Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Banking
County of Cook v. Bank of America Corp.
In a suit filed in 2014 under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601–19, Cook County claimed that the banks made credit too readily available to some borrowers, who defaulted, and then foreclosed on the loans in a way that injured the County. The County alleged the banks targeted potential minority borrowers for unchecked or improper credit approval decisions, which allowed them to receive loans they could not afford; discretionary application of surcharge of additional points, fees, and other credit and servicing costs above otherwise objective risk-based financing rates; higher cost loan products; and undisclosed inflation of appraisal values to support inflated loan amounts. When many of the borrowers could not repay, the County asserts, it had to deal with vacant properties and lost tax revenue and transfer fees.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Entertaining suits to recover damages for any foreseeable result of an FHA violation would risk “massive and complex damages litigation.” Proximate cause under the FHA requires “some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged.” Cook County seeks a remedy for effects far beyond “the first step.” The directly injured parties are the borrowers, who lost both housing and money. The banks are secondary losers. The County is at best a tertiary loser; its injury derives from the injuries to the borrowers and banks. View "County of Cook v. Bank of America Corp." on Justia Law
Smith, et al. v. FRS
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System brought an enforcement action against Petitioners Frank Smith and Mark Kiolbasa, who were employees at Farmers State Bank at the time, after finding they committed misconduct at Central Bank & Trust where they had previously worked. This resulted in their removal as officers and directors of Farmers Bank and the imposition of restrictions on their abilities to serve as officers, directors, or employees of other banks in the future. Petitioners sought review from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the Board did not have authority to bring this enforcement action against them because the Board was not the “appropriate Federal banking agency,” as defined by 12 U.S.C. § 1813(q)(3), with authority over the bank where the misconduct took place. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that, because the Board had authority over Petitioners at the time the action commenced, the Board was an appropriate federal banking agency and had authority to initiate the proceeding. The appellate court also declined to review Petitioners’ Appointments Clause challenge because they did not raise it at trial. View "Smith, et al. v. FRS" on Justia Law
Calcutt v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Following the 2007-2009 “Great Recession,” the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) brought an enforcement action against Calcutt, the former CEO of a Michigan-based community bank, for mismanaging one of the bank’s loan relationships. The FDIC ultimately ordered Calcutt removed from office, prohibited him from further banking activities, and assessed $125,000 in civil penalties.The Sixth Circuit agreed that Calcutt had proximately caused the $30,000 charge-off on one loan because he had “participated extensively in negotiating and approving” the transaction. The court concluded that $6.4 million in losses on other loans were a different matter and that none of the investigative, auditing, and legal expenses could qualify as harm to the bank, because those expenses occurred as part of its “normal business.” Despite identifying these legal errors in the FDIC analysis, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the FDIC decision, finding that substantial evidence supported the sanctions determination, even though the FDIC never applied the proximate cause standard itself or considered whether the sanctions against Calcutt were warranted on the narrower set of harms that it identified.The Supreme Court reversed. It is a fundamental rule of administrative law that reviewing courts must judge the propriety of agency action solely by the grounds invoked by the agency. An agency’s discretionary order may be upheld only on the same basis articulated in the order by the agency itself. By affirming the FDIC’s sanctions against Calcutt based on a legal rationale different from that adopted by the FDIC, the Sixth Circuit violated these commands. View "Calcutt v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation" on Justia Law
Delaware v. Pennsylvania
The Disputed Instruments, prepaid financial instruments used to transfer funds to a named payee, are sold by banks on behalf of MoneyGram and others. When these instruments are not presented for payment within a certain period of time, they are deemed abandoned. MoneyGram applies the common-law escheatment practices outlined in 1965 by the Supreme Court: The proceeds of abandoned financial products should escheat to the state of the creditor’s last known address, or where such records are not kept, to the state in which the company holding the funds is incorporated. MoneyGram does not keep records of creditor addresses but transmits the abandoned proceeds to its state of incorporation. States invoked the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to determine whether the abandoned proceeds of the Disputed Instruments are governed by the Disposition of Abandoned Money Orders and Traveler’s Checks Act (FDA), which provides that a money order or “similar written instrument (other than a third-party bank check)” should generally escheat to the state in which the instrument was purchased, 12 U.S.C. 2503.The Court held that the Disputed Instruments are sufficiently similar to money orders to fall within the FDA’s “similar written instrument” category. Being prepaid makes them likely to escheat. The FDA was passed to abrogate common law because, for instruments like money orders, the entities selling such products often did not keep records of creditor addresses, resulting in a “windfall” to the state of incorporation. Bank liability is not a trigger for exclusion, given that banks can be liable on money orders, which are expressly covered. Whatever the intended meaning of “third-party bank check,” it cannot be read broadly to exclude prepaid instruments that escheat inequitably due to the business practices of the company holding the funds. View "Delaware v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law
Bittner v. United States
The Bank Secrecy Act requires U.S. persons with financial interests in foreign accounts to file an “FBAR” annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts; 31 U.S.C. 5314 delineates legal duties while section 5321 outlines the penalties, with a maximum $10,000 penalty for non-willful violations. Bittner—a dual citizen of Romania and the U.S.—learned of his reporting obligations in 2011 and subsequently submitted reports covering 2007-2011. The government deemed Bittner’s late reports deficient because they did not address all accounts as to which Bittner had either signatory authority or a qualifying interest. Bittner filed corrected FBARs providing information for 61 accounts in 2007, 51 in 2008, 53 in 2009 and 2010, and 54 in 2011. The government asserted that non-willful penalties apply to each account not accurately or timely reported. Bittner’s reports collectively involved 272 accounts; the government calculated a $2.72 million penalty. The Fifth Circuit affirmed.The Supreme Court reversed. The $10,000 maximum penalty for non-willful failure to file a compliant report accrues on a per-report, not a per-account, basis. Section 5314 does not address accounts or their number. An individual files a compliant report or does not. For cases involving willful violations, the statute tailors penalties to accounts. When one section of a statute includes language omitted from a neighboring section, the difference normally conveys a different meaning. The Act's implementing regulations require individuals with fewer than 25 accounts to provide details about each account while individuals with 25 or more accounts do not need to list each account or provide account-specific details unless requested by the Secretary. View "Bittner v. United States" on Justia Law
Indiana Municipal Power Agency v. United States
Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ARRA) to stabilize the U.S. economy following the 2008 financial crisis, 123 Stat. 115, creating two types of government-subsidized Build America Bonds (BABs). “Direct Payment BABs,” entitled bond issuers to a tax refund from the Treasury Department equal to 35 percent of the interest paid on their BABs. Treasury pays issuers of BABs annually. The payments are funded by the permanent, indefinite appropriation for refunds of internal revenue collections. 31 U.S.C. 1324. Local power agencies (Appellants) collectively issued over four billion dollars in qualifying Direct Payment BABs before 2011. Through 2012, Treasury paid the full 35 percent.In 2011 and 2013, Congress passed legislation reviving sequestration: “[T]he cancellation of budgetary resources provided by discretionary appropriations or direct spending law,” 2 U.S.C. 900(c)(2), 901(a). Treasury stopped making payments to Appellants at 35 percent. Since 2013, Appellants have been paid reduced rates as determined by the Office of Management and Budget’s calculations; for example, 2013 payments were reduced to 8.7 percent.Appellants sued, arguing a statutory theory that the government violates ARRA section 1531 by not making the full 35 percent payments and that the government breached a contract that arises out of section 1531. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal of the suit. No statutory claim existed because sequestration applied to these payments. No contractual claim existed because the ARRA did not create a contract between the government and Appellants. View "Indiana Municipal Power Agency v. United States" on Justia Law
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Superior Court
