|Commitments and Contingencies
8. Commitments and Contingencies
Letters of Credit and Bank Guarantees
The Company had approximately $370 million in outstanding letters of credit and bank guarantees as of September 30, 2020 primarily held in connection with safeguarding consumer funds, lease arrangements, and certain agent agreements. The significant majority of the Company’s letters of credit and bank guarantees have a one-year renewal option. The Company expects to renew the letters of credit and bank guarantees prior to expiration in most circumstances.
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 losses 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 losses 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 losses 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, 2020. 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.
Shareholder Derivative Action
On January 16, 2020, Stanley Lieblein filed a shareholder derivative complaint in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware naming the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, certain current and former directors, and a former executive officer as individual defendants and the Company as a nominal defendant. Mr. Lieblein had previously filed a shareholder derivative action asserting related claims in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado,
which was subsequently consolidated with multiple pending related derivative actions. Following the filing of multiple amended complaints, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the consolidated derivative action on April 16, 2019 on the ground that the plaintiffs did not have standing to proceed on behalf of the Company without making a demand on the Company’s board of directors. The consolidated derivative action is described in further detail in Part I, Item I, Financial Statements, Note 8, Commitments and Contingencies in the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the three months ended September 30, 2019.
On August 1, 2019, Mr. Lieblein made a written demand on the Company’s board of directors to investigate and address alleged misconduct related to the Company’s anti-fraud and anti-money laundering (“AML”) compliance programs, including certain alleged misconduct at issue in the consolidated derivative action. The Company’s board of directors formed a special committee to evaluate Mr. Lieblein’s demand together with a related shareholder demand. The special committee’s investigation is ongoing. Mr. Lieblein alleges that he filed the January 16, 2020 complaint prior to the completion of the special committee’s investigation because of concerns regarding the statute of limitations on some of the claims asserted. Mr. Lieblein has agreed to stay the action until December 31, 2020, pending completion of the special committee’s investigation.
The complaint filed by Mr. Lieblein on January 16, 2020 includes allegations that the director and officer defendants declined to implement effective anti-fraud and AML compliance systems after receiving numerous red flags indicating prolonged willful illegality, condoned executive officers’ obstruction of efforts by various regulators to impose an effective compliance system on the Company, approved executive compensation packages for management that were not aligned with development of effective anti-fraud and AML compliance programs, allowed management to fail to timely report known or likely impropriety by Company employees or agents to regulatory authorities, failed to require management to adopt a risk assessment for all very high risk areas, refused to remedy the board’s oversight of executive officers, and, in effect, refused Mr. Lieblein’s shareholder demand and related request for tolling agreements.
It also includes allegations that the officer defendants declined to ensure that the Company implemented effective anti-fraud and AML compliance programs after receiving red flags that those programs were inadequate, allowed Company agents to willfully ignore anti-fraud and AML recording and reporting requirements for a prolonged period, opposed efforts by various regulators to implement effective anti-fraud and AML compliance programs, caused the Company to fail to comply with its obligations under settlements with regulators, and knowingly exposed the Company to criminal and civil sanctions. Due to the nature of this matter and the early stage of the proceedings, the Company cannot predict the outcome or potential impact of the matter.
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. An appeal relating to the Court’s order was taken by an objector, and this appeal was dismissed on April 13, 2020. The Company and its insurance carrier have funded the settlement and, on October 5, 2020, the Court entered the final order and judgment in the case.
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 proceeded to the evidentiary stage. On June 4, 2020, the case was stayed because the consumer association that filed the lawsuit no longer had the registration needed to assert its claims on behalf of the alleged class. The case will be stayed until (i) the Attorney-General instructs the Prosecutor to continue to litigate the claims on behalf of the plaintiff (during the time the registration of Consumidores Financieros before the Secretary of Commerce remains suspended); or (ii) the parties report to the Court that the plaintiff recovered its legal capacity. 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 April 26, 2018, the Company, its subsidiary, Western Union Financial Services, Inc., 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 United States Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and State Attorneys General Settlements, as disclosed in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019, 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. On August 27, 2020, the Court issued an order requiring that the parties indicate whether the case should remain administratively closed, subject to reopening, or that the parties file dismissal papers stating that the case may be terminated from the Court’s docket. That same day, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Dismissal, indicating that they had dismissed the action and that the case may be terminated from the Court’s docket.
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.