|Commitments and Contingencies
8. Commitments and Contingencies
Letters of Credit and Bank Guarantees
The Company had approximately $335 million in outstanding letters of credit and bank guarantees as of September 30, 2019 that are primarily held in connection with safeguarding consumer funds, lease arrangements, and certain agent agreements. The letters of credit and bank guarantees have expiration dates through 2024, with many having a one-year renewal option. The Company expects to renew the letters of credit and bank guarantees prior to expiration in most circumstances. These letters of credit and bank guarantees exclude guarantees that the Company may provide as part of its legal matters, as described below.
Litigation and Related Contingencies
The Company is subject to certain claims and litigation that could result in losses, including damages, fines and/or civil penalties, which could be significant, and in some cases, criminal charges. The Company regularly evaluates the status of legal matters to assess whether a loss is probable and reasonably estimable in determining whether an accrual is appropriate. Furthermore, in determining whether disclosure is appropriate, the Company evaluates each legal matter to assess if there is at least a reasonable possibility that a loss or additional loss may have been incurred and whether an estimate of possible loss or range of loss can be made. Unless otherwise specified below, the Company believes that there is at least a reasonable possibility that a loss or additional loss may have been incurred for each of the matters described below.
For those matters that the Company believes there is at least a reasonable possibility that a loss or additional loss may have been incurred and can reasonably estimate the loss or potential loss, the reasonably possible potential litigation losses in excess of the Company’s recorded liability for probable and estimable losses was approximately $30 million as of September 30, 2019. For the remaining matters, management is unable to provide a meaningful estimate of the possible loss or range of loss because, among other reasons: (i) the proceedings are in preliminary stages; (ii) specific damages have not been sought; (iii) damage claims are unsupported and/or unreasonable; (iv) there is uncertainty as to the outcome of pending appeals or motions; (v) there are significant factual issues to be resolved; or (vi) novel legal issues or unsettled legal theories are being asserted.
The outcomes of legal actions are unpredictable and subject to significant uncertainties, and it is inherently difficult to determine whether any loss is probable or even possible. It is also inherently difficult to estimate the amount of any loss and there may be matters for which a loss is probable or reasonably possible but not currently estimable. Accordingly, actual losses may be in excess of the established liability or the range of reasonably possible loss.
United States Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and State Attorneys General Settlements
In late November 2016, the Company entered into discussions with the United States Department of Justice (the “DOJ”), the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California ("USAO-CDCA"), the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ("USAO-EDPA"), the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ("USAO-MDPA"), and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida (“USAO-SDFL”) to resolve the investigations by the USAO-CDCA, USAO-EDPA, USAO-MDPA, and USAO-SDFL (collectively, the “USAOs”). On January 19, 2017, the Company announced that it, or its subsidiary Western Union Financial Services, Inc. (“WUFSI”), had entered into 1) a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (the “DPA”) with the DOJ and the USAOs; 2) a Stipulated Order for Permanent Injunction and Final Judgment (the “Consent Order”) with the United States Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) resolving claims by the FTC alleging unfair acts and practices under the Federal Trade Commission Act and for violations of the FTC Telemarketing Sales Rule; and 3) a Consent to the Assessment of Civil Money Penalty with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) of the United States Department of Treasury (the “FinCEN Agreement”), to resolve the respective investigations of those agencies. FinCEN provided notice to the Company dated December 16, 2016 of its investigation regarding possible violations of the United States Bank Secrecy Act ("BSA"). On January 31, 2017, the Company entered into assurances of discontinuance/assurances of voluntary compliance with the attorneys general of 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia named therein to resolve investigations by the state attorneys general, which sought information and documents relating to money transfers sent from the United States to certain countries, consumer fraud complaints that the Company had received and the Company’s procedures to help identify and prevent fraudulent transfers. On April 12, 2017, the Company settled with the one remaining state attorney general under effectively the same terms as the January 31, 2017 agreement with no additional monetary payment required. The agreements with the state attorneys general are collectively referred to herein as the "State AG Agreement." The DPA, Consent Order, FinCEN Agreement, and State AG Agreement are collectively referred to herein as the "Joint Settlement Agreements."
Pursuant to the DPA, the USAOs filed a two-count criminal information in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, charging the Company with aiding and abetting wire fraud and willfully failing to implement an effective anti-money laundering ("AML") program. The USAOs agreed that if the Company fully complies with all of its obligations under the DPA, the USAOs will, at the conclusion of the DPA’s term, seek dismissal with prejudice of the criminal information filed against the Company.
Under the Joint Settlement Agreements, the Company was required to 1) pay an aggregate amount of $586 million to the DOJ to be used to reimburse consumers who were the victims of third-party fraud conducted through the Company’s money transfer services (the “Compensation Payment”); 2) pay an aggregate amount of $5 million to the State Attorneys General to reimburse investigative, enforcement, and other costs; and 3) retain an independent compliance auditor for three years to review and assess actions taken by the Company under the Consent Order to further enhance its oversight of agents and protection of consumers. The FinCEN Agreement also set forth a civil penalty of $184 million, the full amount of which was deemed satisfied by the Compensation Payment, without any additional payment or non-monetary obligations. No separate payment to the FTC was required under the Joint Settlement Agreements. The Company paid the Compensation Payment and the aggregate amount due to the State Attorneys General during 2017.
The Joint Settlement Agreements also require, among other things, the Company to adopt certain new or enhanced practices with respect to its compliance program relating to consumer reimbursement, agent due diligence, agent training, monitoring, reporting, and record-keeping by the Company and its agents, consumer fraud disclosures, agent suspensions and terminations, and other items. The changes in the Company’s compliance program required by the Joint Settlement
Agreements have had and are expected to have adverse effects on the Company’s business, including additional costs and potential loss of business. The Company has faced (as described below) and could also face additional actions from other regulators as a result of the Joint Settlement Agreements. Further, if the Company fails to comply with the Joint Settlement Agreements, it could face criminal prosecution, civil litigation, significant fines, damage awards or other regulatory consequences. Any or all of these outcomes could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s business, financial condition, results of operations, and cash flows.
Shareholder Derivative Actions
On January 13, 2014, Natalie Gordon served the Company with a Verified Shareholder Derivative Complaint and Jury Demand that was filed in District Court, Douglas County, Colorado naming the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, one of its former executive officers, one of its former directors, and all but one of its current directors as individual defendants, and the Company as a nominal defendant. The complaint asserts claims for breach of fiduciary duty and gross mismanagement against all of the individual defendants and unjust enrichment against the President and Chief Executive Officer and the former executive officer based on allegations that between February 12, 2012 to October 30, 2012, the individual defendants made or caused the Company to issue false and misleading statements or failed to make adequate disclosures regarding the effects of a settlement agreement signed on February 11, 2010 between WUFSI and the State of Arizona regarding WUFSI’s AML compliance programs along the United States and Mexico border ("Southwest Border Agreement"), including regarding the anticipated costs of compliance with the Southwest Border Agreement, potential effects on business operations, and Company projections. Plaintiff also alleges that the individual defendants caused or allowed the Company to lack requisite internal controls, caused or allowed financial statements to be misstated, and caused the Company to be subject to the costs, expenses and liabilities associated with City of Taylor Police and Fire Retirement System v. The Western Union Company, et al., a lawsuit that was subsequently renamed and dismissed. Plaintiff further alleges that the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer and the former executive officer received excessive compensation based on the allegedly inaccurate financial statements. On March 12, 2014, the Court entered an order granting the parties’ joint motion to stay proceedings in the case during the pendency of certain of the shareholder derivative actions described below. On February 13, 2019, the case was administratively closed, although the Court indicated that a motion could be filed to re-open the matter. On September 16, 2019, the Court dismissed the case.
