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On June 18, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-19-14 and Circular 26-19-15, encouraging relief for VA borrowers impacted by severe storms in Louisiana and Oklahoma. Among other things, the Circulars encourage loan holders to (i) extend forbearance to borrowers in distress because of the severe storms and flooding; (ii) establish a 90-day moratorium from the disaster date on initiating new foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waive late charges on affected loans; and (iv) suspend credit reporting. The Circulars are effective until July 1, 2020. Mortgage servicers and veteran borrowers are also encouraged to review the VA’s Guidance on Natural Disasters.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief guidance here.
On June 14, the SEC announced a $42 million settlement with a wholly-owned subsidiary of an international bank to resolve allegations that certain associated persons on its securities lending desk allegedly improperly pre-released American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), or “U.S. securities that represent shares in foreign companies.” The SEC announcement explains that “[t]he practice of ‘pre-release’ allows ADRs to be issued without the deposit of foreign shares, provided brokers receiving them have an agreement with a depositary bank and the broker or its customer owns the number of foreign shares that corresponds to the number of shares the ADRs represent.” According to the SEC, the subsidiary “improperly obtained pre-released ADRs from depositary banks when [the subsidiary] should have known that neither the firm nor its customers owned the foreign shares needed to support those ADRs.” The SEC asserts that this resulted in an inflated total number of foreign issuer’s tradeable securities and short selling and dividend arbitrage. The SEC alleged that these practices violated the Securities Act of 1933 and claimed that the subsidiary failed to reasonably supervise its securities personnel. The consent order requires the subsidiary to pay more than $24 million in disgorgement, roughly $4.4 in prejudgment interest, and a civil money penalty of approximately $14.3 million. The order acknowledges the subsidiary’s cooperation in the investigation.
On the same day, the SEC announced an $8.1 million consent order with a securities company to resolve allegations that the company allegedly improperly pre-released American Depositary Receipts (ADRs). According to the SEC, the company, in violation of the Securities Act of 1933, “improperly obtained pre-released ADRs from depositary banks when [the company] should have known that neither the firm nor its customers owned the foreign shares needed to support those ADRs.” The SEC announcement asserts that the lack of shares to support the ADRs resulted in an inflated total number of foreign issuer’s tradeable securities and short selling and dividend arbitrage. Additionally, the SEC alleges the company failed to establish and implement effective policies and procedures to address whether the company was in compliance with its obligations in connection with pre-release transactions. The consent order requires the company to pay more than $4.8 million in disgorgement, approximately $800,000 in prejudgment interest, and a civil money penalty of more than $2.4 million. The order acknowledges the company’s cooperation in the investigation.
On June 18, the CFTC announced it filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a United Kingdom-based bitcoin trading and investment company and its principal (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly fraudulently obtaining and misappropriating almost 23,000 bitcoin from more than 1,000 customers. The CFTC alleges the defendants violated the Commodity Exchange Act by fraudulently soliciting customers to purchase bitcoin with cash and then deposit the bitcoin in accounts controlled by the defendants. The CFTC alleges that the defendants misrepresented that they “employed expert virtual currency traders who earned guaranteed daily trading profits on customers’ Bitcoin deposits.” Additionally, the CFTC alleges the defendants also fabricated weekly trade reports and “manufactured an aura of profitability” by depositing new customer bitcoin purchases to other customer accounts. The scheme, according to the CFTC, obtained almost 23,000 bitcoins “from more than 1,000 members of the public,” “which reached valuation of at least $147 million.” The CFTC is seeking civil monetary penalties, restitution, rescission, disgorgement, trading and registration bans, and injunctive relief against further violations of the federal commodity laws.
On June 13, the Nevada governor approved SB 161, which requires the Director of the Department of Business and Industry to establish and administer the “Regulatory Experimentation Program for Product Innovation.” If the Director approves an applicant to participate in the Program, the participant’s product or service will be generally exempt from certain statutory and regulatory requirements related to financial products or services. Under the legislation, any consumer of the product or service must be a resident of Nevada and not more than 5,000 consumers may be provided the product or service during the period of testing, unless the Director approves up to 7,500 consumers. Participants must make certain disclosures to consumers, including, if applicable, that the participant does not hold a license to provide a product or service outside of the program and method of submitting a complaint to the Director. The Director may also require additional disclosures. The legislation also authorizes the Director to establish participant-reporting requirements by regulation and generally limits participation in the program to 2 years, although a participant may seek an extension of this period to apply for any license or other authorization otherwise required for the product or service. The legislation is effective on June 13 for the purpose of adopting any regulations and performing any other preparatory administrative tasks that are necessary to carry out the provisions of the bill, and on January 1, 2020, for all other purposes.
On June 7, the Hawaii governor signed HB 991, which extends the state’s military civil relief protections to persons serving on full time National Guard duty under Section 101(19) of Title 32 of the U.S. Code. Additionally, the bill amends other provisions of the state’s military civil relief law to align with the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, including (i) extending the duration of a stay of any action from 60 days to 90 days after a period of military service ends, and (ii) extending the termination of lease provisions to cover motor vehicle leases, in addition to residential leases. The bill became effective on June 7.
