InfoBytes, April 27, 2012 - A Weekly In-depth review of news & developments in the financial services industry.

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Topics In This Issue

  • Sign Up is Easy!; Federal Issues; State Issues; Courts; Firm News; Mortgages; Banking; Consumer Finance; Securities; E-Commerce; Privacy/Data Security

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Federal Issues

CFPB Begins Study of Arbitration Clauses, Extends Comment Period for Overdraft Inquiry. On April 24, the CFPB released a request for information to inform its study of the use and impact of arbitration clauses in consumer financial services agreements. Through June 23, 2012, the CFPB is seeking information from the public regarding (i) the prevalence of use of these arbitration clauses, (ii) what claims consumers bring in arbitration against financial services companies, (iii) whether claims are brought by financial services companies against consumers in arbitration, and (iv) how consumers and companies are affected by actual arbitrations and outside of actual arbitrations. The study is required by the Dodd-Frank Act and must be completed before the CFPB can begin exercising its Dodd-Frank authority to conduct rulemakings regarding arbitration agreements. Therefore, at this time the CFPB is not seeking comments on whether and how the use of such agreements should be regulated.

The CFPB also this week extended through June 29, 2012, the comment period for its inquiry into overdraft programs and their costs, benefits, and risks to consumers.

SEC Announces $28 Million RMBS Settlement. On April 24, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it filed and simultaneously settled a suit alleging that an H&R Block subsidiary engaged in the fraudulent sale of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). The complaint alleges that during a short period at the beginning of 2007, Option One Mortgage, now known as Sand Canyon Corporation, sponsored over $4 billion of RMBS and represented to investors that it would repurchase or replace any pooled mortgage for which there was a breach of a representation or warranty. The SEC alleges that at the time it sponsored the RMBS at issue, Option One was experiencing financial difficulties related to the broader decline of the subprime mortgage market and faced substantial margin calls from its creditors. As such, Option One's condition would have prevented the company from meeting its obligations to repurchase faulty loans. Further, according to the SEC, (i) Option One failed to disclose that it was reliant on a line of credit from its parent, (ii) H&R Block was under no obligation to provide that funding, and (iii) Option One's losses threatened H&R Block's credit rating at a time when the parent was negotiating the sale of Option One. The SEC's announcement states that without admitting or denying the allegations Option One agreed to (i) disgorge over $14 million, (ii) pay prejudgment interest of nearly $4 million, and (iii) pay a $10 million penalty to resolve the allegations.

FinCEN Reports Increased Mortgage Fraud SARs. On April 23, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released an update on mortgage loan fraud suspicious activity reports (SARs) for 2011. The report indicates that mortgage fraud SARs increased 31 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, a spike that FinCEN states is directly attributable to mortgage repurchase demands and special filings generated by several institutions. Based on a sample analysis, FinCEN found that in 40 percent of cases resulting in a SAR, the institution turned down the subject's loan application, short sale request, or debt elimination because of the suspected fraud, indicating improvement in mortgage lending due diligence. Among other things, the report highlights short sales, appraisals, and identity theft as new fraud patterns in 2011 SARs.

Freddie Mac Adjusts Residential Loan Mitigation Options. On April 23, Freddie Mac issued Servicer Guide Bulletin 2012-10, which expands and adjusts certain loss mitigation options to offer additional assistance to struggling borrowers. With regard to state housing finance agency borrower assistance programs, the Bulletin provides requirements for servicer participation in programs funded by the Hardest Hit Fund, and consolidates all requirements related to participation in such programs. Among other things, the Bulletin also implements a previously announced extension of the HAMP and HAFA programs through December 2013, and revises HAMP eligibility requirements for permanent modifications.

Fannie Mae Alters Policies for Preforeclosure Sale Process, Delinquency Management, Default Prevention. On April 25, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2012-06, which sets new policies and clarifies several delinquency management and default prevention requirements related to (i) electronic submission of borrower response package documents, (ii) income documentation for employed borrowers, (iii) determining monthly gross income, (iv) modifications of loans secured by leasehold estates, (v) property valuation, and (vi) executing and recording modification agreements. The majority of the changes are effective immediately. The new requirements for determining income are effective for loans evaluated on or after July 1, 2012.

On the same date, Fannie Mae also published Announcement SVC-2012-07 to establish new policies to expedite the preforeclosure sale process. For all conventional mortgage loans held in Fannie Mae's portfolio, those purchased for Fannie Mae's portfolio but subsequently securitized into Fannie Mae MBS pools, and those originally delivered as part of an MBS pool, the policies (i) establish maximum required response times for preforeclosure sale offers submitted for consideration, (ii) require servicers to provide borrowers with status updates during the evaluation process, and (iii) allow servicers to respond to unsolicited preforeclosure sale offers without first requiring an evaluation for a HAMP modification. Servicers are encouraged to adopt these policies immediately, but must do so no later than June 25, 2012. The Announcement reminds servicers that Fannie Mae may pursue any of its available remedies for failure to comply with these new policies.

Banking Regulators Clarify Volcker Rule Compliance Timeline, Senators Push for Final Rule. Recently, the Federal Reserve Board approved a statement clarifying that an entity covered by the "Volcker Rule," section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Act, has until July 21, 2014 to comply unless the Board extends the conformance period. The clarified compliance date reflects the full two-year period provided by the statute for covered institutions to fully conform activities and investments. Generally, the Volcker Rule imposes certain prohibitions and requirements on banking entities and nonbank financial companies supervised by the Board that engage in proprietary trading and have certain interests in, or relationships with, a hedge fund or private equity fund. The Federal Reserve Board and other federal banking regulators continue their efforts to adopt regulations implementing the statutory restrictions. In October 2011, the Federal Reserve Board sought comment on a proposed rulemaking, as did the Commodities Futures Trading Commission in January 2012, but no final rules have emerged. On April 26, 22 Senators sent a letter to the regulators urging that they adopt a strong clear rule this summer.

State Issues

Vermont Adjusts Mortgage Licensing La On April 20, Vermont enacted H 565,which, in relevant part, amends definitions and exceptions related to the licensing of mortgage loan originators, mortgage brokers, and other consumer lenders to (i) permit owner financing without obtaining a license, (ii) expand the types of properties that can be sold and financed by the owner without having to obtain a license, and (iii) expand exceptions applicable to practicing attorneys.

Nebraska Issues Interpretation of Mortgage Originator, Processor, and Underwriter Licensing Rules. Recently, the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance issued several interpretive opinions relating to mortgage loan originator, processor, and underwriter licensing. For mortgage loan originator licensing, one opinion provides examples of activities or situations that would and would not require licensure as a mortgage loan originator. A separate opinion identifies the factors and documentation the Department will consider when evaluating the "financial responsibility" of a person seeking a mortgage loan originator license. Additional separate guidance (i) clarifies the licensing responsibilities of clerical employees of licensed or registered mortgage bankers or installment loan companies, (ii) asserts that loan processing and underwriting activities are essential to origination and therefore entities performing those services must register as mortgage bankers, and (iii) establishes requirements pertaining to the use of the NMLS unique identifier on solicitations and advertisements. All of the interpretive opinions took effect April 16, 2012.

Courts

Seventh Circuit Dismisses FACTA Truncation Class Action. On April 18 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed a class action seeking damages against Shell under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) for displaying four digits of customers' credit card numbers on receipts printed at Shell gas stations.

Van Straaten v. Shell Oil Products Co. LLC, No. 11-8031, 2012 WL 1340111 (7th. Cir. Apr. 18, 2012). FACTA requires that such receipts truncate card numbers to display no more than the last five digits of the card number. Shell's practice was to print the last four digits of what it calls the "primary account number," which is the number appearing before the last five digits of the sequence of numbers appearing on the front of the credit card. The plaintiffs did not allege that Shell's practice created a risk of identity theft, but that Shell violated FACTA by printing the wrong four numbers. Writing for a three-judge panel, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook indicated that FACTA does not define the term "card number," but the panel did not have to define the term, "because we can't see why anyone should care how the term is defined." He added that "[a] precise definition does not matter as long as the receipt contains too few digits to allow identity theft." As to FACTA's authorization of $100 to $1,000 for each willful violation, Judge Easterbrook noted that "[a]n award of $100 to everyone who has used a Shell Card at a Shell station would exceed $1 billion, despite the absence of a penny's worth of injury." Because Shell now prints no such digits on its receipts, "the substantive question in this litigation will not recur for Shell or anyone else; it need never be answered."

New York Appellate Court Holds that Federal Law Does Not Preempt State Contract and Consumer Protection Laws in Gift Card Suit. On April 17, 2012, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court held that federal laws and regulations do not preempt state contract and consumer protection laws, reversing an earlier trial court decision dismissing a lawsuit concerning gift card expiration dates and renewal fees. Sharabani v. Simon Property Group, Inc., No. 2010-07552, 2012 WL 1320067 (N.Y. App. Div. Apr. 17, 2012). The plaintiff filed an action based on New York state law to recover damages arising out of a gift card that required a "reactivation fee" for use after its expiration date. The defendant, a federally chartered thrift that managed the gift card program, and its co-defendant moved to dismiss the lawsuit on various grounds, including that all of the plaintiff's state law claims were preempted by federal law. The court held that although Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) regulations permitted the issuance of gift cards with administrative fees, the OTS has explicitly stated that its regulations do not preempt state contract law, commercial law, tort law, or criminal law to the extent those laws are consistent with the OTS's intent to occupy the field of federal savings associations' deposit-related regulations. Based on this regulatory guidance, the court determined that only the claim based on New York's abandoned property law was preempted by federal law because the OTS has specific regulations regarding abandoned accounts. The court affirmed dismissal of the abandoned property claim and remanded the remaining claims based on state contract and consumer protection laws to the trial court for evaluation under the remaining prongs of the defendants' motion to dismiss.

Firm News

Join Us! 2012 Fair Lending Today Conference on Compliance, Regulatory and Litigation Issues and the CFPB in Today's Changing Enforcement Environment, hosted by BuckleySandler LLP.

2012 Panel Topics Include:

  • Overview: A New Agency Emerges
  • The Justice Department and Fair Lending: Disparate Impact Escapes Potential Elimination in Magner
  • Mortgage Servicing Developments: The AG/DOJ Settlement, the CFPB, and Ongoing Enforcement
  • Anatomy of a CFPB Enforcement Action
  • The CFPB's Fair Lending Agenda for Auto, Private Student Lenders, and Non-Secured Lending
  • New CFPB Enforcement Priorities for Credit Cards
  • Fair and Responsible Banking Risk Management Updat

When: Monday, April 30, 2012

Where: The Fairmont Hotel in Washington, DC

Registration required. This conference is open to all financial services companies and others subject to CFPB oversight. Please no outside law firms, government agency personnel, consultant firms or media. For more information visit

www.fairlendingtoday.com or contact fairlending@buckleysandler.com.

Jonice Gray Tucker and Amanda Raines will be participating in a D.C. Bar Women Litigators' Committee panel entitled, "Women Litigators: What We Do Right" on April 26, 2012 in Washington, D.C. The panel will discuss those characteristics that female litigators have which make them effective and persuasive advocates.

Benjamin Klubes and Jonice Gray Tucker will be speaking at The Financial Services Roundtable's Spring Meeting of the Lawyers Council on May, 3, 2012, in a session entitled "Litigation & Enforcement Update."

Andrea Mitchell will serve as a faculty panelist at the 26th Annual Payment Card Institute Conference in Arlington, VA on May 3, 2012. Ms. Mitchell's panel will discuss litigation trends in today's changing payment card industry with topics including CFPB state Attorneys General investigations, enforcement efforts, new developments in arbitration, antitrust issues, FACTA and CARD Act litigations, and payment protection/debt cancellation and other ancillary product cases.

Jeff Naimon and Matthew Previn will be speaking at the Mortgage Bankers Association's National Secondary Market Conference in New York, NY on May 6-9, 2012.

Benjamin Saul will be speaking at the 24th Annual Card Forum & Expo on May 10, 2012 in Orlando, FL. Mr. Saul's session is entitled "Impact of Changes in the Consumer Compliance Regulatory Landscape."

Andrew Sandler and Jonice Gray Tucker will be participating in an American Bar Association webinar focusing on the Federal-State Mortgage Servicing Settlement on May 15, 2012.

Andrew Sandler, Benjamin Klubes, Jeff Naimon, Benjamin Saul, and Margo Tank will be speaking at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference in Palm Springs, CA on May 20, 2012. Mr. Klubes will provide updates on developments in both regulatory and litigation matters in the use of various privileges. Mr. Saul's session will provide an overview and update of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair Housing Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) requirements including recent proposed and final changes.

Jonathan Cannon will be speaking at the Predictive Methods Conference in Dana Point, CA on June 4, 2012 in a session entitled "The Dodd-Frank Act: Understanding its Impact on the Mortgage Industry."

Andrew Sandler will be speaking at the American Bankers Association's Regulatory Compliance Conference in Orlando, Florida on Monday, June 11, 2012. Mr. Sandler's session is entitled: "Hot Topics in Fair Lending."

Mortgages

SEC Announces $28 Million RMBS Settlement. On April 24, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it filed and simultaneously settled a suit alleging that an H&R Block subsidiary engaged in the fraudulent sale of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). The complaint alleges that during a short period at the beginning of 2007, Option One Mortgage, now known as Sand Canyon Corporation, sponsored over $4 billion of RMBS and represented to investors that it would repurchase or replace any pooled mortgage for which there was a breach of a representation or warranty. The SEC alleges that at the time it sponsored the RMBS at issue, Option One was experiencing financial difficulties related to the broader decline of the subprime mortgage market and faced substantial margin calls from its creditors. As such, Option One's condition would have prevented the company from meeting its obligations to repurchase faulty loans. Further, according to the SEC, (i) Option One failed to disclose that it was reliant on a line of credit from its parent, (ii) H&R Block was under no obligation to provide that funding, and (iii) Option One's losses threatened H&R Block's credit rating at a time when the parent was negotiating the sale of Option One. The SEC's announcement states that without admitting or denying the allegations Option One agreed to (i) disgorge over $14 million, (ii) pay prejudgment interest of nearly $4 million, and (iii) pay a $10 million penalty to resolve the allegations.

FinCEN Reports Increased Mortgage Fraud SARs. On April 23, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released an update on mortgage loan fraud suspicious activity reports (SARs) for 2011. The report indicates that mortgage fraud SARs increased 31 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, a spike that FinCEN states is directly attributable to mortgage repurchase demands and special filings generated by several institutions. Based on a sample analysis, FinCEN found that in 40 percent of cases resulting in a SAR, the institution turned down the subject's loan application, short sale request, or debt elimination because of the suspected fraud, indicating improvement in mortgage lending due diligence. Among other things, the report highlights short sales, appraisals, and identity theft as new fraud patterns in 2011 SARs.

Freddie Mac Adjusts Residential Loan Mitigation Options. On April 23, Freddie Mac issued Servicer Guide Bulletin 2012-10, which expands and adjusts certain loss mitigation options to offer additional assistance to struggling borrowers. With regard to state housing finance agency borrower assistance programs, the Bulletin provides requirements for servicer participation in programs funded by the Hardest Hit Fund, and consolidates all requirements related to participation in such programs. Among other things, the Bulletin also implements a previously announced extension of the HAMP and HAFA programs through December 2013, and revises HAMP eligibility requirements for permanent modifications.

Fannie Mae Alters Policies for Preforeclosure Sale Process, Delinquency Management, Default Prevention. On April 25, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2012-06, which sets new policies and clarifies several delinquency management and default prevention requirements related to (i) electronic submission of borrower response package documents, (ii) income documentation for employed borrowers, (iii) determining monthly gross income, (iv) modifications of loans secured by leasehold estates, (v) property valuation, and (vi) executing and recording modification agreements. The majority of the changes are effective immediately. The new requirements for determining income are effective for loans evaluated on or after July 1, 2012.

On the same date, Fannie Mae also published Announcement SVC-2012-07 to establish new policies to expedite the preforeclosure sale process. For all conventional mortgage loans held in Fannie Mae's portfolio, those purchased for Fannie Mae's portfolio but subsequently securitized into Fannie Mae MBS pools, and those originally delivered as part of an MBS pool, the policies (i) establish maximum required response times for preforeclosure sale offers submitted for consideration, (ii) require servicers to provide borrowers with status updates during the evaluation process, and (iii) allow servicers to respond to unsolicited preforeclosure sale offers without first requiring an evaluation for a HAMP modification. Servicers are encouraged to adopt these policies immediately, but must do so no later than June 25, 2012. The Announcement reminds servicers that Fannie Mae may pursue any of its available remedies for failure to comply with these new policies.

Vermont Adjusts Mortgage Licensing Law. On April 20, Vermont enacted H 565, which, in relevant part, amends definitions and exceptions related to the licensing of mortgage loan originators, mortgage brokers, and other consumer lenders to (i) permit owner financing without obtaining a license, (ii) expand the types of properties that can be sold and financed by the owner without having to obtain a license, and (iii) expand exceptions applicable to practicing attorneys.

Nebraska Issues Interpretation of Mortgage Originator, Processor, and Underwriter Licensing Rules. Recently, the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance issued several interpretive opinions relating to mortgage loan originator, processor, and underwriter licensing. For mortgage loan originator licensing, one opinion provides examples of activities or situations that would and would not require licensure as a mortgage loan originator. A separate opinion identifies the factors and documentation the Department will consider when evaluating the "financial responsibility" of a person seeking a mortgage loan originator license. Additional separate guidance (i) clarifies the licensing responsibilities of clerical employees of licensed or registered mortgage bankers or installment loan companies, (ii) asserts that loan processing and underwriting activities are essential to origination and therefore entities performing those services must register as mortgage bankers, and (iii) establishes requirements pertaining to the use of the NMLS unique identifier on solicitations and advertisements. All of the interpretive opinions took effect April 16, 2012.

Banking

CFPB Begins Study of Arbitration Clauses, Extends Comment Period for Overdraft Inquiry. On April 24, the CFPB released a request for information to inform its study of the use and impact of arbitration clauses in consumer financial services agreements. Through June 23, 2012, the CFPB is seeking information from the public regarding (i) the prevalence of use of these arbitration clauses, (ii) what claims consumers bring in arbitration against financial services companies, (iii) whether claims are brought by financial services companies against consumers in arbitration, and (iv) how consumers and companies are affected by actual arbitrations and outside of actual arbitrations. The study is required by the Dodd-Frank Act and must be completed before the CFPB can begin exercising its Dodd-Frank authority to conduct rulemakings regarding arbitration agreements. Therefore, at this time the CFPB is not seeking comments on whether and how the use of such agreements should be regulated.

The CFPB also this week extended through June 29, 2012, the comment period for its inquiry into overdraft programs and their costs, benefits, and risks to consumers.

Banking Regulators Clarify Volcker Rule Compliance Timeline, Senators Push for Final Rule. Recently, the Federal Reserve Board approved a statement clarifying that an entity covered by the "Volcker Rule," section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Act, has until July 21, 2014 to comply unless the Board extends the conformance period. The clarified compliance date reflects the full two-year period provided by the statute for covered institutions to fully conform activities and investments. Generally, the Volcker Rule imposes certain prohibitions and requirements on banking entities and nonbank financial companies supervised by the Board that engage in proprietary trading and have certain interests in, or relationships with, a hedge fund or private equity fund. The Federal Reserve Board and other federal banking regulators continue their efforts to adopt regulations implementing the statutory restrictions. In October 2011, the Federal Reserve Board sought comment on a proposed rulemaking, as did the Commodities Futures Trading Commission in January 2012, but no final rules have emerged. On April 26, 22 Senators sent a letter to the regulators urging that they adopt a strong clear rule this summer.

Consumer Finance

CFPB Begins Study of Arbitration Clauses, Extends Comment Period for Overdraft Inquiry. On April 24, the CFPB released a request for information to inform its study of the use and impact of arbitration clauses in consumer financial services agreements. Through June 23, 2012, the CFPB is seeking information from the public regarding (i) the prevalence of use of these arbitration clauses, (ii) what claims consumers bring in arbitration against financial services companies, (iii) whether claims are brought by financial services companies against consumers in arbitration, and (iv) how consumers and companies are affected by actual arbitrations and outside of actual arbitrations. The study is required by the Dodd-Frank Act and must be completed before the CFPB can begin exercising its Dodd-Frank authority to conduct rulemakings regarding arbitration agreements. Therefore, at this time the CFPB is not seeking comments on whether and how the use of such agreements should be regulated.

