(Chase Plaza Condominium Association, Inv. V. JP Morgan Chase Bank, No 13-CV-623 & 13-CV-674, decided August 28, 2014). In a case of first impression, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that a condominium association’s foreclosure of a lien for unpaid assessments extinguished the first mortgage on the unit. The District of Columbia’s condominium “super-priority lien” law (created in 1991) grants super-priority to condominium association liens for up to six months of unpaid assessments. The super-priority lien law does not specify what happens when the condominium association forecloses and the proceeds of the sale are insufficient to pay the first deed of trust. The Court of Appeals looked to general foreclosure law for guidance, finding that foreclosure of a lien with superior priority extinguishes liens with lower priority. Here, the $280,000 purchase money first mortgage was made in 2005, the owner’s assessments became delinquent in 2008, the association foreclosed its $9415 assessment lien in 2010, and the bidder at the foreclosure sale paid $10,000 for the property. The mortgagee sued to have the foreclosure set aside. The Court reasoned that the drafters of the super-priority lien law “understood that foreclosure of a super-priority lien could extinguish a first mortgage … but expected that mortgage lenders would take the necessary steps to prevent that result, either by requiring payment of assessments into an escrow account or by paying assessments themselves to prevent foreclosure,” and rejected the lender’s argument that permitting foreclosure of condominium assessment liens to extinguish first mortgages would be unreasonable as a matter of policy.
On September 10, the Missouri General Assembly voted to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of SB 866, which defines traditional installment loans as “fixed rate, fully amortized, closed-end extensions of direct consumer loans” and preempts certain local government actions that would affect lenders who only make such installment loans and who operate under a consumer installment loan license or a consumer credit loan license. The preemption provisions do not apply to ordinances in a home rule city with more than four hundred thousand residents and located in more than one county, i.e., Kansas City, or to a charter provision or valid ordinance as of August 28, 2014, that expressly applies to traditional installment loan lenders.
On September 2, the NY AG sued a regional bank claiming the bank engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices by intentionally avoiding offering mortgage loan products to predominately African-American neighborhoods in Buffalo. People of the State of New York v. Evans Bancorp, Inc. et al., No. 14-cv-00726 (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 2, 2014). In the complaint, the NY AG asserts that by creating a map of its lending area in Buffalo that included most of the city and its surroundings, but excluded certain African-American neighborhoods on the city’s east side, the bank engaged in redlining in violation of the Fair Housing Act, New York state human rights law, and city code. The suit also alleges that the bank did not market its loan products to minority customers and located bank branches and ATMs outside of minority neighborhoods. The NY AG further claims that the bank’s rates of lending and receiving applications from African-American borrowers allegedly lags behind comparable banks and that these purported discriminatory effects are due to the bank’s alleged redlining practices. The NY AG seeks injunctive relief, damages, civil penalties, punitive damages, fees and costs. In its release announcing the lawsuit, the NY AG stated that the suit is part of ongoing investigations by the AG into potential mortgage redlining across the state.
On August 26, Illinois amended its Code of Civil Procedure by adding Section 15-1603.5 to address situations where a foreclosure sale occurred, but a junior lienholder was not named in the foreclosure complaint. Specifically, the law permits a holder of a certificate of sale who discovers an omitted subordinate interest to file a strict foreclosure complaint naming the person who has the omitted subordinate interest as the defendant. Unless the defendant objects, the court must enter a judgment extinguishing the omitted subordinate interest. If the defendant objects, the court must hold a hearing and order either (i) that the defendant has not agreed to pay the redemption amount, in which case the court must enter judgment; or (ii) that the defendant has agreed to pay the redemption amount. The law also sets forth the items that must and must not be included in the redemption amount, and provides that the defendant has 30 days after the entry of the order to pay the redemption amount. Although the person who has an omitted subordinate interest does not have a right to file a strict foreclosure action, the person does maintain the right to claim surplus proceeds from the foreclosure sale.
On August 20, the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) announced that, as of September 3, 2014, it will begin using the NMLS to manage money transmitter, check casher, money lender, retail seller, sales finance company and non-bank ATM licenses and registrations. Beginning on that date, new applicants for such licenses and registrations must apply via the NMLS. Entities currently holding such licenses and registrations must create a complete record in NMLS and submit it to DISB for approval by December 31, 2014.
On August 12, Delaware Governor Jack A. Markell signed the Digital Access and Digital Accounts Act, the first law in the nation to comprehensively govern access to a person’s digital assets, including social media and email accounts, after the person dies or becomes incapacitated. Under the new law, a Delaware resident’s digital assets will become part of his or her estate after death, and these assets will be accessible to heirs to the same extent as the deceased person’s physical, tangible assets. Digital assets are defined broadly to include data, texts, email, audio, video, images, sounds, social media and social networking content, health care and insurance records, computer codes and programs, software and software licenses, and databases, along with usernames and passwords. The law expressly does not apply to digital accounts of an employer regularly used by an employee in the usual course of business. The law requires any company that controls a person’s digital assets to give the legal fiduciary for the deceased’s estate the usernames, passwords, and any other information needed to gain access to the digital assets upon a valid written request. Any contrary provisions in service agreements or privacy policies that limit a fiduciary’s access to digital accounts are void, although the account owner can specify that the account should remain private after death. The law also grants the company controlling the digit assets immunity for complying with valid requests for account access. The new law takes effect January 1, 2015.
