there is no government department or agency that can utilize the building.”

    See previous InfoBytes here and here for additional coverage.

    The bill now advances to the Senate where it is unlikely to pass in its current form—a fact acknowledged by both Democrats and Republicans.

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Financial CHOICE Act Congress Federal Legislation Dodd-Frank FDIC NCUA FSOC CFPB Treasury Department

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  • Department of Education Student Debt Collection Contracting Injunction Extended


    On May 31, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Chief Judge Susan G. Braden extended her preliminary injunction in a legal dispute involving the awarding of Department of Education (Department) debt collection contracts. She stated the order would stay in place “to preserve the status quo until the viability of the debt collection contracts at issue is resolved.”

    Judge Baden’s order provides several reasons for her decision, all pulled from news reports, including: (i) a CFPB report stating that private collection agencies chosen by the Department offer uncertain value despite great cost; (ii) a New York Times article suggesting that oversight for the Department’s student debt would be transferred to the Treasury Department; and (iii) press reports announcing James Runcie’s resignation. Runcie served as the chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid.

    The order has prevented the government from collecting on defaulted student loans—a halt which began on March 29 when Judge Braden issued a temporary restraining order in the matter.

    Courts Department of Education Debt Collection Litigation Treasury Department

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