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OCC Issues Bulletin Regarding Mandatory Contractual Stay Requirements for Qualified Financial Contracts
On October 3, the OCC issued Bulletin 2016-31 seeking comment on a proposed rule intended to “enhance the resilience and the safety and soundness of federally chartered and licensed financial institutions.” Pursuant to the proposal, a covered bank would be required to ensure that a covered qualified financial contract (i) contains a contractual stay-and-transfer provision equivalent to those contained in the Dodd-Frank Act’s stay-and-transfer provision under title II and in the Federal Deposit Insurance Act; and (ii) restricts the use of default rights based on an affiliate’s insolvency. Moreover, the proposal would “make conforming amendments in certain definitions in the capital adequacy standards in 12 CFR 3 and the liquidity risk measurement standards in 12 CFR 50.” Comments on the proposed rule are due by October 18, 2016.
On October 3, FinCEN assessed a $12 million civil money penalty against a Nevada-based casino for willfully violating the anti-money laundering (AML) provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). Pursuant to the Statement of Facts, from March 2009 through September 28, 2015, the casino allegedly failed to (i) develop and implement an effective AML program reasonably designed to ensure compliance with the BSA; (ii) exercise due diligence in its monitoring of suspicious activity; and (iii) maintain sufficient AML compliance controls, procedures, training, and audits, which resulted in multiple filing and recordkeeping control violations. As part of the FinCEN’s Assessment and the Non-Prosecution Agreement filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Officers, the casino must (i) perform a series of required Remedial Measures to ensure compliance going forward; and (ii) conduct a look-back review to ensure that suspicious transactions and attempted transactions were appropriately reported for transactions that occurred between 2010 and 2013.
On October 3, FinCEN Acting Director Jamal El-Hindi issued a statement regarding anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism compliance. According to Acting Director El-Hindi, two recent actions against casinos represent failure to (i) adequately train staff at every level in the organization; and (ii) properly file - or file at all – Suspicious Activity Reports and Currency Transaction Reports. Still, Acting Director El-Hindi acknowledged that casinos in general have improved their AML compliance efforts. Acting Director El-Hindi stated that FinCEN will continue to work with casinos on their compliance efforts, and cautioned that “[a] good compliance culture is one where doing the right thing is rewarded, and where ‘looking the other way’ has consequences.”
On October 5, the OCC issued Bulletin 2016-32 to provide highly anticipated guidance regarding “de-risking” in foreign correspondent banking relationships. Last week, Comptroller Curry stated that the OCC intended to issue guidance that would reiterate the agency’s “risk management expectations for banks to establish and follow policies and procedures for regularly conducting risk evaluations of their foreign correspondent portfolios.” The guidance outlines “best practices” for banks to use when “conducting periodic reevaluations of the risks related to foreign correspondent accounts and making account retention or termination decisions.” As expected and as previously summarized in BuckleySandler’s Special Alert, these best practices include, but are not limited to, (i) establishing effective governance for overseeing how banks reevaluate risk and monitor recommendations for retaining or terminating foreign correspondent accounts; (ii) communicating regularly to senior management about decisions to retain or terminate foreign correspondent accounts, giving consideration to any adverse impact that closures may have on access to financial services for an entire group of customers or an entire region; (iii) establishing lines of communication with foreign correspondent customers in the context of determining whether to withdraw from a relationship; (iv) considering specific information these customers may provide that may mitigate risks they present; (v) when decisions are made to terminate accounts, providing sufficient time for customers to establish alternative banking relationships, unless any delay would create additional risk; and (vi) maintaining clear audit trails documenting the reasons and methods used for considering account closure.
On October 6, the FCC issued a fact sheet on revised privacy rules related to broadband internet services. According to the fact sheet, the proposed rules “are designed to evolve with changing technologies and encourage innovation, and are in harmony with other key privacy frameworks and principles – including those outlined by the [FTC] and the Administration’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.” The FCC first issued a set of privacy rules concerning consumer rights in relation to broadband internet service providers (ISPs) in March. In Chairman Tom Wheeler’s October 6 blog post regarding the recent revisions, he noted that the revised proposal “provide[s] consumers increased choice, transparency and security online.” The proposed rules, among other things, would require ISPs to (i) let consumers know the type of information they are collecting, specify how and the extent to which the information can be used and shared, and identify with whom the information is shared; (ii) obtain consumers’ opt-in consent to use sensitive information, including, among other things, geo-location, social security numbers, and web browsing history; and (iii) provide an opt-out option, consistent with customer expectations, for the use and sharing of non-sensitive information. Notably, the proposed rules “do not apply to the privacy practices of websites or apps, over which the [FTC] has authority…even when a website or app is owned by a broadband provider.” The Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal on October 27.
On September 29, 2016, the DOJ issued two declination letters concerning suspected FCPA violations, closing their investigations of two Texas-based corporations. The DOJ claims that its investigation of one of the corporations found that the company’s employees paid approximately $500,000 in bribes to Venezuela and China government officials in order to influence those officials’ purchasing decisions and thereby secure approximately $2.7 million in profits. With respect to its investigation of the second corporation, DOJ claims that the company’s China subsidiary provided approximately $45,000 worth of benefits to China government officials to obtain sales which generated profits of approximately $335,000. In connection with the issuance of the declination letters, the companies agreed to the disgorgement of their profits from the sales associated with their purportedly illegal conduct.
The declinations were made pursuant to the FCPA Pilot Program, a one-year program launched in April 2016 to encourage companies to voluntarily self-disclose FCPA-related misconduct, cooperate with DOJ, and make appropriate remediation efforts. The DOJ’s decision to close the investigations was based on a number of factors including the companies’ (i) voluntary disclosures; (ii) thorough internal investigations; (iii) full cooperation in providing DOJ with information about the individuals responsible for the purported misconduct; (iv) agreement to disgorge all profits made from the purported misconduct; (v) enhancement of compliance programs and internal accounting controls; and (vi) remediation in the form of terminating or sanctioning employees responsible for the purported misconduct. These are the fourth and fifth declination letters issued under the Pilot Program.
The disgorgement of profits in connection with the declination letters to the two corporations raises the question of whether such disgorgement may be a prerequisite to obtaining a declination letter under the Pilot Program. Companies that previously received declination letters under the Pilot Program were required to disgorge profits as part of settling related SEC enforcement actions. Past FCPA Scorecard coverage of the Pilot Program and associated declination letters may be found here.
On September 21, 2016, the SEC reached a $766,000 settlement with a personal care and dietary supplement company over charges that it violated the internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA. The SEC alleged that the company’s China subsidiary made a $150,000 payment to a charity chosen by a Chinese Communist party official in order to obtain that official’s assistance in terminating an on-going provisional agency investigation into the company’s compliance with local rules for direct selling.
The settlement reveals important lessons for U.S. companies regarding oversight of charitable contributions made by their foreign-based subsidiaries. According to the Order, the company’s China subsidiary had informed its U.S. counterpart of the donation but omitted the relationship between the donation, foreign official, and provisional agency investigation. While the U.S. company flagged the FCPA risks a large donation in China may raise, and advised its China subsidiary to consult with outside U.S. legal counsel to assure compliance, the counsel’s advice was ultimately ignored by the subsidiary. The SEC concluded that the company failed to maintain necessary internal controls, specifically with respect to due diligence conducted by its China subsidiary regarding charitable contributions and accounting for such donations.
Notably, this is the second time that the government has charged a company with violating the FCPA based only on a charitable donation to purportedly buy the influence of a foreign official. The settlement illustrates the SEC’s increasing focus on charitable donations in high risk markets.
On September 30, 2016, the SEC reached a $20 million settlement with a British pharmaceutical company arising from the company’s business in China. The SEC alleged that between 2010 and 2013, sales and marketing managers of the company’s China subsidiary made corrupt payments to medical professionals to encourage more prescriptions for the company’s products. The purported corrupt payments included gifts, travel, entertainment, shopping, and cash but were recorded in the company’s books and records as legitimate marketing expenses, speaker fees, medical association payments, and travel and entertainment expenses. Because the medical professionals worked in government-owned hospitals, the SEC considered them to be foreign government officials under the FCPA, and charged the company with violations of the internal controls and recordkeeping provisions of the FCPA.
The $20 million dollar settlement with the SEC follows an almost $490 million sanction ordered in 2014 by a Chinese Court against the company’s Chinese subsidiary based on the same alleged bribery scheme. Five of the company’s managers were also convicted in that action in China and its former country manager was deported. FCPA Scorecard coverage of the Chinese Court order can be found here.
On September 29, the OCC released final guidelines establishing standards for recovery planning for large OCC-regulated institutions. The guidelines, which are not applicable to community banks, are designed to provide “a comprehensive framework for evaluating the financial effects of severe stress that may affect a covered institution and options it may take to remain viable under such stress.” Pursuant to the guidelines, an institution “should develop and maintain a recovery plan that is specific to that covered bank and appropriate for its individual size, risk profile, activities, and complexity, including the complexity of its organizational and legal entity structure.” OCC examiners will begin to assess an institution’s recovery plan for appropriateness and adequacy. The guidelines, which contain various compliance dates, become effective January 1, 2017.
On October 4, the FTC announced a $1.3 billion judgment against defendants responsible for operating an allegedly deceptive payday lending scheme. The judgment is the result of 2012 complaint in which the FTC alleged that the defendants engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the FTC Act by making false and misleading representations about costs and payment of the loans. According to the FTC, the defendants claimed that they would charge consumers the loan amount and a one-time finance fee. However, the court found that the defendants “made multiple withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts and assessed a new finance fee each time, without disclosing the true costs of the loan.” The $1.3 billion order is the largest litigated judgment the FTC has obtained to date.
- Amanda R. Lawrence and Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss "California privacy rule" on an NAFCU webinar
- Sasha Leonhardt to discuss "The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Lending Act: Common pitfalls and emerging issues" at a NAFCU webinar
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "BigLaw" at the Women in Business Law Leadership Conference
- Buckley Webcast: NYDFS mortgage servicing rules: Untangling federal and state servicing requirements
- H Joshua Kotin and Jessica M. Shannon to discuss "TILA/RESPA mortgage servicing and origination" at the NAFCU Regulatory Compliance School
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Developing a risk-based response when the whistle blows" at the Whistleblower Program & Investigations Roundtable
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Pathway of the SARs: Tracking trajectories of suspicious activity reports from alerts to prosecution" at the ACAMS International AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Which bud’s for you? A deep-dive into evolving marijuana laws" at the ACAMS International AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Understanding OFAC sanctions" at a NAFCU webinar
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA 8 (TRID applied compliance)" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- John P. Kromer to discuss "Navigating the multi-state fintech regulatory regime" at the American Conference Institute Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum on Fintech & Emerging Payment Systems
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Leveraging big data responsibly" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Critique of direct examination; Questions and answers" at the American Bar Association Section of Litigation Anatomy of a Trial: Murder Trial of Ziang Sung Wan
- Hank Asbill to discuss "What judges want from trial lawyers" at the American Bar Association Section of Litigation Anatomy of a Trial: Murder Trial of Ziang Sung Wan
- Steven R. vonBerg to speak at the "Conference super session" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference