Financial Services Weekly News - November 2016 #3

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Editor's Note

A Possible Blueprint for Financial Regulatory Reform in the Trump Administration. During his campaign, President-elect Trump consistently emphasized that financial regulatory reform is a critical component of his plan to increase economic growth and create jobs. The president-elect has expressly stated that his team would be working to “dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act and replace it with new policies to encourage economic growth and job creation.” Mr. Trump has also called for a “temporary moratorium on new agency regulations that are not compelled by Congress or public safety in order to give our American companies the certainty they need to reinvest in our community, get cash off of the sidelines, start hiring again, and expanding businesses.” But while financial regulatory reform is widely expected to be a priority in a Trump Administration, the specifics remain unclear. In this regard, the actions taken by the Republican-controlled House and Senate this past year may be illustrative of things to come. Perhaps the most illustrative financial regulatory reform bill introduced this past year was the Financial CHOICE Act, the regulatory reform bill touted as the Republican alternative to Dodd-Frank. As discussed in the September 21 edition of the Roundup, the Financial CHOICE Act was passed by the House Financial Services Committee on September 13 and would, among other things, (1) provide relief from Dodd-Frank and Basel III-related regulations for banking organizations that choose to make a “qualifying capital election”; (2) retroactively repeal the authority of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to designate firms as systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs) and replace the orderly liquidation regime established by Title II of Dodd-Frank with a new chapter of the Bankruptcy Code; (3) reform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by replacing the current single director with a bipartisan, five-member commission which is subject to congressional oversight and appropriations and establishing an independent, Senate-confirmed Inspector General; (4) make all financial regulatory agencies more accountable to Congress; (5) repeal the Durbin Amendment on interchange fees; (6) repeal sections and titles of Dodd-Frank, including the Volcker Rule, that limit capital formation; and (7) incorporate more than two dozen regulatory relief bills for community financial institutions. It is important to note that the Financial CHOICE Act passed committee on a party line vote with the Democrats not offering any amendments on the grounds that the bill was not salvageable from their perspective. In addition, Senator Elizabeth Warren has already signaled that she would strongly oppose any attempt to rollback consumer protections. Nevertheless, with the Republicans soon to control both houses of Congress and the White House, the Financial CHOICE Act could serve as a blueprint for financial regulatory reform under a Trump Administration. Additional detail on what financial regulatory reform could look like in a Trump Administration will follow in the coming weeks.

The Roundup will be on hiatus next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We will resume publication on November 30.

Regulatory Developments

SEC Chair White Announces Resignation

In addition to regulatory reform, the transition to a Trump Administration is expected to result in significant personnel and policy changes at numerous government agencies. On November 14, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Mary Jo White became the first such agency head to announce her resignation, effective at the end of the Obama Administration. White has served as SEC Chair since April 2013. White’s Republican successor, who has not yet been named, is expected to be less aggressive in pursuing enforcement actions and using enforcement as a tool to regulate the securities industry.

Client Alert:  New SEC Requirements for Open-End Fund Liquidity Risk Management and Amendments to Permit Use of “Swing Pricing”

On October 13, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) unanimously adopted regulatory changes that require open-end funds, including traditional mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, to establish liquidity risk management programs. The Commission also adopted, by a 2-1 vote, rule amendments to permit certain open-end funds to use “swing pricing.” We provided a brief report on these developments in a preliminary update issued on October 14. This Alert summarizes in further detail the critical elements of these regulatory developments. For more information, view the client alert issued by Goodwin’s Investment Management Practice.

Client Alert: SEC Staff Reiterates No-Action Position on Proxy Access Amendment Proposals

The staff of the Division of Corporation Finance of the SEC has issued three additional responses to company no-action requests to exclude shareholder-proposed amendments to proxy access bylaw provisions previously adopted by the company. Each of the three SEC responses states that the SEC staff does not believe that the company can exclude the shareholder proposals on the basis that either: the shareholder’s proposed amendments (which included three or five specific amendments) constitute more than one proposal and could therefore be excluded by the company in reliance on Rule 14a-8(c); or the company had substantially implemented the shareholder’s proposed amendments through its initial adoption of a proxy access bylaw that differed in its ancillary provisions from the amendments subsequently proposed by the shareholder. For more information, view the client alert prepared by Goodwin’s Public Companies Practice.

FFIEC Revises Uniform Interagency Consumer Compliance Rating System

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), which includes the CFPB, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) as well as other agencies (together, the Agencies), has revised the Uniform Interagency Consumer Compliance Rating System (CC Rating System). The CC Rating System, established in 1980, was revised to reflect the regulatory, supervisory, technological and market changes that have occurred in recent years to better reflect current consumer compliance supervisory approaches and to more fully align the CC Rating System with the Agencies’ current risk-based, tailored examination processes. The new system will begin to be used by FFIEC member agencies for examinations beginning on or after March 31, 2017. In order to ensure regulatory consistency, the new rating system will apply to all institutions, not just banks. In the past, regulatory supervision consisted of transaction testing. Now the Agencies will focus instead on an institution’s compliance management systems (CMS). Each institution will continue to receive a rating from 1 to 5, based primarily on the adequacy of its CMS, specifically with respect to (a) board and management oversight, (b) compliance program, and (c) violations of law and consumer harm. According to the FFIEC, these revisions were not developed to set new or higher supervisory expectations for financial institutions and their adoption will represent no additional regulatory burden; rather, the revisions are designed to better reflect current consumer compliance supervisory approaches and to more fully align the rating system with the Agencies’ current risk-based, tailored examination processes.

Enforcement & Litigation

FTC Files Suit Against Credit Card Company

On November 10, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it had filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia against a prepaid credit card provider. The FTC's complaint alleges violations of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” The complaint also alleges the company violated the FTC Act by claiming all consumers were guaranteed approval to use the credit cards when in fact consumers were often not approved, and by representing that it would provide provisional credits for any user-reported accounting errors, which the company failed to do. The FTC seeks an injunction as well as restitution for consumers. View the full Enforcement Watch blog post.

New Mexico Judge Orders Payday Lender to Pay $32 Million in Restitution

On November 9, the New Mexico Attorney General (AG) announced that a New Mexico judge issued a final judgment against a payday lender and ordered the lender to pay $32 million in restitution. The court found the lender had “fashioned their loans and business practices so as to circumvent regulation of payday loans” by decreasing the amount of payday loans issued and increasing the amount of installment loans issued. View the full Enforcement Watch blog post.

Mortgage Lender Agrees to $28 Million Fine by NYDFS     

On November 9, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) announced it entered into a consent order with a New Jersey-based mortgage company and its subsidiary. The order stems from multiple investigations concerning loans originated between 2008 and early 2014. The NYDFS alleges that the company had inadequate oversight of its origination practice, “shortcomings in the internal audit function,” “absence of adequate internal controls,” and allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act. The NYDFS also alleged, among other things, that the company compensated its originators in a way that caused borrowers to be steered toward higher-cost loans. View the full Enforcement Watch blog post.

Ohio AG Files Lawsuit Against Mortgage-Relief Services Provider

On November 4, the Ohio Attorney General’s office (AG) announced it filed a complaint against a California-based mortgage-relief services provider and its director (Defendants) alleging violations of Ohio’s consumer protection laws. The complaint alleges that the provider sent advertisements to Ohio residents stating that the company has helped consumers to “receive payment relief, have foreclosure proceedings stopped, eliminate second mortgages” and receive “relief from monetary damages.” In order to receive their services, consumers allegedly would sign a contract and pay Defendants a fee ranging from $1,745 to $3,900. View the full Enforcement Watch blog post.

 

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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