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  • Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae release updates to servicing guides

    Federal Issues

    On June 13, Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2018-9, which among other things, updates servicer requirements for short-term, long-term, and unemployment forbearance plans and consolidates the offerings into a single plan. Effective December 1, the streamlined plan will allow servicers to approve forbearance plans lasting up to six months without requiring eligible borrowers to submit a Borrower Response Package. Servicers may also offer consecutive forbearance plans that do not exceed 12 months in total to qualifying borrowers. Separately, the Bulletin includes the introduction of Freddie Mac’s NextJob re-employment services company designed to serve high-needs areas and provide job search skills and training for unemployed or underemployed borrowers who have requested loss mitigation assistance.

    On the same day, Fannie Mae updated its Servicing Guide to consolidate and simplify its forbearance policies into a single plan, and encouraged servicers to implement the changes immediately, but no later than December 1. Fannie Mae clarified, however, that forbearance plans “entered into prior to the servicer’s implementation would adhere to existing policy until the expiration of such forbearance plan.” Additional changes to the Servicing Guide include: (i) clarifications to the escrow advances reimbursement policy for real estate taxes and flood/property insurance premiums; and (ii) updates to be implemented by August 1 for when servicers are required to notify Fannie Mae that a mortgage loan has been placed under military indulgence.

     

    Federal Issues Freddie Mac Fannie Mae Servicing Guide Mortgages Loss Mitigation Flood Insurance Escrow

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  • CFPB fines installment lender $5 million for improper collection and credit reporting practices

    Federal Issues

    On June 13, the CFPB ordered a South Carolina-based installment lender and its subsidiaries to pay $5 million in civil money penalties for allegedly making improper in-person and telephonic collection attempts in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) and inaccurately furnishing information to credit reporting agencies in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to the consent order, between 2011 and 2016, the company and its subsidiaries (i) initiated collection attempts at consumers’ homes and places of employment; (ii) routinely called consumers at work to collect debts, sometimes after being told they were not allowed to receive calls; and (iii) contacted third parties and disclosed or were at risk of disclosing the existence of the consumer’s debt. The CFPB also alleges that the company and its subsidiaries failed to implement reasonable credit reporting procedures and failed to correct inaccurate information furnished to credit reporting agencies. In addition to the $5 million civil money penalty, the company and its subsidiaries must (i) cease improper collection practices; (ii) correct the credit reporting errors; and (iii) develop a comprehensive compliance plan.

    Federal Issues CFPB CFPA UDAAP FCPA Enforcement Debt Cancellation

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  • 8th Circuit affirms $17 million class settlement for retailer data breach

    Courts

    On June 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling approving a $17 million class settlement to resolve consumer claims related to a 2013 data breach, which resulted in the compromise of at least 40 million credit cards and theft of personal information of up to 110 million people. The settlement, which consists of $10 million in consumer redress and almost $7 million in plaintiffs’ attorney fees, was preliminarily approved in 2015 by the district court (previously covered by InfoBytes here) but was remanded back to the court by the 8th Circuit for failing to conduct the appropriate pre-certification analysis. After the district court recertified the class, two settlement challengers appealed, arguing that the class was not properly certified as there were not separate counsel for the subclasses and that the court erred in approving the settlement because the award of attorney’s fees was not reasonable. The appellate court disagreed, holding that no fundamental conflict of interest required separate representation for named class members and class members who suffered no actual losses. The court also concluded that the 29 percent in total monetary payment to the plaintiffs’ attorneys was “well within the amounts [the court] has deemed reasonable in the past” and therefore, the district court did not error in its discretion.

     

    Courts Appellate Eighth Circuit Class Action Data Breach Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • New York Court of Appeals rules claims under Martin Act governed by three-year statute of limitations

    Courts

    On June 12, the New York Court of Appeals issued a 4 to 1 ruling that claims brought under the state’s Martin Act are governed by a statute of limitations of three years, not six. Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a suit against a bank alleging that in 2006 and 2007, the bank misrepresented the quality of residential mortgage-backed securities it created and sold, bringing its claims under the state’s Martin Act, which grants the Attorney General of New York expanded liability for investigating and enjoining fraudulent practices in the marketing of stocks, bonds and other securities beyond what can be recognized under the common law fraud statute. The bank argued that the action was time-barred because too much time had elapsed to bring claims under the Martin Act, and an argument ensued as to whether the three-year statute of limitations that applies to actions to recover upon a liability or penalty imposed by a statute, or the six-year statute of limitations that applies to an action based upon fraud, applied. In its decision, the majority wrote that the three-year period applied because the Martin Act “expands upon, rather than codifies, the common law of fraud” and “imposes numerous obligations—or ‘liabilities’—that did not exist at common law, justifying the imposition of a three-year statute of limitations.” The court concluded that the broad definition of “fraudulent practices” encompasses wrongs that are not otherwise cognizable under the common law and “dispenses, among other things, with any requirement that the Attorney General prove scienter or justifiable reliance on the part of investors.” The court remanded the case to the New York State Supreme Court for further proceedings concerning the state’s claim against the bank for alleged violations of Executive Law Section 63(12).

    Courts Mortgages RMBS State Issues State Attorney General

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  • Global bank settles FCPA allegations concerning “sons and daughters” investigation into hiring practices

    Financial Crimes

    On June 6, a global bank announced it had entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ to resolve an FCPA investigation into hiring practices in the Asia Pacific region between 2007 and 2013. As part of the agreement, the bank agreed to pay a $46 million penalty to the DOJ. According to the bank, it has already provisioned for the penalty and expects the payment to have “no material impact” on its second quarter financial results. The bank further stated that it has implemented multiple enhancements to its compliance and control functions since 2013. 

    U.S. authorities have investigated several other financial services institutions over their hiring practices in Asia, which have become known as the “sons and daughters” investigations because of the allegations that banks widely hired the children of elite Chinese political families to secure an advantage in obtaining business. Prior Scorecard coverage of those investigations can be found here.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA Sons and Daughters

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  • FHFA proposes rule on capital requirements for Freddie and Fannie

    Federal Issues

    On June 12, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced a proposed rulemaking, which implements a regulatory capital framework for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the Enterprises) including (i) a new framework for risk-based capital requirements; and (ii) two alternative approaches to setting minimum leverage capital requirements. Regulatory capital requirements for the Enterprises have been suspended since the Enterprises were placed in conservatorship in September 2008, and these new requirements would continue to be suspended while the Enterprises remain under conservatorship. FHFA stated that the purpose of the rulemaking effort is to develop a risk measurement framework to better evaluate each Enterprise’s business decisions while in conservatorship. As a result, the proposed risk-based capital requirements would “provide a granular assessment of credit risk specific to different mortgage loan categories, as well as market risk, operational risk, and going-concern buffer components.” The two options for minimal leverage capital requirements include (i) requiring the Enterprises to hold capital equal to 2.5 percent of total assets and off-balance sheet guarantees related to securitization activities; and (ii) requiring the Enterprises to hold capital equal to 1.5 percent of trust assets and 4 percent of non-trust assets. Comments on the proposed rulemaking must be submitted within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.

    Federal Issues FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSE Capital Requirements

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  • District Court denies joint request to stay payday rule but agrees to stay lawsuit

    Courts

    On June 12, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas denied a joint request by the CFPB and two payday loan trade groups to stay the compliance date (August 19, 2019) of the Bureau’s final rule on payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other high-cost installment loans (Rule) until 445 days after final judgment in the pending litigation. The court declined to provide an explanation for the denial, but did grant the parties’ joint request to stay the lawsuit pending further court order. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the payday loan trade groups filed a lawsuit in April asking the court to set aside the Rule on the grounds that, among other reasons, the CFPB is unconstitutional and the Bureau’s rulemaking failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. On May 31, the parties filed a joint request to stay the lawsuit and the compliance date for the Rule because of the Bureau’s plans to reconsider the Rule, which may repeal or revise certain provisions rendering the case moot or otherwise resolved.

    Courts State Issues CFPB Payday Rule CFPB Succession Federal Issues

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  • SEC settles RMBS supervision and improper markup allegations with brokerage firm

    Securities

    On June 12, the SEC issued an order against a brokerage firm to settle allegations that it violated antifraud provisions of federal securities laws when it failed to properly supervise traders who persuaded customers with false or misleading statements to overpay for residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). According to the SEC, the firm misled customers about how much the firm paid for the securities and illegally profited from the improper markups that were, in some cases, allegedly more than twice as much as what the customers should have paid. The order claims that the firm did not charge a traditional commission on the transactions, but rather derived profits “from the difference between the price at which [the firm] sold securities and the price at which it had purchased them.” Additionally, while the firm had policies and procedures to monitor and prevent excessive markups on RMBS transactions, they were “not reasonably designed and implemented.” While neither admitting nor denying the SEC’s charges, the firm agreed to be censured for failing reasonably to supervise its traders, to pay a fine of approximately $5.2 million, and to pay more than $10.5 million in disgorgement and interest to affected customers.

    Securities SEC RMBS Settlement Enforcement

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  • FinCEN issues advisory on connection between politically exposed persons and financial facilitators

    Financial Crimes

    On June 12, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to U.S. financial institutions to increase awareness of the connection between high-level political corruption and human rights abuses. The advisory highlights the use of financial facilitators as a means to gain access to global financial systems for the purpose of moving or hiding illicit proceeds and evading U.S. and global sanctions. Among other things, the advisory, which is designed to assist financial institutions in identifying and reporting suspicious activity, provides typologies used by “politically exposed persons” (PEPs) to access the U.S. financial system and obscure illicit activity. FinCEN also provides several red flags outlining various types of suspected schemes that may be indicators of suspicious activity. The advisory’s regulatory guidance further reminds financial institutions of their risk-based, due diligence obligations, which include (i) identifying legal entities owned or controlled by PEPs (as required by FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule); (ii) complying with anti-money laundering program obligations; and (iii) filing Suspicious Activity Reports related to illegal activity undertaken by senior foreign political figures.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Sanctions International Anti-Money Laundering SARs

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  • FTC bans mortgage relief defendant from future debt relief activities

    Federal Issues

    On June 7, the FTC announced a settlement with an individual who allegedly operated a mortgage relief scheme, which charged distressed homeowners thousands in upfront fees while falsely promising foreclosure prevention or payment modifications. According to the FTC, the defendant, operating through multiple company names, falsely suggested the businesses were endorsed by the federal government and encouraged consumers not to communicate with their mortgage company and to stop making monthly mortgage payments. The settlement order imposes a judgment of more than $15.5 million but suspends the judgment due to the individual’s inability to pay. The settlement prohibits the individual from, among other things, (i) advertising, marketing, promoting, offering, or selling debt relief services or products; and (ii) misrepresenting, or assisting others in misrepresenting information relating to the offering of financial products and services. Additionally, the settlement bars the individual from disclosing or benefitting from the information collected from the consumers through the business operations.

    Federal Issues FTC Debt Relief Mortgages Mortgage Modification Foreclosure

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