United States: Business News Digest - February 2015

Last Updated: February 20 2015
Article by Robert L. Waldman

The SBA Gets Down to (Small) Business: Venable's 5- Part Series on the SBA's Proposed Rules to Implement the 2013 NDAA

On December 29, the Small Business Administration (SBA) published substantial new proposed rules to implement requirements under the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), addressing a wide variety of issues affecting not just small business government contractors, but also large business government contractors that subcontract with small businesses. Venable's Government Contracts Practice Group examined the most significant changes that the SBA has proposed in a 5-part series, offering insights and take-aways for small and large businesses that could be affected by these proposed rule changes. Government contractors both large and small will want to consider these topics and determine if they want to submit comments in advance of the February 27, 2015 deadline.

Foreign Language Requirements for Employer Benefit Plans

In December, HHS published a list of counties where at least 10% of the residents are fluent only in a non- English language. Certain employer-sponsored plans must provide various types of assistance to non- English speakers, write Venable attorneys Thora A. Johnson and Juliana Reno. The more significant requirements apply to group health plans with enrollees in any one of the Counties. Somewhat less burdensome requirements apply to employer plans generally, but only when a certain percentage of the enrollees are fluent only in the same non-English language.

Click here to read a summary of the non-English language requirements.

FINRA 2015 Priorities Letter

On January 6, 2015, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released its 2015 Regulatory and Examinations Priorities Letter. This is the tenth yearly edition of the letter, and while much is familiar, FINRA has organized its priorities under a "customers first" umbrella. This new approach, write Venable attorneys Michael R. Manley, Michael J. Rivera, D. E. Wilson, Jr., Andrew E. Bigart, and Samuel D. Boro, should give firms a better idea of the lens through which FINRA will be looking at compliance issues in the year ahead.

Continue reading for an overview of some of the most significant issues contained in FINRA's letter.

Compliance Officer Liability: FinCEN and Regulators Increase the Pressure

On December 18, 2014, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) fired a warning shot across the bow of every financial institution compliance officer. FinCEN, write Venable attorneys D. E. Wilson, Jr., Jonathan L. Pompan, Michael R. Manley, and Andrew E. Bigart, is responsible for enforcing U.S. antimoney laundering (AML) laws. They assessed a $1 million civil money penalty against the former chief compliance officer of one of the largest money transfer businesses in the world, and filed a civil complaint against the officer to reduce the fine to a judgment and prohibit him from working for a financial institution for "a term of years sufficient to prevent future harm to the public."

Continue reading to find out what steps you should take to stay in compliance and out of federal regulators' crosshairs.

New Sanctions Imposed on North Korea Following Cyber Attack

For the first time, write Venable attorneys Ashley W. Craig, Lindsay B. Meyer, Matthew R. Rabinowitz, and Andrew L. Steinberg, the United States has imposed sanctions in response to a cyber-attack on a private company. On January 2, President Obama signed an Executive Order imposing additional economic sanctions against North Korea as a result of the recently disclosed and highly publicized cyberattack.

Click here for an overview of the new sanctions.

U.S. Business Looks to Cuba under New Obama Rules

On January 16, the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security and the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control put into effect their Final Rules officially altering the 1960 U.S. embargo against Cuba. These Rules, write Venable attorneys Ashley W. Craig, Lindsay B. Meyer, and Carrie A. Kroll, signify government-wide implementation of the historic policy changes announced by President Obama on December 17, 2014.

The Rules are the most significant changes to American policy towards the island nation in decades and likely will signal the opening for U.S. business interests in Cuba.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray Announces "Know Before You Owe" Mortgage Initiative

On January 13, 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray spoke at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC where he announced a new Bureau program called Owning a Home, which builds on the Bureau's ongoing "Know Before You Owe" initiative. The new program, write Venable attorneys Allyson B. Baker and Peter S. Frechette, responds to recently compiled data from the National Survey of Mortgage Borrowers report.

Click for some key factors preventing consumer engagement and how the Owning a Home initiative addresses them.

CFPB Issues a "Warning for All Those in the Mortgage Market" Through Action Taken Against Big Banks

On January 22, 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Maryland Attorney General filed a complaint and proposed consent orders, as well as concurrent administrative consent orders, against Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase for allegedly participating in an illegal marketing services kickback scheme with a now-defunct title company. Venable attorneys Allyson B. Baker, Jonathan L. Pompan, and Peter S. Frechette write that the Bureau also took action against a former Wells Fargo employee and his wife.

Click to review the CFPB's allegations and enforcement actions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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