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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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  • OCC Updates Comptroller’s Licensing Manual to Provide Revised Guidance on Business Combination Applications

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 14, the OCC released Bulletin 2017-53 announcing a revised version of its “Business Combinations” booklet (replacing the booklet of the same title issued in December 2006), which includes updates related to regulations addressing applications for national banks and federal savings associations proposing to execute a business combination. The booklet, which is part of the Comptroller’s Licensing Manual, covers:

    • policies and decision criteria that the OCC considers when evaluating applications from banks seeking to execute business combinations, including mergers, consolidations, certain purchase and assumption transactions, and reorganizations;
    • the application process, including the pre-filing, filing, review, decision, and post-consummation phases;
    • guidance on application requirements and circumstances under which a streamlined business combination is granted; and
    • references and links to informational resources for applicants to use during the filing process.

    Reflected in the newly revised booklet are updates to procedures and regulations that have been implemented since 2006, including the integration of the Office of Thrift Supervision into the OCC and the issuance of revised regulation 12 C.F.R. § 5 that went into effect July 1, 2015.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Licensing

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  • CFPB Requests Comments on Overdraft Disclosures; CFPB Announces Final Language Access Plan; Holds Ceiling at $12.00 for Allowable FCRA Charges

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 15, the CFPB published a request for comment on a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to conduct online testing of point of sale/ATM (POS/ATM) overdraft disclosure forms. In the request, the Bureau invited comments on, (i) “[w]hether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Bureau, including whether the information will have practical utility”; (ii) “[t]he accuracy of the Bureau’s estimate of the burden of the collection of information, including the validity of the methods and the assumptions used”; (iii) “[w]ays to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected”; and (iv) “[w]ays to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.” Comments must be received by January 16, 2018.

    On November 16, the CFPB released the final version of its Language Access Plan (Plan) to provide non-English speaking persons access to its programs and services. The Plan highlights two key language access functions of the Bureau: offering translated consumer-facing brochures and handling complaints from consumers in multiple languages. The Bureau originally proposed the Plan in 2014 (covered previously by InfoBytes). The final Plan is current as of November 13, 2017.

    CFPB also announced on November 16 that the maximum allowable charges for certain disclosures under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) will remain at the current level. Each year the original amount referenced in the FCRA must be readjusted (and rounded to the nearest fifty cents) based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The amount for 2018, based on the annual percentage increase in the CPI-U, remains unchanged at $12.00.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FCRA CFPB Consumer Finance Federal Register Consumer Education

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  • House Passes Flood Insurance Bill Reforming and Reauthorizing National Flood Insurance Program

    Federal Issues

    On November 14, the House voted 237-189 to pass legislation reforming and reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years before it expires next month. As previously covered in InfoBytes, President Trump signed a three-month extension to the NFIP at the beginning of September in order to provide Congress additional time to establish a long-term financial solution for the program. The 21st Century Flood Reform Act (H.R. 2874) is designed to better facilitate compliance and clarify guidance for lenders and borrowers, and will, among other things, (i) change annual limits on premium increases for insurance obtained through the NFIP; (ii) require FEMA to consider the differences in flood risk between coastal and inland flood hazards when establishing premium rates; (iii) require FEMA to clearly communicate to policyholders the full flood risk to, and flood claims history of their property, and the effect of filing any additional claims; (iv) allow private insurers to continue selling policies on behalf of the NFIP, while also being allowed to sell their own private flood coverage; (v) revise federal flood mapping requirements, establish premium rates based on applicable flood insurance rate maps, and revise and clarify aspects of the appeals process; (vi) amend the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 to clarify the time periods within which communities may consult with FEMA regarding mapping changes and submit data for consideration by the agency; (vii) revise the Flood Mitigation Assistance program to provide assistance for additional multiple loss properties; and (viii) amend the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 to increase penalties against lenders and GSEs for violations of the mandatory purchase requirement from $2,000 to a maximum of $5,000 per violation.

    H.R. 2874 now heads to the Senate.

    Federal Issues U.S. House Flood Insurance National Flood Insurance Program Federal Legislation Disaster Relief Trump

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  • 50-State Class Action Complaint Filed Against Credit Reporting Company in Response to September Data Breach Announcement

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On November 10, plaintiffs, and the members of the class and subclasses they seek to represent, filed a complaint in the Northern District of Georgia against a major credit reporting company, consolidating individual suits filed against the company since September in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs allege that the company’s data breach (covered previously in InfoBytes)—in which hackers exploited a website application vulnerability to access names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, as well as roughly 209,000 credit card numbers—has led to, among other things, identity theft, unauthorized credit and debit card charges, and applications for unauthorized student loans.

    The complaint alleges a series of missteps by the company before, during, and after the breach, including: (i) not applying a recommended security patch; (ii) failing to recognize the breach for over three months; (iii) not warning consumers for another month after discovering the breach, thus preventing timely credit freezes or other protection methods; (iv) sending confusing emails and notices to consumers about whose data was compromised and how to protect themselves after the breach; and (v) creating confusion as to whether an arbitration clause included in the terms of service for the company’s credit monitoring website would apply to consumers using the service.

    The plaintiffs seek, among other things, class certification; permanent injunctive relief; disgorgement and restitutions of earnings; compensatory, consequential, general, statutory, and punitive damages; declaratory relief; and attorneys’ fees.

