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Back in July, the United States bankruptcy court for the Eastern District of California held that under its local rules, an attorney submitting electronically signed documents for filing with the court must maintain an originally signed document in paper form bearing a “wet” signature. In re Mayfield, No. 16-22134-D-7, 2016 WL 3958982 (U.S. Bankr. Ct. E.D. Cal.). The United States Trustee (UST) filed a motion for sanctions against a debtor’s attorney who used the an electronic signature platform to have the debtor execute certain documents that were subsequently filed with the court. The court’s local rules 9004-1(C) and (D) provide that if these documents were executed with a “software-generated electronic signature,” the submitting attorney is required to maintain “an originally signed document in paper form” and produce it upon request by the UST. When asked by the UST to produce the original signed versions of the documents he filed, the debtor’s attorney was unable to do so. In response to the motion, the debtor’s attorney argued that the requirements of 9004-1(C) and (D) did not apply because the electronic signatures were manually created by the debtor’s actions taken on the electronic signature platform. As such, they were not “software-generated electronic signatures” within the meaning of the rule, and under the federal ESIGN Act constituted “original” signatures.
Ultimately, the court held that: (i) the ESIGN Act was not applicable because of the express exemption for court rules at 15 USC § 7003(b)(1), thereby permitting the court to establish and interpret its own rules with respect to electronic signatures, (ii) the electronic signatures created using the platform were within the meaning of the term “software-generated electronic signature” under the local rules, and (iii) the local rule’s reference to “an originally signed document in paper form” required the attorney to also maintain a copy of the document bearing a “wet ink” signature. Accordingly, the Court granted the UST’s motion and, as the sanction imposed, required the debtor’s attorney to certify completion of the court’s online e-filing training course.
In Shaw v. United States, No. 15-5991 (Dec. 12, 2016), the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that Lawrence Eugene Shaw had defrauded a national bank when he used a customer’s personal details to transfer more than $275,000 from that bank’s customer’s account to his own PayPal account. In an opinion written by Justice Breyer, the Court rejected Shaw’s arguments that the conviction was inappropriate because prosecutors could not prove that Shaw intended to defraud the bank. The Court held, among other things, that: (i) the bank had a property interest in the customer’s deposits; (ii) the defendant’s ignorance of the application of property laws to bank deposits was not a defense; and (iii) the bank fraud statute does not require the government to prove that the defendant intended that the bank would suffer a loss; rather, his knowledge that the bank likely would suffer a loss was sufficient.
Despite this finding, the Supreme Court ultimately vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision affirming the conviction and remanded it to the appellate court for consideration of whether a claimed defect in the jury instructions was properly preserved for appeal, whether the instructions were defective, and whether any resulting error was harmless.
In a December 5 press release, FINRA announced that it has fined Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC $16.5 million for anti-money laundering (AML), supervision and other violations. FINRA’s determination and penalty were based primarily on two deficiencies in the investment bank’s suspicious activity monitoring program. First, Credit Suisse relied too heavily on its registered representatives “to identify and escalate potentially suspicious trading, when, in practice, such high-risk activity was not always escalated and investigated, as required.” And, second, FINRA found that the firm failed to properly implement its automated surveillance system to monitor for potentially suspicious money movements.
A federal jury has ordered two Texas-based home mortgage entities and their chief executive to pay nearly $93 million for defrauding the U.S. government into insuring thousands of risky loans, the Department of Justice announced on November 30.
The mortgage companies and their former CEO were found liable for violating the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) by, among other things, failing to maintain an adequate quality control program; and submitting false annual certifications regarding quality control requirements. Specifically, the government contended that defendants operated over 100 “shadow” branch offices that originated FHA-insured mortgage loans without obtaining the necessary HUD approval, and which were therefore not subject to HUD oversight.
Ultimately, the jury awarded $92,982,775 in total damages, including $7,370,132 against the CEO specifically—a sum that is subject to mandatory tripling. Further penalties relating to the FIRREA violations are expected, which U.S. District Judge George Hanks will set at a later date.
On December 7, the American Bankers Association (ABA) filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn a final rule published by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) in that morning’s Federal Register. The final rule purports to “implement changes in policy affecting: The definition of a local community, a rural district, and an underserved area; the chartering and expansion of a multiple common bond credit union; the expansion of a single common bond credit union that serves a trade, industry or profession; and the process for applying to charter, or to expand, a federal credit union.”
ABA’s law suit contends, among other things, that by “fail[ing] to adhere to the limitations on federal credit unions established by Congress,” the NCUA’s final rule “upsets the balance Congress struck between granting federal credit unions tax-favored status and limiting their operations to carefully circumscribed groups or localities that share a common bond.” Under the final rule, scheduled to take effect Feb. 6, Federal Credit Unions (FCUs) can apply to serve entire geographic regions, so-called “rural districts” up to 1 million people (which include the entirety of Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont or Wyoming), and areas contiguous to their existing service areas. NCUA is also facilitating easier conversions to community charters.
