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  • CFPB releases semi-annual report to Congress

    Federal Issues

    On February 12, the CFPB issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from April 1, 2018, through September 30, 2018. The report, which is required by the Dodd-Frank Act, addresses issues including problems faced by consumers with regard to consumer financial products or services; significant rules and orders adopted by the Bureau; and various supervisory and enforcement actions taken by the Bureau when acting Director Mick Mulvaney was still in office. The report is the first to be released under Kathy Kraninger, who was confirmed as Director in December 2018. In her opening letter, Kraninger emphasized that during her tenure the Bureau will “vigorously and even-handedly enforce the law,” and will make sure the financial marketplace “is innovating in ways that enhance consumer choice.” Among other things, the report focuses on credit invisibility and mortgage shopping as two significant problems faced by consumers, noting that credit invisibility among adults tends to be concentrated in rural and highly urban areas and, based on recent studies, more than 75 percent of borrowers report applying for a mortgage with only one lender.

    The report also includes an analysis of the efforts of the Bureau to fulfill its fair lending mission. The report highlights the most frequently cited violations of Regulation B (ECOA) and Regulation C (HMDA) in fair lending exams during the reporting period and emphasizes that during the reporting period the Bureau did not initiate or complete any fair lending public enforcement actions or refer any matters to the DOJ with regard to discrimination.

    Federal Issues CFPB Supervision Enforcement Fair Lending Mortgages Regulation B Regulation C ECOA HMDA Dodd-Frank

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  • CFPB announces settlement with payday lending operation

    Federal Issues

    On February 6, the CFPB announced a settlement with an Indiana-based payday retail lender and affiliates (companies) in seven states to resolve alleged violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) privacy protections. The CFPB alleges that the companies engaged in unfair acts or practices, failed to properly disclose annual percentage rates, and failed to provide consumers with required initial privacy notices.

    Specifically, the Bureau alleges that the companies violated CFPA’s UDAAP provisions by, among other things, (i) failing to implement processes to prevent unauthorized charges, including those resulting from unauthorized draws on borrowers’ bank accounts; (ii) requiring loan applicants to provide contact information for their employers, supervisors, and four personal references, and then repeatedly calling employers to seek payments when borrowers became delinquent; (iii) disclosing the borrower’s financial information during those calls and, in certain instances, asking the third party to make payments on the loan; (iv) misusing personal references for marketing purposes; and (v) advertising check-cashing and telephone reconnection services they were no longer providing.

    The Bureau also asserts that the companies violated the GLBA by only providing initial privacy notices when consumers opened their first loan. GLBA requires financial services firms to provide borrowers a privacy policy each time a new customer relationship is established, which in this instance the CFPB claims, occurred each time a borrower paid off an outstanding loan and subsequently took out a new loan. Finally, the Bureau alleges that because the payday loans extended by the companies constitute as closed-end credit under TILA and Regulation Z, the companies were required to disclose a payday loan database fee charged to Kentucky customers in the APR but failed to do so. This resulted in, among other things, inaccurate APR disclosures in advertisements.

    While the companies have not admitted to the allegations, they have agreed to pay a $100,000 civil money penalty and are prohibited from continuing the illegal behavior.

    Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Settlement Payday Lending CFPA Gramm-Leach-Bliley Regulation P Privacy Notices TILA Regulation Z APR UDAAP

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  • CFPB files proposed consent order banning certain Canadian and Maltese payday lenders from U.S. consumer lending

    Federal Issues

    On February 1, the CFPB and a group of payday lenders, including individuals and corporate officials based in Canada and Malta (collectively, “defendants”), filed a proposed consent order with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that would resolve allegations that the defendants violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act. According to the Bureau’s press release, the defendants allegedly (i) misrepresented to consumers an obligation to repay loan amounts that were voided because the loan violated state licensing or usury laws; (ii) misrepresented that loan agreements were not subject to federal or state laws; (iii) misrepresented that non-payment would result in lawsuits, arrests, imprisonment, or wage garnishment; and (iv) conditioned loan agreements upon irrevocable wage assignment clauses. Under the terms of the proposed order, the defendants would be, among other things, (i) permanently banned from consumer lending in the U.S.; (ii) permanently restrained from the collection or sale of existing U.S. consumer debts; and (iii) subject to certain reporting and recordkeeping requirements. The proposed order does not impose a fine on the defendants.

    Federal Issues CFPB Settlement Payday Lending Enforcement Consumer Finance CFPA Courts

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  • NYDFS fines London-based bank $40 million for alleged FX violations

    Securities

    On January 29, NYDFS announced a $40 million settlement with a London-based financial services company to resolve allegations the bank engaged in unsafe and unsound practices in its foreign exchange (FX) trading business. According to the consent order, the company did not implement and maintain sufficient controls to identify illegal tactics used by traders to maximize profits or minimize losses at the expense of the company’s customers, competitors, and the market as a whole. Among other things, the order states that between 2007 and 2013 the company’s FX traders (i) improperly coordinated trading through a chat room; (ii) improperly shared confidential consumer information; and (iii) engaged in “deliberate underfills” of consumer accounts. In addition to the fine, the company is required to improve its internal controls and programs to comply with applicable New York State and federal laws and regulations, submit a written plan to improve its compliance risk management program, and provide an enhanced written internal audit program. NYDFS acknowledged the company’s full cooperation with the investigation, in addition to taking disciplinary action against those identified as engaging in the misconduct.

