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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • CFPB symposium on consumer access to financial records set for February 26

    Federal Issues

    On February 20, the CFPB announced that its fourth symposium, regarding Consumer Access to Financial Records and Section 1033 of the Dodd-Frank Act, will be held February 26 at 9:30 am EST. The event will be webcast on the Bureau’s website. According to the Bureau, Section 1033 “addresses consumers’ rights to access information about their financial accounts.” The symposium—featuring remarks from Director Kathy Kraninger and consisting of three panels of experts—will solicit a variety of perspectives on the current and future market for services based on consumer-authorized use of financial data. The first panel, moderated by Paul Watkins, Assistant Director in the Bureau’s Office of Innovation, will discuss the current landscape of holders of consumer data and the benefits and risks of consumer-authorized data access. The second panel will examine market developments in consumer-authorized data access and will be moderated by Will Wade-Gery, Senior Advisor in the Bureau’s Office of Innovation. The third panel will assess the future state of the market, as well as considerations for policymakers on safeguarding consumer data while ensuring consumers have continual access to their data. This panel will be moderated by Thomas Devlin, Managing Counsel in the Bureau’s Research, Markets and Regulation Division.

    Find prior InfoBytes symposium coverage here.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Dodd-Frank Consumer Data

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  • House committee report urges large banks to release diversity data

    Federal Issues

    On February 12, Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Joyce Beatty, Chair of the Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, released a majority staff report titled “Diversity and Inclusion: Holding America’s Large Banks Accountable,” which details diversity and inclusion data and policies collected from 44 of the nation’s largest banks. The information requested from the banks included, among other things, (i) “[e]mployee compensation by gender, race, and ethnicity”; (ii) demographic information about the banks’ boards; (iii) data regarding “staff and budget dedicated to diversity initiatives”; and (iv) “diversity policies and practices.” The committee staff found that boards of directors and senior employees at banks are not diverse, and that “[b]anks have limited spending and investments with diverse firms.” Additionally, it was found that “workforce diversity is more visible in entry level rather than executive and senior level positions.” The report recommended a number of avenues for banks to improve diversity and inclusion such as disclosing diversity data to the public and to regulators including bank board diversity. The report also suggested “[i]ncreased spending and investment with diverse” firms and vendors. According to the press release, Congressional legislative actions in these areas would “improve diversity and inclusion at America’s largest banks.”

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee Diversity

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  • U.S., EU discuss financial regulatory developments

    Federal Issues

    On February 19, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a joint statement on the U.S. – EU Financial Regulatory Forum held February 11-12 in Washington, D.C. U.S. participants included officials from the Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, SEC, OCC, and Treasury. Forum topics focused on five key themes: “(1) supervision and regulation of cross-border activities, particularly in the areas of derivatives and central clearing; (2) the importance of monitoring market developments, both in relation to financial assets classes, like leveraged loans and collateralized loan obligations, and reference rates, like the London Interbank Offered Rate; (3) implementation of international standards in banking and insurance; (4) regulatory issues presented by fintech/digital finance; and (5) EU regulations related to sustainable finance.”

    Among other topics, participants discussed U.S. banking developments concerning prudential requirements for foreign banks, including tailoring standards based on risk; proposed amendments to the Volcker Rule; EU data protection rules; cross-border supervision and data flow in financial services; the transition period following the U.K.’s departure from the EU; and European Commission priorities such as preventing and combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Participants acknowledged the importance of fostering continued dialogue between the U.S. and the EU noting that, “[r]egular communication on supervisory and regulatory issues of mutual concern should foster financial stability, supervisory cooperation, investor protection, market integrity, and a level playing field.”

    Federal Issues Department of Treasury Federal Reserve CFTC FDIC SEC OCC European Union Of Interest to Non-US Persons LIBOR Fintech Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • CFPB, South Carolina, and Arkansas file charges in pension-advance scheme

    Federal Issues

    On February 20, the CFPB, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Arkansas attorney general filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina against a South Carolina-based company and two of its managing partners (defendants) for allegedly violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act and the South Carolina Consumer Protection Code by working with a series of broker companies that brokered contracts offering high-interest credit to disabled veterans and other consumers in exchange for the assignment of some of the consumers’ unpaid earnings, monthly pensions, or disability payments. Under federal law, agreements under which a person acquires the right to receive a veteran’s pension or disability payment are void, and South Carolina law—which governs these contracts—“prohibits sales of unpaid earnings and prohibits assignments of pensions as security on payment of a debt.”

    The complaint alleges that the defendants substantially assisted broker companies that allegedly engaged in deceptive and unfair acts or practices through the marketing and administration of high-interest credit. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The defendants’ alleged actions include: (i) “developing a pre-approval or risk-assessment process for the contracts and conducting underwriting”; (ii) “approving or denying consumers’ applications to enter into the transactions”; (iii) “directing and administering the execution of the contracts”; (iv) “serving as the payment processor for the initial lump-sum payment and fees”; and (v) “continuing to serve as the transactions’ payment processor, tracking and controlling the collection and distribution of consumers’ payments on the contracts.” In addition, the Bureau alleges, among other things, that the defendants provided substantial assistance to the broker companies’ deceptive misrepresentations that consumers could be subjected to criminal prosecution if they breached their contracts. In addition, the defendants also allegedly collected on contracts brokered by the broker companies that were void from inception “by initiating ACH debts to take payments from consumers’ bank accounts,” demanding payments through letters and other communications, and filing suit against consumers who failed to make payments.

    The complaint seeks injunctive relief, restitution, damages, disgorgement, and civil money penalties.

    Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Courts State Attorney General Interest Rate Pension Benefits Consumer Finance CFPA UDAAP State Issues

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  • FDIC and OCC expand comment period for CRA proposal

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On February 19, the FDIC and the OCC jointly released a statement extending the public comment period for the proposed Community Reinvestment Act regulations by 30 days. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the two agencies initially released the notice of proposed rulemaking—which the agencies assert will provide clarity on what activities are eligible for CRA consideration—on December 12. The new comment deadline is April 8.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues OCC FDIC CRA

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  • 7th Circuit: Dialing system that cannot generate random or sequential numbers is not an autodialer under the TCPA

    Courts

    On February 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a district court’s ruling that a dialing system that lacks the capacity to generate random or sequential numbers does not meet the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (autodialer) under the TCPA. According to the 7th Circuit, an autodialer must both store and produce phone numbers “using a random or sequential number generator.” The decision results from a lawsuit filed by a consumer alleging a company sent text messages without first receiving his prior consent as required by the TCPA. However, according to the 7th Circuit, the company’s system—the autodialer in this case—failed to meet the TCPA’s statutory definition of an autodialer because it “exclusively dials numbers stored in a customer database” and not numbers obtained from a number generator. As such, the company did not violate the TCPA when it sent unwanted text messages to the consumer, the appellate court wrote.

    Though the appellate court admitted that the wording of the provision “is enough to make a grammarian throw down her pen” as there are at least four possible ways to read the definition of an autodialer in the TCPA, the court concluded that while its adopted interpretation—that “using a random or sequential number generator” describes how the numbers are “stored” or “produced”—is “admittedly imperfect,” it “lacks the more significant problems” of other interpretations and is thus the “best reading of a thorny statutory provision.”

    The 7th Circuit’s opinion is consistent with similar holdings by the 11th and 3rd Circuits (covered by InfoBytes here and here), which have held that autodialers require the use of randomly or sequentially generated phone numbers, as well as the D.C. Circuit’s holding in ACA International v. FCC, which struck down the FCC’s definition of an autodialer (covered by a Buckley Special Alert here). However, these opinions conflict with the 9th Circuit’s holding in Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC, (covered by InfoBytes here), which broadened the definition of an autodialer to cover all devices with the capacity to automatically dial numbers that are stored in a list.

    Courts Appellate Seventh Circuit Eleventh Circuit Third Circuit D.C. Circuit TCPA Autodialer ACA International

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  • CSBS technology platform will modernize state examinations

    Fintech

    On February 19, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors announced the launch of a technology platform called the State Examination System (SES) to increase transparency and collaboration with regulated entities. State regulators, who are the primary regulators of non-bank and fintech firms, can use the system for investigations, enforcement actions and complaints. According to the press release, “state regulators will be able to enhance supervisory oversight of nonbanks while making the process more efficient for regulators and companies alike.” Among other things, SES is designed to: (i) “[s]upport networked supervision among state regulators”; (ii) “[s]tandardize workflow, business rules and technology across states”; (iii) [f]acilitate secure collaboration between licensees and their regulators”; (iv) allow examiners to “focus…on higher risk cases”; and (v) promote efficiency by “[m]ov[ing] state supervision towards more multistate exams and fewer single-state efforts.” SES will be managed by the State Regulatory Registry, which also manages the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System.

    Fintech CSBS Examination Supervision Nonbank State Regulators State Issues

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  • SEC settles with blockchain company over unregistered ICO

    Securities

    On February 19, the SEC announced a settlement with a blockchain technology company resolving allegations that the company conducted an unregistered initial coin offering (ICO). According to the order, the company raised approximately $45 million from sales of its digital tokens to raise capital to develop a digital asset trade-testing platform and to build a cryptocurrency-related data marketplace. The SEC alleges that the company violated Section 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act because the digital assets it sold were securities under federal securities laws, and the company did not have the required registration statement filed or in effect, nor did it qualify for an exemption to the registration requirements. The order, which the company consented to without admitting or denying the findings, imposes a $500,000 penalty and requires the company to register its tokens as securities, refund harmed investors through a claims process, and file timely reports with the SEC.

    Securities SEC Initial Coin Offerings Settlement Securities Exchange Act Blockchain Cryptocurrency

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  • New York AG settles with student debt relief companies

    State Issues

    On February 18, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York approved a settlement between the State of New York and a student loan debt relief operation including five debt relief companies and one individual (defendants) in order to resolve allegations that the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Federal Credit Repair Organizations Act, TILA, state usury laws, and various other state laws. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the New York attorney general brought the lawsuit in 2018 alleging that the defendants “engag[ed] in deceptive, fraudulent and illegal conduct…through their marketing, offering for sale, selling and financing” of debt relief services to student loan borrowers. The AG claimed that, among other things, the defendants allegedly (i) charged consumers who purchased the debt relief services illegal upfront fees; (ii) misrepresented that they were part of or working with the federal government; (iii) falsely claimed that fees paid by borrowers would be applied to borrowers’ student loan balances; and (iv) induced borrowers to enter into usurious financing contracts to pay for the debt relief services.

    Under the terms of the agreement, the defendants—without admitting or denying the allegations—agreed to a judgment of $2.2 million, which will be suspended if the defendants promptly pay $50,000 to the State of New York and comply with all other provisions of the agreement. The defendants are also permanently banned from advertising, marketing, promoting, offering for sale, or selling any type of debt relief product or service—or from assisting others in doing the same. Additionally, the defendants must request that any credit reporting agency to which the defendants reported consumer information in connection with the student loan debt relief services remove the information from those consumers’ credit files. The defendants also agreed not to sell, transfer, or benefit from the personal information collected from borrowers. According to the settlement, six additional defendants were not included in the agreement and the AG’s case against them continues.

    State Issues State Attorney General Courts Student Lending Debt Relief Usury Telemarketing Sales Rule TILA Settlement

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  • District court denies auto lender’s “de minimis” $4 million TCPA class action settlement

    Courts

    On February 14, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the approval of a proposed $4 million class action settlement in a TCPA case based on a “confluence of a number of negative factors,” including that the court believed the defendant—a subprime auto lender—would be able to withstand a significantly higher judgement to compensate consumers allegedly harmed by its use of an automatic telephone dialing system. The complaint alleged that the defendant allegedly placed automated and prerecorded phone calls to class members on their cellphones in violation of the TCPA. In 2018, the parties reached a preliminary settlement that would give each of the 67,255 class members who opted into the settlement roughly $35.  

    In denying the approval, the court cited three primary concerns with the proposed settlement: “first, the lack of information available to counsel to inform their view and advise the class of the strengths and weaknesses of the case given the early posture in which the parties reached agreement; second, the emphasis on [the defendant’s] inability to pay more than $4 million when no underlying financial information was provided to the class members, compounded by the [c]ourt’s belief, after in camera review of the financials, that this statement is inaccurate; and third, the [c]ourt’s skepticism that $4 million is a fair settlement in this case, given that it will result in a de minimis per claimant recovery of $35.30.” Arguing that “de minimis class action recoveries, such as TCPA recoveries, may not be worth the costs they impose on our judicial system,” the court also noted that the TCPA provides for a private right of action and statutory damages of $500 for each violation (or actual monetary loss—whichever is greater), and does not impose a cap on statutory damages in class actions. Moreover, the court argued that the $35.30 that each class member would receive would likely not even cover the cell phone bill for one class member for one month and is, among other things, “simply trivial in light of a possible recovery of $500.”

    Courts TCPA Class Action Autodialer Settlement

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