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On September 7, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order concerning a False Claims Act (FCA) case on remand from the United States Supreme Court. In its order, the three-judge panel determined that the FCA complaint should be reviewed under the higher court’s Escobar standard, which “set out a materiality standard for FCA claims that has not been applied in the present case.” See Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016). As previously discussed in InfoBytes, Escobar holds that a misrepresentation must be material to the government’s payment decision to be actionable under the FCA and that the implied false certification theory can be a basis for liability under the FCA.
In issuing the order, the appellate court vacated the district court’s dismissal of the relators’ complaint (which it had affirmed the first time around) and remanded for further proceedings to determine whether the bank’s certification was materially false. At issue is a qui tam suit filed against a national bank, in which plaintiffs claimed the bank violated the FCA when it certified to the Federal Reserve that the bank and its predecessors were obeying the law in order to “borrow money at favorable rates” during the financial crisis. The decision originally relied upon two requirements cited in a case overturned by Escobar—“the express-designation requirement for implied false certification claims and the particularity requirement for express false certification claims.”
On July 27, a bipartisan group of senators introduced draft legislation (S. 1642), which would require bank loans, sold or transferred to another party, to maintain the same interest rate. As previously covered in InfoBytes, similar legislation (H.R. 3299) was introduced in the House earlier in July to reestablish a “legal precedent under federal banking laws that preempts a loan’s interest as valid when made.” Both measures come as a reaction to the 2015 Second Circuit decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, in which an appellate panel held that a nonbank entity taking assignment of debts originated by a national bank is not entitled to protection under the National Bank Act from state-law usury claims. The draft legislation seeks to amend the Revised Statutes, the Home Owners’ Loan Act, the Federal Credit Union Act, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Act.
On July 19, Representative Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the Vice Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Representative Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation designed to make it unlawful to change the rate of interest on certain loans after they have been sold or transferred to another party. As set forth in a July 19 press release issued by Rep. McHenry’s office, the Protecting Consumers’ Access to Credit Act of 2017 (H.R. 3299) would reaffirm the “legal precedent under federal banking laws that preempts a loan’s interest as valid when made.”
Notably, a Second Circuit panel in 2015 in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC overturned a district court’s holding that the National Bank Act (NBA) preempted state law usury claims against purchasers of debt from national banks. (See Special Alert on Second Circuit decision here.)The appellate court held that state usury laws are not preempted after a national bank has transferred the loan to another party. The Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari last year. According to Rep. McHenry, “[t]his reading of the National Bank Act was unprecedented and has created uncertainty for fintech companies, financial institutions, and the credit markets.” H.R. 3299, however, will attempt to “restore consistency” to lending laws following the holding and “increase stability in our capital markets which have been upended by the Second Circuit’s unprecedented interpretation of our banking laws.”
On June 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that, without concrete evidence of actual harm, a consumer lacks standing under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) to sue a merchant for printing credit card expiration dates on receipts. The consumer alleged that printing the expiration date on her credit card receipt led to a material risk of identity theft, and therefore constituted an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing. The court disagreed, noting that Congress’s amendments to FACTA belie that expiration dates on credit card receipts increase the risk of identity theft. Moreover, the court held that the consumer failed to allege actual harm from the merchant’s practice.
The court’s decision in Cruper-Wienmann comes approximately one month after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 194 L. Ed. 2d 635 (2016), as revised (May 24, 2016), which held that “bare procedural violation[s], divorced from any concrete harm” are not enough to establish standing.
On June 22, the Second Circuit held in Reyes v. Lincoln Automotive Financial Services, No. 16-2014-cv, 2017 WL 2675363 (2nd Cir. June 22, 2017), that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) does not permit a consumer to unilaterally revoke his or her consent to be contacted by telephone when that consent was given as a “bargained-for consideration in a bilateral contract.” The defendant had leased an automobile from the plaintiff. As a condition of that lease agreement, the plaintiff consented to receive automated or manual telephone calls from the defendant. After the plaintiff defaulted, the defendant regularly called the plaintiff and continued to do so even after the plaintiff allegedly revoked his consent. To support his argument that the TCPA permits him to revoke his consent, the plaintiff relied on prior case law and a recent ruling from the FCC that stated that under the TCPA, “prior express consent” can be revoked. The Second Circuit, however, distinguished this case from those relied on by the plaintiff on the grounds that the prior cases and the FCC’s ruling support the proposition that consent not given in exchange for consideration, and which is not part of a binding legal agreement, can be revoked. The Court further stated that where the consent is not provided gratuitously but is instead an express provision of a contract, the TCPA does not allow such consent to be unilaterally revoked.
