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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • UK FCA Identifies Additional Improvements For Retail Banks' Sales Incentive Schemes

    Federal Issues

    On March 4, the UK FCA released the results of its most recent review of sales incentives at retail financial firms. The FCA’s review revealed that retail banks have made progress in changing their financial incentive structures in response to the FCA’s supervisory focus on the issue starting in September 2012, which led to new guidance issued in January 2013. The FCA’s initial focus on the issue derived from its concerns about incentive structures that, among other things, allegedly fueled the sale of payment protection plans and other add-on products. Despite the broad progress, the FCA reports that roughly one in 10 firms with sales teams had higher-risk incentive scheme features where it appeared they were not managing the risk properly at the time of the FCA’s assessment. It believes firms should concentrate on, among other things (i) checking for spikes or trends in the sales patterns of individuals to identify areas of increased risk; (ii) better monitoring behavior in face-to-face sales conversations; and (iii) managing risks in discretionary incentive schemes and balanced scorecards, including the risk that discretion could be misused. The FCA states that given the progress made, it is not proposing any rule changes at this time, but it intends to keep financial incentives on its agenda for 2014.

    Compensation Bank Supervision UK FCA

  • UK FCA Finalizes New Consumer Credit Rules

    Federal Issues

    On February 28, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced final rules for consumer credit providers, including new protections for consumers in credit transactions. The FCA states that the most drastic changes relate to payday lending and debt management. For example, with regard to “high-cost short-term credit,” the new rules will (i) limit to two the number of loan roll-overs; (ii) restrict to two the number of times a firm can seek repayment using a continuous payment authority; and (iii) require creditors to provide a risk warning. Among other things, the new rules also establish prudential standards and conduct protocols for debt management companies, peer-to-peer lending platforms, and debt advice companies. The policy statement also describes the FCA’s risk-based and proactive supervisory approach, which the FCA states will subject firms engaged in “higher risk business” that “pose a potentially greater risk to consumers” to an “intense and hands on supervisory experience” and will allow the FCA to levy "swift penalties” on violators. The new rules take effect April 1, 2014. The FCA plans next to propose a cap on the cost of high-cost, short-term credit.

    Payday Lending Nonbank Supervision Debt Collection Consumer Lending Enforcement UK FCA

  • Russia Joins International Convention On Electronic Communications In International Contracts

    Federal Issues

    On January 17, the Russian Federation became the fourth party to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts, joining The Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Singapore. The Convention will take effect for Russia on August 1, 2014. It is intended to enhance legal certainty and commercial predictability where electronic communications are used in relation to international contracts, including by addressing, among other things, (i) the determination of a party's location in an electronic environment; (ii) the time and place of dispatch and receipt of electronic communications; and (iii) the use of automated message systems for contract formation. The Convention builds on the fundamental legal principles and provisions contained in the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce by providing criteria for establishing functional equivalence between electronic communications and paper documents, as well as between electronic authentication methods and hand-written signatures. Fifteen other states have signed the Convention but have not yet ratified it.

    Electronic Signatures Electronic Records

  • Basel Committee Finalizes AML/CFT Risk Management Guidance

    Federal Issues

    On January 15, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision issued final guidance regarding anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) risk management. The Committee states that the guidelines are consistent with and supplement the 2012 International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation issued by the Financial Action Task Force.  The guidelines supersede two previously-issued Basel Committee publications: Customer due diligence for banks (October 2001) and Consolidated KYC management (October 2004). The final guidelines detail the “essential elements” of sound AML/CFT risk management, including those related to (i) assessing and understanding risks; (ii) customer acceptance policies; (iii) customer and beneficial owner identification; (v) ongoing monitoring; (vi) information management and record keeping; and (vii) reporting suspicious transactions and asset freezing. The guidelines also address AML/CTF in the group-wide and cross-border context, and outlines expectations for banking supervisors.

    Anti-Money Laundering Basel Risk Management Combating the Financing of Terrorism

  • Prudential Regulators Announce Coordinated Action Against Technology Service Provider

    Federal Issues

    Recently, the OCC released a formal agreement it entered with the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and a banking software company to resolve allegations of unsafe and unsound practices relating to the software company’s disaster recovery and business continuity planning and processes. The action reportedly resulted from the third-party service provider’s (TSP) delay in reestablishing full operations at a processing center in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The agreement requires the TSP to continue to maintain a compliance committee, which must submit quarterly written reports to the TSP’s board. The agreement also details minimum requirements for (i) an enhanced disaster recovery and business continuity planning (DR/BCP) process; and (ii) a DR/BCP risk management program and audit process. The agreement also reaffirms the TSP board’s responsibility for proper and sound management of the TSP. The action demonstrates the OCC’s and other federal authorities’ continued focus on third-party service providers. While in this instance the regulators employed the Bank Services Company Act to directly address concerns about a TSP, recent Federal Reserve Board and OCC guidance also focuses on financial institutions’ responsibilities with regard to managing risks related to third parties’ disaster recovery and business continuity.

    FDIC Federal Reserve OCC Vendors Enforcement

  • Second Circuit Revives Terrorism Victims' Suit Against Foreign Bank

    Federal Issues

    On October 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated and remanded a district court’s judgment and held that subjecting a foreign bank to personal jurisdiction in New York was within the reach of New York’s long-arm statute and comported with due process protections provided under the U.S. Constitution.  Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank SAL, No. 10-1306, 2013 WL 5700963 (2d Cir. Oct. 18, 2013). The complaint, brought by individuals who were harmed by rocket attacks in Israel carried out by the terrorist group Hezbollah, alleges that the foreign bank used its correspondent bank account in New York to wire millions of dollars to Hezbollah, knowing that the money would enable the group to carry out terrorist attacks. The New York Court of Appeals had accepted the Second Circuit’s certification question concerning the scope of New York’s long-arm statute and explained that a foreign bank’s use of a New York correspondent account to execute dozens of wire transfers is sufficiently purposeful conduct to constitute a “transaction of business” under the state’s long-arm statute. After resolving the question of personal jurisdiction under state law, the Second Circuit also held that subjecting the defendant bank to personal jurisdiction did not violate due process under the Constitution, finding that the alleged conduct—the deliberate and “repeated use of New York’s banking system” for the purpose of “repeated, intentional execution of U.S.‐dollar‐denominated wire transfers”—satisfied the minimum contacts test established by the Supreme Court in International Shoe. The court further noted that the bank should have foreseen that “it might be subject to the burden of a lawsuit” in that same forum for wrongs related to, and arising from, that use. The Second Circuit specifically noted that a foreign defendant’s “mere maintenance” of a correspondent account in the U.S. is not by itself sufficient to support the constitutional exercise of personal jurisdiction over the account-holder.

    Correspondent Banking

  • FinCEN Supplements Guidance On Restrictions On U.S. Currency Transactions By Mexican Banks

    Federal Issues

    On September 27, FinCEN issued Advisory FIN-2013-A007, which informs U.S. financial institutions about the potential impacts of 2010 Mexican finance ministry restrictions placed on U.S. currency transactions by Mexican banks on the repatriation of illicit proceeds. The Advisory references a “best practices” guide for Mexican banks prepared by Mexico’s financial institution regulator to guide Mexican banks in establishing or maintaining relationships with U.S. banks. FinCEN also reiterates existing guidance to U.S. institutions to monitor the potential use of alternative methods to move funds linked to the laundering of criminal proceeds and to report that information as required under the Bank Secrecy Act and its implementing regulations.

    FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act

  • U.K. FCA Proposes Consumer Credit Regulatory Regime, New Payday Lending Rules

    Federal Issues

    On October 3, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposed a framework for its regulation of consumer credit when those authorities transfer to the FCA from the Office of Fair Trading on April 1, 2014. As part of the U.K.’s ongoing regulatory reform and restructuring, after that date the FCA will supervise more than 50,000 firms who have existing credit licenses. The FCA proposes, among other things, (i) requiring lenders to conduct affordability checks on borrowers, (ii) requiring clear, fair and not misleading advertisements, and (iii) banning misleading advertisements. The regime would include additional new rules for payday lenders, which would: (i) restrict loan roll-overs to a maximum of two, (ii) require lenders to provide borrowers who roll-over loans with information about debt advice resources, (iii) restrict to two the number of times an automatic payment deduction authority can be used, and (iv) restrict the content of payday lending advertisements. The Consultation Paper is open for comment through December 3, 2013. The FCA plans to publish the final rules and guidance in February 2014.

    Payday Lending UK Regulatory Reform UK OFT UK FCA

  • US, Switzerland Announce Tax Evasion Program

    Federal Issues

    On August 29, the DOJ announced a program to encourage Swiss banks to cooperate in its ongoing efforts to prosecute offshore tax evasion.  The program—which, according to a joint statement with the Swiss Federal Department of Finance, Switzerland will encourage Swiss banks to consider participating in—requires, among other things, Swiss banks to make significant disclosures to the DOJ about cross-border activities and accounts that affect U.S. taxpayers in exchange for non-prosecution agreements or non-target letters.

    Cross Border Activities

  • CFPB Seeks To Ratify Director's Pre-Confirmation Actions

    Federal Issues

    Earlier today, the CFPB published a “Notice of Ratification” in the Federal Register in response to concerns about the legal validity of its actions during the period that Director Richard Cordray served as recess appointee.  In the notice, Director Cordray states that:

    The President appointed me as Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection on January 4, 2012, pursuant to his authority under the Recess Appointments Clause, U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 3. The President subsequently appointed me as Director on July 17, 2013, following confirmation by the Senate, pursuant to the Appointments Clause, U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 2. I believe that the actions I took during the period I was serving as a recess appointee were legally authorized and entirely proper. To avoid any possible uncertainty, however, I hereby affirm and ratify any and all actions I took during that period.




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