May courts look beyond the face of a loan transaction to identify the “true lender”? In a lawsuit filed by California’s financial regulator, a California state court recently answered yes, finding that a fact-intensive inquiry into the “substance” of a loan transaction was necessary to determine who the “true lender” is and declining to dismiss a lawsuit. See Opportunity Fin., LLC v. Hewlett, No. 22STCV08163 (Cal. Super. Ct. Sept. 30, 2022).
A bank partnership is the target of yet another “true lender” attack in a new class action filed last week. Michael v. Opportunity Fin., LLC, No. 1:22-cv-00529 (W.D. Tex. June 1, 2022). The lawsuit is aimed at the lending partnership between OppFi (a fintech) and FinWise Bank (its bank partner), which was also the target of a recent investigation by California’s banking regulator and another class action earlier this year. This latest development cements a growing trend of true lender attacks after Congress repealed a regulation on the topic last year, dashing hopes of a uniform and predictable standard to identify the “true lender” in bank partnerships.…
A recent class action refiled in federal court against Shopify highlights a growing trend of lawsuits against companies related to the theft of cryptocurrency, particularly as a result of internal company threats. See Forsberg et al v. Shopify, Inc. et al, 1:22-cv-00436 (D. Del.). Despite not itself being a repository for or facilitating the…
In the wake of rulings upholding federal regulators’ “valid when made” rules, a new lawsuit serves as a reminder that state regulators and class-action plaintiffs’ lawyers may continue to challenge the bank partnership lending model under the “true lender” doctrine.
Continue Reading Fintech Lawsuit Highlights True Lender Risk for Bank Partnership Lending Model
Delivering a significant win for the financial services industry, a California federal judge upheld “valid when made” rules promulgated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in California v. OCC, No. 4:20-cv-05200 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2022) and California v. FDIC, No. 4:20-cv-05860 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2022). Those rules sought to undo the Second Circuit’s 2015 decision in Madden v. Midland Funding—a decision that class-action plaintiffs’ lawyers and state regulators have invoked to bring lawsuits challenging so-called “rent-a-bank” schemes between banks and third parties. The rules were finalized in June and July 2020, and established a bright-line rule that the interest rate charged on a bank-made loan may still be charged after the loan is sold to a third party.…
On June 3, 2021, in Lacewell v. OCC, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the “Second Circuit”) dismissed the New York State Department of Financial Services’ (“DFS”) lawsuit against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”). DFS challenged the OCC’s decision to commence accepting applications for special-purpose national bank (“SPNB”) charters from financial technology companies (“fintechs”) that do not accept deposits. The Second Circuit ultimately decided the case on justiciability grounds, holding that DFS lacked standing and that its claims were constitutionally unripe without reaching the merits of DFS’s claims.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Rejects New York State Department of Financial Services’ Lawsuit Against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
On March 11, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB” or “Bureau”) announced it was rescinding its “Statement of Policy Regarding Prohibition on Abusive Acts or Practices” (the “2020 Policy Statement”). The rescission is the latest in a series of actions under Acting Director David Uejio that demonstrate a recalibration in the Bureau’s regulatory…
On January 19, 2021, the FDIC’s Board of Directors approved revised Guidelines for Appeals of Material Supervisory Determinations (the “Guidelines”), which are applicable to insured depository institutions (“IDIs”) the FDIC supervises as well as other IDIs for which the FDIC makes material supervisory determinations. The FDIC stated that the amendments are intended to: (1) improve the independence of appeals decisions via the implementation of an independent, standalone office—the Office of Supervisory Appeals (the “Office”)—that will replace the existing Supervision Appeals Review Committee (the “SARC”); and (2) clarify the procedures and timeframes applicable to appeals, including those relating to formal enforcement actions.
Continue Reading FDIC Adopts Revised Guidelines for Appeals of Material Supervisory Determinations
On Friday 14 August, the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in the FX dispute CFH Clearing Limited v Merrill Lynch International  EWCA Civ 1064. This appellate success was a comprehensive victory for the clear wording of standard ISDA documentation over creative legal arguments.
Despite, or even because of, the one-sided result, the judgment contains important lessons for market participants on the approach the English Courts will take to future interpretation issues in ISDA disputes. …
Continue Reading English Court of Appeal Upholds Merrill Lynch’s Reliance on ISDA Standard Terms
On 5 May 2020, the German constitutional court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – “BVerfG“) decided in a landmark judgment about the compatibility of the Public Sector Asset Purchase Program launched by the European Central Bank (“ECB“) in March 2015 (“PSPP“) with German constitutional law.
The BVerfG expressly excluded the EUR 750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (“PEPP“) launched in March 2020 to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic from its decision.
In brief, the BVerfG ruled that with the establishment of the PSPP in 2015 the ECB by far exceeded its competences and, therefore, acted ultra vires. The main reason is that the decision of the ECB lacks sufficient proportionality considerations due to insufficient balancing of the ECB’s monetary policy objective against potential effects on this policy.
More fundamentally, the judges of the BVerfG further ruled that they are not bound by the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU“). The CJEU decided upon submission by the BVerfG in 2018 that the ECB had the power to establish the PSPP. The BVerfG argues that while generally the interpretation and application of the laws of the European Union fall within the responsibility of the CJEU (so-called principle of uniformity and coherence of EU law), there are – under the established case law of the BVerfG – exceptional cases of substantiated ultra vires challenges where the BVerfG is not bound by judgments of the CJEU. According to the BVerfG, this follows from the legal structure of the European Union which has not yet passed the threshold to a federal state. The BVerfG rejects the principle according to which the Member States, via the acceptance of the EU Treaties, have given power to the EU institutions, in particular to the CJEU. According to the BVerfG, the Member States of the European Union are still “Masters of the Treaties”. The European Union does not have the power to determine its own competences (so-called ‘competence-competence’). As a consequence, Member States are not bound by decisions of EU institutions which would effectively amount to a treaty amendment or an expansion of competences which would in turn imply the existence of a competence-competence of EU institutions.
The BVerfG also ruled that the decision of the ECB about the PSPP does not infringe the prohibition of monetary financing under Art. 123(1) of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The BVerfG defined the following legal consequences resulting from the ultra vires infringement:
- As of the end of a three months period following the judgement of the BVerfG, Deutsche Bundesbank will no longer be allowed to participate in the implementation and execution of the ECB-Decision, unless the ECB describes by the end of that period in a comprehensible and substantiated manner that the monetary policy objectives pursued by the PSPP are not disproportionate to the economic and fiscal policy effects.
- The German government and the German parliament (Bundestag) must take active steps against the PSPP in its current form, e. they are required to take steps seeking to ensure that the ECB conducts an improved proportionality assessment.
By way of background, the BVerfG has no legal power over institutions of the European Union. Accordingly, the ECB is not bound by the judgment of the BVerfG and, thus, not legally bound to implement its orders. Only German institutions (such as Deutsche Bundesbank, the German government and the German parliament) must observe the judgement of the BVerfG.…