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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • FTC temporarily halts business opportunity scheme

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, the FTC announced that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a temporary restraining order against a business opportunity scheme for allegedly engaging in deceptive acts. The court’s order barred the defendants from making misrepresentations about any business or money-making opportunity and froze the defendant’s assets. According to the FTC’s complaint, the business opportunity scheme violated the FTC Act’s prohibition of “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce” and the Telemarketing Sales Rule by, among other things, (i) making misrepresentations regarding earnings from their products and services; (ii) furnishing “success coaches” with marketing materials to be used for new member recruitment, thus providing the means for the commission of deceptive acts or practices; (iii) making misrepresentations regarding profitability to persuade consumers to pay for membership, digital products, and marketing packages; (iv) making misrepresentations regarding material aspects of an investment opportunity; and (v) facilitating outbound calls that deliver prerecorded messages to encourage consumers to purchase its products, also known as robocalls. Beyond the temporary restraining order and asset freeze, the FTC is seeking a permanent injunction and other equitable relief.

    Federal Issues FTC Enforcement FTC Act Deceptive Pennsylvania Robocalls

  • CFPB reports on consumers’ experience with overdraft, NSF fees

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, the CFPB released a report titled Overdraft and Nonsufficient Fund Fees: Insights from the Making Ends Meet Survey and Consumer Credit Panel, a report providing insight into consumers’ experience with overdraft/NSF activity. The CFPB stated that the report is based on data from the 2023 Making Ends Meet survey (covered by InfoBytes here) and the CFPB’s Consumer Credit Panel. Among other findings, the report found that roughly a quarter of consumers reside in households that were charged an overdraft or NSF fee in the past year. The report additionally found that 43 percent of consumers charged an overdraft fee were surprised by their most recent account overdraft, while only 22 percent expected it. The report noted that this trend is more pronounced among those who experience infrequent overdrafts (15 percent) as opposed to those who have been charged multiple overdraft fees (56 percent).

    The CFPB additionally highlighted most households incurring overdraft and NSF fees have available credit on a credit card, adding that “among consumers in households charged 0, 1-3, 4-10, and more than 10 overdraft fees in the past year, the shares with no credit available on a credit card are 19 percent, 32 percent, 38 percent, and 49 percent, respectively.”

    Federal Issues CFPB Overdraft NSF Fees Fees Consumer Finance

  • FDIC issues advisory on managing commercial real estate concentrations

    On December 18, the FDIC issued an advisory to institutions with commercial real estate (CRE) concentrations. The advisory, among other things, reminds insured state non-member banks and savings associations (FDIC-supervised institutions) of the importance of “strong capital, appropriate credit loss allowance levels, and robust credit risk-management practices” when managing CRE concentrations. The advisory notes that “[r]ecent weaknesses in the economic environment and fundamentals related to various CRE sectors have increased the FDIC’s overall concern for state nonmember institutions with concentrations of CRE loans.” The FDIC said that “CRE investment property capitalization rates have not kept pace with recent rapid increases in long-term interest rates, which leads to concerns about general over-valuation of underlying collateral.” For institutions with concentrated CRE exposures, the agency “strongly recommended” that “as market conditions warrant, institutions with CRE concentrations (particularly in office lending) increase capital to provide ample protection from unexpected losses if market conditions deteriorate further.” The agency also outlined key risk-management measures for financial institutions with significant concentrations in CRE and real estate construction and development (C&D) to manage through changing market conditions: (i) “maintain strong capital levels;” (ii) “ensure that credit loss allowances are appropriate;” (iii) “manage C&D and CRE loan portfolios closely;” (iv) “maintain updated financial and analytical information;” (v) “bolster the loan workout infrastructure;” and (vi) “maintain adequate liquidity and diverse funding sources.”

    Bank Regulatory Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FDIC Commercial Finance

  • CFPB report analyzes college banking and credit card agreements

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, the CFPB released a report titled College Banking and Credit Card Agreements: Annual Report to Congress, which found that some college-sponsored financial products marketed towards students have less advantageous terms and conditions, and higher fees compared to typical market products.

    According to the report, when colleges decided to subcontract with third-party financial service providers to facilitate the application of federal financial aid, they entered “college banking agreements” offering deposit accounts for students, which can function as debit or prepaid cards. The report distinguished between colleges that pay for certain service providers to facilitate the processing of federal financial aid disbursements (referred to as Tier One college banking arrangements), and colleges that are paid by certain service providers to offer deposit accounts and prepaid cards to the student population (referred to as Tier Two college banking arrangements). Tier Two account issuers paid colleges an aggregated of over $19.6 million in 2022. The CFPB observed that some colleges’ financial product partners charge students overdraft fees, despite the general industry trend to move away from such fees.  The CFPB also warned in its report that certain overdraft fees can violate the CFPA.

    The report also found that students at HBCUs and Hispanic-servicing institutions on average pay higher fees per account. The CFPB also noted several other additional fees charged to students by financial institutions, including (i) dormant account fees; (ii) deposit and withdrawal fees for student ID cards that also function as prepaid cards; and (iii) “sunset” fees imposed on students to pay after graduation or reaching a certain age.

    Regarding partnerships in credit cards, the CFPB noted that although the passage of the CARD Act reduced the profitability of marketing credit cards on college campuses, thousands of new accounts between colleges and credit card issuers are opened every year. The CFPB also noted that college students maintain a high level of reliance on credit cards to cover costs and it indicated that it “will continue to research evolving practices” to understand how credit cards are being marketed to college students.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Protection CARD Act Congress

  • CFPB reports on consumers’ experience with overdraft, NSF fees

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, the CFPB released a report titled Overdraft and Nonsufficient Fund Fees: Insights from the Making Ends Meet Survey and Consumer Credit Panel, a report providing insight into consumers’ experience with overdraft/NSF activity. The CFPB stated that the report is based on data from the 2023 Making Ends Meet survey (covered by InfoBytes here) and the CFPB’s Consumer Credit Panel. Among other findings, the report found that roughly a quarter of consumers reside in households that were charged an overdraft or NSF fee in the past year. The report additionally found that 43 percent of consumers charged an overdraft fee were surprised by their most recent account overdraft, while only 22 percent expected it. The report noted that this trend is more pronounced among those who experience infrequent overdrafts (15 percent) as opposed to those who have been charged multiple overdraft fees (56 percent).

    The CFPB additionally highlighted most households incurring overdraft and NSF fees have available credit on a credit card, adding that “among consumers in households charged 0, 1-3, 4-10, and more than 10 overdraft fees in the past year, the shares with no credit available on a credit card are 19 percent, 32 percent, 38 percent, and 49 percent, respectively.”

    Federal Issues CFPB Overdraft NSF Fees Fees Consumer Finance

  • President Biden vetoes bill on CFPB small business data rule

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, President Biden vetoed bill S. J. Res. 32 that would have repealed the CFPB’s small business data collection rule known as “Small Business Lending Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (Regulation B).” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the small business data collection rule, under Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, requires small business owners to provide demographic data (i.e., race, gender, ethnicity, etc.), as well as geographic information, lending decisions, and credit pricing to lenders. According to President Biden’s statement accompanying the veto, the CFPB’s final rule brings “transparency to small business lending” and repealing this rule would “hinder” the government’s ability to conduct oversight of predatory lenders. The bill is now to be returned to the Senate to be voted on again and can only become law if two-thirds of members support the bill. Separately, in October, a U.S. District Court in Texas imposed an injunction on the CFPB’s small business data rule (covered by InfoBytes here).

    Federal Issues Executive Order CFPB Section 1071 U.S. Senate White House

  • CFPB adjusts asset-size exemption thresholds for Regulations C and Z

    Federal Issues

    On December 18, the CFPB adjusted the asset-size exemption thresholds for Regulation C (as part of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act) and Regulation Z (as part of TILA), based on a 4.1 percent increase in the average year-over-year CPI-W from November. For Regulation C, the exemption threshold increased from $54 million to $56 million. Accordingly, any financial institution with assets of $56 million or less is exempt from collecting housing-related lending data in 2024.

    For Regulation Z, and certain first-lien higher-priced mortgage loans, the exemption threshold increased from $2.537 billion to $2.640 billion. Similarly, but applicable to certain insured depository institutions and insured credit unions, the exemption threshold increased from $11.374 billion to $11.835 billion.

    Federal Issues HDMA TILA Regulation C Regulation Z CPI CFPB

  • Fed releases its Senior Financial Officer Survey results

    Federal Issues

    On December 15, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors released the results from a survey sent in September to senior bank officers asking questions about their strategies and practices for managing reserve balances, called the “Senior Financial Officer Survey” (SFOS). Ninety-three of the 100 surveyed banks responded, including 59 domestic and 34 foreign banking organizations, holding, in the aggregate, three-fourths of the total reserve balances in the banking system.

