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On September 13, the OCC issued a new Problem Bank Supervision booklet of the Comptroller's Handbook to be used by examiners in connection with the examination and supervision of national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banking organizations. The booklet—the central reference for the OCC's problem bank supervision policy—describes the OCC’s approach to timely identification and rehabilitation of problem banks and replaces previously-issued guidance. Among other things, the booklet (i) discusses red flags that can indicate a potential problem bank; (ii) details the supervisory and enforcement approaches the OCC can take to rehabilitate a problem bank; (iii) provides a comprehensive discussion of the agency’s authority under 12 CFR 6, “Prompt Corrective Action”; and (iv) explains the process for problem bank resolution, including receivership. The booklet complements other Comptroller’s Handbook booklets as well as topical OCC and interagency issuances. The OCC also notes that the booklet “should be supplemented with appropriate examiner consultation with the supervisory office, subject matter experts, Licensing Division staff, and OCC legal counsel.”
On September 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant mortgage servicer, holding that a jury could find the defendant “willfully and negligently” violated the FCRA by incorrectly reporting a past due account status to consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) for over a year after the plaintiff’s mortgage loan was discharged in bankruptcy. The plaintiff discovered the loan was being mis-reported as past due when he checked his credit score in advance of buying a car and found it to be lower than expected. The plaintiff disputed the tradeline, and the CRAs forwarded his dispute to the mortgage servicer. In response to the dispute, the servicer changed the plaintiff’s account status from past due to “no status”—which meant the status had not changed from the prior month—and continued reporting it to the CRAs.
The plaintiff sued the servicer for violating the FCRA, claiming the defendant knew the loan had been discharged but still reported it as past due for more than a year. The defendant countered, among other things, that because the plaintiff “chose not to apply for a car loan” he could not prove that he was harmed by negligence due to the mis-reporting. The district court ultimately ruled that (i) the plaintiff did not have standing to allege a negligent violation of the FCRA, and (ii) no “reasonable jury” would find that the defendant had willfully violated the statute.
On appeal, the 6th Circuit disagreed, finding that the plaintiff had standing to assert a negligence claim under FCRA and that a reasonable jury could find a negligent and willful violation. The court pointed out that the plaintiff’s credit score increased by almost 100 points once the tradeline was removed, suggesting the servicer’s mis-reporting did harm the plaintiff and gave him standing to sue in negligence. The court also found the defendant “knew that [the plaintiff’s] loan had been discharged but for more than a year told the credit-reporting agencies that the loan was past due. A jury could therefore find that [the defendant] was either incompetent or willful in its failure to correct its reports sooner.” The 6th Circuit added that the defendant’s implementation of policies to guide its analysts through resolving credit disputes “hardly disproves as a matter of law that [the defendant] acted willfully.” The court held the defendant was not entitled to summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.
On September 13, the New York attorney general announced a judgment against an unregistered virtual currency trading platform and its CEO (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly defrauding thousands of investors across the country out of millions of dollars by converting investor funds without their consent. According to the AG, in June, the New York Supreme Court granted the AG’s motion for a preliminary injunction and the appointment of a temporary, court-appointed receiver with special powers to safeguard investments already made on the trading platform. The defendants failed to comply with the preliminary injunction by creating, offering, and selling a new virtual currency and failed to respond to the AG’s complaint. The judgment permanently appoints the court receiver to obtain, safeguard, and return all assets invested and traded through the trading platform and imposes a money judgment against the defendants of $3,061,511, both together and separately. In addition, the judgment requires the defendants to permanently cease their illegal and fraudulent operations and puts in place a permanent receiver to protect investors’ funds.
On September 13, the SEC announced charges against three media companies (respondents) for allegedly violating the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) by conducting an illegal unregistered offering of stock and coin security. In addition, two of the companies were also charged for allegedly conducting an illegal unregistered offering of a digital asset security. According to the SEC’s order, between April and June 2020, the respondents generally solicited thousands of individuals to invest in a common stock offering. During the same time period, two of the companies solicited individuals to invest in their offering of a digital asset coin security. As a result of these two unregistered securities offerings, whose proceeds were commingled, the respondents collectively raised approximately $487 million from over 5,000 investors.
The order finds that, through both the stock and coin offering, the respondents violated Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act by offering and selling securities without having properly registered. The order, to which the companies consented without admitting or denying the findings, notes that the respondents are banned from participating in any offering of a digital asset security, and are required to cease and desist from future violations of the Securities Act and assist the SEC staff in the administration of a distribution plan, among other things. Two of the companies agreed to pay, jointly and severally, disgorgement of approximately $434 million plus prejudgment interest of approximately $16 million, in addition to a civil penalty of $15 million each. The other company agreed to pay disgorgement of approximately $52 million plus prejudgment interest of almost $2 million, as well as a civil penalty of $5 million. The order also establishes a Fair Fund to return monies to injured investors.
On September 10, the Colorado attorney general announced a settlement with a Texas-based auto lender (defendant) resolving allegations of lending practices that allegedly exposed consumers to unnecessarily high levels of risk and knowingly placed consumers into auto loans with a high probability of default, which violated Colorado’s consumer protection laws, among other things. Under the terms of the assurance of discontinuance, the defendant must amend its origination and collection practices, including by, among other things: (i) rescinding consumers’ debt on certain loans; (ii) attempting to repurchase any loans that may be held by third parties; and (iii) setting a reasonable debt-to-income threshold to ensure that the defendant is reasonably evaluating a consumer’s ability to pay.
On September 9, the OCC announced a cease-and-desist and consent order and a $250 million civil money penalty against a national bank for alleged unsafe or unsound practices related to deficiencies in its home lending loss mitigation program and for violations of a 2018 consent order. According to the OCC, the bank, among other things: (i) failed to fully implement and maintain adequate loss mitigation practices; (ii) had mitigation decisioning tools and operational deficiencies that caused errors in loss mitigation processes; (iii) failed to timely detect, prevent, and quantify inaccurate loan modification decisions, due to inadequate controls, insufficient independent oversight, and ineffective governance related to loss mitigation activities; and (iv) had deficient internal auditing, which failed to consider aspects of previously identified issues. The cease and desist order requires the bank, among other things, to establish significant improvements to its loss mitigation program and cease taking on certain new bulk residential mortgage servicing rights from third parties. The September 9 civil money penalty order, which notes that the bank has taken steps to comply with the 2018 consent order but failed to effectively implement corrective actions, requires the bank to pay a civil penalty of $250 million.
On September 10, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Venezuela General License (GL) 5H, which supersedes GL 5G and authorizes certain transactions otherwise prohibited under Executive Orders 13835 and 13857 related to, or that provide financing for, dealings in the Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. 2020 8.5 Percent Bond on or after January 22, 2022. Concurrently, OFAC amended a Venezuela-related frequently asked question regarding GL 5H.
On September 9, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a roughly $190,000 settlement with a Texas-based company for allegedly knowingly exporting goods, technology, and services in violation of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC’s web notice, between December 2013 and May 2018, the company exported 49 products from the U.S. to two third-country distributors with prior knowledge, or reason to know, that its products were intended specifically for a reseller in Iran. The Iranian reseller then sold three of the exported products to an entity on OFAC’s SDN List, at the time of the relevant exports. On at least three occasions, the company also allegedly provided support, software updates, reseller training, or other services in support of sales to customers located in Iran.
In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including, among other things, that the company: (i) demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions regulations by authorizing distribution and support of its goods; (ii) possessed knowledge of the conduct; and (iii) “caused harm to U.S. sanctions objectives by facilitating access to the bank’s products and support services by resellers and users in Iran.”
OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including, among other things, that the: (i) “volume and total amount of payments underlying the Apparent Violations was not significant compared to [the company’s] overall revenue”; (ii) the company demonstrated remedial actions, including establishing export controls and sanctions compliance policies and procedures; and (iii) the company cooperated with OFAC’s investigation.
On September 9, the CFPB released the Filing Instructions Guide for HMDA data collected in 2022 that must be reported in 2023. The guide states that there are no significant changes to the submission process and that the required data fields to be collected and reported have not changed. Instructions for quarterly reporting can be found in the Supplemental Quarterly Reporting Guide, which was issued the same day. According to the most recent HMDA reporting guide by the FFIEC, the next HMDA report is due for entities on March 1, 2022.
On September 9, the CFPB released its annual report to Congress on college credit card agreements. The report was prepared pursuant to the CARD Act, which requires card issuers to submit to the CFPB the terms and conditions of any agreements they make with colleges, as well as certain organizations affiliated with colleges. The CFPB cited data from 2019 and 2020 showing that (i) the number of college card agreements in effect continued to decline; (ii) the total volume of payments by issuers declined; and (iii) agreements with alumni associations continue to dominate the market based on most metrics. The complete set of credit card agreement data collected by the Bureau can be accessed here.
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