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  • FHFA Releases Analysis of Principal Forgiveness Loan Modification Option

    Lending

    On January 23, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the entity serving as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released a letter sent to certain members of Congress describing the internal analyses that resulted in FHFA’s decision not to use principal forgiveness as part of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s loan modification programs. In short, the letter and analyses support FHFA’s previous publicly-stated conclusion that FHFA lacks statutory authority to incur the taxpayer losses that would result from the use of principal forgiveness. The letter concludes that “forbearance achieves marginally lower losses for the taxpayer than forgiveness,” but both provide the same more affordable payment for the borrower. The additional costs of principal forgiveness would not be offset by preservation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac assets.

    Freddie Mac Fannie Mae

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  • Georgia Federal Court Allows RESPA Class Action to Proceed

    Lending

    On January 18, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied a motion to dismiss a putative class action suit alleging violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Bolinger v. First Multiple Listing Serv., Inc., No. 10-00211-RWS, 2012 WL 137883 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 18, 2012). Georgia residents who purchased properties listed on the First Multiple Listing Service, Inc. (FMLS) database claim that member agents and brokers paid fees to FMLS out of settlement proceeds but did not disclose those fees on the HUD-1 settlement statement. Plaintiffs also claim that FMLS used those fees to pay kickbacks to member brokers for referrals of listing business. As such, plaintiffs allege that defendants violated (i) Section 8 of RESPA; (ii) the Sherman Act; and (iii) several Georgia state laws. The court found that plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts for their RESPA claims to survive the motion to dismiss. The Court did, however, dismiss plaintiffs’ claims under the Sherman Act, holding that the plaintiffs failed to allege facts showing that defendants engaged in price-fixing by agreeing to fix broker commissions.

    RESPA

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  • CFPB Finalizes Amendments to Remittance Transfer Rules (Regulation E)

    Fintech

    On January 20, the CFPB issued a final rule to amend regulations applicable to consumer remittance transfers of over fifteen dollars originating in the United States and sent internationally. Generally, the final rule requires remittance transfer providers to (i) provide written pre-payment disclosures of the exchange rates and fees associated with a transfer of funds, as well as the amount of funds the recipient will receive, and (ii) investigate consumer disputes and remedy errors. The rulemaking stems from a Dodd-Frank Act provision that expanded the scope of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to cover international money transfers, and concludes an effort started by the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) that was transferred to the CFPB last year. The final rule closely tracks the proposed FRB rule, but among other things, provides (i) a thirty-minute cancellation period for consumers, as opposed to the proposed one-day period, (ii) additional compliance guidance for specific circumstances, including for transactions conducted by mobile applications, and (iii) revised model disclosure forms. Concurrent with the final rule, the CFPB issued a request for comment on additional revisions to the regulations, including comments and information for use in (i) setting a specific safe harbor for remittance transfer providers that do not provide such services “in the normal course of business”, and (ii) applying the new disclosure and cancellation requirements in cases where the request is made several days in advance of the transfer date. Comments on the proposal will be accepted for sixty days following publication in the Federal Register.

    CFPB Dodd-Frank

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  • CFPB Holds Field Hearing on Payday Lending, Releases Payday Lending Exam Guide

    Consumer Finance

    On January 19, the CFPB held a field hearing in Birmingham, Alabama to discuss payday lending products. The hearing, which was the first such hearing held by the CFPB, included three panels featuring CFPB staff, consumer groups, and industry representatives. In conjunction with the event, the CFPB also released its “Short-Term, Small-Dollar Lending Procedures,” which is a field guide for use in examining bank and nonbank payday lenders. These procedures are structured to mirror payday lending activities ranging from initial advertising to collection practices. The CFPB will prioritize its supervision of payday lenders depending on the perceived risk to consumers, taking into account factors such as a lender’s volume of business and the extent of existing state oversight. In remarks at the event, Director Richard Cordray stated that there are some payday lenders and practices that deserve more urgent attention because they present immediate risk to consumers and are “clearly illegal.” The Director identified two examples of such practices, including (i) unauthorized debits on a consumer’s checking account that can occur when the consumer unknowingly “is dealing with several businesses hidden behind a payday loan,” any one of which could be a “fraudster” merely seeking the customer’s private financial information, and (ii) “aggressive debt collection tactics” including “posing as federal authorities, threatening borrowers with criminal prosecution, trying to garnish wages improperly, and harassing the borrower.”

    CFPB Payday Lending Nonbank Supervision

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  • U.S. Sentencing Commission Proposes Harsher Sentences for Securities and Mortgage Fraud

    Financial Crimes

    On January 19, the U.S. Sentencing Commission proposed more severe sentencing guidelines for certain securities and mortgage fraud violations. The proposal implements two directives of the Dodd-Frank Act, which require the Commission to re-evaluate penalties in cases involving (i) securities fraud and similar offenses, and (ii) mortgage fraud and financial institution fraud. Generally, the Commission seeks comment on whether the current guidelines appropriately account for potential and actual harm to the public and financial markets from securities, mortgage, and financial institution fraud. With regard to securities fraud, the Commission proposes amendments to address sophisticated insider trading and frauds conducted by individuals holding certain positions of trust. In addressing the mortgage fraud directive, the Commission proposes changes to the calculation of loss in cases of a fraud involving a mortgage loan, including that (i) the loss should be determined by the amount recovered from the foreclosure sale where the collateral has been disposed of at a foreclosure sale; and (ii) reasonably foreseeable administrative costs to the lending institution associated with foreclosing on the mortgaged property may be included as reasonably foreseeable pecuniary harm provided that the lending institution exercised due diligence in the initiation, processing, and monitoring of the loan and the disposal of the collateral. Finally, with regard to more general financial institution fraud, the proposal seeks to provide an enhancement for offenses involving specific financial harms, such as jeopardizing the financial institution. The deadline for written public comments regarding the proposed amendments is March 19, 2012.

