Archive for August, 2015

California Duo Face Bank Fraud Charges

Monday, August 31st, 2015

A man and woman who were part of a California fraud ring used fake credit cards and conspired with another person feigning as a customer service representative to steal thousands in cash advances from credit unions and banks in nine states.

Michael Lee Thomas, 46, of Oakland (pictured at left) and Barbara John Lopp, 53, of Stockton, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud last month in US District Court in Oakland.

Although the FBI began investigating the fraud ring in June 2013, it wasnt until Feb. 12, 2015, when the couple was arrested at a branch of the $15.9 million Municipal Credit Union in Sioux City, Iowa, where their cash advance scheme drew suspicion from employees who contact police.

Iowa prosecutors charged the California couple with several felony counts of credit card fraud, forgery and identity theft, but those charges were dismissed after the federal indictment was filed on July 16.

Iowa police investigators said Thomas and Lopp hit more than 100 financial institutions in Iowa alone over three weeks. Because it was suspected that the duo might have carried out their scheme in at least three other states, law enforcement authorities posted a nationwide bulletin to alert financial institutions.

However, court documents revealed that Thomas and Lopp were also operating their cash advance scheme in eight other states: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Oklahoma and Kansas.

After flying to a state, they would rent a car and drive to several financial institutions over the course of a few days. On some of these trips, the California couple would score $40,000 or more after hitting four or more financial institutions.

Thomas and Lopp would take turns going into the branch and sometimes told tellers the cash advance was needed to pay for a relatives funeral expenses. In addition to the fake credit cards, they also used bogus IDs.

When tellers processed the cash advance request, it would be declined. Thomas or Lopp would then say there might be a block because they were traveling outside of their normal geographic area and ask the teller to call the credit card company, according to court documents.

However, the toll-free number on the fake credit card also was fake, and the person who answered that number was working with Thomas and Lopp, according to court documents.

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Chem Tales: Superman Falls

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

His indictment is barely a week old, but many of his former friends in organized labor and the cannabis industry have already buried Dan Rush.

Rush, 54, was once the gregarious director of the United Food and Commercial Workers national medical cannabis and hemp division; on Aug. 10, he was indicted in federal court on two felony counts of violating labor law.

The lifelong union man the first labor organizer to make a serious effort to bring the nascent marijuana industry on board in 2010 is accused of selling out those same workers in order to pay off a debt.

In January 2010, before UFCW had signed up a single trimmer, budtender, or joint-roller, Rush allegedly took a $600,000 cash loan from an Oakland marijuana grower in order to pay off a private hard-money loan that Rush had taken out on his home.

After informing the grower that hed be unable to repay, Rush allegedly offered services in kind. Rush would help his lenders open a new dispensary in Las Vegas and ensure the dispensary would never be union, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI.

The FBI had been looking into Rush since 2012, following a tip from his creditors, who include the owners of a local dispensary and officers from Terra Tech, one of the largest publicly-traded cannabis companies in the country.

UFCW wasted no time in parting with Rush, informing the media on the day the indictment became public that Rush had been terminated.

Rush did not respond to a message seeking comment. Out on bail, hes been active on social media, posting on Facebook support for the union and our members.

His attorney, William Osterhoudt, noted in a statement to the press that the indictment is based on the testimony of informants and cooperators. [He] should not be vilified or deprived of his livelihood on the basis of unproven accusations, Osterhoudt wrote.

We dont want to pre convict him … but these charges are very disappointing, said Dale Sky Jones, who worked with Rush on the Prop. 19 legalization campaign in 2010.

Jones is chairwoman of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform shy;one of the groups working to legalize cannabis in California on next years ballot. Rush was a board member of CCPR until last year.

Here are some initial takeaways.

Rush was everywhere. He had a hand in Prop. 19, he pushed to expand Oakland and Berkeleys number of allowed cannabis dispensary permits, he lobbied and organized in support of union dispensaries in San Francisco, and he was a big backer of Measure D, the controversial ballot initiative that limited the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles. As of press deadline, he was still a sitting member of the city of Berkeleys Medical Cannabis Commission. He also had a close enough relationship with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to have Newsom, now legalizations top public proponent, appear at his labor events.

Rush was also involved in the efforts to legalize medical marijuana in New York and Minnesota. Other UFCW operatives are lobbying for legalization in Ohio. That such a player has been indicted will only help the prohibitionists.

The cannabis industry hasnt grown up yet. All week, marijuana industry insiders have been buzzing about the case and lobbing harsh words but not at Rush. Instead, theyre angry at Carl Andersen, Martin Kaufman, and Derek Peterson, the three cannabis industry players who went to the FBI. (None appear queued up for indictments).

Kaufman is a big-time grower by reputation. Peterson is CEO of publicly traded Terra Tech, which has four dispensary permits in Nevada. Peterson and business partner Salwa Ibrahim are the owners of Blum dispensary in Oakland. Blum is also applying for a permit in Berkeley.