The CFPB also this week extended through June 29, 2012, the comment period for its inquiry into overdraft programs and their costs, benefits, and risks to consumers.

Securities

SEC Announces $28 Million RMBS Settlement. On April 24, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it filed and simultaneously settled a suit alleging that an H&R Block subsidiary engaged in the fraudulent sale of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). The complaint alleges that during a short period at the beginning of 2007, Option One Mortgage, now known as Sand Canyon Corporation, sponsored over $4 billion of RMBS and represented to investors that it would repurchase or replace any pooled mortgage for which there was a breach of a representation or warranty. The SEC alleges that at the time it sponsored the RMBS at issue, Option One was experiencing financial difficulties related to the broader decline of the subprime mortgage market and faced substantial margin calls from its creditors. As such, Option One's condition would have prevented the company from meeting its obligations to repurchase faulty loans. Further, according to the SEC, (i) Option One failed to disclose that it was reliant on a line of credit from its parent, (ii) H&R Block was under no obligation to provide that funding, and (iii) Option One's losses threatened H&R Block's credit rating at a time when the parent was negotiating the sale of Option One. The SEC's announcement states that without admitting or denying the allegations Option One agreed to (i) disgorge over $14 million, (ii) pay prejudgment interest of nearly $4 million, and (iii) pay a $10 million penalty to resolve the allegations.

E-Commerce

New York Appellate Court Holds that Federal Law Does Not Preempt State Contract and Consumer Protection Laws in Gift Card Suit. On April 17, 2012, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court held that federal laws and regulations do not preempt state contract and consumer protection laws, reversing an earlier trial court decision dismissing a lawsuit concerning gift card expiration dates and renewal fees.

Sharabani v. Simon Property Group, Inc., No. 2010-07552, 2012 WL 1320067 (N.Y. App. Div. Apr. 17, 2012). The plaintiff filed an action based on New York state law to recover damages arising out of a gift card that required a "reactivation fee" for use after its expiration date. The defendant, a federally chartered thrift that managed the gift card program, and its co-defendant moved to dismiss the lawsuit on various grounds, including that all of the plaintiff's state law claims were preempted by federal law. The court held that although Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) regulations permitted the issuance of gift cards with administrative fees, the OTS has explicitly stated that its regulations do not preempt state contract law, commercial law, tort law, or criminal law to the extent those laws are consistent with the OTS's intent to occupy the field of federal savings associations' deposit-related regulations. Based on this regulatory guidance, the court determined that only the claim based on New York's abandoned property law was preempted by federal law because the OTS has specific regulations regarding abandoned accounts. The court affirmed dismissal of the abandoned property claim and remanded the remaining claims based on state contract and consumer protection laws to the trial court for evaluation under the remaining prongs of the defendants' motion to dismiss.

Privacy/Data Security

Seventh Circuit Dismisses FACTA Truncation Class Action. On April 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed a class action seeking damages against Shell under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) for displaying four digits of customers' credit card numbers on receipts printed at Shell gas stations.

Van Straaten v. Shell Oil Products Co. LLC, No. 11-8031, 2012 WL 1340111 (7th. Cir. Apr. 18, 2012). FACTA requires that such receipts truncate card numbers to display no more than the last five digits of the card number. Shell's practice was to print the last four digits of what it calls the "primary account number," which is the number appearing before the last five digits of the sequence of numbers appearing on the front of the credit card. The plaintiffs did not allege that Shell's practice created a risk of identity theft, but that Shell violated FACTA by printing the wrong four numbers. Writing for a three-judge panel, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook indicated that FACTA does not define the term "card number," but the panel did not have to define the term, "because we can't see why anyone should care how the term is defined." He added that "[a] precise definition does not matter as long as the receipt contains too few digits to allow identity theft." As to FACTA's authorization of $100 to $1,000 for each willful violation, Judge Easterbrook noted that "[a]n award of $100 to everyone who has used a Shell Card at a Shell station would exceed $1 billion, despite the absence of a penny's worth of injury." Because Shell now prints no such digits on its receipts, "the substantive question in this litigation will not recur for Shell or anyone else; it need never be answered."

 

Published In: Administrative Agency Updates, Finance & Banking Updates, Privacy Updates, Residential Real Estate Updates, Securities Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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