On December 7, the CFPB announced that it had entered into consent orders with three reverse mortgage companies to settle claims that their advertisements for those mortgages were deceptive under the Mortgage Acts and Practices Advertising Rule. The alleged misconduct included deceptive advertising campaigns that misrepresented, among other things: (i) the risk of losing home and the right to remain in the home; (ii) expected costs and mortgage payments; (iii) government affiliations of the mortgage company; and (iv) the effectiveness of a reverse mortgage credit product to eliminate debt.
The consent orders require the companies to make clear and prominent disclosures in their reverse mortgage advertisements and implement systems to ensure they are following all laws. One of the three firms also cannot imply affiliation with the government and must maintain complete and accurate records. In addition, the consent orders impose civil penalties ranging from $65,000 up to $400,000.
- American Advisors Group Consent Order
- American Advisors Group Stipulation
- Reverse Mortgage Solutions Consent Order
- Reverse Mortgage Solutions Stipulation
- Aegean Financial Consent Order
- Aegean Financial Stipulation
Federal District Court Holds Claims Brought by CFPB Alleging Deceptive Conduct Must Meet Heightened Rule 9(b) Standard
In a recent case, a California District Court held that CFPB’s claims alleging deceptive conduct under the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”) against a credit repair company failed to meet the heightened pleading requirement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b), under which a plaintiff must “state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud” – including pleading “the time, place, and specific content of the false representations.” CFPB v. Prime Marketing Holdings, LLC, CV 16-07111-BRO, Dkt. No. 32 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 15, 2016).
Specifically, the court in Prime Marketing Holdings concluded that the CFPB’s general allegations of deception “failed to identify any specific instances where the defendant made such a misrepresentation” including, for instance, “what representations were made, when these representations were made and to whom they were made.” Id. at 12-13. Based on this finding, the court dismissed without prejudice the four deception-based claims. Id.
In its first insider trading decision in nearly two decades, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold an insider trading conviction of an individual who traded while aware of material non-public information received from a friend who received no financial benefit in exchange. Salman v. United States, No. 15-628, 2016 WL 7078448 (U.S. Dec. 6, 2016).
The defendant in Salman was convicted in 2013 for trading on confidential information obtained through his brother-in-law even though Salmon he gained no tangible financial benefit. The appeal thus presented the Justices with the central question of how to define a “personal benefit” garnered from insider information. In upholding Salman’s conviction, the Supreme Court affirmed that a user of financial tips breaches fiduciary duty with respect to “insider information” from a relative, whether or not the person giving the information receives a tangible financial benefit. In so holding, the Court also undercuts a narrower interpretation in a case decided by the Second Circuit in 2014 that held that the person who provides the tips must receive something of value in exchange for inside information given to family or friends.
PHH Response Due Date Pushed Back as Solicitor General Permitted to Respond to CFPB's Petition in PHH Corp. v. CFPB by December 22
As discussed previously, the D.C. Circuit ordered PHH to respond to the CFPB’s petition for en banc review of the October 2016 three-judge panel decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB. In an Unopposed Motion for Leave to file the United States' Response, filed December 1, the Office of the Solicitor General sought permission to file its own responsive briefing on or before December 22. In an Order issued December 1, the D.C. Circuit granted the Solicitor General’s request, but also moved back the due date for PHH’s responsive papers so that both responses are now due on December 22.
Earlier in the week, on November 30, two groups filed amicus briefs in support of the CFPB’s petition together along with motions requesting an invitation from the court. The first brief was submitted by a group of leading consumer protection organizations, while the second brief was filed by a group of 21 current and former members of Congress.
On November 22, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the enactment of the Department of Labor's (DOL’s) new overtime salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In his order—issued in response to a lawsuit brought by 21 states and several business groups—Judge Amos L. Mazzant, III noted that the DOL does not have the authority to utilize a salary-level test or an automatic updating mechanism. By granting the preliminary injunction, the judge has delayed the rule (which was set to take effect on December 1) from becoming effective until further legal proceedings may occur. Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, which seeks to invalidate the final rule, has already been briefed.
- APPROVED Webcast: CFL license transition to NMLS
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Justice for all: Achieving racial equity through fair lending” at CBA Live
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss “On the horizon for CRA modernization” at CBA Live
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Government investigations, and compliance 2021 trends” at the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference
- Max Bonici to discuss “BSA/AML trends: What to expect with the implementation of the AML Act of 2020” at the American Bar Association Banking Law Fall Meeting