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On December 1, the U.S. Senate, by a 99-0 margin, passed a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) sending the measure to the White House and delaying any potentially tougher actions until next year. Originally approved in 1996, the extended bill passed onto the Senate in November with only one vote against it from the House. Congressional authority to enforce sanctions against Iran—which was due to expire on December 31 if not renewed—will be presented to President Barack Obama, who will decide whether to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
In a press release issued December 5, President-Elect Trump named retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Carson was a 2016 Republican presidential candidate. Raised in poverty in inner-city Detroit, he was head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for nearly three decades, rising to national fame in 1987 when he led the first successful separation of twins conjoined at the head.
On December 1, the OCC issued Bulletin 2016-43, which informs all national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks of the fees and assessments the OCC will charge for calendar year 2017. The rates for all asset categories have been adjusted for inflation. The bulletin becomes effective January 1, 2017.
On December 2, the OCC posted its schedule of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) evaluations to be conducted in the first quarter of 2017. In a press release accompanying the 2017 schedule, the OCC encouraged public comment on the national banks and federal savings associations scheduled to be evaluated, and suggested that “comments be submitted to the institutions themselves at the mailing addresses listed on the schedule, or to the appropriate OCC supervisory office prior to—or as early as possible during—the month in which the evaluation is scheduled.” The OCC will consider all public comments received prior to the close of the CRA evaluation.
Division of Corporation Finance Director Keith Higgins to Leave SEC; Shelley Parratt to Become Acting Director
In a December 6 press release, the SEC announced that Keith F. Higgins, Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, plans to leave the SEC in early January. Since joining the SEC in 2013, Mr. Higgins led the Division’s implementation of significant rulemaking and other responsibilities under the Dodd-Frank Act, Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), and Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). Upon Mr. Higgins’ departure, Shelley Parratt, Deputy Director for the Division of Corporation Finance, will become the acting Director. Ms. Parratt has served previously as acting Director. Ms. Parratt has served as Deputy Director of the Division since 2003, and has been responsible for assisting in strategic planning and developing Division policies and procedures and overseeing the disclosure review program. Ms. Parratt came to the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance in 1986. She received her M.B.A. from Syracuse University and her B.A. from St. Lawrence University.
In a letter sent to CFPB Director Richard Cordray on December 1, a group of Republican members of Congress expressed concern about the Bureau’s proposal regarding payday, vehicle title, and certain high-cost installment loans. The letter observes that CFPB’s proposal “attempts to further regulate an industry that is already highly regulated by nearly a dozen federal laws including the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.” Specifically, the letter contends that the CFPB’s framework will effectively preempt existing statutory and regulatory frameworks and/or eliminate regulated small dollar credit products from the market, thereby leaving consumers without access to credit or forcing them to seek “riskier, illegal” forms of credit.
On December 2, Fed Governor Lael Brainard announced, at the Conference on Financial Innovation in Washington DC, that the Fed has formed a Fintech working group. The move comes as the OCC takes steps toward launching a fintech bank charter. According to Ms. Brainard, the group will incorporate personnel with a broad array of expertise and will be tasked with “facilitat[ing] innovation where it has the potential to yield broad social benefit, while ensuring that risks are thoroughly managed.” While Ms. Brainard highlighted several benefits from the growth of Fintech, the Fed Governor also raised certain concerns innovations relying on data sharing could create security, privacy, and data-ownership risks, despite increased convenience to consumers. Specifically, Ms. Brainard explained, the Fed must “be attentive to the potential social benefits of these new technologies, prepared to make the necessary regulatory adjustments if their safety and integrity are proven and . . . vigilant to ensure risks are well understood and managed.”
A change to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure took effect on December 1. Amended Rule 41(b) now allows courts to issue warrants for remote access to electronic data outside their jurisdiction if the location of the information has been “concealed through technological means” or when the data is in five or more districts. Thus, under the revised rule, a magistrate judge has the authority to issue a warrant outside of their district without specific knowledge of the location of the computers being searched. By contrast, warrant requests were previously limited to the search and seizure of property within the court’s own district.
Just weeks after announcing that it set aside approximately $520 million for a potential settlement of FCPA matters being investigated by the SEC and DOJ, Reuters reports that a spokeswoman for an Israeli pharmaceutical company has confirmed that they are investigating new potential bribes to state healthcare workers in Romania. Reuters claims to have reviewed emails sent in the past year by an anonymous tipster to the company’s CEO and audit committee that detail bribes paid to healthcare providers in exchange for recommending the company’s drugs. Romania was not among the countries the company identified as being part of the settlement discussions with the SEC and DOJ in its recent SEC filing, although the company has said it is conducting a worldwide investigation of its business practices.
Prior Scorecard coverage of the company’s investigation can be found here.
On December 7, a former president of a Nicaraguan soccer federation, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges. The guilty plea came in response to allegations that the former president accepted approximately $150,000 in bribes for helping an American company acquire media rights to FIFA events. As part of the plea, the former president agreed to forfeit almost $300,000 and could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years for each count. Last month, the former president of the American company also pleaded guilty to racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy charges alleging that the former president arranged bribe payments totaling more than $14 million dollars in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches.
The former president was indicted by the DOJ in May 2015 along with 13 other FIFA officials. The former president was the final official to be extradited to the United States. The sprawling investigation has resulted in multiple other guilty pleas from former FIFA officials. Prior Scorecard coverage on the FIFA investigations can be found here.
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" 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
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable