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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • Business groups sue the CFPB over credit card late fee rule


    On March 7, several business groups (plaintiffs) sued the CFPB rule in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas over its announced credit card late fee rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau’s new final rule limited most credit card late fees to $8, among other actions, and was met immediately with criticism from banks and legislators.

    The plaintiffs’ complaint claimed the CFPB completed the rule hastily to implement a pledge made by President Biden around his State of the Union Address to reduce credit card late fees by 75 percent. The complaint further asserted the CFPB skipped necessary steps, made economic miscalculations, and otherwise breached the Administrative Procedure Act. As alleged, the Bureau likely understated “the volatility of card issuers’ cost-to-fee ratios pertaining to late fees” and improperly relied on data which does not allow for the recovery of a “reasonable and proportional” penalty fee. On the Bureau’s use of the Y-14M data, the complaint alleged the new rule ignored peer-reviewed studies and instead opted to base the rule on an internal study using confidential data that was not available for examination during the period allocated for public comment. The plaintiffs argued the final rule would incur “substantial compliance costs” by amending printed disclosures, using the cost-analysis provisions, and notifying consumers of changes in interest rates to recoup costs, among other problems. The complaint also cited TILA’s effective-date provisions and the Bureau’s embattled funding structure to support the argument that the final rule would cause irreparable harm.

    Courts Federal Issues CFPB Litigation Credit Cards Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Fees Consumer Finance Consumer Protection

  • 7th Circuit says plaintiffs should have produced evidence to prove concrete injury


    On February 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided that while an interruption of self-employment can cause a concrete loss for a plaintiff to sue, that loss must be established by evidence at summary judgment. The loss in question involved a consumer debt in arrears sold by a bank to a debt collection agency. Two individual plaintiffs owing the underlying debt sued the debt collection agency under 15 U.S.C. §1692e of the FDCPA when the debt collection agency attempted to collect on the debt owed without relaying that the bank had not verified the balance of the debt. The judge opined that rather than claiming they had incurred any concrete loss (e.g., a loss of income, payment of funds, etc.), plaintiffs instead filed an affidavit to state that the debt had “interrupted my self-employment” because they were focused on thinking about the debt and spent time working through records to confirm the debt owed. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs’ claim that debt collection efforts can very well cause a delay in receiving self-employment income, which is a “form of loss”; however, the judge also held that plaintiffs must show evidence of injury at the summary judgment stage, as this is the “put up or shut up” stage in litigation. Ultimately, the plaintiffs failed to show any evidence that debt collection efforts caused them concrete harm, other than interrupting a productive day of work. 

    Courts Appellate Debt Collection FDCPA

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General settles with data collection company for failing to disclose data use


    On February 22, the Attorney General for the State of Pennsylvania, Michelle A. Henry, announced a settlement with a company for selling consumers’ data information without clearly notifying those consumers pursuant to the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and the Telemarketer Registration Act (TRA) and required the defendant pay $25,000 in monetary relief. The defendant operated various websites that collected consumers’ personal information with offers of free samples or payments for online surveys. The Pennsylvania AG alleged the defendant failed to properly disclose to consumers that the purpose of collecting their data was for lead generation, made misrepresentations regarding free samples and brand affiliations, and failed to obtain necessary consumer requests and agreements.

    As part of the settlement, the Pennsylvania AG required the defendant to provide certain disclosures, including the collection of consumer data is for lead generation, consumer information may be sold to third parties, and defendant functions as an aggregator of promotional offerings. The settlement further enjoined the defendant from making certain misrepresentations to consumers. There were also orders related to telemarketing practices and consumer usage data, including a requirement that defendant not “use, sell, transfer or share any [c]onsumer [d]ata obtained from Pennsylvania consumers[.]”

    Courts Pennsylvania State Attorney General Data Collection / Aggregation Telemarketing

  • District Court decides in favor of bank despite alleged FDCPA and RESPA violations


    On February 15, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted a bank defendant’s motion to dismiss certain claims presented in the plaintiff’s complaint alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Real Estate Settlement Practices Act (RESPA).

    With respect to the FDCPA claim, the court found that the defendant did not qualify as a “debt collector” within the meaning of the statute because the defendant acquired the loan through its merger with the original creditor of the plaintiff’s mortgage. The court noted that several other district courts have held that an entity that acquires a debt through its merger with another creditor is not a “debt collector” under the FDCPA even if the merger occurred following the borrower’s default on the debt.

    With respect to the plaintiff’s RESPA claim, the court found that the plaintiff failed to allege a violation of the statute because the plaintiff’s letter to the defendant, which requested a copy of the original promissory note underlying the deed of trust as well as a loan payoff amount, did not constitute a “qualified written request” triggering the defendant’s obligations under RESPA to respond.  

    Courts RESPA FDCPA California Mortgages

  • District Court addresses plain meaning of “pattern or practice of noncompliance” under RESPA.


    On February 7, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granted in part and denied in part a defendant mortgage company’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit alleging RESPA violations related to escrow account management for borrowers. Class action plaintiffs claim that the defendant’s failure to pay their property taxes in a timely manner, resulting in their homes being potentially subject to local tax sale procedures for unpaid taxes, created a “pattern or practice of noncompliance” within the meaning of RESPA.

    In moving to dismiss, defendant argued that alleged violations of servicing obligations that fall under separate subsections of RESPA cannot create a “pattern or practice of noncompliance” for obligations of the section setting for the escrow-handling obligations.  While noting that “case law interpreting RESPA statutory damages claims is still developing,” the court found that the statute does not require identical violations from the same subsection of RESPA to state a “pattern or practice” claim.  The court reasoned that the absence of the word “subsection” from the statute is noteworthy, and it indicates that Congress did not intend to confine “pattern or practice” to a single subsection, and held that the plain meaning of the provision only requires plaintiffs to allege repeated violations of the “[s]ervicing of mortgage loans and administration of escrow accounts” section of RESPA (i.e., all of the obligations set forth in 12 U.S.C. § 2605). The court also rejected defendant’s argument that plaintiffs failed to state a claim because they “cannot rely upon their own allegations or the existence of public complaints and lawsuits which have not resulted in a judgment against it for violations of RESPA,” finding that allegations of servicing violations from multiple named plaintiffs in separate jurisdictions was sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.

    Separately, the court dismissed allegations that defendant violated RESPA by failing to respond to plaintiffs’ qualified written requests, finding that plaintiffs’ claims of “emotional distress, without more, do[] not establish the causal link necessary to show actual damages,” and that  plaintiffs did not support claims that voluntary postage costs for sending correspondence to defendants could be recognized as economic damages.

    Courts Mortgages RESPA Maryland

  • Plaintiffs seek preliminary approval of $9 million class action settlement involving unsolicited texts


    On February 8, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington received an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of a class action settlement against a broker-dealer alleging that the defendant violated the Washington Commercial Electronic Mail Act (CEMA) and the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA) by having consumers send “unsolicited advertising text messages” to other Washingtonians through a referral program. The proposed settlement would establish a $9 million settlement fund that would compensate an estimated one million affected class members, consisting of consumers who received a referral program text message during the relevant period, were Washington residents, and did not “clearly and affirmatively” consent to receive referral program text messages.

    Courts Class Action Settlement Broker-Dealer Washington

  • Supreme Court agrees with Third Circuit that consumers may sue “any” government entity under FCRA


    On February 8, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided that a consumer can sue any government agency—in this case the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—for damages for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, as amended by the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996 (the Act). The court found that government agencies are expressly included in the definition of any “person” who violates the statute.  On appeal from the 3rd Circuit, the case involved an individual who sued the USDA for monetary damages under FCRA, alleging that the USDA furnished incorrect information to a credit reporting company stating that his account was past due, damaging his credit score and impairing his ability to access affordable credit. 

    In affirming the 3rd Circuit’s reversal of the lower court’s dismissal of the case, the Supreme Court noted that, while the U.S. is “generally immune” from monetary judgment suits as a sovereign body, Congress can waive this immunity. Applying a “clear statement” rule, the Supreme Court interpreted the Act’s statutory language that authorizes consumer suits for money damages against “[a]ny person” who willfully or negligently fails to comply with [the law]” to constitute a clear waiver of federal government sovereign immunity. As the Court explained, “the Act defines the term ‘person’ to include “any . . . governmental . . . agency,” therefore “FCRA clearly waives sovereign immunity in cases like this one.” 

    Courts U.S. Supreme Court FCRA CCRA USDA Sovereign Immunity

  • Third Circuit finds Pennsylvania lending law does not regulate collection of charged-off debt


    On February 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant a debt collector’s (the defendant) motion for judgment. The defendant argued that its efforts to collect plaintiff’s charged-off debt via a proof of claim in a bankruptcy proceeding was not limited by, or in violation of, the Pennsylvania Consumer Discount Company Act (CDCA).   The plaintiff, who obtained a loan from a third-party small-dollar lender licensed under the CDCA, defaulted on the loan and the licensed lender subsequently charged off and sold plaintiff’s debt to a company that was not licensed under the CDCA. 

    After filing for bankruptcy, the plaintiff sued the defendant and alleged a FDCPA violation when the defendant filed a proof of claim during the bankruptcy proceeding to collect the outstanding balance on the charged-off loan. The plaintiff’s argument was premised on claims that the defendant could not lawfully collect the debt because the CDCA dictates that a licensee may not sell CDCA-authorized contracts to an unlicensed person or entity. As such, the plaintiff argued the proof of claim violated the FDCPA’s prohibition against “false, deceptive, or misleading” representations in connection with the collection of a debt. The 3rd Circuit disagreed.   

    Relying in part on a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities confirming that the CDCA does not apply to an unlicensed entity that purchases or attempts to collect on charged-off consumer loan accounts of debtors in bankruptcy, the appellate court held that “[t]he CDCA is a loan statute, not a debt collection statute,” and that “entities in the business of purchasing and collecting charged-off consumer debt are not subject to the CDCA’s regulatory scheme.” The 3rd Circuit held that selling charged-off obligations is not the same as selling the defaulted loan contract. Rather, it is selling unsecured debt, which falls outside of the CDCA’s scope. The court concluded that the CDCA’s prohibitions were inapplicable and could not be the basis for the FDCPA violation.

    Courts Third Circuit Appellate Pennsylvania FDCPA

  • District Court finds “negative emotions” alone do not establish standing under the FDCPA


    Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri granted a debt collector’s motion to dismiss, finding that the plaintiff’s allegations of injury after receiving one letter that violated the FDCPA did not establish standing. The plaintiff sued the debt collector under Sections 1692e and 1692g of the FDCPA, alleging that the defendant (i) made false and misleading representations, and (ii) continued to collect the debt without proper validation by sending the plaintiff a collection letter with the wrong account number and purporting the plaintiff is personally liable for her deceased husband’s medical debt. The plaintiff asserted her injuries because of receiving the letter included expending time and money to mitigate the risk of future financial harm and fear, anxiety, and stress, which “manifested physically in the form of increased heartrate.”

    The court found that the plaintiff did not allege sufficient facts to establish, or for the court to infer, a tangible injury because the plaintiff only stated she lost money without providing additional detail on what that entailed. Additionally, the court relied on the holdings of Courts of Appeals and found that the plaintiff’s alleged emotions of fear, anxiety, and stress alone do not state a cognizable or “particularized, concrete” injury. 

    Courts Debt Collection Standing FDCPA

  • District Court receives proposed settlement agreement of $6.3 million for alleged breach of contract


    On February 6, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee received the plaintiffs’ unopposed motion for preliminary approval of a class action settlement agreement as part of their lawsuit against a large bank for alleged breach of contract. According to the motion, the class action started when the plaintiffs allegedly sustained damages after the bank’s predecessor breached its contract. The contract in dispute provided consumers a high-interest market investment account that had an interest rate that was “guaranteed [to] never fall below 6.5%”; however, in 2018, the predecessor bank dropped the interest rate on all accounts below the “guaranteed” floor of 6.5 percent, down to 1.05 percent, and then to nearly zero. While the plaintiffs alleged this to be a breach of contract, the bank’s representative allegedly testified they did not have to honor the guaranteed interest rates “because the signature cards (signed by some account holders) allowed FNB to ‘adjust’ the interest rate.”

    One hundred and twenty-one plaintiffs are seeking court approval of their class action settlement. As part of the proposed settlement, plaintiffs want the defendant to pay $6.3 million to settle the class action. Additionally, the named plaintiffs want to receive $10,000 per plaintiff. The court neither granted nor denied the plaintiffs’ motion, but the defendant bank did not oppose the plaintiffs’ motion. A final hearing to consider entry of a final order is outstanding.

    Courts Settlement Agreement Class Action Breach of Contract


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