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On July 3, the DOJ and SEC released an update to its longstanding joint FCPA guidance, A Resource Guide to the US. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Second Edition (the Guide), which was first released in 2012. The newest edition has been updated to reflect recent case law, insights into DOJ and SEC enforcement policies and practices, and examples of enforcement actions. While many aspects of the Guide remain the same, revisions were made to include new case law addressing the definition of a “foreign official” under the FCPA, as well as the FCPA’s jurisdictional reach and the foreign written laws affirmative defense. The agencies also incorporated their more recent policy statements designed to encourage cooperation and voluntary disclosures.
Recent case law is also discussed in the updated Guide, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Hoskins (covered by InfoBytes here and here), which rejected the government’s argument for a broad interpretation of personal jurisdiction in FCPA cases and held that a non-resident foreign national lacking sufficient ties to a U.S. entity cannot be charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA or with aiding and abetting an FCPA violation. Addressed as well are the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Kokesh v. SEC and Liu v. SEC (covered by InfoBytes here and here) regarding the SEC’s forfeiture and disgorgement authority, and the statute of limitations.
On June 7, the CFPB issued the final rule revoking certain underwriting provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (Payday Lending Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued the proposed rule in February 2019 and the final rule implements the proposal without revision. Specifically, the final rule revokes, among other things (i) the provision that makes it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loans according to their terms; (ii) the prescribed mandatory underwriting requirements for making the ability-to-repay determination; (iii) the “principal step-down exemption” provision for certain covered short-term loans; and (iv) related definitions, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements. Additional details regarding the final rule can be found in the Bureau’s unofficial redline and executive summary.
While compliance with the payment provisions of the Payday Lending Rule is currently stayed by court order (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), the Bureau states that it “will seek to have them go into effect with a reasonable period for entities to come into compliance.” Additionally, the CFPB ratified the payment provisions of the Payday Lending Rule in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Seila Law (covered by a Special Alert here) and issued a statement on the supervision and enforcement of certain aspects of the payment provisions with respect to certain large loans. According to the statement, the Bureau does not intend to take supervisory or enforcement action with regard to covered loans that exceed the Regulation Z coverage threshold (currently set at $58,300). The statement notes that the Bureau is monitoring and assessing the “effects of the [p]ayment [p]rovisions, including their scope, and [it] may determine whether further action is needed in light of what it learns.”
Moreover, the Bureau released FAQs pertaining to compliance with the payment provisions of the Payday Lending Rule. The FAQs discuss the details of the covered loans and “payment transfers”—defined as a “a debit or withdrawal of funds from a consumer’s account that the lender initiates for the purpose of collecting any amount due or purported to be due in connection with a covered loan”—under the rule.
On July 7, the CFPB, “out of an abundance of caution,” ratified several previous actions, including the large majority of the Bureau’s existing regulations, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Seila v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the Court held that, while the clause in the Consumer Financial Protection Act that requires cause to remove the director of the CFPB violates the constitutional separation of powers, the removal provision could—and should—be severed from the statute establishing the CFPB, rather than invalidating the entire statute. According to the Bureau’s announcement, the action ratifies most regulatory actions taken by the Bureau from January 4, 2012 through June 30, 2020, and “provides the financial marketplace with certainty that the rules are valid in light of the Supreme Court decision in Seila Law.” The Bureau noted, however, that the ratification does not include two actions: (i) the July 2017 “Arbitration Agreements” rule, which was disapproved following the approval by President Trump of a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act that provides “the ‘rule shall have no force or effect’”; and (ii) the November 2017 “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” rule (Payday Rule), for which the Bureau previously revoked the rule’s mandatory underwriting provisions. Both of these actions are not within the scope of the ratification, the Bureau stated, noting, however, that it has separately ratified the Payday Lending Rule’s payment provisions.
The Bureau is also considering whether to ratify other legally significant actions, such as certain pending enforcement actions, and stated it will make separate ratifications, if appropriate. However, the Bureau stressed it “does not believe that it is necessary for this ratification to include various previous Bureau actions that have no legal consequences for the public, or enforcement actions that have finally been resolved.” Additionally, because the ratification is not a “rule” or “rule making” as defined by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), since it is “not an ‘agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect’” and is “not ‘formulating, amending, or repealing a rule,’” the Bureau contended it is not subject to the APA’s notice-and-comment procedures.
On July 2, the CFPB issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend Regulation Z, as required by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, and exempt certain insured depository institutions and credit unions from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for certain higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs). Under the proposed amendment, any loan made by an insured depository institution or credit union that is secured by a first lien on the principal dwelling of a consumer would be exempt from Regulation Z’s HPML escrow requirement if (i) the institution has assets of no more than $10 billion; (ii) “the institution and its affiliates originated 1,000 or fewer loans secured by a first lien on a principal dwelling during the preceding calendar year”; and (iii) the institution meets certain existing HPML escrow exemption criteria. Comments on the NPRM will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
On June 29, the OCC issued a new Comptroller’s Handbook booklet, “Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices and Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts or Practices,” which covers details for examiners regarding UDAP violations under Section 5 of the FTC Act and UDAAP violations under sections 1031 and 1036 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The booklet includes, among other things, examination procedures for assessing the effectiveness of a bank’s compliance management systems in identifying and managing UDAP and UDAAP risks and red flags that examiners can use to identify acts or practices that may raise UDAP or UDAAP concerns. Specifically, Appendix A includes a detailed list of nine red flags that examiners can use to identify potential areas with higher risks, including items such as (i) customer complaints received by the OCC or the bank; (ii) whistleblower referrals; (iii) higher than average fee incomes; (iv) weak servicing and collection practices; and (v) inadequate oversight over incentive compensation programs. Additionally, Appendix B includes risk indicator charts for examiners to use when assessing the quantity and quality of a bank’s risk management for UDAP and UDAAP.
On June 29, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued guidance for hemp-related business customers to explain due diligence requirements and identify the types of information financial institutions can collect to comply with Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) regulatory requirements. The guidance supplements a December 2019 interagency statement (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), which confirmed that financial institutions are no longer required to file a suspicious activity report (SARs) on customers solely because they are “engaged in the growth or cultivation of hemp in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.” Among other things, the guidance reiterates FinCEN’s expectation that financial institutions conduct customer due diligence (CDD) for hemp-related businesses, as they would for other customers, and establish appropriate on-going risk-based CDD procedures. This may include confirming that the hemp business is complying with applicable state, tribal government, or United States Department of Agriculture licensing requirements. Financial institutions should also tailor BSA/Anti-Money Laundering programs to appropriately reflect the risks associated with a customer’s particular risk profile and file the required reports. The guidance further provides that while financial institutions are not required to file SARs on customers solely because they are engaged in a hemp business, “financial institutions are expected to follow standard SAR procedures.” Examples of suspicious activity that may warrant the filing of a SAR are provided. Finally, the guidance states that financial institutions must report currency transactions connected to hemp-related businesses as they would for any other customer for transactions above $10,000 in aggregate on a single business day.
On June 29, the U.S. House of Representatives approved resolution H.J. 90, along party lines, which would reverse the OCC’s final rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). As previously covered by InfoBytes, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, Gregory Meeks (D-NY) introduced the resolution, with Waters criticizing the OCC’s decision to move forward with the rule “despite the Federal Reserve and the FDIC—the other regulatory agencies responsible for enforcing CRA—declining to join in the rulemaking.” While the resolution is unlikely to pass the Senate, the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy, which opposes the resolution and states that the President’s advisors will recommend he veto the action.
On June 30, the CFPB released its spring 2020 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau announcement, the information details the regulatory matters that the Bureau “expect[s] to focus on” between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021. The announcement notes that the agenda was set before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and while the Bureau “continues to move forward with other regulatory work,” it will prioritize work related to supporting consumers and the financial sector during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to the rulemaking activities already completed by the Bureau in May and June of this year, the agenda highlights other regulatory activities planned, including:
- Escrow Rulemaking. The Bureau intends to issue a proposed rule to implement Section 108 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, which directs the Bureau to exempt certain loans made by creditors with assets of $10 billion or less (and that meet other criteria) from the escrow requirements applicable to higher-priced mortgage loans.
- Small Business Rulemaking. The Bureau states that in September 2020, it will publicly release materials for an October panel (convening under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act) with small entities likely to be directly affected by the Bureau’s rule to implement Section 1071 of Dodd-Frank.
- HMDA. The Bureau states that two rulemakings are planned, including (i) a proposed rule that follows up on a May 2019 advanced notice of proposed rulemaking which sought information on the costs and benefits of reporting certain data points under HMDA and coverage of certain business or commercial purpose loans (covered by InfoBytes here); and (ii) a proposed rule addressing the public disclosure of HMDA data.
- Debt Collection. The Bureau intends to release the final rule amending Regulation F to implement the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in October 2020 (InfoBytes coverage of the May 2019 proposed rule here). Additionally, “at a later date” the Bureau intends to finalize the February supplemental proposal, which covers time-barred debt disclosures (covered by a Buckley Special Alert here).
- Qualified Mortgages (QM). The Bureau states it is considering issuing a proposed rule “later this year” that would create a new “seasoning” definition of a QM under Regulation Z, allowing for QM status after the borrower has made consistent timely payments for a defined period.
Additionally, in its announcement, the Bureau notes that it is (i) participating in an interagency rulemaking process on quality control standards for automated valuation models (AVMs) with regard to appraisals; and (ii) continuing to review and conduct the five-year lookback assessments under Section 1022(d) of Dodd-Frank.
On June 25, the FCC narrowed the Commission’s definition of an “autodialer,” providing that “if a calling platform is not capable of originating a call or sending a text without a person actively and affirmatively manually dialing each one, that platform is not an autodialer and calls or texts made using it are not subject to the TCPA’s restrictions on calls and texts to wireless phones.” The FCC reiterated that only sequential number generators or other systems that can store or produce numbers to be called or texted at random are the only technologies considered to be autodialers. The FCC further noted that whether a system can make a large number of calls in a short period of time does not factor into whether the system is considered an autodialer, and that message senders may avoid TCPA liability by obtaining prior express consent from recipients. The FCC issued the ruling in response to an alliance’s 2018 petition, which asked the FCC to clarify whether the definition of an autodialer applied to peer-to-peer messaging (P2P) platforms that, among other things, allow organizations to text a large number of individuals and require a person to manually send each text message one at a time. The FCC declined to rule on whether any particular P2P text platform is an autodialer due to the lack of sufficient factual basis.
The FCC issued a separate declaratory ruling the same day reiterating that the TCPA requires autodialer or robocall senders to obtain prior express consent before making any texts or robocalls, stressing that the “mere existence of a caller-consumer relationship does not satisfy the prior-express-consent requirement for calls to wireless numbers, nor does it create an exception to this requirement.” The ruling was issued in response to a health benefit company’s 2015 petition, which asked the FCC to exempt health plans and providers, as well as certain non-emergency, urgent health care-related calls, from the prior consent requirement as long as the company permitted consumers to opt out after the fact.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, several appellate courts have issued conflicting decisions with respect to the definition of an autodialer.
On July 1, the Federal Reserve Board and FDIC released a letter to address 2021 resolution plan submission requirements for the eight largest and most complex domestic banking organizations. The letter identifies targeted information required to be included in the 2021 resolution plans (due July 1, 2021), including certain core elements such as capital, liquidity, and recapitalization strategies, in addition to information on how each banking organization has integrated changes and lessons learned as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The agencies intend to use the banking organization’s response to the stress caused by the pandemic to inform their assessment of the banking organization’s resolution-related capabilities and infrastructure. According to the announcement, these will be the “first ‘targeted’ resolution plan[s]” following the agencies’ adoption of a final rule last year, which, among other things, amended the resolution planning requirements for large domestic and foreign firms with more than $100 billion in total consolidated assets (covered by InfoBytes here).
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fair servicing in wake of Covid-19" at an American Bar Association webinar
- APPROVED Webcast: Maximizing vendor value
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Cram for the exam: Best prep strategies for a regulatory examination" at an ACAMS webinar
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "The United States in the age of Covid-19: The financial stimulus and the battle against fraud and corruption" at the Argentine Association of Ethics and Compliance Compliance Officers’ Club
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Flood insurance basics" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance School
- Sasha Leonhardt to discuss "Privacy laws clarified" at the National Settlement Services Summit (NS3)
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "New privacy legislation: Preparing for a major source of class action and enforcement activity going forward" at the American Conference Institute Consumer Finance Class Actions, Litigation & Government Enforcement Actions