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On October 15, the DOJ filed an indictment against a Swiss national and former executive at Maxwell Technologies—a U.S.-based energy storage and power-delivery company—for alleged violations of the FCPA. The DOJ claims that over a more than six-year period the former executive engaged in a conspiracy to make and conceal payments to Chinese government officials in order to obtain and retain business, prestige, and increased compensation for his company. This individual action follows a 2011 action by the DOJ and the SEC against the company based on the same allegations and which the company agreed to resolve for $13.65 million.
On September 17, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Leslie R. Caldwell to serve as the DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division. Ms. Caldwell currently is a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP where she co-chairs the firm’s corporate investigations and white collar practice group. Prior to entering private practice, Ms. Caldwell served as Director of the DOJ’s Enron Task Force from 2002 to 2004. Prior to that she served as Chief of the Criminal Division and Securities Fraud Section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and held several positions in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
On August 6, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the FDIC Office of Inspector General, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced criminal charges against former members of the board of directors and senior executives at a bank that received funds under the TARP program. The authorities allege that the former directors and officers concealed the bank’s financial condition from state regulators, while the board chairman allegedly solicited and demanded bribes in exchange for business loans and lines of credit. The authorities charge that over a six year period, the officers submitted numerous fraudulent reports to their Illinois regulator and used money from third parties to make payments on several bank loans that were pasts due. During this period, the bank applied for and obtained TARP funds that were used to further the officers’ criminal scheme.
On July 31, the DOJ announced the departure of Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) Executive Director Michael Bresnick, effective August 1, 2013. The DOJ describes the FFETF, which was created in 2009, as the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat financial fraud. Mr. Bresnick has led the FFETF since October 2011, and departed to join a private law practice. On the same day, the Senate voted to confirm Stuart Delery as Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Civil Division. Mr. Delery had been filling that position on an acting basis, prior to which time he held several other positions within the department. He joined the DOJ in January 2009 as Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Deputy Attorney General and later served as Associate Deputy Attorney General and Senior Counselor to the Attorney General.
On July 1, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York held that it has the power to accept or reject a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), and to retain supervisory power over the implementation of a DPA. U.S. v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., No. 12-00763, 2013 WL 3306161 (E.D.N.Y. Jul, 1, 2013). In 2012, a major international bank holding company announced agreements with U.S. law enforcement authorities and federal bank regulators to end investigations into alleged inadequate compliance with anti-money laundering and sanctions laws by the holding company and its U.S. subsidiaries. As part of the resolution, the companies entered into a DPA, which the parties filed with the court and asked the court hold the case in abeyance to exclude part of the DPA from the federal Speedy Trial Act. In reviewing the request for abeyance, the court held that it has broader supervisory power to approve or reject the agreement in its entirety and that such power extends to implementation of the agreement. The court approved the DPA, but retained authority to monitor its execution and implementation. The court explained that “by placing a criminal matter on the docket of a federal court, the parties have subjected their DPA to the legitimate exercise of that court's authority.” Under its supervisory powers holding, which the court characterized as “novel,” the court could later move to modify the agreement. More broadly, the court’s assessment of its supervisory power potentially calls into question the certainty and finality of DPAs, which could impact the use of that prosecutorial tool.
On June 27, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama announced that a used car dealer pleaded guilty to charges that he violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). United States v. Nuss, No. 13-102 (N.D. Ala. Plea entered Jun. 27, 2013). In March, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging the car dealer with failing to follow the SCRA when asked to do so by an Alabama National Guard member who had been called to active duty in Afghanistan. The guardsman allegedly had sent a letter from his deployed location, in which he asked that his interest rate be reduced to six percent as required by the SCRA. According to the indictment, the dealer refused to reduce the interest rate, and hired two individuals to repossess the guardsman’s vehicle without first obtaining a SCRA-required court order. Notably, the dealer entered his plea without a plea agreement with the government. He is scheduled for sentencing on September 12, 2013. The maximum penalty for each SCRA violation is one year in prison, and a $100,000 fine.
On June 24, FinCEN announced its new organizational structure, effective immediately. The new structure organizes employees based on their job function, whereas previously employees were organized based on the stakeholder that they served. FinCEN believes the change will maximize its ability to efficiently further its anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing efforts.
On June 12, the DOJ and the SEC announced additional charges in a previously announced case against employees of a U.S. broker-dealer related to an alleged “massive international bribery scheme.” The DOJ unsealed criminal charges against a third employee of the broker-dealer who allegedly arranged bribe payments to a Venezuela state economic development bank official in exchange for financial trading business for the broker-dealer. The SEC, whose routine compliance examination detected the allegedly illegal conduct, announced parallel civil charges.
Eleventh Circuit Holds Bank Accounts Containing Commingled Criminal, Non-Criminal Funds Are Not Subject to Forfeiture as "Proceeds" of the Crime
On June 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that bank accounts in which funds traceable to the defendant’s criminal activity were commingled with funds unrelated to such activity were not subject to forfeiture as “proceeds” of the criminal activity. In re Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, Adler, P.A., 2013 WL 2494980, No. 11-10676 (11th Cir. June 12, 2013). The defendant pleaded guilty to violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by using his law firm to perpetrate a Ponzi scheme over a four-year period. Funds traceable to the criminal activity were deposited in the law firm’s bank accounts, where they were commingled with funds earned from the law firm’s substantial legitimate activities. The trustee of the law firm’s bankruptcy estate appealed a trial court order granting the government’s request that the firm’s bank accounts be forfeited as the “proceeds” of the criminal activity. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, noting that the government must establish the “requisite nexus between the property and the offense,” which requires that the tainted and untainted property be distinguishable “without difficulty.” The government was unable to clearly distinguish between the tainted and untainted funds, in part because of the size and number of transactions in the bank accounts. Because the government could not establish that the bank accounts were the proceeds of the criminal activity, the court remanded to allow the government to pursue forfeiture of “substitute assets.”
On June 10, Florida enacted SB 282, which amends the Florida Consumer Finance Act to increase by $1,000 the tiered principal amounts subject to maximum allowable interest rates. For loans entered after July 1, 2013, lenders can charge for certain consumer loans up to 30 percent interest on the first $3,000, up to 24 percent on $3,001 to $4,000, and up to 18 percent over $4,000. The bill also increases from $10 to $15 the maximum amount that lenders can charge for payments at least 10 days delinquent.
- APPROVED Checkpoint Webcast: CFL overview
- Amanda R. Lawrence and Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss "California privacy rule" on an NAFCU webinar
- Sasha Leonhardt to discuss "The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Lending Act: Common pitfalls and emerging issues" at a NAFCU webinar
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "BigLaw" at the Women in Business Law Leadership Conference
- H Joshua Kotin and Jessica M. Shannon to discuss "TILA/RESPA mortgage servicing and origination" at the NAFCU Regulatory Compliance School
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Pathway of the SARs: Tracking trajectories of suspicious activity reports from alerts to prosecution" at the ACAMS International AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Which bud’s for you? A deep-dive into evolving marijuana laws" at the ACAMS International AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Understanding OFAC sanctions" at a NAFCU webinar
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA 8 (TRID applied compliance)" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- John P. Kromer to discuss "Navigating the multi-state fintech regulatory regime" at the American Conference Institute Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum on Fintech & Emerging Payment Systems
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Leveraging big data responsibly" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Critique of direct examination; Questions and answers" at the American Bar Association Section of Litigation Anatomy of a Trial: Murder Trial of Ziang Sung Wan
- Hank Asbill to discuss "What judges want from trial lawyers" at the American Bar Association Section of Litigation Anatomy of a Trial: Murder Trial of Ziang Sung Wan
- Steven R. vonBerg to speak at the "Conference super session" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference