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  • DOJ Announces $5.4 Million in Additional Relief for Servicemembers Impacted by Bank’s Alleged SCRA Violations

    Lending

    On November 14, the DOJ announced it had secured an additional $5.4 million from a major U.S. bank related to a September 2016 settlement (previously covered by InfoBytes) resolving allegations that between January 2008 and July 2015 the bank repossessed vehicles owned by active duty servicemembers without required court orders in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The original consent order with the DOJ required the bank to pay $10,000, plus lost equity, to each of the 413 affected servicemembers whose cars were found to be unlawfully seized and further stipulated the bank could be required to compensate additional servicemembers. Since entering into the 2016 settlement with the DOJ, the bank announced it had uncovered another 450 qualifying servicemembers, bringing the combined affected total to 863, with compensatory payouts of more than $10 million

    Lending Fair Lending DOJ SCRA Servicemembers Settlement Enforcement

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  • OFAC Announces Cuban Assets Control Regulations Updates; Releases New FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On November 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to implement changes related to certain financial transaction restrictions and economic activities. In accordance with the National Security Presidential Memorandum issued by President Trump on June 16, the amendments will, among other things, prohibit “persons subject to U.S. jurisdictions” from engaging in financial transactions with entities and subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List. This effort is intended to “channel economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services, while maintaining opportunities for Americans to engage in authorized travel to Cuba and support the private, small business sector in Cuba.” The amendments will take effect November 9. OFAC also released updated FAQs and a fact sheet to answer questions related to the amended regulations.

    Refer here, here, and here for InfoBytes coverage on OFAC settlements of alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of State Settlement International

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  • Federal Reserve Board Issues Consent Order for the Alleged Deceptive Marketing of Balance Transfer Credit Cards

    Consumer Finance

    On October 26, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) announced it had entered into a consent order with Mid America Bank & Trust Company (Mid America) over allegations that the bank engaged in deceptive practices in violation of the FTC Act involving balance transfer credit cards issued to consumers through third party independent service organizations. On the same day, the Fed announced its approval of an application by Reliable Community Bankshares, Inc. to acquire Mid America’s holding company, Mid America Banking Corporation. The allegations pertain to the adequacy of marketing materials, disclosures and other customer communications that described certain terms of the balance transfer cards such as credit reporting, available credit, and application of the statute of limitations to transferred balances. The Fed’s order requires the bank to refund certain fees, account balances and payments to its cardholders and other non-monetary actions, including compliance program enhancements. The order did not impose a civil money penalty.

    Consumer Finance Credit Cards Settlement FTC Act Federal Reserve

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  • Illinois AG and FTC Reach $9 Million Settlement With Phantom Debt Collector

    Consumer Finance

    On October 31, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced settlements with three operators of a fake debt collection scheme in Chicago. According to the Attorney General’s office, the three individuals and associated companies identified people who had recently applied for or received a short-term loan and then posed as a law firm to collect on the debt. The companies also sold fictitious loan debt portfolios to other debt buyers, who then attempted to collect on the fake debts. The settlements require the operators to surrender at least $9 million in assets (which will be used to refund impacted consumers) and, among other things, ban them from the debt collection business and from selling debt portfolios.

    Consumer Finance State AG FTC Debt Collection Payday Lending Enforcement Settlement

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  • FTC Settles Suit Against Credit Score Site Schemers

    Courts

    On October 26, the FTC agreed to a settlement of $760,000 with two affiliate marketers of a credit score business who allegedly committed deceptive acts to lure consumers into signing up for their monthly credit monitoring service for $30.00.

    The settlement partly resolves a suit the FTC filed in January against the credit score company, the owner, and the company’s affiliate marketers. The FTC alleged that the defendants posted fake rental ads on Craigslist and required persons responding to the ads to obtain a purportedly “free” credit report from the company’s websites before viewing the property. The defendants, however, used the credit or debit card information consumers entered to obtain the credit report and enrolled consumers for a negative option credit monitoring service with a $30.00 monthly fee.

    The order suspended the balance of the total $6.8 million judgment on the condition that the affiliate marketers pay the FTC the settled amounts. The claims against the company and the owner are ongoing.

    Courts Consumer Finance FTC Fraud Settlement Litigation

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  • Virginia AG Announces Settlement With Internet Lender Over Licensing Claims and Excessive Interest

    State Issues

    On October 25, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced a settlement with a Nevada-based internet lender to resolve allegations that the lender violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting it was licensed by the state’s Bureau of Financial Institutions and collecting interest exceeding the state’s general usury limit. According to a press release issued by the Attorney General’s office, the settlement requires the lender to provide refunds and interest forgiveness of more than $265,000 to borrowers, and pay the state $50,000 in civil money penalties, costs, and fees. A permanent injunction also prohibits the lender from, among other things, misrepresenting its licensing status and collecting interest exceeding the amount allowed by the state’s general usury statute.

