FTC Staff Provides Annual Letter to CFPB On Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Activities

The staff of the Federal Trade Commission has provided the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with an annual summary of the FTC’s activities enforcing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The FTC shares enforcement responsibility for the FDCPA with the CFPB, which provides an annual report to Congress about debt collection enforcement activities. The annual report, which was released today, highlights both agencies’ efforts to stop unlawful debt collection practices, including law enforcement, education and public outreach, and policy initiatives. Among the actions taken to combat unfair, deceptive, and otherwise unlawful debt collection practices in 2019, the FTC:

  • filed or resolved law enforcement actions against 25 defendants, and obtained more than $24.7 million in judgments;
  • banned 23 companies and individuals who engaged in serious and repeated violations of law from ever working in debt collection again;
  • announced the return of $516,000 to 3,977 consumers who lost money to an unlawful debt collection operation previously stopped by the FTC;
  • deployed educational materials to inform consumers about their rights, and educate debt collectors about their responsibilities, under the FDCPA and FTC Act;
  • supplied more than 27,500 copies of a fotonovela (graphic novel) on debt collection, developed for Spanish speakers, to raise awareness about scams targeting the Latino community;
  • organized and cosponsored Common Ground conferences, bringing together law enforcement personnel, consumer advocates, and community members to discuss consumer protection issues, including debt collection; and
  • hosted public forums on small business financing and credit reporting, which raised debt collection policy issues.

The letter also highlights FTC staff’s submission of a public comment on the CFPB’s proposed rules implementing the FDCPA. The comment provided an overview of the Commission’s law enforcement, policy, and education efforts to protect consumers from unlawful debt collection practices, and provided FTC staff feedback on several components of the proposed rules.

Secretary Mnuchin to Attend G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced that Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin will travel to Saudi Arabia to attend the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Riyadh from February 22-23, 2020.

“This trip will focus on advancing the Trump Administration’s economic agenda and working with international partners to address key economic and security issues to strengthen global growth,” said Secretary Mnuchin. “Meetings at the G20 provide an opportunity to continue productive engagement on a range of important issues, including international taxation, debt transparency and sustainability, digital assets, and efforts to combat terrorist financing.”

In Riyadh, Secretary Mnuchin will participate in the official G20 program and meet with his international counterparts, including with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

Following the G20 meetings, Secretary Mnuchin will visit Abu Dhabi and Doha, where he will participate in bilateral meetings focused specifically on countering the financing of terrorist activities.

NOTE: Details are subject to change. Further information regarding the Secretary’s schedule will be made available in the days ahead. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Public Engagement Schedule.

Department of Commerce Renews Temporary General License for 45 Days

Today, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it was extending a Temporary General License (TGL) for Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and its non-U.S. affiliates on the Entity List for an additional 45 days.  The TGL was implemented as a measure to prevent interruption of existing network communication systems in rural U.S. regions and permit global network security measures.  The TGL is intended to allow time for companies and persons to shift to alternative sources of equipment, software and technology (i.e., those not produced by Huawei or one of its listed affiliates).  

The 45-day extension is necessary to allow existing telecommunication providers—particularly those in rural U.S. communities—the ability to continue to temporarily and securely operate existing networks while they identify alternatives to Huawei for future operation.  American technology should not be acquired by Huawei and its foreign affiliates and used in a manner that undermines U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.  During the next 45 days, the Department intends to determine the need for any future extensions of the TGL. 

The TGL amends the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to authorize specific, limited engagement in transactions involving the export, reexport, and transfer of items subject to the EAR to Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and non-U.S. affiliates on the Entity List until April 1, 2020.  

Huawei was added to the Entity List after the U.S. government concluded the company poses a significant risk of involvement in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States, including, by engaging, among other things, in alleged violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), conspiracy to violate IEEPA by providing prohibited financial services to Iran, and obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation of those alleged violations of U.S. sanctions, among other illicit activities, including charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering activities announced by the Department of Justice today.

The Bureau of Industry and Security’s mission is to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives by ensuring an effective export control and treaty compliance system and promoting continued U.S. strategic technology leadership. BIS is committed to preventing U.S.-origin items from supporting Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) projects, terrorism, or destabilizing military modernization programs. 

U.S. Economy Grows 1.9 Percent in Third Quarter

Today, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released the third quarter GDP growth number for 2019. The Bureau found that real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the third quarter.

“Today’s report shows that the U.S. economy continues its steady growth in defiance of media skeptics calling for a recession,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Since President Trump took office, wages have surged, unemployment has hit record lows, and poverty has fallen for all Americans, including the country’s most vulnerable.”

In the third quarter, U.S. consumer spending grew a healthy 2.9 percent, as American consumer confidence continued to buoy our country’s economic strength. Spending on durable goods led and jumped 7.6 percent from the second quarter. Business intellectual property investment rose 6.6 percent, signaling that American business will continue to lead the world with new ideas and inventions. The 1.6 percent growth in goods exports demonstrates that President Trump’s trade policies are bringing Made in America back.

This quarter’s growth number builds on a strong legacy of economic growth and accomplishments under President Donald Trump.

In September 2019, unemployment in the U.S. fell to 3.5 percent, hitting the lowest level in 50 years. The unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans and African Americans were also at record lows. The total numbers of employed Americans hit the highest level on record. Between 2017 and 2018, 2.3 million moreAmericans gained full-time, year-round employment, including 1.6 million women.

This has translated to higher incomes for average Americans. The Census Bureau reported in September that real median household income rose to more than $63,000 in 2018, the highest level in nearly two decades. Between 2017 and 2018, real median earnings of full-time, year-round workers rose 3.4% and 3.3% for men and women respectively. This good news tracks with Labor Department numbers, which marked more than a year of consecutive year-over-year hourly wage increases of 3.0 percent or higher. Before 2018, wage gains had not hit 3 percent since 2009.

The poverty rate has tumbled as well. In 2018, the poverty rate fell by 0.5 percent to the lowest level since 2001, as the growing economy lifted 1.7 million Americans out of poverty since just 2017. Disadvantaged groups such as Hispanic Americans and African Americans saw the largest poverty reductions. America’s children saw a 1.2 percentage points in poverty, while poverty for single mothers fell by 2.5 percentage points.

President Donald Trump’s economic and trade policies are delivering wins for the American people. A strong economy is lifting millions out of poverty and giving American workers long overdue pay increases.

Wilbur Ross Travels to the United Kingdom, Asia, and Australia to Advocate for American Workers

WASHINGTON – Following the United National General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross spent two weeks travelling to the United Kingdom, India, Singapore, and Australia to advocate for American workers and businesses, as well as to build upon the United States’ robust relationships with these nations.

“Across the world, the Trump Administration is building better commercial partnerships with dozens of countries,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Our efforts have led to countless new opportunities for American businesses and workers, further driving economic growth and job creation.”

During the Secretary’s visit to London, he joined roundtable meetings with British-American businesses on Brexit and future opportunities, participated in a space-focused discussion with U.S. satellite and aerospace firms, as well as dedicated time to speak with the media about the importance of the two nations’ partnership. He also appeared at an event hosted by Ambassador Johnson with American financial and legal institutions to discuss the future of U.S.-U.K. relations.

Beginning with his remarks at the World Economic Forum in New Delhi, Secretary Ross met with Minister of Commerce and Industry and Railways Piyush Goyal to stress the positive trends of the U.S.-India trade relationship. He later joined Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister Goyal in bilateral meetings to advance U.S. commercial interests. Subsequently in Bangalore, Secretary Ross met with Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman K. Sivan to learn more about potential collaborations for U.S. and Indian space entities.

While in Singapore, Secretary Ross joined Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as well as Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing to discuss U.S.-Singapore relations and the business environment for American private industries. The Secretary also participated in a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore to hear their thoughts on the future of the trade partnership.

After arriving in Australia, Secretary Ross met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham, and Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan, to discuss American and Australian commercial collaboration. The Secretary also participated in an event hosted by the Space Industry Association of Australia in partnership with the Australian Capital Territory government, and delivered remarks before the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia. Additionally, Secretary Ross paid his respects to the U.S.-Australia alliance with a sunset wreath laying at the Australian War Memorial.

Upcoming Event: ESNA 2019 Conference and Expo

November 5-7, 2019 in San Diego, CA

Join 2500 industry leaders representing over 30 countries at the largest and most influential grid-connected and energy storage conference and expo in North America.

ESNA is pleased to offer the events below as part of their international programming:

ENERGY STORAGE ON THE MOVE WEBINAR:
On September 19 at 11 AM PT (2 PM ET), and in partnership with ITA, ESNA will host a free, public webinar on “How Vehicle Electrification is Shaping the Future Global Electricity Landscape.” You can register for the free here.

GLOBAL GRID TRANSFORMATION AT ESNA 2019:

ESNA will host the Global Grid Transformation program, a one-day facilitated roundtable and workshop with key stakeholders from around the world. International delegations come together to promote cross-border collaboration on grid transformation issues with policymakers and companies with a focus on promoting a decarbonized, resilient and affordable power grid.

SITE VISIT OPTIONS AT ESNA:
Registered attendees are eligible to sign up for an optional site visit to an energy facility in the San Diego region on the morning of November 5. Site visits are available on a first-come, first-served basis and fill up quickly.

ESNA FELLOWSHIPS AVAILABLE FOR GOVERNMENT POLICY MAKERS:
ESNA offers fellowships to distinguished government representatives, decision makers, and thought leaders who may otherwise not be able to attend the event. The fellowships include a free All-Access pass to ESNA.

The ESNA application deadline is October 15, 2019.

U.S. Metro Areas Exported $1.5 Trillion in Merchandise Across the World in 2018

Photo of cargo shipments at a U.S. port

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration released the 2018 goods export data for the nation’s 392 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), highlighting that U.S. metro areas exported a significant $1.5 trillion in merchandise across the world last year. In fact, from 2017 to 2018, exports from MSAs increased $110.3 billion – or 8.1 percent, and 259 metropolitan areas reported positive export growth, with 94 reaching record-level exports.

“The Trump Administration is committed to addressing trade imbalances, breaking down trade barriers, and providing U.S. companies with new reach in foreign markets,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Gilbert Kaplan. “With this increase in exports over the last year and the continued work of the Commercial Service, it is a fruitful time for American businesses.”

In 2018, 165 metropolitan areas supported more than $1 billion in merchandise exports; of these, 22 areas reported exports between $10 and $25 billion, and 12 eclipsed the $25 billion threshold. Additionally, 10 metropolitan areas from Texas and 5 metropolitan areas from California are included in the top 50 ranking of metropolitan areas by 2018 export value.

The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land (Texas) metropolitan area topped the rankings with $120.7 billion in goods exports. As in 2017, this metropolitan area also showed the highest annual dollar growth in exports, expanding $25.0 billion from 2017 to 2018. The remaining top five metropolitan areas are: New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania) with exports of $97.7 billion; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (California) with exports of $64.8 billion; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue (Washington) with exports of $59.7 billion; and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin (Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin) with exports of $47.3 billion.