December 30, 2021
Paving the Payments Future
Manage your money for a better 2022: Five tips

Whether your ambition is to save more for a rainy day, knock out some debt or finally buy that house, here's some forward-looking advice.

Trying to forecast the future can be a fool's errand, but recent trends in the money world along with some expert financial predictions offer a window into what 2022 may have in store for us. From rising interest rates to inflation pressures to new IRS rules, here's an overview of what we can expect - and how to make the most of our money.

1.) In debt? Make pay down a priority
If you're saddled with high-interest debt, the new year may be a smart time to prioritize knocking down those balances, as the threat of rising interest rates looms.  

"The U.S. Federal Reserve lowered interest rates in response to the pandemic to help stimulate the economy, which made borrowing money far less expensive for consumers. But as the economy continues to improve and the inflation we're seeing now becomes more of a concern, it's likely the Fed will raise interest rates, which will make borrowing more expensive... which can affect everything from mortgages to credit card debt," says Stefanie O'Connell

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Regulators aren't the only reason bank deals are stalling

A handful of proposed acquisitions this fall saw delays over the lack of timely regulator sign-off. But a pair of deals has found pushback — even termination, in one case — in court.

The Delaware Court of Chancery last week refused to force Green Dot to buy Louisville, Kentucky-based Republic Bank’s tax-refund business, Republic reported in a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The bank, however, will continue to seek damages and other relief from Green Dot through a breach-of-contract lawsuit, it said.

The court said the risk of regulatory action, including criminal and civil penalties, against Green Dot and its representatives — were the sale to proceed — outweighed the harm to Republic from Green Dot’s alleged breach of contract, according to the filing.

Use of Artificial Intelligence Targeted by DC Legislation. by Jonathan L. Pompan and Andrew E. Bigart

The use of artificial intelligence to determine access to credit and other important life opportunities has been targeted by legislation under consideration by the District of Columbia City Council. On December 9, 2021, DC Attorney General Karl Racine introduced the "Stop Discrimination by Algorithms Act of 2021." "Not surprisingly, algorithmic decision-making computer programs have been convincingly proven to replicate and, worse, exacerbate racial and other illegal bias in critical services that all residents of the United States require to function in our treasured capitalistic society, " said AG Racine. "This so-called artificial intelligence is the engine of algorithms that are, in fact, far less smart than they are portrayed, and more discriminatory and unfair than big data wants you to know. Our legislation would end the myth of the intrinsic egalitarian nature of AI." The DC City Council is in session year-round, and the bill may be considered through January 1, 2023.

SEC: Payday loan scheme bilks investors out of millions

Federal regulators say the owner of a Miami-based payday loan company bilked hundreds of investors out of millions of dollars and repaid others with money he acquired from a Ponzi scheme

MIAMI -- The owner of a Miami-based payday loan company bilked hundreds of investors out of millions of dollars and repaid others with money he acquired from a Ponzi scheme, according to a newspaper report and federal regulators.

About 500 investors, many from South Florida’s Venezuelan American community, were taken in by Efrain Betancourt Jr.'s sales pitch of high-interest returns on their investments in his short-term loan operation Sky Group USA, the Miami Herald reported.

The Securities and Exchange Commission in Miami filed a lawsuit against Betancourt, 33, and his company in September, the report noted. The agency accuses Betancourt of committing securities violations in a scheme that authorities describe as “affinity fraud.”

Major retail chains that closed in 2021 due to dwindling profits, spike in thefts

Several retailers have started to shift to e-commerce in effort to boost profit

Several retailers have announced the closure of locations in various cities, citing a number of factors, from changing consumer attitudes and future health needs to issues with spikes in crime. 

CVS Health announced in November that it planned to close around 9% of its nearly 10,000 locations, with further closures of 300 stores each year for the next three years. Rite Aid also said it would close 63 stores in order to reduce costs and boost profits. 

CVS specifically noted that a shift to digital preferences by most customers motivated the company to reconsider its physical presence. 

Does Your Website Comply with the ADA? Don't Wait for a Class Action to Find Out. by Jean and Paul Cart Nicholas M. Reiter

All companies and organizations with a website—whether for internal use or publicly facing—must ensure that their website complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Website owners are increasingly facing lawsuits filed on behalf of visually impaired, hearing-impaired, and other disabled individuals who are unable to access website features.

In a recent webinar, Venable partners Jean-Paul Cart and Nicholas Reiter discussed how simple updates in line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) can help organizations avoid these types of lawsuits and answered questions from the audience.

Q: Is there a template for what should be in the web accessibility statement?
A: There is no one-size-fits-all approach for an accessibility statement, but most statements should include, at a minimum:

Jobless claims remain unchanged at 205,000, near half-century low

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week continued to hover around a half-century low, the latest sign the labor market is bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures released Thursday by the Labor Department show that applications for the week ended Dec. 18 stayed at 205,000, unchanged from the previous week's level. It was in line with the 206,000 forecast by Refinitiv analysts. 

Continuing claims, or the number of Americans who are consecutively receiving unemployment aid, dropped to 1.859 million, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week. That is the lowest level for insured unemployment since March 14, 2020, when it was 1.77 million.

FTC Chair Kahn says Don’t Do the Crime If You Can’t Do the Time. by Leonard L. Gordon, Alexandra Megaris & Peter Kim

A hallmark of Chair Lina Khan’s tenure thus far at the FTC has been her effort to stoke fear to try to deter conduct that she does not like. The FTC’s recent Penalty Offense Notices and the Enforcement Statement on Negative Option Marketing provide examples. Last week, during the Commission’s open meeting on November 18 the Commission engaged in more sabre rattling by issuing a “Commission Statement Regarding Criminal Referral and Partnership Process.” This statement outlines the FTC’s renewed commitment to continue to expand its criminal referral program. At the open meeting, however, the Commissioners stressed that this is not a new policy and that the statement merely reflects what FTC Staff have already done for approximately the past 20 years. Since 2003, the FTC’s Criminal Liaison Unit (CLU) has worked with federal, state, and local criminal law enforcement to refer those matters that implicate criminal activity. On occasion, the FTC has even referred cases to international criminal law enforcement partners.

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