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  • Enforcement Actions Announced by CFTC for Fraud, Registration Violations in Florida

    Courts

    On July 11, the CFTC announced that the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida entered an order for final judgment by default against two individuals and their company for fraudulently soliciting investors in a commodity pool, misappropriating pool participants’ funds, and committing futures fraud, among other things. According to the CFTC complaint filed on January 26 of 2017, the defendants fraudulently marketed their company to prospective participants, materially misrepresented their past trading success using fabricated high rates of return, provided account statements to investors showing fictitious increases in value, and failed to disclose defendant’s previous permanent injunction on trading.

    In addition to imposing a permanent injunction on trading and registration, the Court ordered defendants to pay civil monetary penalties of almost $1.85 million as well as restitution of $459,613. An appointed monitor will oversee the defendants’ payment of restitution. The Court also required one of the defendants to affirmatively disclose his violations in any future marketing materials, presentations, speeches or websites. The required disclosure names his violations, the amount of restitution and civil penalties he must pay, along with the case numbers of his CFTC actions.

    Both of the defendants recently pleaded guilty to related criminal charges. One defendant was sentenced to one year and one day in prison in connection with her guilty plea to one count of obstruction of justice, and the other defendant is awaiting sentencing in connection with his guilty plea to one count of wire fraud.

    Courts Federal Issues CFTC Securities Enforcement Fraud Litigation

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  • Hawaii Enacts Law to Prohibit Release of Credit Information of Children, Others

    State Issues

    On July 5, Hawaii Governor David Y. Igge signed into law H.B. 651, which was devised to protect children and certain other individuals from identity theft and credit fraud. The law applies to “protected consumers,” defined as minors under the age of 16 years, incapacitated persons, and individuals with appointed guardians or conservators.

    Based on research suggesting that minors may be targeted for identity theft due to their clean credit reports, the legislation permits representatives of protected consumers to place and remove security freezes on protected consumers’ credit files. Because one impediment to requesting such a freeze is the lack of an existing credit file, the legislation also requires consumer credit reporting agencies (CRAs) to create records for the protected consumers. A CRA may not release the protected person’s file when it is in a security freeze until the representative requests a removal of the freeze. In order to request a security freeze or a freeze removal, a protected person’s representative must provide proper identification and evidence of authority to the CRA. Additionally, with a few exceptions, the CRA may charge a fee not to exceed five dollars for each freeze or removal of a freeze to a protected person’s credit file.

    The law will go into effect on January 1, 2018.

    State Issues Credit Rating Agencies Debt Collection Fraud Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security State Legislation Consumer Reporting Agency

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  • Former DOJ Fraud Compliance Counsel Resigns, Criticizes President

    Financial Crimes

    Hui Chen, formerly Compliance Counsel Expert in the DOJ Fraud Section, is speaking out about the reasons for her May 2017 resignation, which she has attributed to unacceptable conduct by the President and his Administration. Chen was hired by DOJ in November 2015 after serving as Global Head for Anti-Bribery and Corruption and Standard Chartered Bank. She was the first lawyer to hold this position at the DOJ.

    In a June 25 LinkedIn post, Chen unleashed several criticisms against the President, including regarding lawsuits, conflicts of interest, and ongoing investigations. She said that she would “not tolerate” those conducts in a company, but “worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conduct.” Chen further elaborated on her criticisms in a July 4, 2017 interview with CNN, stating that the firing of FBI James Comey tipped the scales in favor of resignation. 

    The DOJ had previously posted an opening to hire a new Compliance Counsel, but that listing has now expired. It is not clear if anyone has been hired to replace Ms. Chen.

    Financial Crimes DOJ Trump Fraud

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  • SFO Announces Charges Against British Multinational Bank and Four Former Executives in Qatar

    Financial Crimes

    On Tuesday, June 20, the UK Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) announced charges against a British multinational bank and four former executives for conspiracy to commit fraud and provision of unlawful financial assistance in violation of the Companies Act 1985. These charges relate to the bank’s capital raising arrangements with a Qatar's state-owned holding company and a contract oil and gas land drilling provider in June and October 2008, as well as to a $3 billion loan facility made available to the State of Qatar acting through the Ministry of Economy and Finance in November 2008. According to the SFO press release, the investigation was first announced in 2012, and the individuals charged include a former Chief Executive Officer of the British multinational bank, a former Executive Chairman of the bank’s Capital Investment Banking and Investment Management in Middle East and North Africa, a former Chief Executive of the bank’s Wealth and Investment Management, and a former European Head of the bank’s Financial Institutions Group.

