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  • Mortgage Servicer Agrees to Pay $45 Million in Nationwide Settlement

    State Issues

    On January 3, a mortgage servicer entered into a $45 million settlement with 49 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia for alleged mortgage servicing delinquencies. The settlement resolves a complaint, filed on the same day in the D.C. District Court, that alleges that between 2009 and 2012 the servicer, among other things, failed to (i) timely and accurately apply payments; (ii) maintain proper documentation to establish standing for foreclosure; (iii) respond to borrower complaints and reasonable requests for assistance; (iv) properly process loan modification applications; and (v) properly oversee third party vendors responsible for foreclosure operations. The $45 million settlement payment includes $30.4 million in restitution to homeowners; $5 million in attorney’s fees and investigative costs and fees payable to the state attorneys general whose offices led the investigation; and almost $9 million in administrative penalties to state mortgage regulators. In addition to the settlement payments, the settlement also requires the mortgage servicer to comply with a set of “Servicing Standards” outlined in the consent judgment and to submit quarterly reports to the state attorneys general Executive Committee for a period of three years.

    In response to the settlement, the mortgage servicer stated that it admits no wrongdoing and is currently using the adopted new Servicing Standards. 

    State Issues State AG Mortgage Servicing Mortgages

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  • Ninth Circuit Rules Banning Credit Card Surcharges Violates First Amendment

    Courts

    On January 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion affirming a district court decision that a California law banning credit card surcharges violated the First Amendment because it was an unconstitutional restriction of speech and unconstitutionally vague. California Civil Code Section 1748.1(a) prohibits retailers from imposing surcharges on customers who pay with credit cards, but allows businesses to offer discounts for cash or debit card payments. In 2014, plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the law, and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and permanently enjoined its enforcement, holding that the statute violated the First Amendment because it amounted to “a content-based restriction on commercial speech rather than an economic regulation.” The California Attorney General's Office appealed.

    The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court decision, finding that California Civil Code Section 1748.1(a) could not withstand intermediate scrutiny because (i) the plaintiffs’ speech was not misleading, (ii) Section 1748.1(a) failed to promote California’s interest in protecting consumers from deception, and (iii) Section 1748.1(a) was more extensive than necessary to achieve California’s stated interest for the regulation. Though the panel affirmed the district court’s ruling, it also modified the district court’s injunction to apply only to the plaintiffs, and only with respect to the specific pricing practice they seek to employ.

    See previous InfoBytes coverage here on court decisions regarding credit card surcharges

    Courts Ninth Circuit Credit Cards

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  • Ninth Circuit Denies Arbitration, Lacks Jurisdiction to Review Anti-SLAPP Motion

    Courts

    On December 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion affirming the district court’s decision to deny the defendants’ request to compel arbitration against plaintiffs who elected to participate in the defendants’ administration of California’s “Bad Check Diversion Program” (BCD Program). The order is the result of two consolidated appeals from separate district court orders related to a putative class action lawsuit claiming that the defendants violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and California Unfair Competition Law in their administration of the BCD Program. The BCD Program, administered by private entities in agreement with a local district attorney, provides consumers accused of writing bad checks the opportunity for deferred prosecution. Under the BCD Program, the defendants sent notices on official district attorney letterhead offering the plaintiffs the chance to avoid criminal prosecution under California’s bad check statute if they participated in the BCD Program and paid specified fees. The notices also included an arbitration clause. In the class action lawsuit, plaintiffs alleged that defendants violated the law by misleading plaintiffs into thinking law enforcement sent the letters and by allegedly including false threats in the letters that implied that failure to pay would result in arrest or imprisonment.

    In response to the lawsuit, defendants filed a motion under California’s Anti-SLAPP law, which protects defendants from strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), to strike the plaintiffs’ state law claims as well as a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration clause in the notices. With respect to the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, the panel opined that the BCD Program is not subject to Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) provisions because it is “an agreement between a criminal suspect and the local authorities about how to resolve a potential state-law criminal violation” rather than a “private or commercial contract.” In response to the defendants’ Anti-SLAPP motion, the appellate panel concluded that it “lacked jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial of defendants’ Anti-SLAPP motion because, under the terms of the state statute, such a denial in a case deemed [by the lower court] to be filed in the public interest is not immediately appealable.”

    The panel remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

    Courts Ninth Circuit Arbitration FDCPA

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  • District Court Allows Government to Intervene in False Claims Act Litigation

    Courts

    On January 3, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted the U.S. Government’s motion to intervene in a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit against a national bank. The lawsuit, filed by a foreclosure attorney and relator, alleges that the national bank submitted false claims in violation of the FCA in two ways. First, the lawsuit alleges that the national bank knowingly used rubber-stamped surrogate signed endorsements and false mortgage assignments to support false claims for mortgage insurance from FHA. Second, the lawsuit asserts a reverse FCA claim alleging that the national bank made false statements when entering into the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement. On December 21, the U.S. Government requested to intervene to assist in “effectuating and formalizing” a proposed settlement between the relator and the national bank that would resolve the matter.

