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  • Buckley Sandler Insights: Fed's LFI Risk Management Principles Open for Comments

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On January 4, the Federal Reserve (Fed) issued for public comment proposed guidance setting forth core principles of effective risk management for Large Financial Institutions (“LFI”s) (“Risk Management proposal”). Given that it is increasingly likely that Congress will release financial institutions with assets below $250 billion from “SIFI” designation, the Fed’s guidance yesterday is a further effort to ensure that risk at LFIs will continue to be managed well even after many of them are no longer subject to other SIFI obligations. The proposal would apply to domestic bank holding companies and savings and loan holding companies with total consolidated assets of $50 billion or more; the U.S. operations of foreign banking organizations (“FBOs”) with combined U.S. assets of $50 billion or more; and any state member bank subsidiary of these institutions. The proposal would also apply to any systemically important nonbank financial company designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“FSOC”) for Fed supervision. The proposed guidance clarifies the Fed’s supervisory expectations of these institutions’ core principals with respect to effective senior management; the management of business lines; and independent risk management (“IRM”) and controls.

    The Risk Management proposal is part of the Fed’s broader initiative to develop a supervisory rating system and related guidance that would align its consolidated supervisory framework for LFIs. Last August, the Fed issued for public comment two related proposals: a new rating system for LFIs (“proposed LFI rating system”) and guidance addressing supervisory expectations for board directors (“Board Expectations proposal”). (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the proposals.) The proposed LFI rating system is designed to evaluate LFIs on whether they possess sufficient financial and operational strength and resilience to maintain safe and sound operations through a range of conditions. With regard to the Board Expectations proposal, the January 4 proposal establishes supervisory expectations relevant to the assessment of a firm’s governance and controls, which consists of three chief components: (i) effectiveness of a firm’s board of directors, (ii) management of business lines, independent risk management and controls, and (iii) recovery planning. This guidance sets forth the Fed’s expectations for LFIs with respect to the second component—the management of business lines and IRM and controls, and builds on previous supervisory guidance. In general, the proposal “is intended to consolidate and clarify the [Fed’s] existing supervisory expectations regarding risk management.”

    The January 4 release delineates the roles and responsibilities for individuals and functions related to risk management. Accordingly, it is organized in three parts: (i) core principals of effective senior management; (ii) core principals of the management of business lines; and (iii) core principles of IRM and controls.

    Senior Management

    The Risk Management proposal defines senior management as “the core group of individuals directly accountable to the board of directors for the sound and prudent day-to-day management of the firm.” Two key responsibilities of senior management are overseeing the activities of the firm’s business lines and the firm’s IRM and system of internal control. The proposed guidance highlights the principle that: Senior management is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the firm and ensuring safety and soundness and compliance with internal policies and procedures, laws and regulations, including those related to consumer protection.

    Management of Business Lines

    The proposal refers to “business line management” as the core group of individuals responsible for prudent day-to-day management of a business line and accountable to senior management for that responsibility. For LFIs that are not subject to supervision by the Large Institution Supervision Coordinating Committee (“LISCC”) these expectations would apply to any business line where a significant control disruption, failure, or loss event could result in a material loss of revenue, profit, or franchise value, or result in significant consumer harm.

    A firm’s business line management should:

    • Execute business line activities consistent with the firm’s strategy and risk tolerance.
    • Identify, measure, and manage the risks associated with the business activities under a broad range of conditions, incorporating input from IRM.
    • Provide a business line with the resources and infrastructure sufficient to manage the business line’s activities in a safe and sound manner, and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including those related to consumer protection, as well as policies, procedures, and limits.
    • Ensure that the internal control system is effective for the business line operations.
    • Be held accountable, with business line staff, for operating within established policies and guidelines, and acting in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and supervisory guidance, including those related to consumer protection.

    Independent Risk Management and Controls

    The Risk Management proposal describes core principles of a firm’s independent risk management function, system of internal control, and internal audit function. The guidance does not prescribe in detail the governance structure for a firm’s IRM and controls. While the guidance does not dictate specifics regarding governance structure, it does set forth requirements with respect to the roles of the Chief Risk Officer and Chief Audit Executive:

    • The CRO should establish and maintain IRM that is appropriate for the size, complexity, and risk profile of the firm.
    • The Chief Audit Executive should have clear roles and responsibilities to establish and maintain an internal audit function that is appropriate for the size, complexity and risk profile of the firm.

    The proposal requires that a firm’s IRM function be sufficient to provide an objective, critical assessment of risks and evaluates whether a firm remains aligned with its stated risk tolerance. Specifically, a firm’s IRM function should:

    • Evaluate whether the firm’s risk tolerance appropriately captures the firm’s material risks and confirm that the risk tolerance is consistent with the capacity of the risk management framework.
    • Establish enterprise-wide risk limits consistent with the firm’s risk tolerance and monitor adherence to such limits.
    • Identify and measure the firm’s risks.
    • Aggregate risks and provide an independent assessment of the firm’s risk profile.
    • Provide the board and senior management with risk reports that accurately and concisely convey relevant, material risk data and assessments in a timely manner.

    With regard to internal controls, the proposed guidance builds upon the expectations described in the Fed’s Supervisory Letter 12-17. A firm should have a system of internal control to guide practices, provide appropriate checks and balances, and confirm quality of operations. In particular, the guidance states that a firm should:

    • Identify its system of internal control and demonstrate that it is commensurate with the firm’s size, scope of operations, activities, risk profile, strategy, and risk tolerance, and consistent with all applicable laws and regulations, including those related to consumer protection.
    • Regularly evaluate and test the effectiveness of internal controls, and monitor functioning of controls so that deficiencies are identified and communicated in a timely manner.

    With respect to internal audit, the proposed guidance does not expand upon the Fed’s expectations; rather it references existing supervisory expectations. The proposed guidance highlights that a firm should adhere to the underlying principle that its internal audit function should examine, evaluate, and perform independent assessments of the firm’s risk management and internal control systems and report findings to senior management and the firm’s audit committee.

    Comments on the Fed’s proposed guidance are due by March 15.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve Risk Management LFI SIFIs Bank Regulatory Bank Supervision

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  • Singapore-Based Shipyard Operator Agrees to $422 Million Penalty to Resolve Foreign Bribery Case

    Financial Crimes

    On December 22, 2017, Singapore-based shipyard operator and shipping vessel repair company, and its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, agreed to pay a combined total penalty of $422 million to resolve foreign bribery charges by the DOJ. Authorities in the United States, Brazil, and Singapore alleged that the companies engaged in a decade-long scheme to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Brazil, including those of a state-owned oil company. As part of the resolution, the company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement while its U.S. subsidiary pleaded guilty, as did a former senior member of the company’s legal department. The settlement is one of the largest FCPA enforcement penalties and also represents DOJ’s first coordinated FCPA resolution with Singapore. The settlement represents a 25 percent reduction off the bottom of the applicable U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range due to substantial cooperation by the companies with the investigation and the taking of remedial measures, including disciplining employees and implementing an enhanced compliance system. 

    Financial Crimes FCPA Enforcement Action DOJ Bribery FCPA

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  • $2.95 Billion Settlement Reached in Brazilian Multinational Corporation Class Action

    Financial Crimes

    On January 3, 2018, a Brazilian multinational corporation announced that it has agreed to pay $2.95 billion to resolve the securities class action pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York regarding the company’s well-known corruption scandal in Brazil. The class action claimed that investors were harmed by alleged corruption when contractors overcharged the company and kicked back some of the overcharges through bribes to the company's officials. Under the proposed settlement, the company has agreed to pay the funds in three installments. The agreement does not constitute any admission of wrongdoing or misconduct by the company and the company claims that this reflects its status as a victim of the acts uncovered in Operation Car Wash, as the corruption investigation in Brazil is known. The settlement agreement is still subject to approval by the District Court.

    Past ScoreCard coverage related to the corruption allegations and investigation can be found here

    Financial Crimes Anti-Corruption

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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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