Special Alert: Lessons Learned from Arab Bank’s U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act Verdict

On September 22, 2014, following a two-month trial, a federal jury in the Eastern District of New York ruled in favor of a group of 297 individual plaintiffs in a civil suit accusing Arab Bank PLC, headquartered in Amman, Jordan, of supporting terrorism. Linde vs. Arab Bank PLC, No. 1:04-CV-2799 (E.D.N.Y. filed July 2, 2004).

In summary, the plaintiffs alleged that Arab Bank was liable under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2331, et seq. (the “ATA”), for the deaths and/or severe injuries resulting from acts in international terrorism that occurred between 2001 and 2004, because the bank had processed and facilitated payments for Hamas and other terrorist or terrorist-related organizations, their members, the families of suicide bombers, or Hamas front organizations.

What this means for financial institutions, particularly foreign banks that increasingly face the potential reach of U.S. laws and plaintiffs, remains to be seen. But there are three take-aways worthy of immediate consideration.

Click here to view the full special alert.

 

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Proposed Changes to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule

On October 10, the CFPB issued a proposal to modify and make technical amendments to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule, issued in November of 2013. Specifically, the CFPB proposes to (i) relax the timing requirements associated with the redisclosure of interest rate dependent charges and loan terms after consumers lock in a floating interest rate, such that creditors would have until the next business day after a consumer locks in a floating interest rate to provide a revised disclosure; and (ii) add language to the Loan Estimate form that creditors could use to inform a consumer that the consumer may receive a revised Loan Estimate for a construction loan that is expected to take more than 60 days to settle. In addition, the Bureau proposes non-substantive changes such as technical corrections and corrected or updated citations and cross-references in the regulatory text and commentary, minor word changes throughout the regulatory text and commentary, and an amendment to the 2013 Loan Originator Rule, to provide for placement of the NMSR ID on the integrated disclosures. The CFPB is accepting comments on the proposed changes through November 10, 2014. The CFPB noted its intention to finalize the proposed amendments quickly in order to provide the industry adequate time to implement any resulting changes by August 1, 2015, the effective date of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Federal Issues

CFPB Updates Dodd-Frank Mortgage Rules Readiness Guide

Recently, the CFPB published an updated mortgage rules Readiness Guide for financial institutions to assist them in complying with new mortgage lending requirements. The Guide contains: (i) a summary of the mortgage rules finalized by the CFPB as of August 1, 2014; (ii) a readiness questionnaire to help perform self-assessments; (iii) a section on frequently asked questions; and (iv) a section on further tools to assist with compliance with the new rules. The guide discusses, among other rules, the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule that integrates the mortgage loan disclosures currently required under TILA and RESPA. That rule requires a new Loan Estimate form that combines two existing forms, the Good Faith Estimate and the initial Truth-in Lending disclosure. The Loan Estimate must be provided to consumers no later than the third business day after they submit an application. The rule also requires a Closing Disclosure form, which combines the current Settlement Statement (“HUD-1”) and final Truth-in Lending disclosures forms. The Closing Disclosure must be provided to consumers at least three business days before consummation of the loan. The new requirements are effective for loans where the lender receives an application on or after August 1, 2015.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Federal Issues, Mortgages

CFPB Report Analyzes Private Student Loan Borrowers’ Complaints

On October 16, the CFPB announced the findings of its annual student loan ombudsman report. Analyzing over 5,000 private student loan complaints that the CFPB received from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014, the report highlights the struggle private loan borrowers face in repaying their loans, noting that many are driven into default because practical repayment options are not available to them. The report outlines three main reasons why many private student loan borrowers default: (i) they are unaware of the loan modifications available to them; (ii) they do not have the same affordable options that federal student loan borrowers are entitled to by law; and (iii) the temporary forbearance options that some lenders offer often result in “burdensome enrollment fees and processing delays.” In connection with the report, the CFPB released a sample letter that consumers can edit and send to servicers to request lower monthly payments and information on available repayment plans, as well as a sample financial worksheet to assist borrowers to determine maximum funds available to pay their student loans.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Federal Issues

CFPB And FTC To Hold Roundtable On Debt Collection In The Latino Community

On October 23, the CFPB and the FTC will hold a roundtable to discuss the effects of debt collection and credit reporting in the Latino community. The event will focus on the customers with limited English proficiency, and is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Long Beach, CA.

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CFPB Publishes Proposed Policy Regarding No-Action Letters

On October 10, the CFPB published for comment a proposal for a limited No-Action Letter policy, which appeared in the Federal Register on October 16. The proposed policy aims to “create a process to reduce the regulatory uncertainty that may exist for certain emerging products or services which stand to benefit consumers.” Specifically geared towards financial products and services for which existing statutes and regulations are vague, the proposed policy allows for a CFPB staff member to inform a company that “staff has no present intention to recommend initiation of an enforcement or supervisory action against the requester” by sending a No-Action Letter. The proposed policy requires that the financial product or service that is the subject of a No-Action Letter have substantial consumer benefit when issues of uncertainty regarding certain provisions of statutes implemented by the Bureau arise.

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FINRA Issues Guidance Notice To Warn Against Settlements Barring Whistleblower Tips

This month, FINRA issued guidance notice 14-40 to remind firms that “it is a violation of FINRA Rule 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) to include confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements or any other documents, including confidentiality stipulations made during a FINRA arbitration proceeding, that prohibit or restrict a customer or any other person from communicating with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FINRA, or any federal or state regulatory authority regarding a possible securities law violation.” Additionally, the notice addresses FINRA’s Code of Arbitration Procedure for Customer Disputes, emphasizing that the parties involved in the arbitration discovery process must “cooperate with each other to the fullest extent practicable in the voluntary exchange of documents and information to expedite the arbitration process.” FINRA further specifies that “stipulations between the parties or confidentiality orders issued by an arbitrator as part of the discovery process regarding the non-disclosure of the documents in question outside the arbitration of the particular case do not restrict or prohibit the disclosure of the documents to the SEC, FINRA, any other self-regulatory organization, or any other state or federal regulatory authority.”

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HUD Continues To Fight Housing Discrimination

On October 15, HUD announced the award of more than $38 million to fair housing and non-profit organizations in 43 states and the District of Columbia to address discrimination in the housing industry. Through HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program, grants are funded with the intent that they will “help enforce the Fair Housing Act through investigations and testing of alleged discriminatory practices.” Additionally, the grants are meant to help provide education on rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act to housing providers, local governments, and potential victims of housing discrimination. HUD’s most recent categories of grants included: (i) Private Enforcement Initiative Grants; (ii) Education and Outreach Initiative Grants; and (iii) Fair Housing Organizations Initiative.

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Major Banks To Sign ISDA Resolution Stay Protocol

On October 11, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA) announced that 18 major global banks (G-18) agreed to sign the Resolution Stay Protocol, which was designed to support cross-border resolution and reduce systematic risk and is a significant step for banks that are considered “too-big-to-fail.” Effective January 2015, the Protocol will allow participating counterparties to “opt into certain overseas resolution regimes via a change to their derivatives contracts.” The Protocol will be applicable to new and existing trades and will likely extend to firms beyond G-18 banks in 2015.

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POSTED IN: Federal Issues, International

ABA Petitions FCC To Allow Security And Fraud Alerts To Customers Without Consent

On October 14, the ABA submitted a petition to the FCC requesting that it exercise its statutory authority to allow financial institutions to send consumers certain security and fraud alerts without the consumers’ prior consent. Specifically, the consumers would receive alerts regarding: (i) transactions suggesting a risk of identity theft or fraud; (ii) potential security breaches involving personal information; (iii) preventative steps consumers can take to decrease their chances of falling victim to security breaches, in addition to steps they can take to remedy harm already caused by a breach; and (iv) actions required to receive a receipt for money transfers. The petition notes that the most effective way to ensure that consumers receive these important messages is through automated texts and calls to mobile devices and accordingly requests that the FCC allow for an exemption to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to ensure that customers receive security and fraud notifications in a timely manner.

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POSTED IN: Banking, Federal Issues, Privacy / Data Security

NCUA To Join Fair Lending Webinar Hosted By The Federal Reserve Board

On October 15, the NCUA released a statement noting that Jamie Goodson, Director of Consumer Compliance Policy and Outreach in the National Credit Union Administration’s Office of Consumer Protection, will participate in the scheduled webinar, “Fair Lending Hot Topics.” Regulators from the Federal Reserve, the CFPB, the FDIC, the OCC, the Justice Department, and HUD are also scheduled to participate in the webinar on October 22. Webinar topics include, among others, auto lending enforcement, fair lending risk assessments, and mortgage pricing risks. The webinar is part of an ongoing series of consumer compliance events.

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New York DFS Superintendent Lawsky Comments On Virtual Currency and Bitcoin Regulation

On October 14, Superintendent Lawsky delivered remarks on virtual currency and Bitcoin regulation in New York City. Specifically, Lawsky addressed the comments received in connection with the DFS’s July 17 proposal to establish a licensing regime for virtual currency businesses. Lawsky clarified the following five areas of concern: (i) who will be required to obtain a BitLicense; (ii) which type of license, money transmitter and/or virtual currency, a business will be required to obtain, confirming that, if both are required, the application process will be streamlined; (iii) the requirements that banks providing virtual currency services will need to comply with; (iv) the regulation of mining when a miner engages in virtual currency services; and (v) the “compliance costs of regulation on new or fledging virtual currency enterprises.” Noting that the DFS hopes that companies will work with the DFS as opposed to “run[ning] from regulation,” Lawsky emphasized the significance of appropriate regulation as it pertains to safeguarding customers’ money at financial companies.

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New York Attorney General’s Office Settles With Large Financial Institution

On October 15, the New York Attorney General’s office announced a settlement with a large financial institution in connection with a 2012 data breach. Of the $850,000 settlement agreement, New York State will receive over $114,000. The terms of the settlement require that the bank reform its former security practices, which caused over one million customer files to be compromised. Specifically, in 2012, the bank lost over one million unencrypted files that contained personal information for over 200,000 customers nationwide. Going forward, the bank must (i) notify state residents of security breaches in a timely manner; and (ii) maintain security policies that will protect personal information.

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Special Alert: Class Action Suit Filed Based on CFPB Consent Order

In what may be the first action of its kind, a consumer who received restitution under the CFPB consent order has filed a class action lawsuit based on the same alleged violations.  While this litigation is still in its early stages, it serves as an important reminder that an institution’s exposure does not end when it reaches a public settlement with a regulator and may, in fact, increase.

Settlement of CFPB Action

As previously discussed in a BuckleySandler webinar, on July 24, 2013, the CFPB filed suit against Castle & Cooke Mortgage LLC, its President, and its Senior Vice President of Capital Markets, alleging that the defendants “developed and implemented a scheme by which the Company would pay quarterly bonuses to loan officers in amounts that varied based on the interest rates of the loans they originated” in violation of the Truth in Lending Act’s loan originator compensation rules.

On November 7, 2013, the defendants entered into a consent order with the CFPB, agreeing to pay $9.2 million for restitution and a $4 million civil penalty to resolve the allegations.  Consistent with current CFPB practice, the consent order stated that “[r]edress provided by the Company shall not limit consumers’ rights in any way” – in other words, affected consumers are not required to sign releases in order to receive remediation. Read more…

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BuckleySandler & American Bankers Association Release CFPB Mortgage Origination Deskbook

BuckleySandler is pleased to announce the availability of “The New CFPB Mortgage Origination Rules Deskbook,” by partner Joseph Reilly. The CFPB Deskbook, published in partnership with the American Bankers Association, is an all-inclusive compilation of all the mortgage origination rules made by effective by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in January 2014, including:

  • Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage requirements
  • Points and Fees
  • Loan Originator Compensation
  • Appraisals
  • High-Cost Mortgages
  • Qualified Mortgage Provisions for Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs loans
  • Summary of the TILA-RESPA disclosure integration taking effect in 2015

“Our goal was to consolidate the numerous sources of CFPB regulatory guidance into a clear, organized format,” said Reilly. “We wanted to provide comprehensive descriptions from not just the rule text and official commentary but also from CFPB webinars, compliance guides, preamble material from federal register releases and informal compliance discussions with CFPB staff.  We hope this will be a ‘one-stop shop’ for origination compliance.”

Benjamin K. Olson, BuckleySandler partner and former Deputy Assistant Director in the CFPB’s Office of Regulations who was involved in the development of many of the rules covered by the CFPB Deskbook, describes it as “an invaluable resource with the potential to change the way regulations are understood.”

The CFPB Deskbook is available in PDF and hard copy formats. Requests for copies should be sent to CFPBDeskbook@buckleysandler.com.

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POSTED IN: Firm News, Miscellany, Mortgages