We provide comprehensive advice to regulated financial institutions and financial services firms worldwide, including banks, non-bank lenders, insurance and securities firms, and other intermediaries and their non-financial counterparties, counseling these entities on their organization and governance, transactions and operations, product development, marketing and distribution, and compliance. We also advise such clients in connection with government investigations, examinations and enforcement actions.
Our enforcement practice includes the representation of companies and individuals in investigations and litigation brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission; the U.S. Department of Justice; self-regulatory organizations such as FINRA; the CFPB; the Federal Trade Commission; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the IRS; federal bank regulators, including the FDIC, the Office of Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Board; state attorneys general; congressional committees; and other federal and state enforcement and regulatory agencies. We regularly assist clients in preparing for and managing the regulatory examination process and in responding to examination findings, and we provide ongoing advice regarding clients’ existing compliance and self-assessment programs. We also advise clients regarding compliance with the Dodd-Frank Act and inquiries by the CFPB.
Our group was created in response to a myriad of federal and state agencies taking aim at the financial services industry and public companies, including:
The Securities and Exchange Commission: Dodd-Frank provides powerful financial incentives to potential whistleblowers to report to the SEC suspected violations of federal securities laws by public companies and/or their subsidiaries. The number and quality of whistleblower tips have since increased. Members of the group are experienced in advising and representing public and private companies facing SEC investigations – ranging from proactive planning and best practices to avoid investigations in the first place, to planning responses to, defenses of and cooperation with investigations.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: The CFPB has unprecedented powers to enforce federal consumer protection laws and to create and enforce rules defining as illegal certain business acts or practices that it deems “unfair, deceptive, or abusive.” The CFPB and the FTC are cooperating on complaints, and the CFPB also has many other enforcement arrows in its quiver, including subpoena authority, cease-and-desist orders, civil money penalties, restrictions on arbitration clauses in consumer contracts, referrals to state attorneys general, and numerous other civil remedies.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority: Increasingly, corporations and corporate employees are scrutinized by self-regulatory organizations such as FINRA. Our group includes veterans of FINRA who can guide clients through investigations and litigation involving a wide range of allegations, including failure to comply with FINRA rules.
DOJ Civil Division, Office of Consumer Protection Litigation: Formerly known as the Office of Consumer Litigation, under Dodd-Frank the office has undergone changes that indicate that it will devote substantial resources to prosecuting fraud claims against financial services companies and will begin prosecuting consumer fraud cases, including mortgage fraud and other cases against financial services companies. As an example, the DOJ is stepping up its examination of “payment processors,” entities that process payments for third parties, and is seeking evidence of their fraud and money laundering.
DOJ Civil Rights Division, Fair Lending Unit: The unit is prosecuting claims of disparate impact discrimination in the banking, mortgage finance and auto finance industries, with many more cases under investigation. The CFPB and FTC also have signaled that they intend to work with the DOJ and to conduct their own fair lending investigations and enforcement actions.
State Attorneys General: Dodd-Frank authorizes state attorneys general to bring claims alleging that companies have engaged in unfair, deceptive, unlawful, or abusive acts and practices. The CFPB has pledged to work with state attorneys general, share information, and collaborate in enforcement actions.
Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force: Created to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force brings to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. A number of prosecutions have been attributed to the task force to date and more are expected.
Because companies now can expect to face simultaneous scrutiny from multiple legislative, regulatory, and law enforcement agencies, which – sometimes regardless of the outcome of the investigation – is often followed by civil litigation, the group is well-equipped to counsel and defend clients in these parallel proceedings.
We are experienced in counseling and defending clients at every stage of these matters – from the informal inquiry stage, through the investigation and the “Wells” process, at trial or hearing, and on appeal.
And, because the mere initiation of an enforcement action by a regulator can cause irreparable harm to a client’s reputation and business prospects, our attorneys recognize the importance of being proactive and communicating with regulators at the earliest stage of the process. In some instances, early communications can result in convincing the regulator that an enforcement action is not appropriate.
However, and if necessary, we are prepared to handle settlement negotiation and/or litigation of enforcement actions involving federal and state securities regulators in administrative proceedings, white-collar investigations, class action lawsuits, court actions across the country, and before agency administrative law judges.