In 2014, Stanley Lieblein, R. Andre Klein, City of Cambridge Retirement System, Mayar Fund Ltd, Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System, MARTA/ATU Local 732 Employees Retirement Plan, and The Police Retirement System of St. Louis filed shareholder derivative complaints in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (or were removed to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado) naming the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer and certain current and former directors and a former executive officer as individual defendants, and the Company as a nominal defendant. On January 5, 2015, the court entered an order consolidating the actions and appointing City of Cambridge Retirement System and MARTA/ATU Local 732 Employees Retirement Plan as co-lead plaintiffs. On February 4, 2015, co-lead plaintiffs filed a verified consolidated shareholder derivative complaint naming the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer and nine current or former executive officers and directors as individual defendants, and the Company as a nominal defendant. The consolidated complaint asserts separate claims for breach of fiduciary duty against the director defendants and the officer defendants, claims against all of the individual defendants for violations of section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act"), corporate waste and unjust enrichment, and a claim against the former executive officer for breach of fiduciary duties for insider selling and misappropriation of information. The breach of fiduciary duty claim against the director defendants includes allegations that they declined to implement an effective AML compliance system after receiving numerous red flags indicating prolonged willful illegality, obstructed the efforts of the monitor assigned to the Company pursuant to the Southwest Border Agreement to impose effective compliance systems on the Company, failed to take action in response to alleged Western Union management efforts to undermine the monitor, reappointed the same directors to the Audit Committee and Corporate Governance and Public Policy Committees constituting a majority of those committees between 2006 and 2014, appointed a majority of directors to the Compliance Committee who were directly involved in overseeing the alleged misconduct as members of the Audit Committee and the Corporate Governance and Public Policy Committee, caused the
Company to materially breach the Southwest Border Agreement, caused the Company to repurchase its stock at artificially inflated prices, awarded the Company’s senior executives excessive compensation despite their responsibility for the Company’s alleged willful non-compliance with state and federal AML laws, and failed to prevent the former executive officer from misappropriating and profiting from nonpublic information when making allegedly unlawful stock sales. The breach of fiduciary duty claim against the officer defendants includes allegations that they caused the Company and allowed its agents to ignore the recording and reporting requirements of the BSA and parallel AML laws and regulations for a prolonged period of time, authorized and implemented AML policies and practices that they knew or should have known to be inadequate, caused the Company to fail to comply with the Southwest Border Agreement and refused to implement and maintain adequate internal controls.
The claim for violations of section 14(a) of the Exchange Act includes allegations that the individual defendants caused the Company to issue proxy statements in 2012, 2013 and 2014 containing materially incomplete and inaccurate disclosures - in particular, by failing to disclose the extent to which the Company’s financial results depended on the non-compliance with AML requirements, the Board’s awareness of the regulatory and criminal enforcement actions in real time pursuant to the 2003 Consent Agreement with the California Department of Financial Institutions and that the directors were not curing violations and preventing misconduct, the extent to which the Board considered the flood of increasingly severe red flags in their determination to re-nominate certain directors to the Audit Committee between 2006 and 2010, and the extent to which the Board considered ongoing regulatory and criminal investigations in awarding multi-million dollar compensation packages to senior executives. The corporate waste claim includes allegations that the individual defendants paid or approved the payment of undeserved executive and director compensation based on the illegal conduct alleged in the consolidated complaint, which exposed the Company to civil liabilities and fines. The corporate waste claim also includes allegations that the individual defendants made improper statements and omissions, which forced the Company to expend resources in defending itself in City of Taylor Police and Fire Retirement System v. The Western Union Company, et al., a lawsuit that was subsequently renamed and dismissed, authorized the repurchase of over $1.565 billion of the Company’s stock at prices they knew or recklessly were aware, were artificially inflated, failed to maintain sufficient internal controls over the Company’s marketing and sales process, failed to consider the interests of the Company and its shareholders, and failed to conduct the proper supervision. The claim for unjust enrichment includes allegations that the individual defendants derived compensation, fees and other benefits from the Company and were otherwise unjustly enriched by their wrongful acts and omissions in managing the Company. The claim for breach of fiduciary duties for insider selling and misappropriation of information includes allegations that the former executive sold Company stock while knowing material, nonpublic information that would have significantly reduced the market price of the stock. On March 16, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the consolidated complaint. On March 31, 2016, the Court entered an order granting the defendants’ collective motion to dismiss without prejudice, denying as moot a separate motion to dismiss that was filed by the former executive officer, and staying the order for 30 days, within which plaintiffs could file an amended complaint that cured the defects noted in the order. On May 2, 2016, co-lead plaintiffs filed a verified amended consolidated shareholder derivative complaint naming the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, six of its current directors (including the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, who also serves as a director) and three of its former directors as individual defendants, and the Company as a nominal defendant. The amended complaint, among other things, drops the claims against the former executive officer named in the prior complaint, realleges and narrows the breach of fiduciary duty claims, and drops the remaining claims. On June 15, 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended consolidated shareholder derivative complaint. On August 1, 2016, plaintiffs filed an opposition to the motion to dismiss. On September 1, 2016, defendants filed a reply brief in support of the motion to dismiss. On February 24, 2017, plaintiffs filed a motion to supplement the amended complaint with allegations relating to the DPA, the criminal information filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and the FTC’s January 19, 2017 Complaint for Permanent Injunctive and Other Equitable Relief and the Consent Order referenced in the United States Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and State Attorneys General Settlements section above. The same day, the Court granted plaintiffs’ request to supplement the complaint, ordered them to file a second amended complaint, denied without prejudice defendants’ motion to dismiss and granted defendants leave to renew the motion to dismiss. On March 17, 2017, plaintiffs filed a second amended derivative complaint. On September 29, 2017, the Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the second amended derivative complaint. On December 19, 2017, plaintiffs filed an appeal brief in the United
States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, seeking reversal of the dismissal, to which the Company filed an opposition on February 20, 2018. Plaintiffs filed a reply brief on March 30, 2018. On April 16, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the second amended derivative complaint.
