Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On May 14, the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) announced it filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the CFPB for allegedly failing to implement Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires the Bureau to collect and disclose data on lending to small, women, and minority-owned businesses. In the complaint, the CRC argues that the failure to implement Section 1071 violates two provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act. Specifically, the CRC alleges the that Bureau has “unlawfully withheld and unreasonably delayed” the implementation of Section 1071 since Dodd Frank’s passage in 2011, and also, that the Bureau has acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” by informing financial institutions to “not to make [the] inquiries, nor compile, maintain, and submit [the loan application] data” required by Section 1071. The CRC claims that the failure to collect and publish the data has harmed its ability to advocate for access to credit, advise organizations working with women and minority-owned small businesses, and work with lenders to arrange investment in low-income and communities of color. The CRC is seeking the court to invalidate the Bureau’s countermanding of Section 1071’s requirements on financial institutions and an order or writ compelling the Bureau to issue a final rule implementing Section 1071.
New York legislature introduces bills to protect small businesses, regulate merchant cash advance transactions
On May 1, S5470 was introduced in the New York State Senate and is now sitting with the Committee on Banks, which would establish consumer-style disclosure requirements for certain commercial transactions. Similar to the legislation enacted in California last September, previously covered in InfoBytes here, the bill requires financing entities subject to the law to disclose in each commercial financing transaction “the total cost of the financing, expressed as a dollar cost, including any and all fees, expenses and charges that are to be paid by the recipient and that cannot be avoided by the recipient, including any interest expense.” For open and closed-end commercial financing transactions, the bill requires that the disclosures must include, among other things, (i) the amount financed or the maximum credit line; (ii) the total cost of the financing; (iii) the annual percentage rate; (iv) payment amounts; (v) a description of all other potential fees and charges; and (vi) prepayment charges. The bill sets out analogous, but separate, disclosure requirements for accounts receivable purchase transactions, such as merchant cash advance and factoring transactions.
Importantly, the bill does not apply to (i) financial institutions (defined as a chartered or licensed bank, trust company, industrial loan company, savings and loan association, or federal credit union, authorized to do business in New York); (ii) lenders regulated under the federal Farm Credit Act; (iii) commercial financing transactions secured by real property; (iv) a technology service provider; and (v) a lender who makes no more than one applicable transaction in New York in a 12-month period or any person that makes commercial financing transactions in New York that are incidental to the lender’s business in a 12-month period.
Additionally, the New York legislature is also considering a number of other bills that would affect commercial financing transactions:
- A03637, would amend the state’s banking law to deem asset-based lending transactions (defined as, “a transaction in which advances are made which are contingent on the recipient forwarding payments received from one or more third parties for goods such recipient has supplied or services such recipient has rendered to that third party or parties.”) to be loans for all purposes. On its face, this legislation would subject typical merchant cash advance and factoring transactions, which New York courts have in many recent court cases deemed to be non-loan transactions, to lending law restrictions, which would include potential licensure requirements and usury restrictions.
- A03636, would amend the state’s business law to prohibit the inclusion of a confession of judgment (COJ) in a contract or agreement for a financial product or service provided by an entity regulated by the New York Department of Financial Services for the purpose of consumer or investor protection, which is specifically defined by the bill as: (i) any product or service for which registration or licensing is required or for which the offeror or provider is required to be registered or licensed by state law; (ii) any product or service as to which provisions for consumer or investor protection are specifically set forth for such product or service by state statute or regulation; and (iii) securities, commodities and real property subject to the provisions of article 23A of the general business law. COJs are contractual clauses in which a debtor waives in advance his or her right to be notified of a court hearing, or to present his or her side of the case, which are prohibited under federal law for consumer contracts by the FTC Credit Practices Rule (16 C.F.R. pt. 444). In conjunction with potential licensure required under AO3637 above, the passage of both pieces of legislation in New York could result in the prohibition of COJ clauses in merchant cash advance agreements, a common feature of such agreements and generally permitted under New York law.
- A03638, would extend the majority of the state’s consumer protections with respect to loans made to small businesses (defined by the bill as, a “small business shall be deemed to be one which is resident in this state, independently owned and operated, not dominant in its field and employs one hundred or less persons.”). Specifically, the bill would amend the state’s general obligations law to extend all rights and privileges granted under the title to small businesses and would also amend Section 173 and Section 380-e of the state’s banking law to extend all the rights and privileges granted by the section to small businesses.
Relatedly, the FTC recently held a forum on small business marketplace lending practices, see detailed InfoBytes coverage on the forum here.
On May 8, the FTC held a forum with members of the small business marketplace to discuss the recent uptick in online loans and alternative financing products, and to analyze the potential for unfair and deceptive marketing, sales, and collection practices in the industry. Opening “Strictly Business: An FTC Forum on Small Business Financing,” FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra expressed broad concerns about the state of entrepreneurship in the U.S. and the barriers small businesses face when negotiating contracts. Three panels discussed topics including (i) recent trends in the financing marketplace and small business financing products; (ii) the impact of fintech in online lending; (iii) an examination of the risks and benefits of the merchant cash advance industry; and (iv) consumer protection risks and legislative, self-regulatory, and educational efforts to help better protect borrowers.
During the first panel, several industry members discussed the importance of credit and financing products in meeting the capital needs of small businesses who often experience challenges with funding operations and cash management. While traditional bank lending and Small Business Administration (SBA) loans often require lengthy, costly underwriting standards, several panelists noted that new marketplace financing options have created opportunities for small businesses that previously did not exist. Among other things, panelists emphasized that there is a big difference between consumer credit and business credit, and that online lenders are leveraging underlying business data, credit card receivables data, and fundamental underlying business transaction data to make sure small businesses can sustain and service their debt. Funding time is also critical to small businesses with many choosing online lenders for faster access to funds. The panel discussed the benefits of online financing products, such as moving away from including consumer credit scores in the underwriting process and examining nontraditional data to look at cash flow, but also cautioned that there can be a lack of transparency around terms and pricing.
The second panel discussed the merchant cash-advance (MCA) industry, which they described as providing an unregulated form of financing for small businesses in the form of factoring future receivables. Recently, the industry has been scrutinized for alleged collection abuses and use of confessions of judgment (COJs). COJs, which allow lenders to legally seize borrowers’ bank accounts and other assets without a judge’s review, have led to a flood of questionable legal actions against small businesses, according to Commissioner Chopra. However, one of the panelists noted that the FTC limited the ban on COJs to consumers.
The third panel discussed consumer protection risks as well as products and information available for small business borrowers. A key concern amongst several of the panelists was whether business borrowers are sophisticated enough to understand the various options and if they are able to receive the necessary information to shop between products, such as APRs, total costs, and average monthly payments. The panel also discussed federal and state law, as well as self-regulatory efforts, that offer protections for small business borrowers. All agreed that there has been significant action taken at the state level to try to standardize and harmonize these types of lending practices, and while there was support for a national standard, they cautioned that a weaker national standard should not preempt a stronger state standard. Transparent disclosure standards, consumer protection oriented issues such as privacy and data security, as well as deceptive practices, were also discussed, with panelists agreeing that outreach and consumer education is vital in helping consumers make informed decisions.
Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Andrew Smith, closed the forum by emphasizing that the FTC has broad authority under the FTC Act to tackle unfair and deceptive practices, and stating that the Commission is very concerned about reports of unfair and deceptive marketing, sales, and collection practices in the small-business finance market. He stressed that while financial technologies can evolve quickly, the underlying legal protections for small businesses remain the same.
On December 4, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) released an invitation for comments from interested stakeholders in the development of regulations to implement the state’s new law on commercial financing disclosures. As previously covered by InfoBytes, on September 30, the California governor signed SB 1235, which requires non-bank lenders and other finance companies to provide written consumer-style disclosures for certain commercial transactions, including small business loans and merchant cash advances. Most notably, the act requires financing entities subject to the law to disclose in each commercial financing transaction —defined as an “accounts receivable purchase transaction, including factoring, asset-based lending transaction, commercial loan, commercial open-end credit plan, or lease financing transaction intended by the recipient for use primarily for other than personal, family, or household purposes”—the “total cost of the financing expressed as an annualized rate” in a form to be prescribed by the DBO.
The act requires the DBO to first develop regulations governing the new disclosure requirements, addressing, among other things, (i) definitions, contents, and methods of calculations for each disclosure; (ii) requirements concerning the time, manner, and format of each disclosure; and (iii) the method to express the annualized rate disclosure and types of fees and charges to be included in the calculation. While the DBO has formulated specific topics and questions in the invitation for comments covering these areas, the comments may address any potential area for rulemaking. Comments must be received by January 22, 2019.
On October 1, the FDIC released a report, which covers the findings of its Small Business Lending Survey. The survey studied the responses of approximately 1,200 banks to analyze the small business lending practices of each institution. The survey included topics such as, overall small business lending volume, types of borrowers, market areas and competitive environments, competitive practices and advantages, and underwriting practices. Among other things, the report concludes that (i) banks lend more to small businesses than is currently measured as many banks lend over the $1 million commercial and industrial lending limit used; (ii) small and large banks cite to personal relationships as their top competitive advantage in the market and many are willing to grant exceptions to underwriting policies based on their relationships; and (iii) small business lending typically occurs locally as very few banks accept small business loan applications online.
New California law requires non-bank lenders and other finance companies to provide commercial financing disclosures
On September 30, the California governor signed SB 1235, which requires non-bank lenders and other finance companies to provide written consumer-style disclosures for certain commercial transactions, including small business loans and merchant cash advances. Most notably, the act requires financing entities subject to the law to disclose in each commercial financing transaction — defined as an “accounts receivable purchase transaction, including factoring, asset-based lending transaction, commercial loan, commercial open-end credit plan, or lease financing transaction intended by the recipient for use primarily for other than personal, family, or household purposes”— the “total cost of the financing expressed as an annualized rate” in a form to be prescribed by the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO).
Although the act is effective immediately, the act requires the DBO to first develop regulations governing the new disclosure requirements, and lenders are not required to comply with the provisions of the act until the final regulations are adopted and become effective. Once final regulations are in place, recipients of commercial financing offers will have to sign the disclosures, which are to be provided at the time of the offer. The disclosures must include (i) the total amount of funds provided; (ii) the total dollar cost of the financing; (iii) the term or estimated term; (iv) the method, frequency, and amount of payments; (v) a description of prepayment policies; and (vi) the total cost of the financing expressed as an annualized rate. Finance companies subject to the law are required to provide the annualized financing rate until January 1, 2024, at which time that portion of the disclosure requirement sunsets. The act also allows for finance companies who offer factoring or asset-based lending to provide alternative disclosures using an example transaction that could occur under the agreement.
Importantly, the act does not apply to (i) depository institutions; (ii) lenders regulated under the federal Farm Credit Act; (iii) commercial financing transactions secured by real property; (iv) a commercial financing transaction in which the recipient is a vehicle dealer, vehicle rental company, or affiliated company, and meets other specified requirements; and (v) a lender who makes no more than one applicable transaction in California in a 12-month period or a lender who makes five or fewer applicable transactions that are incidental to the lender’s business in a 12-month period. The act also does not cover (i) true leases, but will apply to bargain-purchase leases; (ii) commercial loans under $5,000, which are considered consumer loans in California regardless of any business-purpose and subject to separate disclosure requirements; and (iii) commercial financing offers greater than $500,000.
OMB has released the CFPB’s Fall 2017 rulemaking agenda. Although this is the first update to the agenda since Richard Cordray left the agency in November 2017, delays in the publication of rulemaking agendas are common so the updated agenda may not reflect the views of new CFPB leadership. The updated agenda does not appear on the Bureau’s website. Further:
- HMDA & ECOA Amendments: The updated agenda states that the Bureau planned to determine by December 2018 whether to make permanent adjustments to the threshold for reporting open-end lines of credit. However, as discussed in greater detail here, the CFPB stated on December 21 that it intended to engage in a broader rulemaking to (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 by the Dodd-Frank Act.
- Prepaid Cards: The updated agenda states that the CFPB expected to finalize amendments to its rule on prepaid cards in November 2017, but no final amendments have been issued. Instead, on December 21, the CFPB announced its intent to adopt final amendments “soon after the new year” and stated that it expects to extend the April 1, 2018 effective date to allow more time for implementation.
- Debt Collection: The updated agenda states that the CFPB expects to issue a proposed rule in February 2018 “concerning FDCPA collectors’ communications practices and consumer disclosures.” However, on December 14, OMB announced that the CFPB had withdrawn its planned survey regarding debt collection disclosures because “Bureau leadership would like to reconsider the information collection in connection with its review of the ongoing related rulemaking.”
See previous InfoBytes coverage on the HMDA, Prepaid, and Debt Collection rulemaking updates.
Other noteworthy aspects of the updated agenda include:
- Regulation Reviews: The updated agenda reiterates the Bureau’s intent to review the regulations inherited from other agencies and “clarify ambiguities, address developments in the marketplace, and modernize or streamline regulatory provisions.” The updated agenda lists “pre-rule activities” as continuing through February 2018, rather than September 2017 under the prior agenda.
- “Larger Participants” in Installment Lending: Consistent with the prior agenda, the CFPB states that it is preparing a proposed rule to define the “larger participants” in the personal loan market (including consumer installment loans and vehicle title loans) that will be subject to Bureau examinations. The updated agenda also states that the Bureau is still considering “whether rules to require registration of these or other non-depository lenders would facilitate supervision, as has been suggested to the Bureau by both consumer advocates and industry groups.” However, while the prior agenda indicated that a proposal was expected in September 2017, the new agenda lists May 2018.
- Overdrafts: The updated agenda states only that the CFPB is “continuing to engage in additional research and consumer testing initiatives relating to the opt-in process” for overdraft protection and that “pre-rule activities” will continue through this month. Under the prior agenda, pre-rule activities were scheduled to continue through June 2017.
- Small Business Lending: The agenda indicates that the long-delayed implementation of the small business data reporting provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act will be delayed even longer. The last agenda listed “pre-rule activities” as continuing through June 2017, stating that the CFPB “is focusing on outreach and research to develop its understanding of the players, products, and practices in the small business lending market and of the potential ways to implement section 1071.” The new agenda states that these activities will continue until May 2018, after which the Bureau “expects to begin developing proposed regulations concerning the data to be collected, potential ways to minimize burdens on lenders, and appropriate procedures and privacy protections needed for information-gathering and public disclosure.”
- TRID/Know Before You Owe Amendments: The updated agenda lists April 2018 as the expected release date for finalization of the July 2017 proposed rule addressing the “black hole” issue, which is discussed in a Buckley Sandler Special Alert. The prior agenda listed March 2018.
- Mortgage Servicing Amendments: In October 2017, the CFPB issued proposed amendments to the mortgage periodic statement requirements to further address circumstances in which servicers transition between modified and unmodified statements in connection with a consumer’s bankruptcy case. The updated agenda does not provide an expected release date for final amendments.
- Credit Card Agreement Submission: The agenda continues to state that the Bureau is considering rules to modernize its database of credit card agreements to reduce the submission burden on issuers and to make the database more useful for consumers and the general public. The agenda lists “pre-rule activities” as continuing through February 2018. Under the prior agenda, pre-rule activities were scheduled to continue through October 2017.
On July 20, the CFPB released its Spring 2017 rulemaking agenda. The agenda was last updated in Fall 2016. The summer release date, and the fact that certain deadlines listed in the updated agenda have already passed, indicates that the agenda’s release may have been delayed after the CFPB drafted it. The following aspects of the updated agenda are particularly noteworthy:
- Regulation Reviews: The Bureau plans to begin “the first in a series of reviews of existing regulations that we inherited from other agencies through the transfer of authorities under the Dodd-Frank Act,” noting that “other federal financial services regulators have engaged in these types of reviews over time, and believe that such an initiative would be a natural complement to our work to facilitate implementation of new regulations.” The Bureau has formed “an internal task force to coordinate and deepen the agency’s focus on concerns about regulatory burdens and projects to identify and reduce unwarranted regulatory burdens….” The agenda lists “pre-rule activities” as continuing through September 2017. Separately, the Bureau notes its ongoing assessments of the effectiveness of the Mortgage Servicing Rules, the Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule, and the Remittance Transfer Rule pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act’s five-year lookback provision.
- Small Dollar Lending: The Bureau reports that it received more than one million comments on its June 2016 proposed rule to impose ability-to-repay requirements for payday, vehicle title, and similar installment loans. The Bureau states that it “continue[s] to believe that the concerns articulated in the [proposed rule] are substantial” but does not provide an expected release date for a final rule.
- “Larger Participants” in Installment Lending: The agenda lists September 2017 as the expected release date for “a proposed rule that would define non-bank ‘larger participants’ in the market for personal loans, including consumer installment loans and vehicle title loans.” Designation as a larger participant brings a non-bank entity within the CFPB’s supervisory jurisdiction. The agenda indicates that a companion rule requiring payday, vehicle title lenders, and other non-bank entities to register with the Bureau is also underway, as noted below.
- Debt Collection: In July 2016, the Bureau released an outline of proposals under consideration for debt collection and convened a panel under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget and the Small Business Administration’s Chief Counsel for Advocacy to consult with representatives of small businesses that might be affected by the rulemaking. The Bureau notes that, “[b]uilding on feedback received through [that] panel, we have decided to issue a proposed rule later in 2017 concerning debt collectors’ communications practices and consumer disclosures.” The agenda states that a proposed rule is expected in September 2017. The Bureau also states that, in a departure from the July 2016 outline of proposals, the Bureau “intend[s] to follow up separately at a later time about concerns regarding information flows between creditors and FDCPA collectors and about potential rules to govern creditors that collect their own debts.”
- Overdrafts: The Bureau states that the current opt-in regime “produces substantially different opt-in rates across different depository institutions” and that its “supervisory and enforcement work indicates that some institutions are aggressively steering consumers to opt in.” The Bureau reports that it is “engaged in consumer testing of revised opt-in forms and considering whether other regulatory changes may be warranted to enhance consumer decision making.” The agenda lists “pre-rule activities” as continuing through June 2017.
- Small Business Lending: The agenda lists “pre-rule activities” on the implementation of the small business data reporting provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act as continuing through June 2017. Specifically, the agenda states that, at this juncture, the CFPB “is focusing on outreach and research to develop its understanding of the players, products, and practices in the small business lending market and of the potential ways to implement section 1071.”
- HMDA & ECOA Amendments: The agenda lists October 2017 as the expected release date for the April 2017 proposed ECOA amendments to clarify requirements for collecting information on ethnicity, race, and sex, but does not list an expected release date for finalization of the April 2017 proposed technical corrections to the 2015 HMDA rule, or the July 2017 proposed amendments to the 2015 HMDA rule’s requirements for reporting home equity lines of credit.
- TRID/Know Before You Owe Amendments: The agenda lists March 2018 as the expected release date for finalization of the July 2017 proposed rule addressing the “black hole” issue, which is discussed in our special alert.
- Mortgage Servicing Amendments: The Bureau states that it expects to issue a proposal in September 2017 “to make one or more substantive changes to the rule in response to . . . concerns” raised by the industry.
- Arbitration: Interestingly, the agenda states that the Bureau’s final rule on mandatory arbitration clauses, which was released this month to significant controversy, was not expected until August.
- Non-Bank Registration: The Bureau states that it is “considering whether rules to require registration of [installment lenders] or other non-depository lenders would facilitate supervision, as has been suggested to us by both consumer advocates and industry groups.”
- Prepaid Cards: The agenda does not provide an expected release date for finalization of the June 2017 proposed amendments addressing error resolution and limitations on liability, application of the rule’s credit-related provisions to digital wallets, and other issues.
- Credit Card Agreement Submission: The Bureau is “considering rules to modernize our database of credit card agreements to reduce burden on issuers that submit credit card agreements to us and make the database more useful for consumers and the general public.” The agenda lists “pre-rule activities” as continuing through October 2017.
On July 12, the CFPB issued a notice in the Federal Register announcing that, in response to a request from 13 industry trade associations for an additional comment period extension, the Bureau has extended the comment period of the “Request for Information Regarding the Small Business Lending Market” for another 60 days. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the Bureau is seeking responses to its questions regarding the small business lending market and how the implementation of Section 1071 Dodd-Frank Act will affect small business financing. The Bureau also hopes to receive feedback on privacy concerns related to the Section 1071 disclosures. In light of the extension, comments must now be received by September 14.
Cordray Speaks at Consumer Advisory Board Meeting; Extends Comment Period for RFI on Small Business Lending Market
On June 8, CFPB Director Richard Cordray delivered prepared remarks at the Consumer Advisory Board Meeting in Washington, DC announcing, among other things, that the Bureau has extended the comment period of the “Request for Information Regarding the Small Business Lending Market” an additional 60-days. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the RFI—which was issued May 10—will provide feedback on various aspects of the small business lending market. Cordray noted the CFPB is “mindful of the potential complexity and cost of small business data collection and reporting” and that it plans to “explore ways to fulfill this duty in a balanced manner, seeking to provide timely data with the highest potential to meet the statutory objectives, while minimizing the burdens for both industry and the Bureau.” Allowing for more time to receive “quality responses from the public,” Cordray extended the comment period.
Additionally, Cordray discussed three other topics: (i) the Bureau’s emphasis on encouraging credit card market transparency to reduce consumer risk; (ii) updates to the Bureau’s continued “credit invisibility” research; and (iii) the need to formulate new rules governing the debt collection market.
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "Lender town hall: Private flood rules and hot topics" at the National Flood Conference
- Buckley Webcast: Trends in e-discovery technology and case law
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "What the flood? Don’t get washed away by a flood of changes" at the American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Mitigating the risks of banking high risk customers" at the American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano, Kari K. Hall, Brandy A. Hood, and H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Regulations that matter in a deregulatory environment" at the American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference Power Hour
- Buckley Webcast: Data breach litigation and biometric legislation
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "A first anniversary: Assessing the CDD final rule’s first year" at a ACAMS webinar
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: Addressing prosecutions driven by hidden actors" at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers West Coast White Collar Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Keep off the grass: Mitigating the risks of banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Mid-year policy update" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Christopher M. Witeck and Moorari K. Shah to discuss "The latest in vendor management regulations" at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Navigating the challenges of the latest data protection regulations and proven protocols for breach prevention and response" at the ACI National Forum on Consumer Finance Class Actions and Government Enforcement
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Douglas F. Gansler to discuss "Role of state AGs in consumer protection" at a George Mason University Law & Economics Center symposium