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On June 14, the Texas governor signed HB 996, which prohibits debt buyers from commencing an action against or initiating arbitration with a consumer for the purpose of collecting a consumer debt after the statute of limitations (SOL) has expired. The bill defines “debt buyer” as “a person who purchases or otherwise acquires a consumer debt from a creditor or other subsequent owner of the consumer debt, regardless of whether the person collects the consumer debt, hires a third party to collect the consumer debt, or hires an attorney to pursue collection litigation in connection with the consumer debt.” Additionally, the bill (i) prevents a collection action on a debt that is passed the SOL from being revised by any activity on the debt, including payment; and (ii) requires a debt buyer to provide a specific written notice in the initial collection communication, including a statement that the debt is time-barred and the debt collector would not sue the consumer for it. The bill is effective September 1.
On June 1, the Nevada governor signed SB 311, which expands the state’s prohibition on discrimination against a person who seeks to obtain credit to include race, color, creed, religion, disability, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression, in addition to the existing law’s current protection of sex or marital status. Additionally, the bill permits an applicant who has no credit history and was/is married to request that the creditor deem the applicant’s credit history to be identical to that of the applicant’s spouse during the marriage; and violation of this provision is deemed to be “discrimination based on marital status.” Lastly, the bill requires the Nevada Commissioner of Financial Institutions to study the nature and extent of any discrimination based on the bill’s protected classes and requires the Division to assist with programs designed to prevent or eliminate such discrimination. The bill is effective October 1.
On June 10, the Texas governor signed SB 2330, which provides, among other things, for a federally-registered mortgage loan originator (MLO) who does not hold a state license to have temporary authority to act as a state-licensed MLO for a period not to exceed 120 days while their state MLO license application is pending. Subject to certain conditions, a federally-registered MLO who becomes employed by an entity that is licensed or registered in Texas for mortgage loan origination may temporarily act as a state-licensed MLO in the state before their license is issued for up to 120 days if (i) the individual was registered in the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry as a loan originator within one year of the state application; or (ii) is licensed by another state or governmental jurisdiction to engage in mortgage loan origination. The bill is effective on November 24.
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.” 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 June 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned the dismissal of a TCPA putative class action against a social media company, concluding the plaintiff adequately alleged the company sent text messages using an automated telephone dialing system (autodialer) in violation of the TCPA and holding that the “debt-collection exception” excluding calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” from TCPA coverage is an unconstitutional restriction on speech. The consumer alleged that he that he had received a text message indicating that his account was accessed from an unrecognized device, although he allegedly was not a user of the social media site and never consented to the alerts.
On appeal, the company challenged the adequacy of the TCPA allegations and, alternatively, argued that the TCPA violates the First Amendment. The 9th Circuit concluded the plaintiff plausibly alleged the company’s text message system fell within the definition of autodialer under the TCPA— using the definition from its September 2018 decision in Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC. The appellate court rejected the company’s argument that an “expansive reading” of Marks would encapsulate any smartphone within the definition of autodailer and that the definition should not apply to “purely ‘responsive messages’” such as the text messages in question. The appellate court also agreed with the company— citing to the 4th Circuit’s recent decision in AAPC v. FCC, covered by InfoBytes here— that an exclusion under the TCPA that allows debt collectors to use an autodialer to contact individuals on their cell phones when collecting debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. However, the appellate court held that the debt collection exception is severable from the TCPA, and, therefore, declined to strike down the law it its entirety as the company requested.
On June 13, the FDIC released a new publication, Consumer Compliance Supervisory Highlights, intended to provide information and observations related to the FDIC’s consumer compliance supervision activities in 2018. Specifically, the report covers approximately 1,200 consumer compliance examinations conducted by the FDIC in 2018. Overall, the FDIC noted that, “supervised institutions demonstrated strong and effective management of consumer compliance responsibilities.” The report identifies some of the most salient compliance issues identified by the FDIC during 2018, including (i) overdraft programs, which were found to be potentially unfair or deceptive when an institution used an “available balance method,” sometimes resulting in more overdraft fees than were appropriate because the institution assessed a fee when the transaction did not overdraw the account; (ii) RESPA anti-kickback violations, which concerned payments “disguised as above-market payments for lead generation, marketing services, and office space or desk rentals” or as marketing and advertising agreements; and (iii) Regulation E, where certain institutions were found to have incorrectly calculated consumer liability for unauthorized transfers, failed to resolve errors properly, or discouraged consumers from filing error resolution requests. The report also covers issues with skip-a-payment loan programs and the calculation of finance charges and disclosures related to lines of credit.
On June 14, the CFPB announced a proposed settlement, subject to approval by a federal district court, with a company that manages student loans for a defunct for-profit educational institution resolving allegations it provided substantial assistance to the institution in engaging in unfair acts and practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). As previously reported by InfoBytes, the Bureau filed suit against the now-defunct for-profit institution in February 2014. The Bureau’s complaint against the institution alleged that the institution offered first-year students no-interest short-term loans to cover the difference between the costs of attendance and federal loans obtained by students. The complaint asserts that the institution then forced borrowers into “high-interest, high-fee” private student loans without providing borrowers an adequate opportunity to understand their loan obligations, when their short-term loans became due. In the complaint in the current matter, filed the same day as the proposed stipulated judgment, the Bureau alleges that the management company: (i) was substantially involved in the creation and operation of the loan program, including raising money and overseeing the origination and servicing of the loans; and (ii) knew, or was reckless in not knowing, the risks associated with the loan program. The proposed stipulated judgment requires the company to (i) cease enforcement and collection efforts on all outstanding loans associated with the program; (ii) discharge all outstanding loans associated with the program; and (iii) direct credit reporting agencies to delete consumers’ trade lines associated with the loan program. The company must also provide notice of these actions to affected consumers. The proposed judgment does not include a monetary penalty or require refunds to consumers.
OFAC sanctions entity and two individuals for tracking weapons to IRGC and facilitating sanctions evasion
On June 12, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on a resource trading company and its two Iraqi associates, for trafficking “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons” to the Iraq-based Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and facilitating access to the Iraqi financial system to evade sanctions.
According to OFAC, the sanctions were issued pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations.” As a result, “all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC noted that persons who engage in transactions with the designated individuals and entities may be exposed to sanctions themselves or subject to enforcement action. Moreover, OFAC warned foreign financial institutions that, unless an exemption applies, they may be subject to U.S. sanctions if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designed individuals or entities.
On June 11, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List pursuant to Executive Orders (E.O.) 13573 and 13582. OFAC’s additions to the list include 13 entities and three individuals associated with an international network benefiting the Assad regime in Syria. According to OFAC, a Syrian business developer and his associated businesses have “leveraged the atrocities of the Syrian conflict into a profit-generating enterprise.” As a result, “all property and interests in property of these individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.”
See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Syria.
On June 10, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) wrote to the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, the FDIC, and the CFPB requesting information regarding the role the regulators can play in ensuring that fintech companies serve consumers on a nondiscriminatory basis. The letter asserts that ,while the fintech business model—using algorithms to underwrite loans, typically without face-to-face interaction with consumers—has “the potential to expand access to financial services for underserved populations,” it also has the potential to lead to discriminatory results. Based on recent reports cited in the letter, the Senators ask the regulators to, among other things, (i) identify what their agency is doing to combat lending discrimination by lenders using algorithmic underwriting; (ii) explain how the agencies’ oversight of fair lending laws extend to the fintech industry; and (iii) describe any analyses conducted on the impact of fintech algorithms on minority borrowers. The letter requests the agencies respond to the inquiries by June 24.
- 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