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  • Minnesota prohibits security freezes fees, authorizes security freezes for protected persons

    State Issues

    On May 19, the Minnesota governor signed HF1243, which, effective immediately, prohibits credit reporting agencies for charging a fee for the placement, removal, or temporary lift of a security freeze. The law previously allowed for a fee of $5.00. Additionally, effective January 1, 2019, the law authorizes the placement of a security freeze for a protected person – defined by the law as an individual under the age of 16 – if a consumer reporting agency receives a request by the protected person’s representative and certain authentication standards are met. The law also outlines the requirements for removing a security freeze for a protected person.

    State Issues Credit Reporting Agency Security Freeze State Legislation Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • CFTC, NASAA enter cryptocurrency, fraud information sharing partnership; CFTC releases virtual currency derivative guidance


    On May 21, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced it had signed a mutual cooperation agreement with the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) to increase cooperation and information sharing on cryptocurrencies and other potential market fraud. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) is designed to “assist participants in enforcing the Commodity Exchange Act, which state securities regulators and state attorneys general are statutorily authorized to do alongside the CFTC,” leading to the possibility of additional enforcement actions brought under other areas of law. In order to receive the benefits—including investigative leads, whistleblower tips, complaints, and referrals provided to NASAA members by the CFTC—individual jurisdictions will be required to sign the MOU.

    The same day, the CFTC’s Division of Market Oversight and Division of Clearing and Risk (DCR) issued a joint staff advisory providing guidance on several enhancements to which CFTC-registered exchanges and clearinghouses should adhere when listing derivatives contracts based on virtual currencies. The advisory addresses the following five key areas for market participants: (i) “[e]nhanced market surveillance”; (ii) “[c]lose coordination with CFTC staff’; (iii) “[l]arge trader reporting”; (iv) “[o]utreach to member and market participants”; and (v) “Derivatives Clearing Organization risk management and governance.” According to the DCR director, the information provided is intended in part, “to aid market participants in their efforts to design risk management programs that address the new risks imposed by virtual currency products . . . [and] to help ensure that market participants follow appropriate governance processes with respect to the launch of these products.”

    Securities Fintech CFTC State Regulators Cryptocurrency Virtual Currency MOUs

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  • President Trump issues new Executive Order prohibiting the purchase of debt from the Venezuelan government

    Financial Crimes

    On May 21, President Trump issued an Executive Order (E.O.) prohibiting U.S. companies or individuals from buying debt or accounts receivable from the Venezuelan government “in light of the recent activities of the Maduro regime, including endemic economic mismanagement and public corruption at the expense of the Venezuelan people and their prosperity.” The sanctions specifically prohibit transactions related to the following: (i) “the purchase of debt owed to the Venezualan government, including accounts receivable;” (ii) debt pledged as collateral after May 21, including accounts receivable; and (iii) “the sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the Government of Venezuela of any equity interest in any entity in which the Government of Venezuela has a 50 percent or greater ownership interest.”

    The E.O., issued in conjunction with E.O. 13692, follows two prior E.O.s, which also targeted the Maduro regime—E.O. 13827, which prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions that involve digital currency issued by, for, or on behalf of the Venezuelan government, and E.O. 13808, which prohibits transactions related to new debt, bonds, and dividend payments in conjunction with the Venezuelan government and the state-owned oil company. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here and here.). The E.O. took effect on May 21 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Executive Order Trump Venezuela Sanctions International Cryptocurrency

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  • Federal Reserve Governor discusses potential impact of digital innovations on the financial system


    On May 15, Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard spoke at a digital currency conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to discuss how digital innovations may impact the financial system, specifically in the areas of payments, clearing, and settlement. Brainard discussed, among other things, the importance of understanding the impact these innovations may have on (i) investor and consumer protection issues, and (ii) cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology governance, particularly with respect to Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering concerns. In addition, Brainard commented on the inherent risks and challenges surrounding the concept of a central bank digital currency, and noted that at this time, “there is no compelling demonstrated need for a Fed-issued digital currency [because] [m]ost consumers and businesses in the U.S. already make retail payments electronically using debit and credit cards, payment applications, and the automated clearinghouse network. Moreover, people are finding easy ways to make digital payments directly to other people through a variety of mobile apps.” Brainard noted, however, that the Federal Reserve is monitoring these technological developments as “digital tokens for wholesale payments and some aspects of distributed ledger technology—the key technologies underlying cryptocurrencies—may hold promise for strengthening traditional financial instruments and markets” in the coming years.

    Fintech Federal Reserve Cryptocurrency Distributed Ledger Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Maryland and Georgia prohibit security freeze fees

    State Issues

    On May 15, the Maryland governor signed SB 202, which prohibits consumer reporting agencies from charging consumers, or protected consumers’ representatives, a fee for the placement, removal, or temporary lift of a security freeze. Previously, Maryland allowed for a fee, in most circumstances, of up to $5.00 for each placement, temporary lift, or removal. The law takes effect October 1.

    On May 3, the Georgia governor signed SB 376, which amends Georgia law to prohibit consumer reporting agencies from charging a fee for placing or removing a security freeze on a consumer’s account. Previously, Georgia law allowed for a fee of no more than $3.00 for each security freeze placement, removal, or temporary lift, unless the consumer was a victim of identity theft or over 65 years old. Under SB 376, consumer reporting agencies may not charge a fee to any consumer at any time for the placement or removal of a security freeze. This law takes effect July 1.

