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On January 6, multiple media outlets reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a policy change related to settlement of securities fraud cases. Under the new policy, settling defendants no longer will be permitted to neither admit nor deny civil liability, while concurrently being convicted of, or admitting guilt with regard to, criminal charges. The policy change also will apply to civil cases in which a defendant has entered into a deferred or non-prosecution agreement in a parallel criminal matter. Under the traditional SEC approach, a defendant found guilty of criminal conduct still could settle civil claims brought by the SEC without admitting or denying those civil charges. Going forward, in cases with parallel criminal actions, the SEC will (i) remove the "neither admit nor deny" language from its settlement agreements, (ii) recite the fact and nature of the criminal conviction, and (iii) allow staff to determine whether to include in the settlement facts obtained from the criminal conviction. The SEC's current prohibition on defendants denying the SEC's allegations or making statements those allegations are without merit will be retained. The new policy will not alter the "neither admit nor deny" approach used when settling cases that involve neither a criminal conviction nor allegations of criminal law violations.
In late December, The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council's (FFIEC) Consumer Compliance Task Force approved revised interagency examination procedures for Regulation Z, Truth in Lending. The new procedures reflect changes to rules implementing the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, as well as revisions required by the Dodd-Frank Act, including an increased threshold for exempt consumer credit transactions.
In late December, Michigan enacted several bills related to certain of the state's foreclosure rules. HB 4542 and 4543 alter and extend through the end of 2012 Michigan's pre-foreclosure notice and mediation procedures. Among the changes is a shift from mandatory to optional filing of a one-time pre-foreclosure notice publication. The new laws also (i) make clear that a borrower's housing counselor may initiate a pre-foreclosure mediation on the borrower's behalf, (ii) extend to thirty days the time for a borrower or housing counselor to respond to a pre-foreclosure notice, and (iii) allow foreclosure by advertisement before the end of the 90-day stay period if a borrower fails to return a completed financial package within sixty days of the pre-foreclosure notice. Additionally, pre-foreclosure notices mailed on or after February 1, 2012 must (i) provide certain detailed contact information related to scheduling mediation, (ii) state the length of the redemption period, and (iii) include certain statements regarding responsibility for property damaged during the redemption period. Finally, HB 4544, among other things, reduces to six months the redemption period on non-agricultural properties over three acres when the amount claimed due exceeds two-thirds of the original mortgage balance.
On January 4, the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) published a final rule eliminating certain exemptions to the state's mortgage licensing and registration requirements. The rule narrows the definition of "exempt organization" by excluding nonbanking subsidiaries of bank holding companies, including, for example, subsidiaries acting as insurance, escrow, or title companies. Such subsidiaries now will be required to either register or become licensed with the DFS before soliciting, negotiating, placing, processing or making mortgage loans. Newly covered entities must file an application for licensure or registration by April 3, 2012 and complete such processes by July 2, 2012. The rule allows the DFS Superintendent to adjust the compliance dates.
On December 30, the Finance Commission of Texas published two sets of rules impacting (i) mortgage lenders and servicers, (ii) credit access businesses, and (iii) debt management companies. The first set of rules reorganizes mortgage-related regulations to republish as Chapter 76 all regulations previously published as Chapter 79 of the Texas Administrative Code. This set of rules also establishes certain new regulations as Chapter 79 to implement SB 17 regarding residential mortgage loan servicers. Among the new rules are those to establish registration and bonding requirements for servicers.
The second set of rules includes two that implement HB 2594 and HB 2592, which require the Commission to establish licensing for credit access businesses that provide payday loans or title loans, and to design new consumer notice disclosure and notice requirements for such firms. These regulations, among other things, set up a process for provisional licenses and a transition period to allow businesses to continue operating while obtaining a full license. Another rule sets new requirements related to standard payoff statement forms for mortgage servicers responding to requests from title insurance companies. Finally, this set of rules revises credit counseling standards for debt management service providers to remove certain obsolete language.
For a copy of the rules as proposed, click here.
On January 5, the FTC announced a settlement with a payment processor and two of its principals that will prohibit the company from using a new payment method, through which accounts were debited without account-holder consent. The FTC alleged that the company actively promoted the method as a way to avoid scrutiny associated with other payment methods, and ignored red flags - such as payment-rejection rates exceeding 80 percent - that its merchant customers were seeking to defraud account-holders. As a result, according to the FTC, consumers incurred significant costs, including for overdraft fees. In addition to banning the use of this payment process, the settlement requires, among other things, that the company monitor client return rates and investigate rates exceeding 2.5 percent.
Final FCPA Enforcement Action for 2011 Provides Useful Benchmarks for Anti-corruption Compliance Program Reviews
On December 29, Deutsche Telecom and Magyar Telekom settled FCPA enforcement matters with the US DOJ and SEC for a combined sanction exceeding $95 million. Part of the resolution recited specified minimum compliance program elements that Magyar Telekom is required to institute. BuckleySandler's most recent FCPA Update describes the settlement fully and links to a list of these anti-corruption program elements, which are useful for counsel structuring a corruption risk assessment or compliance program review.
On December 30, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (AG) filed a motion in the Fourth District Court of Appeal seeking to advance the state's investigation into whether certain law firms engaged in misconduct while foreclosing on Florida homeowners. In April, the appeals court ruled that the AG did not have authority to subpoena records from one of the law firms under investigation. The state cannot appeal that decision to the Florida Supreme Court unless it is certified as an issue of great public importance. Therefore, the AG has asked the Fourth District to certify to the state supreme court as such an issue the question of whether the creation of invalid assignments of mortgages by a law firm and subsequent use of such documents to foreclose constitutes an unfair and deceptive practice under Florida law that may be investigated by the AG.
Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed separate lower court rulings that Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) had authority to foreclose under Utah law even though the notes at issue had been sold by the original lenders and securitized. Commonwealth Property Advocates v. Mortgage Elec. Reg. Sys, Inc., Nos. 10-4182, 10-4193, 10-4215, 2011 WL 6739431 (10th Cir. Dec. 23, 2011). In each of the underlying cases, the deed of trust contained the usual language naming MERS as the "nominee" for both the original lender and the lender's "successors and assigns," and providing MERS with authority "to foreclose and sell the Property" on behalf of those entities. The plaintiff (a firm that acquired title to each of the properties from delinquent borrowers) based its challenge to MERS' authority to foreclose on a Utah statute providing that the "transfer of any debt secured by a trust deed shall operate as a transfer of the security therefor." Utah Code Ann. § 57-1-35. According to the Plaintiff, the statute meant that sale and securitization of the notes deprived "original 'nominees,' such as MERS," of any right to exercise any power under the deeds of trust absent authorization by the new owners of the debt, i.e., the security-holders. The Tenth Circuit, relying on prior Utah and federal-court decisions, rejected that argument. It held that the statute merely codifies the well-established rule that a lender's transfer of a note also transfers that lender's interest in the associated security instrument. The statute in no way impacted MERS' explicit authority under the deeds of trust to continue to act as the "nominee" of each successive buyer of the note and to foreclose on each such buyer's behalf.
- Sasha Leonhardt and John B. Williams to discuss "Privacy" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions Spring Regulatory Compliance School
- Aaron C. Mahler to discuss "Regulation B/fair lending" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions Spring Regulatory Compliance School
- Heidi M. Bauer to discuss "'So you want to form a joint venture' — Licensing strategies for successful JVs" at RESPRO26
- Tim Lange to discuss "Update from 2019 NMLS Conference" at the California Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Quality & Compliance Committee webinar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Small business & regulation: How fair lending has evolved & where are we heading?" at CBA Live
- Jonice Gray Tucker to to discuss "DC policy: Everything but the kitchen sink" at CBA Live
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Transaction management-issues surrounding purchase & sale agreements, post acquisition integration & trailing docs" at the Investment Management Network Residential Mortgage Servicing Rights Forum
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from ABLV and other major cases involving inadequate compliance oversight" at the ACAMS International AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "A year in the life of the CDD final rule: A first anniversary assessment" at the ACAMS International AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss "State regulatory and disclosures" at the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association Legal Forum
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Creative character evidence in criminal and civil trials" at the Litigation Counsel of America Spring Conference & Celebration of Fellows
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "Flood NFIP in the age of extreme weather events" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "UDAAP compliance" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "State examination/enforcement trends" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Benjamin K. Olson to discuss "LO compensation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Major state law developments" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Leveraging big data responsibly" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: Addressing prosecutions driven by hidden actors" at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers West Coast White Collar Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Keep off the grass: Mitigating the risks of banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Mid-year policy update" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program