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  • Supreme Court holds that defendants are entitled to jury trial if the SEC seeks civil penalties

    Courts

    On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court decided SEC v. Jarkesy which held that, pursuant to the Seventh Amendment, when the SEC brings an enforcement action seeking civil penalties, it must do so in federal court, where a jury trial is available, rather than through its own in-house proceedings. When the SEC would adjudicate a matter in-house, however, there were no juries — the Commission (or a delegated member or Administrative Law Judge) presided over the action and acts as the factfinder.

    In the underlying case (covered by InfoBytes here), the SEC initiated an enforcement action and sought, among other remedies, civil penalties. The SEC, as was typical, adjudicated the matter in-house rather than proceed in federal court and imposed a $300,000 civil penalty. The defendant sought review, ultimately raising before the Supreme Court the question of whether the Seventh Amendment entitled a defendant to a jury trial when the SEC seeks civil penalties for securities fraud. The Supreme Court held that it did as the Seventh Amendment guaranteed that “the right of trial by jury shall be preserved” in “suits at common law”; “money damages are the prototypical common law remedy,” and civil penalties — a form of monetary relief — were “a type of remedy at common law that could only be enforced in courts of law.”

    For a deeper look at this important case, please read our recent Orrick Insight here.  

    Courts Federal Issues U.S. Supreme Court SEC ALJ Fifth Circuit Securities Act Securities Exchange Act Securities Exchange Commission Enforcement

  • FTC refers ROSCA case against software company and executives to DOJ

    Federal Issues

    On June 17, the FTC announced an enforcement action against a software company and two of its executives for its practices related to its subscription model. According to the redacted complaint filed by the DOJ (upon referral from the FTC), defendant allegedly failed to adequately disclose to consumers the terms associated with its year-long subscription, and allegedly failed to obtain the consumer’s express informed consent before charging them. Defendant’s “Annual, Paid Monthly” subscription plan allegedly included early termination fees (ETF) that were not clearly disclosed to consumers upon enrollment. In particular, the ETF disclosures were buried on the company’s website in small print or required consumers to hover over small icons to find the disclosures. The DOJ also alleged defendant used the early termination fees to discourage consumers from canceling their plans, which was also difficult for consumers to do. Defendant’s practices allegedly violated the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA). The DOJ will be seeking injunctive relief, civil penalties, equitable monetary relief, as well as other relief.

    Federal Issues DOJ FTC ROSCA Enforcement Consumer Protection Subscriptions

  • OCC report outlines key risks in the federal banking system

    On June 18, the OCC published its Semiannual Risk Perspective for Spring 2024, a report assessing the health and risks of the federal banking system focusing on threats to the safety and soundness of banks and their compliance with applicable laws and regulations. In its release about the report, the OCC stated that the banking system remains sound, but recognized potential consumer difficulties due to a slowing labor market, high interest rates, and “sticky” inflation. The report encouraged financial institutions to improve continuously risk management processes, stating that it was “crucial that banks establish an appropriate risk culture that identifies potential risk, particularly before times of stress.” The information in the report was based on data up to December 31, 2023, and included a special topic, operating environment, bank performance, and trends in key risks.

    According to the report, key risk themes included:

    1. Credit Risk: There was an increase in credit risk, particularly in the commercial real estate sector. The office sector and some multifamily properties were under stress from higher interest rates and structural changes. Loans in these sectors, especially interest-only loans due for refinancing in the next three years, pose a heightened risk.
    2. Market Risk: Banks were experiencing pressure on net interest margins due to deposit competition, which “may be nearing a peak.” There were challenges in risk management from potential future interest rate changes and unpredictable depositor behavior. The use of wholesale funding was growing, though more slowly, and banks face elevated unrealized losses in their investment portfolios, despite improvements.
    3. Operational Risk: The operational risk was high due to the evolving nature of the banking environment and cyber threats, including ransomware, were a continued threat. Digitalization and the adoption of new products and services, along with third-party engagement, increased complexities and risks. Fraud incidents and the importance of fraud risk management were also emphasized.
    4. Compliance Risk: Banks must navigate a dynamic environment with evolving customer preferences, and compliance risk management frameworks need to be adequate and adaptable to changes in banks' risk profiles. Fraud remained a significant risk, with check and wire fraud, and peer-to-peer transaction scams becoming more common. The OCC will continue to evaluate banks' CRA performance.

    The report emphasized that these risks can be interrelated, noting that a “stress event could manifest through operational and/or financial events and have institution-specific or sector-wide impacts,” and that “[e]ach stress event may vary (e.g., operational, liquidity, credit, compliance, and other) and resiliency implications need to be proactively considered.”

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC Risk Management

  • New York Fed releases paper on nonbanks reliance on banks

    On June 20, the New York Fed released an article highlighting a recent study that revealed nonbank financial institutions (NBFIs) growth was reliant on banks for funding and liquidity insurance. The article observed that while this relationship between banks and NBFIs may result in overall growth and a wider access to financial services, it could add risks seen during financial strains like the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic. In response to these stressful periods, NBFIs have turned to banks, and later government agencies, for liquidity. And because the asset holdings of banks and NBFIs have become similar, any forced asset sales by NBFIs could trigger a chain reaction leading to market disruptions. According to the authors of the study, a holistic approach to the bank-NBFI relationship will be necessary to manage systemic risk and maintain financial stability.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues New York Federal Reserve Nonbank Liquidity

  • CFPB extends its small business lending rule and opens comment period

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 25, the CFPB released its formal action to extend the compliance dates for its small business lending rule, section 1071 (covered by InfoBytes here). The extension of 290 days represented the time elapsed between the Texas court’s first issuance of a stay last year and the Supreme Court’s decision in CFPB v. CFSA last month. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB notified the public of these changes in May but has now issued its interim final rule with a request for public comment. The new rule will implement section 1071 by adding subpart B to Regulation B of the rule, and the CFPB estimated this rule will affect at most 1,900 banks, savings associations and credit unions with $10 billion or less in total assets.

    Under the new rule, the following dates will go into effect:

    • Tier 1 institutions (highest volume lenders): The new compliance date will be July 18, 2025, and the first filing deadline will be June 1, 2026.
    • Tier 2 institutions (moderate volume lenders): The new compliance date will be January 16, 2026, and the first filing deadline will be June 1, 2027.
    • Tier 3 institutions (lowest volume lenders): The new compliance date will be October 18, 2026, and the first filing deadline will be June 1, 2027.

    The CFPB also included the previous rule’s 12-month grace period wherein the Bureau would not assess penalties for errors made in good faith in data reporting. To add clarity to these changes, the Bureau issued an unofficial redline of its final changes. The new rule will go into effect 30 days following its publication in the Federal Register.

     

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues Regulation B CFPB Small Business Lending Bank Compliance

  • OCC proposes revisions to its recovery planning guidelines

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 24, the OCC proposed revisions to its recovery planning guidelines—plans for how to respond quickly and effectively to, and recover from, the financial effects of severe stress on large financial institutions. Considering the increase in withdrawals of uninsured deposits in March 2023, the OCC will expand the application of its guideline requirements to insured national banks, federal savings associations and federal branches with average total consolidated assets of $100 billion or more.

    The proposed revisions also change “average total consolidated assets” as defined in the guidelines to clarify that the calculation would be based on the “total assets” line of the Call Report, not the “average total consolidated assets” line of the Call Report. The OCC said this may affect the quarter in which a bank becomes a covered bank.

    The OCC further proposed to incorporate a yearly, risk-based testing standard of recovery plans to include stress scenarios that ensure “the plan’s triggers appropriately reflect the covered bank’s particular vulnerabilities and will, in practice, provide the covered bank with timely notice of a continuum of increasingly severe stress, ranging from warnings of the likely occurrence of severe stress to the actual existence of severe stress.” Testing should ensure that management and the board can confirm the bank's readiness to execute identified strategies under stress. The OCC will require that a covered bank’s recovery plan will consider appropriately both financial risk and non-financial risk (including operational and strategic risks), as well as be integrated into its risk governance functions.

    Covered banks will have one year from the effective date of the amendments to comply with the new requirements. Comments must be received 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC

  • CFPB settles HMDA lawsuit with large mortgage lender for $3.95 million

    Federal Issues

    On June 18, the CFPB filed a proposed stipulated final judgment and order in its lawsuit against a large mortgage lender for violating HMDA, Regulation C and the CFPA. The mortgage lender agreed to pay a civil money penalty of $3.95 million. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB filed its complaint against the Florida-based nonbank mortgage lender in October 2023 to obtain relief and penalties associated with the lender’s alleged repeated failure to comply with HMDA reporting requirements and the terms of a 2019 Consent Order. In addition to the monetary penalty, the proposed order will prohibit the mortgage lender from violating HMDA, and require the development of additional policies, and issued controls to prevent errors in recording consumer and loan data and HMDA data reporting. Under the proposal, the mortgage lender must also establish an HMDA Compliance Subcommittee that will include the CEO, COO, CRO, and CLO, and retain a third-party independent auditor to perform HMDA data transaction testing, perform a root cause analysis, and issue written reports for five years. Within 30 days of the date the order will be entered by the court, the mortgage lender must create a compliance plan outlining detailed steps, designed policies, board notifications, and specific timelines. In agreeing to the proposed stipulation, the mortgage lender neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the complaint.

    Federal Issues CFPB Mortgages Enforcement HMDA

  • FHFA approves Freddie Mac's second mortgage pilot

    Federal Issues

    On June 20, FHFA conditionally approved a limited pilot program for Freddie Mac to begin purchasing certain single-family closed-end second mortgages. This decision came after implementing a new approval process for products from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which became effective in April 2023. The pilot will determine if the new mortgage product “advances Freddie Mac's statutory purposes and benefits borrowers, particularly in rural and underserved communities.”

    FHFA's approval will set specific limitations for the pilot, including (i) a $2.5 billion cap on purchases; (ii) a maximum duration of 18 months; (iii) a maximum loan amount of $78,277, (in alignment with the CFPB’s Qualified Mortgage criteria); (iv) a 24-month “seasoning period” for the first mortgage; and (v) a restriction to primary residences only. Following the pilot, the FHFA will evaluate its success and effectiveness. Any proposed expansion or conversion of the pilot into a regular program will require a new round of public comments and FHFA approval, based on the pilot's initial outcomes.

    Federal Issues FHFA Freddie Mac Mortgages

  • CFPB bans two companies for reverse mortgage servicing violations

    Federal Issues

    On June 18, the CFPB issued an order against two reverse mortgage servicing companies (along with certain affiliates and subsidiaries), after determining that the companies misrepresented loan defaults and failed to respond appropriately to borrower communications to effectively service their reverse mortgages, leading to unnecessary costs and foreclosure fears for borrowers. Specifically, the CFPB alleged the companies failed to respond to borrower communications – including requests for information and payoff statements – in violation of RESPA. The companies also sent false repayment letters to older adult homeowners stating that their reverse mortgage loans were due and must be paid within 30 days due to a default, when no such trigger event had occurred. Further, the companies allegedly had inadequate resources and staffing to handle as many as 150,000 borrowers, leading to systematic regulatory failures.

    Both companies were ordered to permanently cease reverse mortgage servicing activities and pay a civil money penalty (although for one company, the civil money penalty was $1 due to an inability to pay). The other company was ordered to pay over $11 million in consumer redress and $5 million in civil money penalties.

    Federal Issues CFPB Reverse Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Enforcement Consumer Finance Consumer Protection RESPA CFPA Regulation X

  • FHFA issues 2023 annual report and noted challenges in housing market

    Federal Issues

    On June 14, the FHFA released its annual report to Congress, as required under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, detailing FHFA’s activities and the state of the housing finance industry in 2023. The report highlighted the current housing market’s tight supply of homes, high construction costs, and rising interest rates. All three factors contributed to difficulties buying or refinancing homes, as well as significantly increasing the cost of rent and home prices.

    The report also discussed the conservatorships of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Despite remaining undercapitalized, the government-sponsored enterprises built out their capital reserves during 2023 and transferred more credit risks onto private investors. The report detailed the FHFA’s effort to promote equitable access to affordable housing through initiatives focused on energy efficiency products and fair lending practices.

    The annual report covered FHFA’s research and regulatory activities, including publications of several working papers on climate risk, mortgage debt, and housing supply.  An overview of the FHFA’s regulatory activity included several proposed and final rules, including amendments to the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework and the Enterprise Duty to Serve Underserved Markets regulation.

    The 2023 annual report followed the FHFA’s report on the FHLBank System, as previously covered by InfoBytes. The FHLBank report recommended actions for banks to provide more consistent and sustained access to home financing. The report highlighted the role of the 11 FHLBanks in providing liquidity to their members and supporting housing and community development. The banks faced increased demand for loans in early 2023 due to volatility in the banking sector but maintained good capital liquidity and lending capacities. 

    Federal Issues FHFA FHLB Housing Finance Reform Mortgages Lending

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