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  • Senate Special Committee Hearing Focuses on Continuing Efforts to Combat Illegal Robocalls

    Federal Issues

    On October 4, the Senate Special Committee on Aging (Committee) held a hearing entitled “Still Ringing Off the Hook: An Update on Efforts to Combat Robocalls” to discuss efforts to combat illegal robocalls. Committee Chairman Susan M. Collins (R-Me.) opened the hearing by reinforcing the importance of utilizing technology not only to block robocalls but to better understand the scams that continue to impact consumers. Sen. Collins also stressed the positive impact “aggressive law enforcement” has had on these efforts.

    According to a hearing-related press release issued by the FTC, the Commission received more than 3.4 million robocall complaints from consumers in 2016 and at least another 3.5 million complaints between January and August 2017. The FTC’s ongoing efforts to address these complaints include: (i) initiating enforcement actions targeting robocall violators; (ii) cooperating with law enforcement at the state, federal, and international level to develop solutions to prevent and detect calls; and (iii) as previously discussed in InfoBytes, publicly posting robocall numbers received from consumer complaints to help enable industry groups develop call-blocking solutions. The following four witnesses offered testimony on industry and state efforts to protect consumers from scams and increase education efforts.

    • Ms. Lois C. Greismann, Associate Director of the Division of Marketing Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC (testimony);
    • The Honorable Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General (testimony);
    • Mr. Kevin Rupy, Vice President for Law and Public Policy, USTelecom (testimony); and
    • Ms. Genie Barton, President, BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (testimony).

    Federal Issues Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security FTC Telemarketing Sales Rule U.S. Senate State AG

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  • California Bans Use of Arbitration Clauses in Fraudulently Created Financial Contracts

    State Issues

    On October 4, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law amendments to the state’s code of civil procedure that essentially eliminates the use of forced arbitration in cases of fraudulently created accounts. SB 33 prevents state or federally chartered depository institutions from enforcing arbitration agreements in existing consumer contracts to compel California customers to arbitrate disputes regarding other contracts created “fraudulently without the consumer’s consent or by unlawfully using the consumer’s personal identifying information.”

    The law comes at a time when, as previously discussed in InfoBytes, several financial industry groups issued a joint lawsuit challenging the Bureau’s arbitration rule, which prohibits the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in certain contracts for consumer financial products and services. The amendments take effect January 1, 2018.

    State Issues State Legislation Arbitration Fraud CFPB

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  • FTC, Department of Education Announce Education Technology Workshop to Explore Privacy Issues

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On October 4, the FTC and the Department of Education issued a notice announcing a joint Ed Tech (education technology) workshop to examine the challenges concerning privacy implications as more schools are using school-issued personal computing devices. The workshop will discuss issues surrounding the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA) as it applies to schools and how it intersects with the Department of Education’s Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is designed to protect the privacy of students’ education records. The workshop, which is open to the public, will be held in Washington, D.C., on December 1.

    As previously covered in InfoBytes, the FTC made modifications to COPPA’s safe harbor program this past July that now require all participants to conduct a comprehensive annual internal assessment of any third-party or service provider that collects personal information from children on their websites or through online services, in addition to issuing updates in June regarding resources companies can use to ensure COPPA compliance.

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FTC Department of Education COPPA

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  • South Korean Earthquake Research Official Sentenced for Laundering Bribes

    Financial Crimes

    On October 2, the former director of the earthquake research center of South Korea’s Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources was reportedly sentenced in U.S. federal court to 14 months in prison for laundering bribes he had received in South Korea from seismology companies. Prosecutors argued to the federal jury, which convicted him in July, that he had demanded and received more than $1 million in bribes from two seismological companies in exchange for providing them with insider information and directed some of the funds to be transferred to his personal bank account in California.

    The former director has not been charged in South Korea, and his conviction and sentencing in the United States illustrate the US DOJ’s continued focus on targeting foreign officials who receive bribes and then travel to the US or use its financial system.

    Financial Crimes DOJ Anti-Money Laundering Bribery

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  • Additional Charges for Retired U.S. Army Colonel

    Financial Crimes

    On October 4, the Department of Justice expanded the scope of its indictment against a retired U.S. Army colonel. On August 29, he was charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act after he allegedly solicited bribes from undercover agents who posed as potential investors for infrastructure projects in Haiti. The expanded charges include conspiracy to launder money and violate the Federal Travel Act. Prior FCPA Scorecard coverage of the initial indictment and the related FCPA sting operation can be found here.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA

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  • CFPB Issues Final Rule Regarding Payday, Title, Deposit Advance, and Other Installment Loans

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 5, the CFPB published its final rule (Rule) addressing payday loans, vehicle title loans, deposit advance products, and longer-term balloon loans (collectively, “covered loans”). The CFPB previously announced the proposed rule in June 2016 (covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert). The final rule makes it an abusive and unfair practice for lenders to make a covered short-term loan or covered longer-term balloon loan without determining upfront that the borrower has the ability to repay (known as the “full-payment test”). The full-payment test varies depending on the covered loan, but in essence, requires the lender to reasonably determine that the borrower can meet basic living expenses and major financial obligations and still afford their highest monthly payment(s). The Rule puts a limitation of three on the number of loans that can be made in quick succession (within 30 days of each other).

    Lenders may avoid the requirement of a “full-payment test” with covered loans by offering small-dollar, short-term loans that allow the borrower to pay down the principal more gradually or are determined to pose less financial risk to the borrower. In addition, loans that meet the parameters of “payday alternative loans” authorized by the National Credit Union Administration are excluded, as are no-cost advances and wage advance programs that meet certain conditions, though the Rule does impose restrictions on using these exceptions based on the borrower’s loan history.

    In addition to requirements surrounding the borrower’s ability to repay, the CFPB also finalized rules regarding payment withdrawals and reporting requirements. The Rule prevents lenders from attempting to withdraw a payment from a borrower’s account after two consecutive withdrawal attempts have failed, unless the borrower has given specific authorization to do so. This restriction applies to covered loans as well as longer-term loans with account access and an APR above 36 percent. The Rule requires lenders to use Bureau-registered credit reporting systems to report and obtain information about loans made under the full-payment test or the principal payoff option.

    The provision regarding the registration information systems takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The rest of the Rule takes effect 21 months after publication in the Federal Register.

    Buckley Sandler will follow up with a more detailed summary of the CFPB’s final rule.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Payday Lending Consumer Finance NCUA Federal Register

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  • Second Circuit Upholds Large Monetary Judgment Against International Bank

    Courts

    On September 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a New York District Court’s 2015 ruling, which requires a major international bank to pay $806 million for selling allegedly faulty mortgage-backed bonds to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In the original suit brought by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), FHFA alleged that the bank overstated the reliability of the loans for sale. In upholding the lower court’s decision, the Second Circuit concluded that the marketing prospectus used to sell the mortgage securities to Fannie and Freddie between 2005 and 2007 contained “untrue statements of material fact.” Specifically, the prospectus falsely stated that the loans were compiled with the underwriting standards described therein, including standards related to assessing the creditworthiness of the borrowers and appraising the value of properties.

    As previously covered in InfoBytes, the same international bank recently settled with FHFA regarding residential mortgage-back securities trusts purchased in the same timeframe.

    Courts Litigation Second Circuit Appellate Securities FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgages

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  • Federal Agencies Offer Regulatory Relief for Hurricane Victims

    Federal Issues

    Federal agencies continue to announce regulatory relief for financial institutions aiding consumers affected by recent hurricane disasters. InfoBytes coverage on previous disaster relief measures can be accessed here, here, and here.

    Freddie Mac. On September 25, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2017-21 (Bulletin) to extend certain temporary selling and servicing requirements meant to provide flexibility and relief for mortgages and borrowers in areas impacted by all hurricanes occurring on or after August 25 through the 2017 hurricane season. In particular, Freddie Mac will reimburse sellers for property inspections completed prior to the sale or securitization of mortgages secured by properties in disaster areas caused by a 2017 hurricane. Freddie Mac is also requiring servicers to suspend foreclosure sales and eviction activities on property located in eligible disaster areas affected by Hurricane Maria. However, the Bulletin provides that a servicer can proceed with a foreclosure sale if it can confirm that (i) inspection was completed on a mortgaged property “identified as vacant or abandoned prior to Hurricane Maria,” and (ii) the property sustained no “insurable damage.” The Bulletin also reminds servicers to report all mortgages affected by an eligible disaster that are 31 or more days delinquent to Freddie Mac.

    Veterans Affairs (VA). On September 27, the VA issued Circular 26-17-28 to outline measures that it encourages mortgagees to utilize to provide relief to veterans affected by Hurricane Maria. Specific recommendations include: (i) extending forbearance to distressed borrowers; (ii) establishing a 90-day moratorium on initiating foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waiving late charges; (iv) suspending credit bureau reporting with the understanding that servicers will not be penalized by the VA; and (v) extending “special forbearance” to National Guard members who report for active duty to assist recovery efforts.

    FDIC. On September 27, the FDIC released a financial institution letter to provide additional guidance for depository institutions assisting affected consumers. As previously covered in Infobytes, the FDIC released guidance for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief, and issued a joint press release in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Board, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, and the OCC as a response to those affected by Hurricane Irma. The newest release, FIL-46-2017, announced regulatory relief for financial institutions affected by Hurricane Maria, and steps to facilitate recovery in affected areas, which include: (i) “extending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans, or easing terms for new loans,” and (i) “encourage[ing] depository institutions to use non-documentary verification methods permitted by the Customer Identification Program requirement of the Bank Secrecy Act for affected customers who cannot provide standard identification documents.” Further, banks that support disaster recovery efforts, the FDIC noted, may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration.

    SEC. On September 28, the SEC issued an order providing regulatory relief to companies and individuals with federal securities law obligations who have been affected by recent natural disasters. The order provides conditional exemptions to certain securities laws requirements for specified periods of time. The Commission additionally adopted “interim final temporary rules” applicable to Regulation Crowdfunding and Regulation A filing deadline extensions.

    Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). On October 3, FinCEN issued a notice to financial institutions that file Bank Secrecy Act reports to encourage communication with FinCEN and their functional regulator regarding any expected filing delays caused by recent hurricanes.

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance Compliance Disaster Relief Flood Insurance Mortgages Foreclosure Freddie Mac Department of Veterans Affairs FDIC SEC FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act CRA Securities

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  • CFPB Issues Interim Final Rule Regarding Foreclosure Communications; Seeks Comment on Proposed Rule About Periodic Statements During Bankruptcy

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 4, the CFPB announced one change and one proposed change to the amendments to its mortgage servicing rules under Regulations X and Z. These amendments, which were previously covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert, are scheduled to take effect in two phases on October 19, 2017 and April 19, 2018.

    First, the CFPB amended the amendments to Regulation X’s provision regarding early intervention notices in order to address timing issues that result when a borrower has invoked his or her cease in communication rights under the FDCPA. Had the most recent amendment not been made, a mortgage servicer subject to a cease in communication request would have been required to provide a modified early intervention notice to the borrower every 180 days but not more than once during any 180-day period, leaving no margin for error and creating operational challenges if the 180th day fell on a weekend or holiday. Based on concerns from the mortgage industry the CFPB issued an interim final rule without advance public comment to give servicers a 10-day window to provide the modified notices at the end of the 180-day period. The interim final rule becomes effective on October 19, 2017, at the same time the broader amendments to the early intervention requirements take effect.

    Second, the CFPB proposed to update technical aspects of the upcoming periodic statement requirements for borrowers in bankruptcy. Specifically, the CFPB is seeking public comment on changes to the transition rules for borrowers who enter or leave bankruptcy, including replacing the single-billing-cycle exemption with a single-statement exemption for the next periodic statement the servicer would have to provide regardless of when in the billing cycle a triggering event occurs. The Bureau proposed that these amendments take effect on April 19, 2018, at the same time as the new periodic statement requirements for borrowers in bankruptcy. 

    The comment period on both the interview final rule and the proposed rule will close 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgages FDCPA Regulation Z Regulation X Mortgage Servicing Federal Register

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  • FTC to Hold Informational Injury Workshop

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On September 29, the FTC announced it will host an “informational injury” workshop on December 12 to examine the types of injuries consumers face when information about them is misused , as well as the tradeoffs when collecting, using, or sharing consumers’ personal information. In preparation for the workshop, the FTC is seeking public input concerning a range of issues such as (i) the types of qualitative consumer injuries resulting from privacy and data security incidents; (ii) the best ways to assess or quantify injury; and (iii) the cost benefit analysis of collecting, using, and sharing information when facing potential injury. The FTC will accept comments through October 27.

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security FTC Enforcement

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