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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.

October 6, 2023

Two groups of student loan debt relief scammers—SL Finance LLC and owners Michael and Christian Castillo, along with BCO Consulting Services and SLA Consulting Services Inc and owners Gianni Olilang, Brandon Clores, Kishan Bhakta, and Allan Radam—have been ordered to pay a partially suspended $5.8 million each and be permanently banned from the industry.  The defendants pretended to be affiliated with the Department of Education and used their fake position to charge students millions in junk fees through nonexistent loan repayment and forgiveness programs.  FTC

September 11, 2023

Tempoe, LLC has agreed to pay $35 million to 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the CFPB, after an investigation found the Ohio-based consumer finance company misled customers who sought financing at major retailers into believing they were signing up for an installment plan, when in fact they were being locked into expensive leasing agreements with unreasonable return policies.  Tempoe ultimately caused many customers to pay double or triple the original purchase price.  In addition to the monetary penalty, the company has been ordered to release customers from existing lease agreements and be banned from engaging in future leasing activities.  CFPB; DE AG; GA AG; VA AG

September 11, 2023

Background report providers Truthfinder and Instant Checkmate have been ordered to pay $5.8 million to settle charges of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to ensure the maximum possible accuracy of their reports.  The companies were found to falsely describe certain records as criminal when in fact they were traffic tickets.  When consumers flagged information as inaccurate, the companies never investigated the information flagged, modified the reports, nor noted in reports that information had been flagged by others.  FTC

August 28, 2023

Roomster and owners John Shriber and Roman Zaks have been ordered to pay $36.2 million in monetary judgment and $10.9 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations of charging consumers for access to fake listings for available housing.  Additionally, Roomster was found to have bought tens of thousands of fake reviews which it used to populate the listings.  Per settlement terms, the required payments are suspended upon payment of $1.6 million to New York, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts, which led the investigation along with the FTC.  FTC

August 28, 2023

Some of the largest credit repair brands in the country, including CreditRepair.com and Lexington Law, have been banned from offering telemarketing credit repair services for 10 years to settle charges of using telemarketers to collect illegal advance fees for their services, in violation of the federal Telemarketing Sale Rule.  The companies have also been ordered to pay $2.7 billion in restitution, and two entities, Progrexion Marketing and Health law firm, will pay $64 million in civil penalties.  CFPB

July 14, 2023

Online counseling service BetterHelp has been ordered to pay $7.8 million, refrain from disclosing private client health data for advertising purposes, and obtain affirmative consent from clients disclosing such information again, following a settlement with the FTC.  The company was previously found to disclose its clients’ email addresses, IP addresses, and health questionnaire information to various advertisers, in direct contradiction to its promises to clients that such information would be disclosed for select purposes only.  FTC

July 13, 2023

Cryptocurrency platform Celsius Network has been banned from handling consumer assets and ordered to pay a $4.7 billion judgment, suspended pending the return of remaining assets to consumers in ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.  Before filing for bankruptcy in July 2022, Celsius marketed the platform as a safe place to deposit cryptocurrency and made various representations to build consumer confidence, including promises that consumers could withdraw deposits at any time, that deposits were insured by a $750 million policy, that sufficient reserves were on hand, and that deposits could earn as high as 18% APY.  However, all of those claims were all false, and in fact, Celsius misappropriated $4 billion in deposits, using them to fund operations, reward other consumers, and make high-risk investments that often lost money.  FTC; SEC

July 11, 2023

Bank of America has been ordered to pay more than $100 million to harmed consumers, $90 million in penalties to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and $60 million in penalties to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) for multiple acts of misconduct.  The bank was found to charge consumers double fees on insufficient funds, withhold promised cash and point rewards on credit cards, and illegally obtain and use consumer credit reports without their approval.  CFPB

June 27, 2023

ACI Worldwide and its subsidiary, ACI Payments, will pay a $25 million civil penalty for improperly initiating around $2.3 billion in unlawful mortgage payment transactions, impacting nearly 500,000 homeowners with mortgages serviced by Mr. Cooper f/k/a Nationstar. ACI offers payment processing services across a wide range of industries. ACI conducted tests of its electronic payments platform on April 23, 2021. Rather than using deidentified, dummy data, ACI used client data files from Mr. Cooper instead, causing massive overdraft fees and other negative financial consequences to the unsuspecting borrowers. The CFPB found ACI in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, for illegally initiating withdrawals from borrower bank accounts, and improperly handling sensitive consumer data. ACI must pay the $25 million as well as adopt and enforce reasonable information security practices, and is prohibited from processing payments without obtaining proper authorization. CFPB

June 27, 2023

Publishers Clearing House has been ordered to pay $18.5 million and overhaul its sweepstakes entry and sales processes.  The FTC had charged the company with misleading consumers through “dark patterns”—including misleading email subject lines and manipulative website design—to convince consumers to make unnecessary purchases, and to disguise hidden shipping and handling costs on so-called “risk free” purchases.  FTC
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