On March 12, 2014, Jason Douglas filed a purported class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois asserting a claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227, et seq., based on allegations that since 2009, the Company has sent text messages to class members’ wireless telephones without their consent. During the first quarter of 2015, the Company’s insurance carrier and the plaintiff reached an agreement to create an $8.5 million settlement fund that will be used to pay all class member claims, class counsel’s fees and the costs of administering the settlement. The agreement has been signed by the parties and, on November 10, 2015, the Court granted preliminary approval to the settlement. On January 9, 2018, plaintiff filed a motion requesting decisions on its pending motion to approve the settlement and motion for attorneys’ fees, costs, and incentive award. On August 31, 2018, the Court issued an order approving the settlement, in which the Court modified the class definition slightly and ordered the parties to provide additional notice to the class. The Company accrued an amount equal to the retention under its insurance policy in previous quarters and believes that any amounts in excess of this accrual will be covered by the insurer. However, if the Company’s insurer is unable to or refuses to satisfy its obligations under the policy or the parties are unable to reach a definitive agreement or otherwise agree on a resolution, the Company’s financial condition, results of operations, and cash flows could be adversely impacted. As the parties have reached an agreement in this matter, the Company believes that the potential for additional loss in excess of amounts already accrued is remote.
In October 2015, Consumidores Financieros Asociación Civil para su Defensa, an Argentinian consumer association, filed a purported class action lawsuit in Argentina’s National Commercial Court No. 19 against the Company’s subsidiary Western Union Financial Services Argentina S.R.L. (“WUFSA”). The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that WUFSA’s fees for money transfers sent from Argentina are excessive and that WUFSA does not provide consumers with adequate information about foreign exchange rates. The plaintiff is seeking, among other things, an order requiring WUFSA to reimburse consumers for the fees they paid and the foreign exchange revenue associated with money transfers sent from Argentina, plus punitive damages. The complaint does not specify a monetary value of the claim or a time period. In November 2015, the Court declared the complaint formally admissible as a class action. The notice of claim was served on WUFSA in May 2016, and in June 2016 WUFSA filed a response to the claim and moved to dismiss it on statute of limitations and standing grounds. In April 2017, the Court deferred ruling on the motion until later in the proceedings. The process for notifying potential class members has been completed and the case is currently in the evidentiary stage. Due to the stage of this matter, the Company is unable to predict the outcome or the possible loss or range of loss, if any, associated with this matter. WUFSA intends to defend itself vigorously.
On February 22, 2017, the Company, its President and Chief Executive Officer, its Chief Financial Officer, and a former executive officer of the Company were named as defendants in two purported class action lawsuits, both of which asserted claims under section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Securities and Exchange Commission rule 10b-5 and section 20(a) of the Exchange Act. On May 3, 2017, the two cases were consolidated by the United States District Court for the District of Colorado under the caption Lawrence Henry Smallen and Laura Anne Smallen Revocable Living Trust et al. v. The Western Union Company et al., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00474-KLM (D. Colo.). On September 6, 2017, the Court appointed Lawrence Henry Smallen and Laura Anne Smallen Revocable Living Trust as the lead plaintiff. On November 6, 2017, the plaintiffs filed a consolidated amended complaint (“Amended Complaint”) that, among other things, added two other former executive officers as defendants, one of whom subsequently was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs. The Amended Complaint asserts claims under section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Securities and Exchange Commission rule 10b-5 and section 20(a) of the Exchange Act, and alleges that, during the purported class period of February 24, 2012, through May 2, 2017, the defendants made false or misleading statements or failed to disclose purported adverse material facts regarding, among other things, the Company’s compliance with AML and anti-fraud regulations, the status and likely outcome of certain governmental investigations targeting the Company, the reasons behind the Company’s decisions to make certain regulatory enhancements, and the Company’s premium pricing. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the
complaint on January 16, 2018, and on March 27, 2019, the Court dismissed the action in its entirety with prejudice and entered final judgment in the defendants’ favor on March 28, 2019. On April 26, 2019, plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. On June 24, 2019, plaintiffs filed their opening brief on appeal. Plaintiffs did not appeal the dismissal of one former executive officer and only appealed the district court’s conclusion that the remaining defendants did not make statements concerning the Company’s compliance programs with the requisite intent. Due to the stage of this matter, the Company is unable to predict the outcome, or the possible loss or range of loss, if any, which could be associated with it. The Company and the individual defendants intend to vigorously defend themselves in this matter.
