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  • District Court enters settlement with defendant in 2016 CFPB structured settlement action

    Courts

    On November 18, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland entered a stipulated final judgment and order against one of the individual defendants in an action concerning allegedly unfair, abusive, and deceptive structured settlement practices. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau claimed the defendants violated the CFPA by employing abusive practices when purchasing structured settlements from consumers in exchange for lump-sum payments. According to the Bureau, the defendants encouraged consumers to take advances on their structured settlements and falsely represented that the consumers were obligated to complete the structured settlement sale, “even if they [later] realized it was not in their best interest.” In July 2021, the court considered the defendants’ motion to dismiss the Bureau’s amended complaint, as well as the defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that the enforcement action was barred by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, which held that that the director’s for-cause removal provision was unconstitutional (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), and that the ratification of the enforcement action “came too late” because the statute of limitations on the CFPA claims had already expired (covered by InfoBytes here). The court’s opinion allowed the Bureau to pursue its amended 2016 enforcement action, which alleged unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices and sought a permanent injunction, damages, disgorgement, redress, civil penalties, and costs.

    Under the terms of the settlement, the individual defendant—“an attorney who provided purportedly independent professional advice for almost all Maryland consumers who made structured-settlement transfers with [the defendants]” and who has neither admitted nor denied the allegations—is prohibited from, among other things, (i) participating or assisting others in participating in any structured-settlement transactions; (ii) owning, being employed by, or serving as an agent of any structured-settlement-factoring company; or (iii) providing independent professional advice concerning any structured-settlement transactions. The individual defendant is also prohibited from disclosing, using, or benefiting from affected consumers’ information, and must pay $40,000 in disgorgement and a $10,000 civil money penalty.

    Courts CFPB Enforcement Settlement Structured Settlement CFPA UDAAP Unfair Deceptive Abusive Consumer Finance

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  • FDIC updates brokered deposit FAQs

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 22, the FDIC released an update to the Questions and Answers Related to the Brokered Deposits Rule. The FDIC clarified in a new FAQ in conjunction with the updated Brokered Deposit framework that, with respect to the “facilitation” definition’s first prong, a “third party that has legal authority, contractual or otherwise, to direct another entity (e.g., custodial agent) to move a depositor’s funds or close a depositor’s account would meet the first prong of the ‘facilitation’ definition.” The FAQ specified, however, that such third parties would not meet this first prong if the third party directs another entity to move depositor funds or close a depositor’s account “based only upon either instructions or an approval received from the depositor for each occurrence and specific to each deposit account.” The FAQ further noted that third parties recommending the placement of funds in a particular deposit account may meet the second and/or third prong of the “facilitation” definition depending on various facts and circumstances.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FDIC Brokered Deposits Bank Regulatory

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  • Biden nominates Powell and Brainard to serve as chair and vice chair

    Federal Issues

    On November 22, President Biden selected Jerome Powell to serve a second term as Chair of the Federal Reserve Board and nominated Fed Governor Lael Brainard to serve as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors, replacing current Vice Chair Richard Clarida. The White House highlighted Powell’s “steady leadership during an unprecedently challenging period, including the biggest economic downturn in modern history and attacks on the independence of the Federal Reserve,” and applauded Powell and Brainard’s shared “focus on ensuring that economic growth broadly benefits all workers.” The White House noted that both nominees are advancing key Biden administration priorities, including addressing climate-related financial risks and staying ahead of emerging risks to the country’s financial system. Powell issued a statement on his nomination, thanking President Biden for the opportunity to continue to serve as Chair and highlighting several key priorities, including “vigilantly guarding the resilience and stability of the financial system, addressing evolving risks from climate change and cyber attacks, and facilitating the modernization of the payments system while protecting consumers.” Brainard also released a statement affirming her commitment to serving all Americans and ensuring the Fed reflects the diversity of the communities it serves. President Biden still needs to fill three open seats on the Board, including the position of Vice Chair for Supervision. The White House stated that President Biden intends to announce the additional nominations in early December.

    Federal Issues Biden Federal Reserve Bank Regulatory

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  • FTC expands criminal referral program

    Federal Issues

    On November 18, the FTC announced the expansion of its criminal referral program as part of its effort to cease and deter corporate crime, which enhances the agency’s work in combating criminal misconduct in consumer protection and antitrust. According to the announcement, the new measures highlighted in the policy statement guarantee that cases are promptly referred to local, state, federal, and international criminal law enforcement agencies so that corporations and their executives partaking in criminal behavior are held accountable. According to the policy statement, the agency intends to refine its collaboration with its criminal law enforcement partners to stop and deter consumer protection and competition criminal violations, including by, among other things: (i) publicly and regularly reporting on the FTC’s criminal referral efforts; (ii) developing guidelines to ensure criminal law violations, specifically by major corporations and their executives, are identified; and (iii) “convening regular meetings with federal, state, and local criminal authorities to facilitate the coordination that will enable the appropriate law enforcement partners to take up cases referred by the FTC and develop best practices to enhance this coordination.” The policy statement builds on the agency’s continuing partnerships with criminal authorities to decrease misconduct. According to FTC Chair Lina M. Khan, the FTC “is redoubling its commitment and improving its processes to expeditiously refer criminal behavior to criminal authorities, promoting accountability and deterrence.”

    Federal Issues FTC Criminal Enforcement

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  • FinCEN issues environmental crimes notice

    Federal Issues

    On November 18, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a notice calling attention to the increase of environmental crimes and associated illicit financial activity. FinCEN emphasized that this trend is due to: (i) its strong association with corruption and transnational criminal organizations, two of FinCEN’s national anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism priorities; (ii) a need to enhance reporting and analysis of related illicit financial flows; and (iii) environmental crimes’ contribution to the climate crisis, including threatening ecosystems, decreasing biodiversity, and increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The notice also provided financial institutions with specific suspicious activity report filing instructions and outlined the likelihood of illicit financial activity associated with several types of environmental crimes.

    Federal Issues FinCEN Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism SARs Climate-Related Financial Risks

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  • CFPB releases ethics guidance

    Federal Issues

    On November 19, the CFPB released a blog post providing guidance regarding revolving door misconduct and reminding Bureau staff to report suspicious communications and activity committed by former employees to agency officials. According to CFPB Director Rohit Chopra, the reminder will permit the Bureau to detect activity by former employees and other government agencies who may be in violation of existing ethics and confidential information disclosure laws and regulations. Chopra noted that parties using services of a former Bureau employee will be subject to “heightened scrutiny to matters and decisions where a party has employed or retained the services of a former employee to ensure that the CFPB is meeting the highest standards of ethics and integrity implemented nearly a decade ago." Among other things, the guidance disclosed areas to foster the CFPB’s standard of exemplary integrity, safeguard confidential information, and protect the Bureau’s decision-making process through: (i) protecting supervisory, confidential, and non-public CFPB information; (ii) reporting potentially unlawful communications by former federal employees; and (iii) reporting any communications with the Bureau during a former employee's first year.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance

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  • SBA releases updated Covid-19 EIDL program guidance

    Federal Issues

    On November 19, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced updated guidance for Covid-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program applicants while funding remains available. The updated guidance provided that (i) the deadline to submit EIDL loans and targeted advance applications will be December 31 (loans will continued to be processed after this date until funds are depleted); (ii) supplemental targeted advance applications will also be accepted through December 31, however SBA noted that it may not be able to process applications submitted near the deadline due to legal requirements (SBA encouraged applicants to apply by December 10 to allow for adequate processing time); (iii) borrowers may request increases “up to their maximum eligible loan amount for up to two years after their loan origination date, or until the funds are exhausted, whichever is soonest”; and (iv) appeal requests for Covid-19 EIDL applications that are received on or before December 31 will be accepted and reviewed provided they are received within the regulation’s timeframes (i.e., “six months from the date of decline for reconsiderations and 30 days from the date of reconsideration decline for appeals—unless funding is no longer available”). SBA further directed applicants to review enhancements made to the EIDL program in September.

    Federal Issues SBA Small Business Lending EIDL Covid-19

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  • HUD updates appraisal fair housing compliance

    Federal Issues

    On November 17, HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2021-27, which provides updates on appraisal fair housing compliance and general appraiser requirements. According to HUD, the letter clarifies FHA’s existing requirements for appraisers and mortgagees on compliance with fair housing laws related to appraisal of properties that will serve as security for FHA-insured mortgages, and applies to all FHA Single Family Title II Forward and Reverse Mortgage Programs. Among other things, the changes include: (i) revising the Appraisers Post-Approval Requirements section to emphasize compliance with applicable laws, including the Fair Housing Act and all other federal, state, and local antidiscrimination laws; (ii) clarifying language in the Quality of Appraisal section to emphasize the requirement that mortgagees ensure the appraisal complies with applicable laws, including the Fair Housing Act and other federal, state, and local antidiscrimination laws; and (iii) restructuring a section of the General Appraiser Requirements into subsections, which clarifies guidance to the nondiscrimination policy and compliance with FHA guidelines and appraiser conduct. The mortgagee letter is effective immediately.

    Federal Issues HUD Mortgages FHA Consumer Finance Appraisal Fair Housing Act

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  • CFPB issues FDCPA reminder on text messaging

    Federal Issues

    On November 18, the CFPB issued a reminder that “debt collectors who adopt and follow certain procedures can obtain a bona fide error defense from civil liability for unintentional violations of the prohibition against third-party communications when communicating by email or text message,” as determined by the Bureau’s debt collection rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in October 2020 the CFPB issued its final rule amending Regulation F, which implements the FDCPA, addressing debt collection communications and prohibitions on harassment or abuse, false or misleading representations, and unfair practices. The reminder emphasizes that for text message communications, a provision in the rule includes utilizing a “complete and accurate database” to ensure that a consumer’s telephone number has not been re-assigned. Additionally, the reminder notes that the rule’s commentary identifies the FCC’s Reassigned Numbers Database as a “complete and accurate database,” which the FCC has published.

    Federal Issues FCC CFPB Debt Collection FDCPA Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

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  • FinCEN hosts exchange on environmental crimes and related financial activity

    Financial Crimes

    On November 16, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) held a virtual “FinCEN Exchange” with representatives from financial institutions, other key industry stakeholders, and federal government agencies to discuss identifying and combating illicit financial flows related to environmental crimes and related money laundering. As previously covered by InfoBytes, FinCEN released the “FinCEN Exchange” program in 2017, which established regular briefings between FinCEN, law enforcement, and financial institutions to share high-priority information regarding potential national security threats and illicit financial transactions. Topics discussed at the recent FinCEN Exchange included, among other things: (i) illicit financial flows related to wildlife trafficking; (ii) illegal logging, fishing, and mining; (iii) waste and hazardous substances trafficking; and (vi) potential solutions for better understanding the associated illicit flows. According to FinCEN, the agency “is focusing on environmental crimes because of an upward trend in these activities and their related financial flows; their strong association with two of FinCEN’s national anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) priorities, specifically corruption and transnational criminal organizations; and their contribution to the climate and biodiversity crises.”

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Of Interest to Non-US Persons Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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