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  • OCC, Fed Supervisory Guidance on Model Risk Management Followed by FDIC

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 7, the FDIC issued Financial Institution Letter FIL-22-2017 announcing that, in order to provide consistency across institutions and agencies, it is adopting the 2011 model risk management supervisory guidance that was issued by the Federal Reserve (SR 11-7 ) and the OCC (OCC Bulletin 2011-12) thereby making the guidance applicable to certain FDIC-supervised institutions, namely those with $1 billion or more in total assets. The FDIC guidance defines the term “model” as “a quantitative method, system, or approach that applies statistical, economic, financial, or mathematical theories, techniques, and assumptions to process input data into quantitative estimates.” The FDIC indicated that banks’ heavy reliance on models in financial decision-making can come with costs, especially when the decisions are “based on models that are incorrect or misused.”

    According to the FIL, the guidance contains “technical conforming changes” that make it relevant to institutions that are regulated by the FDIC, such as a “revised definition of 'banks' to reflect the FDIC's supervisory authority.”

    Among other things, the FIL highlights that an effective model risk management framework should include the following:

    • “disciplined and knowledgeable development that is well documented and conceptually sound”;
    • “controls to ensure proper implementation”;
    • “processes to ensure correct and appropriate use”;
    • “effective validation processes”; and
    • “strong governance, policies, and controls.”

    For institutions with assets totaling less than $1 billion, the guidance will only apply in certain circumstances, such as when “the institution's model use is significant, complex, or poses elevated risk to the institution.”

    Agency Rulemaking & Guidance FDIC Risk Management OCC Federal Reserve Bank Supervision

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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 Announces Settlement with Operators of Tech Support Scam

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On June 7, the FTC announced two settlements in a pending action brought against defendants who allegedly used pop-up internet ads to deceive consumers into believing their computers were infected and then sold unnecessary technical support services to fix the issues. Under the terms of the settlements (available here and here), the defendants (i) will relinquish assets combined at nearly $6 million to provide restitution to victims, and (ii) are banned from marketing, promoting, or misrepresenting technical support products or services in the future. The settlement is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to pursue tech support scams through its Operation Tech Trap initiative. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security FTC Enforcement Settlement Securities Litigation

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  • House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Holds Hearing to Discuss Consumer Fintech Needs

    Federal Issues

    On June 8, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection held a hearing to discuss financial products and services offered by the fintech industry to meet consumer needs. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) opened the hearing asserting, “There are serious opportunities for companies to reach consumers with new products to help them create a rainy-day fund for the first time, pay their mortgage securely, rebuild their credit, budget and manage multiple income streams, and invest their earnings . . . Cybersecurity [specifically] is an ongoing challenge, and one the Energy and Commerce Committee is tackling head on.” The June 8 hearing included testimony and recommendations from the following witnesses:

    • Ms. Jeanne Hogarth, Vice President at Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) (statement). Hogarth stated that nearly three out of five American face financial health struggles and spoke about challenges fintech entrepreneurs may face when trying to help consumers, such as (i) “facilitat[ing] interstate and regulatory comity that enables consumers to access and use fintech products and service that promote financial health”; (ii) “support[ing] consumers’ access to their own data”; and (iii) “creat[ing] opportunities for pilot testing of both financial products and services and financial services regulations.” Hogath also detailed CFSI’s Financial Solutions Lab, which identifies financial health challenges faced by consumers and encourages companies to develop ways to address these issues.
    • Mr. Javier Saade, Managing Director at Fenway Summer Ventures (statement). Saade—whose venture capital firm backs emerging fintech companies—stressed the importance of understanding and mitigating associated risks as financial innovation continues to expand. Growth is supported and encouraged, he noted, provided entrepreneurs understand that the “’fail fast and often’ approach, typical of tech-driven startups in other sectors, may not be well suited for the financial services industry.” Furthermore, Saade stated that because “nearly 30 million U.S. households either have no access to financial products or obtain products outside of the banking system . . . even modest strides in achieving economic inclusion present the single largest addressable opportunity in fintech.”
    • Ms. Christina Tetreault, Staff Attorney at Consumer Union (statement). Tetreault, speaking on behalf of Consumer Union (the policy division of Consumer Reports), stated that while financial technology such as virtual currencies, digital cash, and distributed ledgers have the “potential to increase consumer access to safe financial products and return a measure of control to consumers,” safeguards devised between lawmakers and providers must be implemented with appropriate federal and state financial regulator oversight.
    • Mr. Peter Van Valkenburgh, Research Director at Coin Center (statement). Coin Center is a non-profit organization, which focuses on “public policy ramifications of digital currencies and open blockchain networks.” Van Valkenburgh emphasized the need for Congress to (i) create a nationwide federal money transmission license as an alternative to “state by state licensing,” which, in his opinion, emphasizes the needs of individual states rather than addressing the health and risk profile as a whole; and (ii) create a federal safe harbor to “protect Americans developing open blockchain infrastructure.” Van Valkenburgh also encouraged the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to establish federal “fintech charters” to promote a unified approach to regulating blockchain companies.

    Federal Issues Fintech OCC House Energy and Commerce Committee Blockchain Digital Commerce Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • FINRA Announces Fintech Outreach Initiative, Hosts Blockchain Symposium in July

    FinTech

    On June 13, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced a new outreach initiative to improve its understanding of fintech innovations and how they impact the securities industry. The Innovation Outreach Initiative will consist of the following components:

    • the launch of FINRA’s new webpage dedicated to fintech topics such as RegTech (covering compliance monitoring, fraud prevention, data management, and the identification and interpretation of regulations affecting the securities industry), artificial intelligence, and social media sentiment investing; and
    • the creation of a cross-departmental team led by the Office of Emerging Regulatory Issues developed to, among other things, foster discussion on fintech developments, develop publications on fintech topics, and increase collaboration with domestic and international regulators.

    Additionally, FINRA announced it will host a Blockchain Symposium in New York City on July 13 to create an opportunity for regulators and industry leaders to join together and discuss opportunities and challenges related to the use of Distributed Ledger Technology, also known as blockchain.

    Fintech Securities FINRA SEC Blockchain

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  • Vermont Governor Enacts Law Including Blockchain Application

    FinTech

    On June 8, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed into law legislation (S. 135), which would, among other things, allow for broader business and legal application of blockchain technology to promote economic development. Additionally, S. 135 requires the Center for Legal Innovation at Vermont Law School, the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, the Secretary of Commerce and Community Development, and the Vermont Attorney General to prepare a joint report for the General Assembly on “findings and recommendations,” as well as policy proposals and “measurable goals and outcomes” concerning “potential opportunities and risks presented by developments in financial technology.” The new law follows the passage of House Bill 868 last June, which defined blockchain as “a mathematically secured, chronological, and decentralized consensus ledger or database,” and formally recognized blockchain-notarized documents as having legal bearing in a court of law.

    As previously reported in InfoBytes, Arizona recently enacted a similar law (AZ H.B. 2417) recognizing blockchain signatures and smart contracts under state law.

    Fintech Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security State AG State Legislation Blockchain

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  • OFAC Updates: New Sanction Designations and Additions to Specially Designated Nationals List

    Financial Crimes

    Recently, OFAC announced implementation of sanctions against several entities and individuals designated for, among others, materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial support to certain foreign entities. In addition, OFAC updated its list of Specially Designed Nations (SDN) and announced a settlement agreement with a Canadian-based motor vehicle finance company.

    North Korea Suppliers of Weapons Proliferation Programs. On June 1, OFAC announced it was taking action against six entities and three individuals in response to their involvement in North Korea’s continued efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The announcement targets the country’s military, nuclear, and WMD programs, in addition to its overseas financial operations. The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with the designees, and further states that “any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked.” John E. Smith, the Director of OFAC, stated, “Treasury is working with our allies to counter networks that enable North Korea’s destabilizing activities, and we urge our partners to take parallel steps to cut off their funding sources.” These sanctions are in addition to those imposed earlier in April on eleven North Koreans and one associated entity (see previous InfoBytes coverage here).

    Iraq-Based Chemical Weapons Developers. On June 12, OFAC announced, for the first time, designations against individuals involved in the development of ISIS’ chemical weapons. The sanctions were pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism.” The property and interests in property of the two individuals identified in the designations, subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked, and “U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”

    Settlement Agreement with Motor Vehicle Finance Company. On June 8, OFAC announced it had reached a settlement with a motor vehicle finance company as a result of transactions by its Canadian based subsidiary. The enforcement action claims the majority-owned subsidiary, which “specializes in various forms of financing in the [U.S.] for purchasers, lessees, and authorized independent [auto] dealers,”—between 2011 and 2014—allegedly violated 13 Cuban Assets Control Regulations by leasing vehicles to the Cuban Embassy in violation of OFAC’s Blocked Persons and SDN list, which prohibited transactions with Cuban government entities. The company voluntarily self-disclosed the alleged violations and agreed to remit $87,255 to settle its potential civil liability.

    Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions. On May 24 and 25, OFAC made additions to the SDN list, which designates individuals and companies who are prohibited from dealing with the U.S. and whose assets are blocked. Transactions are prohibited if they involve transferring, paying, exporting, or otherwise dealing in the property or interest in property of an entity or individual on the SDN list. Additions to the list were made under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations against several Mexican and Colombian individuals and entities.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Treasury Department Enforcement Auto Finance

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  • CFPB Releases Study on Credit Visible Consumers

    Consumer Finance

    On June 7, the CFPB published analysis of how consumers transition out of credit invisibility. “Credit invisibility” refers to an individual who lacks a credit record at any of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. The report, entitled CFPB Data Point: Becoming Credit Visible, highlights the results of its latest study of the credit reporting industry, finding that consumers in low-income areas are more likely to gain credit visibility in negative ways such as through an account in collection or some form of public record. In a previous study, the CFPB estimated approximately 26 million Americans were credit invisible with an additional 19 million consumers having “unscorable” credit files—i.e. files that contain insufficient or too brief credit history. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Without such a record, lenders find it more difficult to assess a consumer’s creditworthiness, resulting in credit invisible individuals having a harder time accessing credit.

    The report notes that credit invisibility can present a “Catch-22” scenario, whereby a consumer needs credit history to get access to credit but cannot establish a credit history without first being extended credit. However, the report concludes that because 91 percent of consumers acquire a credit record before turning 30, it is possible to avoid a “Catch-22” situation.

    The Bureau highlighted the following key findings:

    • Most consumers – almost 80 percent – become credit visible before age 25, but Consumers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are likely to be older when they establish a credit history.
    • Members of all age groups and income levels most commonly use credit cards to establish credit history, with student loans ranking second.
    • Approximately 1-in-4 consumers first establish credit history through an account either held by another responsible party—i.e. becoming an “authorized user”—or with a co-borrower. This trend is more common among higher-income groups.
    • Consumers in lower-income neighborhoods, however, are more likely to establish a credit history through “non-loan items,” which usually convey negative information (e.g., third-party collections, delinquent utility bills, child support payments, etc.).
    • In recent years, more consumers create a credit history using a credit card, except within the under 25 age group. The report attributed the trend in the under 25 age group to a number of factors including increased student loans and the restrictions of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which made credit cards less available to young consumers.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Credit Rating Agencies Credit Scores

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  • Charges Filed by SEC Allege Bank Secrecy Act Violations

    Financial Crimes

    On June 5, the SEC filed charges against a U.S. brokerage firm (firm) for failure to comply with suspicious activity reports (SARs) filing requirements, in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), the Exchange Act Section 17(a), and Rule 17a-8. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that although the firm had a BSA Compliance Program, the program did not accurately reflect what the firm did in practice. More specifically, the SEC alleges thousands of violations including failure to file SARs, failure to file SARs within the required 30 days after the date the suspicious activity was detected, and filing incomplete SARs that did not include the requisite narratives describing what is “unusual, irregular, or suspicious” about the transaction. According to the SEC press release, “by failing to file SARs, [the firm] deprived regulators and law enforcement of critically important information often related to trades in microcap securities used to investigate potentially serious misconduct.”

    The SEC requested relief in the form of permanent injunctions and monetary penalties and interest.

    Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering SEC SARs Litigation Bank Secrecy Act Securities

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  • Attorney General Sessions Issues Memorandum Ending Payments to Third-Party Organizations as Part of Future Settlement Agreements

    Courts

    On June 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum entitled “Prohibition on Settlement Payments to Third Parties” instructing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to cease entering into settlement agreements that include payments to third-party organizations. Attorney General Sessions stated in a press release released by the DOJ, “[w]hen the federal government settles a case against a corporate wrongdoer, any settlement funds should go first to the victims and then to the American people—not to bankroll third-party special interest groups or the political friends of whoever is in power.”

    Summary of Memorandum. The memorandum, which became effective immediately and applies to future settlements, notes that previous settlement agreements involving the DOJ required “payments to various non-governmental, third-party organizations . . . [that] were neither victims nor parties to the lawsuits.” The memorandum now states that DOJ “attorneys may not enter into any agreement on behalf of the United States in settlement of federal claims or charges . . . that directs or provides for a payment or loan to any non-governmental person or entity that is not a party to the dispute.” The following are “limited” exceptions:

    • “the policy does not apply to an otherwise lawful payment or loan that provides restitution to a victim or that otherwise directly remedies the harm that is sought to be redressed, including, for example, harm to the environment or from official corruption”;
    • “the policy does not apply to payments for legal or other professional services rendered in connection with the case”; and
    • “the policy does not apply to payments expressly authorized by statute, including restitution and forfeiture.”

    The memorandum states that it applies to “all civil and criminal cases litigated under the direction of the Attorney General and includes civil settlement agreements, cy pres agreements or provisions, plea agreements, non-prosecution agreements, and deferred prosecution agreements.”

    Courts DOJ Securities SEC Disgorgement Appellate Litigation Settlement

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