On September 28, HUD, the FDIC, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York filed suit against a non-profit housing counseling corporation and certain mortgage lenders for allegedly running a scheme to defraud the United States and various banks out of over $5,000,000 in false claims. Filed in the Eastern District of New York, the complaint alleges that, in order to remain in HUD’s Direct Endorsement Program, a federal program that insures mortgage loans through the FHA, the mortgage lenders sought to fraudulently conceal the high default rates of their loans by funneling money through the corporation to pay their borrowers’ payments, in direct violation of FHA regulations. The mortgage lenders would then sell the federally-insured loans to FDIC-insured banks. Once either a bank’s indemnification or repurchase rights, or the period during which HUD monitored loans for early payment defaults, lapsed, the mortgage lenders would stop making payments, resulting in the ultimate default of the borrowers. The complaint seeks treble damages under the FCA, the FIRREA, and under common law theories of gross negligence, breach of fiduciary trust, and unjust enrichment.
On September 28, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and the OCC announced that the latest outreach meeting under the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act (EGRPRA) will be held on October 10 in Chicago, Illinois. The meeting will feature panel presentations from industry insiders and consumer advocates. Senior officials from the Federal Reserve, OCC, and FDIC are also scheduled to attend. This meeting will be the fifth of six outreach meetings focused on identifying outdated or burdensome regulatory requirements imposed on financial institutions. The sixth and final meeting is expected to take place on December 2 in Washington, D.C. Previous InfoBytes coverage on EGRPRA can be found here.
Legislation Seeking Better Transparency in Federal Agency Settlements Passes Unanimously in U.S. Senate
On September 21, Senate Bill 1109, the Truth in Settlements Act, passed in the U.S. Senate with amendments by unanimous consent and has now been referred to the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for consideration. Originally introduced in January 2014 and sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the Truth in Settlements Act would require federal agencies to post online, in a searchable format, a list of each covered settlement agreement, criminal or civil, with payments totaling $1 million or more. The list would entail, among other things, (i) the names of the settling parties and the amount each must pay; (ii) a description of the claims each party settled; (iii) whether a portion of the settlement amount is tax-deductible; and (iv) any actions the settling parties must take under the settlement agreement in lieu of payment. If enacted, the bill would require agencies to publicly explain via written statement why confidentiality is justified for certain instances. The bill, co-sponsored by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), aims to provide greater transparency and oversight regarding settlements reached by federal enforcement agencies.
Former Chief Credit Officer Sentenced to Over Eight Years in Prison for Role in Securities Fraud Scheme
On September 1, Ebrahim Shabudin, the former Chief Credit Officer of a San Francisco-based bank, was sentenced to 97 months in prison for his involvement in a securities fraud scheme stemming from the bank’s 2009 financial collapse. In 2008, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) gave the bank roughly $298 million in federal funds. The FDIC took over the bank in 2009 and stated that it was “the ninth largest failure since 2007 of a bank insured by the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund.” In 2013, the FDIC estimated that the bank would accrue losses exceeding $1.1 billion; however, with the United States’ economic recovery, the estimated loss dropped to approximately $677 million. Read more…
On September 2, the FDIC issued its latest Quarterly Banking Profile. The Profile indicates that community banks and savings institutions reported an aggregate net income of $43 billion in the second quarter of 2015, the highest quarterly income on record. The FDIC attributed this rise in second quarter income to steady loan growth at most institutions along with a sharp increase in community bank earnings as compared to the second quarter of 2014. In a statement, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg provided a mixed assessment surrounding the second quarter results of FDIC-insured institutions. Specifically, Gruenberg noted, “the industry experienced a continuation of positive trends observed over recent quarters. Revenue and income growth was broad-based, asset quality improved, loan balances increased, there were fewer problem banks, and only one bank failed during the quarter. However, the banking industry continues to face challenges. Revenue growth has lagged behind asset growth, as exceptionally low interest rates put downward pressure on net interest margins.”
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.
