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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • FDIC encourages investment in MDIs and CDFIs

    Federal Issues

    On October 16, the FDIC published a resource guide titled, “Investing in the Future of Mission-Driven Banks,” which promotes private and philanthropic investment partnerships with FDIC-insured Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) and Community Development Financial Institution banks (CDFI banks). According to the guide, there are nearly 250 MDIs and CDFI banks insured by the FDIC, which provide services to “minority, low- or moderate-income (LMI), and rural communities at higher rates than mainstream banks,” and have combined capital of less than $40 billion. The resource guide notes that equity capital investments increase banks’ lending by “multiple[s] of the original investment,” and in some instances, between eight and ten times the original investment. Lastly, certain investments may also qualify for matching funds in existing support programs, and partnerships between banks, private companies, and philanthropic organizations can expand the support. 

    Federal Issues FDIC CDFI Minority Depository Institution

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  • FTC temporarily halts unlawful debt collection operation

    Federal Issues

    On October 15, the FTC announced that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted a temporary restraining order against a debt collection operation for allegedly engaging in fraudulent debt collection practices. According to the FTC’s complaint, the operation violated the FTC Act and the FDCPA by, among other things, (i) posing as law enforcement officers, prosecutors, attorneys, mediators, investigators, or process servers when calling consumers to collect debts; (ii) using profane language and threatening consumers with arrest or serious legal consequences if debts were not immediately paid; (iii) threatening to garnish wages, suspend Social Security payments, revoke drivers’ licenses, or lower credit scores; (iv) attempting to collect debts that were either never owed or were no longer owed; (v) unlawfully contacting third parties, such as family members or employers; and (vi) adding unauthorized or impermissible charges or fees to consumers’ debts. The complaint asserts that the operation also refused to provide written verification about the alleged debts as required by the FDCPA. Beyond the temporary restraining order, the FTC is seeking a permanent injunction, contract rescission or reformation, restitution, disgorgement, the appointment of a receiver, immediate access to business premises, an asset freeze, and other equitable relief.

    The action is part of the FTC’s “Operation Corrupt Collector”—a nationwide enforcement and outreach effort established last month by the FTC, CFPB, and more than 50 federal and state law enforcement partners to address illegal debt collection practices. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)

    Federal Issues FTC Debt Collection Enforcement FTC Act FDCPA

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  • FSB releases LIBOR transition roadmap

    Federal Issues

    On October 16, the Financial Stability Board released a “Global Transition Roadmap for LIBOR,” which details the steps financial firms and their clients should take “in order to ensure a smooth LIBOR transition” from now through 2021. In addition to identifying actions that should already be complete, the roadmap details the following steps:

    • ISDA Fallbacks Protocol Effective Date. Firms should adhere to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s (ISDA) IBOR Fallback Protocol and IBOR Fallback Supplement, which will be launched on October 23 and take effect on January 25, 2021 (covered by InfoBytes here).
    • By the end of 2020. Lenders should be able to offer non-LIBOR products to customers.
    • By mid-2021. Firms should have identified which contracts can be amended and make contact with other parties to prepare for the use of alternative rates. Firms should execute formalized plans to covert legacy LIBOR contracts to alternative rates. 
    • By the end of 2021. All new business should be conducted in, or capable of switching immediately to, alternative rates.

    For continuing InfoBytes coverage on the LIBOR transition see here.

    Federal Issues LIBOR Financial Stability Board

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  • FHFA extends policy allowing GSEs to buy mortgages in forbearance

    Federal Issues

    On October 21, FHFA announced an extension of a temporary policy related to the Covid-19 pandemic that allows Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) to purchase qualified single-family mortgages in forbearance that meet specific eligibility criteria. The policy is now extended for loans originated through November 30. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in an effort to provide liquidity to ensure continued lending during the Covid-19 pandemic, FHFA is allowing the GSEs to buy certain mortgages that enter forbearance within the first month after loan closing, prior to delivery to the GSEs.

    The extensions are implemented in updates to Fannie Mae Lender Letter LL-2020-06, and Freddie Mac Guide Bulletin 2020-41.

    Federal Issues FHFA Covid-19 Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSE

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  • NYDFS issues first “conditional Bitlicense”

    State Issues

    On October 21, NYDFS announced authorization for a digital payments company to launch a service for U.S. customers to buy, sell, and hold certain NYDFS-approved cryptocurrencies. Under the terms of the “conditional Bitlicense,” the payments company will partner with a New York-chartered trust company responsible for providing cryptocurrency trading and custodial services. According to NYDFS Superintendent Linda Lacewell, this first conditional Bitlicense represents the state regulator’s efforts “to encourage, promote, and assist interested institutions to have a well-regulated way to access the New York virtual currency marketplace in a way that is both timely and protective of New York consumers.” NYDFS first announced the proposed conditional licensing framework in June (covered by InfoBytes here).

    State Issues NYDFS Fintech Cryptocurrency

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  • Global financial institution pays $2.9 billion to settle Malaysian FCPA conspiracy and bribery charges

    Financial Crimes

    On October 22, the DOJ announced that it entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with a global financial institution headquartered in New York (the company), in which the company agreed to pay a criminal fine of over $2.9 billion related to violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. The company’s Malaysian subsidiary also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.

    According to the DOJ, between 2009 and 2014, the company participated in a scheme to pay over $1.6 billion in bribes, directly and indirectly, to Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials to obtain business, including a role in underwriting approximately $6.5 billion in three bond deals for a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund regarding energy development  (previous InfoBytes coverage on the charges available here). The DOJ stated that the company admitted to engaging in the scheme through certain employees and agents, including (i) the company’s former Southeast Asia Chairman and managing director, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiring to launder money and to violate the FCPA (covered by InfoBytes here); (ii) a former managing director and head of investment banking for the company’s Malaysian subsidiary, who was charged and subsequently extradited to the U.S. in 2019 and is scheduled to stand trial in March 2021 for conspiring to launder money and to violate the FCPA (covered by InfoBytes here); and (iii) a former executive who held leadership positions in Asia. The company admitted that their former employees and agents conspired with a Malaysian financier (who was indicted in 2018, covered by InfoBytes here) to bribe officials involved in the strategic development initiative by using funds diverted and misappropriated from bond offerings underwritten by the company. The employees and financer also retained a portion of the diverted funds for themselves. The company admitted that it did not take significant steps to ensure the Malaysian financier was not involved in the bond transactions even though they were aware his involvement posed “significant risk,” and the company ignored or nominally addressed the “significant red flags” raised during the due diligence process. The company received approximately $606 million in fees and revenue as a result of the scheme.

    The company’s $2.9 billion criminal penalty and disgorgement includes $1.6 billion in payments with respect to separate resolutions with foreign authorities in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, and other domestic authorities in the U.S., including $154 million to the Federal Reserve, over $400 million to the SEC, and $150 million to the New York Department of Financial Services.

    Financial Crimes FCPA DOJ SEC NYDFS State Issues Enforcement Bribery Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Issuer pays $5 million penalty for unregistered digital offering


    On October 21, the SEC announced the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a final judgment against a tech company issuer that raised approximately $100 million through an unregistered initial coin offering. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the SEC filed an action alleging the issuer failed to provide required disclosures to investors and did not register the offer or sale of its digital tokens with the SEC, as required by Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the Act). The SEC argued that the issuer marketed the digital tokens as an investment opportunity and told investors that they could earn future profits from the issuer’s efforts to create, develop, and support a digital “ecosystem.” 

    The court granted summary judgment in favor of the SEC at the end of September, concluding, among other things, that the issuer violated Section 5 of the Act when it conducted an unregistered offering of securities that did not qualify for any exemption from registration requirements. The final judgment (i) requires the issuer to pay $5 million in a civil penalty; (ii) permanently enjoins the issuer from violating Section 5 of the Act; and (iii) requires the issuer, for a period of three years, to provide notice to the SEC before engaging in any “issuance, offer, sale or transfer” of specified assets.

    Securities SEC Initial Coin Offerings Virtual Currency Enforcement Courts

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  • FHA extends deadline for Covid-19 loss mitigation options

    Federal Issues

    On October 20, FHA announced that homeowners experiencing a Covid-19 financial hardship with FHA-insured mortgages can request an initial forbearance or a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) extension through December 31. Specifically, Mortgagee Letter 2020-34 extends the date by which mortgagees must approve the initial Covid-19 forbearance or Covid-19 HECM extension originally provided for in ML 2020-06 and expanded in ML 2020-22 (covered by InfoBytes here and here). FHA notes that due to the continued Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on borrowers around the country, the agency is extending the deadline through December 31 from the original deadline of October 30.


    Federal Issues Covid-19 FHA HUD Forbearance Mortgages HECM

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  • CFPB, FTC argue ECOA “applicant” includes those with existing credit


    On October 7, the CFPB and the FTC (collectively, “agencies”) filed an amici curiae brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in an action addressing “whether a person ceases to be an ‘applicant’ under ECOA and its implementing regulation after receiving (or being denied) an extension of credit.” According to the brief, a consumer filed suit against a national bank for allegedly violating ECOA and Regulation B’s adverse-action notice requirement when it closed his line of credit and sent an email acknowledging the closure without including (i) “‘the address of the creditor,’” and (ii) “either a ‘statement of specific reasons for the action taken’ or a disclosure of his ‘right to a statement of specific reasons.’” The district court dismissed the action after adopting the magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation recommending that the bank’s motion be granted without prejudice to plaintiff, who had leave to brief the court on whether an amended complaint should be permitted.

    The agencies disagreed with the district court and filed the amici brief on behalf of the applicant. Specifically, the agencies argue that ECOA’s protections apply to any aspect of a credit transaction, including those who have an existing arrangement with a creditor, noting there is “‘no temporal qualifier in the statute.’” According to the agencies, ECOA has provisions that cover the revocation of credit or the change in credit terms, and therefore, those provisions “would make little sense if ‘applicants’ instead included only those with pending requests for credit.” Moreover, the agencies argue that the district court’s interpretation of “applicant” would “curtail the reach of the statute,” and introduce a large loophole. Lastly, the agencies assert that the legislative history of ECOA supports their interpretation, such as the addition of amendments covering the revocation of credit, and most notably, Regulation B’s definition of “applicant,” which includes those who have received an extension of credit.

    Courts Amicus Brief Second Circuit Appellate ECOA Regulation B

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  • FINRA postpones in-person arbitrations and mediations until 2021

    Federal Issues

    Recently, FINRA announced that all in-person arbitration and mediation proceedings will be postponed until January 1, 2021, except in certain specified circumstances. In particular, a proceeding may occur prior to that date: (1) if all parties to the arbitration or mediation agree to proceed in-person and the participants comply with state and local health orders; (2) if a panel orders that the arbitration or mediation take place telephonically or by Zoom; or (3) the parties stipulate that the proceeding may take place telephonically or by Zoom. 

    Federal Issues Covid-19 FINRA Litigation

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