    While no US-based charges have been announced, the SFO’s announcement comes on the heels of the bank’s March 2017 disclosure to the SEC in which the company stated that “the DOJ and SEC are undertaking an investigation into whether the Group’s relationships with third parties who assist the bank to win or retain business are compliant with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

    Financial Crimes SEC UK Serious Fraud Office Fraud

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  • DOJ Intervenes in False Claims Act Litigation Against City of Los Angeles for Alleged Misuse of HUD Funds

    Courts

    On June 7, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the United States has intervened (see proposed order here) in a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles (City) alleging that the City misused Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds intended for affordable housing that is accessible to people with disabilities. See U.S. ex rel Ling et al v. City of Los Angeles et al, No. 11-00974 (D.C. Cal. 2017).

    The DOJ joins in the lawsuit originally instituted by a disabled Los Angeles resident, who filed the False Claims Act (FCA) suit as a whistleblower. The FCA whistleblower provision allows private citizens to file suit on behalf of the government and likewise permits the government to intervene in the suit. Together, the DOJ and the whistleblower allege that the City and a city agency called the CRA/LA falsely certified compliance with federal accessibility laws, including the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as well as the duty to further fair housing in the City, in order to receive millions of dollars in HUD housing grants.

    As recipients of the HUD funds, the City and the CRA/LA were obligated to ensure that (i) “five percent of all units in certain federally-assisted multifamily housing be accessible for people with mobility impairments”; (ii) “an additional two percent be accessible for people with visual and auditory impairments”; (iii) “the City and the CRA/LA maintain a publicly available list of accessible units and their accessibility features”; (iv) “the City and the CRA/LA have a monitoring program in place to ensure people with disabilities are not excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to discrimination in, federally-assisted housing programs and activities solely on the basis of a disability.” The false certifications resulted in too few accessible housing units, the suit claims.

    The City denies the allegations.

    Courts HUD Litigation Fraud False Claims Act / FIRREA Whistleblower Fair Housing DOJ

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  • Connecticut Law Expands Credit Card Fraud Statutes, Addresses Penalties for Rent Collections on Foreclosed Property

    State Issues

    On June 6, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law Public Act No. 17-26, which expands the statutes on credit card fraud to cover crimes involving debit cards—including payroll and ATM cards—and outlines larceny penalties for collecting rent on foreclosed property. Paper and electronic checks or drafts are excluded from the definition of debit card under revised measure. Additionally, the law specifies changes pertaining to how “notice of a card’s revocation must be sent for purposes of these crimes and expands certain credit card crimes to cover falsely loading payment cards (credit or debit cards) into digital wallets.” Regarding larceny penalties, the law provides that a “previous mortgagor of real property against whom a final judgment of foreclosure has been entered” cannot continue to collect rent after the final judgment if there is no lawful right to do so. Penalties vary from a class C misdemeanor to a class B felony depending on the amount involved. The law takes effect October 1.

    State Issues Credit Cards Debit Cards Prepaid Cards State Legislation Financial Crimes Mortgages Digital Commerce Fraud

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  • Filipino National Sentenced for Running $9 Million Cybercrime Ring

    Financial Crimes

    On June 8, a U.S. District Court Judge sentenced a Filipino national to over five years in prison and two years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud last year. The defendant operated a $9 million international cybercrime operation that utilized stolen credit and debit accounts to process unauthorized financial transactions, according to an investigation led by the District of New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office. To obtain credit and debit card account information, the defendant engaged in computer hacking and ATM skimming, whereby millions of dollars were “monetized” through a “global network of ‘cashers’” who encoded the data onto counterfeit cards and then used the cards to withdraw money and make purchases.

    Financial Crimes Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Litigation Credit Cards Debit Cards Anti-Money Laundering Fraud ATM

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  • FTC Obtains Multiple Judgments Against California and Florida-Based Robocall Operations

    Consumer Finance

    The FTC recently entered judgments against robocalling operations based in California and Florida who engaged in activities that violated, among other things, the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and the Telemarketing Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act.

    California Default Judgments. On June 2, the FTC announced a California federal district court judge approved default judgments against an individual and each of the nine corporations for which he was an “actual or de facto owner, officer or manager” (Defendants). According to the FTC’s complaint, over a period spanning approximately seven years, the Defendants allegedly initiated—or helped to initiate—“billions” of illegal robocalls without receiving written permission from consumers. Many of the calls made were to numbers on the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry to “induce the purchase of goods or services” such as auto warranties, home security systems, or search engine optimization services. Violations of the TSR cited include knowingly assisting and facilitating telemarketers engaged in abusive practices. According to the terms of the default judgments, the individual has been assessed a $2.7 million penalty, and the Defendants are permanently banned from all telemarketing activities.

    Florida Consent Order. On June 5, the FTC and the Florida Attorney General entered eight stipulated orders against Orlando-based individuals and companies—18 Defendants in total—who violated the TSR, Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, and Florida’s Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Act for, among others things, using robocalls to sell credit card interest rate reduction programs, in addition to calling numbers on the DNC Registry. According to the joint complaint, the Defendants allegedly engaged in the following violations: (i) offered debt relief programs but failed to provide promised services; (ii) misrepresented their affiliations with consumers’ banks or credit card companies; (iii) unfairly authorized charges without obtaining consent; (iv) received fees prior to providing debt relief services; (v) failed to transmit telemarketer information; (vi) used prerecorded messages to “induce the purchase of goods or services”; and (vii) failed to make oral disclosures. The stipulated orders settle charges against all Defendants and require that they stop the “allegedly illegal conduct.” Some of the Defendants have also been issued financial penalties. Furthermore, the FTC entered a $4.8 million judgment against 12 Defendants identified as the primarily parties for the scam. This amount represents the full amount of consumer harm caused. All stipulated orders can be accessed through the FTC press release.

    Consumer Finance FTC Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security State AG UDAAP Enforcement Telemarketing Sales Rule Fraud

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  • Vehicle Financing Company Owners Plead Guilty to $11 Million Fraud

    Lending

    On May 25, the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that two vehicle financing company owners (Defendants) entered guilty pleas admitting to counts of mail and wire fraud. The Defendants’ company raised capital by securing investments from individuals to fund its operations. In 2015, the DOJ filed a criminal complaint alleging the Defendants represented to investors that retirement account funds could be rolled over into investments held by the company without triggering the payment of income taxes on the transferred monies. Investors allegedly transferred retirement funds based on these representations, and the Company ultimately lost more than $11 million of the investors’ money. However, the Defendants allegedly never obtained approval from Treasury for the company to act as an authorized custodian or trustee of retirement funds as required in order for the rules permitting tax-free transfers to apply, and therefore solicited the investment funds based on “deceptive acts, false and fraudulent statements and misrepresentation of material facts.” The company ultimately filed for bankruptcy. The plea agreements stipulate maximum penalties of “20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, a mandatory special assessment of $100, restitution, and forfeiture to the extent charged in the Indictment” and can be accessed here and here. Sentencing is set for September 20, 2017.

    Lending Auto Finance Fraud UDAAP State Issues

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  • Government Settles False Claims Act Suit for $23 Million

    Courts

    On May 26, the DOJ ended a False Claims Act case with a $23 million settlement. The case, brought by whistleblowers against a pharmacy goods provider (company), involved alleged fraudulent Medicaid claims and kickbacks to pharmacies that prescribed one of the company’s drugs. The qui tam action, originally filed in 2007, resulted in the company agreeing to pay nearly $13 million to the U.S. within seven business days of the settlement, of which the government will pay the whistleblowers $3.7 million. Additionally, the company will pay over $10 million toward state Medicaid settlements.

    Courts False Claims Act / FIRREA Fraud Whistleblower DOJ

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