FDIC and California Department of Business Oversight Levy $140 Million Penalty Against California Bank for Ongoing BSA/AML Deficiencies
On July 22, the FDIC, along with the Commissioner of the California Department of Business Oversight (“DBO”), announced the assessment of a $140 million civil money penalty against a California state-chartered bank to resolve allegations that it failed to implement and maintain an adequate BSA/AML Compliance Program over an extended period of time. In 2012, the bank entered a consent order with the FDIC and the DBO (fka California Department of Financial Institutions), requiring that it “address the weaknesses and correct deficiencies” in its BSA and AML programs. According to the DBO, the bank has since failed to implement the corrective actions stipulated in the consent order, which required the bank to, among other things, (i) establish internal controls to “detect and report illicit financial transactions and other suspicious activities”; (ii) hire a qualified BSA officer and sufficient staff; (iii) provide adequate BSA training; and (iv) conduct effective independent testing. Additionally, since the 2012 consent order, the DBO and FDIC have discovered “new, substantial violations of the BSA and anti-money laundering mandates over an extended period of time.” Under terms of the joint order, the bank will pay $40 million to the DBO and $100 million to the Department of the Treasury to satisfy the full $140 million penalty.
Federal Banking Agencies Reveal Location For Latest EGRPRA Outreach Meeting Highlighting Rural Banking Issues
On July 6, federal banking agencies – the Board of Governors, FDIC, and OCC – announced the date and location of the latest outreach meeting under the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act (EGRPRA). Scheduled for August 4 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas, the upcoming meeting will examine rural banking issues and will feature remarks from agency officials. This is the fourth of six scheduled outreach meetings around the country focused on identifying newly issued, outdated, or burdensome regulatory requirements imposed on financial institutions.
On June 22, the federal banking agencies issued a joint final rule that modifies the mandatory purchase of flood insurance regulations to implement some provisions of the Biggert-Waters and Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Acts. Notable highlights include that the final rule, among other things: (i) expands escrow requirements for lenders who do not qualify for a small lender exception, (ii) clarifies the detached structure exemption, (iii) introduces new and revised sample notice forms and clauses relating to the escrow requirement and the availability of private flood insurance, and (iv) clarifies the circumstances under which lenders and servicers may charge borrowers for lender-placed flood insurance coverage. The escrow provisions and sample notice forms will become effective on January 1, 2016, and all other provisions will become effective October 1, 2015. The agencies reminded that the escrow provisions in effect on July 5, 2012, the day before Biggert-Waters was enacted, will remain in effect and be enforced through December 31, 2015.
The agencies also indicated that they plan to address Biggert-Waters’ private flood insurance provisions through a separate rulemaking.
On June 15, FinCEN announced a $4.5 million civil money penalty against a West Virginia-based bank for alleged violations of the BSA from 2008 through 2013. According to the Assessment of Civil Money Penalty, the bank failed to monitor, detect, and report suspicious activity as a result of an inadequate AML and customer due diligence program, ultimately allowing over $9.2 million in structured and otherwise suspicious cash transactions to pass though the financial institution unreported. FinCEN found that the bank failed to establish and maintain an AML program that provided, at a minimum: (i) a system of internal controls to ensure ongoing compliance; (ii) a designated individual or individuals responsible for coordinating and monitoring day-to-day compliance; (iii) independent testing for compliance to be conducted by either an outside party or bank personnel; and (iv) training for appropriate personnel. FinCEN’s enforcement action and $4.5 million civil money penalty against the bank is concurrent with a $3.5 million penalty imposed by the FDIC, of which $2.2 million is concurrent with a forfeiture pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.
On June 9, six federal agencies – the Federal Reserve, CFPB, FDIC, NCUA, OCC, and the SEC – issued a final interagency policy statement creating guidelines for assessing the diversity policies and practices of the entities they regulate. Mandated by Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the final policy statement requires the establishment of an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at each of the agencies and includes standards for the agencies to assess an entity’s organizational commitment to diversity, workforce and employment practices, procurement and business practices, and practices to promote transparency of diversity and inclusion within the organization. The final interagency guidance incorporates over 200 comments received from financial institutions, industry trade groups, consumer advocates, and community leaders on the proposed standards issued in October 2013. The final policy statement will be effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The six agencies also are requesting public comment, due within 60 days following publication in the Federal Register, on the information collection aspects of the interagency guidance.
On May 12, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg delivered remarks at the American Association of Bank Directors (AABD)-SNL Knowledge Center Bank Director Summit. In his prepared remarks, Gruenberg discussed, among other things, (i) the role of bank directors with respect to the safety and soundness of the U.S. banking system, particularly the importance of an effective corporate governance framework within community banks, and (ii) current challenges facing the boards of community banks, citing strategic and cyber risk as the most pressing. Of significant importance, Gruenberg provided information concerning community bank directors’ professional liability in regard to the banking regulator’s supervisory expectations, reminding that as receiver for a failed bank, the FDIC has the authority to bring legal action against professionals, including bank directors, for their role in a bank’s failure. BuckleySandler’s David Baris serves as President of AABD.
On May 21, the FDIC’s Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection is scheduled to host a teleconference that will focus on the implementation of the new mortgage rules issued by the CFPB in 2013. According to the FDIC, officials from the banking regulator will discuss findings and highlight best practices that its examiners have noted during initial examinations in the first year since the rules became effective in 2014. Registration is required, and will begin at 2:00 p.m. EST.
FDIC OIG Publishes Results of Audit of Personally Identifiable Information in Owned Real Estate Properties
On April 28, the FDIC’s Office of the Inspector General published a report – The FDIC’s Controls for Identifying, Securing, and Disposing of Personally Identifiable Information in Owned Real Estate Properties – regarding its audit of the agency’s internal controls of personally identifiable information (PII) in owned real estate (ORE) properties, which it acquires from failed FDIC-insured financial institutions. The audit was conducted to determine whether or not the FDIC’s internal controls sufficiently identified, secured, and disposed of ORE properties’ PII. According to the report, the OIG determined that the agency’s Division of Resolutions and Receivership (DRR), which is responsible for the liquidation of assets, often did not identify PII in a timely manner, and its “practices for handling and disposing of the information were inconsistent in certain key respects.” As a result of the audit, the OIG recommends that the DRR incorporate the following enhancements to its current review process of PII at ORE properties: (i) Obtain from the agency’s legal division an opinion that outlines and clarifies the requirements for handling PII at ORE properties; (ii) Review existing policies, procedures, guidance, and training and make adjustments where necessary; and (iii) Establish “the appropriate disposition of the PII that was identified at three of the ORE properties reviewed during the audit and that is currently in off-site storage.”
On April 21, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld the dismissal of a bank shareholders’ suit against a bank holding company – and its officers and directors – for breach of fiduciary duty. Barnes v. Harris, No. 14-4002 WL 1786861 (10th Cir. Apr. 24, 2015) The shareholders had filed a derivative suit in 2012 against the officers and directors of the bank holding company after the bank failed in 2010 and was placed into FDIC receivership. The FDIC filed a motion to intervene in the suit, which was granted. Upon a bank’s failure, the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”) states the FDIC owns “all rights, titles, powers, and privileges of the [bank], and any stockholder … of such [bank] with respect to the [bank] and the assets of the [bank].” The applicability of FIRREA to a derivative suit against a failed bank’s holding company in this court was a question of first impression and the Tenth Circuit agreed with the Fourth, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits who have all concluded FIRREA gives the FDIC sole ownership of shareholder derivative claims and state law must be used to determine if the claims are derivative. In this case, though the shareholders were alleging harm to the holding company, all of that harm was due to the failure of the bank, which was the holding company’s only asset. The claims were found to be derivative, with the exception of a poorly pleaded fraud complaint that belonged solely to the holding company, and the district court’s dismissal of all claims was affirmed.