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International bank agrees to pay $4.9 billion in civil penalties to settle allegations of RMBS misconduct
On August 14, the DOJ announced a settlement with an international bank to resolve federal civil claims of misconduct in the bank’s underwriting and issuing of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) to investors in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. According to the press release, the bank allegedly violated the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act by, among other things, failing to accurately disclose the risk of the RMBS investments when selling the securities. Under the terms of the settlement, the bank has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $4.9 billion. The bank disputes the allegations and does not admit to any liability or wrongdoing.
On August 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed additional sanctions, pursuant to Executive Order 13810, designed to reinforce the U.S.’s ongoing commitment to prevent the financing of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and activities. The sanctions designate a Chinese-based trading company and its Singaporean-based affiliate, along with a Russian-based port service agency and its director general, for allegedly facilitating illicit shipments on behalf of North Korea. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from participating in transactions with these persons.
See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.
On August 7, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced the creation of the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN) in collaboration with 11 global financial regulators, including the CFPB. As set forth in the GFIN Consultation Document, the three major functions of the initiative are: (i) information sharing among regulators on topics including emerging technologies and business models; (ii) providing a forum for joint policy work; and (iii) instituting “cross-border trials” to create a testing environment for companies as they deal with global regulatory challenges. GFIN’s intention is to serve as an efficient way for innovative fintech firms to interact with regulators and promote transparency, and plans to explore the concept of a “global sandbox” to create opportunities for these firms to test new financial services and products such as artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technology, and initial coin offerings in multiple jurisdictions.
In a press release issued the same day, the Bureau noted that the decision to join the group is a demonstration of its “commitment to promoting innovation by coordinating with state, federal and international regulators.” Acting Director Mick Mulvaney further commented, “We look forward to working closely with other regulatory authorities—whether in the United States or abroad—to facilitate innovation and promote regulatory best practices in consumer financial services.”
The working group seeks multi-jurisdictional comments on the Consultation Document to assess feedback on its proposed mission, function, and priorities. U.S. persons can submit comments through the Bureau’s Office of Innovation or through the FCA and other regulators. Comments must be received by October 14.
On July 31, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was issuing Ukraine-/Russia-related General License 13C (GL 13C) to replace and supersede General License 13B (GL 13B) in its entirety, and to extend the expiration date through October 23, 2018. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on GL 13B, which was set to expire August 5, here.) GL 13C, which permits the same conduct as GL 13B, authorizes activities that would otherwise be prohibited by the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations. Permissible activities include authorizing certain divestiture transactions with specified blocked persons to a non-U.S. person, and allowing the facilitation of transfers of debt, equity, or other holdings involving listed blocked persons, including entities owned 50 percent or more and issued by the named persons. In accordance with the issuance of GL 13C, OFAC issued updates to relevant FAQs.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Ukraine/Russian sanctions.
OFAC, France announce coordinated action against global procurement network supporting Syria’s chemical weapons program
On July 25, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added five entities and eight individuals to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List for their ties to a procurement network providing support to Syria’s chemical weapons program. OFAC acted in coordination with the French government and pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters. As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from entering into transactions with them.
Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage on Syrian sanctions.
On July 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Venezuela General License 5 (GL 5) to allow U.S. persons to engage in transactions related to the financing for, and other dealings in the Petroleos de Venezuela SA 2020 8.5 Percent Bond that would otherwise by prohibited by Executive Order 13835 (E.O. 13835). (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) OFAC also published two additional FAQs to provide additional guidance on the reasons for the issuance of GL 5 as well as answers to whether E.O. 13835 prohibits U.S. persons having a legal judgment against the Government of Venezuela from attaching and executing against Venezuelan government assets, including vessels, properties, or financial assets.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Venezuela sanctions.
FinCEN director comments on cooperative efforts to freeze assets belonging to transnational criminal organization
On July 14, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth A. Blanco issued a statement regarding recent actions taken by Argentina’s Unidad de Informaciὀn Financiera de la República Argentina (UIF-AR) to freeze assets belonging to Clan Bakarat, a transnational criminal organization with ties to Hezbollah leadership. According to Director Blanco, FinCEN’s cooperative efforts with UIF-AR led to the action against Clan Barakat, which is currently listed with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for its suspected involvement with money laundering and terrorist financing among other things.
On June 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an announcement revoking Iran-related General Licenses H and I (GL-H and GL-I) following President Trump’s May 8 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In conjunction with these changes, OFAC amended the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations to authorize certain wind-down activities through August 6 (GL-I) and November 4 (GL-H) related to, among other things, letters of credit and brokering services. In addition OFAC released updated FAQs related to the May 8 re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions.
See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.
On June 12, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to U.S. financial institutions to increase awareness of the connection between high-level political corruption and human rights abuses. The advisory highlights the use of financial facilitators as a means to gain access to global financial systems for the purpose of moving or hiding illicit proceeds and evading U.S. and global sanctions. Among other things, the advisory, which is designed to assist financial institutions in identifying and reporting suspicious activity, provides typologies used by “politically exposed persons” (PEPs) to access the U.S. financial system and obscure illicit activity. FinCEN also provides several red flags outlining various types of suspected schemes that may be indicators of suspicious activity. The advisory’s regulatory guidance further reminds financial institutions of their risk-based, due diligence obligations, which include (i) identifying legal entities owned or controlled by PEPs (as required by FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule); (ii) complying with anti-money laundering program obligations; and (iii) filing Suspicious Activity Reports related to illegal activity undertaken by senior foreign political figures.
On June 11, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction five Russian entities and three Russian individuals connected to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), pursuant to Section 244 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA) and Executive Order 13694. The sanctions target individuals and entities who, through “malign and destabilizing cyber activities,” have provided material and technological support to the FSB. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are “generally prohibited” from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities. As part of the announcement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that “The United States is committed to aggressively targeting any entity or individual working at the direction of the FSB whose work threatens the United States and will continue to utilize our sanctions authorities, including those provided under CAATSA, to counter the constantly evolving threats emanating from Russia.”
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Russian sanctions.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to join CFPB panel at CBA’s Washington Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to moderate “Pandemic relief response and lasting impacts on access, credit, banking, and equality” at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Spring Meeting
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Post-pandemic CFPB exam preparation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Making fair lending work for you" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Reading the tea leaves of President Biden’s initial financial appointees" at LendIt Fintech
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss “CA, NY, federal licensing and disclosure” at the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association Legal Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Compliance under Biden" at the WSJ Risk & Compliance Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference