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  • Federal Reserve issues enforcement actions against New York branch of Pakistani bank, former bank employee

    Federal Issues

    On July 12, the Federal Reserve Board released an enforcement action taken against a Pakistani bank’s New York branch concerning deficiencies in the branch’s Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) compliance program. Under the terms of the written agreement, the branch is required to (i) submit a written governance plan to strengthen the board of director’s oversight of BSA/AML compliance; (ii) retain an independent third party to conduct a BSA/AML compliance review; (iii) submit a revised, written compliance program that complies with BSA/AML requirements; (iii) submit an enhanced, written customer due diligence program plan; and (iv) submit a revised program to ensure compliant suspicious activity monitoring and reporting. On a parallel basis, the Federal Reserve terminated an enforcement action taken against the branch in 2013.

    The Federal Reserve also issued a separate enforcement action against a former bank employee for engaging in unsafe or unsound banking practices by concealing an unreconciled balance using improper accounting practices. The consent order of prohibition prohibits the former employee from, among other things, participating in any manner in the conduct of the affairs of any insured depository institution, holding company, or subsidiary of an insured depository institution.

    Federal Issues Federal Reserve Enforcement Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Bank Compliance

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  • Federal Reserve submits annual report to Congress on credit card profitability of depository institutions

    Federal Issues

    In July, the Federal Reserve Board submitted its annual report to Congress on the profitability of credit cards as required by Section 8 of the Fair Credit and Charge Card Disclosure Act of 1988. The Report to Congress on the Profitability of Credit Card Operations of Depository Institutions (the Report) focuses on credit card banks with assets exceeding $200 million meeting the following criteria: (i) more than 50 percent of assets are loans made to individual consumers; and (ii) 90 percent or more of consumer lending involves credit cards or related plans. As of December 31, 2017, the 12 banks that met this criteria accounted for almost 50 percent of outstanding credit card balances on the books of depository institutions. According to the Report, credit card loans have replaced other methods of borrowing, such as closed-end installment loans and personal lines of credit. In the aggregate, “consumers carried slightly over $1 trillion in outstanding balances on their revolving accounts as of the end of 2017, about 6.1 percent higher than the level at the end of 2016.” While the Report notes the difficulty with tracking credit card profitability due to revisions in accounting rules and other factors, it indicates that delinquency rates and charge-off rates for credit card loans saw a modest increase in 2017 across all banks but remained below their historical averages.

    The Report also discusses recent trends in credit card pricing practices. Data from a survey that studied a sample of credit card issuers found that the average credit card interest rate across all accounts is about 13 percent, while the average interest rate on accounts that assessed interest was closer to 15 percent. The Report notes that, “while average interest rates paid by consumers have moved in a relatively narrow band over the past several years,” there exists is a great deal of variability across credit card plans and borrowers, reflecting various card features and the risk profile of the borrower.

    Federal Issues Federal Reserve Consumer Finance Congress Credit Cards

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  • CFPB settles with Kansas-based company and part-owner for debt collection violations

    Consumer Finance

    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. 

    Consumer Finance CFPB Settlement Enforcement

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  • CFTC announces $30 million whistleblower award

    Securities

    On July 12, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced an approximately $30 million award to a whistleblower who volunteered information that led to an enforcement action. This is the fifth and largest award—previously the highest was around $10 million— given by the CFTC’s whistleblower program, created by the Dodd-Frank Act. Director of the CFTC’s Whistleblower Office, Christopher Ehrman, stated, “The award today is a demonstration of the program’s commitment to reward those who provide quality information to the CFTC.” Under the CFTC’s program, whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 10 and 30 percent of the monetary sanctions collected from the resulting enforcement action.

    The announcement does not provide details of the information provided or the related enforcement action.

    Securities Whistleblower Dodd-Frank CFTC

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  • Texas Attorney General leads 14-state brief to 5th Circuit challenging CFPB structure

    State Issues

    On July 10, the Attorney General of Texas and 13 other state Attorneys General filed an amici curiae brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, challenging the constitutionality of the CFPB. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in April, the 5th Circuit agreed to hear a challenge by two Mississippi-based payday loan and check cashing companies to the constitutionality of the CFPB’s single-director structure in response to a CFPB action filed against the companies. The brief encourages the appellate court to disagree with the en banc decision of the D.C. Circuit, which upheld the Bureau’s structure (covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert). Instead, the Attorneys General argue, the court should find the structure unconstitutional rendering “all its actions unlawful.” The brief poses similar arguments to past challenges, including (i) the director should be removable at will by the president and (ii) the president’s removal power should only be restricted for multi-member commissions.

    Notably, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York recently disagreed with the D.C. Circuit decision, concluding the CFPB’s organizational structure is unconstitutional and terminated the Bureau as a party to an action because the agency lacked the authority to bring claims under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.)

    State Issues Courts CFPB Succession Consumer Finance CFPA State Attorney General

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  • Supreme Court of New York strikes down NYDFS’ Insurance Regulation 208

    State Issues

    On July 5, the Supreme Court of the State of New York ordered the annulment of Insurance Regulation 208, which was promulgated by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) in October 2017. The decision results from an Article 78 petition by several title insurance companies challenging the state regulation, which prohibits title insurance entities from providing benefits such as meals, tickets to events, gifts, cash, access to parties, trips and other incentives to referral sources. The regulation clarifies that certain “reasonable and customary” advertising and marketing expenses are permitted under New York’s insurance law, provided they are “without regard to insured status or conditioned directly or indirectly on the referral of title business.” The title insurance companies argue that Regulation 208’s restrictions are inconsistent with New York’s insurance law because the law only prohibits “quid pro quo inducements given in exchange for title insurance business” and the law permits marketing and entertainment payments so long as they are not being exchanged for “a specific identified piece of business.”

