District Court Upholds CFPB CID Targeting the Marketing of “Contracts for Deed”

On February 17, a U.S. District Court held that home sellers who use contracts for deed are required to comply with CFPB Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) asking for information about possible illegalities in selling or collecting residential property purchase loans. CFPB v Harbour Portfolio Advisors, LLC et al., [Order] No. 16-14183 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 17, 2017). Specifically, the Court found that the Bureau is not “plainly lacking” in jurisdiction to look into contracts for deed, and the CIDs were not unduly burdensome.

Back in November, the CFPB had petitioned the court to enforce CIDs served on Respondents. At issue before the Court was whether the Bureau’s investigative authority extends to the selling, marketing, and servicing of a financial product called an Agreement for Deed (“AFD”), otherwise known as a “contract for deed” or a “land installment contract.” Respondents thereafter petitioned the Bureau to set aside the CIDs, offering three reasons why the CIDs should not be enforced: (i) the CFPB exceeded its authority in issuing the CIDs; (ii) the companies had not been given fair notice that contracts for deed could be covered by federal financial consumer protection laws; and (iii) the CIDs were unduly burdensome and should be modified.

Each of these three arguments was rejected by the court: (i) as to the Bureau’s authority, the court found that objection premature, noting that the Bureau need only establish a “plausible reason” to believe the companies might have information related to violations of the federal financial consumer protection laws; (ii) the court similarly held the “fair notice” argument to be premature at the investigation stage; and (iii) in rejecting Respondent’s arguments that the burden of compliance was excessive, the court noted that the CFPB was entitled to documents that “will help the Bureau develop a complete understanding of Respondents’ practices and operations” and that Respondents’ assertions about the cost of compliance and the burden on its few employees were not corroborated.

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CFPB Temporarily Enjoined from Naming Company Under Investigation

On February 17, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras issued an Order granting in part a motion filed by a unnamed “John Doe” recipient of a CFPB civil investigative demand (CID) for an injunction preventing the Bureau from disclosing its identity pending its petition to the Court of Appeals for a stay of the CID. Specifically, Judge Contreras ordered that: “Defendants are ENJOINED, until March 3, 2017” from “publicly disclosing the identify of Plaintiff John Doe Company, by taking actions including, but not limited to, the public filing of either the civil investigative demand . . . or the Director’s Decision and Order [denying] Plaintiff’s Petition” to set aside the CID.

As previously covered by InfoBytes, the John Doe company filed an action against the CFPB back in January seeking to enjoin the Bureau from, among other things, disclosing the existence of an investigation and taking any action against the company unless and until the CFPB is constitutionally structured. The company argued, among other things, that the agency should not be able to identify it as the target of an investigation as publication of the company’s name would bring “irreparable harm” as it tries to defend itself against any enforcement action. Immediately following the District Court’s ruling against the company, it lawyers filed a Notice of Appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to try to stop the agency from moving forward.

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Federal Judge Sentences Hacker to Eight Years for Cyber Heists that Caused More than $55 Million in Losses

On February 10, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced that the Honorable Kiyo A. Matsumoto levied an eight year prison sentence against a Turkish citizen charged with organizing and carrying out three cyber-attacks on global financial institutions between 2011 and 2013 which resulted in more than $55 million in losses. Last March, the defendant pleaded  guilty to “computer intrusion conspiracy, access device fraud conspiracy, and effecting transactions with unauthorized access devices.” Specifically, the defendant and his associates were alleged to have repeatedly hacked into debit card processing systems, manipulated account balances, stole customers’ PINs, and transferred that information to associates who then encoded debit cards with the stolen data in order to make fraudulent ATM withdrawals. The DOJ further alleged that the hackers targeted databases companies maintained for prepaid debit cards and effectively eliminated the card accounts’ withdrawal limits in what are called “unlimited operations.” The defendant was also ordered to pay $55,080,226.14 in restitution as part of his sentence.

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Decades-Old Fraud Case Settled After More Than 12 Years

On February 10, the New York Attorney General’s office announced it had reached a settlement in a securities fraud suit filed in 2005 by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The lawsuit was filed after the company admitted to engaging in improper reinsurance transactions that materially misrepresented loss reserves and misstated underwriting results. The original settlement in 2006 resulted in the company paying $1.6 billion to settle the matter; however, the two individuals involved refused responsibility for the transactions. Now, over 12 years later, and after the two defendants’ arguments were “substantially rejected by the New York Supreme Court, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department and the New York Court of Appeals,” the defendants have acknowledged their role in the transactions and agreed to collectively relinquish over $9.9 million they had received as performance bonuses from 2001 through 2004.

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SEC Settles Fraud Charges in Investment Scheme, Issues Fine of Over a Half-Million Dollars

On February 14, the SEC announced a settlement with a real estate investment manager based in Arizona over allegations that he defrauded investors. According to the complaint, the investment manager allegedly told investors he would make personal investments in real estate projects which he failed to do, instructed some investors to “falsely state that they were ‘accredited investors’” to avoid registration requirements for the offerings, and falsely represented that he would personally manage the projects when, instead, he entrusted management to a real estate broker who was later imprisoned for other crimes. The settlement requires the investment manager to disgorge $51,358 plus interest of $4,893.98 and pay a penalty of $450,000.

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