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On July 26, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) announced a settlement with a Kentucky-based bank for allegedly violating section 5 of the FTC Act regarding its offering of deposit account add-on products to consumers. According to the consent order, the bank marketed certain add-on products to accountholders, including an identity protection product, and represented that all benefits of the products would be effective upon enrollment when in actuality, certain benefits needed to be individually activated after enrollment. The Board alleges the bank charged the enrolled accountholders fixed monthly fees for the full benefits of the products without adequately disclosing to accountholders how to receive all the associated benefits. In addition to the $4.75 million the bank must pay in restitution, the consent order also requires the bank to, among other things (i) submit written plans to strengthen the oversight of the compliance management program and enhance the consumer compliance risk management program; (ii) hire an independent auditor to verify the restitution has been made; and (iii) submit quarterly progress reports regarding compliance with the consent order.
Global investment bank subsidiaries to settle SEC allegations of mishandled American Depositary Receipts
On July 20, the SEC announced it had reached a settlement with two U.S.-based subsidiaries of a global investment bank to settle allegations that the subsidiaries mishandled the pre-release of American Depositary Receipts (ADRs)—U.S. securities that represent shares in foreign companies. According to the SEC’s separately issued orders, the bank’s depository bank subsidiary and the broker-dealer subsidiary allowed pre-released ADRs to be “used for abusive practices, including inappropriate short selling and inappropriate profiting around dividend payouts.” The SEC explained in its press release that ADRs can only be “pre-released” without the deposit of foreign shares, provided the brokers receiving the ADRs have an agreement with a depository bank and the broker or the broker's customer owns an amount of the underlying shares that corresponds to the number of shares the ADR represents. However, the SEC alleged that the depository bank subsidiary improperly provided thousands of ADRs where neither the broker nor its customers possessed the required shares, and that the broker-dealer subsidiary’s policies, procedures and supervision failed to prevent and detect violations tied to the borrowing and lending of pre-released ADRs. While the two subsidiaries neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations, the depository bank has agreed to pay more than $51 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, along with a $22.2 million civil money penalty. The broker-dealer subsidiary has agreed to pay approximately $1.1 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and a nearly $500,000 civil money penalty.
CFPB announces settlement with Alabama-based operation for allegedly failing to properly disclose finance charges
On July 19, the CFPB announced a settlement with a small-dollar lending operation that allegedly failed to properly disclose finance charges and annual percentage rates associated with auto title loans in violation of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the prohibition on deceptive practices in the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). According to the consent order, the Alabama-based operation, which owned and operated approximately 100 retail lending outlets in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina under several names, materially misrepresented the finance charges consumers would incur for Mississippi auto title loans by disclosing a finance charge based on a 30-day term while having consumers sign a 10-month payment schedule. The Bureau asserts that “[c]onsumers acting reasonably likely would not understand that the finance charge disclosed in the loan agreement does not actually correspond to their loan payment term.” Furthermore, the Bureau contends that the operation also failed to disclose the annual percentage rate on in-store advertisements as required under TILA. The order requires the operation to pay redress in the amount of $1,522,298, which represents the total undisclosed finance charges made directly or indirectly by affected consumers on their loans. However, based on defendants’ inability to pay this amount, full payment is suspended subject to the operation’s paying $500,000 to affected consumers. In addition to the penalties, the operation is prohibited from continuing the illegal behavior and the operation’s board must ensure full compliance with the consent order.
On July 13, the CFPB announced a settlement with a Kansas-based company and its former CEO and part-owner for using a network of debt collection agencies (the Agencies) that allegedly engaged in improper debt collection tactics in violation of the prohibitions in the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) on engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (UDAAPs) and on providing substantial assistance to others engaging in such practices. The Bureau also alleged that the company, acting through the Agencies, violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). According to the consent order, the Kansas-based company and its part-owner had “knowledge or a reckless disregard” of the illegal debt collection tactics used by the Agencies, including misrepresenting the amount the consumer actually owed and falsely threatening consumers and their families with lawsuits. In its findings and conclusions, the CFPB alleges that, after reviewing the Agencies’ practices, the company’s “compliance personnel recommended terminating the Agencies because of the Agencies’ illegal collection acts and practices, but [the company and its part-owner] continued placing accounts with the Agencies” and selling debts to one of the Agencies. In addition, the Bureau alleges the company and its part-owner provided operational assistance to the Agencies, such as (i) drafting and implementing policies and procedures that falsely implied compliance with federal laws; (ii) defending the Agencies’ practices when original creditors raised concerns about collection tactics; and (iii) preventing compliance personnel from conducting effective reviews of the Agencies. The order imposes a civil money penalty judgment of $3 million against the Kansas-based company and $3 million against the part-owner but the full payment is suspended subject to the company paying a $500,000 penalty and the part-owner paying a $300,000 penalty. In addition to the penalties, the company is prohibited from continuing the illegal behavior and must create and submit to the Bureau a comprehensive compliance plan, while the part-owner is permanently restrained from acting as an officer, director, employee, agent or advisor of, or otherwise providing management, advice, direction or consultation to, any individual or business that collects, buys, or sells consumer debt.
New York Attorney General announces settlement with auto dealership over deceptive practices targeting non-English speakers
On July 5, the New York Attorney General announced a settlement with an auto dealership to resolve allegations that it engaged in deceptive practices targeted towards non-English speakers. The auto dealership allegedly misled consumers about the actual cost of their purchases and offered false refinancing promises. According to the announcement, the dealership allegedly (i) provided English documents to non-English speaking consumers containing loan terms and aftermarket items different from those discussed during the actual sale, including “supplemental service contracts, gap insurance policies, or special protections for tires, fabric, glass, or paint that added thousands of dollars to the auto sale or lease contracts”; and (ii) told consumers it would refinance their loans at a lower rate after receiving complaints of overcharges and unwanted aftermarket items. However, the Attorney General asserts that the dealership failed to honor the refinancing promises. Under the terms of the settlement, the dealership is required to reform its business practices, refrain from engaging in the alleged deceptive business practices, modify its employee training and complaint handling process, and produce sales and lending documents in languages for non-English speakers prior to the signing of any documentation in English. The dealership must also pay over $423,000 to cover restitution, penalties, fees, and costs to the state.
Court preliminarily approves $11.2 million settlement for post-payment interest charges on FHA mortgages
On July 5, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa preliminarily approved a $11.2 million settlement in a proposed class action against a national bank for allegedly improperly charging interest on pre-paid FHA-insured mortgages. According to the complaint filed in 2016, the bank charged post-payment interest on FHA-insured mortgages without providing the proper disclosures required by FHA. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the bank did not use the FHA-approved form to provide the disclosures to consumers. The settlement requires the bank to place $11.2 million in an escrow account for class distributions; settlement expenses; and attorneys’ fees, which, according to settlement documents, will not exceed 28 percent. The court found that the settlement fell “within the range of reasonableness” and met the requirements for preliminary approval.
International bank settles with Illinois Attorney General for $20 million for alleged RMBS misconduct
On July 3, the Illinois Attorney General announced a settlement with an international bank to resolve allegations of misconduct in the bank’s marketing and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. According to the press release, the bank allegedly failed to disclose accurately the risk of the RMBS investments when selling the securities. Under the terms of the settlement, the bank has agreed to pay $20 million to the state, which will be divided between three state retirement systems. This settlement follows several other RMBS-related actions taken by the Attorney General.
As previously covered in InfoBytes, earlier in March, the bank reached a settlement with the New York Attorney General to resolve similar allegations.
FTC announces settlement with California company over EU-U.S. Privacy Shield false certification claims
On July 2, the FTC announced it had reached a settlement with a California-based company over allegations that it falsely claimed participation in the European Union-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. According to the FTC, the company’s false claim that it was in the process of certification is a violation of the FTC Act’s prohibition against deceptive acts or practices. The settlement prohibits the company from misrepresenting its participation in “any privacy or security program sponsored by a government or any self-regulatory or standard-setting organization” and requires the submission of timely compliance notices. This action marks the fourth FTC EU-U.S. Privacy Shield enforcement action following the EU’s finalization and adoption in July 2016 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here) of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which established a mechanism for companies to transfer consumer data between the EU and the U.S. in compliance with specified obligations.
On June 29, the CFPB announced a $335 million settlement with a national bank who allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act by failing to properly implement annual percentage rate (APR) reevaluation requirements, which would reduce APRs for certain consumer credit card accounts, consistent with Regulation Z. According to the consent order, the Bureau also claimed the bank failed to put in place reasonable written policies and procedures to conduct the APR reevaluations. Under the terms of the consent order, the bank is required to pay $335 million in restitution to affected consumers and implement corrected policies and procedures to ensure proper APR reevaluation processes. The Bureau further noted that it did not assess civil monetary penalties due to efforts undertaken by the bank to self-identify and self-report violations to the Bureau. The bank also voluntarily corrected the deficiencies, took steps to initiate remediation to affected consumers, and implemented compliance management system enhancements.
On June 25, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order preliminarily approving a class action settlement between class members and a student loan management enterprise (defendants) accused of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) to place calls to cellular telephones without receiving prior express written consent. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants used a phone number previously used by the Department of Education (Department) to contact borrowers and which was listed on the Department’s forms, website, and billing statements, so that when class members returned calls under the impression that they were contacting the Department, the defendants collected and stored the phone numbers. The plaintiff further alleged that the stored numbers were used by the defendants to place calls using an ATDS for the purpose of “mislead[ing] class members into paying for student loan forgiveness and payment programs that were otherwise offered for free by the federal government.” According to the order, preliminarily approval of the settlement prevents possible further litigation and, given the current “‘wind-down’ mode” of one of the defendants, prevents a risk that class members seeking relief would be unable to collect on a large judgment. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants have agreed to establish a $1.1 million settlement fund, as well as to injunctive relief that prohibits the defendants from using an ATDS to contact individuals without first receiving prior written consent.
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss "Community Reinvestment Act reform" at the New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting
- APPROVED Webcast: Periodic reporting: More than just clicking “submit”
- Buckley Sandler Webcast: Tips for this year’s FHA annual recertification and what the shutdown means
- Jessica L. Pollet to discuss "Your career is impacting your life..." at the Ark Group Women Legal Conference
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "RESPA-compliant marketing" at NEXT
- Daniel P. Stipano to provide "Update on AML/SAR reporting and enforcement" at an Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Dynamic customer due diligence and beneficial ownership from KYC to ongoing CDD and the new rule implementation" at the Puerto Rican Symposium of Anti-Money Laundering
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Successors in interest updates" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "Keeping your head above water in flood insurance compliance" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Servicing super session" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo
- Moorari K. Shah to provide "Regulatory update – California and beyond" at the National Equipment Finance Association Summit
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from ABLV and other major cases involving inadequate compliance oversight" at the ACAMS International AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "A year in the life of the CDD final rule: A first anniversary assessment" at the ACAMS International AML & Financial Crime Conference