On August 19, the New York DFS announced a consent order with a British bank to resolve claims that the bank and its U.S. subsidiary failed to remediate AML compliance deficiencies as required by a prior settlement with the DFS that required the bank to, among other things, implement a transaction monitoring program. The DFS states that the compliance monitor appointed as part of the prior agreement determined that the procedures adopted by the bank to detect high-risk transactions contained errors and other problems that prevented the bank from identifying high-risk transactions for further review. The DFS asserts that the bank failed to detect these problems because of a lack of adequate testing both before and after implementation of the monitoring system. The DFS also claims the bank failed to properly audit its monitoring system. Under the latest consent order, the bank must: (i) suspend its dollar clearing operations for high-risk retail business clients of the bank’s Hong Kong subsidiary; (ii) obtain prior DFS approval to open a U.S. Dollar demand deposit account for any customer who does not already have such an account with the U.S. entity; and (iii) pay a $300 million penalty. The bank also must implement additional compliance enhancements, including enhanced due diligence and know-your customer requirements.
On August 18, the New York DFS announced an agreement with a bank consulting firm to resolve allegations related to certain services it performed for a bank charged last year with sanctions violations. The consulting firm allegedly altered an historical transaction review (HTR) report submitted to regulators regarding wire transfers that the bank completed on behalf of sanctioned countries and entities. At the bank’s request, the firm allegedly removed from the original HTR report key information and warning language concerning the bank’s transactions. Specifically, the DFS alleges that the firm: (i) removed the English translation of the bank’s wire stripping instructions; (ii) removed a regulatory term to describe the wire-stripping instructions and a discussion of the activities; and (iii) deleted “several forensic questions” that the firm identified as necessary for consideration in connection with the HTR report. The agreement prohibits the firm from doing business with any DFS-regulated institution for two years and requires the firm to: (i) pay a $25 million penalty; and (ii) implement certain reforms to address the conflicts of interest within the consulting industry. Those reforms are based on a similar agreement obtained by the DFS last year from another consulting firm.
This week, the New York DFS announced the extension of the comment period on its proposal to create a regulatory licensing framework for virtual currency companies, including a so-called BitLicense. Given the “significant amount of public interest in and commentary on” the proposal, the DFS doubled the length of the comment period from 45 to 90 days. Comments are now due by October 21, 2014. Further information about the proposal and related issues is available here.
Last month, the Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB) issued an advisory opinion addressing whether an oral request by a debtor for certain records to validate a debt (pursuant to 209 CMR 18.18(3)) triggers a debt collector’s obligation to provide such documents within five business days. The DOB advised that a debt collector’s receipt of an oral request for such records from a consumer (or a consumer’s attorney) is sufficient to trigger the debt collector’s obligation and may serve to commence the five business day period in which the required response must be returned to the consumer.
On July 17, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) proposed a rule intended to govern the virtual currency marketplace. The proposed rule is extremely broad and as currently drafted would appear to capture products provided by traditional brick and mortar banks and other regulated financial institutions. For example, as proposed, the rule could regulate:
- Reward programs, “thank you” offers, or digital coupons that offer cash back or statement credits;
- Generated numbers that access cash;
- Prepaid access and other cards that will allow customers to receive cash, including those customarily exempt such as government funded transfers;
- P2P transfers; and
- Wallet providers where the customer can access cash.
If left unaddressed, these apparent unintended consequences could create a confusing regulatory environment for certain bank and card products. It is also noteworthy that the rule does not provide any customary exclusions for chartered entities, raising substantial preemption questions. Read more…
BuckleySandler Webinar Recap: Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the New York BitLicense Proposed Rule
On August 6, BuckleySandler hosted a webinar, Top 10 Things You Need to Know about the New York BitLicense Proposed Rule. Michael Zeldin, Special Counsel at BuckleySandler, moderated the panel, which featured presentations by Partner Margo H. K. Tank and Counsel Amy Davine Kim of BuckleySandler’s Digital Commerce and Payments Group.
Overall, our presenters agreed that the regulatory framework proposed by the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) would establish a different and more difficult standard for the virtual currency industry than for the traditional money transmitter industry. The rigorous data security, consumer protection, and anti-money laundering provisions may unintentionally operate as a high barrier to entry into the virtual currency industry while favoring established companies with experience and resources to handle these issues. Our presenters also offered specific areas of improvement and clarification for organizations to take into account when drafting comments on the proposal.
The following provides a more detailed summary of the discussion: Read more…
On July 24, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed HB 5342, which amends numerous provisions of state law applicable to state banks and credit unions, including requiring the Illinois Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation to adopt formal rules that guarantee consistency and due process during the examination process of state-chartered banks. The bill also allows the Secretary to establish guidelines “that (i) define the scope of the examination process and (ii) clarify examination items to be resolved.” In addition, the bill provides that an existing loan secured by an interest in real estate shall not, under certain circumstances, require a new appraisal of the collateral during renewal, refinancing, or restructuring. The changes became effective immediately.
On July 23, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed SB 206, which incorporates federal protections for servicemembers under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act into state law, extends those protections to members of the Delaware National Guard who are called into active military service for the State of Delaware for a period of more than 30 consecutive days, and gives the state attorney general authority to enforce the new protections. The bill took effect immediately upon enactment.
On July 23, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed HB 3783, which prohibits creditors from requiring borrowers or owners to purchase flood insurance on the property: (i) at a coverage amount that exceeds the outstanding mortgage thereon; (ii) that includes coverage for contents; or (iii) that includes a deductible less than $5,000. Borrowers and owners will still have the option of purchasing a greater amount of insurance. The law provides that, in each instance flood insurance is required, the creditor must provide notice explaining that insurance coverage will only protect the creditor or lender’s interest in the property, and may not be sufficient to pay for repairs or property loss after a flood. The changes took effect immediately.