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Top Story Compliance Related


Victims of student loan relief scam to receive refunds

The Federal Trade Commission reports it is sending more than $1.7 million to individuals who lost money to a debt relief scheme that targeted individuals trying to pay down their student loan debt. The Commission's complaint alleged that the operators behind Student Debt Relief Group tricked people into thinking the company was affiliated with the Department of Education, charged consumers illegal upfront fees, and collected monthly fees they falsely claimed would be credited toward consumers’ student loans. In reality, the operators of the scheme pocketed people’s money and responded to consumer complaints by changing the name of their company rather than their business practices.

Under the final settlement, the defendants, individual Salar Tahour and his companies—Los Angeles-based M&T Financial Group and American Counseling Center Corp., doing business as Student Debt Relief Group, SDRG, Student Loan Relief Counselors, SLRC, StuDebt, and Capital Advocates Group—are banned from engaging in any future debt relief activities and from making misrepresentations or unsubstantiated claims related to financial or any other products or services.

The FTC is sending 867 checks and 18,559 PayPal refunds, averaging about $88 each.


Missouri apartment owner faces discrimination charge

HUD has announced it is charging Dahms Investments, LLC, the owner of duplex apartments in Hamilton, Missouri, and their property manager, with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to grant a prospective tenant with a mental health disability a reasonable accommodation to waive the required pet deposit for her assistance animal. The HUD charge specifically alleges that the property manager told the woman that she would have to pay hundreds of dollars in pet fees and that she did not look like she had a disability. The charge further alleges that the property manager told the woman that rules related to assistance animals only applied to individuals who are blind and/or deaf.


Publisher pays $2M+ to settle FTC charges

A Baltimore-based company, Agora Financial, LLC, and several of its affiliates have agreed to pay more than $2 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they tricked seniors into buying pamphlets, newsletters, and other publications that falsely promised a cure for type 2 diabetes or promoted a phony plan to help them cash in on a government-affiliated check program. In addition to the monetary judgment, which will be used to provide refunds to defrauded consumers, the proposed settlement also bars Agora and the other defendants from making such false or unsupported claims.


New IRS form for self-employed individuals

The Internal Revenue Service has announced a new IRS form is available for eligible self-employed individuals to claim sick and family leave tax credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA, passed in March 2020, allows eligible self-employed individuals who, due to COVID-19, are unable to work or telework for reasons relating to their own health or to care for a family member to claim refundable tax credits to offset their federal income tax. The credits are equal to either their qualified sick leave or family leave equivalent amount, depending on circumstances.

Those eligible will determine their qualified sick and family leave equivalent tax credits with the new IRS Form 7202. Eligible self-employed individuals must conduct a trade or business that qualifies as self-employment income and be eligible to receive qualified sick or family leave wages under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act as if the taxpayer was an employee.


Fed issues four Outstanding CRA ratings

Our review of the Federal Reserve Board's records of CRA evaluation ratings made public in January found that these four institutions received ratings of Outstanding:

Twelve banks received Satisfactory ratings in January.


Fate of QM and debt collections rules uncertain

In a recent letter to the CFPB's Division of Research, Markets, and Regulations (RMR), Acting CFPB Director David Uejio directed the Division to "explore options for preserving the status quo with respect to QM and debt collection rules." Whether that direction may result in reconsideration of these recent Bureau rules is not clear.

Uejio also asked RMR to analyze data on housing insecurity, including foreclosures, mobile home repossessions and tenant evictions and on the most pressing consumer finance barriers to racial equity, and to resume HMDA quarterly reporting and CARD Act data collection, and efforts on section 1071 and PACE data collection.

The acting director also expressed concern over a potential foreclosure crisis when the COVID-19 forbearances end in March and April.


FDIC announces CRA ratings

Yesterday, the FDIC released a list of 66 banks recently examined for compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act. We congratulate three banks whose CRA evaluations received Outstanding ratings:

A bank in Weir, Kansas, received a "Needs to Improve" rating. The remaining 62 banks were graded Satisfactory.


FinCEN advisory on frauds related to COVID-19

FinCEN Advisory FIN-2021-A001, on "COVID-19 Health Insurance- and Health Care-Related Fraud," was issued yesterday with descriptions of COVID-19-related fraud involving health care benefit programs and health insurance, associated financial red flag indicators, select case studies, and information on reporting suspicious activity.

FinCEN requested that financial institutions reference this advisory in SAR field 2 (Filing Institution Note to FinCEN) and the narrative by including the key term “FIN-2021-A001” and select SAR field 34g (health care – public or private health insurance). Additional guidance for filing SARs appears near the end of the advisory.


FDIC purging transferred OTS regs

The FDIC has published in the Federal Register for February 3, 2021, four final rules removing transferred Office of Thrift Supervision regulations:


OCC CRA evaluation ratings released

The OCC has released a list of 21 Community Reinvestment Act performance evaluations that the OCC made public in January. Six of the listed banks received an Outstanding rating on their evaluations:

The remaining 15 institutions' evaluations were rated Satisfactory.


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