On February 13, 2017, the Company’s subsidiary, Western Union Payment Services Ireland Limited (“WUPSIL”), was served with a writ of accusation from the National Court of Spain. The writ charges 98 former Western Union money transfer agents or agent representatives with fraud and money laundering in connection with consumer fraud scams they allegedly perpetrated using Western Union money transfer transactions. The writ also names WUPSIL as a civil defendant, allegedly responsible under Spanish law to pay any portion of the alleged amount in victim losses that cannot be repaid by any of the criminal defendants who are convicted. In accordance with Spanish law, on January 4, 2018, the Company, through its subsidiary Western Union International Limited, provided a corporate guaranty in an amount of approximately €23 million to cover any liability that could theoretically attach to WUPSIL. On October 3, 2019, WUPSIL signed a settlement agreement with the Spanish prosecutor that extinguishes WUPSIL’s civil liability for the fraud scams at issue by stating that the liability has already been covered by the Compensation Payment under the DPA. On October 8, 2019, WUPSIL filed a motion requesting release of the corporate guarantee. On October 14, 2019, the case was remitted for decision and final judgment, which remains pending.
On March 31, 2017, the Company received a request for the production of documents from the New York State Department of Financial Services (the "NYDFS"), following up on a meeting the Company had with the NYDFS on March 7, 2017. The requests pertain to the Company’s oversight of one current and two former Western Union agents located in New York state. The two former agents were identified in the DPA described in the United States Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and State Attorneys General Settlements section above, and were terminated as agents by the Company prior to 2013. On July 28, 2017, the NYDFS informed the Company that the facts set forth in the DPA regarding the Company’s anti-money laundering programs over the 2004 through 2012 period gave the NYDFS a basis to take additional enforcement action. On January 4, 2018, the Company’s subsidiary, WUFSI, and the NYDFS agreed to a consent order (the "NYDFS Consent Order"), which resolved the NYDFS investigation into these matters. Under the NYDFS Consent Order, the Company was required, among other things, to pay to the NYDFS a civil monetary penalty of $60 million, which the Company paid on January 12, 2018. The NYDFS Consent Order also imposes certain non-monetary obligations, including a requirement to provide to the NYDFS a remediation plan within 90 days after the date of the NYDFS Consent Order, which the Company provided on April 4, 2018.
On April 26, 2018, the Company, its WUFSI subsidiary, its President and Chief Executive Officer, and various “Doe Defendants” (purportedly including Western Union officers, directors, and agents) were named as defendants in a purported class action lawsuit asserting claims for alleged violations of civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the Colorado Organized Crime Act, civil theft, negligence, unjust enrichment, and conversion under the caption Frazier et al. v. The Western Union Company et al., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00998-KLM (D. Colo.). The complaint alleges that, during the purported class period of January 1, 2004 to the present, and based largely on the admissions and allegations relating to the DPA, the FTC Consent Order, and the NYDFS Consent Order, the defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud customers through Western Union’s money transfer system. The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on July 17, 2018. The amended complaint is similar to the original complaint, although it adds additional named plaintiffs and additional counts, including claims on behalf of putative California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and New Jersey subclasses for alleged violations of the California Unfair Competition Law, the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. On August 28, 2018, the Company and the other defendants moved to stay the action in favor of individual arbitrations with the named plaintiffs, which defendants contend are contractually required. On March 27, 2019, the Court granted that motion and stayed the action pending individual
arbitrations with the named plaintiffs. To date, no such individual arbitration requests have been filed. Due to the stage of the matter, the Company is unable to predict the outcome, or the possible loss or range of loss, if any, which could be associated with it. The Company and the other defendants intend to vigorously defend themselves in this matter.
In addition to the principal matters described above, the Company is a party to a variety of other legal matters that arise in the normal course of the Company’s business. While the results of these other legal matters cannot be predicted with certainty, management believes that the final outcome of these matters will not have a material adverse effect either individually or in the aggregate on the Company’s financial condition, results of operations, or cash flows.