A qui tam plaintiff alleged that two banks violated the California False Claims Act (CFCA) by failing to report and deliver millions of dollars owing on unclaimed cashier’s checks to the State of California as escheated property. The trial court denied the banks’ motions to dismiss. The banks sought writ relief.The court of appeal denied relief, upholding the denial of the motions to dismiss. The court rejected the banks’ argument that a qui tam plaintiff may not pursue a CFCA action predicated on a failure to report and deliver escheated property unless the California State Controller first provides appropriate notice to the banks under Code of Civil Procedure section 1576. For pleading purposes, the complaints adequately allege the existence of an obligation as required under the CFCA: the plaintiff adequately alleged that the banks were obligated to report and deliver to California the money owed on unredeemed cashier’s checks, Allowing this action to proceed does not violate the banks’ due process rights. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Rop v. Federal Housing Finance Agency
Fannie Mae purchases mortgage loans from commercial banks, which enables the lenders to make additional loans, finances those purchases by packaging the mortgage loans into mortgage-backed securities, then sells those securities to investors. In 1968, Fannie Mae became a publicly-traded, stockholder-owned corporation. Freddie Mac also buys mortgage loans and securities and sells those mortgage-backed securities to investors. In 1989, Freddie Mac became a publicly traded, stockholder-owned corporation. In the 2008 recession, both entities suffered precipitous drops in the value of their mortgage portfolios. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) was established and authorized to undertake extraordinary measures to resuscitate the companies, 12 U.S.C. 4511(b)(1).Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shareholders sought to nullify an agreement (the “third amendment”) between FHFA and the Treasury Department that “secured unlimited funding" from Treasury in exchange for "almost all of Fannie’s and Freddie’s future profits.” The third amendment was authorized by FHFA’s Acting Director, who was serving in violation of the Appointments Clause. Shareholders also claimed that they are entitled to retrospective relief because the Supreme Court held in 2021 that FHFA’s enabling statute contained an unconstitutional removal restriction. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the Acting Director was not serving in violation of the Constitution when he signed the third amendment. The court remanded for determination of whether the unconstitutional removal restriction inflicted harm on shareholders. View "Rop v. Federal Housing Finance Agency" on Justia Law
Bauer v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court declining to reach the merits of Plaintiffs' complaint challenging a determination of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2), holding that the district court erred in concluding that the FDIC exceeded its authority in making the determination.Plaintiffs, two bank executives, were fired after a proposed merger because they refused to accept a reduction in the amount of a payment that was contractually provided for them. Plaintiffs sued the bank that terminated them and the bank with which it merged, alleging that they were entitled to the full payments. The banks, in turn, sought guidance from the FDIC as to whether the relief sought by Plaintiffs would constitute a statutorily-restricted "golden parachute" payment. The FDIC responded that the payment would constitute a golden parachute. Plaintiffs then brought this action challenging the FDIC's determination as unlawful under the APA. The district court declined to reach the merits, concluding that the FDIC lacked authority to render a golden parachute determination at all. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case, holding that the district court erred in concluding that the FDIC lacked authority to render its golden parachute determination. View "Bauer v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." on Justia Law
Calcutt v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The FDIC removed Calcutt, a bank executive and director, from his position, prohibited him from participating in the conduct of the affairs of any insured depository institution, and imposed civil money penalties. Calcutt challenged the conduct and findings in his individual proceedings and brought constitutional challenges to the appointments and removal restrictions of FDIC officials. His first hearing occurred before an FDIC ALJ in 2015. Before the ALJ released his recommended decision, the Supreme Court decided Lucia v. SEC (2018), which invalidated the appointments of similar ALJs in the Securities and Exchange Commission. The FDIC Board of Directors then appointed its ALJs anew, and in 2019 a different FDIC ALJ held another hearing in Calcutt’s matter and ultimately recommended penalties.The Sixth Circuit denied Calcutt’s petition for review, concluding that his 2019 hearing satisfied Lucia’s mandate. Even if he were to establish a constitutional violation with respect to FDIC Board of Directors and ALJs being shielded from removal by the President, he would not be entitled to relief. Any error by the ALJ in curtailing cross-examination about bias of the witnesses was harmless. Substantial evidence supports the FDIC Board’s findings regarding the elements of 12 U.S.C. 1818(e)(1). View "Calcutt v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." on Justia Law