    The survey results summarized answers in four sections. Part one’s responses were on the bank’s balance sheet strategy. The Fed reported that roughly two-thirds of respondents expect the size of their balance sheet to remain unchanged (plus or minus two percent) over the next six months. For part two of the survey, the Fed gleaned feedback on a bank official’s lowest comfortable level of reserves (LCLOR) – defined as the lowest dollar level comfortably held in reserves by the bank, before taking any action to increase their reserves. When compared to the May 2023 results of the SFOS survey, half of the respondents reported the same LCLOR, or within a ten percent range, to their previous estimate; the remaining respondents were split between increases or decreases larger than the ten percent range. Three-fourths of respondents reported that their bank does not allow reserves to fluctuate below its LCLOR.

    Part three discusses deposit rates and the survey asked about a bank’s cumulative deposit betas from March 2022 to September 2023. Respondents reported an average cumulative retail deposit beta of 35 percent from that period, and estimated retail deposit betas to be 41 percent for the period through March 2024. Lastly, in part four, the Fed’s survey asked about the bank’s views on standing repo facility (SRF). Among the respondent banks meeting the criteria to be an SRF, half reported that they already were an SRF counterparty or expressed interest in becoming one, while the remainder reported no interest in becoming a counterparty on SRF.

    Federal Issues Federal Reserve Banks

  • FTC report details key takeaways from AI and creative fields panel discussion

    Federal Issues

    On December 18, the FTC released a report highlighting key takeaways from its October panel discussion on generative artificial intelligence (AI) and “creative industries.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the FTC hosted a virtual roundtable to hear directly from creators on how generative AI is affecting their work and livelihood given the FTC’s interest in understanding how AI tools impact competition and business practices. The report presents a summary of insights gathered during the roundtable and explains the FTC’s particular jurisdictional interest in regulating AI. The report explains that the FTC has brought several recent enforcement actions relating to AI and how the use of AI can potentially violate Section 5 of the FTC Act, which “prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices and unfair methods of competition.” Additionally, the report mentioned how President Biden’s recent Executive Order on the Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Development and Use of AI (covered by InfoBytes here), encourages the FTC to leverage its existing faculties to protect consumers from harms caused by AI and to ensure competition in the marketplace.  The FTC’s report explains that it is appropriately taking such actions, both through enforcement actions and by gathering information. The Commission additionally stipulated that training generative AI on “protected expression” made by a creator without the creator’s consent or the sale of that generated output could constitute an unfair method of competition or an unfair or deceptive practice. The FTC added that this may be amplified by actions that involve deceiving consumers, improperly using a creator’s reputation, reducing the value of a creator’s work, exposing private information, or otherwise causing substantial injury to consumers. The Commission further warned that “conduct that may be consistent with other bodies of law nevertheless may violate Section 5.”

    Federal Issues FTC Artificial Intelligence Competition Consumer Protection FTC Act Unfair

  • CFPB fines and shuts down debt collector for alleged FDCPA, FCRA violations

    Federal Issues

    On December 15, the CFPB announced a consent order against a Pennsylvania-based nonbank medical debt collection company for alleged violations of the FCRA and FDCPA. According to the order, the company failed to (i) establish and implement reasonable written policies and procedures for ensuring the accuracy and integrity of information furnished to consumer reporting agencies; (ii) conduct reasonable investigations into direct and indirect consumer disputes about furnished information; (iii) report direct dispute investigation results to consumers; and (iv) indicate disputed items when furnishing information to reporting agencies. The company also allegedly lacked a reasonable basis for debt-related representations made to consumers and engaged in collection activities after receiving a written dispute within 30 days of the consumer’s receipt of a debt validation notice but before obtaining and mailing a verification of the debt.

    The consent order permanently bans the company from involvement or aid in debt collection, purchasing or selling of any debts, or any consumer reporting activities. The company must also request credit reporting agencies to delete all collection accounts previously reported by the company. Additionally, the company is obligated to pay a $95,000 civil money penalty and must display on its website information that informs consumers about the option to file a complaint with the CFPB.

    Federal Issues CFPB Debt Collection Consent Order Enforcement FDCPA FCRA Regulation V Nonbank

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