Jennifer M. Keas, Senior Counsel - Foley & Lardner LLP
Rebecca R. Hanson, Senior Counsel - Foley & Lardner LLP
Jennifer Toussaint, Associate - Foley & Lardner LLP
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has had financial services organizations on their toes since its inception. Keeping up with the changing laws, regulations, official guidance and enforcement actions can be difficult. As we get into the new year, it is important to look for take-aways from recent CFPB enforcement action and understand what is coming up this year.
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January - December 2013 (February 2014), which provides an overview of the complaints received by the FTC in 2013. The FTC received over 2 million complaints during the calendar year 2013, of which 55% related to fraud, 14% related to identity theft and 31% related to other types. Identity theft was the number one complaint category, 30% of which were tax- or wage-related.
The United Kingdom Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) has urged large energy suppliers to return credit left in former customers' accounts or, if it cannot be returned, to "use it to benefit customers more generally and to make clear what to do when closing an account, the remaining sums held and the reasons for this".
The United States (US) Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced that Credit Suisse Group AG (Credit Suisse) has agreed to "pay [US]$196 million and admit [to] wrongdoing" to settle charges that it breached US federal securities law by providing unregistered financial services.
The United States (US) Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made available an Order (15 January 2014) requiring light bulb manufacturer Lights of America Inc (Lights of America) and its owners to pay the FTC US$21 million for "misleading consumers by exaggerating the performance of their [light-emitting diode (LED)] light bulbs".
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its latest Compliance and enforcement policy (February 2014), which "outlines the ACCC's priority areas for the year and sets out the factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to pursue matters".
United States-based bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (Lehman) is to pay US$767 million to the US Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) to settle a US$1.2 billion claim over two loans issued by Freddie Mac to Lehman a matter of months before Lehman filed for bankruptcy.
The Supreme Court of the Australian state of Victoria has handed down its decision in Telstra Corporation Ltd v Singtel Optus Pty Ltd  VSC 35 (18 February 2014). According to The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), the Court has ruled that an advertising campaign by telecommunications provider SingTel Optus Pty Ltd (Optus) breached Schedule 2 (The Australian Consumer Law) to the Competition and Consumer Act (2010) 1974 No. 51 (Cth) by misleading consumers into believing that Optus's mobile network covering 98.5% of Australia referred to geographical cover when in fact it referred to population.
The European Commission (EC) has released EC Memo/14/113 (14 February 2014) which sets out the "actions announced and delivered" in the EC's jurisdiction in response to the so-called horsemeat scandal that began to unfold in early 2013.
The United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority has announced that the High Court has ruled that "two investment schemes, promoted by Capital Alternatives and a number of other firms, were [unauthorised] collective investment schemes". According to the FCA, the defendants "structured their schemes to try to avoid the need to be regulated by the FCA"; however, the High Court has "agreed with the FCA that the schemes ... could not be lawfully operated by the defendants".
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