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Other Federal Enforcement Actions

Numerous federal agencies have authority to institute enforcement proceedings against wrongdoers.  These agencies include:

  • The Department of the Treasury and its divisions including the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), which is responsible for safeguarding the U.S. financial system from illicit use and money laundering including through enforcement of the Bank Secrecy Act, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which enforces economic and trade sanctions. Whistleblowers with knowledge of violations of the Bank Secrecy Act can submit a claim under the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Program.  Violations of other laws enforced by the Department of Treasury may give rise to claims under different whistleblower reward programs.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is charged with preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices. The FTC can bring enforcement actions under U.S. antitrust laws and to stop unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices. The FTC does not have any authority to pay financial rewards to whistleblowers; however, conduct that is regulated by the FTC may also give rise to a claim under a different whistleblower reward program.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which regulates the offering and provision of consumer financial products or services under the federal consumer financial laws, and has the authority to bring enforcement actions against financial service providers. While the CFPB accepts tips from whistleblowers, and applicable laws offer whistleblowers protection from retaliation, there is currently no provision for CFPB whistleblowers to receive financial rewards. However, conduct that is regulated by the CFPB may also give rise to a claim under a different whistleblower reward program.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces federal environmental laws and regulations. The EPA does not currently have any authority to pay financial rewards to whistleblowers; however, conduct that is regulated by the EPA may also give rise to a claim under a different whistleblower reward program, and a number of federal environmental laws protect government or private employees reporting environmental violations under the statutes from retaliation.

Below are summaries of recent settlements and successful enforcement actions involving these agencies. If you believe you have information about fraud which could give rise to a claim under a whistleblower reward program, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

March 24, 2023

Tony and Charles Gonzalez, two brothers behind a telemarketing scam operating under the companies American Vehicle Protection Corp. (“AVP”), CG3 Solutions, Inc., and Tony Gonzalez Consulting Group, have been banned for life from participating in the extended automobile warranty industry and all outbound telemarketing, and ordered to pay a suspended $6.6 million in monetary judgment.  An order found the companies violated the FTC Act and Telemarketing Sales Rule by making unsolicited calls to hundreds of thousands of customers on the FTC’s Do Not Call List, then tricking them into paying thousands of dollars for “bumper to bumper” warranty protection.  FTC

March 23, 2023

One of the largest debt collectors in the country, Portfolio Recovery Associates, will pay more than $24 million to settle claims that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Act, and a 2015 CFPB order by continuing to employ illegal debt collection tactics.  According to the press release, some of the illegal tactics used included threatening consumers with legal action or initiating debt collection lawsuits while failing to possess proper documentation about debts; failing to timely send documentation about debts, resolve disputes, or inform consumers about investigation outcomes; and collecting and suing on debts beyond statutes of limitations.  CFPB

March 15, 2023

Ohio-based LCA-Vision, doing business as LasikPlus and Joffe MediCenter, have been ordered to pay $1.25 million for using deceptive bait-and-switch advertising to lure customers into getting laser eye surgery.  LCA-Vision allegedly ran ads that led customers to believe they could get both eyes corrected for less than $300, when in fact, only 6.5% were eligible for that price, and for many, the price was for one eye only.  Once customers came in for their consultation, LCA-Vision would then quote them rates of between $1,800 and $2,295.  FTC

March 14, 2023

The maker of the popular Fortnite video game, Epic Games, has been ordered to pay $245 million to settle charges of employing dark patterns to manipulate players, including children, into making unwanted or unauthorized purchases.  The design tricks included counterintuitive and inconsistent button configurations as well as the ability to make purchases using a single click.  When customers disputed the charges, Epic allegedly prevented them from accessing their accounts.  FTC

March 2, 2023

Online counseling service BetterHelp, Inc. has been ordered to pay $7.8 million for selling its clients’ confidential information to Facebook, Snapchat, and other third parties for targeted advertising, despite repeatedly representing to clients that it would not, and despite denying news reports in 2020 that it was doing so.  In order to be matched with a counselor, BetterHelp required potential clients to answer questionnaires about sensitive mental health information, including whether they had suicidal ideations or used medications.  The company then sold that information, along with client email and IP addresses, without informing clients and without placing limits on how other companies used that information.  Under the proposed order, clients who signed up between 2017 and 2020 will be provided partial refunds, and BetterHelp must take corrective action to better protect client privacy.  FTC

February 23, 2023

A collection of corporate entities known as TitleMax has been ordered to pay a $10 million civil monetary penalty and $5 million in consumer relief for defrauding military families and other consumers while providing auto title loans.  TitleMax, which extends short-term, high-cost loans secured by auto titles, was found to have charged consumers nearly three times over the 36% annual interest rate cap.  This is not the first time TitleMax has been accused of similar misconduct; in 2016, the company was ordered to pay a $9 million penalty to settle similar charges.  CFPB

February 22, 2023

In the FTC and DOJ’s first enforcement action under the Health Breach Notification Rule, online prescription drug discount provider GoodRx Holdings Inc.—which does business as GoodRx Gold, GoodRx Care, and Hey Doctor—has been ordered to pay $1.5 million in civil penalties and take corrective action, after it was found to have disclosed the personal health information of millions of its users without their knowledge or consent, despite assuring users it would not.  The disclosure involved personally identifying information, including health conditions and medications used, which were shared with Facebook, Google, and other third parties for advertising purposes.  FTC, DOJ

January 24, 2023

Popular Bank was fined $2.3 million by the Federal Reserve Board following an investigation into its processing of Paycheck Protection Program loans.  Popular Bank was approved as a PPP lender by the Small Business Administration, and was required to follow the Bank Secrecy Act and program guidelines, including verification of customer identity and the documentation, investigation, and reporting of suspicious activities.  The Board’s Consent Order found that in August 2020, the Bank processed and funded six PPP loans, totaling approximately $1.1 million, despite having detected that the loan applications contained significant indicia of potential fraud.  The Bank self-reported to the Board.  Fed

January 23, 2023

HomeAdvisor, Inc.—which also does business as Angi Leads and HomeAdvisor Powered by Angi, and is affiliated with the company formerly known as Angie’s List—has been ordered to pay $7.2 million for using deceptive and misleading tactics to sell home improvement project leads to service providers.  The service providers, including small businesses, are required to pay fees amounting to hundreds of dollars in order to access project leads, which many did based on HomeAdvisor’s claims about the quality, source, and rates of those leads.  FTC

January 23, 2023

Credit Karma has been ordered to pay $3 million after the FTC found that it “deployed dark patterns” to lead consumers to believe they were pre-approved for credit cards and apply for offers.  In many instances however, the consumers did not actually qualify.  According to the FTC, proceeds from the settlement will be sent to affected consumers who wasted time applying.  FTC
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