For going to the authorities and cooperating with the FBI against Rush, theyve been branded as snitches. This is an industry that wants to be legit and play by the rules, but some black market habits die hard.

Rush was not great with money. Always quick to pick up a check for his industry colleagues, Rush was known for spending lavishly. He was a baller, one industry insider told me. He also filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in 2005, an affair that had just wrapped up by the time he allegedly took his first cash loan from Kaufman. According to the affidavit, he spent $2,000 a month on bills, flights, jewelry, cigarettes, and at Indian casinos. This could just be a story of one man unable to manage his finances.

He had real connections to the Hells Angels. Rumors of close ties to the Oakland-bred motorcycle club have dogged Rush for years, and with good reason. In addition to growing up with Angels and riding with Angels, Rush also paid the motorcycle clubs cell phone bills, according to his indictment. Why he did this, and whether it was a quid pro quo arrangement, nobody can say, though biker gangs have been involved with the illicit marijuana industry since the 1960s.

More indictments are coming. Oakland labor attorney Marc Terbeek allegedly gave Rush kickbacks in return for Rush sending clients his way. Terbeek also aided the FBI by wearing a wire and having his phone tapped when talking with Rush. Terbeek is cooperating with authorities but may yet be indicted, the FBI affidavit suggested. He may not be alone.

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Local events and announcements

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

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Rosebush blood drive

A Red Cross blood drive will be held at the Rosebush Presbyterian Church, 3914 N. Mission Rd., from noon to 5:45 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Upcoming Gratiot blood drives

Blood drives in Gratiot County include: Saturday, Aug. 29, from 10 am to 4 pm at Instant Cash Advance, 131 W. Superior (corner of Prospect), Alma. The American Red Cross Bloodmobile will be visiting this business for the first time on Tuesday, Sept. 1 from Noon to 6 pm at Ithaca Community Center; Wednesday, Sept. 9 from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm at Pine River Healthcare, 1149 W. Monroe Rd. in St. Louis; Wednesday, Sept. 16 from 1 to 7 pm at Alma Public Library; Tuesday, Sept. 22 from 11 am to 5 pm at Alma College-Van Dusen Commons; Thursday, Sept. 24 from Noon to 5 pm at 1st Church of God, 520 Olive, St. Louis; Tuesday, Sept. 29 from Noon to 6 pm at St. Louis Church of Christ, 1075 W. Monroe Rd., St. Louis, Wednesday, Sept. 30 from 1 to 7 pm Central Michigan Youth For Christ Cheesman Rd., Alma.

Farm and craft market in Winn

A farm and craft market and yard sale is held from 9 am to 1 pm every Wednesday at the Winn United Methodist Church located at 8187 S. Winn Rd. in Winn. Vending is free.

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N4T Investigators: Dirty Detective?

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Tucson – The News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned that the Pima County Sheriffs Department is conducting an investigation to determine if one of their own,a former veteran burglary detective, is a thief.

Sheriff Chris Nanos told us, Were currently involved in a criminal investigationhellip;to include dealing in stolen goods, theft, computer tampering, a number of things.

Were not naming the detective at this time, and he hasnt been charged. A 15-year veteran, the last four in the burglary unit, he resigned, unexpectedly, the sheriff says, on July 29th, while under investigation.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators have obtained audio recordings of the recent internal investigations of the detective. Below is an excerpt from those recordings:

PCSD investigator: You know what, man? Im not going to beat around the bush or anything.

Detective under investigation: Thats fine.

PCSD investigator: The reason I brought you here was because, um, looking at everything, its pretty suspicious.

Detective under investigation: It is.

PCSD investigator: Youre aware of that.

Detective under investigation: Yeah

PCSD investigator: You know, all this stuff.

Detective under investigation: I know it looks bad, but I had no reason to ever take anybodys stuff.

The investigation began this past May, after the victim of a 2011 home burglary filed a complaint against the detective with the Pima County Sheriffs Department Internal Affairs division.More than one million dollars worth of jewelry and art work was stolen from the mans home. Many items were not returned to the victim, who told investigators he and the detective saw them while visiting pawn shops together.The News 4 Tucson Investigators have obtained numerous pawn shop transaction slips with the detectives name on them as the seller.

The slips show he received $1500 for a gold bracelet from the Cash America pawn shop on Speedway , almost $1200 for another gold bracelet from Cash America on East 22nd; over $1000 for a gold coin from Quick Pawn on E. Golf Links.

The victim had reported similar items stolen from his home. Could they have been the detectives personal items? He claimed that a late relative left him a large amount of jewelry that he pawned. Or, were they the property of that 2011 burglary victim, and, even other victims?

On the audio tape, the PCSD investigator and the detective had this exchange:

PCSD investigator: Did you take anything?

Detective under investigation: I did not take a thing from him (the 2011 burglary victim).

PCSD investigator: Did you take anything from anybody?

Detective under investigation: No.

We asked Sheriff Nanos if other burglary victims should be concerned that thedetective who isunder investigation sold their stuff. He said, Absolutely. I mean if he was assigned to their case. Yeah…I have that concern so I would hope they have that concern.

Investigators are also looking into whether the detective took stolen items from the PCSD property room, and pawned them instead of returning them to victims. We obtained sign-out sheets signed by the detective, which are supposed to contain detailed descriptions of items. But many of this detectives descriptions are vague.

We showed one of the detectives sign-out sheets to the Sheriff. The detective described one item he signed-out as Ring. Nanos called that, Verynon-descript. Thats sloppy work. Thats not tolerated.

The sheriff also says that after the detective resigned, his colleagues made a startling discovery:

When they were cleaning out his desk they found a box full of jewelry and things of that nature.

And theres more: the detective took a $1200 cash loan from the victim of the 2011 burglary. While not illegal, the sheriff says its certainly unethical.

Nanos said, Its a conflict of interest, clearly. We just dont do that and I mean theres just certain things that common sense tells you, you dont do.

No one answered the door at the now former detectives home. The next day, the detective in question called us. He declined an on-camera interview, but said, They can investigate me all they want, theyre not going to find anything. I havent done anything wrong. About the box full of jewelry allegedly found in his desk, he said, Thats not true. I handed it to my supervisor the day I resigned. Regarding the loan from the burglary victim, he said, I didnt see a problem with that because I wasnt working the case at that time.

Nanos said, I have 1500 employees who do a great job every day. Every day. Out there right now. And I have one, one, who tarnishes all their badges.

The sheriff says it could be several weeks before the internal criminal investigation is complete. Then, he will decide if theres enough evidence to bring the case to the county attorney to consider prosecution.

If you have a story youd like us to investigate, email us at, or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

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Local views: Spirit Mountain’s purpose is to generate business for city, and …

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

I submit Spirit Mountain has done most things right, that its attractions are widely valued and that it deserves to be sustained, even if by an occasional cash advance. For four decades Spirit Mountain has provided a needed and appreciated source of outdoor recreation without which Duluth would have much less to offer. Additionally, in its absence, winters would seem considerably less invigorating for those who relish all of Duluth’s seasons.

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Marikana’s traders face grim times

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Independent Media
Patrick Mamoedi in his microlending caravan-office. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

On the third anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, where more than 40 people died violently following a strike by Lonmin mineworkers, informal traders in the area known as the Platinum Belt are bracing themselves for tough times ahead amid threats of a new wave of job cuts in the mining sector.

Announcing plans to shed 6 000 and 53 000 jobs respectively, both Lonmin and Anglo American have cited rising labour costs, depressed metal prices and unreliable power supply as the reasons why they are curbing operations and shedding jobs.

Government has stepped in to try and force the mining industry to find alternatives to the massive planned retrenchments.

Last week, Mineral and Energy Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi suspended a licence for a coal mining company, saying it did not follow the law when it implemented about 1 000 job cuts. He later made a u-turn and lifted the suspension.

The proposed job cuts come barely a year after the end of a crippling five-month strike in the platinum sector that almost brought the economy of South Africa to its knees and created a semi-ghost town in Marikana when business activity ground to a halt.

Many shops closed down during the strike, while those that continued operating did so at a loss after thousands of the migrant labour force went back home. Those who chose to remain in the area struggled with no income.

Imran Mian says his business runs at a loss and he has to find extra to pay the rent. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya
Independent Media

Rates of unemployment went up, as did crime levels especially robberies in the local communities; mainly in informal settlements after companies doing business with the mines were also forced to close shop and retrench workers.

Last month the Farlam Commission Report into the Marikana Massacre, commissioned by the president in 2012, released its findings, including a scathing view of the conditions in which miners live in the Platinum Belt especially, saying they were not conducive to human development and growth.

Experts also told the Farlam Commission that some of the reasons that led to the strike for a basic wage of R12 000 was that miners were over-indebted to the string of loan sharks that had mushroomed in and around Marikana.

Indeed, following the deaths of the miners and the protracted strike, many mining houses including Lonmin and Anglo embarked on a financial education campaign to help the employees manage their financial affairs prudently.

When Independent News visited Marikana this week, the small town, composed mainly of informal traders, was still reeling from the losses of previous strikes, and was also bracing itself for the impending threats of job losses at the mines.

Most traders say their existence is dependent solely on servicing the needs and wants of the mining communities and if the companies go ahead with the retrenchments, they’ll have no choice but to close shop.

The traders say they’re paying the price for the losses incurred during the five-month long strike in 2014, and that they’re still battling to break even. A snap survey of the area shows that many payday loan outlets are standing idle. Patrick Mamoedi is manning a satellite office of Value Build that serves as a building supplier and a cash-loan outlet all in one. He says business is bad as it is.

