Financial Services/CFPB

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plays a significant role in regulating consumer financial services providers and vendors, including advertisers and marketers. A recent webinar from the Consumer Financial Services Committee of the American Bar Association featured an interview with Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP). Mr. Smith, who was confirmed in May 2018, shared his personal views of his role at the FTC, the FTC’s development, and enforcement trends and focus in the consumer financial services sector. Below we highlight the main areas of focus that Mr. Smith touched upon that in our view are relevant to the consumer financial services sector.

Because of the nature of the webinar, this summary is not intended to be a complete transcript, does not reflect the views of the FTC, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mr. Smith or any individual at the FTC.


Continue Reading Insights into the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection

virtual currencyIt is perhaps not surprising that companies are already trying to make money (allegedly the unlawful way) from cryptocurrencies. Last week the FTC demonstrated that it can keep up with any marketplace trend when it succeeded in obtaining a federal court order to shut down a cryptocurrency-related pyramid scheme. This is the first action brought by the FTC involving cryptocurrencies since 2016, which, along with its 2015 action, is only the third ever FTC action in the space.

The complaint, filed on February 20, 2018 in Florida and made public late last week, pursues UDAP (unfair and deceptive practices in or affecting commerce) violations against individuals who allegedly coordinated and promoted multiple “chain referral schemes” under the business names Bitcoin Funding Team, My7Network, and Jetcoin. Specifically, the claims allege defendants deceptively advertised, marketed, and promoted their purported money-making schemes.


Continue Reading FTC Obtains Injunction Halting Alleged Cryptocurrency Pyramid Scheme

request for informationCFPB Expands Call for Evidence with Additional RFIs

The CFPB has now issued six RFIs as part of Acting Director Mulvaney’s Call for Evidence Regarding Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Functions, which we have previously covered. The RFIs provide industry participants a chance to comment on the CFPB’s rules, policies, and practices regarding investigations, examinations, enforcement

Sitting en banc, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) structure is constitutional. By a vote of 7 to 3, the full panel of judges reversed an earlier panel decision that took issue with the independent agency’s single-director structure. The en banc decision left intact

In an internal email to CFPB staff, Director Cordray announced that he will be stepping down by the end of the month. Industry participants and observers have long speculated that Director Cordray might leave office prior to the expiration of his five-year term (July 2018) to run for governor of Ohio.

Upon his departure, Director

cash and credit cardsThe CFPB’s Arbitration Rule has been sent to the President’s desk to join 14 other federal agency regulations that have been repealed under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The disapproval resolution, which was passed by the House in July, was passed by the Senate late in the evening on October 24. The rule would have

Seal of the Federal Trade CommissionA change in administration inevitably raises questions regarding the priorities and direction of federal agencies. To help set the record straight, Lesley Fair, a Senior Attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC or Commission), Bureau of Consumer Protection, reminded us during last week’s NAD Annual Conference that the FTC has kept quite busy over the last year or so, with numerous enforcement cases arising out of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ms. Fair also shared her views regarding the FTC’s key enforcement priorities that affect advertisers and marketers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these priority areas generally relate to (i) advertising substantiation; (ii) use of social media, endorsements, and consumer reviews; (iii) matters involving privacy and data security; and (iv) allegations of financial deception. While such topics warrant serious consideration and attention for advertisers, one would be remiss in failing to mention that, in typical Ms. Fair fashion, she discussed these issues in a manner that not only kept the audience engaged, but largely entertained.

With respect to advertising substantiation, Ms. Fair took the opportunity to remind the audience that despite our obsession with smartphones—and our assumption that they can do almost anything except fold our laundry—the FTC will carefully scrutinize advertisers’ claims about their products, including health apps for smartphones, to ensure they are adequately substantiated. As an example, Ms. Fair mentioned the Commission’s January 2017 Settlement with Breathometer, Inc. and Charles Michael Yim in which the FTC alleged that marketers of two app-supported smartphone accessories, marketed to accurately measure consumers’ blood alcohol content (BAC), failed to adequately test the accuracy of the app and failed to notify customers that the app regularly understated BAC levels. In another smartphone settlement from December 2016, FTC v. Aura Labs, Inc. and Ryan Archdeacon, the FTC alleged that the marketer’s blood pressure app lacked reliable testing, and that the app’s readings were significantly less accurate than those taken with a traditional blood pressure cuff. In both of these cases, Ms. Fair suggested that FTC seemed particularly concerned due to potential safety issues arising from the lack of proper testing, especially where an intoxicated driver might get behind a wheel, or where a consumer may think his/her blood pressure does not present a health risk. These cases serve as a reminder that the FTC will evaluate substantiation with an especially critical eye where advertisers make health and safety-related claims.


Continue Reading What’s the Federal Trade Commission Been Up to Recently?

financial lawA federal district court judge in Atlanta has granted five defendants’ motions for terminating sanctions against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the agency’s conduct in connection with its Rule 30(b)(6) depositions. Venable attorneys represented one of those defendants, and were the principal authors of the briefs leading to the sanctions.

The court agreed with the defendants’ arguments that the claims pleaded against them must be dismissed because of the CFPB’s refusal to produce a knowledgeable and non-evasive Rule 30(b)(6) witness. The court described the refusal as a “pattern of conduct” that “demonstrate[d] a willful disregard of the Court’s instructions.” The court agreed with the defendants that the CFPB’s misconduct warranted striking all counts pleaded against them.


Continue Reading CFPB Sanctioned for Bad Faith Conduct

financial crime

“Credit card laundering” or “factoring” refers to the practice of processing credit card transactions for one company through the merchant processing account of another company. In recent years, the FTC has sued several companies for engaging in this practice or assisting allegedly fraudulent merchants to launder card payments through multiple processing accounts. On July 28,

financial lawBack in February we blogged about Acting Chair Ohlhausen’s first keynote address in which she outlined her three consumer protection priorities. Consistent with those priorities, in April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its agenda to eliminate wasteful, unnecessary regulations and processes. Within the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the FTC’s goals included an effort to streamline demands for information in investigations and improve transparency in its investigations.

Last week, the FTC announced process reforms following up on the Ohlhausen agenda. In a press release, the FTC described Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) process reforms addressing the use of Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs)—which are administrative subpoenas used to collect information and documentation in investigations. These reforms, designed to minimize burden and increase transparency, include:


Continue Reading Change Starts Within: FTC Process Reforms Address CID Practices