    Courts False Claims Act / FIRREA Mortgage Servicing Mortgages Foreclosure National Mortgage Servicing Settlement

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  • VA Clarifies Third-Party Verification Requirements

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On December 29, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-17-43 to clarify its policy that lenders may use third-party vendors to verify borrower income, employment, and asset information subject to the following caveats: (i) lenders must retain full responsibility for verifying the accuracy of information provided in the borrower’s loan application; (ii) lenders must initiate and receive all verifications related to employment and deposits, credit report requests, and credit information; (iii) lenders must assume responsibility for the quality and accuracy of information provided to the VA collected from third-parties; (iv) lenders must disclose the third party vendor relationships on VA form 26-1820, Report and Certification of Loan Disbursement, and (v) lenders must not charge veterans for the cost of obtaining third-party verification of borrower income, employment, or asset information. Where a real estate broker/agent or any other party requests borrower income, employment, or asset information, lenders must (i) identify the parties as their agents, (ii) ensure that report(s) are returned directly to them, and (iii) ensure completion of the required certification on the loan application. 

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Department of Veterans Affairs Third-Party Underwriting

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  • FDIC Fines Puerto Rican Bank for Flood Insurance Violations, Releases November Enforcement Actions

    Federal Issues

    On December 29, the FDIC released a list of 29 administrative enforcement action orders taken against banks and individuals in November, as well as one termination order issued in October. The FDIC assessed a $153,000 civil money penalty against a Puerto Rican bank, citing 321 violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act (FDPA) and the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA) for (i) failing to notify borrowers that they were required to purchase flood insurance; and (ii) failing to obtain flood insurance on a borrower’s behalf in a timely fashion for those borrowers who failed to obtain insurance within 45 days after receiving notification. A second civil money penalty was issued against an Ohio-based bank for allegedly engaging in a pattern of violating requirements under the FDPA and NFIA, including by failing to obtain flood insurance at the time of origination.

    Also on the list are consent orders issued against two banks related to unsafe or unsound banking practices, four Section 19 orders allowing applicants to participate in the affairs of an insured depository institution after having demonstrated “satisfactory evidence of rehabilitation,” five terminations of consent orders, and two adjudicated decisions, among others.

    There are no administrative hearings scheduled for January 2018. The FDIC database containing all 30 enforcement decisions and orders may be accessed here.

    Federal Issues Flood Insurance FDIC Enforcement

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  • International Bank Settles With California AG for $125 Million for RMBS Misrepresentations

    State Issues

    On December 22, the California Attorney General announced a $125 million settlement with an international bank to resolve allegations of misrepresentations while selling residential mortgage-backed securities to California’s public employee and teacher pension funds. According to Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office, an investigation found that descriptions of the RMBS “failed to accurately disclose the true characteristics of many of the underlying mortgages” to the state investors. Additionally, the international bank allegedly failed to adequately perform due diligence checks to remove poor quality loans from the investment pool, leading to millions of dollars of loss to the pension funds.

    State Issues State AG RMBS Settlement Mortgages

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  • NYDFS Orders Korean Bank to Pay $11 Million Civil Money Penalty for BSA/AML Compliance Deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On December 21, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) entered into a consent order with a Korean bank and its New York branch to resolve issues regarding alleged deficiencies in the branch’s Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) compliance and risk management. The alleged deficiencies were discovered during three examinations between 2014-2016 by NYDFS and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. According to the consent order, among other things, the branch failed to maintain adequate transaction monitoring and suspicious activity reporting (SAR), lacked compliance staff with proper BSA/AML background experience, and lacked adequate BSA/AML and OFAC risk assessments.

    The Korean bank and its branch are required to pay an $11 million civil money penalty, and in addition must submit the following documentation (i) a BSA/AML compliance program; (ii) a customer due-diligence program; (iii) a SAR program; (iv) a revised internal audit program; and (v) a plan to enhance oversight of the branch’s BSA/AML compliance requirements. The Korean bank and branch are also required to submit quarterly reports for two years with updates on the branch’s compliance progress.

    Financial Crimes NYDFS Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering SARs Settlement

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  • FINRA Fines Brokerage Firm $2.8 Million for Customer Protection Rule Violations

    Securities

    On December 27, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it fined a New York-based brokerage firm $2.8 million based on allegations that the firm violated the SEC’s Customer Protection Rule and due to other related supervisory failures. According to the Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC), from March 2008 to June 2016, the firm did not have reasonable processes in place to ensure that its control systems were operating properly.  As a result of these design flaws, the firm failed to properly segregate customers’ foreign and domestic securities in appropriate control locations, leading to deficits in securities valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.” The firm neither admitted nor denied the findings set forth in the AWC agreement.

    Securities FINRA Enforcement SEC

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  • Ohio Governor Signs Residential Mortgage Lending Act

    Lending

    On December 22, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed legislation enacting amendments to the state’s residential mortgage lending act. HB 199, among other things, (i) updates certain definitions, such as modifying the definition of “nationwide mortgage licensing system and registry” to broadly include “persons providing non-depository financial services”; (ii) provides limits on the application of the current law to “unsecured loans and loans secured by other than residential real estate”; and (iii) updates requirements for applicants registering for mortgage loan originator licenses. The amended act becomes effective 90 days after being signed into law.

    Lending State Issues State Legislation Mortgage Lenders Mortgages Debt Collection

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