Asked what would happen if the proposed retrenchments at the platinum mines are carried through, his response is telling.

Mamoedi says currently none of the FTI (Financial Trading Institutions) would touch the miners. Babodile (they’ve been credit-blacklisted) and nobody is doing business with them anymore.

According to Mamoedi, out of 20 people that he would see on a busy day mostly miners only one has a clean credit record. The rest go back empty-handed because they’ve either defaulted on payments or stopped paying creditors altogether.

Many aren’t servicing their debt and hide behind the strike, and yet they are the ones who chose to default on their payments.

Others go and reverse debit orders after they’ve gone through. Business is bad here as you can see; there aren’t people queuing for services, he says.

Imran Mian, who runs a cellphone outlet, still hasn’t recovered from the strike, and fears that job cuts will force his business to close as he’s battling to break even.

We deal mainly with miners because they are the people who have money. The rest of the communities are poor people who do small jobs. I’ve been operating for more than three years and the dollar/rand exchange rate is expensive for imports.

When we first started here, there was no crime in Marikana. But recently Shoprite and Edgars were robbed. Even women are involved in some of these robberies. The other day, four men and four women tried to rob a store. You can’t trust anybody, he says.

The guy next door, Imram Ali, who runs a hardware store, fears being robbed, because people are desperate and have no jobs. Before the strike, he sold about 10 000 units a week, but hasn’t risen above the 3 000 units that he currently sells: If the mining companies retrench, then it’s going to be difficult for us. We don’t know how we’ll survive, as we’re not exactly where we were before the strike.

David Same, who manages Joburg Big Discount Fashions, says that if the retrenchments are carried through, it would mean businesses will have to close down, because we can’t afford to pay rent, salaries and expenses if we aren’t making profits.

For Cut Price Furniture Store’s manager Ali Ahmed, the future looks dire because, whether people buy or not, he is saddled with paying rent and salaries of the four staff members he employs. He says there are more than 10 workers at the warehouse where they keep stock, and those jobs, too, are in danger.

We have people who’ve been with us for more than four years. We’re barely making money, and we’re paying salaries from our pockets. If the mines retrench, our businesses won’t survive and we’ll have to retrench people or close shop.

Sunday Independent

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Shares of Global Cash Access Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:GCA) Drops by -9.16%

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

On a different note, The Company has disclosed insider buying and selling activities to the Securities Exchange, Lucchese David, officer (EVP) of Global Cash Access Holdings, Inc. had purchased 1,000 shares on August 12, 2015 in a transaction. The price per share was $5.01 and the total amount of the disclosed transaction was $5,010.The Insider information was disclosed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in a Form 4 filing. This information is based on open market transaction at the market prices.

Global Cash Access Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:GCA): According to 5 Analysts, The short term target price has been estimated at $ 9.The target price could deviate by a maximum of $1.22 from the forecast price. In the near term, the target price could hit a high of $10 and a low of $ 7.

Global Cash Access Holdings, Inc. (Holdings) is a holding company. The Company is a global provider of cash access and data intelligence services and solutions to the gaming industry. The Company operates in three segments: cash advance, ATM and check services. Its cash access products and services enable three primary types of electronic payment transactions: automated teller machine (ATM) cash withdrawals, credit card cash access transactions and point-of-sale (POS) debit card transactions. In addition, it also provides products and services that improve credit decision-making, automate cashier operations and enhance patron marketing activities for gaming establishments. It also sells and services cash access devices, such as slot machine ticket redemption and jackpot kiosks to the gaming industry. During the year ended December 31, 2011, the Company processed over 90 million transactions. On November 15, 2011, the Company acquired MCA Processing LLC.

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Credit Servicing Act – New Regulatory Regime For Owners And Servicers Of Irish …

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

New legislation enacted in Ireland (Credit Servicing Act)
will have implications for persons carrying on loan servicing
activities in Ireland and both owners and purchasers of Irish


In recent times, a political issue surfaced in Ireland
surrounding the sale of loan portfolios by a number of Irish
banking entities. These portfolios were often acquired from
regulated banks by newly-formed Irish special purpose companies.
The Irish Government announced that it intended to introduce new
laws to ensure that borrowers whose loans are sold by a
regulated entity to a currently unregulated entity maintain the
same regulatory protections as they had prior to the sale.
Following a long consultation process, the Consumer Protection
(Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2015 (the
Act) was enacted on 8 July 2015.

The Act, in general, requires the servicer (or in the absence of
a servicer, the owner) of such loans to become authorised as a
credit servicing firm.Credit servicing firms will now,
as a result, be subject to supervision and enforcement by the
Central Bank of Ireland (the CBI).

The Act permits customers of credit servicing firms (ie the
underlying borrowers) to complain to the Irish Financial Services
Ombudsman about the conduct of the firm and will provide such
customers with protection under the Central Bank#39;s Code of
Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, the Code of Conduct for Business
Lending to Small and Medium Enterprises and the Consumer Protection
Code (the Codes).

