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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Colorado Banking and Financial Services commissioners provide guidance on Safer at Home orders

    State Issues

    On May 15, the Colorado Banking and Financial Services commissioners provided additional guidance on the Safer at Home orders. The commissioners continue to encourage Colorado state-chartered financial institutions to work with affected borrowers and customers, and provide payment relief to consumers impacted by Covid-19. For example, financial institutions are encouraged to waive fees for services (e.g., overdraft fees, ATM fees) and provide accommodations such as eliminating minimum balance requirements on accounts and increasing daily withdrawal limits on ATMs.

    State Issues Covid-19 Colorado Financial Institutions Consumer Finance Overdraft ATM

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  • Michigan regulator encourages financial institutions to avoid offsetting CARES Act stimulus payments

    State Issues

    On May 14, the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services issued a bulletin “strongly” urging Michigan financial institutions not to access CARES Act stimulus payments to satisfy overdrafts or to exercise any right of offset against the funds without the agreement of the customer or member. The regulator also “strongly” urged financial institutions not to use CARES Act stimulus payments for ATM, late payment, overdraft, or other fees.

    State Issues Covid-19 Michigan CARES Act Bank Compliance ATM Overdraft

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  • Arizona Department of Financial Institutions issues guidance to financial institutions working with customers affected by Covid-19

    State Issues

    On April 24, the Arizona Department of Financial Institution issued a statement to financial institutions working with customers affected by Covid-19. Financial institutions are encouraged to work with affected customers and communities including through, among other things, waiving certain fees, increasing ATM cash withdrawal limits, offering payment accommodations, and suspending actions to foreclose on homes and businesses. Prudent efforts to modify the terms on existing loans for affected customers will not be subject to department criticism. The statement also provides guidance on financial condition review, supervisory response and regulatory relief, regulatory reporting requirements, and alternative service options for customers.

    State Issues Covid-19 Arizona Bank Compliance ATM Consumer Finance Foreclosure

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  • 6th Circuit affirms access-device fraud and identity theft convictions

    Courts

    On April 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court’s access-device fraud and aggravated identity theft convictions, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support the court’s factual findings on both charges. According to the opinion, the defendant applied for a debit card for his great-grandfather’s bank account without authorization and used the card to pay for his own expenses. The defendant was also seen multiple times on bank security cameras withdrawing money from an ATM using this card. The district court also heard testimony that the defendant opened accounts and applied for loans under his own name but used his great-grandfather’s social security number. The district convicted the defendant on one count of access-device fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. The defendant appealed, arguing that the district court failed to make adequate findings of fact and that the government failed to present sufficient evidence to support the charges for which he was convicted.

    On appeal, the 6th Circuit reviewed the factual findings underlying the convictions, and first concluded that, with respect to the count of access-device fraud, the government proved each element: that the defendant (i) knowingly used an access device assigned to another individual; (ii) possessed an intent to defraud; (iii) obtained a thing or things with an aggregate value of $1,000 or more within a year using the access device; and (iv) affected interstate or foreign commerce in using the access device. The appellate court explained that there was ample circumstantial evidence to support lack of authorization from the proper owners of the accounts at issue, and that the card was issued in Kentucky and the bank issuing the card was headquartered in Minnesota. The appellate court next considered whether evidence supported the district court’s finding that the defendant committed aggravated identity theft under the bank-fraud statute by opening a checking account and applying for a loan using his great-grandfather’s social security number. The appellate court held that the defendant’s use of his great-grandfather’s social security number properly supported the district court’s finding that the defendant knowingly used, without lawful authority, another person’s means of identification and that the defendant committed a predicate felony under the bank-fraud statute.

    Courts Appellate Sixth Circuit Identity Theft Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Fraud ATM

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  • Louisiana regulator provides guidance on business continuity plans

    State Issues

    On April 1, the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions issued a bulletin urging financial institutions to review their disaster recovery/business continuity plans and update them as needed to ensure that all interdependent operations are considered. The guidance includes a list of considerations, including, among other things: supplying staff with protective equipment and training; updated contact information for third party services and consideration of third party services that might become impaired in an incident; contingency communication process; remote work possibilities; identification of critical operations, including as examples, core processing systems, ATM processing and replenishment, online banking systems, payment processing, and wire processing; cross-training for continuity; and liquidity and cash considerations.

    State Issues Business Continuity ATM Online Banking Payment Processors Covid-19 Louisiana State Regulator

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  • Illinois Department of Financial Regulation issues guidance to Illinois banks and credit unions

    State Issues

    On March 30, the Illinois Department of Financial Regulation, Division of Banking and Division of Financial Institutions, issued guidance to Illinois banks and credit unions regarding support for consumers and businesses impacted by Covid-19. Illinois banks and credit unions are encouraged to use their capital and liquidity buffers as they respond to financial challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, such as to lend and undertake other supportive actions in a safe and sound manner. Illinois banks and credit unions also are encouraged to: (i) provide affected borrowers with payment accommodations to work through short-term setbacks; (ii) respond to borrowers from industry sectors particularly vulnerable to the volatility of the current economic environment; and (iii) work with small businesses, hourly workers, and independent contractors that have less financial flexibility to weather the economic decline.

    The guidance further encourages Illinois banks and credit unions to assist affected borrowers by, among other things, waiving certain fees (e.g., ATM fees, overdraft fees, late fees), increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits, increasing credit card limits for creditworthy borrowers, and providing new loans on favorable terms. Prudent efforts to help consumers and businesses will not be subject to examiner criticism.

    State Issues Illinois Covid-19 Credit Union ATM Overdraft Credit Cards

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  • District court dismisses class claims regarding out-of-network ATM fees

    Courts

    On March 4, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California issued an order granting five separate motions for dismissal filed by a national bank and several independent ATM operators (defendants) regarding allegations that the defendants (i) charged unwarranted fees for using out-of-network (OON) ATMs for balance inquiries; (ii) made deceptive and misleading representations on screens and on signs regarding those fees; and (iii) assessed fees in violation of governing account documents. The plaintiffs’ putative class action alleged 13 claims against the defendants for violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law (CUCL), California’s False Advertising Law (FAL), and the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), as well as for conversion, negligence, and breach of contract. The defendants premised their motions to dismiss on several bases, including a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, and the plaintiffs’ failure to plead the necessary elements of the claims.

    The court generally agreed with the arguments made by the defendants as to the court’s lack of subject matter and personal jurisdiction. In particular, the court held that the common law claims brought on behalf of the nationwide class should be dismissed for lack of Article III standing because the named plaintiffs failed to allege they were charged the relevant balance inquiry fees in states outside of California. In addition, the court agreed with an argument raised by one defendant that the plaintiffs lacked standing to file claims for injunctive relief for violations of the CUCL, FAL, and CLRA because they failed to allege a likelihood of actual or imminent future harm; specifically, they failed to allege they intended to use the ATMs in the future to make balance inquiries. The court thereafter assessed the plaintiffs’ remaining common law and statutory claims, and in each case, granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss the claims for various failures to establish the necessary elements of each of the alleged claims. Of the 13 dismissed claims, the court permitted plaintiffs leave to amend 10 of them. The court required any amended complaint address the standing issues related to claims brought on behalf of the California and nationwide classes.

    Courts Class Action Fees State Issues ATM

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  • District Court denies MSJ because of ambiguities in bank’s ATM fee contract language

    Courts

    On October 7, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California denied a national bank’s motion for partial summary judgment in a class action alleging the bank wrongfully charged ATM fees in violation of the bank’s standardized account agreement. According to the opinion, the plaintiffs filed the action asserting that the bank charges its customers two out-of-network (OON) fees when an account holder conducts a balance inquiry and then obtains a cash withdrawal at an OON ATM. The bank moved for summary judgment on the breach of contract claim, arguing that the terms and conditions of the contract provide for the charge of a fee “for each balance inquiry, cash withdrawal, or funds transfer undertaken at a non-[bank] branded ATM.” After conducting a limited discovery on the breach of contract issue, the district court denied the bank’s motion, concluding there are “ambiguities regarding the contract terms.” Specifically, the court noted that contract documents describe a “Foreign ATM Fee” as “initiated at an ATM other than a [bank] ATM” and that it uses the singular term of “fee” while providing “no further explanation as to what ‘initiated’ means.” According to the court, there is “ambiguity in the term ‘initiate’ that is ‘susceptible to at least two reasonable alternative interpretations.’” Moreover, the court also concluded that certain onscreen warnings about the right to cancel caused “uncertainty and ambiguity” regarding the assessment of fees, and because there are ambiguities regarding the fee terms, the court could not conclude that the plaintiffs failed to prove a breach of contract.

    Courts ATM Fees Class Action

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  • Filipino National Sentenced for Running $9 Million Cybercrime Ring

    Financial Crimes

    On June 8, a U.S. District Court Judge sentenced a Filipino national to over five years in prison and two years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud last year. The defendant operated a $9 million international cybercrime operation that utilized stolen credit and debit accounts to process unauthorized financial transactions, according to an investigation led by the District of New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office. To obtain credit and debit card account information, the defendant engaged in computer hacking and ATM skimming, whereby millions of dollars were “monetized” through a “global network of ‘cashers’” who encoded the data onto counterfeit cards and then used the cards to withdraw money and make purchases.

    Financial Crimes Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Litigation Credit Cards Debit Cards Anti-Money Laundering Fraud ATM

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  • OIG for U.S. Postal Service Probes Expansion Into Financial Services

    Consumer Finance

    On May 21, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service (OIG) issued a report titled, “The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services.” The report follows a January 2014 white paper issued by the OIG, which explored how the U.S. Postal Service could expand its provision of financial products to underserved Americans. The report summarizes five potential approaches for increasing the Postal Service’s financial services offerings, including: (i) expand current product offerings, which include paper money orders, international remittances, gift cards, and limited check cashing, as well as adjacent services  (e.g., bill pay, ATMs); (ii) develop one key partner to provide financial services offerings, including possible expansion to general purpose reloadable prepaid cards, small loans, and/or deposit accounts; (iii) develop different partners for each product; (iv) make the Postal Service a “marketplace” for distribution of financial products of an array of providers; and/or (v) license the Postal Service as a financial institution focused on the financially underserved (although the OIG is not recommending this approach). Factors to consider when determining which approach to take, if any, include the legal and regulatory landscape; the effectiveness of cash management systems; dedication of the internal team, and public awareness of existing and potential services offered.

    Gift Cards Prepaid Cards ATM Remittance Check Cashing Deposit Products

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