CFTC Clarifies That Variation Margin Constitutes Settlement

The Division of Clearing and Risk (DCR) of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has issued an interpretive letter clarifying that payments of variation margin, price alignment amounts and other payments in satisfaction of outstanding exposures on a counterparty’s cleared swap positions constitute “settlement” under the  (CEA) and CFTC Regulation 39.14. The CEA and CFTC Regulation 39.14 provide that a derivatives clearing organization (DCO) must effect a settlement at least once each business day and ensure that settlements are final when effected.

Although not mentioned by DCR, the letter is clearly intended to complement earlier guidance issued jointly by the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (Guidance) regarding the Regulatory Capital Treatment of Certain Centrally Cleared Derivatives Contracts Under Regulatory Capital Rules. As the Guidance explains in greater detail, for purposes of the risk-based capital calculation and the supplementary leverage ratio calculation, the regulatory capital rules require financial institutions to calculate their trade exposure amount with respect to derivatives contracts. The trade exposure amount, in turn, is determined, in part, by taking into account the remaining maturity of such contracts. The Guidance goes on to explain that for a derivatives contract that is structured such that on specific dates any outstanding exposure is settled and the terms are reset so that the fair value of the contract is zero, the remaining maturity equals the time until the next reset.

“Accordingly, for the purpose of the regulatory capital rules, if, after accounting and legal analysis, the institution determines that (i) the variation margin payment on a centrally cleared Settled-to-Market Contract settles any outstanding exposure on the contract, and (ii) the terms are reset so that fair value of the contract is zero, the remaining maturity on such contract would equal the time until the next exchange of variation margin on the contract.”

CFTC Letter No. 17-51 provides the legal analysis to confirm that, as a condition of registration with the CFTC as a DCO, each DCO must provide for daily settlement of all obligations, including the payment and receipt of all variation margin obligations, which payments are irrevocable and unconditional when effected. As a result, a clearing member’s obligations to each DCO are satisfied daily and the fair value of the open cleared derivatives held at the DCO is effectively reset to zero daily.

This post was written by James M. Brady & Kevin M. Foley of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP., ©2017
For more Financial & Banking legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

Equifax Breach Affects 143M: If GDPR Were in Effect, What Would Be the Impact?

The security breach announced by Equifax Inc. on September 7, 2017, grabbed headlines around the world as Equifax revealed that personal data of roughly 143 million consumers in the United States and certain UK and Canadian residents had been compromised. By exploiting a website application vulnerability, hackers gained access to certain information such as names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. While this latest breach will force consumers to remain vigilant about monitoring unauthorized use of personal information and cause companies to revisit security practices and protocols, had this event occurred under the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (set to take effect May 25, 2018), the implications would be significant. This security event should serve as a sobering wake up call to multinational organizations and any other organization collecting, processing, storing, or transmitting personal data of EU citizens of the protocols they must have in place to respond to security breaches under GDPR requirements.

Data Breach Notification Obligations

Notification obligations for security breaches that affect U.S. residents are governed by a patchwork set of state laws. The timing of the notification varies from state to state with some requiring that notification be made in the “most expeditious time possible,” while others set forth a specific timeframe such as within 30, 45, or 60 days. The United States does not currently have a federal law setting forth notification requirements, although one was proposed by the government in 2015 setting a 30-day deadline, but the law never received any support.

While the majority of the affected individuals appear to be U.S. residents, Equifax stated that some Canadian and UK residents were also affected. Given Equifax’s statement, the notification obligations under GDPR would apply, even post-Brexit, as evidenced by a recent statement of intent maintaining that the United Kingdom will adopt the GDPR once it leaves the EU. Under the GDPR, in the event of a personal data breach, data controllers must notify the supervisory authority “without undue delay and, where feasible, not later than 72 hours after having become aware of it.” If notification is not made within 72 hours, the controller must provide a “reasoned justification” for the delay. A notification to the authority must at least: 1) describe the nature of the personal data breach, including the number and categories of data subject and personal data records affected, 2) provide the data protection officer’s contact information, 3) describe the likely consequences of the personal data breach, and 4) describe how the controller proposes to address the breach, including any mitigation efforts. If it is not possible to provide the information at the same time, the information may be provided in phases “without undue further delay.”

According to Equifax’s notification to individuals, it learned of the event on July 29, 2017. If GDPR were in effect, notification would have been required much earlier than September 7, 2017. Non-compliance with the notification requirements could lead to an administrative fine of up to 10 million Euros or up to two percent of the total worldwide annual turnover.

Preparing for Breach Obligations Under GDPR

With a security breach of this magnitude, it is easy to imagine the difficulties organizations will face in mobilizing an incident response plan in time to meet the 72-hour notice under GDPR. However, there are still nearly eight months until GDPR goes into effect on May 25, 2018. Now is a good time for organizations to implement, test, retest, and validate the policies and procedures they have in place for incident response and ensure that employees are aware of their roles and responsibilities in the event of a breach. Organizations should consider all of the following in crafting a GDPR incident response readiness plan:

plan, GDPR, incident response

This post was written by Julia K. Kadish and Aaron K. Tantleff of Foley & Lardner LLP © 2017
For more legal analysis got to The National Law Review

Will Blockchain Render the Bill of Lading a Relic?

A bill of lading is an old form of legal document.  As merchants in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ceased accompanying their goods on ships and entrusted their proper delivery to the carrier, a need arose for a tangible and transferable document evidencing which party was entitled to receive the goods at their destination.  The merchants developed a system in which the sender would obtain a receipt from the ship’s master and convey it to the intended recipient of the goods, who would subsequently present the receipt to the carrier upon delivery to prove his title to the goods.

Today, hundreds of years after the introduction of the bill of lading, technological innovation—and of particular interest, the emergence of blockchain technology—is raising new questions about the future of this venerable document of title.  Recent media accounts report collaborative ventures between traders and financial institutions using blockchain solutions to serve the functions of bills of lading.1  Modern bills of lading still perform the same basic functions as their ancient ancestors: they evidence the title to the goods being shipped, the contract of carriage, and the right to receive and direct the disposition of those goods.  The blockchain solutions emerging in commodities trading seem to have the same functions.  It is fair to ask, then, whether blockchain is a new kind of bill of lading – or is something different that will render the bill of lading a relic.

What is Blockchain and How Does It Work?

While there are various potential applications of blockchain technology,2 it may generally be described as a decentralized, automated system for storing information about transactions among its members.  For our current purposes, we envision a hypothetical blockchain (the “Model Blockchain”) that has the following qualities:

  1. It would be “permissioned”—that is, participants in the Model Blockchain must be admitted by the existing members and the general public would not have access. The members would presumably include the relevant merchants buying and selling the goods, the carriers responsible for their shipment and the financial institutions that finance such transactions.

  2. The Model Blockchain would not be anonymous. Each member would be identifiable by its applicable digital signature, which a computer could match to such member’s name.

  3. The system would be decentralized and “trustless,” in that no single party would validate a transaction. Rather, transactions would be validated by the Model Blockchain’s members collectively.  For example, each member would verify (via computer) basic facts about the transaction to protect against fraud or double spending.  After validation, a transaction would be written into a block in the Model Blockchain. Data in a block would be encrypted such that it is nearly impossible to modify.  This decentralized verification system—referred to as a distributed ledger—is the fundamental characteristic common to all blockchain systems.

In practice, the data for any particular transaction in the Model Blockchain would identify the transferor, the transferee, the carrier, the time of the transaction, what is transferred, and any miscellaneous data the transferor decides to include as “metadata.”  Further, we imagine that the legal title to real-world, tangible assets being transferred via the Model Blockchain would be represented as digital coins (“Blockcoins”).  A Blockcoin would be analogous to a Bitcoin, but would have no monetary value and instead would represent the goods themselves.3  Blockcoins and the Model Blockchain would work in tandem to identify electronically who controls the Blockcoin and thus has title to the goods.

Will Blockchain Supplant the Bill of Lading?

As the breadth of the potential applications of blockchain becomes increasingly clear and the technology becomes more widely accepted, the next step is to determine how blockchain can be implemented within the existing legal framework governing bills of lading.  Under U.S. state law, the rules governing bills of lading and other documents of title are housed mainly in Article 7 of the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”)4.  A gating question, therefore, becomes whether the Model Blockchain system constitutes a bill of lading under the UCC.

As you may expect, the vast majority of the applicable UCC provisions were drafted with paper bills of lading in mind.  While new concepts, such as “electronic documents of title,” have been incorporated into the UCC over time to accommodate technological advances, the basic structure still largely employs concepts foreign to the electronic frontier, such as “bearer,” “issuer,” or “copy.”  The challenge will be to structure the blockchain and draft the accompanying legal documentation in a manner that preserves the parties’ rights and property interests under the UCC.  It appears that, properly designed, a blockchain system can be accommodated in existing UCC provisions governing bills of lading.

Benefits of Blockchain Being Bills of Lading

If blockchain transactions are bills of lading under the UCC, the benefits to transacting parties could be many.  A classification under the UCC would provide clear legal answers regarding how to receive a perfected security interest in the bill of lading (and the underlying assets covered thereby).  We believe that the Model Blockchain bill of lading could be negotiable or non-negotiable, if properly designed.  There are well-understood risks of holding or lending against negotiable or non-negotiable instruments, and corresponding well-developed business practices in the trade and trade finance markets.  For example, the UCC contains various rules on the rights of competing claimants (whether they are direct owners, transferees or secured parties) claiming an interest to a document or the underlying goods.  To the extent that a blockchain transaction fits into an existing paradigm, the legal benefits and risks to transacting parties and creditors will be embedded in, and consistent with, existing frameworks and business considerations, thereby significantly reducing friction when migrating to an electronic blockchain system.

The use of blockchain in lieu of bills of lading remains largely hypothetical at this time, but offers real benefits to market participants (e.g., cost-savings, reduction in fraud, etc.) and appears attainable from a legal perspective. Indeed, it may very well become the industry standard sooner rather than later.


1   See, e.g., “What’s cooking in the blockchain kitchen?” (2017), https://www.ing.com/Newsroom/All-news/Whats-cooking-in-the-blockchain-ki… and Denis Balibouse, Mercuria Introduces Blockchain to Oil Trade with ING, SocGen, Reuters, Jan. 19, 2017,http://www.reuters.com/article/us-davos-meeting-mercuria-idUSKBN1531DJ.

2   For examples of recent endeavors, see Blockchain: A Better Way to Track Pork Chops, Bonds, Bad Peanut Butter?, N.Y. Times,https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/04/business/dealbook/blockchain-ibm-bitc….

3   Bitcoins used for such purposes are called “colored coins.”  Nicolas Dorier, Programming The Blockchain in C# 95,https://www.gitbook.com/download/pdf/book/programmingblockchain/programm….

4   Unless otherwise noted, this article generally refers to the Uniform Commercial Code as in effect in New York.

This post was contributed by Martin Horowitz,Stephen M. Johnson Christopher M. McDermott and Jeffrey Nagle of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.
Read more legal analysis at the National Law Review.

The Malta Pension Plan – A Supercharged, Cross-Border Roth IRA

Relevant US Tax Principles

In the cross border setting, two of the principal goals in international tax planning are (i) deferral of income earned offshore and (ii) the tax efficient repatriation of foreign profits at low or zero tax rates in the United States. For U.S. taxpayers investing through foreign corporations, planning around the controlled foreign corporation (CFC) rules typically achieves the first goal of deferral, and utilizing holding companies resident in treaty jurisdictions generally accomplishes the second goal of minimizing U.S. federal income tax on the eventual repatriation of profits (for U.S. corporate taxpayers, the use of foreign tax credits may be used to achieve this latter goal).

In a purely domestic setting, limited opportunities exist to defer paying U.S. federal income tax on income or gain realized through any type of entity, and fewer opportunities, if any, exist for the beneficial owners of such entities to receive tax-free distributions of the accumulated profits earned by these entities. A Roth IRA may be the best vehicle available to achieve these goals.

