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Minnesota Commerce Department issues guidance related to temporary resident insurance producer licenses
On July 10, the Minnesota Commerce Department issued Regulatory Guidance 20-34, which provides information relating to the issuance of temporary resident insurance producer licenses. The Minnesota Department of Commerce will issue temporary producer licenses to applicants who meet the requirements for resident licensure under Minnesota law without requiring examination or the submission of fingerprints, subject to conditions set forth in the guidance. To apply for the license, the sponsoring insurer or agency must submit the application on behalf of the temporary producer licensee. The license will be valid for 180 days, it may not be renewed or reinstated if it lapses, and it may not be converted to a regular producer license.
Michigan regulator announces that annual regulatory assessment invoices have been emailed to insurers
The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) announced that, in light of many offices working remotely during the Covid-19 outbreak, it has emailed invoices for annual regulatory assessments to licensed insurance companies. Previously, these invoices were typically mailed. As such, all licensed insurers should have received their electronic invoices on or before June 30. DIFS encouraged insurers to use the its e-payment option to pay the invoice.
On July 2, the New York Department of Financial Services issued a supplement that extends the relief provided by Insurance Circular Letter No. 9, previously covered here. The letter, which, among other things, suspended the expiration of licenses for individual insurance producers, has been extended for an additional 30 days through August 7, 2020. Licenses that would have expired but for the extension will automatically expire on August 7, 2020, unless the producer has submitted a license renewal application and completed all necessary continuing education credits before that date.
New York Department of Financial Services announces remote online testing for insurance licensing exams
On June 11, the New York Department of Financial Services announced that remote online proctored testing will be available beginning on June 15, 2020, for all 28 New York insurance licensing exams. As a result, candidates will be able to take exams at a testing center or from their home or office.
Minnesota Department of Commerce extends certain licensing application deadlines for insurance producers and real estate brokers
On May 27, the Minnesota Department of Commerce issued an order modifying certain regulatory deadlines as set forth in Regulatory Guidance 20-29, 20-30, 20-31, 20-32, and 20-33. Guidance 20-29 through 20-32 extends the deadlines for insurance producer and adjuster renewal applications, and Guidance 20-33 extends the deadline for certain real estate broker license applicants to complete their applications.
The NYDFS issued guidance encouraging regulated insurance persons to use and accept electronic signatures and records to facilitate insurance transactions in instances that cause no consumer harm. The NYDFS reminded licensees that both New York’s Electronic Signatures and Records Act and the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act permit the use of electronic signatures and records if the consumer consents. The NYDFS also stated it does not require consumer consent be obtained in any particular way.
On March 25, the NYDFS suspended the license expiration of all individuals who are licensed insurance producers – brokers, agents, intermediaries and other persons required to be licensed in order to sell, solicit or negotiate insurance in New York – for 60 days. The NYDFS issued the temporary suspension in light of the hardship that individuals may face obtaining the continuing education credits required for license renewals. At the end of this 60-day period, all licenses that would have expired without the extension will automatically expire unless the producer has submitted a license renewal application and completed all necessary continuing education credits.
On April 1, Utah enacted SB 332, which amends the Utah Residential Mortgage Practices and Licensing Act, the Real Estate Licensing and Practices Act, and the Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Certification Act to establish a procedure for the voluntary surrender of a license issued under each of those acts. The bill clarifies the scope of what it means to be engaged in the business of residential mortgage loans under the Utah Residential Mortgage Practices and Licensing Act, and includes numerous other amendments to the other two Acts. The changes take effect May 13 2014.
On April 3, the Texas Department of Banking issued a supervisory memorandum on the regulatory treatment of virtual currencies under the Texas Money Services Act. The memorandum states that money transmission licensing determinations regarding transactions with decentralized virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, referred to by the Banking Department as cryptocurrencies, turn on whether cryptocurrencies should be considered "money or monetary value" under the Money Services Act. The memorandum concludes that cryptocurrencies currently cannot be considered “money or monetary value” because they are not currencies as that word is defined in the Money Services Act, and a unit of cryptocurrency is not a claim under the Act. However, when a cryptocurrency transaction includes sovereign currency, it may constitute money transmission depending on how the sovereign currency is handled. The memorandum provides examples of common types of transactions involving cryptocurrencies and whether they would constitute money transmission subject to state licensing requirements. For example, the Department states that exchanging cryptocurrency for sovereign currency through a third party exchanger is generally money transmission, and that exchange of cryptocurrency for sovereign currency through an automated machine is usually but not always money transmission. The Department advises that cryptocurrency businesses conducting money transmission must comply with state licensing requirements. The Department further advises that (i) a money transmitter that conducts virtual currency transactions is subject to a $500,000 minimum net worth requirement; (ii) a license holder may not include virtual currency assets in calculations for its permissible investments; and (iii) license applicants who handle virtual currencies in the course of their money transmission activities must submit a current third party security audit of their relevant computer systems.
On March 31, in an enforcement action with potential implications for a range of financial service providers, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) announced that an insurance holding company agreed to pay a $50 million civil fine to resolve allegations that two of its subsidiaries conducted unlicensed insurance business in the state, and that one of the subsidiaries made false representations about those activities. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office (DA) announced that the company agreed to resolve a parallel criminal investigation by entering into a deferred prosecution agreement and disgorging $10 million in profits.
The DFS and the DA claim that their coordinated investigations revealed that the subsidiaries used New York-based sales representatives to solicit insurance business for the companies and their affiliates, and to directly sell insurance products in New York to multinational companies, notwithstanding representations to the contrary from the companies. However, the authorities allege, neither company was licensed to conduct business in the state, and both companies used sales representatives who were not licensed as insurance brokers or agents in New York.
In addition, the DFS and the DA assert that one of the subsidiaries, while operating under the control of a different parent company, intentionally misrepresented to the New York State Insurance Department (one of the DFS’s predecessor agencies) that the subsidiary did not solicit business in New York and that its New York staff did not engage in such activities. At the time, in seeking an opinion as to whether it was required to obtain a license, the company asserted that its New York operations were limited to “back office” operations not subject to licensing requirements.
The civil fine in this action is substantially larger than fines typically imposed with regard to state licensing violations in other financial services industries. Notably, the large fine was imposed even after the companies agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation of the two subsidiaries’ former parent company. Also significant, the disgorgement order equates to two years’ worth of profits earned in connection with the alleged unlicensed activity. The holding company also agreed to certain restrictions on its business and that of the two subsidiaries pending full compliance with state law.
The DFS is the principal financial industry regulator in the state of New York, with jurisdiction over banks; mortgage lenders, brokers and servicers; consumer lenders; money transfer businesses; insurance companies; and others.