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On November 22, the U.S. government filed a superseding indictment against a Macau real estate developer and his assistant in connection with their alleged involvement in an international bribery scheme. The superseding indictment included new charges that both men violated the FCPA in connection with alleged payments to then-UN ambassadors from Antigua and the Dominican Republic in exchange for official actions to benefit the defendants’ real estate company. The bribery charges contained in the original October 2015 indictment concerned only domestic bribery charges brought under 18 U.S.C. § 666, and not the FCPA.
It is not clear why the U.S. government chose to add the FCPA charges now as opposed to bringing them in the original indictment. First, there did not appear to be any FCPA jurisdictional hurdles in the original indictment. Moreover, one of the alleged bribe recipients named in both the original indictment and superseding indictment – the then-UN ambassador from Antigua – is and always was a “foreign official” under the FCPA. The UN has been designated a public international organization, and individuals associated with these organizations are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.
Full D.C. Circuit Orders PHH to Respond to CFPB's Petition for En Banc Review, Invites U.S. Solicitor General to Provide Views
On November 23, the full 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. The CFPB’s November 18 petition challenged, among other things, the conclusion by the majority of the panel that the CFPB's structure was unconstitutional and that, to remedy this defect, the Director must be removable at will by the President. PHH’s response, which is due by December 8, would not have been permitted without the court’s order. Similarly, the CFPB is not permitted to file a reply unless ordered by the court. Importantly, the en banc court also “invited” the U.S. Solicitor General “to file a response to the petition” to “express the views of the United States.” Although there is no deadline for this response, the invitation allows the Solicitor General to respond before the change in administration, which may be significant because the Dodd-Frank Act does not allow the CFPB to petition the Supreme Court for review without the approval of the Attorney General (12 USC § 5564(e)).
On November 22, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s caps for multifamily lending will remain at $36.5 billion for 2017. The determination was based on the agency’s projection that the overall size of the multifamily finance market will remain roughly the same as it was in 2016. Multifamily loans in designated affordable and underserved segments will remain excluded from the caps.
The FDIC published a Notice of an Interim Final Rule and Request for Comment in the November 22 edition of the Federal Register. The new rule amends FDIC regulations in accordance with requirements set forth in the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. The new rule also codifies changes brought about by prior amendments that had already been incorporated into agency practice. To meet the Act’s statutory deadline, the interim rule was adopted without prior notice and comment and became effective immediately upon publication on November 22. Comments on the interim rule are due on January 23, 2017, after which the FDIC will remove the interim designation.
In an official FCC blog post published November 21, FCC Enforcement Chief Travis LeBlanc re-emphasized the agency’s efforts to work with international law enforcement partners to target fraudsters who might otherwise be outside the FCC’s reach. As explained by Mr. LeBlanc:
“Unsolicited calls and text messages are more than just a nuisance these days. They are used to perpetrate criminal fraud, phishing attacks, and identity theft schemes all around the world. These calls often overwhelm facilities, including emergency or 911 call centers. Those responsible for sending unwanted calls and texts often operate from outside of the United States, too often allowing them to evade our enforcement. Indeed, it is very easy for these scammers to operate from multiple countries, hide their locations, change their phone numbers between calls, trick caller ID systems into displaying false or trusted numbers, increasingly demand payments in hard-to-trace forms such as cash or gift cards, and move quickly to avoid detection and prosecution in our increasingly mobile world.”
Earlier this year, the FCC signed a memorandum of understanding with members of the “Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network,” a global network of law enforcement authorities and regulatory agencies that have agreed to share intelligence, identify common threats, learn from each other’s best practices and assist each other with investigations where permissible to combat unsolicited communications.
On November 22, the SEC announced that Wesley R. Bricker will become its Chief Accountant, succeeding James Schnurr who will be retiring this year. Mr. Bricker served under his predecessor as Deputy Chief Accountant since 2015 and has been Interim Chief Accountant since July of this year. As Chief Accountant, Mr. Bricker will be the principal advisor to the Commission on accounting and auditing matters and lead the Commission’s Office of the Chief Accountant. He also will be responsible for assisting the Commission with discharging its oversight of the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.
On November 20, the CFPB released the 2017 iteration of its annual lists of rural counties and rural or underserved counties for use in conjunction with the several CFPB rules that refer to “rural or underserved” and “rural” counties, including the balloon-payment qualified mortgage definition and the exemption from the escrow requirements for higher-priced mortgage loans. Rural counties were generally defined by using a U.S. Department of Agriculture classification system and under-served counties were defined by data collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. In addition to these lists, the bureau also directs lenders to use its Rural or Underserved Areas Tool to provide a safe harbor determination that a property is located in a rural or underserved area for purposes of Regulation Z.
In a press release on November 18, the Fed announced revised post-employment restrictions that more than double the number of senior staff examiners barred from leaving a Federal Reserve Bank and going right to work for a bank they had supervised. By law, senior bank examiners are prohibited for one year from accepting paid work from a financial institution that they had primary responsibility for examining in their last year of Reserve Bank employment. This post-employment restriction has previously applied only to central points of contacts (CPCs) at firms with more than $10 billion in assets. The revised policy expands this post-employment restriction to deputy CPCs, senior supervisory officers (SSOs), deputy SSOs, enterprise risk officers, and supervisory team leaders, which has the effect of more than doubling the number of senior examiners covered. The policy—which takes effect January 2, 2017—does not apply to senior examiners responsible for multiple unaffiliated banks.
In addition, another new Fed policy prohibits former Fed Bank officers from representing financial institutions and other third parties in matters before the Fed for one year after leaving their Federal Reserve position. This policy takes effect on December 5.
On November 18, the GAO announced the release of its report and recommendations following the watchdog agency’s review of application of the SCRA’s rate cap by student loan servicers. According to the report, entitled Student Loans: Oversight of Servicemembers' Interest Rate Cap Could Be Strengthened, the number of servicemembers receiving the interest rate cap for their student loans has greatly increased since the Department of Education began requiring federal student loan servicers to automatically check the Department of Defense’s SCRA database to identify those who are eligible.
The report also identified several challenges commonly encountered by servicemembers seeking to take advantage of the rate cap, including: (i) inaccurate SCRA information from the database; (ii) lack of a requirement that private loan servicers use the automatic eligibility check to identify eligible servicemembers; and (iii) lack of routine oversight of SCRA compliance for nonbank private student loan lenders and servicers. The GAO recommended, among other things, that the DOJ require private loan servicers to use the automatic eligibility check to identify eligible borrowers. The report also highlighted an issue with the Department of Education’s new borrower complaint system, which lacks the ability to track SCRA complaints systematically.
On November 18, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he has chosen Sen. Jefferson Sessions (R-Ala.), to become the next U.S. Attorney General. Sessions served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama for 12 years and was the state's attorney general for two years. Trump also announced his intent to nominate U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) as Director of the CIA and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Getting your company ready: Managing fair lending for IMBs” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Independent Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Be Your Compliance Best in 2022” at the California Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Lauren R. Randell to discuss “Significant legal developments in the Northeast” at the 37th Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Small business & regulation: How fair lending has evolved & where it is heading?” at the Consumer Bankers Association Live program
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek
- Jonice Gray Tucker and Kari Hall to discuss “Equity, equality, regulation and enforcement – The evolving regulatory landscape of fair lending, redlining, and UDAAP” at the ABA Business Law Committee Hybrid Spring Meeting