Posted August 14, 2014
Capitol Hill Activity
On August 12, 2014, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) wrote in a letter (in right-hand bar) to Education Secretary Arne Duncan that the Education Department may be overstepping its bounds with a rule that seeks to regulate financial products on college campuses. Crapo said the proposal would apply to financial products that have “nothing to do with the aid disbursement process.” At a July 31 hearing on the proposal, Crapo expressed concern "that the department hasn’t worked through all the compliance challenges for banks and supervision challenges for banking regulators.” Richard Hunt, the president of the Consumer Bankers Association, testified at the hearing that the rule appears to be outside of the agency’s jurisdiction. He also said many banks would pull out of deals with colleges to provide campus-based accounts and debit cards if the rule is too broad. The Education Department is expected to issue the proposal in the coming weeks, after stakeholders failed to come to an agreement on new rules through a negotiated rulemaking process led by the agency earlier this year.
On August 6, 2014, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Begich (D-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter urging Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to have the Patent and Trademark Office increase focus on improving patent quality as an effort to curb patent trolls. The senators, three of whom sit on the Appropriations Committee, noted that their 2013 PTO appropriations included money to increase training for patent examiners and to "reduce ambiguity about valid rejections of low quality patents." The letter applauded the PTO's ongoing efforts to improve patent quality, but stressed there is more the agency can do, saying "the USPTO possesses additional tools that could significantly reduce abusive patent trolling by preventing low-quality, vague patents from entering the market, and it needs to use them effectively."
On August 12, 2014, Jennifer Calvery, the director of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced that more than 1,000 suspicious activity reports were filed since the February guidance on how banks should handle accounts for businesses that sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The sale of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the FinCEN guidance aimed to reassure banks and credit unions that they can serve customers in compliance with money laundering rules. Over 105 institutions are doing business with pot sellers, Calvery said, spanning more than a third of the 50 states.
On August 11, 2014, FinCEN released Advisory FIN-2014-A007 as a reminder of the importance of promoting a culture of compliance to combat shortcomings in BSA/AML compliance. The Advisory highlights the importance of a strong culture to BSA/AML compliance for senior management, leadership and owner of financial institutions regardless of size or industry sector.
Federal Reserve Financial Services posted the August 2014 issue of FedFocus. Highlights include:
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau)
On August 11, 2014, the CFPB released a Consumer Advisory responding to concerns about virtual currencies. The Advisory included tips for customers to protect themselves against fraud surrounding digital currency scams. In June, the CFPB pledged to do more on digital currencies after the Government Accountability Office said inter-agency working groups had not sufficiently focused on consumer protections. In May, the SEC published an alert warning that Bitcoin users might be targets for fraudulent and high-risk investment schemes. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is preparing a report expected to be released later this year on the federal government's response to digital currencies.
Legislative Tool Kit
House 2014 Calendar (in the right-hand bar)
Senate 2014 Calendar (in the right-hand bar)
Current Legislation & Federal Resource Center
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