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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.

December 10, 2019

The University of Phoenix and its parent company, Apollo Education Group, have agreed to resolve FTC charges through a record $191 million settlement, with $50 million to be paid in cash and $141 million in debts owed by affected students to be canceled.  The charges involved ads that gave prospective students the false impression that the university worked with major technology companies to design its curriculum and provide job opportunities.  FTC

November 5, 2019

AT&T has agreed to pay $60 million to settle FTC charges of misleading customers.  From 2011 until 2014, AT&T advertised and sold “unlimited” data plans to millions of smartphone customers, but despite promises of unlimited data, it allegedly “throttled,” or reduced the data speeds, for customers on these plans after as little as 2 GBs of use.  At least 3.5 million customers were affected, all of whom will receive a credit or check for the refund amount owed as part of the settlement.  FTC

October 21, 2019

Devumi, LLC and owner German Calas, Jr., have agreed to a $2.5 million judgment to settle the FTC’s first ever charges against the sale of fake indicators of social media influence, such as followers, subscribers, views, and likes.  The defendants allegedly enabled customers to deceive potential clients about their social media clout by filling tens of thousands of orders for fake LinkedIn followers, Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers, and YouTube views.  Due to the defendants’ inability to pay, upon payment of $250,000, the remaining monetary judgment will be suspended.  FTC

October 16, 2019

The FTC has settled with the marketers and sellers of two aloe vera-based supplements and imposed an $18.7 million judgment against them.  Defendants NatureCity, LLC and Carl and Beth Pradelli had been charged with making unsubstantiated claims to consumers about their products, TrueAloe and AloeCran, including that the products could improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce chronic pain, and treat various diseases.  FTC

October 2, 2019

Multi-level marketing company Advocare International, L.P., together with its former CEO Brian Connolly and several former Advocare distributors, have entered into a $150 million settlement with the FTC, which charged Advocare with being an unlawful pyramid scheme that pushed distributors to focus on recruiting new distributors rather than retail sales to customers.  Defendants made deceptive earnings claims, and provided others with the means and instrumentalities to do the same.  Defendants are ordered to return monies to distributors and are banned from all future multi-level marketing.  FTC

September 24, 2019

Belize’s Atlantic International Bank Limited (AIBL) has agreed to pay $23 million to the FTC to settle its liability in a real estate fraud scheme targeting U.S. investors.  According to the FTC, co-conspirator Sanctuary Belize (SBE), a massive planned community, sold lots to U.S. investors by making false promises, including claiming the lots were low-risk investments that would appreciate rapidly.  AIBL allegedly assisted in this scheme by visiting SBE’s offices in the U.S. and coaching telemarketers on AIBL banking services that could be sold as part of SBE’s sales pitch.  FTC

September 4, 2019

Google and its subsidiary, YouTube, will pay a record $170 million to the FTC and New York for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, which requires that websites and services directed at children under 13 obtain parental consent prior to collecting personal information.  According to the complaint, YouTube allegedly monitored, tracked, and served targeted ads to children under 13 without parental consent.  FTC, NY AG

August 27, 2019

Career Education Corporation (CEC) and its post-secondary school subsidiaries have agreed to pay the FTC $30 million to settle charges of using illegal means to market its schools.  In addition to calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, which violates the Telemarking Sales Rule, CEC also misrepresented to students that its schools were affiliated with or recommended by the military.  FTC

July 25, 2019

Douglas MacKinnon of Buffalo, New York, and associated individuals and entities in the debt collection business, including Northern Resolution Group, LLC, Enhanced Acquisitions LLC, Delray Capital, LLC, and Mark Gray, will pay more than $66 million in restitution and penalties in a settlement reached with New York state and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The companies routinely engaged in unlawful and predatory debt collection practices, including: misrepresenting to consumers that they owed sums they did not owe or were not obligated to pay, or that the companies did not have a legal right to collect; falsely threatening consumers with legal action that the collectors had no intention of taking; and, impersonating law enforcement and other government officials.  The settlement permanently bans MacKinnon and Gray and their defendant companies from the debt collection industry. CFPB, NY

July 22, 2019

Credit reporting company Equifax has agreed to pay up to $700 million to resolve claims related to its 2017 data breach in a global settlement with the FTC, the CFPB, and 50 U.S. states and territories.  The settlement will be entered as a stipulated judgment in civil action pending against Equifax, alleging that Equifax failed to take adequate steps to secure its network and consumer data, despite being warned of network vulnerabilities, resulting in a hack that exposed the private information of almost 150 million people.  The settlement provides that defendant will pay between $300 million and $425 million to compensate affected consumers, in addition to a $100 million penalty to the CFPB and $175 million to the states.  Equifax also agreed to take specified steps to improve information security, subject to review by an independent third party.  FTC; CFPB; AG CA; AG NY; AG PA
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