Conventional wisdom is that under the Biden Administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or the “Bureau”) will pivot to a more muscular approach to enforcement of consumer financial protection laws. The current leadership has already begun to signal the CFPB’s move towards a more aggressive approach while President Biden’s nomination to lead the agency, FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, is considered by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio has issued a number of statements identifying the agency’s priorities, particularly for the Bureau’s Division of Supervision, Enforcement & Fair Lending (“SEFL”), which are expected to continue—and potentially broaden—under a Chopra CFPB. The CFPB has already begun to rescind Trump administration policies restricting its enforcement more generally, and has indicated its intent to prioritize the enforcement of potential violations related to the COVID-19 pandemic and racial inequity. Continue Reading The CFPB’s Much-Anticipated Enforcement Shift Has Begun
As discussed in our prior blog post, earlier this year the Supreme Court vacated and remanded the Second Circuit’s decision in a high-profile insider trading case, United States v. Blaszczak, for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court’s “Bridgegate” decision in Kelly v. United States. In Blaszczak, the Second Circuit had previously found that a government agency’s confidential pre-decisional information constituted “property” under Title 18, and that therefore the Blaszczak defendants had committed fraud under the applicable statutes when they obtained the information and traded on it. However, following that decision, the Supreme Court held in Kelly that a government regulatory interest did not constitute “property” for the purpose of Title 18 fraud statutes. The Blaszczak defendants filed a petition for certiorari, contending that the Second Circuit’s reading of Title 18 could not be reconciled with the Supreme Court’s holding. After the Blaszczak defendants filed their petition, the government consented to a remand to the Second Circuit. Continue Reading DOJ Concedes Error In Title 18 Insider Trading Convictions After Supreme Court’s “Bridgegate” Decision
Last week, John Coates, the Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance (“Corp Fin”), released a statement discussing liability risks in de-SPAC transactions.
The statement focused in particular on the concern that companies may be providing overly optimistic projections in their de-SPAC disclosures, in part based on the assumption that such disclosures are protected by a statutory safe harbor for forward-looking statements (which is not available for traditional IPOs). Director Coates’s statement questions whether that assumption is correct, arguing that de-SPAC transactions may be considered IPOs for the purposes of the statute (and thus fall outside the protection offered by the statutory safe harbor). He therefore encourages SPACs to exercise caution in disclosing projections, including by not withholding unfavorable projections while disclosing more favorable projections. Continue Reading Acting Director of SEC’s Corp Fin Issues Statement on Disclosure Risks Arising from De-SPAC Transactions
On March 5, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a lawsuit in federal court against AT&T, Inc. (“AT&T”) for violating Regulation FD, and also charged three of AT&T’s Investor Relations executives with aiding and abetting this violation. Reg FD (which stands for “Fair Disclosure”) prohibits companies from selectively disclosing material nonpublic information to certain categories of individuals, including analysts and investors, and is intended to promote full and fair disclosure of such information in order to ensure that all investors have equal access to potential market-moving information.
- The Colombian Corporations Commission (La Superintendencia de Sociedades) (“Superintendencia”) has issued Resolution 100-006261, which requires the overwhelming majority of companies that are supervised by the Superintendencia and engage in international transactions to adopt and implement a compliance program – called a Business Transparency and Ethics program – by April 30, 2021. The program must be designed to prevent and detect violations of anti-bribery laws, in accordance with 2016 guidance.
- This is another example of how compliance standards across Latin America and the United States have been converging in recent years on a set of standards, even if some differences remain.
- For example, both Colombian and U.S. guidance emphasize the importance of tailoring compliance programs to the most salient risks for the company; continually improving compliance programs; performing adequate due diligence on third parties; and ensuring a commitment by management to compliance, both in terms of company culture and resources allocated to the program.
- The new Resolution provides a further reason for multinational companies with business activities in the Americas and Colombian companies expanding in the region to establish a strong compliance program.
On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $507,375 settlement with BitPay, Inc. (BitPay), a payment processor for merchants accepting digital currency as payment for goods and services, for 2,102 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs between 2013 and 2018. The settlement highlights that financial service providers facilitating digital currency transactions must not only establish sanctions compliance programs to screen their own customers but also must monitor third-party non-customer transaction information. Continue Reading OFAC Settles with Digital Currency Payment Processor for Sanctions Violations
On March 3, 2021, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Division of Examinations (the “Division”)—formerly the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations—released its 2021 Examination Priorities (“2021 Priorities”). The 2021 Priorities generally retain perennial risk areas as the Division’s core focus, but do include several new and emerging risk areas reflecting broader policy shifts under new SEC leadership.
The 2021 Priorities include: retail investors; information security and operational resilience; financial technology (“Fintech”), including digital assets; anti-money laundering; transition from the London Inter‑Bank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”); several areas covering registered investment advisers and investment companies; market infrastructure; and oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board programs and policies. Although not formal priorities, the Division will also focus on climate-related risks and environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) matters in light of recent market developments and broader attention in these areas. Continue Reading Turning the Page: Highlights of the SEC’s Division of Examination’s 2021 Priorities
After what appears to be a period of relative leniency in 2018/19, enforcement actions for violations of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) have since intensified. In 2020, according to publically available information, supervisory authorities across the EU and the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) have issued over EUR 170 million worth of fines combined, with six of the top ten individual fines imposed being issued in 2020. Continue Reading Ready to Pounce: Regulators Are Intensifying GDPR Enforcement
In a decision with potentially far-reaching implications, Alasaad v. Mayorkas, Nos. 20-1077, 20-1081, 2021 WL 521570 (1st Cir. Feb. 9, 2021), the First Circuit recently rejected First and Fourth Amendment challenges to the U.S. government agency policies governing border searches of electronic devices. These policies permit so-called “basic” manual searches of electronic devices without any articulable suspicion, requiring reasonable suspicion only when officers perform “advanced” searches that use external equipment to review, copy, or analyze a device. The First Circuit held that even these “advanced” searches require neither probable cause nor a warrant, and it split with the Ninth Circuit in holding that searches need not be limited to searches for contraband, but may also be used to search for evidence of contraband or evidence of other illegal activity. This decision implicates several takeaways for company executives entering and leaving the United States, particularly if they or their employers are under active investigation. In-house counsel in particular should consider the implications of the decision given obligations of lawyers to protect the confidentiality of attorney-client privileged information.
Last month, in Guo Wengui v. Clark Hill, PLC, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted Plaintiff’s motion to compel production of Defendant’s third-party forensic investigation report following a cybersecurity incident. The court held that the forensic report was not covered by the attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine, providing a cautionary tale for companies conducting post-breach investigations. Continue Reading D.C. District Court Rejects Privilege Claim for Post-Data Breach Forensic Report