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Top Story Compliance Related

10/21/2021

Purchasers of phony pain treatments to get refunds

The Federal Trade Commission has announced it is sending refund payments totaling more than $1.1 million to 84,847 consumers who bought three supplements deceptively marketed as treatments for pain and other health conditions related to aging. According to the FTC's complaint, the marketers of Neurocet, Regenify, and Resetigen-D deceptively promoted their products using false or unsubstantiated claims that the supplements could stop pain and treat age-related ailments. The pitches were made primarily through direct mail campaigns.

The final order settling the FTC’s complaint bars the defendants—five related companies called Mile High Madison Group, Inc., Nordic Clinical, Inc., Encore Plus Solutions, Inc., Le Groupe Mile High Madison, Inc., and Clinique Nordique, Inc. and their principals, Vittorio DiCriscio and Vito Proietti—from making any claims about the health benefits of their products unless they are true and supported by scientific evidence. It also requires them to pay for the consumer refunds.

10/21/2021

NCUA issues ECIP action guidance

The NCUA yesterday announced it has sent a letter to credit unions announcing that eligible low-income credit unions (LICUs) may accept 30-year subordinated debt investments from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP). Additionally, a LICU may treat this ECIP funding as secondary capital in accordance with the NCUA’s regulations, provided that any LICU receiving secondary capital treatment has an NCUA-approved secondary capital plan by December 31, 2021.

10/20/2021

Credit Suisse pays $474M+ for misleading customers

The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced Credit Suisse Group AG has agreed to pay nearly $475 million to U.S. and UK authorities, including nearly $100 million to the SEC, for fraudulently misleading investors and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in a scheme involving two bond offerings and a syndicated loan that raised funds on behalf of state-owned entities in Mozambique.

According to the SEC's order, these transactions that raised over $1 billion were used to perpetrate a hidden debt scheme, pay kickbacks to now-indicted former Credit Suisse investment bankers along with their intermediaries, and bribe corrupt Mozambique government officials. The SEC's order finds that the offering materials created and distributed to investors by Credit Suisse hid the underlying corruption and falsely disclosed that the proceeds would help develop Mozambique's tuna fishing industry. Credit Suisse failed to disclose the full extent and nature of Mozambique's indebtedness and the risk of default arising from these transactions.

VTB Capital plc, a London-based subsidiary of Russian bank VTB, separately agreed to pay more than $6 million to settle SEC charges related to its role in misleading investors in a second 2016 bond offering. According to the SEC's order in this case, the second offering as structured by VTB Capital and Credit Suisse allowed investors to exchange their notes in an earlier bond offering for new sovereign bonds issued directly by the government of Mozambique. But the SEC found that the offering materials distributed and marketed by Credit Suisse and VTB Capital failed to disclose the true nature of Mozambique's debt and the high risk of default on the bonds. The offering materials further failed to disclose Credit Suisse's discovery that significant funds from the earlier offering had been diverted away from the intended use of proceeds that was disclosed to investors. Mozambique later defaulted on the financings after the full extent of "secret debt" was revealed.

10/20/2021

FinCEN exceptive relief for casinos with online gambling

FinCEN announced on Tuesday it has granted limited exceptive relief in Ruling FIN-2021-R001 to casinos from certain customer identity verification requirements in the context of online gaming. Specifically, under the terms of this relief, a casino may utilize suitable non-documentary methods to verify the identity of online customers. The suitability or non-suitability of any particular method should be evaluated based on risk. This exceptive relief is effective as of October 19, 2021.

10/20/2021

CFPB acts against prison financial services company

The CFPB on Tuesday announced it took action against the prison financial services company JPay for violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act by charging consumers fees to access their own money on prepaid debit cards that consumers were forced to use.

JPay also violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act when it required consumers to sign up for a JPay debit card as a condition of receiving government benefits – in particular, “gate money,” which is money provided under state law to help people meet their essential needs as they are released from incarceration. The consent order severely limits the fees JPay can charge on release cards going forward, allowing only inactivity fees after 90 days without card activity. The order also requires the company to pay $4 million for consumer redress and a $2 million civil money penalty.

JPay, a Delaware company, headquartered in Miramar, Fla., is a dominant provider of financial services to prisons and jails nationwide. JPay is owned by the private equity firm Platinum Equity Partners. Since 2011, JPay has provided approximately 1.2 million debit release cards to consumers. JPay calls itself “a highly trusted name in corrections,” but the company leveraged its relationships with state and local departments of correction to impose fees on consumers exiting the prison or jail system. JPay’s fee-bearing debit release card replaced cash or check options previously offered by state departments of correction. The Bureau's Consent Order states that JPay—

  • Abused its market dominance
  • Illegally required consumers in certain states to receive protected government benefits on debit release cards
  • Charged fees without authorization
  • Misrepresented fees to consumers

The Bureau's Consent Order requires JPay to:

  • Stop charging most fees. JPay cannot charge any fees on release cards, except an inactivity fee after 90 days of inactivity
  • Refund harmed consumers by paying $4 million to the Bureau for monetary relief and damages for injured consumers
  • Pay a civil money penalty of $2 million to the Bureau

10/19/2021

IRS videoconferences now available to all large businesses

The IRS has announced that, beginning October 18, the IRS's large business division will accept all taxpayer requests to meet with IRS employees using secure videoconferencing. This step extends the practice used during the pandemic to accommodate taxpayers who sought more than meeting with an IRS employee over telephone calls.

