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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 26, 2020

The CFPB has ordered Low VA Rates LLC to pay $1.8 million for sending consumers mailers that deceptively marketed VA-guaranteed mortgage loans.  In violation of the CFPA prohibition against deceptive acts and practices, the Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule, and Regulation Z, the ads were found to misrepresent the credit terms of the loans, including the amount of each payment and the annual percentage rate, and misleadingly indicate that it could help consumers eliminate debt.  This is the ninth such enforcement action by the CFPB against deceptive mailers of VA-guaranteed mortgage loans.  In total, the CFPB has obtained more than $4.4 million in civil money penalties.  CFPB

October 13, 2020

Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation, an auto financing subsidiary of the car manufacturer, has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $4 million and provide up to $1 million in restitution to customers to settle charges that the company engaged in illegal collections and repossession practices.  The company was alleged to have repossessed cars despite the customer having made payments or taken other actions to avoid repossession; imposed improper storage fees; refused to return personal property to customers; overcharged customers making payments by telephone; and mislead customers regarding their right to bankruptcy relief.  CFPB

September 15, 2020

ITT Technical Institute settled claims with the CFPB and 48 states and the District of Columbia, agreeing to discharge outstanding student loans incurred for attendance at the for-profit college, run by holding company PEAKS.  PEAKS allegedly knew or was reckless in not knowing that many student borrowers did not understand the terms and conditions of those loans, could not afford them, or in some cases did not even know they had them. The settlement, valued at $330 million, also requires PEAKS to provide credit reporting agencies information to correct credit scores negatively affected by the illegal lending scheme, and to shut down after carrying out the settlement.  CFPB; Cal; FL; MI; PA; VA; WA

August 20, 2020

TD Bank, N.A. has been ordered to pay an estimated $97 million in restitution to about 1.42 million customers, as well as a civil monetary penalty of $25 million, for engaging in deceptive practices that violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  In connection with its optional Debit Card Advance (DCA) service, TD Bank allegedly interfered with its customers’ ability to understand terms and conditions by misrepresenting DCA as “free” or a “feature” of their new checking accounts, when in reality it could result in fees of $35 per overdraft transaction.  Furthermore, in connection with consumer account information, TD Bank allegedly failed to implement policies that would ensure the accuracy of that information before it was provided to consumer reporting agencies.  CFPB

July 24, 2020

Several divisions of pharmaceutical company Indivior, which marketed of the opioid-addiction drug Suboxone, pleaded guilty to felony healthcare fraud, entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement, and will pay a total of $600 million in criminal fines, restitution, civil damages, and penalties.  In six separate cases brought by whistleblowers, Indivior was also alleged to have caused false claims to be submitted to government healthcare programs including by promoting the sale of Suboxone to physicians who were prescribing it outside of medically accepted indication, misrepresenting the likelihood of Suboxone being diverted, and taking steps to delay generic competition for Suboxone. Indivior admitted making false statements about the safety of the film version of Suboxone in order to promote its sale.  In addition, the FTC claimed that violated antitrust laws through a deceptive scheme to thwart lower priced generic competition with Suboxone.  The total settlement consists of criminal restitution of $289 million; a civil settlement of $300 million, with $209.3 million paid to resolve claims by the federal government and $90.7 million to participating states; and, $10 million in penalties to the Federal Trade Commission.  The settlement also requires Indivior to take steps including the dissolution of its Suboxone sales force. Indivior was until 2014 a subsidiary of Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC, which previously paid $1.4 billion to resolve claims related to Suboxone marketing.  DOJ; USAO NJ; FTC

July 23, 2020

Certified Forensic Loan Auditors, LLC (CFLA) and its president and CEO, Andrew Lehman, have been ordered to pay a suspended judgment of $3 million in restitution and $40,000 in civil monetary penalty for making misleading statements about the content and efficacy of its services, the qualifications of its employees, and its ability to help customers avoid foreclosure, all while charging unlawful advance fees.  For violating Regulation O and the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFPA), CFLA and Lehman have been permanently banned from providing similar services in the future.  CFPB

July 8, 2020

Timemark, Inc. and owners Timothy Lenihan, Sr., Mark Nagler, and Casey Gassaway have been ordered to pay $3.8 million in restitution and civil penalties to resolve allegations of defrauding more than 7,300 student loan borrowers.  According to the CFPB, between 2016 and 2019, the Florida-based company convinced consumers to pay up to $699 in fees to file paperwork for loan consolidation, forgiveness, or repayment plans that the U.S. Department of Education already offered for free.  Timemark also did so using telemarketing campaigns, which violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).  Because of the defendants’ limited ability to pay, full payment has been ordered suspended provided Timemark pays $5,000, Nagler pays $7,000, Gassaway pays $10,000, and defendants each paid a $1 civil monetary penalty.  CFPB

May 19, 2020

Payment processing company First Data Merchant Services, LLC will pay $40.2 million to resolve FTC charges that it laundered, or assisted laundering of, credit card transactions for scams facilitated by Chi “Vincent” Ko and his company First Pay Solutions LLC, which operated as an independent sales agent for First Data.  Ko allegedly opened hundreds of merchant accounts to process payments for scams that targeted hundreds of thousands of consumers, and First Data knowingly processed payments for those scams.  FTC

April 20, 2020

A company that markets rent-to-own payment plans in retail stores nationwide has agreed to pay $175 million to settle FTC charges of intentionally misleading customers.  By hiding payment terms, Progressive Leasing allegedly led customers to believe the payment plans had no interest when in fact, the company did charge an interest rate that resulted in customers paying as much as double the true price of products.  The settlement proceeds will go toward refunds for affected customers, and under the terms of the proposed settlement, Progressive Leasing will be prohibited from engaging in similar conduct and required to disclose full payment costs to its customers.  FTC

March 10, 2020

DOJ and the FTC have announced that $153 million comprising the first round of restitution payments from a Western Union fraud settlement is set to be disbursed to over 109,000 victims.  In 2017, the money transfer company agreed to pay $586 million to settle allegations of aiding and abetting wire fraud by failing to have effective anti-fraud policies and procedures.  Over 500,000 potential victims were harmed as a result of the fraud schemes, many of them elderly.  DOJ; FTC
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