Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On July 12, the Federal Reserve Board issued supervisory guidance outlining a new optional process for a supervised institution to request feedback on a potential bank and nonbank acquisition or other transactional proposal prior to the submission of a formal application or notice. The supervision and regulation letter explains that under the new optional process, supervised institutions may submit “pre-filings” to the appropriate Reserve Bank. Pre-filings can include inquiries seeking (i) advice about a specific aspect of a proposal, business plans or pro forma financial information related to a potential filing, or presentations outlining specific potential proposals, (ii) feedback on draft transactional and structural documents, and (iii) guidance regarding the type of filing required or the individuals or entities that would need to join a filing. In most cases, pre-filing and submitted information will be reviewed within 60 days. The guidance cautions that Federal Reserve staff review will focus on the specific request, and a review is not intended to identify or resolve all issues or concerns related to a possible future application or notice. The Federal Reserve also notes that it is not inviting negotiations on the structure of a potential proposal or for resolving significant issues of policy or law as part of this advance guidance program.
On February 2, Panasonic Corporation disclosed that U.S. subsidiary Panasonic Avionics was being investigated by the DOJ and SEC for possible violations of the FCPA and other related laws. According to its press release, Panasonic is cooperating in the investigation and recently began settlement discussions with both agencies. The countries at issue in the investigation have not been disclosed.
Although Panasonic had not spoken publicly about the probe until this week, the Wall Street Journal first reported the investigation in 2013. Panasonic Avionics makes in-flight entertainment and communication systems for airlines.
On June 27, the House Financial Services Committee unanimously approved H.R. 4367, which would amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to remove the requirement that ATMs attach a placard disclosing fees. Instead, the bill would require only that fees be disclosed on the ATM screen.
On December 7, Julio Rocha, former president of the Nicaraguan soccer federation, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges. His guilty plea came in response to allegations that Rocha accepted approximately $150,000 in bribes for helping an American company, Traffic Sports USA, Inc. acquire media rights to FIFA events. As part of the plea, Rocha agreed to forfeit almost $300,000 and could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years for each count. Last month, the former president of Traffic Sports also pleaded guilty to racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy charges alleging that he arranged bribe payments totaling more than $14 million dollars in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches.
Mr. Rocha was indicted by the DOJ in May 2015 along with 13 other FIFA officials. He was the final official to be extradited to the United States. The sprawling investigation has resulted in multiple other guilty pleas from former FIFA officials. Prior Scorecard coverage on the FIFA investigations can be found here.
North Carolina Alters Mortgage Regulation Funding Mechanism. On June 20, North Carolina enacted Senate Bill 806, which creates a new funding mechanism for mortgage regulation. The new law replaces the current licensing fee, which offsets the state’s regulatory costs, with an assessment structure similar to the one currently applicable to banks. The change takes effect October 1, 2012.
Connecticut Enacts Bill to Update State Banking Laws. On June 8, Connecticut enacted Senate Bill 67, which makes numerous revisions to the state banking laws. Among the changes, the law (i) alters mortgage licensing requirements to exempt “housing finance agencies” and nonprofit groups, (ii) requires certain lender and broker employees to be licensed as mortgage loan originators, (iii) requires banks to review a mortgage loan before excusing the borrower from amortization of the principal, (iv) requires that banks consider an obligor’s credit exposure arising from a derivative transaction when determining the obligor’s liability limitations, (v) exempts from certain requirements “loan production offices.” The law also gives new investigatory powers to the state banking commissioner and allows the commissioner to require, without seeking a court order, restitution and disgorgement for banking law violations. Most of the law’s provisions take effect October 1, 2012.
Ohio Levels Playing Field for State Banks. Recently, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 322, permits Ohio-chartered banks, savings banks, savings and loan associations, and credit unions to charge the same or lower rates or amounts of interest, fees, and other charges under a revolving credit agreement that their out-of-state counterparts may charge Ohio customers. The change does not apply to residential mortgages. It takes effect September 4, 2012.
Embraer S.A., a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, will pay more than $205 million to the SEC and the DOJ to resolve alleged FCPA violations stemming from payments made through its third-party agents to officials in the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia, and Mozambique that allegedly resulted in more than $83 million in profits for the company. Pursuant to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with DOJ, Embraer must pay a penalty of more than $107 million and must retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for three years. Embraer will also pay more than $98 million in disgorgement and interest to the SEC, but it may receive a credit of up to a $20 million depending on the amount of disgorgement it pays in a parallel civil proceeding in Brazil. Additional FCPA Scorecard coverage of the Embraer investigation can be found here, here, and here.
On June 14, the CFPB published a Notice and Request for Comment on its proposal to collect qualitative information from industry participants regarding the compliance costs and other effects of CFPB rules on providers and consumers. The CFPB plans to use structured interviews, focus groups, conference calls, and written questionnaires to obtain supplemental information about industry compliance burdens. The CFPB frames the proposal as part of its ongoing effort to streamline inherited regulations, and has asked that comments on the proposed information collection be submitted by August 13, 2012.
On May 15, the cities of New York and Los Angeles adopted ordinances that will require banks doing business with those cities to report certain information about their banking and lending activities. In New York, the City Council adopted a Local Law that, once approved by the mayor or passed over the mayor’s veto, will establish a community investment advisory board comprised of city officials, banking industry representatives, community development or consumer protection groups, and small business owners. The board will assess the banking needs of the city and evaluate the performance of the city’s depository banks in meeting those needs. To conduct the assessment and evaluation, the board will collect from depository banks information regarding each institution’s efforts to, among other things, (i) meet small business credit needs, (ii) conduct consumer outreach and other steps to provide mortgage assistance and foreclosure prevention, and (iii) offer financial products for low and moderate income individuals throughout the city. The board will be required to publish the information collected and prepare an annual report, which city officials can consider in deciding with which institutions the city will place its deposits. The ordinance adopted by the Los Angeles City Council establishes a monitoring program headed by the City Treasurer. Under the program, a depository bank doing business with the city or wishing to do so will be required to report each year information regarding its small business, mortgage, and community development lending, as well as information about its participation in foreclosure prevention and principal reduction programs. Investment banks will be required to file a statement describing their corporate citizenship in areas such as participation in charitable programs or scholarships and internal policies regarding the utilization of subcontractors designated as women-owned, minority-owned, or disadvantaged businesses. The disclosures will be posted online for public viewing within 30 days of the beginning of each new fiscal year. The cities of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and San Diego already have laws in place designed for the same general purposes, and other cities are considering similar laws.
On May 14, the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued guidance on stress tests for banks with more than $10 billion in total consolidated assets. The final guidance provides, in a manner largely consistent with the proposed guidance, principles for banks to follow when conducting stress tests, including: (i) a stress testing framework, (ii) general stress testing principles, (iii) stress testing approaches and applications, (iv) the importance of stress testing in assessing the adequacy of capital and liquidity, and (v) the need for internal governance and controls over the stress testing framework. The regulators amended the final guidance to clarify certain issues raised during the comment period, including changes to (i) incorporate an additional principle for stress testing, (ii) clarify application of the guidance to U.S. branches and agencies of foreign banking organizations, (iii) clarify the role of a bank’s liabilities and operational risk in conducting a stress test, (iv) explain that senior management should have the primary responsibility for stress testing implementation and technical design, and (v) clarify that a banking organization’s minimum annual review and assessment should ensure that stress testing coverage is comprehensive, tests are relevant and current, methodologies are sound, and results are properly considered. In a separate announcement, the banking regulators explicitly addressed concerns raised by community bankers by explaining that community banks are neither required nor expected to conduct the stress tests described above. However, the statement stresses that all banking organizations, regardless of size, should have the capacity to analyze the potential impact of adverse outcomes on their financial condition.
The relatively sparse judicial caselaw on the FCPA expanded last week with a new opinion interpreting the “public international organization” language in the statute. In an opinion denying the defense’s Motion to Dismiss an indictment originally brought in 2015, Judge Paul Diamond of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that the FCPA “plainly” applies to public international organizations. United States v. Dmitrij Harder, No. 2:15-cr-00001 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 2, 2016). Combined with the Eleventh Circuit’s 2014 opinion in Esquenazi, the contours of the types of foreign government entities subjecting defendants to FCPA sanctions are beginning to be fleshed out. (Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the Esquenazi case can be found here.)
Dmitrij Harder – a Russian national, German citizen, and U.S. permanent resident – owned and operated two consulting companies that, in 2007 and 2009, assisted two different independent energy companies in obtaining financing from the European Bank for Regional Development (the “EBRD”). The EBRD is a multilateral development bank founded in 1991 to foster the growth of businesses operating in the former Soviet Union. Today it invests throughout Europe and is jointly owned by sixty-four countries.
The DOJ charged Harder in 2015 with 14 counts of violating the FCPA, the Travel Act, and money laundering. The government alleged that the energy companies entered into agreements with Harder whereby they agreed to pay him success fees upon receiving financing from the EBRD. After both companies obtained sizable investments from the EBRD – one company received an $85 million investment; the other a $40 million investment and $60 million loan – they allegedly paid Harder success fees totaling almost $8 million. Shortly after the success fees were paid, Harder allegedly wired payments totaling almost $3.5 million to the sister of an EBRD official. The government alleged that the sister of the EBRD official entered into sham consulting agreements with Harder’s companies, making it appear that the payments were made for services rendered under the agreements, but no such services were actually performed.
In arguing for dismissal of the FCPA counts of the indictment, Harder challenged the sufficiency of the Indictment on several bases, including a failure to plead the involvement of a “foreign official,” and that the Indictment impermissibly substituted the phrase “foreign government or instrumentality thereof” with “public international organization” in reciting the fourth of the FCPA’s proscribed corrupt purposes: “inducing such foreign official to use his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality.” 15 USC 78dd-2(a)(3)(B).
On the first challenge, Judge Diamond rejected the idea that officials of EBRD could not qualify as “foreign official[s]” within the FCPA’s prohibitions. Op. at 6; see also Op. at 8 (noting that “whether EBRD falls within the FCPA’s ambit is necessarily a ‘fact-bound question’ properly decided by a jury”). On the second challenged, Harder had maintained that permitting the government to substitute “public international organization” into the statute would create an entirely new offense with no basis in the statute. Rejecting this argument, Judge Diamond pointed out that public international organizations are themselves “an association of foreign governments.” Op. at 7. He reasoned that refusing to allow this substitution in the language of indictments where a public international organization, rather than a foreign government, is involved would “make it impossible to prosecute any public international organization employee who unlawfully used his position,” calling this “an absurd result” in light of Congress’ decision to include public international organizations within the scope of the FCPA. Op. at 7.
Harder also raised two challenges to the constitutionality of the FCPA’s inclusion of the EBRD. In 1998, the FCPA was amended to include employees of public international organizations within the scope of the Act’s prohibition on certain corrupt payments. The 1998 amendments brought employees of two groups of public international organizations within the scope of the FCPA; (1) those organizations that the President declares by Executive order are covered by the FCPA, and (2) those organizations identified pursuant to the International Organization Immunities Act (“the IOIA”), 22 USC 288. The IOIA allows the President, acting by executive order, to provide public international organizations in which the US participates with legal capacity, certain immunities, and privileges under US law. In 1991, the EBRD was designated a public international organization under the IOIA, and so it became subject to the FCPA after the 1998 amendments.
First, Harder argued that the FCPA’s inclusion of the EBRD and other public international organizations violates the non-delegation doctrine, which provides that where Congress delegates legislative authority it must do so with “an intelligible principle” to guide the exercise of the delegated authority. United States v. Cooper, 750 F.3d 263, 270 (3d Cir. 2014). Harder argued that Congress, by allowing the President to expand the list of public international organizations covered by the FCPA by executive order, impermissibly delegated its legislative function to the executive branch. Judge Diamond rejected this argument, finding that the legislative scheme enacted by Congress constrains the President’s ability to add public international organizations to the scope of the FCPA, and that the clearly stated purposes of the FCPA provide sufficient guidance. Op. at 9-11.
Second, Harder argued that the FCPA’s inclusion of the EBRD violates the void-for-vagueness doctrine, which provides that a criminal law is void if it fails to define the offense in a way that “ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited” and in a way that does not encourage “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358, 402-403 (2010). Harder argued that the somewhat circuitous route by which the EBRD was made subject to the FCPA renders the law unconstitutionally vague because it would require individuals to monitor whether a particular public international organization has been the subject of an executive order that subjects it to the FCPA. Judge Diamond rejected this argument also, finding that an ordinary person could research the status of a public international organization. Judge Diamond also pointed out that there is a publicly available list of all public international organizations subject to the FCPA, and that the FCPA’s knowledge requirement alleviated any concern that a defendant might unwittingly violate the FCPA. Op. at 13.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Risk management in enforcement actions: Managing risk or micromanaging it" at an American Bar Association webinar
- Kari K. Hall and Christopher M. Walczyszyn to speak on the "Understanding updates to Regulation CC to ensure effective check processing" at a National Association of Federal Credit Unions webinar
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "ACAMS Moneylaundering.com Year-End Compliance Review and 2020 Outlook" at an ACAMS webinar
- APPROVED Webcast: Periodic reporting made easier
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "A 20/20 view on 2020’s legislative and regulatory outlook" at the ACAMS Anti-Financial Crime and Public Policy Conference