Practical impact

The immediate impact of the new Act is that special purpose
vehicles (SPVs) that have acquired
Irish consumer loan portfolios will need to ensure that the
existing servicer appointed to service the portfolio applies to the
Irish Central Bank to become authorised as a credit servicing firm
before 8 October 2015. If the existing servicer fails to apply or,
having applied, fails to achieve authorisation then the SPV itself
would in theory be required to seek authorisation as a credit
servicing firm. Bearing in mind that an SPV is unlikely to achieve
such authorisation, the likely practical solution in such
circumstances will be that a separate authorised credit servicing
firm will need to be appointed by the SPV to service the

SPVs that have acquired Irish consumer loan portfolios will also
need to check the terms of their contractual arrangements in order
to ensure that the tasks being undertaken by parties other than the
servicer (such as the SPV itself or any master servicer or other
parties involved in the transaction) do not amount to credit
servicing. If credit servicing is being undertaken by any
parties other than the servicer, then they too will need to seek
authorisation as a credit servicing firm or will need to amend the
terms of the contractual arrangements in order to clarify the

What is a credit servicing firm?

As mentioned above, the Act introduces a new concept of credit
servicing firm. A credit servicing firm is required to apply for
authorisation under the Act. A credit servicing firm means a person

  1. undertakes credit servicing for an
    unregulated entity; that is to say an entity that is not a
    regulated financial service provider authorised by the CBI or an
    authority that performs functions in an EEA country that are
    comparable to the functions performed by the CBI, for example an
    Equivalent Authority, to provide credit in Ireland,
  2. holds the legal title to credit
    granted under a credit agreement in respect of which credit
    servicing is not being undertaken by a person authorised to carry
    on the business of a credit servicing firm.

The definition of credit servicing firm also includes a
regulated financial service provider authorised by the CBI or an
equivalent authority to provide credit in Ireland (a
Regulated Provider).

All existing and new Regulated Providers will, automatically, be
taken to be authorised to carry on the business of a credit
servicing firm.

A number of things about the concept of credit servicing firm
are notable:

  1. Owners of loans who appoint servicers
    that are Regulated Providers will not be required to become
    authorised as credit servicing firms. This exclusion would not
    extend to servicers that are authorised to undertake activities
    other than providing credit in Ireland (such as regulated mortgage
    administrators in the UK).
  2. Servicers who only provide credit
    servicing to Irish banks, non-Irish banks that have passported into
    Ireland to provide credit in Ireland, or Irish retail credit firms
    will not need to seek authorisation as a credit servicing
  3. All Regulated Providers (which
    includes all Irish banks and all foreign banks that have passported
    into Ireland to provide credit in Ireland) will be required to
    comply with any new rules (yet to be finalised) to be imposed upon
    credit servicing firms. This appears to be the case even where
    these Regulated Providers do not in fact carry on any credit
    servicing. This is an odd result and is discussed, along with some
    other peculiarities of the Act, below.

In general, Irish SPVs that have purchased or will purchase
Irish loan portfolios where the loans were originally advanced to
Irish individuals or small and medium enterprises
(SMEs), as defined below, will need to
appoint an authorised credit servicing firm to manage such
portfolios to comply with the requirements of the Act.

What is credit servicing?

Credit servicing is defined as managing or administering a
credit agreement, including:

  1. notifying the relevant borrower of
    changes in interest rates or in payments due under the credit
    agreement or other matters of which the credit agreement requires
    the relevant borrower to be notified;
  2. taking any necessary steps for the
    purposes of collecting or recovering payments due under the credit
    agreement from the relevant borrower;
  3. managing or administering any of the

    1. repayments under the credit
    2. any charges imposed on the relevant
      borrower under the credit agreement;
    3. any errors made in relation to the
      credit agreement;
    4. any complaints made by the relevant
    5. information or records relating to
      the relevant borrower in respect of the credit agreement;
    6. the process by which a relevant
      borrower#39;s financial difficulties are addressed;
    7. any alternative arrangements for
      repayment or other restructuring;
    8. assessment of the relevant
      borrower#39;s financial circumstances and ability to repay under
      the credit agreement;


  4. communicating with the relevant
    borrower in respect of any of the matters referred to in paragraphs
    (a) to (c).

What is not credit servicing?

The Act clarifies that credit servicing does not include:

  1. the determination of the overall
    strategy for the management and administration of a portfolio of
    credit agreements;
  2. the maintenance of control over key
    decisions relating to such portfolio; or
  3. taking such steps as may be necessary
    for the purposes of:

    1. enabling the undertaking of credit
      servicing by another person, or
    2. enforcing a credit agreement,

whether any action referred to in paragraphs (x) to (z) is taken
by a person who holds the legal title to credit in respect of a
portfolio of credit agreements (the
holder) or a person acting on behalf
of the holder, provided that such action (whether taken by the
holder or such person) is not taken in a manner that, if it were so
taken by a regulated financial service provider, it would be a
breach of certain provisions of financial services legislation or
codes of conduct.

These exclusions from the definition of credit servicing should
be generally helpful for SPV owners of loans, master servicers of
loans and trustees in securitisation deals.

What is a credit agreement?

A credit agreement is an agreement whereby a person grants, or
promises to grant, credit (being a cash loan) to a relevant

What is a relevant borrower?

A relevant borrower is:

  1. any individual person (excluding
    professional clients under Markets in Financial Instruments
    Directive (MiFID) and persons who are
    regulated service providers) situated in Ireland; or
  2. any SME (ie an entity that employs
    fewer than 250 persons and has an annual turnover of not more than
    €50 million and/or an annual balance sheet total of not more
    than €43 million).

The definition of SME is derived from EU Commission
Recommendation 2003/361/EC of 6 May 2003 and is very broad and
includes companies, partnerships and sole traders. The definition
of SME is not (on the face of the Act) restricted to SMEs located
in Ireland, but it is assumed that it is intended only to apply to
SMEs located in Ireland. The definition of relevant borrower only
applies, so far as an SME is concerned, where the credit advanced
to the SME was originally advanced by a Regulated Provider.

Authorisation process and requirements for credit servicing

The Act provides for a three month transitional period for
persons deemed by the Act to be existing credit servicing firms to
seek authorisation. Such persons will be deemed to be authorised to
carry on the business of a credit servicing firm until the CBI has
granted or refused authorisation, provided that such person has
applied for authorisation before 8 October 2015.

Where a person is deemed to be authorised, it must comply with
the Codes, the Minimum Competency Code, Part V of the Central Bank
Act 1997 and the Fitness and Probity Regime and must take steps to
update its IT systems, all documentation, policies and procedures
to comply with these codes and regimes and must train their staff

Each credit servicing firm is required to apply to the CBI for
authorisation to carry on such credit servicing business. The
application must contain such information as the CBI has published
in their Stage 1 Application for Authorisation as a credit
servicing firm (available at If the CBI wishes to
refuse an application, it must specify in writing the grounds on
which it proposes to do so.

In granting an application for authorisation, the CBI may impose
certain conditions on the authorised credit servicing firm. The CBI
has published Consultation Paper 96 entitled Consultation on
the Authorisation Requirements and Standards for Credit Servicing
Firms and Consequential Amendments to Statutory Codes dated
July 2015 (available at Interested parties can
provide comments on this Consultation Paper prior to 30 September

What is the potential impact of non-compliance?

A person who acts as a credit servicer without authorisation
will commit a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of
€100,000. Subject to certain defences, individual officers in
a firm, which has committed an offence under the Central Bank Act
1997, can be subject to personal liability carrying maximum
penalties of a fine of €50,000 or imprisonment for up to 12
months, or both.

When a firm becomes a regulated credit servicer it becomes
subject to the CBI#39;s supervision regime which allows the CBI to
impose a range of administrative sanctions including a monetary
penalty of €10 million or up to 10% of the turnover of the
credit servicer. Subject to certain defences, individuals concerned
in the management of the firm can become subject to a personal fine
of up to €1 million and/or a prohibition on being concerned in
the management of a regulated firm in Ireland permanently or for a
specified period of time.

There is also a specific offence created by the Act that applies
where a holder of legal title to credit (such as an SPV) instructs
a credit servicing firm to take or fail to take an action which
would be a contravention of certain existing laws. This offence can
give rise to a fine of up to €250,000 or imprisonment for up
to five years, or both.

Examples of situations affected by the Act

Where a loan made to a relevant borrower was originated by a
Regulated Provider and has been acquired by a person who has not
appointed a servicer to service the portfolio, then that person is
now required to apply for authorisation under the Act (unless that
person is already a Regulated Provider).

Where a loan made to a relevant borrower was originated by a
Regulated Provider and has been acquired by a person who has
appointed a servicer to service the portfolio, then that person
will need to ensure that the servicer seeks authorisation under the
Act prior to 8 October 2015 (unless the servicer is already a
Regulated Provider). If the servicer does not seek authorisation
(or fails to become authorised by the CBI in due course), then the
person who acquired the loan will need to seek authorisation
itself, or else replace the servicer with an authorised credit
servicing firm.

Where a loan made to a relevant borrower was originated by a
Regulated Provider and has been acquired by a person who has
appointed a servicer to service the portfolio, it is sometimes the
case that the servicer may delegate some of the activities outlined
in the definition of credit servicing to a third party (such as
collection or recovery services). In such cases, the person and the
servicer should ensure that the third party seeks authorisation
(unless the third party is already a Regulated Provider).

In some cases, loans made to a relevant borrower which were
originated by a Regulated Provider have been acquired by an SPV
that has separately appointed both a servicer and a master servicer
(where the master servicer oversees the servicing arrangements). In
such cases, it is likely that the servicer will always need to seek
authorisation under the Act. However, it is also possible that the
master servicer may need to seek authorisation if it provides any
services that are not excluded from the definition of credit
services as set out above.

Where any loan made to a relevant borrower was originated by a
Regulated Provider and has been included in a securitisation or CLO
structure, in addition to the requirement for the servicer or
manager to seek authorisation, any back-up servicer should also
seek (or be required to seek) authorisation. Further, where any
special servicer is appointed, the special servicer will need to
seek authorisation.

Some unexpected concerns

As mentioned above, the Act presents some unexpected

It appears that all Regulated Providers (which includes all
Irish banks and all foreign banks that have passported into Ireland
to provide credit in Ireland) will be required to comply with any
new rules (yet to be finalised) to be imposed upon credit servicing
firms. We await the publication of the relevant rules by the CBI
following the end of the consultation period (ie 30 September
2015). It is hoped that the CBI might in due course clarify that
these rules will only apply where the Regulated Provider is
actually involved in credit servicing, although we note that the
Act does not contain such a limitation.

It also appears as if all Regulated Providers (which includes
all Irish banks and all foreign banks that have passported into
Ireland to provide credit in Ireland) that have advanced loans to
Irish individuals or SMEs in the past may need to be aware that the
transfer of such loans may be more complicated than in the past.
Where such loans are transferred to another Regulated Provider then
no particular issues should arise under the Act. However, where
such loans are transferred to an unregulated entity (such as an SPV
or a special situations fund) then the transferee may need to
appoint a credit servicing firm to administer the loans. Due to the
broad definition of SME, this could include any loans originally
granted to an Irish individual, an Irish SPV, an Irish fund or any
other Irish entity. Buyers of loans should raise this issue as part
of their due diligence. This is likely to become a discussion point
upon the future transfer of Irish loans.

Finally, the definition of credit servicing is quite broad
– possibly broader than necessary. Persons carrying on
activities that involve (or might in the future involve) some
element of credit servicing will need to review the nature of their
services in order to ensure that they are not captured by the
requirement to seek authorisation under the Act. For example, any
person who communicates with a relevant borrower may need to review
their arrangements – this could include facility agents,
special servicers, master servicers and back-up servicers.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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FOCUS | In 1st 3 years of ‘Daang Matuwid,’ cash advance liquidation at slow 56%

Monday, August 24th, 2015
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA – Government agencies have been slower in liquidating their cash advances from 2010 to 2013, compared to earlier years due to non-enforcement of rules and the lack of political will, the think tank of the House of Representatives said.

The Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) said that the average liquidation rate of government cash advances (CAs) from 2010 to 2013 was only 56 percent.  

This was significantly low compared with the previous years, 2007 to 2009, when the liquidation rate was between 81 percent and 88 percent, according to the discussion paper written by Aurea Hernandez-Sempio.

The regional offices got the highest cash advances.  Close to three-fourths or 71 percent of CAs for the regions were liquidated in 2010 and 2013, but liquidation ratio was low at 37% in 2012–thus, pulling down the overall liquidation rate to 39% for that year, the study said.

The national government, which receives the second biggest amount of cash advances every year, had the lowest average liquidation rate of 53%. The average liquidation ratios of the other sectors were slightly higher –  66% for the local government sector and 60% for the corporate government sector. 

The cash advance system is a mechanism to ensure the smooth operation of government programs and projects especially in instances when it is very impractical to issue checks. Cash advances are granted to facilitate the payment of obligations especially those requiring small amounts of money.

Under Presidential Decree 1445 or the Auditing Code of the Philippines, cash advances must be liquidated after the purpose for which the CA was granted has been served. However, despite this regulation, the unliquidated CAs have been accumulating over time, CPBRD said.

Cash advances are broadly categorized into regular and special cash advances. Regular cash advances are released to pay for the following: (1) salaries and wages; (2) commutable allowances; (3) honoraria and other similar payments; and (4) petty operating expenses which cannot be paid conveniently by check or those that need immediate payments.  

On the other hand, special cash advances are allowed for purposes such as–(1) current operating expenditures of the agency field office or for activities undertaken on field, and (2) travel expenditures including transportation fare, travel allowance, hotel room/lodging expenses and other expenses that may be incurred in connection with official travel.

Process of liquidation

According to the paper, liquidation takes place when the grantee of the CA submits supporting documents (eg, official receipts) proving that the funds received were utilized in accordance with the pre-determined purpose. 

The documents are recorded and verified by the agency accountant, and finally examined by the auditor to clear the grantee of any obligation, or to determine any suspension and/or disallowances.

Based on Executive Order 248 and Commission on Audit Circular No. 96-004, agencies or offices with cash advances have the obligation to liquidate within the following prescribed time frame:

o within five (5) days after the 15th and 30th day of the month pay period for salaries, wages,

allowances, honoraria and other similar payments;

o within twenty (20) days after the end of the year subject to replenishment as frequently as

necessary during the year for petty operating expenses and field operating expenses;

o within sixty (60) days after return to the Philippines for foreign travel; and

o within thirty (30) days after return to permanent official station for local travel. 

