Recently, the GAO published a report regarding the potential illicit use of remittance transfers and how, if at all, the proposed Remittance Status Verification Act (RSVA or Act) would assist federal agencies in their anti-money laundering (AML) requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act. If adopted, the RSVA would, among other things, require that remittance providers verify remittance senders’ legal status under the U.S. immigration laws; those unable to provide proof of immigration status would be subject to a fine. The proposed Act would also lower the $3,000 threshold level at which remittance providers are required to obtain and record data for a funds transfer. According to the GAO’s findings, almost all stakeholders expressed concern over the potential requirement to verify legal immigration status, with IRS officials concluding that “verifying identities and collecting information at a near zero dollar threshold would not be useful and could cause remitters to resort to off-the-book methods.” Most law enforcement officials, however, suggested that a lower threshold would benefit agencies’ AML efforts.
On March 8, the CFPB released its tenth edition of Supervisory Highlights, summarizing supervisory observations in the areas of consumer reporting, debt collection, mortgage origination, remittances, student loan servicing, and fair lending. The report covers the CFPB’s supervision work in the last quarter of 2015, generally between September 2015 and December 2015. Noteworthy findings in the report include: (i) violations of the Dodd-Frank Act’s unfair practice provisions by student loan servicers who would automatically default borrowers and co-signers on a private loan if either declared bankruptcy; (ii) violations of the October 2013 Remittance Rule, including providers failing to give complete and accurate disclosures to consumers, failing to cancel transactions within the required timeframe, failing to promptly credit a consumer’s account when an error occurred, and either not communicating the results of error investigations within the required timeframe or at all, or communicating them to an unauthorized party; (iii) inaccuracies in checking account information reported to NSCRAs by banks and credit unions; and (iv) violations of the FDCPA, with debt collectors failing to honor consumers’ requests to stop making contact with them and threatening garnishment against student loan borrowers who were not eligible for garnishment under the Department of Education guidelines. In addition to summarizing supervisory observations, the report provides an overview of the public enforcement actions taken between September and December 2015. Regarding non-public supervisory actions in the areas of deposits, debt collection, and mortgage origination, the report states that the CFPB collected more than $14 million in restitution to approximately 228,000 consumers in the fourth quarter of 2015.
On May 21, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service (OIG) issued a report titled, “The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services.” The report follows a January 2014 white paper issued by the OIG, which explored how the U.S. Postal Service could expand its provision of financial products to underserved Americans. The report summarizes five potential approaches for increasing the Postal Service’s financial services offerings, including: (i) expand current product offerings, which include paper money orders, international remittances, gift cards, and limited check cashing, as well as adjacent services (e.g., bill pay, ATMs); (ii) develop one key partner to provide financial services offerings, including possible expansion to general purpose reloadable prepaid cards, small loans, and/or deposit accounts; (iii) develop different partners for each product; (iv) make the Postal Service a “marketplace” for distribution of financial products of an array of providers; and/or (v) license the Postal Service as a financial institution focused on the financially underserved (although the OIG is not recommending this approach). Factors to consider when determining which approach to take, if any, include the legal and regulatory landscape; the effectiveness of cash management systems; dedication of the internal team, and public awareness of existing and potential services offered.
On January 15, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a final rule amending its Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) to reflect policy changes previously announced by President Obama on December 17. The amendments (i) allow U.S. financial institutions to maintain correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions; (ii) allow U.S. financial institutions to enroll merchants and process credit and debit card transactions for travel-related and other transactions consistent with the CACR; (iii) increase the limit of remittances to $2,000 from $500 per quarter; and (iv) under an expanded license, allow U.S. registered brokers or dealers in securities and registered money transmitters to process authorized remittances without having to apply for a specific license. In addition, OFAC released a FAQ sheet to help explain the new amendments, which are effective January 16.
On September 12, the CFPB finalized a rule that allows it to supervise larger participants in the international money transfer market. In particular, this rule, which finalizes the proposed rule the CFPB issued in January 2014, allows the CFPB to supervise nonbank international money transfer providers that provide more than $1 million in international transfers annually, for compliance with the Remittance Rule under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. The final rule will be effective December 1, 2014.
The CFPB will seek to ensure that these providers comply with a number of specific consumer-protection provisions, including the following:
- Disclosures: The CFPB will examine providers to determine that consumers receive the Remittance Rule-required disclosures in English as well as in any other language the provider uses to advertise, solicit, or market its services, or in any language in which the transaction was conducted. These disclosures inform consumers of the exchange rate, fees, the amount of money that will be delivered abroad, and the date the funds will be available.
- Option to Cancel: The CFPB will examine transfer providers to ensure that consumers receive at least thirty minutes to cancel the transfer if it has not yet been received, and that consumers receive a refund regardless of the reason for the cancellation.
- Correction of Errors: The CFPB will insist that remittance transfer providers properly investigate certain errors, and, if a consumer reports an error within 180 days, the CFPB will examine providers to determine that they have investigated and corrected certain types of errors. The CFPB will also examine providers to ensure that they are held accountable for the actions of any agents they use.
The CFPB used the authority granted to it in the Dodd-Frank Act to supervise “larger participants” in consumer financial markets, and this is the Bureau’s fourth larger participant rule. The CFPB indicates that it will use the same examination procedures for nonbank providers as it does for bank remittance providers, and the CFPB intends to coordinate with state examiners in its supervision.
The CFPB estimates that nonbank international money transfer providers transfer $50 billion each year, and 150 million individual international money transactions occur each year through these institutions, with seven million U.S. households transferring funds abroad each year through a nonbank.