    State Issues State Legislation Credit Reporting Agency Security Freeze Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • OFAC further expands Iranian sanctions, includes Hizballah-associated individuals

    Financial Crimes

    On May 17, U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified two Hizballah-associated individuals for their alleged role in financing terrorist networks, in addition to five companies owned or controlled by one of the designated individuals, as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.” According to OFAC, the sanctions were issued pursuant to Executive Order 13224 (E.O. 13224), and designated individuals who had previously worked with the Central Bank of Iran, which was “recently identified as being complicit in facilitating the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force’s (IRGC-QF)] access to hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. currency, to expand banking access between Iran and Lebanon.” As covered earlier in InfoBytes, on May 15 OFAC sanctioned the governor and a senior official of the Central Bank of Iran for allegedly funneling millions of dollars on behalf of the IRGC-QF to Hizballah. The May 17 actions are designed to “further restrict Hizballah’s access to the U.S. financial system and the Iranian regime’s network of regional proxy groups.” As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction must be blocked and reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

    Separately, on May 22, OFAC announced that five Iranian individuals who allegedly provided ballistic missile-related technical expertise on behalf of the IRGC-QF have also been sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 13224. In addition to freezing assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with the individuals, “foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the individuals and entities designated [] risk exposure to sanctions that could sever their access to the U.S. financial system or block their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction.”

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury Iran International

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  • Maryland governor signs provisions amending Maryland Consumer Loan Law’s small lending requirements

    State Issues

    On May 15, the Maryland governor signed legislation to establish requirements for lenders making covered loans in the state. Among other things, HB1297 increases the threshold for which a loan is subject to small lending requirements within the Maryland Consumer Loan Law (MCLL) from $6,000 to $25,000. The law also prohibits (i) lenders who are not licensed in the state from making loans of $25,000 or less, unless the person is exempt from requirements under MCLL; (ii) a person contracting “for a covered loan that has a rate of interest, charge, discount, or other consideration greater than the amount authorized under state law”; and (iii) covered loans that would be a violation of the Military Lending Act. Loans that violate these provisions are deemed void and unenforceable except in limited circumstances. The law takes effect January 1, 2019.

    State Issues State Legislation Licensing Lending Military Lending Act Usury Consumer Finance

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  • Supreme Court of Appeals for West Virginia upholds summary judgment for consumer against check cashing company


    On May 11, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia affirmed summary judgment for a consumer who alleged a check cashing company and its debt collector violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA) by contacting her multiple times after being notified of her Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. According to the opinion, the consumer filed a Chapter 7 petition for bankruptcy in February 2012 and the cash checking company was notified on or about March 6, 2012 of the filing. On March 9, the company, in response to the bankruptcy notice, sent a letter to the consumer notifying her collection efforts would be stayed but the company would be pursuing a criminal complaint against her. Additionally, a debt collection agency under contract with the company contacted the consumer five additional times in attempt to collect the debt. The trial court first granted the consumer’s motion for summary judgment in part, finding that the company violated the WVCCPA by not contacting the consumer’s attorney and by threatening criminal prosecution even though the company was aware of the bankruptcy filing. The court awarded the consumer over $19,000 in statutory damages. Subsequently, the trial court granted the consumer’s second motion for summary judgment, holding, among other things, that the company instructed the debt collector to contact the consumer despite having “actual knowledge” that an attorney represented the consumer. The court granted additional statutory damages in the amount of $18,000 and awarded attorney’s fees and costs.

    Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of Appeals concluded that the check cashing company’s violations of the WVCCPA were deliberate and intentional, and therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by awarding the consumer over $37,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

    Courts State Issues Check Cashing Debt Collection Bankruptcy

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  • OFAC adds additional Venezuelan government officials to Specially Designated Nationals List

    Financial Crimes

    On May 18, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List pursuant to Executive Order 13692. OFAC’s additions to the list include four current or former Venezuelan government officials identified as persons who have “exploit[ed] their official positions to engage in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of state funds, and other corrupt activities.” OFAC additionally blocked three companies and 14 properties located in Florida and New York owned by one of the recently added officials. As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Venezuela Department of Treasury International

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  • Federal Reserve Governor discusses Community Reinvestment Act modernization

    Federal Issues

    On May 18, Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard spoke before a community development conference in New York City to discuss the Community Reinvestment Act’s (CRA) role in supporting low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods and the importance of “refreshing” CRA regulations to accommodate for, among other things, technology-driven changes that have made banking accessible via online and mobile platforms. Brainard covered five principles for CRA modernization, including (i) updating CRA regulations to accommodate different business models that serve the needs of LMI communities while still sustaining branches; (ii) clarifying performance measures for productive CRA investment activities and finding ways to “reduce the distortions that lead to some areas becoming credit ‘hot spots’ and others credit deserts”; (iii) tailoring CRA regulations and evaluation methods to take into account banks of different sizes and business models; (iv) improving and promoting consistency and predictability across and within agencies; and (v) ensuring that the revised CRA regulations continue to “mutually reinforce[e] laws designed to promote an inclusive financial services industry” as well as “fair access to credit.”

    Federal Issues Federal Reserve CRA Fintech

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