On January 6, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the Southern District of New York’s decision to dismiss a derivative action alleging that the Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board of Directors, ten other Board members, and two former corporate officers and advisers of the nominal defendant financial institution ignored “glaring ‘red flags’ of suspicious and illicit misconduct associated with” Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and Madoff’s investment advisory unit’s account with the institution. Cent. Laborers’ Pension Fund v. Dimon, No. 14-4516, (2nd Cir. Jan. 6, 2015). In July 2014, “the District Court dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint on the ground that they ‘failed to allege with particularity facts sufficient to excuse [their] failure to make demand upon the Board prior to filing’ their action.” The District Court found that the plaintiffs had not alleged that the defendants (i) “‘utterly failed to implement any reporting or information system or controls’”; or (ii) “‘having implemented such a system or controls, consciously failed to monitor or oversee its operations thus disabling themselves from being informed of risks or problems requiring their attention.’” (quoting Stone v. Ritter, 911 A.2d 362, 370 (Del. 2006)). The District Court further found that because the plaintiffs only claimed that the financial institution’s controls were “inadequate,” as opposed to nonexistent, they were unable to maintain a Caremark action, i.e., an action for failure to monitor. See Caremark Int’l Inc. Derivative Litig., 698 A.2d 959 (Del. Ch. 1996). Plaintiffs challenged the District Court’s ruling on the grounds that “they should have been required to plead only defendants’ ‘utter failure to attempt to assure a reasonable information and reporting system existed,” as opposed to failing to implement any reporting or information system or controls. The Second Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision, however, maintaining that “the standard that the District Court applied was taken verbatim from Stone v. Ritter, a Delaware Supreme Court decision that the District Court was obligated to follow,” and although the language the plaintiffs contended should have been used was taken from Caremark, Caremark is not controlling because it was issued by a lower court than Stone before Stone was issued and Stone interpreted Caremark. The Second Circuit further opined that it was not clear that replacing the Stone standard with the language from Caremark would have made a “difference in the disposition of plaintiffs’ action” because of facts demonstrating an “attempt to assure a reasonable information and reporting system existed.”
On November 19, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the Southern District of New York’s decision to dismiss a case alleging that two leading credit card issuing banks schemed to require that disputes be settled in arbitration, as opposed to class action lawsuits. The plaintiffs challenged the District Court’s decision on the grounds that language in United States v. General Motors Corp. should be used “to adopt a rule that the existence of conspiracy is a legal conclusion subject to review de novo.” Ross v. Citigroup, Inc., No. 14-1610 (2nd Cir. Nov. 19, 2015). Plaintiffs further argued that the District Court’s conclusion that the defendants’ actions did not constitute as conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Act should not be shielded by the “clearly erroneous” test. The District Court analyzed various “plus factors,” including motive, the quantity and nature of inter-firm communications, and whether the arbitration clauses were “artificially standardized” because of an illegal agreement, to determine whether or not conspiracy existed among the credit card issuing banks. The District Court concluded that the credit card issuing banks’ final decision to implement class-action-barring clauses was reached “individually and internally.” Stating that General Motors has never been applied as generously as the plaintiffs argued for it to be, the Second Circuit’s review of the record found the District Court’s conclusion plausible and not “clearly erroneous.”
Second Circuit Upholds District Court Decision, Applies New York's Six-Year Limitations Period on Contractual Claims
On November 16, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the Southern District of New York’s decision to dismiss a leading global bank’s complaint against a nonbank mortgage lender alleging breach of contractual obligations to repurchase mortgage loans that violated representations and warranties. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co. v. Quicken Loans Inc., No. 14-3373 (2nd Cir. Nov. 16, 2015). The bank, under its right as Trustee of the loans, alleged that the lender breached aspects of representations and warranties contained in a 2006 Purchase Agreement, including those related to (i) borrower income; (ii) debt-to-income ratios; (iii) loan-to-value and combined loan-to-value ratios; and (iv) owner occupancy. The bank’s complaint also alleged that it sent the lender a series of notification letters between August 2013 and October 2013 demanding cure or repurchase of the loans, which the lender allegedly failed to do without justification. The bank challenged the District Court’s decision by arguing that New York’s six-year statute of limitations on contractual claims did not apply because the terms of the representations and warranties contained an “Accrual Clause” placing future obligations on the lender. However, the Second Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling, concluding that the bank’s Accrual Clause only constituted a procedural demand and did not delay the accrual of the cause of action. Specifically, the Second Circuit found that the representations and warranties guaranteed the characteristics and quality of the loans at the time the loans were sold in 2006. As such, the six-year statute of limitations “began to run on the date the [representations and warranties] became effective and were either true or false at that time.” The Second Circuit also found that the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA), which in part delays accrual of claims brought by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), did not apply. Because FHFA only filed the summons in state court, and the Trustee filed the federal complaint and prosecuted the action, the Second Circuit found the case was not “brought” by FHFA and thus HERA did not apply.
Special Alert: Second Circuit Will Not Rehear Madden Decision That Threatens To Upset Secondary Credit Markets
Two months ago we issued a Special Alert regarding the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, which held that a nonbank entity taking assignment of debts originated by a national bank is not entitled to protection under the National Bank Act (“NBA”) from state-law usury claims. We explained that the Second Circuit’s reasoning in Madden ignored long-standing precedent upholding an assignee’s right to charge and collect interest in accordance with an assigned credit contract that was valid when made. And, because the entire secondary market for credit relies on this Valid-When-Made Doctrine to enforce credit agreements pursuant to their terms, the decision potentially carries far-reaching ramifications for securitization vehicles, hedge funds, other purchasers of whole loans, including those who purchase loans originated by banks pursuant to private-label arrangements and other bank relationships, such as those common to marketplace lending industries and various types of on-line consumer credit.
After the decision, Midland Funding, the assignee of the loan at issue, petitioned the Second Circuit to rehear the case either by the panel or en banc – a petition that was broadly supported by banking and securities industry trade associations in amicus briefs. On August 12, the court denied that petition.
Questions regarding the matters discussed in this Alert may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The federal fraud sentencing guidelines: It's time to stop the madness" at a New York Criminal Bar Association webinar
- Daniel P Stipano to moderate "Digital identity: The next gen of CIP" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference