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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Securities class action against bank pared down

    Courts

    On January 12, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed one of plaintiffs’ causes of action and concluded that only two of the 67 public statements the plaintiffs identified in support of their securities fraud causes of action against a large bank and its former CEO (defendants) related to the defendants “collateral protection insurance (CPI) … practices for auto loan customers” were actionable. The plaintiffs alleged that while, in July 2016, the defendants learned of irregularities with respect to the CPI and, by September 2016, discontinued the program, the defendants did not disclose information on the CPI program’s issues until July 2017, after which time, the defendants’ stock price dropped. The plaintiffs then filed suit based on 67 public statements made by the defendants prior to that time, which the plaintiffs alleged the defendants knew were “false or misleading” and resulted in the bank’s stockholders losing money.

    Upon review, the court found that 65 of the 67 public statements, on which the plaintiffs’ causes of action were based were not actionable. The two statements that the court found may support the plaintiffs’ causes of action were those made by the defendants when they were specifically asked whether they knew about “potential misconduct outside of the already disclosed improper retail banking sales practices” and, each time, “failed to disclose the CPI issue….” With respect to the two statements, the court found that the plaintiffs had “met [their] burden under the PSLRA (private securities litigation reform act)” to show a “strong inference that the defendant acted with the required state of mind,” and that the plaintiffs “adequately pleaded loss causation.” According to the opinion, the defendants did not challenge the plaintiffs’ contentions about the two alleged misstatements’ connection to the purchase or sale of the defendants’ securities, or that the plaintiffs relied on the misstatements or omissions and experienced economic losses as a result.

    Courts Securities Class Action Class Certification Auto Leases Insurance

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  • Creditor collateral protection insurance disclosures required in New Jersey

    State Issues

    On January 13, the New Jersey governor signed S 2998, which amends the state’s collateral protection insurance (CPI) disclosure requirements. The amendments provide that when CPI is required and provided by the creditor, the creditor must disclose to the consumer debtors that they will be responsible for interest on the CPI cost “at the same rate that is applied pursuant to [the debtor’s] credit agreement.” The creditor must also provide a “good faith estimate” of what the CPI coverage will cost the debtor. Additionally, the creditor must instruct the debtors how to provide evidence of the required insurance, so that in those instances where the debtor obtains CPI, the creditor-purchased CPI can be cancelled and the costs and interest fees can be recovered. The amendments take effect on April 12.

    State Issues State Regulation State Legislation Disclosures Debt Collection Insurance

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  • OFAC settles with travel insurance companies

    Financial Crimes

    On December 9, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a settlement with a U.S.-based property and casualty company for 6,474 alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). According to OFAC, between August 2010 and January 2015, the company’s Canadian branch provided travel insurance policies to Canadian citizens traveling to Cuba, and continued to do so even though the company knew early on that that policies were being issued related to travel to Cuba but did not investigate it until 2014. In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various mitigating factors, including the fact that the company voluntarily self-disclosed the issue to OFAC, and that the company enhanced its OFAC compliance. OFAC also considered various aggravating factors, including that the company had knowledge of the violations as early as 2010, and that the travel policies “provided economic benefit to Cuba.”

    Also on December 9, OFAC announced another settlement, this time with a Swiss worldwide insurance and reinsurance company, which formerly was a subsidiary of a U.S. company. The settlement resolves potential civil liability for 20,291 alleged violations of the CACR between January 2010 and December 2014 for issuing insurance policies for Cuba-related travel, because the policies, though global in scope, did not include an exclusionary clause “for risks that would violate U.S. sanctions law.” OFAC considered a number of mitigating factors in determining the settlement amount, including the fact that the company voluntarily self-disclosed the alleged violations and represented that it conducted a risk assessment of its offices and developed compliance policies and procedures. Additionally, OFAC considered several aggravating factors, including that the company issued global policies that did not contain exclusionary clauses, the activity resulted from a pattern or practice spanning several years, and the company is a large and commercially sophisticated financial institution.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Insurance Of Interest to Non-US Persons Cuba Sanctions

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  • Rhode Island says service contracts are not insurance

    State Issues

    On July 15, the Rhode Island governor signed H 5674, which clarifies that service contracts, vehicle theft protection product warranties, and vehicle maintenance agreements are not considered insurance and are therefore exempt from the state’s insurance code. The bill also amends definitions under the law’s chapter relating to service contracts. The amendments take effect January 1, 2020.

    State Issues State Legislation Service Contracts Insurance

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  • FHA streamlines claim payment requirements for HECM program

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 22, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) issued Mortgagee Letter 2018-08, streamlining documentation requirements for Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) servicers when assigning FHA-insured reverse mortgages to HUD for claims payments. Effective immediately, servicers may now submit alternative supporting documentation, such as (i) documentation from a current hazard insurance provider in lieu of a declaration page; and (ii) alternative evidence of a borrower’s death, such as an obituary or healthcare documents in lieu of a death certificate. Servicers must now also submit evidence that any mobile home is “real property” under the laws of the particular state for which the home is located. FHA reminds servicers that claims for insurance benefits must be filed within 60 calendar days after receiving preliminary title approval, and notes that servicers must now provide a detailed explanation of all pre-due and payable corporate advances in the compliance package, including the date of the disbursement, the expense that was paid, and any information related to received repayments. According to a FHA’s press release, streamlining the requirements and reducing the documentation burden will help accelerate the claim payments process for servicers.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FHA Reverse Mortgages Insurance HECM HUD

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  • FinCEN, federal banking agencies provide exemption from customer identification program requirements for premium finance loans

    Financial Crimes

    On September 27, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC (together, the agencies) collectively issued an interagency order announcing an exemption from the requirements of the customer identification program (CIP) rules for premium finance loans extended by banks to commercial customers. The exemption, which is effective immediately, will facilitate short-term financing to business to aid in the purchase of property and casualty insurance policies. The order states that FinCEN believes these types of loans present a low risk for money laundering due to the “purpose for which the loans are extended and the limitations on the ability of a customer to use such funds for any other purpose.” However, banks engaged in premium finance lending are still required to comply with all other regulatory requirements implementing the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), including filing suspicious activity reports. The federal banking agencies further determined that the order granting this exemption is consistent with both the purposes of the BSA and safe and sound banking practices. (See also Federal Reserve Board SR 18-6, FDIC FIL-52-2018, and OCC Bulletin 2018-35.)

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism OCC Federal Reserve FDIC NCUA Bank Secrecy Act Insurance

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  • Pennsylvania appeals court upholds broad standard for “deception” under state consumer protection law

    Courts

    On September 12, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that Pennsylvania’s Uniform Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) imposes strict liability on businesses who deceive consumers and does not require proof of fraud or negligent misrepresentation to state a claim. The plaintiffs brought common law claims of fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation and a statutory claim under the UTPCPL against insurance companies related to the sale of various insurance products. The common law claims of fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation went to a jury, which returned verdicts on both counts in favor of the insurance companies. The trial judge, however, found that the insurance companies violated the “deceptive” provision of the UTPCPL and awarded damages to the consumers. The insurance companies appealed, arguing that (i) the jury verdict on the common law claims required the court to dismiss the UTPCPL claim, and (ii) challenging the judge’s damages award calculation.

    The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s determination that the defendants acted deceptively under the UTPCPL. The insurance companies argued that the UTPCPL claim was barred by the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata based on the jury’s determination that the defendants had not committed a negligent misrepresentation. The appellate court, however, explained that these doctrines do not apply because the UTPCPL raises distinct issues. The court rejected the argument that the consumer must prove common law negligent misrepresentation to bring a claim under the deceptive prong of the UTPCPL. The court concluded that “any deceptive conduct, ‘which creates a likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding,’” is actionable under the UTPCPL “whether committed intentionally (as in a fraudulent misrepresentation), carelessly (as in a negligent misrepresentation), or with the upmost care (as in strict liability).” The court also upheld the trial court’s damages determination under the UTPCPL, finding that the judge’s calculation was appropriate and consistent with the statute.

    Courts State Issues Deceptive Insurance Consumer Protection

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  • NYDFS issues final rule to establish standards for insurance sellers

    State Issues

    On July 18, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued a final rule requiring licensed insurers that offer life insurance and annuity products to New York consumers to establish standards and procedures to ensure that the financial objectives of the consumer are addressed at the time of the transaction and financial exploitation is prevented. According to the NYDFS, the rule amends the state’s current suitability regulation and “provides for a best interest standard of care for all sales of life insurance and annuity products.” The rule provides that when making a recommendation to consumers with respect to policies, the producer must “appropriately address the insurance needs and financial objectives of the consumer at the time of the transaction.” According to NYDFS Superintendent Maria Vullo, “financial compensation or incentives may not influence the recommendation.”

    State Issues NYDFS Insurance

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  • Idaho enacts legislation modifying certain motor vehicle service contract provisions

    State Issues

    On March 19, the Idaho governor signed HB 521, which updates a section of the Idaho Code pertaining to the “Idaho Motor Vehicle Service Contract Act” (the Act) to, among other things, “provide[] for state of Idaho regulation of motor vehicle service contracts.” HB 521 also modifies certain provisions surrounding motor vehicle service contracts by (i) clarifying the definition of a service contract; (ii) providing for service contract reimbursement policy requirements; (iii) setting forth rules associated with the sale of service contracts; (iv) specifying recordkeeping requirements; (v) providing for licensing; (vi) stipulating violation penalties; and (vii) noting that the legislation does not preclude a cause of action under the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. Furthermore, HB 521 notes that the “Idaho Insurance Guaranty Association Act shall not apply to any motor vehicle service contract, mechanical breakdown insurance or motor vehicle service contract liability insurance policy.” The Act is effective July 1.

    State Issues State Legislation Consumer Finance Insurance

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  • 10th Circuit upholds TCPA statutory damages as uninsurable under Colorado law

    Courts

    On February 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision that under Colorado law, an insurance company had no duty to indemnify and defend its insured against TCPA claims seeking statutory damages and injunctive relief. According to the appellate opinion, the FTC and the states of California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio sued a satellite television company for violations of the TCPA, Telemarking Sales Rule (TSR), and various state laws for telephone calls made to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry (FTC lawsuit). The FTC lawsuit sought statutory damages of up to $1,500 per alleged violation and injunctive relief. The defendant requested that its insurer defend and indemnify it for the claims pursuant to existing policies. The insurance company filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, seeking a declaration that it need not defend or indemnify the company in the FTC lawsuit. The district court determined that there was no coverage for several reasons, including: (i) that the statutory TCPA damages were a “penalty,” rendering them uninsurable under Colorado law; and (ii) that the injunctive relief sought did not qualify as damages under the policies’ definition. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed both holdings, concluding that no coverage existed. 

    Courts TCPA Tenth Circuit Appellate Damages Insurance FTC Telemarketing Sales Rule State Issues

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