    The court agreed and found that the insurance law—which prohibits a “commission,” “rebate,” “fee,” or “other consideration or valuable thing”—could not be construed to include marketing and entertainment expenses because “it is common sense that marketing is an inducement for business” and it would be “an absurd proposition” that the New York Legislature intended to prohibit companies from marketing themselves. Additionally, construing the insurance law to include marketing and entertainment expenses as prohibited expenditures but also including a provision which delineates certain types of marketing and entertainment expenses as permissible is “irreconcilable and irrational.” The court ultimately concluded that Regulation 208 must fail because it contravenes the will of the Legislature under the insurance law.

    In response to the decision, NYDFS Superintendent, Maria T. Vullo, issued a statement that the state intends to appeal as they “remain certain of [their] legal opinion and are confident [they] will prevail on appeal.” On July 6, NYDFS filed a notice of appeal with the court.

    State Issues Courts NYDFS Title Insurance

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  • 6th Circuit affirms no breach of contract for processing ACH transactions in order received

    Courts

    On July 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision, holding that there was no breach of contract between a consumer and a bank arising from the order in which the bank processed automated clearing house (ACH) transactions against the consumer’s checking account. According to the opinion, the consumer brought two state law breach of contract claims against the bank alleging that the order in which the bank processed ACH transactions against his checking account resulted in eight initial overdraft fees. Addressing the first breach of contract claim, the appeals court rejected the consumer’s argument that the agreement required the bank to process ACH transactions in the order incurred by the consumer. According to the agreement, “transactions will be processed ‘as they occur on their effective date for the business day on which they are processed’”—not necessarily the actual date that the transaction was initiated. Under the ACH Guidelines, the “effective date” is the date when the merchant presents the transactions to the ACH Operator (the Federal Reserve). Specifically, the bank processed the transactions in the order presented in the Federal Reserve’s batch files. The 6th Circuit also rejected the consumer’s second breach of contract claim, which asserted that the bank’s initial debiting of eight overdraft fees violated the parties’ agreement. Under the terms of the parties’ agreement, the consumer was not required to pay more than five overdraft fees per day, and while the initial debiting of the eight charges constituted a breach, the next-business-day reversal eliminated any damages. Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the bank.

    Courts Sixth Circuit Appellate ACH

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  • Fannie Mae updates Reverse Mortgage Loan Servicing Manual

    Federal Issues

    On July 11, Fannie Mae issued RVS-2018-02, which updates the Reverse Mortgage Loan Servicing Manual to include changes related to REO Hazard Insurance Coverage Requirements for Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) mortgages. Specifically, the update requires a servicer to place a property insurance policy on acquired property up to the HUD foreclosure appraisal amount or deed-in-lieu property valuation amount, in accordance with HUD guidelines. If the servicer is unable to obtain either of these valuation amounts, the servicer must place coverage up to the unpaid principal balance amount. Servicers are required to implement the changes no later than October 1 for new and existing HECM properties in REO inventory.

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Mortgages Reverse Mortgages Mortgage Servicing HECM

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  • DOJ announces task force on market integrity and consumer fraud

    Federal Issues

    On July 11, the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, announced the establishment of a new task force on market integrity and consumer fraud pursuant to an Executive Order (EO) issued by President Trump on the same day. The task force, led by Rosenstein, will provide guidance for the investigation and prosecution of cases involving fraud on the government, financial markets, and consumers. The announcement lists a wide range of fraudulent activities, including (i) cyber-fraud; (ii) fraud targeting older Americans and service members; (iii) securities and commodities fraud; and (iv) corporate fraud affecting the general public, such as money laundering and other financial crimes. Rosenstein emphasized that the task force will work to achieve “more effective and efficient outcomes” to identify and stop fraud “on a wider scale than any one agency acting alone.”

    While the EO requests senior officials from numerous federal agencies be invited by the DOJ to participate in the task force, Rosenstein was joined by acting Director of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney; Chairman of the SEC, Jay Clayton; and Chairman of the FTC, Joe Simons in the announcement. Mulvaney stated, “[t]he Bureau takes its mandate to enforce the law seriously, and the Bureau will continue to apply the law to achieve this end of combatting fraud against Americans…. This task force is an example of the growing cooperation of the Bureau’s work with other federal and state authorities to combat a multitude of bad actors out there today.”

    Federal Issues Fraud Consumer Finance Anti-Money Laundering Financial Crimes DOJ SEC FTC CFPB

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  • New York Attorney General: Don’t delay action if CFPB appeals constitutionality determination

    Courts

    On July 9, the New York Attorney General and a New Jersey-based litigation funding company and its affiliates filed a joint letter in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York addressing how the parties would like to proceed in the legal matter after the court terminated the CFPB as a party to the action. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in June, the district court held the agency’s structure is unconstitutional and therefore not allowed to bring claims under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), but allowed the Attorney General to continue the action. The letter discusses the parties’ desired path for the litigation should the Bureau choose to appeal the court’s constitutionality determination. If the Bureau should appeal, the defendants request the court allow the immediate appeal and stay the current litigation, while the Attorney General disagrees with allowing the immediate appeal and “would like the case to proceed as expeditiously as possible.”

    As for whether the court continues to have jurisdiction over the remaining claims, the Attorney General argues that the federal district court continues to have subject matter jurisdiction over the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) claims and supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. The defendants disagree and interpret the June decision to strike all substantive provisions of the CFPA that would form the basis for federal jurisdiction.

    The letter states the Bureau has not yet decided if it will pursue an appeal of the court’s determination.

    Courts State Attorney General CFPB CFPA Consumer Finance

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