On June 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that no showing of irreparable harm is required for the FTC to obtain injunctive relief when the relief is sought in conjunction with a statutory enforcement action where the applicable statute authorizes such relief. According to the opinion, the FTC brought an action against an entity and related individuals (collectively, “defendants”) operating a mortgage loan modification scheme for allegedly violating the FTC Act and Regulation O by making false promises to consumers for services designed to prevent foreclosures or reduce interest rates or monthly mortgage payments. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.) The FTC brought the action under the second proviso of Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, which allows the agency to pursue injunctive relief without initiating administrative action. The district court granted the motion for preliminary injunction without requiring the FTC to make a showing of irreparable harm.
On appeal, the 9th Circuit rejected the defendants’ argument that the FTC was still required to demonstrate the likelihood of irreparable harm in a Section 13(b) action. The appellate court noted that the FTC’s position is supported by the court’s precedent, quoting “‘[w]here an injunction is authorized by statute, and the statutory conditions are satisfied . . ., the agency to whom the enforcement of the right has been entrusted is not required to show irreparable injury.’” The appellate court concluded that its precedent is not irreconcilable with the 2008 Supreme Court decision in Winter v. Natural Resource Defense Council, Inc, noting that Winter did not address injunctive relief in the context of statutory enforcement. Therefore, the appellate court concluded that although irreparable harm is required to obtain injunctive relief in an ordinary case, the district court did not error in granting injunctive relief, without the showing of irreparable harm, in conjunction with a statutory enforcement action.
On June 13, the DOJ announced a settlement with an Indiana bank resolving allegations the bank engaged in unlawful “redlining” in Indianapolis by intentionally avoiding predominantly African-American neighborhoods in violation of the Fair Housing Act and ECOA. In the complaint, the DOJ alleges that from 2011 to 2017, among other things, the bank (i) excluded Marion County in Indianapolis and its “50 majority-Black census tracts” from its Community Reinvestment Act assessment area; (ii) did not have any branch locations in majority-Black areas of the county; (iii) did not market in the majority-Black areas of the country; and (iv) had a residential mortgage lending policy that allegedly showed preference to the location of borrowers, not the creditworthiness. Under the settlement agreement, which is subject to court approval, the bank will, among other things, expand its business services and lending to the predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Indianapolis and will invest at least $1.12 million in a special loan subsidy fund to be used to increase credit opportunities in the specified neighborhoods. Additionally, the bank will designate a full-time Director of Community Lending and Development to oversee the continued development of the bank’s lending in the specified areas.
On June 17, the FDIC issued Financial Institution Letters FIL-32-2019 and FIL-33-2019 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Arkansas and South Dakota affected by severe weather. FIL-32-2019 covers severe storms and flooding caused significant property damage in areas of Arkansas from May 21 through the present and FIL-33-2019 covers severe winter storm, snowstorm, and flooding caused significant property damage in areas of South Dakota from March 13 through April 26.
The FDIC is encouraging institutions to consider, among other things, extending repayment terms and restructuring existing loans to borrowers affected by the severe weather. Additionally, the FDIC notes that institutions may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief guidance here.
On June 11, Len Wolfson, the Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at HUD sent a letter to Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA) specifying that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are not eligible for FHA loans. According to the letter, HUD has not implemented any new policies changes during the current Administration with respect to FHA eligibility requirements for DACA recipients. Wolfson asserts that, “Since at least October 2003, FHA has maintained published policy that non-U.S. citizens without lawful residency ‘are not eligible for FHA-insured loans,’” and determination of immigration status is not the responsibility of HUD. Therefore, Wolfson argues, “because DACA does not confer lawful status, DACA recipients remain ineligible for FHA loans.”
On June 17, the FDIC, the OCC, and Federal Reserve issued the final rule to streamline regulatory reporting for qualifying small institutions to implement Section 205 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. The agencies adopted the final rule as proposed in November 2018 (covered by InfoBytes here). The final rule permits depository institutions with less than $5 billion in assets—previously set at $1 billion—that do not engage in certain complex or international activities to file the FFIEC 051 Call Report, the most streamlined version of the Call Reports. Additionally, the rule reduces the existing reportable data items in the FFIEC 051 Call Report by approximately 37 percent for the first and third calendar quarters. The rule also includes similar provisions for uninsured institutions with less than $5 billion in total consolidated assets that are supervised by the Federal Reserve and the OCC. The rule notes that the agencies are also committed to “exploring further burden reduction and are actively evaluating further revisions to the FFIEC 051 Call Report, consistent with guiding principles developed by the FFIEC.” The rule will take effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
- Buckley Webcast: Hot topics in debt collection — An analysis of recent federal FDCPA litigation
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "How to succeed in law school" at the SEO Law DC Panel Discussions
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Navigating the challenges of the latest data protection regulations and proven protocols for breach prevention and response" at the ACI National Forum on Consumer Finance Class Actions and Government Enforcement
- Sasha Leonhardt and John B. Williams to discuss "Privacy" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions Summer Regulatory Compliance School
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss "CRA modernization" at the National Association of Industrial Bankers and the Utah Association of Financial Services Annual Convention
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Henry Asbill to discuss "Ethical guidance in conducting internal investigations – The intersection of Yates an Upjohn" at the American Bar Association Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference