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  • Buckley Sandler Special Alert: New Jersey’s Office of Attorney General creates “state-level CFPB”

    State Issues

    New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a press release last week that he and Governor Phil Murphy would “fill the void left by the Trump Administration’s pullback of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” by creating what the release referred to as a “state-level CFPB.”

    The effort includes the nomination of Paul R. Rodriquez as director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, which enforces laws to protect consumers’ rights, regulates the securities industry, and oversees numerous state-licensing boards. Rodriguez, who is currently Acting Counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, will start in his new role on June 1.

    * * *

    Click here to read the full special alert.

    If you have any questions about the initiative or other related issues, please see our State Attorneys General practice, whose lawyers have been defending AG enforcement actions for more than two decades, or contact Douglas Gansler or any Buckley Sandler attorney with whom you have worked in the past.

    State Issues CFPB State Attorney General CFPB Succession Enforcement

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  • Mulvaney requests more oversight and accountability for the Bureau in semi-annual report to Congress

    Federal Issues

    On April 2, the CFPB issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from April 1, 2017 to September 30, 2017. The report details, among other things, problems faced by consumers with regard to consumer financial products or services; significant rules and orders adopted by the Bureau; and various supervisory and enforcement actions prior to Mick Mulvaney’s appointment as acting director. Most notably, the report includes an opening letter from Mulvaney, which requests Congress make changes to the law to “establish meaningful accountability” for the Bureau which is “far too powerful.” Specifically, Mulvaney requests four changes (i) subject the Bureau to Congressional appropriations; (ii) require Congressional approval for major rules; (iii) make the director accountable to the President’s exercise of executive authority; and (iv) create an independent Inspector General for the agency. Mulvaney writes that the cycle of Congressional frustration with the CFPB will repeat “ad infinitum unless Congress acts to make [the Bureau] accountable to the American people.”

    Mulvaney is set to testify on April 11 before the full House Financial Services Committee regarding the Bureau’s semi-annual report. As he notes in his letter, he intends to discuss his recommendations regarding the Bureau’s oversight at the hearing.

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession Enforcement Congress CFPB

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  • Massachusetts securities division halts five initial coin offerings

    Securities

    On March 27, Massachusetts’s Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth Securities Division (Division) entered into separate consent orders with five companies that allegedly violated the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act by promoting initial coin offerings (ICOs) using unregistered securities. The five companies, which conduct business in Massachusetts, offered the ICOs via websites, including social media platforms. Under the terms of the consent orders, the companies are prohibited from selling unregistered or non-exempt securities in the state and are censured by the Division.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on ICOs.

    Securities State Issues Initial Coin Offerings Cryptocurrency Virtual Currency Enforcement

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  • FTC challenges virtual currency “chain referral schemes”—creates new working group

    Fintech

    On March 16, the FTC announced that a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted a temporary restraining order against four individuals who allegedly promoted cryptocurrency “chain referral schemes” in violation of the FTC Act. According to the complaint, the defendants falsely promised that by paying a small sum in virtual currency to enroll, such as bitcoin or Litecoin, the participant could earn significant returns. Three of the defendants promoted schemes that claimed participants could turn $100 into $80,000 in monthly income based on recruiting additional participants, when in actuality most of the participants failed to recoup their initial investments. Additionally, the fourth defendant promoted another scheme, which promised virtual currency investors a fixed rate of return on bitcoin investments in a passive investment operation and a multilevel investment program which participants would receive a commission for recruiting more investors. The scheme allegedly ended within two months of opening and many investors failed to recover the initial investments.

    On the same day, the FTC announced a new FTC Blockchain Working Group, which will (i) “build on FTC staff expertise in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology through resource sharing and by hosting outside experts”; (ii) “facilitate internal communication and external coordination on enforcement actions and other related projects”; and (iii) “serve as an internal forum for brainstorming potential impacts on the FTC’s dual missions and how to address those impacts.” The announcement highlighted the properties of cryptocurrencies that make the payment form susceptible to scammers, including the fact that it can be transferred electronically without requiring validation from a trusted third party source. 

    Fintech Virtual Currency Enforcement FTC Courts

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  • OCC announces March 2018 enforcement actions and terminations

    Federal Issues

    On March 16, the OCC released a list of recent enforcement actions taken against national banks, federal savings associations, and individuals currently and formerly affiliated with such parties. The new enforcement actions include a cease and desist order, a civil money penalty order, notices filed, and recently terminated enforcement actions. Two notable actions are as follows:

    Cease and Desist Consent Order. On February 12, the OCC issued a consent order against a New Jersey-based bank for deficiencies related to its Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) rules and regulations. Among other things, the consent order requires the bank to (i) appoint an independent third-party consultant to conduct a review of the bank’s BSA/AML compliance program; (ii) review and update a comprehensive BSA/AML compliance action plan and monitoring system; (iii) create a comprehensive training program for “appropriate operational and supervisory personnel, and the Board of Directors, to ensure their awareness of their responsibility for compliance with” the BSA; (iv) develop policies and procedures related to the collection of customer due diligence and enhanced due diligence when opening accounts; (v) appoint a BSA officer; (vi) develop and conduct ongoing BSA/AML risk assessments to monitor accounts for “high-risk customers”; and (vii) conduct a “Look-Back” plan to determine whether suspicious activity was timely identified and reported by the bank and whether additional SARs should be filed for previously unreported suspicious activity. Furthermore, the bank is prohibited from opening new accounts for commercial customers designated as “medium risk or higher” in areas such as “money services businesses, foreign or domestic correspondent banks, payment processors, or cash-intensive businesses” without prior authorization. The bank, while agreeing to the terms of the consent order, has neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing.

    Termination of enforcement action. On February 14, the OCC terminated a 2002 consent order issued against a Texas-based payday lender after determining that “the safe and sound operation of the banking system does not require the continued existence of” previously issued restrictions. In 2002, the OCC claimed the payday lender engaged in “unsafe and unsound” practices, including violations of ECOA and TILA for failing to safeguard customers’ loan files. Among other things, the consent order fined the payday lender a $250,000 civil money penalty, imposed record-keeping requirements, and prohibited it from “entering into any kind of written or oral agreement to provide any services, including payday lending, to any national bank or its subsidiaries without the prior approval of the OCC.”

    Federal Issues OCC Enforcement Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Payday Lending

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  • Bipartisan group of state Attorneys General denounce potential limitations on state oversight of student loan industry

    State Issues

    On March 15, a bipartisan group of 30 state Attorneys General released a letter urging Congress to reject Section 493E(d) of the Higher Education Act reauthorization – H.R. 4508, known as the “PROSPER Act” – which would prohibit states from “overseeing, licensing, or addressing certain state law violations by companies that originate, service, or collect on student loans.” Led by the New York and Colorado Attorneys General, the letter characterizes Section 493E(d) as an “an all-out assault on states’ rights and basic principles of federalism.” According to the letter, if enacted, parts of the student loan industry would be immunized from state-level enforcement, placing a larger consumer protection role on the Department of Education for which the agency is not equipped to handle. The Attorneys General assert that the states have the legal capacity and track record to enforce against abuses in the student loan market; citing to a statistic which estimates $1.38 trillion in student loan debt, the letter highlights previous state enforcement actions and emphasizes the need for states and the federal government to work together to protect U.S. borrowers.

    In addition to Section 493E(d) of the PROSPER Act, the Department of Education recently published an interpretation in the Federal Register which takes the position that state regulation of certain federal student loan programs is preempted by federal law, previously covered by InfoBytes here

    State Issues State Attorney General Student Lending Enforcement Department of Education State Legislation

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  • OCC announces enforcement action against Washington-based bank citing BSA/AML compliance deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On February 28, the OCC issued a consent order against a Washington-based bank for deficiencies related to its Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) compliance program. The consent order requires the bank to, among other things, (i) maintain a Compliance Committee responsible for ensuring the bank adheres to the consent order’s provisions; (ii) appoint a BSA officer who will ensure compliance with the requirements of the BSA and the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s rules and regulations; (iii) implement an enhanced BSA/AML Risk Assessment Program, including the adoption of written policies to ensure the timely review of BSA/AML suspicious activity alerts and the implementation of an automated suspicious activity monitoring system; (iv) conduct a risk-based “Look-Back” to determine whether suspicious activity was timely identified and reported by the bank; (v) develop policies and procedures for enhanced customer due diligence to monitor information for risk; (vi) implement an independent BSA/AML audit program; and (vii) create a comprehensive training program for appropriate bank personnel. The bank did not admit to any wrongdoing in the consent order.

    Financial Crimes OCC Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement OFAC SARs

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  • Buckley Sandler Special Alert: Mulvaney says the CFPB will depend heavily on state Attorneys General for enforcement of consumer protection laws

    Federal Issues

    Buckley Sandler Special Alert

    Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in a February 28 speech, outlined the Bureau’s overall direction and strategic priorities, and described plans to coordinate with state Attorneys General in enforcing federal consumer financial protection law. Mulvaney made the remarks in Washington, D.C., at the winter meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

    * * *

    Click here to read the full special alert.

     

    If you have questions about the remarks or other related issues, please visit our State Attorneys General and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau practice pages, or contact a Buckley Sandler attorney with whom you have worked in the past.

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession State Attorney General Enforcement Special Alerts

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  • Texas State Securities Board issues order halting unregistered cryptocurrency trading operation

    Securities

    On February 26, the Texas State Securities Board (Board) issued an emergency cease and desist order (order) to an unregistered cryptocurrency trading operation for allegedly targeting investors through fraudulent and materially misleading online advertisements and offering unregistered securities for sale. According to the order, the company purportedly—in addition to intentionally seeking to mislead the public by promoting high-return investment opportunities—failed to disclose risks associated with cryptocurrency mining, promised investors it would comply with “all relevant laws and regulations,” and claimed that its fund directors were regulated by the Cayman Islands. The Board further asserted the company failed to disclose the true identities of its Code of Ethics Association members responsible for “contract law, due diligence and corporate law,” and instead, created the impression it was associated with attorneys and judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Under the terms of the order, the company, among other things, is prohibited from engaging in the sale of securities in the state until the security is registered with the SEC or exempt from registration under the Texas Securities Act, and cannot act as a securities dealer until it complies with the same.

    Securities State Issues Cryptocurrency Enforcement SEC Fintech

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  • FDIC fines banks for flood insurance violations, releases January enforcement actions

    Federal Issues

    On February 23, the FDIC released a list of 12 administrative enforcement action orders taken against banks and individuals in January. Civil money penalties were assessed against two banks, including one against a Michigan-based bank citing violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act (FDPA) and the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA) for allegedly: (i) failing to obtain flood insurance on a borrower’s behalf at origination in multiple instances, and twice failing to maintain adequate flood insurance; (ii) failing twice to follow force placed flood insurance procedures; and (iii) failing to notify borrowers in multiple instances that the “collateral for the loan was in a designated special flood hazard area.” The other civil money penalty was assessed against a Wisconsin-based bank for allegedly engaging in a pattern of violating requirements under the FDPA and the NFIA, which included failing to provide borrowers with a “Notice of Special Flood Hazard and Availability of Federal Disaster Relief Assistance” in a timely fashion.

    Also on the list are four Section 19 orders, which allow applicants to participate in the affairs of an insured depository institution after having demonstrated “satisfactory evidence of rehabilitation,” and three terminations of consent orders, among others.

    There are no administrative hearings scheduled for March 2018. The FDIC database containing all 12 enforcement decisions and orders may be accessed here.

    Federal Issues FDIC Enforcement Flood Insurance

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