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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • FinCEN report: SARs help prevent elder financial exploitation

    Federal Issues

    On December 4, FinCEN announced the release of a Financial Trend Analysis titled, “Elders Face Increased Financial Threat from Domestic and Foreign Actors.” In compiling the report, FinCEN reviewed Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) elder financial exploitation suspicious activity reports (SARs) from 2013 to 2019 to detect patterns and trends. Among other things, the study found that (i) elder financial exploitation filings nearly tripled during the study period, from around 2,000 per month in 2013 to nearly 7,500 in 2019, the majority of which were filed by money services businesses (MSBs) and depository institutions; (ii) while the amount of SARs filed by MSBs ebbed and flowed from 2013 to 2019, those of depository institutions steadily increased; (iii) MSBs filed nearly 80 percent of all SARs describing financial scams, while securities and futures firms filed just over 70 percent of all SARs describing theft; (iv) financial theft from elders is most frequently perpetrated by family members or caregivers; (v) SARs indicated that the most common scams included lottery, person-in-need, and romance scams, the majority of which saw elder victims transferring funds through MSBs; and (vi) money transfer scam SARs were most commonly filed by MSBs who transferred money to a receiver located outside the U.S.

    Federal Issues Money Service / Money Transmitters SARs Bank Secrecy Act FinCEN Elder Financial Exploitation Supervision Financial Crimes

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  • Senate Democrats criticize OCC and FDIC fintech proposals

    Federal Issues

    On November 21, six Democratic Senators wrote to OCC Comptroller Joseph Otting and FDIC Chairman Jelena Williams to strongly oppose recent proposed rules by the agencies (see OCC notice here and FDIC notice here). As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the OCC and FDIC proposed rules reassert the “valid-when-made doctrine,” which states that loan interest that is permissible when the loan is made to a bank remains permissible after the loan is transferred to a nonbank. In the letter, the Senators suggest that the proposed rules enable non-bank lenders to avoid state interest rate limits. According to the letter, the proposed rules would encourage “payday and other non-bank lenders to launder their loans through banks so that they can charge whatever interest rate federally-regulated banks may charge.” Additionally, the letter urges both agencies to consider their past declarations against “rent-a-bank” schemes, and contends that the agencies should not attempt to address Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, which rejected the valid-when-made doctrine, through rulemaking, but should instead leave such lawmaking to Congress.

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FDIC OCC Fintech Valid When Made Madden Usury Payday Lending Consumer Lending Interest Rate Preemption

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  • Kraninger hints at new consent order policy

    Federal Issues

    On November 22, in a speech at The Clearing House + Bank Policy Institute Annual Conference, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger noted that the Bureau is considering changes to its consent order process to “ensur[e] consent orders remain in effect only as long as needed to achieve their desired effects.” Specifically, Kraninger discussed that while most consent orders are effective for five-year periods and companies can request early termination or termination of indefinite orders, the Bureau has only terminated “a few” consent orders in the past. Similar to the Bureau’s recent changes to its Civil Investigative Demand (CID) policy (covered by InfoBytes here), Kraninger stated that the Bureau intends to announce an updated consent order policy “soon,” in order to “provide clarity and consistency.”

    Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Consent Order CIDs

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  • Warren and Brown ask CFPB for breakdown on fair lending enforcement

    Federal Issues

    On November 25, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wrote to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger requesting a breakdown of how the Bureau enforces fair lending laws in light of recent allegations brought against a global financial services company that reportedly offered lower credit limits to women than to similarly creditworthy men. According to the Senators, the allegations raise questions as to whether a pattern of sex discrimination exists in the underwriting of the credit product and “underscore the importance of the CFPB adequately monitoring the lending practices of financial institutions . . . that are new to the consumer lending space.” The Senators also expressed concern that adjustments to the structure of the Bureau under President Trump’s administration have affected its “commitment to enforcing fair lending laws and carrying out its statutory responsibilities.” (Previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The Senators stated: “We’re concerned that this new structure, where many offices have varying degrees of authority, may allow new potentially discriminatory products to get to market without adequate oversight.” Specifically, the Senators asked the Bureau to respond to the following questions by December 9: (i) how does the Bureau “prioritize and evaluate risk when determining which financial institutions to examine for compliance with fair lending laws”; (ii) has the Bureau ever conducted a supervisory examination of the global financial services company’s fair lending compliance management system; (iii) have changes made to the Bureau’s structure affected its fair lending enforcement abilities; and (iv) are the Bureau’s standards used to determine violations of ECOA different under Director Kraninger. 

    Federal Issues CFPB U.S. Senate Fair Lending Enforcement

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  • CFPB settles with two military loan companies

    Federal Issues

    On November 25, the CFPB announced a settlement with two companies that originated and serviced travel-related loans for military servicemembers and their families. According to the consent order with the lender and its principal, the lender (i) charged fees to customers who obtained financing, at a higher rate than those customers who paid in full, but failed to include the fee in the finance charge or APR; (ii) falsely quoted low monthly interest rates to customers over the phone; and (iii) failed to provide the required information about the terms of credit and the total of payments in violation of TILA and the TSR. The consent order prohibits future lending targeted to military consumers and requires the lender and its principal to pay a civil money penalty of $1. The order also imposes a suspended judgment of almost $3.5 million, based on an inability to pay.

    In its consent order against the servicer, the Bureau asserts the servicer engaged in deceptive practices by overcharging servicemembers for debt-cancellation products and, in violation of the FCRA’s implementing Regulation V, never established or maintained written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy of information furnished to credit reporting agencies. The consent order issues injunctive relief and requires the servicer to (i) pay a $25,000 civil money penalty; (ii) provide redress to consumers who were allegedly overcharged for the debt-cancellation product; (iii) pay over $54,000 in restitution to borrowers with no outstanding balance on their loans and issue additional account credits to borrowers with outstanding balances; and (iv) establish reasonable policies and procedures for accurate reporting to consumer reporting agencies.

    Federal Issues CFPB Military Lending Servicemembers TILA TSR CFPA FCRA Enforcement Settlement

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  • CFPB examines student loan borrowers enrolled in IDR plans

    Federal Issues

    On November 22, the CFPB released a new Data Point report from the Office of Research titled “Borrower Experiences on Income-Driven Repayment,” which examines, among other things, the types of student loan borrowers who participate in income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, the evolution of borrower delinquencies, and borrower experiences with enrollment recertification processes. According to the Bureau, while student loans are currently the largest non-mortgage form of debt held by U.S. consumers, “there remains limited evidence of how this growing debt burden affects the use of other financial products and services.” Key findings of the report include:

    • Delinquencies decreased 19 to 26 percent after one year into IDR enrollment for borrowers who received partial payment relief as compared to the quarter before enrollment, and the share of borrowers actively in repayment on their loans was 27 percent higher at the end of the first year of being enrolled in IDR than prior to entering IDR.
    • Delinquent borrowers who enrolled in IDR showed a 17 percent reduction in their delinquencies on other credit products, however, the Bureau noted that “one in five such borrowers were still behind on their payments on these other credit products one year later, reflecting persistent financial struggles for some borrowers.”
    • Roughly two-thirds of borrowers who recertified their IDR enrollment for a second year did so either immediately or within two months after the initial IDR period ended, with an additional 12 percent entering forbearance or deferment. The Bureau stated that borrowers who do not recertify on time after their first year may face persistent difficulties, and reported that delinquencies more than tripled for these borrowers.
    • More than 80 percent of borrowers enrolled in IDR “sought out prolonged payment relief beyond a single year.”

    According to the Bureau, the data “helps the Bureau and other researchers and policymakers understand how consumers repay their student loans and how that behavior affects their use of other financial products.”

    Federal Issues CFPB Student Lending Income-Driven Repayment

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  • CFPB reaches $8.5 million settlement with background screening company

    Federal Issues

    On November 22, the CFPB announced a settlement with an employment background screening company resolving allegations that the company violated the FCRA. In the complaint, the Bureau asserts that the company failed to “employ reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” in the consumer reports it prepared. Specifically, the Bureau claims that until October 2014, the company matched criminal records with applicants based on only two personal identifiers, which created a “heightened risk of false positives” in commonly named individuals. The company also had a practice of including “high-risk indicators,” sourced from a third party, in its consumer reports and did not follow procedures to verify the accuracy of the designations. Additionally, the Bureau asserts that the company failed to maintain procedures to ensure that adverse public record information was complete and up to date, resulting in reporting outdated adverse information in violation of the FCRA. Under the stipulated judgment, in addition to injunctive relief, the company will be required to pay $6 million in monetary relief to affected consumers and a $2.5 million civil money penalty.

    Federal Issues CFPB FCRA Consumer Reporting Courts Settlement Civil Money Penalties Enforcement

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  • Democrats urge HUD to “immediately rescind” disparate impact proposal

    Federal Issues

    On November 22, the Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter to Secretary of HUD Ben Carson, opposing the agency’s proposed rule amending its interpretation of the Fair Housing Act’s (FHA) disparate impact standard (also known as the “2013 Disparate Impact Regulation”). The letter argues that the proposed rule would “make it harder for everyday Americans who find themselves victims of housing discrimination to get justice.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in August, HUD issued the proposed rule in order to bring the rule “into closer alignment with the analysis and guidance” provided in the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) and to codify HUD’s position that its rule is not intended to infringe on the states’ regulation of insurance. Specifically, the proposed rule codifies the burden-shifting framework outlined in Inclusive Communities, adding five elements that a plaintiff must plead to support allegations that a specific, identifiable policy or practice has a discriminatory effect. Moreover, the proposal provides methods for defendants to rebut a disparate impact claim.

    The letter urges Secretary Carson to “immediately rescind” the proposed rule, calling the proposal a “huge departure from a standard and framework that has been expressly supported by HUD…[and] a deviation from decades of legal precedent, including a Supreme Court decision affirming the legitimacy of the disparate impact standard under the [FHA].” Moreover, the letter argues that “[i]n 2018, Black homeownership rates reached the lowest they had since before the [FHA] was passed,” and that HUD’s mission to build inclusive and sustainable communities will be “seriously compromised” with this proposed rule.

    Federal Issues HUD Disparate Impact Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Fair Housing Act Fair Lending House Financial Services Committee

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  • CFPB report compares large and small mortgage servicers

    Federal Issues

    On November 21, the CFPB released a new Data Point report from the Office of Research titled, “Servicer Size in the Mortgage Market,” which examines the differences between large and small mortgage servicers in the mortgage market. The report considers mortgage servicers in three size categories, (i) “small servicers” that service 5,000 or fewer loans; (ii) “mid-sized servicers” that service between 5,000 and 30,000 loans; and (iii) “large servicers” that service more than 30,000 loans.” Key findings of the report include:

    • Only five percent of loans at small servicers are insured by FHA or guaranteed by the VA, the Farm Service Agency, or the Rural Housing Service, whereas such loans account for about 25 percent of loans at mid-sized and large servicers.
    • Less than one-third of conventional loans are serviced on behalf of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac at small servicers, whereas at large servicers, over 75 percent of conventional loans are serviced for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
    • Small servicers service the majority of loans in a number of rural counties in the U.S., particularly in the Midwest.
    • From 2012 to 2018, delinquency rates of loans at large and small servicers generally converged, as compared to mortgage crisis levels when delinquency rates for loans serviced by small services were much lower than at mid-sized and large servicers.
    • In response to a survey, 74 percent of borrowers with mortgages at small servicers said having a branch or office nearby was important, compared to 44 percent of borrowers with mortgages at large servicers.

    Federal Issues CFPB Mortgages Mortgage Servicing

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  • FDIC creates advisory committee for state regulators

    Federal Issues

    On November 19, the FDIC announced a new advisory committee between the agency and state regulators to discuss issues related to the regulation and supervision of state-chartered financial institutions. The committee, titled the Advisory Committee of State Regulators (ACSR), will explore topics such as (i) safety and soundness; (ii) consumer protection issues; (iii) the creation of new banks; and (iv) financial system risks, including cyberattacks or money laundering. Members of the ACSR will be composed of state financial regulators, as well as other individuals “with expertise in the regulation of state-chartered financial institutions.”

    Federal Issues State Issues State Regulators Supervision

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