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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • FTC and Utah add TSR charges to real estate seminar complaint

    Federal Issues

    On May 20, the FTC announced that it and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection amended their complaint against a Utah-based company and its affiliates (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly using deceptive marketing to persuade consumers to attend real estate events costing thousands of dollars. The amended complaint adds additional defendants and new charges asserting the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants after the FTC and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection accused the defendants of violating the FTC Act, the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA), and Utah state law, by marketing real estate events with false claims and celebrity endorsements. Among other things, the defendants allegedly told consumers they would (i) earn thousands of dollars in profits from real estate investment “flips” by using the defendants’ products; (ii) receive 100 percent funding for their real estate investments, regardless of credit history; and (iii) receive a full refund if they do not make “‘a minimum of three times’” the price of the workshop within six months. The amended complaint alleges that, in addition to the claims made at the real estate events, the defendants reiterated the false or misleading statements in the course of their telemarketing activities in violation of the TSR.

    Federal Issues Courts FTC Enforcement FTC Act UDAP TSR Deceptive Marketing State Issues

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  • FHFA tries again on GSE capital framework

    Federal Issues

    On May 20, the FHFA announced the re-proposal of a notice of proposed rulemaking that would establish a new regulatory capital framework for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). In June 2018, the FHFA issued a proposed rulemaking that would implement a regulatory capital framework for the GSEs including (i) a new framework for risk-based capital requirements; and (ii) two alternative approaches to setting minimum leverage capital requirements. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The FHFA states that while the 2018 proposal remains the foundation of the re-proposal, including the mortgage risk-sensitive framework, the re-proposal “increas[es] the quantity and quality of the [GSEs]’ regulatory capital and reduc[es] the pro-cyclicality of the aggregate capital requirements.”

    According to a factsheet released in conjunction with the re-proposal, the purpose is to ensure that the GSEs operate in a safe and sound manner and are positioned, particularly during times of financial stress, to “fulfill [their] statutory mission to provide stability and ongoing assistance to the secondary mortgage market across the economic cycle.” Specifically, the re-proposal changes include, among other things (i) supplemental capital requirements; (ii) quality of capital changes, such as a risk weight floor and capital buffers; (iii) measures to address pro-cyclicality; and (iv) requirements for the GSEs to assess their own credit, market, and operational risk. Comments on the proposal must be submitted within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSE Capital Requirements FHFA Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

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  • CFPB approves mortgage servicing and small-dollar lending NAL templates

    Federal Issues

    On May 22, the CFPB announced it issued two no-action letter (NAL) templates. The two templates approved by the Bureau are intended to support financial institutions to better assist struggling consumers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Details of the two approved templates include:

    • Mortgage servicing. The Bureau approved a template submitted by a mortgage software company that would enable mortgage servicers to use the company’s online platform—which is an online version of Fannie Mae Form 710—to implement loss mitigation practices for borrowers. A copy of the company’s application is available here.
    • Small-dollar lending. The Bureau approved a template, in response to a request by a nonpartisan public policy, research and advocacy group for banks, that would assist depository institutions in offering a standardized, small-dollar credit product under $2,500 with a repayment term between 45 days and one year. The template covers, among other things, a product structured as either (i) a fixed-term, installment loan, which the customer would pay back in fixed minimum payment amounts over the term of the loan; or (ii) an open-end line of credit, linked to the consumer’s deposit account, where any amounts drawn would be repaid by consumers in fixed minimum amounts over a fixed repayment period. An institution would need to certify that their product offering meets the product features—labeled as “guardrails” in the template—but the Bureau notes that the inclusion of “any particular guardrail should not be interpreted as a statement by the Bureau that small-dollar credit products must contain such guardrails to avoid violating the law.” A copy of the group’s application is available here.

    Federal Issues Covid-19 Small Dollar Lending CFPB Mortgages Fannie Mae No Action Letter Installment Loans

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  • New York Department of Financial Services warns of Covid-19 medical scams

    State Issues

    On May 21, the New York Department of Financial Services issued an advisory to New York regulated financial institutions warning of the increased risk of medical scams relating to Covid-19. The advisory incorporates recent red flag indicators for such scams identified by FinCEN (previously covered here).

    State Issues Covid-19 New York NYDFS

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  • NYDFS suspends license expiration for individual insurance producers for an additional 45 days

    State Issues

    On May 21, the New York State Department of Financial Services issued a supplement to Insurance Circular Letter No. 9, previously covered here, suspending the expiration of licenses for all individual insurance producers - brokers, agents, intermediaries, and other persons required to be licensed in order to sell, solicit, or negotiate insurance in New York – through July 8, 2020.

    State Issues Covid-19 NYDFS Licensing Insurance Broker-Dealer

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  • FINRA provides guidance on whether member firms must disclose reliance on agency relief during Covid-19

    Federal Issues

    On May 21, FINRA updated its frequently asked questions (previously discussed herehereherehere, here, and here) to provide additional detail on how and when to document that it has relied on temporary relief from FINRA rules during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Among other things, the updated FAQs also address Form U4 filings and temporary extensions of time to pass qualification examinations for operations professionals.

    Federal Issues Covid-19 FINRA Examination

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  • NCUA approves interim final rule regarding corrective action regulations

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On May 21, the NCUA approved an interim final rule (IFR) making two temporary changes to its prompt corrective action regulations to provide relief for credit unions that temporarily fall below the well-capitalized level due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The first change will temporarily reduce the earnings retention requirement for “adequately capitalized” credit unions, and will allow these credit union to decrease earnings retention amounts without submitting a written application requesting approval. Credit unions that exhibit material safety and soundness concerns or pose an undue risk to the Share Insurance Fund may be required to submit an earnings transfer waiver request. The second change will temporarily allow undercapitalized credit unions to submit streamlined, “significantly simpler” net worth restoration plans, provided the credit union is able to demonstrate that the reduction in capital was primarily caused by share growth and that such share growth is a temporary condition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The IFR’s temporary changes will expire December 31, 2020, and take effect upon publication in the Federal Register. Comments will be received for 30 days.

    The same day, the NCUA also approved a proposed rule to amend its share insurance regulation, which governs the requirements for a share account to be separately insured as a joint account. Specifically, the proposed rule will provide an alternative method for credit unions to satisfy the membership card or account signature card requirement by “explicitly provid[ing] that the signature-card requirement could be satisfied by information contained in the account records of the insured credit union establishing co-ownership of the share account.” Comments on the proposed rule are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance NCUA Credit Union Covid-19

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  • SBA gives guidance on collecting PPP processing fees

    Federal Issues

    On May 21, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released a procedural notice detailing the Form 1502 reporting process through which lenders will be able to collect the processing fees on eligible Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The SBA will pay lenders’ processing fees for PPP loans, based on the balance of the loan at the time of full disbursement, in the following amounts: (i) five percent for loans of not more than $350,000; (ii) three percent for loans of more than $350,000 and less than $2 million; and (iii) one percent for loans of at least $2 million. Lenders are required to report to the SBA on Form 1502 loans have been fully disbursed or canceled. Form 1502 should be submitted electronically to the SBA by the later of (i) May 29, or (ii) 10 calendar days after disbursement or cancellation of the PPP loan. (This is an updated deadline that was recently reflected in the SBA’s FAQs and was first announced in an interim final rule regarding disbursements under the PPP, covered by InfoBytes here.)

    The SBA will begin accepting 1502 reports on fully disbursed or cancelled PPP loans on May 22. Lenders will not receive a processing fee payment if the loan is canceled before disbursement or if a disbursed loan is canceled or voluntarily terminated but repaid before May 18 (the borrower certification safe harbor date). As detailed in the procedural notice, lenders will be required to create an account in the Fiscal Transfer Agent Lender portal to access and submit Form 1502. The procedural notice includes, among other things, specifics on account creation and reporting. Additionally, the procedural notice contains useful questions and answers, including how the processing fees will be disbursed and when processing fees may be subject to clawbacks from the SBA.

    Federal Issues SBA Department of Treasury Small Business Lending Covid-19

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  • CFPB: March and April set records for most complaints

    Federal Issues

    On May 21, the CFPB issued a consumer complaint bulletin analyzing complaints the Bureau has received during the Covid-19 pandemic. The bulletin analyzes complaints mentioning “COVID, coronavirus, pandemic, or CARES Act” that were received as of May 11. Of the over 143,000 complaints the Bureau has received in 2020, 4,541 complaints were related to Covid-19. Highlights of the bulletin include: (i) overall, the Bureau had the highest complaint volumes in its history in March and April at 36,700 and 42,500, respectively; (ii) mortgage and credit cards are the top complaint categories for Covid-19 complaints; (iii) eight percent of complaints submitted by servicemembers were Covid-19 related compared to five percent of non-servicemembers; and (iv) after the emergency declaration, the weekly average complaint volume for prepaid cards grew 84 percent, while the volume for student loans decreased by 19 percent. Among other things, the bulletin includes breakdowns of complaint volumes by consumer financial products and examples of common issues from complaint narratives that mention a Covid-19 keyword.

    Federal Issues CFPB Covid-19 Consumer Complaints Mortgages Credit Cards Servicemembers

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  • Treasury designates Chinese GSA for providing support to Iranian airline

    Financial Crimes

    On May 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated a China-based company pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 for allegedly acting as a general sales agent (GSA) for or on behalf of an Iranian airline. According to OFAC, this is the seventh time a GSA has been designated to the airline since 2018, which was previously designated under E.O.s 13224 and E.O, 13382 for providing support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. OFAC emphasized that entities operating in the airline industry “should conduct due diligence to avoid performing services, including GSA services, for or on behalf of a designated person, which may be sanctionable,” and referred the industry to a 2019 advisory that outlined potential civil and criminal consequences for providing unauthorized support to or for designated Iranian airlines.

    As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of [the GSA] that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC further noted that its regulations “generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant financial services to designated individuals may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury Of Interest to Non-US Persons China Iran

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