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On March 26, the OCC released Bulletin 2019-16, which announces that the FFIEC Task Force on Consumer Compliance developed new interagency examination procedures to reflect the amendments to Regulations Z and E under the CFPB’s Prepaid Accounts Rule (covered by InfoBytes here), which go into effect on April 1. Specifically, the examination procedures reflect (i) Regulation E requirements covering disclosures, limited liability and error resolution, periodic statement, and posting of account agreements; and (ii) Regulation Z requirements covering overdraft credit features with prepaid accounts.
On February 27, the CFPB released new technical specifications for prepaid account issuers to use when submitting account agreements pursuant to the prepaid account rule. Issuers can now register to use the new electronic submission system “Collect” before the April 1, 2019 effective date of the Bureau’s prepaid rule. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the prepaid rule here.) The Bureau reminded issuers that all prepaid account agreements offered as of April 1, 2019, must be submitted to the CFPB by May 1, 2019. After May 1, issuers are required to make rolling submissions to the Bureau within 30 days whenever a new agreement is offered, amendments are made to a previously submitted agreement, or a previously submitted agreement is withdrawn. Along with the technical specifications, the Bureau also released several compliance resources, including a user guide, quick reference guide, FAQs and a recorded webinar.
On March 13, the CFPB released version 3.0 of its prepaid rule Small Entity Compliance Guide and the guide to Preparing Short Form Disclosure for Prepaid Accounts. The updated guides reflect the 2018 final rule governing prepaid accounts (Rule). As previously covered by Infobytes, in December 2017, the Bureau announced its plan to delay the effective date and adopt the final amendments to the Rule. In January, the Bureau finalized the Rule and moved the effective date to April 1, 2019.
On January 24, the CFPB released updates to the final rule governing prepaid accounts (Rule) delaying the effective date of the rule by one year, to April 1 2019. In December, as previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau announced its plan to delay the effective date and adopt final amendments to the Rule. In addition to certain clarifications and other minor adjustments, the updates include: (i) finalizing that the requirement for consumers to register their accounts to receive fraud and error protection benefits will only be applied prospectively, after a consumer’s identity has been verified; and (ii) creating a limited exception to certain provisions of the Rule for instances where traditional credit card accounts, subject to Regulation Z open-end credit rules, are linked to digital wallets.
On January 23, acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney sent an email to staff (a similar version was later published as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal) outlining his vision for how the CFPB will enforce consumer protection laws. In the email, Mulvaney emphasizes that the CFPB will no longer “push the envelope” in pursuit of the agency’s mission, a phrase which he attributes to former CFPB Director Richard Cordray. While Mulvaney acknowledges that there will be times the agency will need to take “dramatic action to protect consumers,” he states that this will only be done as “the most final of last resorts,” after all other resolutions have failed. In terms of what this means for the Bureau’s current work, Mulvaney states that enforcement will be focused on “quantifiable and unavoidable harm to the consumer.” As for regulation, there will be “more formal rulemaking on which financial institutions can rely, and less regulation by enforcement.” Mulvaney also suggests that prioritization will be guided by complaint data, specifically noting that, in 2016, debt collection accounted for almost a third of complaints received by the CFPB whereas prepaid cards and payday lending accounted for nine-tenths of a percent and two percent respectively.
The statements in Mulvaney’s letter to staff are in line with many of the CFPB’s recent actions, including last week’s announcement that the Bureau intends to reconsider its final rule addressing payday loans and its December 21 announcement that it will be amending its prepaid card rule (previously covered by InfoBytes here and here). Additionally, on January 23, a national installment loan lender announced an end to a multi-year investigation by the CFPB, stating that the Bureau does not intend to recommend an enforcement action into the company’s practices. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB also recently dismissed its case against four online installment lenders.
Leandra English’s challenge to Mulvaney’s authority to serve as acting director of the CFPB continues. On January 23, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed to the expedited appeal of English’s case, ordering English’s brief due by January 30 and the government’s response due by February 23.
Arguments Heard in English Litigation; CFPB Announces Relaxed Compliance Requirements for HMDA; Other Proposed Rulemakings
On December 22, Judge Timothy Kelley heard arguments from both parties related to Leandra English’s litigation against President Trump and Mick Mulvaney. Judge Kelley did not rule on the matter at the close of the hearing. As previously covered by InfoBytes, English filed an amended complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief and a motion for preliminary injunction on December 6.
In response to English’s new arguments, the defendants filed an opposition motion on December 18. Among other things, the response counters an argument—raised by English for the first time in her amended complaint—that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) cannot be used to appoint an acting CFPB Director because the Director is also a member of the FDIC. Defendants responded that the FVRA provision excluding appointments to independent multi-member boards or commissions only applies to direct appointments and not to positions that serve as “ex officio” members, as the CFPB Director does on the FDIC. The defendants go on to explain that English’s interpretation would prevent the use of FVRA to fill multiple Cabinet and other high-ranking Executive Branch positions that serve as ex officio members of independent agencies. The defendants also alleged that English failed to satisfy the requirements of the federal quo warranto statute – the exclusive means, according to the defendants, for directly challenging Mulvaney’s authority to perform as Acting Director of the CFPB. English replied to the defendant’s opposition motion on December 21.
Throughout the week, the CFPB took action regarding current and future rulemakings:
HMDA. On December 21, the CFPB issued a statement regarding compliance with the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) final rule and amendments to the HMDA final rule. Although the Bureau did not delay the January 1, 2018 effective date as some had hoped, it acknowledged the difficulties of coming into compliance with the new requirements, stating that the Bureau “does not intend to require data resubmission unless data errors are material or assess penalties with respect to errors for data collected in 2018 and reported in 2019.” According to the CFPB, compliance with the HMDA requirements pose “significant system and operational challenges” and therefore, institutions should focus the 2018 data collection on identifying areas for improvement in their HMDA compliance management systems for future years. The Bureau further advised that it expects that supervisory examinations of 2018 HMDA data will be “diagnostic” to help “identify compliance weaknesses, and will credit good-faith compliance efforts.” However, institutions will still use the CFPB’s new HMDA Platform for data collected in 2017. The FDIC and the OCC issued similar announcements, Financial Institution Letter FIL-63-2017 and OCC Bulletin 2017-62 respectively, and other regulators are expected to do the same.
The Bureau’s stated intent to focus on “good-faith compliance efforts” and “material” errors in the early days of the new HMDA requirements is similar to the approach taken for implementation of the Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule and the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule. While this flexible approach is generally beneficial for lenders and consumers, it does produce some uncertainty over what will be considered “good faith” or “material.”
The Bureau also announced its intent to engage in additional HMDA rulemaking that may (i) re-examine the criteria determining whether institutions are required to report data; (ii) adjust the requirements related to reporting certain types of transactions; and (iii) re-evaluate the required reporting of additional information beyond the data points required in HMDA, as amended by the Dodd-Frank Act.
Prepaid Accounts. On December 21, the CFPB also issued a statement on the final rule covering prepaid accounts and the proposed amendments to that rule. In the statement, the CFPB announced that it intends to adopt final amendments “soon after the new year” and that it expects to further extend the April 1, 2018 effective date to allow more time for implementation. The Bureau did not give details on the nature of the amendments or the length of the expected extension.
Debt Collection. On December 14, OMB released a Notice of Action, which reflected that the CFPB withdrew its plan to conduct a survey related to debt collection disclosures of 8,000 individuals. According to OMB’s notice, the CFPB withdrew the plan because “Bureau leadership would like to reconsider the information collection in connection with its review of the ongoing related rulemaking.”
CFPB Seeks Comments on Proposed Amendments to Prepaid Rule, Releases Updated Small Entity Compliance Guide
On June 15, the CFPB announced a request for comment on proposed amendments to Regulation E, which concerns prepaid accounts under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z). According to the Bureau, the request aims to address prepaid companies’ concerns over “unanticipated complexities” regarding certain aspects of the rule. As previously covered in InfoBytes, in April the CFPB issued a final rule delaying the general effective date to April 1, 2018. The prepaid rule provides consumers, among other things, additional federal protections under EFTA on prepaid financial products, person-to-person payment products, and other electronic accounts with the ability to store funds. Specifically, the proposed amendments would impact error resolution requirements for unregistered accounts, enhance flexibility for credit cards linked to digital wallets, and open for consideration whether a further delay to the rule’s effective date is necessary due to the proposed amendments or if safe harbor provisions should be added for early compliance. The proposal also addresses amendments affecting the following: (i) the exclusion of loyalty, award, or promotional gift cards; (ii) “unsolicited issuance of access devices and pre-acquisition disclosures”; and (iii) submission of account agreements to the Bureau. Comments are due 45 days after the request is published in the Federal Register.
Separately, on the same day, the Bureau released an updated edition of its small entity compliance guide for the prepaid rule. The guide notes the new effective date, and also offers clarification on prepaid reload packs, the consistent use of fee names and other terms, foreign language disclosure requirements, URL names in short form disclosures, mobile accessible transaction histories, account agreement submissions to the Bureau, and clarification that stipulates “reversing a provisional credit does not otherwise trigger Regulation Z coverage under the Prepaid Rule.”
On April 28, an advocacy organization filed a reply to the CFPB’s opposition for expedited handling of two FOIA requests issued to the Bureau on April 12. The organization filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on April 18 contending that the Bureau failed to comply with a statutory expedition processing request, and asserts that there is a “compelling need” for information that would enable the public to learn about efforts to influence the government's policymaking process before a proposed Congressional vote in mid-May to overturn the CFPB’s Prepaid Rule. The organization further argues—despite the Bureau’s assertions to the contrary—that in order to fulfill its mission it is “primarily engaged in disseminating information” with its public education efforts, and therefore, like others whose requests have been granted expedited processing, has “met the dissemination of information as a primary activity” requirement (citing Leadership Conference on Civil Rights v. Gonzales, 404 F. Supp. 2d 246, 260 (D.D.C. 2005)). Additionally, the organization claims that its FOIA requests pertain to issues for which there is an “urgency to inform the public” because of an imminent deadline under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which “permits Congress to overrule a regulation within a certain amount of time after its promulgation.” Specifically, the FOIA requests seek access to communications about the Prepaid Rule between the CFPB and 12 Senators, and between the Bureau and two prepaid companies. The organization is asking the court to order the Bureau to take whatever steps are necessary to comply with the FOIA requests prior to the CRA vote on the Prepaid Rule.
On April 20, the CFPB released a final rule delaying the general effective date of its rule governing prepaid accounts by six months, to April 1, 2018. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the Bureau, after reviewing comments, decided last month to delay the effective date of the rule—which, among other things, provides consumers with additional federal protections under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act on prepaid financial products, mobile wallets, person-to-person payment products, and other electronic accounts with the ability to store funds. The CFPB explained that the six-month extension “provides for an appropriate balance between the interests of the consumers who will receive the benefits of the rule and the needs of industry for an adequate implementation period.” For additional background information, please see our earlier InfoBytes coverage of the Prepaid Rule.
State AGs, Industry Groups Submit Comments Addressing CFPB’s Proposed Delay of Prepaid Accounts Rule
As previously covered in InfoBytes, the Bureau released its final rule (the “Prepaid Accounts Rule”) on prepaid financial products in October of last year in order to provide consumers with additional federal protections under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and also to offer consumers standard, easy-to-understand information about prepaid accounts. Recently, however, the CFPB announced its intention to delay the effective date of its Prepaid Accounts Rule by six months. If approved, the proposed extension would push back the current October 1, 2017, effective date to April 1, 2018. According to the proposed rule and request for public comment published by the Bureau in the March 15 Federal Register, the extension comes in response to comments received from “some industry participants” who “believe they will have difficulty complying with certain provisions.” The CFPB has taken the position that extending the deadline for compliance “would, among other things, help industry participants address certain packaging-related logistical issues for prepaid accounts that are sold at retail locations.” Comments on the proposal were due April 5.
State AG’s Letter. On April 5, attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia submitted a letter to congressional leaders presenting various arguments against pending House and Senate resolutions (S.J. Res. 19, H.J. Res. 62, and H.J. Res. 73) providing for congressional disapproval and effectively nullifying the CFPB’s Prepaid Accounts Rule. The state attorneys general—including AGs for the District of Columbia, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, along with the Executive Director of the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection—argued, among other things, that consumer protections provided by the Rule are important because, among other things, “consumers frequently report concerns about hidden and abusive fees as well as fraudulent transactions that unfairly deplete the funds loaded onto prepaid cards.” The AGs’ letter notes further that prepaid cards are often used by “vulnerable consumers” who have limited or no access to a traditional bank account. Notably, although they characterize these congressional resolutions as a “misplaced effort,” the state AGs acknowledge that the Congressional Review Act “gives Congress, with the President’s signature, a window to veto a rule from going into effect.”
American Bankers Association (ABA) Letter. In another comment letter, submitted on April 3, the ABA commended the CFPB for “proposing to extend the deadline” because, among other things, “some industry participants, especially those offering prepaid cards in retail stores, may have difficulty complying with certain provisions.” The ABA also noted that the extension of time presents an opportunity for the Bureau to “consider making adjustments as appropriate to ensure unnecessary disruption to consumers’ access to, and use of, prepaid accounts.” As explained in the letter, the ABA’s primary concern about the Prepaid Accounts Rule “remains the inconsistency and lack of clarity of the regulation’s distinction between checking accounts and prepaid accounts.” To this end, the ABA recommends that the Bureau use the extra time to “remove inconsistencies in the Rule and clarify the distinction between a prepaid account and a checking account to ensure that banks do not inadvertently violate the regulation and risk significant potential liability and supervisory actions.” The ABA’s letter also calls for “similar changes” to the “definition of ‘payroll account’” in order to further distinguish product types.
Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) Letter. Also on April 3, the ICBA also submitted a short comment letter stating, among other things, that it “fully supports extending the effective date” as the additional time will “ensure that systems and technology changes could be made to facilitate compliance.”
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