    State Issues State AG Usury Anti-Predatory Lending Consumer Finance Settlement Enforcement

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  • State Attorneys General Announce $220 Million Settlement With German Bank for Allegedly Artificially Manipulating LIBOR Interest Rates

    State Issues

    On October 25, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced, in coordination with 44 other state attorneys general, a $220 million settlement with a German bank (bank) to resolve allegations that the bank manipulated the U.S. Dollar London InterBank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and other benchmark interest rates and defrauded government and non-profit entities across the nation. The settlement is the second related to alleged LIBOR manipulations brought by state attorneys general, and is more than twice the amount announced last year with a London-based financial institution and related international investment bank. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) According to AG Schneiderman, the multi-state investigation revealed that from 2005 to 2010, the bank failed to disclose to “affected governmental and not-for-profit counterparties” that (i) it had made false LIBOR submissions inflating borrowing costs linked to the London and U.S. dollar interbank offered rates; (ii) bank traders tried to influence other banks’ LIBOR submitters to make rate alterations in order to benefit their own trading positions; and (iii) the bank was cognizant of the fact that other banks manipulated LIBOR submissions and that “LIBOR was a false rate.” Under the terms of the settlement, affected entities will be eligible to receive a portion of the settlement fund, with the remainder to be used for investigation expenses and other purposes.

    State Issues State AG Enforcement LIBOR Settlement

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  • FTC Obtains Default Judgment Against Operations That Allegedly Sold Counterfeit Payday Loan Debt Portfolios

    Consumer Finance

    On October 17, the FTC issued a press release announcing a default judgment in an action brought against two Kansas-based operations and their owner (defendants), who allegedly violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by selling lists of counterfeit payday loan debt portfolios to debt collectors. The allegations claimed that in numerous instances, the portfolios listed “loans that the identified lenders have not, in fact, made to the identified consumers,” and that the defendants “have not purchased, or otherwise obtained, any rights to collect loan debts originated by the lenders listed . . ., nor have they engaged in any transaction that authorizes them to collect, sell, distribute, or transfer any valid loans originated by those lenders.” As a result, numerous consumers were contacted by various debt collectors demanding repayment of the fake debts, and in some instances, consumers made payments to either stop the collection calls or because they feared becoming delinquent. Under the terms of the default judgment, the defendants (i) must pay more than $4.1 million as equitable monetary relief; (ii) are banned from handling sensitive financial information, such as “bank account numbers, credit or debit card numbers, or social security numbers”; and (iii) are prohibited from misrepresenting material facts.

    Consumer Finance FTC Enforcement Payday Lending Settlement Debt Collection FTC Act Regulator Enforcement

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  • Seventh Circuit Upholds Ruling That Excludes Insurance Coverage for Overdraft Fees

    Courts

    On October 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed an Indiana District Court’s 2016 ruling, agreeing that an insurance company does not bear the responsibility for covering a bank’s $24 million class action settlement under a policy provision that excludes coverage for any case involving fees. In upholding the lower court’s decision, the three judge panel concluded that the insurance company had no duty to defend or indemnify the bank on the basis that the underlying overdraft fee claims fall under “Exclusion 3(n)” in the bank's professional liability insurance policy, which states that the insurance company “shall not be liable for [l]oss on account of any [c]laim . . . based upon, arising from, or in consequence of any fees or charges.” Class claims alleging that the bank manipulated its debit processing to “maximize overdraft revenue” by charging purportedly excessive fees to consumers who overdraw their checking and savings accounts triggered the exclusion. The panel also noted that an insurance company’s decision to include fee exclusions in banking liability policies is designed to prevent the “moral hazard” of allowing banks to “freely create other customer fee schemes” knowing they could easily secure coverage.

    Courts Appellate Seventh Circuit Overdraft Class Action Settlement Litigation

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  • New York AG, Auto Dealers Reach Settlement Over Advance Fee Allegations That Triggered Inflated Vehicle Prices

    State Issues

    On October 12, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced separate settlements (here and here) with two auto dealer groups to resolve allegations that they violated state and federal law by charging upfront fees for “after-sale” credit repair and identity theft protection services, which were provided by a third party, and bundling those fees into vehicle sale or lease prices. According to the settlements, the groups—which have neither admitted nor denied the allegations—are required to pay affected consumers more than $900,000 in restitution and pay a $135,000 fine to the state. The settlements also prohibit the groups from selling or marketing credit repair or identity theft protection services and require that consumers be informed—both orally and in writing—of any other “after-sale” products.

    State Issues State AG Auto Finance Consumer Finance Settlement Enforcement

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