Reflecting its determination to monitor the crypto markets, the Security and Exchange Commission has renamed the Cyber Unit the “Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit” and is nearly doubling its size from 30 to 50 members, according to a May 3 press release from the agency. The additional permanent positions will include investigative staff attorneys, trial
Susan, co-leader of the firm’s financial institutions industry team, primarily focuses on government investigations and complex civil litigation. She has defended clients in numerous government enforcement actions by the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), among others.
The CFPB’s Interest in Examining Fintechs Likely Means More Naming and Shaming by the Agency
On April 25, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that it will begin examining nonbank “covered persons” that it has determined pose risks to consumers. What is most striking about the announcement is not that the CFPB will start examining this category of nonbanks — it’s had that authority since its inception — but that…
Federal Framework for Digital Asset Regulation Comes into Focus
On March 9, 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets (“Executive Order”) to mobilize the federal government to develop a strategy for digital assets, intending to encourage innovation in a manner that mitigates the risks to consumers, investors, and businesses. The Executive Order mandates an interagency approach across several executive departments and federal agencies to conduct reports and analyses on key issues impacting digital assets, including consideration of U.S. Central Bank Digital Currencies (“CBDC”). The Executive Order identifies six primary policy objectives:
- protect U.S. consumers, investors, and businesses;
- protect U.S. and global financial stability and mitigate systemic risk;
- mitigate the illicit finance and national security risks posed by misuse of digital assets;
- reinforce U.S. leadership in the global financial system and in technological and economic competitiveness;
- promote access to safe and affordable financial services; and
- support technological advances that promote responsible development and use of digital assets.
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2021 Brought SEC Focus on Crypto Exchanges and Lending Platforms
Throughout 2021, the SEC followed through on its commitment to aggressively enforce the federal securities laws in digital assets markets. These efforts have resulted in the SEC sharpening its focus on cryptocurrency exchanges and lending products.
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Biden Administration Signals Focus on Cryptocurrency as President’s Working Group Issues Report on Stablecoin
On November 1, 2021, the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG), along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) (collectively, the Agencies) issued a Report on Stablecoins (the Report). Stablecoins “are digital assets that are designed to maintain a stable value relative to a national currency or other reference assets.” The Report recommends that Congress act promptly to enact legislation addressing stablecoins and signals the Biden Administration’s focus on this issue and looming enforcement from governing agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
The Report provides an overview of stablecoins and decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms more generally; risks and regulatory gaps; and the group’s recommendation. In drafting the Report, the Agencies held discussions with key industry stakeholders, including Coinbase, Kraken, and Stripe. While the Report signals that one day we may see clarity on relevant guidelines related to stablecoins, the Report itself offers little clarity or specific guidance to stakeholders today.…
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New Nevada Law Protects Limited-English Proficiency Consumers by Requiring Translation of Certain Financial Legal Documents
How to provide financial services to limited-English proficiency (“LEP”) consumers has become a pressing legal issue. Both federal and state laws provide requirements and limitations regarding translations of financial documents. Earlier this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) published a comprehensive statement encouraging financial institutions to provide services to LEP consumers. The CFPB also took enforcement action against a company for, among other things, deceptively marketing to Spanish-speaking consumers. Following the trend to protect LEP consumers, a new Nevada law, effective October 1, 2021, makes it a deceptive practice to not provide translations for certain financial contracts, agreements and disclosures (“Nevada Law”).
Under the Nevada Law, enacted as Assembly Bill No. 359, any person, who in the course of business, advertises and negotiates certain transactions in a language other than English must provide a translation of the contract or agreement that results from the advertising and negotiations. The translation must include every term and condition of the contract or agreement.…
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The CFPB’s “Change of Direction” After 1 Month: New Goals, More Attorneys
It was only just over a month ago that President Biden selected David Uejio, a long-time senior leader at the CFPB with a low public profile, to lead the agency temporarily as Acting Director. But already, Mr. Uejio has made very significant changes at the agency, implementing what he calls a “change of direction” with sweeping announcements on a weekly basis. Even as the Senate prepares to consider President Biden’s nominee, current FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, to lead the CFPB for a full term at a March 2 hearing, it is time to assess where the agency stands after the Biden Administration’s first month and the likely changes still to come.
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States Sue to Set Aside OCC’s True Lender Rule
New York, California and six other States filed a widely expected lawsuit on January 5 seeking to invalidate the “True Lender” Rule recently issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”). As we previously reported, the OCC’s True Lender Rule — finalized in October and effective since December 29 —provides bright-line tests for determining, in the context of a lending partnership between a national bank (or federal thrift) and a third-party (often a FinTech or other non-bank firm), which entity actually “made” the loan, i.e., which entity was the “true lender.”
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CFPB Rescinds RESPA Bulletin on Marketing and Services Agreements and Publishes Important FAQs
Announcements Mark Out a Clearer Path, but MSAs and Gifts Still Require Careful Review
Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) announced significant changes to how it will view the legality of Marketing and Services Agreements (“MSAs”) under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”). Most strikingly, the Bureau formally rescinded its controversial Compliance Bulletin 2015-05: RESPA Compliance and Marketing Services Agreements (Oct. 8, 2015) (“2015 MSA Bulletin”). MSAs historically have been used as a way for settlement service providers to gain access to additional potential customers via paid advertising and marketing services. But the 2015 Bulletin, issued after a string of Bureau RESPA enforcement actions, expressed the view that virtually all MSAs should be scrutinized and pose a high risk of violating RESPA’s prohibitions on paid referrals and/or the splitting of unearned fees.
In addition to rescinding the prior guidance, the Bureau last week also released a slew of new “Frequently Asked Questions” (“FAQs”) on the legality of MSAs, gifts and promotional activities, and other RESPA matters. In all, the Bureau’s actions last week on MSAs in particular amount to a further repudiation of aggressive RESPA interpretations that the agency advanced during the last decade.…
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OCC Clarifies the “Valid When Made” Principle
On May 29, 2020, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a long-awaited final rule to clarify and underscore the ‘valid when made’ principle in which the interest rates permissible before a bank transfers a loan continues to be permissible after the transfer to a non-bank.
Generally, under the National Bank Act…