Roth IRA (hereafter, “Roth”) is a type of tax-favored retirement account, under which contributions to the Roth are not tax deductible (like contributions to a traditional IRA would be), but all earnings of the Roth accumulate free of U.S. tax. In addition, qualified distributions from a Roth are not subject to U.S. federal income tax. In other words, once after-tax funds are placed in a Roth, those funds generally are not taxed again. As with traditional IRAs, however, the tax benefits of Roth IRAs are restricted to certain taxpayers who fall below certain modified adjusted gross income thresholds, and even then, such persons are limited in the amounts that can be contributed each year. Additionally, those who are eligible to contribute to such Roth accounts are limited to a maximum contribution of $5,500 per year ($6,500 for taxpayers age 50+). Any “excess contributions” beyond the stated limitations trigger an annual 6 percent excise tax until the excess contributions are eliminated. Finally, because of the “prohibited transaction” provisions, it is not possible for U.S. taxpayers to transfer property (whether appreciated or not) to a Roth without triggering certain taxes (i.e., excise tax as well as income tax on any built-in gain). Therefore, while the benefits of Roths are significant, they are not widely available, particularly to high-income taxpayers.

Relevant Maltese Principles Relating to Malta Pensions

Since 2002, Maltese legislation has been in existence which allows for the creation of cross-border pension funds (although these pension funds have become more relevant to U.S. taxpayers since the effective date of the U.S.-Malta income tax treaty (the “Treaty”) in November of 2010). In contrast to the stringent limitations imposed on contributions to Roths under U.S. law, unlimited contributions may be made to a Malta pension plan. This is true also for U.S. citizens and tax residents, regardless of whether such persons are resident in or have any connection at all to Malta (though no U.S. deduction is permitted for contributions to such Maltese plans). A Maltese pension plan generally is classified as a foreign grantor trust from a U.S. federal income tax perspective because of the retained interest of the grantor/member in the pension fund. Thus, contributions to such a pension fund (including contributions of appreciated property) generally are ignored from the U.S. income tax perspective and should not trigger any adverse U.S. tax consequences.[1]

There also appears to be almost no limitation on what types of assets can be contributed tax-free to a Malta pension, including, for example, stock in private or publicly-traded companies (including PFICs), partnership and LLC interests (including so-called “carried interests”), and interests in U.S. or non-U.S. real estate. While the specific terms of each pension plan vary, Malta law generally permits distributions to be made from such plans beginning at age 50.

The relevant Maltese pension rules allow an initial lump sum payment of up to 30% of the value of the member’s pension fund to be made free of Maltese tax. This initial payment must be made within the first year of the retirement date chosen by that member. Additional periodic payments generally must then be made from the pension at least annually thereafter, and while such payments may be taxable to the recipient, they are usually significantly limited in amount (generally being tied to applicable minimum wage standards in the recipient’s home jurisdiction). Beyond those minimum wage amounts, excess lump sum distributions of up to 50 percent of the balance of the plan generally can be made free of Malta tax.

U.S.-Malta Income Tax Treaty Provisions

As noted above, when the Treaty became effective in late 2010, Maltese pension plans became more attractive to U.S. taxpayers. The Treaty contains very favorable provisions that can result in significant tax benefits to U.S. members of a Maltese pension. In order for such U.S. members to take advantage of these benefits, the pension must qualify as a resident of Malta under the Treaty and also satisfy the limitation on benefits (LOB) article of the Treaty.

Article 4, paragraph 2 of the Treaty provides that a pension fund established in either the United States or Malta is a “resident” for purposes of the Treaty, despite that all or part of the income or gains of such a pension may be exempt from tax under the domestic laws of the relevant country. Under Article 22(2)(e) of the Treaty, a pension plan that is resident in one of the treaty countries satisfies the LOB provision as long as more than 75% of the beneficiaries, members, or participants of the pension fund are individuals who are residents of either the Unites States or Malta.[2]

Thus, as long as a Maltese pension is formed pursuant to relevant Maltese law and more than 75% of its members are U.S. and/or Maltese residents, the pension plan should be eligible for Treaty benefits.

Pursuant to Article 18 of the Treaty, income earned by a Maltese pension fund cannot be taxed by the United States until a distribution is made from that fund to a U.S. resident. This article of the Treaty contains no restrictions on the types of income that are covered, and thus is generally believed to apply broadly to all income (including, for example, income arising in connection with interests in U.S. real estate, PFIC stock, and assets connected to a U.S. trade or business).[3]

Article 17(1)(b) of the Treaty further provides that distributions from a pension arising in one country, and which would be exempt from tax in that country if paid to a resident of that country, must also be exempt from tax in the other country when paid to a  resident of the latter country.  The U.S. Treasury’s Technical Explanation to the Treaty further clarifies that, for example, “a distribution from a U.S. Roth IRA to a resident of Malta would be exempt from tax in Malta to the same extent the distribution would be exempt from tax in the United States if it were distributed to a U.S. resident.”[4]

As mentioned above, pursuant to Maltese law, the initial lump sum payment from a Maltese pension (up to 30% of the value of the relevant pension fund) generally is not taxable in Malta. Thus, based on Article 17(1)(b) of the Treaty, such amounts likewise must not be taxed in the United States when made to a U.S. resident beneficiary. Additionally, this same Maltese exemption generally applies to further lump sum payments received by Maltese resident beneficiaries in certain subsequent years (generally, such distributions may be made tax-free beginning three years after the initial lump sum distribution is received). Notably, any required annual (or more frequent) periodic payments would be taxable in Malta if made to a Maltese resident, and therefore also are taxable in the United States under Section 72 when received by a U.S. resident member of the pension fund.[5]

Finally, while under the so-called “savings clause” the United States generally reserves the right under its income tax treaties to tax its citizens and “residents” as though the treaty did not exist, this savings clause contains certain exceptions. Under the Treaty, Article 1(5) provides that Articles 17(1)(b) and 18 are excepted from the savings clause (found at Article 1(4)). Consequently, the savings clause of the Treaty should not prevent a U.S. citizen or resident member of a Maltese pension from qualifying for Treaty benefits under relevant provisions of Articles 17 and 18.

Example

Assume a U.S. resident individual 49-years of age owns both highly-appreciated U.S. real estate and founders’ shares of a technology start-up that is about to go public. In combination, the interests are worth approximately $100 million, and the aggregate tax basis of the assets is $10 million. As part of her retirement planning, this U.S. individual decides to contribute these assets to a Maltese pension fund.[6] During this same tax year, the real estate is sold for fair market value and the technology company goes public, though she is required to hold the shares for at least six months before disposing of them.  During the following tax year, after her lockup period expires, she sells her shares for fair market value, leaving her portion of the pension plan holding proceeds of $100 million. Since at this time she is at least 50 years of age, assuming the terms of the pension plan permit her to begin withdrawing assets at age 50, the U.S. individual can cause the pension plan to distribute to her during that tax year $30 million of the pension plan funds without the imposition of any tax, either in Malta or the United States.

At this point, the pensioner would need to wait until year 4 to be able to extract additional profits tax-free (pursuant to Maltese law, three years must pass after the initial lump sum distribution before additional lump sum distributions could be made to a resident of Malta tax-free). Thus, in year 4, additional assets can be distributed to the member without triggering tax liability. To calculate how much can be distributed free of tax, it is necessary to first determine the pension holds “sufficient retirement income.” This amount in turn is based, pursuant to Maltese law, on the “annual national minimum wage” in the jurisdiction where the member is resident. To the extent the pension plan balance exceeds the member’s “sufficient retirement income” (on a lifetime basis), 50% of the excess can be withdrawn tax-free each year. Assuming the $70 million remaining assets (after accounting for the initial lump sum distribution) had increased in value to $85 million by year 4, and further assuming it was determined that the individual needed $1 million as her sufficient retirement income, 50% of the $84 million excess, or $42 million, could be distributed to her that year free of tax. Such calculations could likewise be performed in each succeeding tax year, with 50% of the excess being available for tax-free receipt by the beneficiary each year. Consequently, while it is not possible to distribute 100% of the proceeds of such a pension tax-free, a substantial portion of any income generated in the pension (including gains realized with respect to appreciation accrued prior to contribution of assets to the pension fund) may be distributed without any Maltese or U.S. tax liability.

Conclusion

Some commentators have suggested that the purported benefits of Maltese pensions in this context were not intended by Treasury in negotiating the Treaty and that therefore the use of such pensions in this manner is “too good to be true.” The underlying legal principles, however, are not so different from those that apply to Roths in the United States. Like participants in Roths, participants in Maltese pensions can contribute after-tax dollars to the plan and never pay future tax on profits realized with respect to assets held in the plan. Admittedly, the biggest differences relate to the unlimited amounts that may be contributed to Maltese pensions and the fact that prior appreciation in assets that are contributed to the plan also may avoid being subjected to any U.S. tax. Regardless, these distinctions result from features of domestic Maltese law (not U.S. law), and make the use of such pension plans by U.S. residents so potentially attractive.

[1] Note, however, that U.S. information filing obligations may be triggered to the U.S. transferor member pursuant to Section 6048. Unless otherwise noted, all Section references are to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), and the Treasury regulations promulgated under the Code.

[2] For this purpose, the term resident includes a U.S. citizen.  Article 4(1) of the Treaty.

[3] It should be noted that the FIRPTA provisions of Section 897 and Section 1445 should not be applicable because the pension plan is treated as a foreign grantor trust for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

[4] Treasury Technical Explanation of the U.S.-Malta Income Tax Treaty, signed 8/8/2008, Article 17, paragraph 1.

[5] Under Section 72, a portion of each payment represents tax-free return of basis.

[6] Note that, as discussed above, there should be no U.S. tax implications on contribution of the assets (for example, under Section 684), as the pension plan should be classified as a grantor trust for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

This post was written by  Jeffrey L. Rubinger and Summer Ayers LePree of  Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP.
Read more on the National Law Review.

Blockchain for the Humanitarian Sector

A network of global charities has begun using blockchain to provide costs savings and transparency to donations. Organisations including Oxfam, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and Christian Aid are three of the 42 members of the Start Network, which trialled the use of blockchain in humanitarian projects last year. The group will work on the project with start-up fund management platform Disberse.

Disberse uses blockchain, which records all transactions in a distributed digital ledger, to try to ensure that less money is lost on exchange rate fluctuations and traditional banking fees. It will also help charities to fight fraud, by tracking all transactions. The ultimate aim would be to track every dollar in aid, from original donor to each individual assisted.

The Start Network plans a three-stage experiment, using blockchain to:

  • Support decentralised decision making by the Start Fund, a peer-reviewed emergency relief fund aimed at rapid response to small-to-medium-scale disasters.
  • Trigger and speed up pay-outs, using “smart contracts” – self-executing arrangements that are guaranteed to deliver swiftly.
  • Enhance transparency by developing a form of “digital ledger” for use in all Start Fund transactions.

A report – Blockchain for the humanitarian sector – published in 2016 by the Digital Humanitarian Network for OCHA, the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office, concluded:

  • Blockchain “has the potential to transform the humanitarian sector by providing cost savings and traceability of information flows, and by reducing transaction times”.
  • Potential uses are in information management, identification, supply chain tracking, cash programming and humanitarian financing.
  • Since the technology can offer solutions to existing humanitarian challenges, it may be wise to begin studying its impact and experimenting with future implementation.
This post was written byJonathan Lawrence of K & L Gates.

CFPB Proposes Additional Changes to the Prepaid Rule

On June 15, 2017, the CFPB announced that it is proposing for public comment certain modifications to its prepaid rule. The rule, which was issued in final form in October 2016, limits consumers’ losses for lost and stolen prepaid cards, requires financial institutions to investigate errors, and includes enhanced disclosure provisions.

The final rule unexpectedly granted Regulation E error resolution rights to consumers holding unregistered prepaid accounts, a provision that was not part of the CFPB’s original proposal. Financial institutions criticized this aspect of the final rule, arguing that providing error resolution rights to holders of unregistered accounts would invite and open new avenues for fraud. Financial institutions also argued that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to investigate alleged errors if they have little to no information about the purchasing customer. As a result, financial institutions have claimed that, if the CFPB retains error resolution rights for unregistered prepaid accounts, they would no longer provide immediate access to funds on such accounts.

To address these concerns, the current proposal would require consumers to register their prepaid accounts to qualify for Regulation E error resolution rights, including the right to recoup funds for lost or stolen cards. Under the CFPB’s proposal, however, Regulation E error resolution rights would apply to registered accounts even if the card was lost or stolen before the consumer completed the registration process.

The proposal also requests comment on provisions that would create an exception for certain digital wallets. Under the proposed exception, customers using digital wallets linked to a traditional credit card product would continue to receive Regulation Z’s open-end credit protections and would not receive the protections of the credit-related provisions of the prepaid rule.

As discussed in a prior post, in April 2017, the CFPB extended the compliance date for the prepaid rule from October 1, 2017, to April 1, 2018. In the latest proposal, the CFPB requests comment on whether it should extend the compliance date even further.

The proposal also includes other adjustments and clarifications regarding the definition of a prepaid account, pre-acquisition disclosure requirements, submission of prepaid account agreements to the CFPB, and unsolicited issuance of access devices. Along with its proposal, the CFPB has released an updated version if its Prepaid Rule Small Entity Compliance Guide.

Comments on the CFPB’s proposal are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.

This post was written by Lucille C. Bartholomew of Covington & Burling LLP.

The ERISA Fiduciary Advice Rule: What Happens on June 9?

This is an update on the upcoming effective date of the “fiduciary rule” or “fiduciary advice rule” (the “Rule”) that was issued under the US Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The Rule was published by the US Department of Labor (DOL) in April, 2016. The purpose of the Rule is to cause a person or entity to become a “fiduciary” under ERISA and the US Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the “Code”) as a result of giving of certain types of advice involving investment of assets of employee benefit plans, such as 401(k) or pension plans, or of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and receiving compensation for that advice.

calendar hundred daysThe Rule was originally intended to become effective April 10, but in April the DOL extended (the “Extension Notice”) the effective date of the Rule for 60 days (until June 9), and provided for reduced compliance obligations under the Rule from that date through the end of 2017 (the “Transition Period”). The effective date for Prohibited Transaction Exemptions (PTEs), both new and amended, that are related to the Rule also was extended until June 9, and further transitional relief was provided with respect to certain of those PTEs.

In a May 23 Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal, Labor Secretary Acosta announced that the Rule would go into effect on June 9, as provided for in the Extension Notice, and that the DOL would seek additional public comment on possible revisions to the Rule.  He indicated that the DOL “found no principled legal basis to change the June 9 date while we seek public input.”  The DOL also published, on May 23, FAQs on implementation of the Rule and an update of its previously-issued enforcement policy for the Transition Period. Therefore, it is important to review the rules that will go into effect on June 9.

Under the Rule, fiduciary status is triggered by investment “recommendations.” It provides, in general, that if a person (1) provides certain types of recommendations to a plan or its participants and/or beneficiaries, or to an IRA owner (collectively, “Protected Investors”); and (2) as a result, receives a fee or other compensation (direct or indirect), then that person is providing “investment advice for a fee” and therefore, in giving such advice, is a fiduciary to the Protected Investor. Receipt of compensation tied to such recommendations by a person or entity that is a fiduciary could result in prohibited transactions under ERISA and the Code. Under the Extension Notice, the DOL provided simplified compliance requirements under the Rule for the Transition Period.

This post was written by Gary W. HowellAustin S. LillingGabriel S. MarinaroRichard D. MarshallAndrew R. SkowronskiRobert A. Stone of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP.