U.S. District Court Grants FBME Preliminary Injunction; Effective Date of FinCEN’s “Special Measure Five” Final Rule Delayed

On August 28, FinCEN issued a notice regarding the agency’s July 29 final rule imposing “special measure five” against FBME Bank Ltd. (“FBME”), which would prohibit financial institutions from opening or maintaining correspondent accounts or payable through accounts for or on behalf of FBME. Per FinCEN’s most recent notice, the originally scheduled effective date of August 28, 2015 has been postponed. On August 7, FBME filed suit in the United States Court for the District of Columbia and moved for a preliminary injunction, which the Court granted on August 27. The Court “ordered the parties to meet and confer as to an expedited briefing schedule on the merits of FBME’s Complaint and to file a joint proposed schedule, or separate schedules if mutual agreement cannot be reached.” The rule will not take effect until a final judgment is entered.

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Leading International Financial Services Institution Pays $1.7 Million to Settle Sanctions Liability

On August 27, Treasury’s OFAC announced a settlement agreement requiring a Switzerland-based financial institution to pay slightly over $1.7 million to resolve potential liability over alleged violations of the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 594. According to OFAC, over a five-year period ending in 2013, the financial institution processed over 220 securities and other investment transactions involving an individual included on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. As part of the agreement, OFAC highlighted important mitigating factors leading to its reduced settlement amount with the financial institution noting that the bank has in place an adequate global sanctions compliance program, and that the “[institution] took remedial action in response to the apparent violations, including by conducting a thorough internal investigation regarding the apparent violations.”

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California Department of Business Oversight Issues Opinion Letter Declaring Foreign Check Clearing Services Not Subject to State’s Money Transmission Act

On August 24, the California Department of Business Oversight issued a redacted opinion letter clarifying that foreign check clearing services are not considered money transmission subject to the Money Transmission Act. In order to fall under the state’s Financial Code’s definition of money transmission, a financial institution must receive money or monetary value for transmission within the United States. Emphasizing the domestic prerequisite outlined in the code, the DBO’s opinion indicates that if a bank establishes an exchange rate for an American financial institution that has received a check for deposit written against a foreign bank, the exchange rate service provided by the bank is considered a foreign check clearing service and not “receiving money or monetary value in the United States.” Accordingly, such check clearing activity does not fall under the California Financial Code’s definition of money transmission.

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FinCEN Issues NPRM Establishing BSA/AML Requirements for Investment Advisers

On August 25, FinCEN issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking to adopt minimum Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money laundering (AML) standards that would be applicable to investment advisers. Under the proposal, investment advisers would be required to implement AML programs and report suspicious activity, among other safeguards. The NPRM states that the proposal would cover investment advisers registered or required to register with the SEC. The proposal would also add such investment advisers to the definition of “financial institution.” This would result in investment advisers being required to file currency transaction reports and to comply with recordkeeping and other requirements applicable to financial institutions. With respect to supervisory authority, FinCEN stated that it would delegate its authority to the SEC for purposes of examining investment advisers for compliance with the proposed requirements.

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Former Bank Executive Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Role in TARP Fraud Scheme

On August 20, former bank executive Charles Antonucci was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in organizing a scheme involving self-dealing, bank bribery, embezzlement of bank funds, attempting to fraudulently obtain more than $11 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and participating in a $37.5 million fraud scheme that left an Oklahoma insurance company in receivership. Antonucci pled guilty to the charges in 2010 pursuant to a cooperation agreement with the government. He was the first defendant convicted of fraud of TARP funds, which was a program established in 2008 to provide liquidity to troubled financial institutions during the financial crisis. The judge also ordered Antonucci to forfeit $11.2 million to the United States and to provide $54.6 million in restitution to the victims of his crimes, including, among others, the bank’s shareholders and the FDIC. Antonucci’s plea and sentencing was before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buckwald of the Southern District of New York. The case was handled by the Southern District of New York’s Office of Complex Frauds and Asset Forfeiture Units, with investigative assistance from the Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP.

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Financial Consulting Firm Agrees to Pay $15 Million to Resolve NYDFS Investigation

On August 18, a Washington D.C.-based financial consulting firm agreed to pay $15 million to resolve allegations that the firm failed to meet the current requirements of the NY Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) for consultants hired to perform regulatory compliance engagements. In addition to the $15 million penalty, the consulting firm agreed not to accept new engagements which require the NYDFS to disclose confidential supervisory information for six (6) months, and that it will attest that any reports submitted to the NYDFS on behalf of a client is objective and reflects the consulting firm’s best independent judgment. The Agreement follows a report released by the NYDFS detailing the consulting firm’s practices when preparing and submitting to the NYDFS reports of its findings regarding sanctions compliance with respect to certain transactions of a large, multi-national bank.

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Spotlight on the Military Lending Act, Part 2: Planning for Compliance

Andrew-Grant-captionManley-Williams-caption Ben-Olson-captionCompliance with the revised Department of Defense (“DoD”) regulations under the Military Lending Act (“MLA”) is not mandatory until October 3, 2016 or, for most credit cards, until October 3, 2017.  However, as the recent implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act mortgage regulations shows, a year or even two can pass quickly.  Therefore, institutions should begin planning now.  The following are answers to three key questions that can help you start the planning process.

  1. Which products will be covered by the revised MLA regulations?

The revised MLA regulations apply far beyond the narrow range of small dollar loan products covered today.  Instead, reflecting the DoD’s desire to match to the definition of consumer credit under the Truth in Lending Act’s Regulation Z, the MLA regulations will apply to credit offered or extended to a covered borrower that is:

  • Primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; and
  • Either subject to a finance charge or payable by a written agreement in more than four installments.

However, the following types of credit are excluded:

  • Residential mortgages: Transactions secured by an interest in a dwelling, including a transaction to finance the purchase or initial construction of the dwelling.
  • Secured motor vehicle purchase loans: Transactions that are expressly intended to finance the purchase of a motor vehicle and are secured by that vehicle.
  • Secured personal property purchase loans: Transactions that are expressly intended to finance the purchase of personal property and are secured by that property.
  • TILA-exempt transactions: Transactions that are exempt from Regulation Z (other than pursuant to a State exemption under 12 CFR § 1026.29) or otherwise not subject to disclosure requirements under Regulation Z.

Accordingly, the revised MLA regulations should not affect most mortgage, auto, or commercial lending.  The new regulations will, however, apply to most credit card accounts, overdraft or personal lines of credit, unsecured closed-end loans, and deposit advance products.  Therefore, institutions should focus on preparing the lines of business responsible for these products for compliance with the revised MLA regulations. Read more…

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District Court Invalidates NYC Ordinance Making Banks Service Under-Served Areas as Requirement to Receive Municipal Deposits

On August 7, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment for the New York Bankers Association (NYBA) in a case challenging the City of New York’s Local Law 38, entitled the Responsible Banking Act (RBA). New York Bankers Ass’n, Inc. v. City of New York, No. 15-CV- 4001, 2015 WL 4726880 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 7, 2015). Passed in 2012, the RBA imposes various requirements on banks operating within New York City, including, as a prerequisite to receiving certain municipal deposits, requirements to document efforts to provide affordable housing, access to credit for small businesses, and other services. The court held that the RBA was preempted both by (i) federal law (including the National Bank Act, the Community Reinvestment Act, and OCC regulations) because, among other reasons, the RBA “stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress”; and (ii) New York state law, because the New York Banking Law “evinces an intent to preempt the field of regulating state-chartered banks.” Thus, the RBA was “void in its entirety.”

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CFPB, FDIC, and OCC Order Large Financial Institution and Subsidiaries to Pay Nearly $40 Million for Deposit Discrepancies

On August 12, in coordinated enforcement actions, the CFPB, FDIC, and OCC ordered a large financial institution and two of its banking subsidiaries to pay nearly $40 million in fines and restitution for failing to credit consumers the full amounts of their deposited funds. The regulators allege that, from 2008 through 2013, the bank entities (i) failed to credit consumers the full amount of their deposits when the amount scanned on the deposit slip was less than the amount of the checks and cash deposited; and (ii) falsely claimed that they would verify the deposits. The CFPB consent order requires the bank entities to pay approximately $11 million in restitution and a $7.5 million civil money penalty. The FDIC order requires one of the banking subsidiaries to pay nearly $5.8 million in restitution and a $3 million civil money penalty, while the OCC consent order assessed a $10 million civil money penalty on the other banking subsidiary.

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OCC Comptroller Talks Future of Financial Services, Eyes FinTech Industry

On August 7, OCC Comptroller Thomas Curry delivered remarks at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, which was hosting a conference highlighting the future of financial services. Specifically, Curry discussed innovation in the emerging financial technology industry, or “fintech,” noting the risks and benefits associated with mobile payments, virtual currency, and peer-to-peer lending products within the U.S. banking system. With respect to virtual currency, Curry stressed how important it is for financial institutions to implement adequate procedures to deter money laundering and terrorist financing. Curry also recognized that the OCC is “still early in the process” of evaluating a regulatory framework to examine some new and innovative products and services. Rounding out his remarks, Curry expressed his growing concerns with so called “neobanks,” which operate primarily online but provide similar services to brick and mortar retail branch banks, including the heightened privacy risks that neobanks present in light of recent cybersecurity attacks.

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FinCEN Renews Southern California Geographic Targeting Order; Issues New Geographic Targeting Order on Border Cash Shipments in Texas

On August 7, FinCEN renewed a Geographic Targeting Order (GTO) for common carriers of currency at two border crossings in Southern California. Similarly, FinCEN issued a new GTO for carriers at eight major border crossings in Texas. Designed to increase the transparency of cross-border money movements, the GTOs temporarily amend the Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (CMIR) requirements for common carriers of currency when transporting cash in amounts exceeding $10,000 across the two California borders and the eight Texas borders. The GTOs require the relevant common carriers of currency to disclose 100 percent of information in the CMIRs, eliminating “the reporting exemption for these carriers that might otherwise apply to transporting currency from a foreign person to a bank.” Additional changes to the CMIR reporting requirements include providing the names and addresses for the following persons: (i) the currency originator; (ii) currency recipient; and (iii) all other parties engaging in the movement of currency and monetary devices. The Southern California GTO extends the CMIR reporting requirements until February 4, 2016; the Texas GTO is effective September 17, 2015, and is valid through March 15, 2016.

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SEC Adopts Final CEO Pay Disclosure Rule

On August 5, the SEC adopted a rule requiring public companies to disclose the pay ratio of their CEO to the median compensation of their employees. The rule gives companies some flexibility in the method of determining the pay ratio while providing investors with information to assess the compensation of CEOs. Methods companies may employ to identify the median employee include using (i) a statistical sample of the total employee population; (ii) payroll or tax records that contain a consistently applied compensation measure; or (iii) yearly total compensation as calculated under the existing executive compensation rules. The total compensation for CEOs and total compensation for average employees must be calculated in the same manner. Under the new rule, companies must also disclose the methodology used for identifying the median employee’s annual compensation. Companies will be required to provide disclosure of their pay ratios for their first fiscal year beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2017. Smaller reporting companies, emerging growth companies, foreign private issuers, MJDS filers, and registered investment companies are exempt from the pay ratio rule, which will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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Former Derivatives Trader Convicted and Sentenced in U.K. on Libor Manipulation Charges, Also Facing Criminal Charges in U.S.

On August 3, a jury in the United Kingdom convicted former derivatives trader Tom Hayes on eight counts of fraud for his role in the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) for Japanese Yen. Hayes was subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors had argued that Hayes, a former trader at two international banks, had asked traders at his bank who were responsible for submitting the bank’s daily Libor submissions for publication – as well as submitters at other banks and brokers involved in the Libor process – to raise or lower their submissions for the Yen Libor from 2006 to 2010 to help Hayes increase the profit on his trades. Hayes was the first individual to be tried in U.K. courts for Libor manipulation, with some of Hayes’ alleged co-conspirators set to go to trial in late September. Hayes is also facing criminal charges for the same conduct in the U.S.

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OFAC Provides Guidance to Financial Institutions to Help Comply with Crimea Sanctions Regulations

On July 30, OFAC issued a “Crimea Sanctions Advisory,” highlighting certain actions that have been used to circumvent or evade U.S. sanctions involving the Crimea region as described in Executive Order 13685. The Advisory provides guidance to U.S. persons and persons engaging in business activities in or through the United States, directing them to implement appropriate internal controls relative to their OFAC sanctions risk profile. Specifically with respect to financial transactions, OFAC noted that “certain individuals or entities have engaged in a pattern or practice of repeatedly omitting originator or beneficiary address information” from SWIFT messages. OFAC advised that U.S. financial institutions should be “cautious” when processing payment instructions that fail to disclose complete address information when engaging in transactions involving an individual or entity that has previously omitted information of Crimean individuals or entities. OFAC offered three examples of risk mitigating measures: (i) ensure that transaction monitoring systems include appropriate search terms corresponding to major geographic locations in Crimea and not simply references to “Crimea”; (ii) request additional information from entities that previously violated or attempted to violate U.S. sanctions on Crimea; and (iii) clearly communicate U.S. sanctions obligations to international partners and discuss OFAC sanctions compliance expectations with correspondent banking and trade partners.

In addition to issuing the Crimea Sanctions Advisory, OFAC updated its Specially Designated Nationals List and Sectoral Sanctions Identifications List with additional designations.

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Federal Reserve Appoints Faster Payments Strategy Leader

On July 30, the Federal Reserve announced the appointment of Sean Rodriguez as its Faster Payments Strategy Leader. Rodriguez serves as a Senior Vice President at the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. In his new role, Rodriguez will lead the Federal Reserve’s Faster Payments Task Force focusing on improving the speed and efficiency of various current and emerging payment systems. More information related to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to improve the U.S. payment system is available at fedpaymentsimprovement.org.

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