Delays in liquidation of cash advances or the non-liquidation can be traced to the following factors, CPBRD said:

*The lack of political will to implement the cash advance system regulations;

*Non-enforcement of some agreements under the SOLANA Covenant;

*Absence of a cash advance system manual;

*Long, tedious process in prosecuting erring accountable officers or employees; and, 

*Obsolete and unfair imposition of penalties.

Since 2002, the annual Appropriations Law explicitly states among others, that “cash advances shall not be granted until such time that the earlier cash advances availed of by the officials or employees concerned shall have been liquidated pursuant to pertinent accounting and auditing rules and regulations.” 

However, numerous COA reports indicate that this provision is being disregarded or ignored. One auditor observed the granting of succession of cash advances to employees without having secured the needed liquidation documents for earlier cash advances, CPBRD noted.

Even the COA’s directive for concerned agency heads to withhold monetary benefits of agency officials or employees due to nonliquidating is not effectively enforced. It also appears that the rules are silent regarding the liability of and the sanctions for the agency head’s failure to implement COA’s instruction, it added.

The congressional body lamented the non-enforcement of agreements in the SOLANA Covenant, a tripartite anti-corruption plan signed in 2004 by the COA, Office of the Ombudsmand and Civil Service Commission.

The covenant has three basic agreements:

o one, for COA to submit reports on unaccounted funds of presidential appointees and elective officials to the OMB, and of non-presidential and appointive officials to the CSC;

o two, consolidate yearly reports on all unliquidated cash advances for public reporting; and,

o three, hyperlink with each other for mutual publication in agency websites of information on sanctioned officials and employees with unliquidated cash advances and disallowances.

The last two agreements under the Solana Covenant appear to have been overlooked. None of the websites of the three agencies has a report on unliquidated advances and information on sanctioned officials and employees. It was noted that the covenant is silent on who among the signatories will take charge of the consolidation and the publication of the report, CPBRD said.

Toothless penalties

Another major factor for the low rate of liquidation of cash advances was traced to the almost toothless penalties imposed by existing laws.

Presidential Decree 1445, which was approved in 1978, sets a fine not exceeding P1,000 and imprisonment not exceeding six months for violation of the cash advance system. 

Obviously, the fine and penalty stipulated in the Audit Code are already obsolete, CPBRD said.

The group proposed stiffer penalties for violators so that the system would not be prone to abuse.  It also called for the full implementation of the SOLANA Convention.

It also said officials and employees with unsettled cash advances should not be granted fresh funds.

It needs political will on the part of agency heads to comply with this regulation and for oversight bodies including Congress to hold agency officials liable for nonobservance of rules and regulations, CPBRD said.

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So much solar: Hawaii utilities tempt customers with new tool

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

The state of Hawaii as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: Ras67/Wikimedia Commons

With their WattPlan program, the utility is looking to help inform customers. The program will let them estimate electric bill savings based on their electricity use, current rates, and available rebates and tax credits. They can also compare the pros and cons of purchasing or financing solar PV.

We want to increase rooftop PV sustainably and provide customers options and tools to manage their electric bills. Solar power is good for customers and good for the state, so we want to help people make informed decisions, said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service.

HEI includes utilities Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light Company. The tool not only gives an estimate, but it bases that estimate on the cost of installing solar PV on a particular address, as well as estimating how much of their own energy use a PV system would supply, bill saving, and carbon footprint reduction.

The estimate is based on solar PV purchased with cash, loan, or lease agreement — including when they are expected to break even on their investment.

WattPlan was launched back in June by Clean Power Research (CPR). Early adopters include the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Research has shown that utilities that successfully engage their customers about energy alternatives have higher levels of customer satisfaction, said Jeff Ressler, president of Software Services at Clean Power Research, at the announcement of the software. WattPlan offers a scalable option to traditional methods of customer outreach, enabling utilities to engage customers online with a powerful and flexible platform that supports solar and new technologies.

WattPlan was built specifically for solar estimates, but the software will soon see an upgrade to account for other technologies, like electric vehicles — with and without rooftop solar. The software will soon be able to model the combined energy and economic effects various different energy technologies in an individual home.

The engineering tools available today typically dont account for the specific usage of a home or business, let alone support a consumer engagement with a phased approach to energy investment analysis, noted Ressler. WattPlan resonates with utilities because of its approachability, modularity and deep personalization.

HECO spokesperson Darren Pai told FierceEnergy that Hawaii currently has 70,000 rooftop PV applications that have been approved across Oahu, Maui County, and Hawaii Island.

For more:
– visit this website

Related articles:
Upping the stakes: HECO readying for three times more solar
HECO investigating adverse effects of net metering
Utilities engaging customers in solar via the web

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