On September 15, the FTC released a report, Bringing Dark Patterns to Light, that shows an increase in the use of sophisticated “dark pattern” design practices by retailers intended to manipulate consumers into making decisions that benefit the retailers at the consumers’ expense. The report examined the use of dark patterns across a variety of industries and contexts, including e-commerce, cookie consent banners, children’s applications, and subscription sales. The report highlighted four common tactics:

Continue Reading FTC Reports Rise in “Dark Pattern” Tactics in Consumer Markets

On September 22, the CFPB released its annual report providing an overview of the residential mortgage trends and activity in 2021 based on data collected from thousands of U.S. lending institutions under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). Some of the key findings in the report include:

Continue Reading 2021 CFPB Annual Report Shows Increase in Home Purchase Loans, Decrease in Refinancing

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) published a proposed rule listing the tricolored bat as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). The tricolored bat occurs in portions of 39 states, including Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma, which contain a significant concentration of utility-scale wind projects. In combination with the Service’s proposed “endangered” designation for the northern long-eared bat, the new proposed rule could complicate wind energy project permitting across the country.

Continue Reading U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Listing Tricolored Bat as Endangered Under Endangered Species Act

On Friday, August 26, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Department of Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service (the “Departments”) published a final rule updating key regulations pertaining to the No Surprises Act (the “Final Rule”). The Final Rule changes requirements promulgated through prior interim final rules[i] to conform with two rulings by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.[ii] The Final Rule addresses specific disclosure requirements for group health plans and health insurance issuers related to the Qualified Payment Amount (“QPA”) for out-of-network (“OON”) services and sets forth the factors and information which certified Federal Independent Dispute Resolution (“IDR”) entities must consider in arbitrating disputes for OON services or items.

Continue Reading Final Rule Changes No Surprises Act Requirements

Acting in one fell swoop, on September 18, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed 10 cannabis-related legislative bills into law. These bills, which touch on issues that run the gamut of the cannabis industry, are intended to “strengthen California’s cannabis laws, expand the legal cannabis market and redress the harms of cannabis prohibition.” Senate Bill 1326 is the most widely recognized bill of the group, and authorizes the Governor the power to sign cannabis trade agreements with other states where cannabis is legal. Other bills address employment protection, labelling, use of cannabis in veterinary medicine and taxation. In his press release, Governor Newsom said: “For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains out of reach. These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry.”

Continue Reading In One Day, California Governor Signs Into Law Ten Cannabis Bills, Including Authorization for Interstate Commerce

On September 15, President Biden signed the first-ever Executive Order (E.O.) on CFIUS – the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. While the E.O. does not substantively change CFIUS’s jurisdiction or the legal process, the Biden Administration provides some explicit guidance on certain national security priorities and factors for CFIUS to consider when evaluating transactions – focusing in on protecting U.S. technological advantage, supply chain resiliency, and sensitive data from U.S. adversaries. No doubt, the E.O. will impact certain cross-border transactions and investments as CFIUS develops strategies to incorporate the E.O. into practice and align national security priorities with other national security tools.

Continue Reading First-Ever Executive Order on CFIUS Highlights Biden’s National Security Priorities

On August 25, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a pay versus performance rule in accordance with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The rule requires a registrant to disclose, in a proxy statement or an information statement in which executive compensation disclosure is required to be included, how executive compensation actually paid by the registrant to its named executive officers is related to the financial performance of the registrant. The new rule is intended to “provide investors with important and decision-useful information for comparison purposes in one place when they evaluate a registrant’s executive compensation practices and policies, including for purposes of the shareholder advisory vote on executive compensation, votes on other compensation matters, director elections, or when making investment decisions.”

Continue Reading SEC Releases Pay Versus Performance Disclosure Requirements For Public Companies

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel that originally decided Chamber of Commerce v. Bonta last fall recently issued an order withdrawing its prior opinion and granting a panel rehearing. The divided panel’s original decision upheld portions of Assembly Bill 51 (“AB 51”), a California law that prohibits employers from requiring that employees sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of employment. The panel’s decision to rehear the appeal is notable because it suggests that the panel may rule that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) preempts AB 51 in its entirety following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana. The Supreme Court in Viking River Cruises held that California law precluding the division of PAGA actions into individual and non-individual claims through an agreement to arbitrate was preempted by the FAA.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Grants Rehearing on California Law Banning Mandatory Employment Arbitration Agreements

In ZF Micro Solutions, Inc. v. TAT Capital Partners, Ltd., 2022 WL 4090879 (Cal. App. Aug. 8, 2022), the Fourth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal decided, as a matter of first impression, that a non-derivative breach of fiduciary duty cause of action seeking compensatory damages was legal rather than equitable, and therefore required a jury trial as a matter of law. The Court arrived at its conclusion by evaluating the right and relief requested. In so doing, the Court concluded that because the claim at hand exhibited all the characteristics of a cause of action at law, it was legal, rather than equitable, and should have been tried to a jury.

Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Holds that a Corporation’s Direct Cause of Action for Breach of Fiduciary Duty is Legal Rather than Equitable, Requiring a Trial by Jury

Virtually all California employers with five or more employees are covered by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the state’s most noteworthy civil rights law. FEHA protects and safeguards the right and opportunity of all persons to seek, obtain, and hold employment free from discrimination by establishing a comprehensive scheme to combat employment discrimination.

Continue Reading California Expands FEHA to Include Off The Job Cannabis Use

On September 14, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) published a notice of proposed rules under New York’s Commercial Financing Disclosure Law (CFDL) (we discussed this previous rulemaking in a blog post here). Under the CFDL, commercial finance companies are required to give consumer-style loan disclosures to potential recipients when a specific offering of finance is extended for certain commercial transactions of $2.5 million or less. We note some items in particular from the latest proposed rule:

Continue Reading New York Publishes Proposed Rules on Commercial Financing Disclosures

On September 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued an order in Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc. dismissing the case after determining that plaintiff failed to allege a concrete harm, and thus lacked standing to sue the debt collector for its use of a third-party mail vendor in connection with its debt collection activities (we discussed this case in a previous blog post here).

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Dismisses Debt Collection Letter Case For Lack of Standing

On August 30, the Commissioner of the California DFPI issued a notice of rulemaking proposing new regulations and amendments to current regulations implementing the state’s student loan servicing laws. The proposed regulations aim to implement the provisions of the Student Loan Servicing Act and the Student Loans: Borrower Rights law by:

Continue Reading California Regulator Proposes Changes to Student Loan Servicing Laws

Recently, the CFPB released a report outlining the challenges and risks inherent in the rapid evolution of the payment ecosystem, with a particular focus on emerging uses cases involving “super apps,” buy now, pay later (BNPL), and embedded payments, as well as their implications for consumers. The report notes that these changes create more opportunities for companies to aggregate and monetize consumer financial data, and for large players to dominate consumers’ financial and commercial lives.

Continue Reading CFPB Warns of Consumer Risk Over New Payment Products, Foreshadows Supervision of BNPLs

On September 7, Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Michael Hsu, discussed the long-term threats to trust in banking in remarks at the TCH + BPI Annual Conference. Hsu provided updates on key priorities at the OCC, including the impact of “fintechs and big techs” over their digitalization of banking through the advancement of crypto (we discussed Hsu’s previous remarks on crypto here and here). Hsu highlighted the OCC’s position of a “careful and cautious” approach to crypto. In doing so, he referred to Interpretive Letter 1179, which clarifies that national banks and federal savings associations should not engage in certain crypto activities unless they are able to “demonstrate, to the satisfaction of its supervisory office, that [they have] controls in place to conduct the activity in a safe and sound manner” (we discussed Letter 1179 in a previous blog post here). Hsu noted that the federally regulated banking system has been largely unaffected by the collapse of several crypto platforms because, at least in part, of the OCC’s careful and cautious approach.

Continue Reading OCC Highlights Focus on Crypto and Bank-FinTech Partnerships, Anticipates Stricter Scrutiny Going Forward

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took an important step toward regulating PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) on September 6, 2022 when it published a Notice of Federal Rulemaking to begin the process of listing two PFAS as hazardous substances under Section 102(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as the “Superfund” law). Specifically, perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), both of which have been identified as health hazards since 2016, are being reviewed. Comments on the proposal are due by October 6, 2022. 

Continue Reading PFAS As Hazardous Substances: Top 5 Implications For Businesses