A new guidance requires Large Business and International Division (LB&I) employees to grant large business taxpayer requests for a secure video meeting with IRS-approved platforms in lieu of an in-person or telephone discussion with a compliance function. It also includes the expanded use of secure email and the launch of a virtual reading room environment to enable large LB&I taxpayers and IRS agents to share certain privileged taxpayer documents in a read-only capacity. In addition, LB&I also launched and expanded its use of paperless processes so that cases can continue to move swiftly through examination and resolution.

10/18/2021

Two whistleblowers get $40M from SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced awards of approximately $40 million to two whistleblowers whose information and assistance contributed to the success of an SEC enforcement action.

The first whistleblower, whose information caused the opening of the investigation and exposed difficult-to-detect violations, will receive an award of approximately $32 million. The first whistleblower also provided substantial assistance to the staff, including identifying witnesses and helping the staff to understand complex fact patterns. The second whistleblower, who submitted important new information during the course of the investigation but waited several years to report to the Commission, will receive an award of approximately $8 million.

The SEC has awarded approximately $1.1 billion to 218 individuals since issuing its first award in 2012. All payments are made out of an investor protection fund established by Congress that is financed entirely through monetary sanctions paid to the SEC by securities law violators. No money has been taken or withheld from harmed investors to pay whistleblower awards. Whistleblowers may be eligible for an award when they voluntarily provide the SEC with original, timely, and credible information that leads to a successful enforcement action. Whistleblower awards can range from 10–30 percent of the money collected when the monetary sanctions exceed $1 million.

10/18/2021

IRS updates FAQ process

The IRS has announced it is updating its process for managing certain frequently asked questions (FAQs) on newly enacted tax legislation. The IRS is updating this process to address concerns regarding transparency and the potential impact on taxpayers when these FAQs are updated or revised. At the same time, the IRS is addressing concerns regarding the potential application of penalties to taxpayers who rely on FAQs by providing clarity to taxpayers as to their ability to rely on FAQs for penalty protection.

Significant FAQs on newly enacted tax legislation, as well as any later updates or revisions to these FAQs, will now be announced in a news release and posted on IRS.gov in a separate Fact Sheet. These Fact Sheet FAQs will be dated to enable taxpayers to confirm the date on which any changes to the FAQs were made. Additionally, prior versions of Fact Sheet FAQs will be maintained on IRS.gov to ensure that, if a Fact Sheet FAQ is later changed, taxpayers can locate the version they relied on if they later need to do so. In addition to significant FAQs on new legislation, the IRS may apply this updated process in other contexts, such as when FAQs address emerging issues.

10/18/2021

OCC releases FY2022 Bank Supervision Plan

The OCC has released its bank supervision operating plan for fiscal year 2022.The plan provides the foundation for policy initiatives and for supervisory strategies as applied to individual national banks, federal savings associations, federal branches, federal agencies, and technology service providers. OCC staff members use this plan to guide their supervisory priorities, planning, and resource allocations.

Supervisory strategies for FY 2022 will focus on—

  • strategic and operational planning to ensure banks maintain stable financial positions
  • credit risk management, allowances for loan and lease losses, and allowances for credit losses
  • cybersecurity and operational resilience
  • oversight of third parties and related concentrations
  • Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) compliance management
  • consumer compliance management systems and fair lending risk
  • Community Reinvestment Act performance
  • the impact of a low-rate environment and the transition to alternative reference rates given the cessation of LIBOR
  • payment systems products and services
  • fintech partnerships for potential cryptocurrency-related activities and other services
  • climate change risk management

10/18/2021

Treasury continues campaign against ransomware

The Treasury Department on Friday announced that, building on OFAC's earlier designation of a virtual currency exchange for facilitating transactions for ransomware actors, additional steps have been taken to help the virtual currency industry prevent exploitation by sanctioned persons and other illicit actors. New industry-specific guidance outlines sanctions compliance best practices tailored to the unique risks posed in this dynamic space, while new data from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) shows the increasing threat ransomware posed to the U.S financial sector, businesses, and the public during the first half of 2021.

Treasury’s actions underscore the need for a collaborative approach to counter ransomware attacks, including public-private partnerships and close relationships with international partners. The private sector plays a key role by implementing appropriate sanctions and anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) controls to prevent sanctioned persons and other illicit actors from exploiting virtual currencies and undermining U.S. foreign policy and national security interests.

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