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Top Story Compliance Related

03/25/2021

$50M in University of Phoenix refunds sent to students

The FTC has announced it is sending payments totaling nearly $50 million to more than 147,000 University of Phoenix students who may have been lured by allegedly deceptive advertisements. The refunds stem from a lawsuit the FTC filed against the school alleging that it used deceptive advertisements that falsely touted its relationships and job opportunities with companies such as AT&T, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Twitter, and the American Red Cross. The FTC also alleged that the university's advertising gave the false impression that the online school worked with those companies to create job opportunities for its students and tailor its curriculum for such jobs.

03/25/2021

California housing providers resolve discrimination claim

HUD has announced it has approved a conciliation agreement between Monterey, California-based rental property owners and managers G Davi Properties and Guido A. Davi II and a resident of one of their properties, resolving claims that the providers denied the resident’s reasonable accommodation request to keep an assistance animal.

03/24/2021

Bureau may revive Payday Lending ATR requirement

The CFPB has posted a blog article by Acting Director Dave Uejio with a commitment to protect vulnerable borrowers. The article focused on consumer harms in the small dollar lending market, with particular concerns about any lender’s business model that is dependent on consumers’ inability to repay their loans. Uejio said that years of research by the CFPB found the vast majority of this industry’s revenue came from consumers who could not afford to repay their loans, with most short-term loans in reborrowing chains of 10 or more. One-in-five payday loans, and one-in-three vehicle title loans, ended in default, even including periods of reborrowing. And one-in-five vehicle title loan borrowers ended up having their car or truck seized by the lender.

Uejio noted that in 2020 the prior CFPB administration had revoked parts of its Payday Lending rule that would have addressed these harms. The later rule was challenged in court and the Bureau had a legal obligation to respond to the lawsuit. Accordingly, the Bureau has filed a brief addressing only the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case. The brief does not address the merits of the underlying rule, and the Bureau’s filing should not be regarded as an indication that the Bureau is satisfied with the status quo in this market. To the contrary, said Uejio, the Bureau believes that the harms identified by the 2017 rule still exist, and will use the authority provided by Congress to address these harms, including through vigorous market monitoring, supervision, enforcement, and, if appropriate, rulemaking.

03/24/2021

Former Venezuelan official pleads guilty to bribery and ML charges

ICE has announced a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen and former official at Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), pleaded guilty yesterday for his role in laundering millions of dollars in bribes and corruptly providing business advantages to multiple individuals who obtained contracts with Citgo and PDVSA.

Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio, a former procurement officer and manager in Citgo’s Special Projects Group, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 19 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. As part of his plea, De Jongh also agreed to forfeit more than $3 million seized from his bank accounts and 15 properties that he purchased with his corrupt proceeds.

03/23/2021

Climate and ESG webpage launched by SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a new page, SEC Response to Climate and ESG Risks and Opportunities, on its website to bring together agency actions and the latest information about climate and environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. In response to increased investor demand for this information, the page will be linked from the front page of SEC.gov and will be updated as the agency continues to respond to investors. “Our all-of-SEC approach looks at how climate and ESG intersect with our broader regulatory framework to get investors the information they need to plan for their financial future,” said SEC Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee.

03/23/2021

OFAC targets Burmese forces and Chinese officials

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced that OFAC has sanctioned two individuals and two entities connected to the Burmese military and its violent repression of pro-democracy protests. Sanctioned were Than Hlaing and Aung Soe, and the 33rd and 77th Light Infantry Divisions of the Burmese Army.

Treasury also announced OFAC's sanctioning of two current Chinese government officials in connection with serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). These designations include Wang Junzheng, the Secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, Director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB).

Additional identification information on the individuals and entities sanctioned can be found in BankersOnline's OFAC Update.

03/22/2021

FATF updating virtual asset/service provider guidance

The Financial Action Task Force is updating its Guidance on the risk-based approach to virtual assets (VAs) and virtual asset service providers (VASPs). The FATF originally published this Guidance in June 2019 when the FATF finalized changes to its Standards to clearly place anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations on VAs and VASPs. The FATF is consulting private sector stakeholders before finalizing the revisions to the Guidance. It primarily seek views from representatives from the VA community, including academics and policy bodies, VASPs, technology developers and providers (particularly in relation to the travel rule), other regulated entities (such as banks), but also welcome views from authorities.

This revised document will provide updated guidance in six main areas to

  1. clarify the definitions of VA and VASP to make clear that these definitions are expansive and there should not be a case where a relevant financial asset is not covered by the FATF Standards (either as a VA or as a traditional financial asset);
  2. provide guidance on how the FATF Standards apply to so-called stablecoins;
  3. provide additional guidance on the risks and potential risk mitigants for peer-to-peer transactions;
  4. provide updated guidance on the licensing and registration of VASPs;
  5. provide additional guidance for the public and private sectors on the implementation of the "travel rule"; and
  6. include Principles of Information-Sharing and Co-operation Amongst VASP Supervisors.

The Guidance is also being updated to reflect the passage of time and the publication of other relevant FATF reports.

03/22/2021

FTC informs CFPB of debt collection activities

The Federal Trade Commission has provided the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with an annual summary of its activities in the debt collection arena. The annual report highlights both agencies’ efforts to stop unlawful debt collection practices, including law enforcement, education and public outreach, and policy initiatives. Among the actions taken to combat unfair, deceptive, and otherwise unlawful debt collection practices in 2020, the FTC:

  • led Operation Corrupt Collector, a nationwide federal/state law enforcement sweep and outreach initiative targeting phantom debt collection and abusive and threatening debt collection practices;
  • filed or resolved 7 cases against 39 defendants, and obtained $26 million in judgments;
  • brought the first federal action combating unlawful “debt parking";
  • banned the operator of a debt collection scheme who engaged in serious and repeated violations of law from ever working in debt collection again;
  • deployed educational materials to inform consumers about their rights, and educate debt collectors about their responsibilities, under the FDCPA and FTC Act; and
  • supplied 15,755 copies of a fotonovela (graphic novel) on debt collection, developed for Spanish speakers, to raise awareness about scams targeting the Latino community.

03/22/2021

Temporary supplemental leverage ratio changes to expire

The Federal Reserve, OCC, and FDIC have issued a joint press release announcing that the temporary change to the supplementary leverage ratio, or SLR, for depository institutions issued on May 15, 2020, will expire as scheduled on March 31, 2021. The temporary change was made to provide flexibility for depository institutions to provide credit to households and businesses in light of the COVID-19 event.

03/19/2021

SEC charges owner of investment company with fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday charged a New Jersey resident with defrauding investors, who invested millions based on false claims about investments in real estate. The SEC’s complaint alleges that Seth P. Levine, the president and owner of Norse Holdings, LLC, a real estate investment and management company, sold membership interests in limited liability companies that purchased and owned apartment complexes.

According to the complaint, from at least February 2015 through August 2019, Levine raised millions of dollars from more than 60 investors, including family, friends, and other investors. In offering the interests, Levine allegedly used misleading and false representations that masked Norse Holdings’ underlying financial problems and its inability to pay promised returns without using new investor monies or proceeds from a related mortgage fraud. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Levine provided investors with documents reflecting false and inaccurate information concerning the profitability of the apartment complexes; sold overlapping ownership interests to investors using false operating agreements and, at times, forged signatures; frequently commingled investor funds to prop up real estate holdings that were struggling; and paid investors with fake profits generated by the mortgage fraud Levine conducted using the same properties.

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