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  • 2nd Circuit affirms dismissal of class action against international bank for alleged AML control misrepresentations

    Courts

    On April 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a proposed class action alleging an international bank misrepresented the effectiveness of internal controls to investors, during a time Russian traders were laundering more than $10 billion through the bank. In May 2016, investors filed a class action complaint against the bank alleging securities law violations for touting its compliance efforts while Russian clients were engaging in “mirror trades.” The district court dismissed the complaint for failing to sufficiently allege how the bank misled investors. Specifically, the district court noted that general statements about reputation and compliance amount to “puffery” and are regularly held to be non-actionable. In affirming the district court’s decision, the 2nd Circuit agreed that the plaintiffs failed to adequately allege scienter. The panel rejected the plaintiff’s reliance on, among other things, a consent order between the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) and the bank (previously covered by InfoBytes here) as evidence the bank was aware of Russian wrongdoing during the time it made its alleged misrepresentations, stating “the consent order thus contradicts the plaintiffs’ argument that the individual defendants were aware of any wrongdoing at the time they made their alleged misrepresentations.”

    Courts Anti-Money Laundering Financial Crimes NYDFS Second Circuit Appellate

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  • 2nd Circuit: debt collectors do not need to state interest is not accruing

    Courts

    On March 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit held that a debt collection letter, which does not disclose that the balance due is not accruing interest or fees is not misleading under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The decision results from a 2016 lawsuit filed by two debtors who alleged that the debt collection notices they received from the defendants were “false, deceptive, or misleading” under Section 1692e of the FDCPA because the notices did not state whether the balances were accruing interest or fees. The district court awarded summary judgment in favor of the defendants after unrebutted evidence was produced to show that the debtor’s balances did not accrue interest or fees during the collection period.  In affirming the district court’s decision, the 2nd Circuit applied the “least sophisticated consumer” standard and found that even if a consumer interpreted the debt collection notice to believe the balance due was accruing interest or fees, the only harm that would exist is “being led to think that there is a financial benefit to making repayment sooner rather than later.” The panel also noted that the notice was consistent with Section 1692g of the FDCPA because interest and fees were not accruing, the balance due stated the accurate amount of the debt.

    Courts Debt Collection Second Circuit FDCPA Appellate

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  • 2nd Circuit finds bankruptcy claim non-arbitrable

    Courts

    On March 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit denied a bank’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that arbitration of the debtor’s claims would present an inherent conflict with the intent of the Bankruptcy Code because the dispute concerns a core bankruptcy proceeding. The debtor’s claims against the bank relate to a purported refusal to remove a “charge-off” status on the debtor’s credit file after the debtor was released from all dischargeable debts through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court allowed the debtor to reopen the proceeding in order to file a putative class action complaint against the bank alleging that the designation amounted to coercion to pay a discharged debt. The bank moved to compel arbitration, based on a clause in the debtor’s cardholder agreement, and the court denied the motion. On appeal, the district court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision. In affirming both lower courts’ decisions, the 2nd Circuit reasoned that a claim of coercion to pay a discharged debt is an attempt to undo the effect of the discharge order and, therefore, “strikes at the heart of the bankruptcy court’s unique powers to enforce its own orders.” The circuit court found the debtor’s complaint to be non-arbitrable based on a conclusion that it would create an inherent conflict with the intent of the bankruptcy code.

    Courts Second Circuit Arbitration Bankruptcy Appellate

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  • Second Circuit Ruling May Expose Debt Collection Law Firms to Increased FDCPA Claims

    Courts

    On November 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a Southern District of New York dismissal of a lawsuit against a debt collection law firm regarding actions taken during state court collection proceedings. Concluding that the plaintiff had stated a claim against the law firm under two sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a three-judge panel vacated the dismissal and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its decision.