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Data Breach Consumer Finance Class Action State Issues

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  • SEC Reaches $3.5 Million Settlement With Broker-Dealer Over Failure to File Suspicious Activity Reports

    Securities

    On November 13, the SEC announced it has reached a settlement in an administrative proceeding against a broker-dealer firm for allegedly willful violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act, including the firm’s failure to file, or timely file, at least 50 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) with the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN) from approximately March 2012 through June 2013. As the SEC Order notes, Bank Secrecy Act regulations require a broker-dealer to file a SAR if it knows, suspects or has reason to suspect that a transaction of a certain minimum or aggregated amount involved funds derived from illegal activity or if the transaction was conducted to disguise funds derived from illegal activities. Other factors requiring a broker-dealer to file a SAR include the absence of any business or apparent lawful purpose for the transaction or if the transaction is to facilitate criminal activity.

    When deciding whether to accept the firm’s settlement offer, the SEC considered voluntary remedial efforts undertaken by the firm, including the fact that the firm retained a third-party anti-money laundering (AML) compliance company to conduct a review of some of the firm’s SAR investigations. Under the terms of the settlement, the firm voluntarily agreed to, among other things, conduct a review of its AML policies and procedures for the identification, evaluation and reporting of suspicious activity related to firm accounts; and provide additional training to staff responsible for conducting investigations and filing SARs. Additionally, the firm was assessed a civil money penalty of $3.5 million.

    Securities Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering SARs Enforcement FinCEN

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  • OFAC Sanctions Ten Additional Venezuelan Officials Connected to Venezuela’s Electoral Process

    Financial Crimes

    On November 9, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against ten current or former officials of the government of Venezuela for “undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela.”  The designation follows October 15, 2017 state elections in Venezuela, which were “marked by numerous irregularities that strongly suggest fraud helped the ruling party unexpectedly win a majority of governorships.”  Under the sanctions, issued pursuant to Executive Order 13692 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), all assets belonging to the identified individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from having any dealings with them.

    See additional InfoBytes coverage on previously issued Venezuelan sanctions here and here.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions

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  • CFPB Urges Supreme Court to Reject Tribal Lenders' Petition

    Courts

    On November 9, the CFPB filed a brief with the Supreme Court opposing the petition for a writ of certiorari submitted by online tribal lending entities.  The lenders are challenging a January decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered the entities to comply with a CFPB investigation (previously covered by Infobytes). The litigation stems from the issuance of a civil investigative demand (CID) by the CFPB to online lending entities owned by Native American tribes. The entities argue that due to tribal sovereignty, the CFPB does not have jurisdiction over the small-dollar lending services in question. The district court and the Ninth Circuit concluded that the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) did not expressly exclude tribes from the CFPB’s enforcement authority and therefore, the entities cannot claim tribal sovereign immunity.

    In its brief opposing the certiorari petition, the CFPB argues that the Ninth Circuit’s holding does not conflict with any prior Supreme Court or court of appeals decision, making further review unwarranted. The CFPB also argues, among other things, that Supreme Court review is unnecessary because “[t]he question at this juncture is solely whether the Bureau may obtain information from petitioners pursuant to a CID,” not “whether petitioners are subject to the Bureau’s regulatory authority.” 

    Courts CFPB Payday Lending Consumer Lending U.S. Supreme Court Appellate Ninth Circuit

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  • CFPB Publishes Two RFIs Concerning Free Access to Credit Scores

    Consumer Finance

    On November 13, the CFPB’s Office of Financial Education (OFE) published two requests for information (RFI) in the Federal Register concerning free access to credit scores. The first RFI requests information related to (i) consumers’ experience when accessing free credit scores, and (ii) the experience of companies and nonprofits when offering free access to credit scores to their customers and the general public. The Bureau plans to use the information gathered through the RFI to, among other things, “identify educational content that is providing the most value to consumers, and additional educational content that the Bureau or others could develop to increase consumers’ understanding of credit scores and credit reports.” Comments must be received by February 12, 2018.

    The second RFI requests information on companies that provide existing customers free access to a credit score.  This information will be used to update OFE’s March 2017 list of companies that offer this service. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Following its update to the list, the CFPB intends to publish information “to educate consumers about the availability of credit scores and credit reports and how this information can be used effectively.” Comments must be received by January 12, 2018.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Credit Scores Federal Register

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  • DOJ Sues Washington State Company for Alleged SCRA Violations

    Consumer Finance

    On November 9, the DOJ filed a complaint in the Western District of Washington against a Washington company for allegedly foreclosing on servicemembers’ homes in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). According to the DOJ’s complaint, its investigation uncovered at least 28 unlawful non-judicial foreclosures. In addition to a declaration that the company violated the SCRA, the DOJ is seeking monetary damages, a civil penalty, and injunctive relief.

    The allegations stem from an investigation the DOJ initiated into the company’s foreclosure practices following the same court’s dismissal of a private SCRA action brought by a veteran on the ground that it was time-barred. Prior to the DOJ initiating the investigation, the veteran appealed the dismissal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The DOJ filed an amicus brief in that appeal, arguing that private SCRA suits are governed by the four-year federal catch-all statute of limitations.

    Consumer Finance DOJ SCRA Foreclosure Mortgages

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