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Top Story Compliance Related

11/08/2021

SEC names chief of whistleblower office

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday announced the appointment of Nicole Creola ("Cree") Kelly as chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower. Ms. Kelly is currently Senior Special Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel and has more than 20 years of experience with the agency. Among her other roles were counsel to former SEC Chair Mary Jo White, counsel to former SEC Commissioner Kara M. Stein, and stints in the Enforcement Division’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit as well as the Whistleblower Office.

11/05/2021

Administration COVID vax policies announced

The White House has issued a Fact Sheet with the details of two policies to fight COVID-19, both involving vaccination mandates.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is announcing the details of a requirement for employers with 100 or more employees to ensure each of their workers is fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022, or tests for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis. The OSHA rule will also require that these employers provide paid-time for employees to get vaccinated, and ensure all unvaccinated workers wear a face mask in the workplace.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services is announcing the details of its requirement that health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are fully vaccinated, also by January 4. The rule applies to more than 17 million workers at approximately 76,000 health care facilities, including hospitals and long-term care facilities.

11/05/2021

CFPB action to stop false ID name-matching

The CFPB on Thursday announced it has issued an advisory opinion affirming that consumer reporting companies, including tenant and employment screening companies, are violating the law if they engage in shoddy name-matching procedures. Regulators are concerned about the significant harms caused by false identity matching, where an applicant is disqualified from rental housing or a job based on having the same name as another individual with negative information in their credit history.

Specifically, the CFPB affirmed that the practice of matching consumer records solely through the matching of names is illegal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The advisory opinion affirms the obligations and requirements of consumer reporting companies, including background screeners, to use reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy. The agency said it will be working closely with the Federal Trade Commission to root out illegal conduct in the background screening industry. Background screening companies that violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act can be liable for significant civil penalties, restitution for victims, damages, and other relief.

PUBLICATION AND EFFECTIVE DATE UPDATE: Published at 86 FR 62468 on 11/10/2021, and effective upon publication.

11/05/2021

401(k) contribution limit increased

The IRS has announced that the amount individuals can contribute to their 401(k) plans in 2022 has increased to $20,500, up from $19,500 for 2021 and 2020. The IRS also issued technical guidance on all of the cost‑of‑living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2022.

11/04/2021

Hsu discusses 'regulatory perimeter'

Yesterday, Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu discussed clarifying and modernizing the bank regulatory perimeter at the American Fintech Council’s Fintech Policy Summit 2021. He described recent trends toward digitalization of banking and financial innovation, which have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several years of projected growth in digitalization took place in a matter of quarters. For instance, digital payments transactions increased by 27 percent, from $4.1 trillion to $5.2 trillion, from 2019 to 2020. Similarly, the total market value of cryptocurrencies has grown to approximately $2.5 trillion from $200 billion in 2019. Consumers and businesses experienced greater convenience, expanded capabilities, and an increase in opportunities, all as a result of financial innovation.

However, said Hsu, "these trends are being driven by firms that are not subject to bank rules and do not have the same controls as banks. In regulatory-speak, they sit outside of the so-called bank regulatory perimeter. The full implications of this will likely only become apparent over time. While the convenience and benefits of rapid innovation can be enjoyed immediately, the risks and harms to consumers and businesses of engaging in financial activities with fewer controls tend to emerge only later. He pointed to the apparent success of fintech companies in facilitating expanded access to PPP loans, and recent evidence of higher rates of customer dissatisfaction and of fraud with fintech-facilitated PPP loans versus those run through traditional banks. He also described the rapid growth in users and total market value in the cryptocurrency space, matched by growth in cryptocurrency scams and consumer complaints. He said "'Move fast and break things' is a common mantra in tech. In the financial services context, it is important to remember that those 'things' are people and their money."

Hsu added, "Increasingly, the three cornerstones of banking—taking deposits, making loans, and facilitating payments—are being reassembled functionally and digitally outside of the bank regulatory perimeter by certain firms... [and] these 'synthetic banking providers' (SBPs) operate out of the reach of bank regulators and free of bank rules, such as capital requirements, bank consumer protection laws, and the Community Reinvestment Act. History and research warn us that unregulated banking ends badly. Indeed, the origins of the OCC, Federal Reserve, and FDIC, as well as of many state banking agencies, can be traced back to financial panics and destabilizing runs resulting from unregulated or poorly regulated banking."

Hsu then suggested "we need to remove the disparity between the rights and responsibilities of banks and those of synthetic banking providers by holding SBPs to banking standards."

11/04/2021

FTC publishes policy on negative option marketing

The Federal Trade Commission has published [86 FR 60822] in this morning's Federal Register a policy statement to provide guidance regarding its enforcement of various statutes and FTC regulations addressing negative option marketing and operating. The Statement is intended to assist the business community and practitioners by providing specific guidance on the Commission's interpretation of existing law as it applies to negative option practices. It may also assist the courts in developing an appropriate framework for interpreting and applying the various statutes and regulations addressing negative option marketing.

Negative option offers come in a variety of forms, but all share a central feature: Each contains a term or condition under which the seller may interpret a consumer's silence or failure to take affirmative action to reject a good or service or to cancel the agreement as acceptance or continuing acceptance of the offer. Such offers are often involved in consumer claims of unauthorized credit card or debit card charges.

11/04/2021

IRS reminder on special tax deduction for charitable donations

The IRS has posted a reminder that a special tax provision will allow more Americans to easily deduct up to $600 in donations to qualifying charities on their 2021 federal income tax return. Ordinarily, people who choose to take the standard deduction cannot claim a deduction for their charitable contributions. But a temporary law change now permits them to claim a limited deduction on their 2021 federal income tax returns for cash contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations.

Nearly nine in 10 taxpayers now take the standard deduction and could potentially qualify. Under this provision, individual tax filers, including married individuals filing separate returns, can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made to qualifying charities during 2021. The maximum deduction is increased to $600 for married individuals filing joint returns. NOTE: Cash contributions include those made by check, credit card or debit card as well as amounts incurred by an individual for unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses in connection with their volunteer services to a qualifying charitable organization. Cash contributions don't include the value of volunteer services, securities, household items or other property.

11/04/2021

FDIC releases 65 CRA evaluations

The FDIC has released a list of 65 institutions examined for compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act whose evaluations have recently been made public. Of those listed, one was determined to be in Substantial Noncompliance, two received ratings of Outstanding, and 62 received Satisfactory ratings.

We congratulate the two banks that received the Outstanding evaluation ratings:

11/03/2021

OCC CRA evaluations released

The OCC has released a list of national banks and savings associations recently evaluated for compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act whose evaluation reports were made public in October 2021.

Of the 15 evaluations made public last month, 9 are rated satisfactory, 5 are rated outstanding, and one is rated Substantial Noncompliance. We congratulate these five banks who received the outstanding ratings:

11/03/2021

CFPB: More credit report disputes in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday announced its release of research finding that consumers in majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, as well as younger consumers and those with low credit scores, are far more likely to have disputes appear on their credit reports. The new research is a part of a series of reports focusing on trends in the consumer financial marketplace, and uses data on auto loan, student loan, and credit card accounts opened between 2012 and 2019.

The report shows that majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods continue to face significant challenges with credit records. In nearly every credit category reviewed, consumers residing in majority Black areas were more than twice as likely to have disputes appear on their credit reports compared to consumers residing in majority white areas. For auto loans, consumers in majority Black areas were more than three times as likely to have disputes appear on their credit reports (0.8% of accounts with disputes in majority white census tracts compared to 2.8% of accounts in majority Black census tracts).

The CFPB is committed to further researching the root causes of credit information disputes, as well as investigating the reasons for the demographic disparities found in the report.

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