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On July 2, three Republican senators introduced a bill that would make electronic transactions easier by simplifying how consumers signal their acceptance of them. Sens. John Thune, Jerry Moran, and Todd Young introduced S.4159, the “E-SIGN Modernization Act,” which would allow companies to use electronic documents instead of paper ones if they secure the consumer’s consent to the substitution. Under the original E-SIGN Act passed 20 years ago, consumers also had to demonstrate to the company that they could access the records in the electronic form.
“Computers, smart phones, and other devices are more reliable and accessible than ever before,” Thune said in a press release accompanying the bill. “This legislation makes necessary updates to E-Sign to reflect these advancements in technology and make it easier for consumers to receive documents electronically.”
The bill also would no longer require transaction parties to obtain new consents when hardware or software changes. Instead, the company would simply disclose the updated requirements and notify the consumer of their right to withdraw consent without penalty.
On July 8, the CFPB announced a proposed settlement with a Florida-based student debt-relief company and three of its owners and officers (collectively, “defendants”), which would resolve allegations that the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by charging advance fees for services to renegotiate, settle, reduce, or alter the terms of federal student loans. According to the complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on the same day as the proposed order, the Bureau alleges that from 2016 through October 2019, the defendants used telemarketing campaigns to solicit over 7,300 consumers to pay up to $699 in fees to have their federal student loan monthly payments reduced or eliminated through government-offered programs. The Bureau alleges that—not only are government programs (such as loan consolidation, income-based repayment, or certain loan-forgiveness options) available without charge—the defendants violated the TSR by charging and receiving upfront fees from consumers for their services before the terms of the student debt had been altered or settled.
The proposed settlement, if approved by the court, permanently bans the defendants from providing debt-relief services and imposes a suspended $3.8 million in consumer redress, upon the owners and officers each paying between $5,000 and $10,000 individually. Additionally, each defendant would be required to pay $1 in civil money penalties.
On July 6, the CFPB filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a Delaware financial-services company operating in Florida and New York along with its owner (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s prohibition against deceptive acts or practices by making misleading marketing representations when advertising its high yield CD accounts. The Bureau's complaint alleges that since August 2019, the company took more than $15 million from at least 400 consumers. According to the complaint, the defendants engaged in four separate deceptive acts or practices by: (i) falsely representing that consumers’ deposits into the high yield CD accounts would be used to originate loans for healthcare professionals, when in fact, the company never used the deposits to originate loans for healthcare professionals, never sold a loan to a bank or secondary-market investor, and never entered into a contract with a buyer or investor to purchase a loan; (ii) concealing the company’s true business model by falsely representing that the consumers’ deposits, when not being used to originate healthcare loans, would be held in an FDIC- or Lloyd’s of London-insured account or a “cash alternative” or “cash equivalent” account, when in reality, consumers’ deposits were, among other things, invested in securities; (iii) falsely describing the company as a commercial bank and claiming their high yield CD accounts were comparable to a traditional savings accounts with a guaranteed return, when in fact, the company was not a commercial bank, and consumers’ deposits were actively traded in the stock market or used in securities-backed investments; and (iv) falsely representing that past high yield CD accounts allegedly paid interest at rates between 5 percent and 6.25 percent prior to 2019; however, the company did not offer CDs until August 2019, and “consumers’ principals was neither guaranteed nor insured.” Among other things, the Bureau seeks monetary relief, consumer redress, injunctive relief, and a civil money penalty.
On July 2, the Federal Reserve Board announced an enforcement action against a West Virginia-based bank for alleged violations of the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA) and Regulation H, which implements the NFIA. The consent order assesses a $24,500 penalty against the bank for an alleged pattern or practice of violations of Regulation H, but does not specify the number or the precise nature of the alleged violations. The maximum civil money penalty under the NFIA for a pattern or practice of violations is $2,000 per violation.
On July 6, the Small Business Administration (SBA), in conjunction with the Treasury Department, released the business information of certain Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan recipients. For any loan over $150,000, the SBA data release includes business names, addresses, NAICS codes, zip codes, business type, demographic data, non-profit information, name of lender, jobs supported, and a loan amount range. For loans under $150,000, the SBA withheld the business names and addresses in the release. The data release also includes overall statistics regarding dollars lent per state, loan amounts, top lenders, and distribution by industry. According to data, the PPP has approved over $4.8 million loans, with the average loan size of approximately $106,000. Currently, there are 5,460 participating lenders.
On July 6, the CFPB announced the launch of Consumer Financial Protection Week from July 14 through July 17. Over the course of four days, the Bureau is hosting or participating in multiple virtual events, including (i) a tutorial and overview of the HMDA data browser; (ii) a discussion on the Bureau’s supervisory and enforcement prioritized assessment approach; and (iii) a discussion on the Bureau’s Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law.
On July 8, the Federal Reserve announced revisions to its Capital Assessments and Stress Testing Reports, Form FR Y-14A/Q/M; OMB No. 7100-0341. The temporary revisions implement changes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the incorporation of data related to certain aspects of the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program, and Federal Reserve lending facilities. The changes apply to reports beginning with July 31, 2020, or September 30, 2020, as-of dates. Additionally, the Federal Reserve has temporarily revised the submission frequency of FR Y–14Q, Schedule H (Wholesale) from a quarterly basis to a monthly basis for Category I–III firms, effective July 31, 2020.
On July 8, the FHA announced additional home retention measures to assist homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages who are financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Mortgagee Letter 2020-20, effective immediately, mortgage servicers are able to offer a new suit of loss mitigation “waterfall” options to homeowners whose mortgages were current or less than 30 days past due as of March 1. ML 2020-20 updates existing options previously outlined in ML 2020-06 (covered by InfoBytes here) and introduces several new measures including (i) a standalone partial claim, not to exceed the 30 percent maximum statutory value; (ii) an owner-occupant loan modification (for homeowners who do not qualify for a standalone partial claim) that will modify the rate and term of the existing mortgage at the end of the Covid-19 forbearance period; (iii) a combination partial clam and loan modification (for homeowners who are ineligible for either of the first two options); and (iv) a FHA Home Affordable Modification Program combination loan modification and partial claim with reduced documentation, which may include principal deferment and is for homeowners who are ineligible for the other home retention solutions. ML 2020-20 also provides that borrowers who do not currently occupy their FHA-insurance single family property may obtain a modification to their mortgage rates and terms under a Covid-19 non-occupant loan modification.
On July 1, the member agencies of the Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council (FFIEC) issued a joint statement highlighting several risks that will result from the anticipated cessation of LIBOR at the end of 2021. Institutions with LIBOR exposures should put in place appropriate risk management processes “commensurate with the size and complexity of their exposures” to identify and mitigate financial, legal, operational, and consumer protection risks related to the transition, the FFIEC warned. Among other things, the FFIEC noted that as part of the agencies’ examination activities, “supervisory staff will ask institutions about their planning for the LIBOR transition including the identification of exposures, efforts to include fallback language or use alternative reference rates in new contracts, operational preparedness, and consumer protection considerations.” Additionally, agencies will increase their supervisory focus on evaluating institutions’ preparedness for LIBOR’s discontinuation during 2020 and 2021, “particularly for institutions with significant LIBOR exposure or less-developed transition processes.” Key recommendations include (i) identifying and quantifying LIBOR exposure across all products; (ii) discontinuing the origination or purchase of LIBOR-indexed instruments to limit exposure; (iii) creating transition plans for consumer financial products in order to develop clear, timely consumer disclosures regarding any changes in terms; and (iv) developing strategic transition plans with milestones and key completion dates addressing areas such as third-party risk management.
The OCC also issued a bulletin expanding on the joint statement and providing guidance for regulated banks.
On July 2, the CFPB and the OCC announced that they will host joint, virtual “Innovation Office Hours” on July 29-30, as part of the American Consumer Financial Innovation Network (covered by InfoBytes here). The office hours will be one-on-one meetings, of up to one hour, with representatives from the OCC and the CFPB’s Innovation Offices to discuss things such as fintech, new products or services, and bank partnerships. Those interested need to request a virtual session by July 17, and should include details on what they would like to discuss at the meeting.
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "When can trial lawyers take their case to the public? The Harvey Weinstein case and beyond" at a New York City Bar Association webcast
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fair servicing in wake of Covid-19" at an American Bar Association webinar
- APPROVED Webcast: Maximizing vendor value
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Cram for the exam: Best prep strategies for a regulatory examination" at an ACAMS webinar
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Flood insurance basics" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance School
- Sasha Leonhardt to discuss "Privacy laws clarified" at the National Settlement Services Summit (NS3)