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FDIC orders neobank to stop making fraudulent deposit insurance representations
On March 27, the FDIC sent a letter to a neobank demanding that it stop making false or misleading representations about FDIC deposit insurance and take immediate corrective action to address these statements. The FDIC maintained that the neobank and/or its officers made false and misleading statements in English and Spanish suggesting that it is FDIC-insured and that FDIC insurance will protect customers’ cryptocurrency assets. The FDIC explained in the letter that not only is the neobank not FDIC-insured, the FDIC does not insure crypto assets. “By not distinguishing between US-dollar deposits and crypto assets, the statements imply FDIC insurance coverage applies to all customer funds (including crypto assets),” the letter said. Moreover, the neobank also failed to “clearly and conspicuously identify an insured deposit institution for placement of deposits,” the FDIC said in its announcement. Under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, the announcement added, persons are prohibited “from representing or implying that an uninsured product is FDIC-insured or from knowingly misrepresenting the extent and manner of deposit insurance.” The FDIC requested a response within 15 days.
CFPB: TILA does not preempt state laws on commercial financial disclosure
On March 28, the CFPB issued a determination that state disclosure laws covering lending to businesses in California, New York, Utah, and Virginia are not preempted by TILA. The preemption determination confirms a preliminary determination issued by the Bureau in December, in which the agency concluded that the states’ statutes regulate commercial financing transactions and not consumer-purpose transactions (covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau explained that a number of states have recently enacted laws requiring improved disclosure of information contained in commercial financing transactions, including loans to small businesses. A written request was sent to the Bureau requesting a preemption determination involving certain disclosure provisions in TILA. While Congress expressly granted the Bureau authority to evaluate whether any inconsistencies exist between certain TILA provisions and state laws and to make a preemption determination, the statute’s implementing regulations require the agency to request public comments before making a final determination. In making its preliminary determination last December, the Bureau concluded that the state and federal laws do not appear “contradictory” for preemption purposes, and that “differences between the New York and Federal disclosure requirements do not frustrate these purposes because lenders are not required to provide the New York disclosures to consumers seeking consumer credit.”
After considering public comments following the preliminary determination, the Bureau again concluded that “[s]tates have broad authority to establish their own protections for their residents, both within and outside the scope of [TILA].” In affirming that the states’ commercial financing disclosure laws do not conflict with TILA, the Bureau emphasized that “commercial financing transactions to businesses—and any disclosures associated with such transactions—are beyond the scope of TILA’s statutory purposes, which concern consumer credit.”
SEC proposes requiring electronic EDGAR filings
On March 22, the SEC proposed amendments intended to “modernize” filing procedures through the use of electronic filings on EDGAR using structured data as appropriate. (See also SEC fact sheet here.) Currently, registrants must submit many forms required by the Securities Exchange Act, as well as other materials and submissions, in paper form. The proposed rule would require covered self-regulatory organizations (SROs) to submit these filings electronically, and would apply to national securities exchanges, national securities associations, clearing agencies, broker-dealers, security-based swap dealers, and major security-based swap participants. The proposed rule also would require SROs to make certain submissions in a structured, machine-readable data language, and would amend certain provisions regarding the Financial and Operational Combined Uniform Single Report to harmonize it with other rules, make technical corrections, and provide clarifications. Additionally, the announcement noted that the proposed rule would require, in certain circumstances, withdrawal of notices “filed in connection with an exception to counting certain dealing transactions toward determining whether a person is a security-based swap dealer.” Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted 30 days after publication in the Federal Register or until May 22, whichever is later.
FTC to permanently ban auto warranty operation
On March 24, the FTC announced that a Florida-based group of operators (defendants) faces a permanent ban from the extended automobile warranty industry and will be barred from any further involvement in outbound telemarketing. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the defendants allegedly violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule by allegedly engaging in deceptive practices when marketing and selling automobile warranties. According to the FTC, the defendants, among other things, (i) misrepresented their affiliation with consumers’ car dealers or manufacturers; (ii) misrepresented warranty coverage; (iii) falsely promised consumers they could obtain a full refund if they cancelled within 30 days; (iv) used remotely created checks, which are illegal in telemarketing transactions; and (v) placed unsolicited calls to numbers on the do not call registry. The proposed stipulated order for permanent injunction, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, would require the defendants to pay a $6.6 million monetary judgment and would impose a permanent industry ban. However, the monetary judgment is largely suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay.
OCC reaches $17 million settlement with former executive over account openings
On March 15, the OCC announced a $17 million civil money penalty and prohibition order against a former senior executive who served as head of a national bank’s community banking division for her role in the bank’s incentive compensation sales practices. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in January 2020, the OCC announced charges against the former general counsel and other executives, seeking a lifetime prohibition from participating in the banking industry, a personal cease and desist order, and/or civil money penalties. The 2020 announcement included settlements with three of the executives. The OCC settled with three others in September 2020, as well as with the bank’s former general counsel in January 2021 (covered by InfoBytes here and here). In addition to the $17 million penalty, the former senior executive entered a plea agreement admitting to one count of obstructing a bank examination.
FHFA seeks feedback on implementation of updated credit score requirements
On March 23, FHFA announced a two-phase plan for soliciting stakeholder input on the agency’s proposed process for implementing updated credit score requirements. In October, FHFA announced that the FICO credit score model would be replaced by the FICO 10T and the VantageScore 4.0 credit score models, which were both validated and approved for use by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (covered by InfoBytes here). The agency also announced that Fannie and Freddie will now require two credit reports – instead of three – from the national consumer reporting agencies for single-family loan acquisitions. FHFA seeks public input on the projected implementation process to inform the transition to these new credit score models, which the agency estimates will happen in two phases. Phase one, estimated to start Q3 2024, will include the delivery and disclosure of additional credit scores, while phase two will include the incorporation of the new credit score models in pricing, capital, and other processes (estimated to occur in Q4 2025).
FHA reminds servicers of available HAF financial assistance
On March 24, FHA reminded servicers about their obligation to inform distressed homeowners about the availability of financial assistance for FHA-insured mortgages, including single-family forward mortgages and home equity conversion mortgages (HECM), through the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). HAF was established in 2021 to provide financial support to eligible homeowners who suffered financial hardship during Covid-19. HAF funds may be used to bring a mortgage current or be used in combination with certain available FHA-loss mitigation options for single family forward mortgages or with the Covid-19 HECM Property Charge Repayment Plan. HAF funds also may be used to reduce the balance or pay off a borrower’s outstanding loss mitigation partial claim, even if a borrower’s mortgage payments are now current. Additionally, as permitted, HAF funds may be used to pay for delinquent property tax and homeowners insurance charges on defaulted HECMs. FHA noted in its announcement that the definition of “imminent default” also has been expanded to include homeowners who qualify for HAF. Consequently, “servicers will be able to offer additional loss mitigation options to borrowers who qualified for or used HAF funds and may no longer technically be delinquent but require further assistance to avoid redefault,” FHA explained.
FTC finalizes gaming company order on dark patterns
On March 14, the FTC finalized an administrative order requiring a video game developer to pay $245 million in refunds to consumers allegedly tricked into making unwanted in-game purchases. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the FTC filed an administrative complaint claiming players were able to accumulate unauthorized charges without parental or card holder action or consent. The FTC alleged that the company used a variety of dark patterns, such as “counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration[s],” designed to get players of all ages to make unintended in-game purchases. These tactics caused players to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges, the FTC said, adding that the company also charged account holders for purchases without authorization. Under the terms of the final decision and order, the company is required to pay $245 million in refunds to affected card holders. The company is also prohibited from charging players using dark patterns or without obtaining their affirmative consent. Additionally, the company is barred from blocking players from accessing their accounts should they dispute unauthorized charges.
Separately, last month the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina entered a stipulated order against the company related to alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The FTC claimed the company failed to protect underage players’ privacy and collected personal information without first notifying parents or obtaining parents’ verifiable consent. Under the terms of the order, the company is required to ensure parents receive direct notice of its practices with regard to the collection, use or disclosure of players’ personal information, and must delete information previously collected in violation of COPPA’s parental notice and consent requirements unless it obtains parental consent to retain such data or the player claims to be 13 or older through a neutral age gate. Additionally, the company is required to implement a comprehensive privacy program to address the identified violations, maintain default privacy settings, obtain regular, independent audits, and pay a $275 million civil penalty (the largest amount ever imposed for a COPPA violation).
FTC examines small business credit reporting
On March 16, the FTC launched an inquiry into the small business credit reporting industry, seeking information from firms on how information is collected and processed for business credit reports, how these reports are marketed, and firms’ approaches for addressing factual errors contained in the reports. Firms are also asked to provide information on the types of services provided to businesses for monitoring or enhancing their own credit reports. The FTC noted that currently there is no federal law that specifically outlines credit reporting processes and protections for small businesses, unlike individual consumer credit reports, which are governed by the FCRA.
FTC asks how cloud computing affects competition and data security
On March 22, the FTC announced it is seeking information on cloud computing providers’ business practices with respect to the potential impact on competition and data security. FTC staff noted that the agency is also interested in how cloud computing is impacting specific industries, including healthcare, finance, transportation, e-commerce, and defense. The request for information (RFI) solicits feedback on a range of issues, including (i) market power and competition (e.g. do particular segments of the economy have to rely on a small handful of cloud service providers); (ii) contract negotiation flexibility; (iii) incentives given to customers to ensure they obtain more of their cloud services from a single provider; (iv) security risks (e.g. what are the data security implications if particular segments of the economy rely on a small number of cloud service providers, and are these providers competing on their ability to provide secure storage for customer data); (v) products or services tied to artificial intelligence; and (vi) how cloud providers identify and notify customers of security risks related to security design, implementation, or configuration. Comments on the RFI are due May 22.
- Keisha Whitehall Wolfe to discuss “Tips for successfully engaging your state regulator” at the MBA's State and Local Workshop
- Max Bonici to discuss “Enforcement risk and trends for crypto and digital assets (Part 2)” at ABA’s 2023 Business Law Section Hybrid Spring Meeting
- Jedd R. Bellman to present “An insider’s look at handling regulatory investigations” at the Maryland State Bar Association Legal Summit