OFAC Updates Cuba-Related FAQs

On July 25, OFAC updated its list of frequently asked questions related to Cuba to clarify requirements applicable to persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction that are providing carrier or travel services to Cuba pursuant to 31 C.F.R. § 515.572. According to new FAQ 38, where such a person is providing travel or carrier services to a customer traveling to or from Cuba under a specific license, OFAC will consider the collection and retention of the traveler’s specific license number to be equivalent to collecting and retaining a physical or electronic copy of the specific license, as required by § 515.572(b)(1). The carrier or travel services provider must maintain a record of the specific license number or a copy of the license for at least five years. Revised FAQ 39 reiterates that authorized carrier or travel service providers must also retain a certification from each customer traveling to or from Cuba indicating the provision of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations that authorizes travel and the names and addresses of the individual travelers for at least five years from the date of the transaction.

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OFAC Issues Finding of Violation for Alleged Violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations

On July 27, OFAC issued a Finding of Violation to a bank for allegedly maintaining accounts on behalf of two individuals on OFAC’s SDN list. On June 12, 2013, pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, OFAC added the two individuals to the SDN list based on their involvement in money laundering operations. From June 12, 2013 to June 3, 2014, OFAC alleged that, due to a misconfiguration in the bank’s sanctions screening software, it failed to identify and block accounts belonging to them. OFAC asserted that the bank had reason to know it maintained accounts on behalf of the designated individuals as an aggravating factor under its Enforcement Guidelines, but noted that the fact that “no managers or supervisors appeared to have been aware of the conduct that led to the apparent violations” was a mitigating factor. The Finding of Violation also noted that the bank took remedial action to respond to the violations and cooperated with OFAC by signing a tolling agreement, as well as two extensions to the tolling agreement.

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OCC Revises CRA Guidance

On July 15, the OCC, the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve released final revisions to the Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment document. The revised Questions and Answers document is based on a September 10, 2014 proposal and addresses questions from bankers, community organizations, and others pertaining to: (i) innovative or flexible lending practices; (ii) responsiveness and innovativeness of an institution’s loans, qualified investments, and community development services; (iii) availability and effectiveness of retail banking services; and (iv) community development-related issues, such as economic development, community development loans and activities, and community development services. According to the Questions and Answers document, the agencies did not adopt one of the revisions in the September 2014 proposal that had addressed “the availability and effectiveness of retail banking services.”

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MA Division of Banks Releases 2015 Annual Report

Recently, the Massachusetts Division of Banks released its annual report for year-end 2015. The report provides a broad overview of the Division’s 2015 efforts related to, among other things, foreclosure relief, cybersecurity protection, mortgage and depository supervision, and corporate transactions. Notable 2015 updates outlined in the report include the Division (i) approving 24 new mortgage companies in 2015, which resulted in 497 mortgage brokers and lenders being licensed to do business in Massachusetts; (ii) expanding its coordination, cooperation, and participation with the CFPB, Multi-state Mortgage Committee, and the New England Regional Mortgage Committee through sharing information in concurrent examinations of non-depository mortgage entities; and (iii) increasing oversight of the financial industry’s information technology environment, including collaborating with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors to host an event for Massachusetts bankers about common cybersecurity situations. The report includes objectives for 2016, including such as implementing and enforcing “consumer protection laws and regulations while providing consumers the information they need to know their rights and make informed financial decisions.”

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Special Alert: Maryland Ruling Opens New Front in Battle Over Bank Partnership Model

On June 23, the Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court judgment holding that a non-bank entity assisting consumers obtain loans from an out-of-state bank and then repurchasing those loans days later qualifies as a “credit service business” under the Maryland Credit Services Business Act (MCSBA), requiring a state license among other obligations. CashCall v. Md. Com’r of Financial Reg., No. 24-C-12-007787, 2016 WL 3443971 (Md. Ct. App. June 23, 2016). This holding is of particular importance to marketplace lending platforms that rely on bank partnerships to originate consumer loans because, in addition to requiring a license, the MCSBA prohibits licensees from arranging loans for out-of-state banks above Maryland’s usury ceiling.

In light of the ruling, the MCSBA could provide a roadmap for other states to test the limits of federal law, which specifically authorizes banks to export interest rates permitted by their home state notwithstanding another state’s usury limitations. Perhaps in view of a potential future challenge on federal preemption grounds, the CashCall Court appears to have gone out of its way to state in dictum that the non-bank entity was the “de facto lender” based on its efforts to market, facilitate, and ultimately acquire the loans it arranged. In so doing, the Court provides a strong suggestion that it might have reached the same result relative to the state’s usury laws under the “true lender” theory that has gained some traction in other actions against non-bank entities.

While the most immediate impact of the Court’s ruling is to uphold the state financial regulator’s cease and desist order and $5.65 million civil penalty, the case also creates additional risk and uncertainty for marketplace lending platforms and other FinTech companies seeking to maintain a regulatory safe harbor through the bank partner model. We analyze here the import of this latest case as part of the appreciable tension building as state law theories appear to be increasingly penetrating chinks in the armor of federal preemption principles.

Click here to view the full Special Alert.

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Questions regarding the matters discussed in this Alert may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.

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