    Fraud

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  • The Fair Housing Act, Disparate Impact Claims, and Magner v. Gallagher

    Courts

    In the February 2012 volume of The Banking Law Journal, BuckleySandler partner Jeff Naimon published "The Fair Housing Act, Disparate Impact Claims, and Magner v. Gallagher", in which the authors review the text of the Fair Housing Act, its legislative history, and past federal appellate court decisions holding that the FHA permits disparate impact claims. They argue that recent Supreme Court decisions cast doubt on the past federal appellate court decisions, and show that the statutory text of the FHA, unlike the text of some other civil rights laws, does not permit disparate impact claims. They also discuss the case currently pending before the Court in which the Court may address for the first time whether the FHA permits disparate impact claims.

    U.S. Supreme Court Fair Housing

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  • U.S. Supreme Court Holds TCPA Litigation Not Confined to State Courts

    Courts

    On January 18, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) does not require that private actions seeking redress under the TCPA be heard only by state courts. Mims v. Arrow Financial Services, LLC, No. 10-1195, 2012 WL 125429 (Jan. 18, 2012). The decision reversed an Eleventh Circuit decision upholding a district court’s finding that Congress had placed exclusive jurisdiction over private TCPA actions in state courts. In so reversing, the Supreme Court contravened prior decisions from the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth circuits. Unlike those decisions, the Supreme Court found no reason to convert the TCPA’s permissive grant of jurisdiction to state courts into an exclusive grant barring the federal-question jurisdiction of U.S. district courts. According to the Supreme Court, in the TCPA Congress enacted “detailed, uniform, federal substantive prescriptions” related to telemarketing and “provided for a regulatory regime administered by a federal agency.” Congress could have, but did not, seek only to fill gaps in states’ enforcement capability.

    TCPA

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  • DOJ Obtains Settlement of FCPA Charges Against Japanese Trading Company, Loses Trial on FCPA Charges Related to Mexican Electricity Contract

    Financial Crimes

    On January 17, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the settlement of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) charges against a Japanese trading company for a bribery scheme involving Nigerian government officials in connection with a liquid natural gas project. The company agreed to pay a $54.6 million criminal penalty to resolve the charges. Concurrently, the DOJ filed a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), as well as a criminal information that will be dismissed if the company abides by the terms of the DPA for two years.

    On the same day, following a four-day jury trial, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas acquitted a former power company executive of multiple FCPA charges related to alleged bribes paid to Mexican officials in connection with an electrical equipment and services contract. The defendant still faces non-FCPA criminal charges, which previously were severed. In 2010, the company settled related charges it faced.

    FCPA

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  • FDIC Approves Final Rule Regarding Resolution Plans

    Consumer Finance

    On January 17, the FDIC approved a final rule establishing the requirements for submission and content of plans to assist the FDIC in the orderly resolution of insured depository institutions with total assets of at least $50 billion. The rule aims to help mitigate risks presented by insolvency of large and complex institutions by enhancing the FDIC’s ability to reduce losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund and limit disruption to the broader financial system. The $50 billion asset threshold means that thirty-seven institutions currently will be required to submit resolution plans (also known as “living wills”). This final rule follows and amends an interim final rule published in September 2011 (see InfoBytes, September 23, 2011). Some amendments are designed to more closely align the rule with a similar rule issued jointly by FDIC and the Federal Reserve Board in October 2011 to require resolution plans for certain bank holding companies. (See InfoBytes, October 21, 2011). Other changes to the interim final rule address comments submitted by stakeholders, including changes to (i) require plans to identify potential barriers or other material obstacles to an orderly resolution, (ii) allow for recapitalization as a resolution option, and (iii) require the FDIC in its plan review process to consult with a covered institution’s regulator before finding that an institution’s data production capability is unacceptable. Resolution plans will be submitted in phases to address the largest institutions first. For example, the first phase requires covered institutions whose parent company had at least $250 billion of nonbank assets as of November 30, 2011 to submit plans on July 1, 2012. Each covered institution must submit plans annually on the anniversary date of their initial submission.

    FDIC Dodd-Frank Living Wills

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  • FDIC Approves Proposal for Large Bank Stress Testing

    Consumer Finance

    On January 17, the FDIC approved a proposed rule to implement annual capital-adequacy stress tests for FDIC-insured state nonmember banks and state-chartered savings associations with over $10 billion of total consolidated assets. As of September 30, 2011, there were twenty-three such institutions. Required by the Dodd-Frank Act, the stress tests would assist the FDIC in assessing risk presented by an institution’s capitalization and help ensure the bank’s financial stability. Under the proposal, the FDIC would annually provide covered banks with at least three sets of conditions – baseline, adverse, and severely adverse – that must be used in conducting an annual stress test. The tests would include calculations, for each quarter-end within a defined planning horizon, of the impact on the covered bank’s (i) potential losses, (ii) pre-provision revenues, (iii) loan loss reserves, and (iv) pro forma capital positions, including the impact on capital levels and ratios. Covered banks also would be required to establish an oversight and documentation system to ensure that stress testing procedures are effective. Following a test, a covered bank would be required to submit the results to the FDIC and later release a summary to the public. Under the proposed timeline, each year (i) the FDIC would provide scenarios no later than mid-November, (ii) covered banks would submit their stress test reports by January 5, and (iii) by early April covered banks would publicly release a summary of results. Public comments on the rule will be accepted sixty days following publication of the rule in the Federal Register.

    FDIC Dodd-Frank

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