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  • Federal Reserve Governor discusses potential impact of digital innovations on the financial system

    Fintech

    On May 15, Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard spoke at a digital currency conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to discuss how digital innovations may impact the financial system, specifically in the areas of payments, clearing, and settlement. Brainard discussed, among other things, the importance of understanding the impact these innovations may have on (i) investor and consumer protection issues, and (ii) cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology governance, particularly with respect to Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering concerns. In addition, Brainard commented on the inherent risks and challenges surrounding the concept of a central bank digital currency, and noted that at this time, “there is no compelling demonstrated need for a Fed-issued digital currency [because] [m]ost consumers and businesses in the U.S. already make retail payments electronically using debit and credit cards, payment applications, and the automated clearinghouse network. Moreover, people are finding easy ways to make digital payments directly to other people through a variety of mobile apps.” Brainard noted, however, that the Federal Reserve is monitoring these technological developments as “digital tokens for wholesale payments and some aspects of distributed ledger technology—the key technologies underlying cryptocurrencies—may hold promise for strengthening traditional financial instruments and markets” in the coming years.

    Fintech Federal Reserve Cryptocurrency Distributed Ledger Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering

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  • FDIC Chairman delivers remarks on the impact of technology in the business of banking

    Fintech

    On May 7, FDIC Chairman, Martin J. Gruenberg, spoke at the Forum on the Use of Technology in the Business of Banking about the importance of understanding the ways in which emerging technology is positively affecting banking operations, while also recognizing associated risk management challenges. Gruenberg noted that the benefits of technology—such as reduced transaction costs, operational efficiency, payment speed improvements, and economic inclusion and access to mainstream banking—also pose challenges to financial institutions that may be amplified as new products and services are adopted. Challenges include: (i) cybersecurity risks; (ii) Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering concerns; and (iii) various other consumer protection issues. Gruenberg also discussed the role of the FDIC’s Emerging Technology Steering Committee, which was established to address these issues, and its two working groups responsible for “monitoring trends, opportunities, and risks in this area, and evaluating impacts on banking, general safety and soundness, deposit insurance, financial reporting, economic inclusion, and consumer protection.” He stressed that the committee’s work will inform the agency’s “supervisory strategy for responding to opportunities and risks presented by the use of emerging technologies to supervised institutions.”

    Fintech FDIC Consumer Finance Risk Management

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  • CFTC Commissioner says FSOC should take lead in future fintech policy regulation

    Fintech

    On May 3, Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commissioner Rostin Behnam emphasized that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) should take the lead in evaluating the future of oversight and regulation of the fintech industry. In his keynote address to a financial regulatory conference in Washington, D.C., Behnam highlighted the rise of cryptocurrencies as an example of the need to “identify and craft an appropriate path forward for ensuring that legal issues resulting from these technologies are identifiable and solvable before they cross the horizon.” According to Benham, FSOC, due to its mandate in the Dodd-Frank Act, has the authority to, among other things, convene financial regulators for collaboration and propose policy direction based on input from all stakeholders. Acknowledging the need for all market participants and regulators to be aligned when it comes to fintech regulation, Benham stated that “anything less than decisive action by policymakers in the short term” will lead to uncertainty.

    Fintech CFTC FSOC Virtual Currency Dodd-Frank

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  • CFTC stresses importance of coordinating regulatory requirements with the SEC

    Fintech

    On May 2, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) reiterated the importance of coordinating and harmonizing regulatory requirements with the SEC. In prepared remarks issued before FIA’s 40th Annual Law and Compliance Conference, CFTC Commissioner Brian Quintenz stated that its internal cryptocurrency enforcement task force will work in cooperation with its SEC counterparts on cases involving virtual currency. “Both agencies’ Divisions of Enforcement have demonstrated their commitment to work closely to prosecute fraud and ensure that differences in product nomenclature do not enable bad actors to slip through jurisdictional cracks,” Quintenz said. The agencies plan to update their existing 10-year-old memorandum of understanding to facilitate the sharing of information related to, among other things, swaps and security-based swaps data, fintech developments, and market events.

    Fintech CFTC SEC Enforcement Cryptocurrency Virtual Currency

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  • Judge dismisses CSBS challenge to OCC fintech charter on ripeness grounds

    Fintech

    On April 30, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the Conference of State Bank Supervisors’ (CSBS) challenge to the OCC’s proposed federal charter for fintech firms. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) According to the court, the suit is not “constitutionally or prudentially ripe for determination” and cannot proceed because the OCC has yet to issue a fintech charter to any firm. “This dispute would benefit from a more concrete setting and additional percolation. In particular, this dispute will be sharpened if the OCC charters a particular [f]intech—or decides to do so imminently,” the judge wrote.

    As previously covered in InfoBytes, last December the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit filed by the New York Department of Financial Services against the OCC, citing to lack of subject matter jurisdiction over the claims because the OOC had yet to finalize its plans to actually issue fintech charters.

    Fintech Courts OCC NYDFS Litigation

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  • Proposed "Operating Vision" released for the U.S. Faster Payment Council

    Fintech

    On April 24, the Governance Framework Formation Team (GFFT), through the Federal Reserve Board’s Faster Payments Task Force, announced a proposed "Operating Vision" for a new organization known as the U.S. Faster Payments Council (FPC). According to the Operating Vision, “[t]he goal is a ubiquitous, world-class payment system in 2020 where Americans can safely and securely pay anyone, anywhere, at any time and with immediate funds availability.” To achieve this goal, the FPC will focus on (i) facilitating interoperability to enable payments and information to move seamlessly, and (ii) broad adoption of faster payment solutions. The FCP’s core functions will be consensus-driven problem solving, forums for dialogue, and education and advocacy.

    Membership of the FPC will be open to all stakeholders. The GFFT is requesting comments on the proposal by June 22.

    Fintech Federal Issues Federal Reserve Payments

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  • New York Attorney General launches cryptocurrency integrity initiative

    Fintech

    On April 18, the New York Attorney General’s office announced the launch of an initiative designed to protect virtual currency investors and increase transparency and accountability within the cryptocurrency industry. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman sent questionnaires to 13 virtual currency trading platforms, requesting information on their operations, policies, and internal controls as part of a “fact-finding inquiry.” “[T]oo often, consumers don't have the basic facts they need to assess the fairness, integrity, and security of these trading platforms,” the Attorney General stated. The Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative asks the trading platforms to disclose several categories of information, including ownership and control information, operation and fees, trading policies and procedures, internal controls, and privacy and money laundering risks and safeguards. Responses will be analyzed, compared across platforms, and presented to the public. Questionnaires are due May 1.

    Fintech State Attorney General Investigations Virtual Currency Cryptocurrency State Issues

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  • Conference of State Bank Supervisors releases nationwide list of fintech innovation contacts

    Fintech

    On April 10, following a nationwide fintech forum for state banking regulators and financial services executives co-hosted by the New York Department of Financial Services and the Conference of State Banking Supervisors (CSBS), CSBS issued a press release announcing that regulators from all 50 states and the District of Columbia have designated an “Innovation Staff Contact” within each of their offices to facilitate and streamline communications between state regulators and the financial services industry. Fintech topics include money transmissions, payments, lending, and licensing. According to the president of CSBS, “State regulators see how fintech is reshaping the financial services industry. And an Innovation Contact is but the latest step that states are taking to engage with industry and modernize nonbank regulation.” Last year, as previously covered in InfoBytes, CSBS introduced “Vision 2020,” an initiative geared towards streamlining the state regulatory system to support business innovation and harmonize licensing and supervisory practices, while still protecting the rights of consumers. Additionally, this past February, CSBS announced that financial regulators from seven states have agreed to a multi-state compact that will offer a streamlined licensing process for money services businesses, including fintech firms. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Fintech NYDFS CSBS Nonbank Supervision

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  • Electronic contracting tools provide evidence and records necessary to undermine opposing affidavits

    Fintech

    On April 3, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina upheld an agreement executed using a third-party electronic contracting service vendor, after finding that the agreement was ratified by the plaintiff’s conduct, even if an unauthorized employee executed it in the first instance. The plaintiff argued that it had never seen the contract and that an employee must have electronically signed the contract without authority. However, the defendant produced evidence and an affidavit showing that its electronic contracting vendor had sent the contract to the plaintiff’s email address, that the emails were viewed and the link to the contract was opened, and that the contract was electronically signed in the vendor’s system. The record also showed several other emails referencing the agreement sent to plaintiff and responses thereto by plaintiff. The court observed that “[w]ere this a more traditional contract negotiation, in which the parties had mailed proposed contracts back and forth, a sworn affidavit stating that [plaintiff] never reviewed or signed the contracts might be sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact” as to plaintiff’s knowledge of the agreement and its terms, but in the electronic context, the affidavits and audit trails produced by the vendor foreclosed any genuine dispute that the plaintiff company had received the agreement and had knowledge of it before ratifying it through its actions.

    Fintech Courts State Issues ESIGN

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  • Court upholds clickwrap agreement, reiterating that general principles of contract apply

    Fintech

    On March 28, the U.S. District Court of New Mexico enforced an arbitration agreement entered into by a consumer on a website. Before completing a purchase of a product through the defendant’s website, the plaintiff had to check a box next to a statement that she had read and agreed to the terms of the hyperlinked user agreement, which included an arbitration clause. The defendant was able to present evidence that it was impossible for the plaintiff to complete the purchase without checking the box and clicking on a button to accept the agreement. Plaintiff provided testimony that she couldn’t remember ever seeing the terms of use or agreeing to them.

    The court, in upholding the agreement, reiterated that electronic contracts are still governed by traditional contract principles, including reasonable notice and unambiguous assent requirements. Because the agreement was made available, twice via hyperlink, and because the plaintiff acknowledged her awareness and assent of the agreement by clicking a button in the affirmative twice, the court held that the plaintiff had sufficient notice and had demonstrated adequate assent to the terms. This decision reinforces the effectiveness of electronic arbitration agreements and the use of hyperlinks to present documents, when presented in a manner consistent with underlying contract law.

    Fintech Courts ESIGN Arbitration

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