    The appeal stems from the law firm’s actions in attempting to collect on a default judgment entered against the plaintiff. After receiving a restraining notice from the law firm, the plaintiff’s bank placed a restraint on his checking account and the law firm told plaintiff that, unless he made a payment, he would have to get a court order to lift the restraint. The plaintiff sought such an order on the grounds that all the money in his checking account was Social Security Retirement Income (SSRI) and, therefore, exempt from restraint. The plaintiff claimed that the law firm’s objection to his request contained false statements in violation of the FDCPA and New York law because the plaintiff had earlier provided the law firm with documents supporting his exemption claim.

    In finding the complaint states a claim under FDCPA section 1692e, the Court rejected, among other arguments made by the law firm, the notion that FDCPA liability cannot be imposed based on conduct in litigation; the opinion contrasts bankruptcy court proceedings—where the Second Circuit has found the filing of false statements of claim does not violate the FDCPA—with those of state courts, “where . . . the consumer, often unfamiliar with the law governing garnishment of bank accounts, has the benefit of neither counsel nor a bankruptcy trustee.” The Court also held that “a debt collector engages in unfair or unconscionable litigation conduct in violation of [FDCPA] section 1692f when . . . it in bad faith unduly prolongs legal proceedings or requires a consumer to appear at an unnecessary hearing.”

    Courts Appellate FDCPA Second Circuit Debt Collection

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  • Second Circuit Upholds Large Monetary Judgment Against International Bank

    Courts

    On September 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a New York District Court’s 2015 ruling, which requires a major international bank to pay $806 million for selling allegedly faulty mortgage-backed bonds to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In the original suit brought by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), FHFA alleged that the bank overstated the reliability of the loans for sale. In upholding the lower court’s decision, the Second Circuit concluded that the marketing prospectus used to sell the mortgage securities to Fannie and Freddie between 2005 and 2007 contained “untrue statements of material fact.” Specifically, the prospectus falsely stated that the loans were compiled with the underwriting standards described therein, including standards related to assessing the creditworthiness of the borrowers and appraising the value of properties.

    As previously covered in InfoBytes, the same international bank recently settled with FHFA regarding residential mortgage-back securities trusts purchased in the same timeframe.

    Courts Litigation Second Circuit Appellate Securities FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgages

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  • Second Circuit Cites Spokeo, Rules No Standing to Sue for Violation of FACTA

    Courts

    On September 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion ruling that a merchant who had printed the first six numbers of a consumer’s credit card on a receipt violated the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), but that because the violation did not cause a concrete injury, the consumer did not have standing to sue the merchant. Under FACTA, merchants are prohibited from including more than the final five digits of a consumer’s credit card number on a receipt. In this instance, the plaintiff filed a complaint in 2014, followed by an amended complaint later that same year, in which he alleged that he twice received printed receipts containing the first six digits of his credit card number, in violation of FACTA. The plaintiff claimed that the risk of identity theft was a sufficient injury to establish standing. The defendants argued that that the first six digits of the credit card account only identified the card issuer and did not reveal any information about the consumer, which did not “raise a material risk of identity theft.” Citing a Supreme Court ruling in Spokeo v. Robins, the district court opined that a procedural violation of a statute is not enough to allow a consumer to sue, because it must be shown that the violation caused, or at least created a material risk of, harm to the consumer—which, in this case, was not present. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, but found that the district court erred in dismissing the suit with prejudice.

    Courts Litigation FACTA Second Circuit U.S. Supreme Court Spokeo

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  • Second Circuit Cites Escobar, Vacates and Remands FCA Suit

    Courts

    On September 7, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order concerning a False Claims Act (FCA) case on remand from the United States Supreme Court. In its order, the three-judge panel determined that the FCA complaint should be reviewed under the higher court’s Escobar standard, which “set out a materiality standard for FCA claims that has not been applied in the present case.” See Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016). As previously discussed in InfoBytes, Escobar holds that a misrepresentation must be material to the government’s payment decision to be actionable under the FCA and that the implied false certification theory can be a basis for liability under the FCA.

    In issuing the order, the appellate court vacated the district court’s dismissal of the relators’ complaint (which it had affirmed the first time around) and remanded for further proceedings to determine whether the bank’s certification was materially false. At issue is a qui tam suit filed against a national bank, in which plaintiffs claimed the bank violated the FCA when it certified to the Federal Reserve that the bank and its predecessors were obeying the law in order to “borrow money at favorable rates” during the financial crisis. The decision originally relied upon two requirements cited in a case overturned by Escobar—“the express-designation requirement for implied false certification claims and the particularity requirement for express false certification claims.”

    Courts False Claims Act / FIRREA Second Circuit Federal Reserve U.S. Supreme Court

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  • Second Circuit Reverses Decision Concerning Online Contract Formation

    Courts

    On August 17, 2017, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded a district court order denying a defendant's motion to compel arbitration where the plaintiff had accepted an arbitration agreement through a smart phone application. See Meyer v. Uber Technologies Inc., et al., 2017 WL 3526682, (2d Cir. 2017). There, the plaintiff had created an account with the defendant by entering personal and payment information into a mobile application. On the final account creation screen, the application presented a button marked “REGISTER,” below which was black text advising users that “[b]y creating an Uber account, you agree to the TERMS OF SERVICE & PRIVACY POLICY.” The capitalized language was a hyperlink, which led to a copy of an agreement containing an arbitration clause. The trial court held that this notice was not “reasonably conspicuous” and, therefore, the plaintiff did not—unambiguously—manifest assent to the arbitration provision by registering an account. On appeal, the Second Circuit reversed, finding that a “reasonably prudent smartphone user” would have been on “reasonably conspicuous notice” of the terms and conditions of service and that the text beneath the registration button put the plaintiff on notice that clicking “REGISTER” meant acceptance of those terms—regardless of whether he actually reviewed them. Relevant to the court’s analysis were proximity of the hyperlink to the “REGISTER” button and the absence of clutter, which might have otherwise impaired the plaintiff’s ability to locate the hyperlink.

    Courts Second Circuit Appellate Arbitration Contracts

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  • Senators Introduce Legislation to Override Second Circuit’s Decision in Madden v. Midland

    Federal Issues

    On July 27, a bipartisan group of senators introduced draft legislation (S. 1642), which would require bank loans, sold or transferred to another party, to maintain the same interest rate. As previously covered in InfoBytes, similar legislation (H.R. 3299) was introduced in the House earlier in July to reestablish a “legal precedent under federal banking laws that preempts a loan’s interest as valid when made.” Both measures come as a reaction to the 2015 Second Circuit decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, in which an appellate panel held that a nonbank entity taking assignment of debts originated by a national bank is not entitled to protection under the National Bank Act from state-law usury claims. The draft legislation seeks to amend the Revised Statutes, the Home Owners’ Loan Act, the Federal Credit Union Act, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Act.

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation Usury Lending Second Circuit Litigation National Bank Act Madden

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  • Legislation Introduced to Codify “Valid When Made” Doctrine

    Federal Issues

    On July 19, Representative Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the Vice Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Representative Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation designed to make it unlawful to change the rate of interest on certain loans after they have been sold or transferred to another party. As set forth in a July 19 press release issued by Rep. McHenry’s office, the Protecting Consumers’ Access to Credit Act of 2017 (H.R. 3299) would reaffirm the “legal precedent under federal banking laws that preempts a loan’s interest as valid when made.”

    Notably,  a Second Circuit panel in 2015 in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC overturned a district court’s holding that the National Bank Act (NBA) preempted state law usury claims against purchasers of debt from national banks. (See Special Alert on Second Circuit decision here.)The appellate court held that state usury laws are not preempted after a national bank has transferred the loan to another party. The Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari last year. According to Rep. McHenry, “[t]his reading of the National Bank Act was unprecedented and has created uncertainty for fintech companies, financial institutions, and the credit markets.” H.R. 3299, however, will attempt to “restore[] consistency” to lending laws following the holding and “increase[] stability in our capital markets which have been upended by the Second Circuit’s unprecedented interpretation of our banking laws.”

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation Fintech Lending Second Circuit Appellate Usury National Bank Act Madden

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