    Securities NYDFS Enforcement Bank Compliance Foreign Exchange Trading Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • FDIC fines banks for flood insurance violations, releases December enforcement actions

    Federal Issues

    On January 25, the FDIC announced a list of administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in December. The 15 orders include “two Section 19 orders; one civil money penalty; three removal and prohibition orders; four consent orders; one prompt corrective order; three terminations of consent orders; and one notice.” The FDIC assessed a civil money penalty against an Illinois-based bank for alleged violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act (FDPA) and the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA) including failing to (i) obtain flood insurance coverage on loans at origination; (ii) maintain flood insurance; and (iii) “properly force place flood insurance.”

    A second civil money penalty was assessed against a Wisconsin-based bank for allegedly engaging in a pattern of violating the FDPA and the NFIA, including failing to (i) follow force placed flood insurance procedures, including notifying a borrower of a lapse in flood insurance coverage and force placing the necessary insurance in a timely fashion; (ii) obtain adequate flood insurance coverage on a loan at origination; and (iii) provide notice to a borrower concerning whether flood insurance under the NFIA was available for the collateral securing a loan.

    There are no administrative hearings scheduled for February 2019. The FDIC database containing all 15 enforcement decisions and orders may be accessed here.

    Federal Issues FDIC Enforcement Flood Disaster Protection Act National Flood Insurance Act Mortgages

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  • Georgia Department of Banking and Finance revokes money transmitter license

    State Issues

    On January 11, the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance (Department) announced the issuance of a Final Order taken against a Florida-based money transmitter and two of its officers for allegedly failing to, among other things, timely file suspicious activity reports (SARs) or conduct required background checks on covered employees. Following a hearing, the Department issued the Final Order on January 9 to revoke the company’s money transmitter license and order the officers to cease and desist. According to the Order, the officers’ failure to timely file SARs related to four cancelled money transmission transactions violated Georgia’s Rules and Regulations 80-3-1-.03(3), which obligate money transmitters to “comply with the recordkeeping requirements, currency transaction reporting, and suspicious activity reporting set forth in the Bank Secrecy Act.” Moreover, the Department further asserted that the officers materially misrepresented why the filings were delayed, and therefore deemed the officers “incompetent or untrustworthy to engage in the money transmission business.”

    State Issues Enforcement Money Service / Money Transmitters Bank Secrecy Act Licensing

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  • OCC releases recent enforcement actions

    Federal Issues

    On January 18, the OCC released a list of recent enforcement actions taken against national banks, federal savings associations, and individuals currently and formerly affiliated with such entities. The new enforcement actions include civil money penalties, a formal agreement, and removal/prohibition orders.

    Formal Agreement. On December 31, the OCC entered into an agreement with a San Francisco bank to address alleged unsafe or unsound practices related to the bank’s enterprise governance, concentrations of credit, and credit risk management. Among other conditions, the agreement requires the bank to (i) establish a three-year strategic plan outlining goals and objectives related to the bank’s risk profile and liability structure, among other concerns; (ii) receive a “written determination of no supervisory objection” prior to increasing concentrations in unguaranteed portions of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, and establish a concentration risk management program; (iii) engage an independent consultant to conduct quarterly asset quality reviews of the bank’s loan portfolio to, among other things, identify and stratify risk; (iv) establish and maintain a credit risk rating system; (v) revise its loan policies and procedures, including changes to its SBA lending program; (vi) submit revised policies and procedures concerning the maintenance and documentation of appropriate allowances for loan and lease losses; and (vii) prepare an employee compensation plan, which establishes criteria used when determining compensation levels, including those involving the bank’s SBA managers, business development officers, underwriters, and loan officers.

    Federal Issues OCC Enforcement Credit Risk

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  • CFPB settles with loan broker over veteran pension loans

    Federal Issues

    On January 23, the CFPB announced a settlement with an online loan broker resolving allegations that the broker violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act by operating a website that connected veterans with companies offering high-interest loans in exchange for the assignment of some or all of their military pension payments. Specifically, the CFPB alleges the broker (i) misrepresented the contracts he facilitated as valid, when, in fact, under federal law veterans’ pension payments are unassignable; (ii) misrepresented to consumers that the offer was a “sale” of a product not a high-interest credit offer; (iii) misrepresented to consumers when they would receive their loan funds; and (v) failed to disclose the applicable interest rate on the loans. Under the program, veterans were also required to obtain life insurance policies in order to ensure the outstanding amount would be repaid even if the veteran died. Under the terms of the consent order, the broker is prohibited from engaging in the specified conduct in the future and is required to assist the Bureau in identifying and locating the veterans who were harmed. The Bureau required the broker to pay $1 in civil money penalties, based on his financial statements.

    Federal Issues CFPB Settlement Enforcement Military Lending CFPA

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  • NYDFS fines mortgage loan servicer for alleged violations of Abandoned Property Relief Act

    State Issues

    On January 16, NYDFS announced a $100,000 settlement with a New York state-registered mortgage loan servicer for allegedly failing to register and maintain two properties as required by the state’s Abandoned Property Relief Act. Under the Act, NYDFS can hold banks and mortgage servicers accountable should they fail to fulfill certain maintenance obligations at vacant and abandoned residential properties (“zombie” properties) securing mortgage loans in their portfolios. NYDFS rejected claims that the servicer was unable to maintain the “zombie” properties due to not receiving authorization from the mortgagee and that the properties were not subject to the requirements of the Act because backdated lien releases extinguished its maintenance obligation. Under the terms of the consent order, the servicer has also agreed to provide confirmation within 30 days to NYDFS that all properties subject to New York’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Law have been sufficiently registered with NYDFS’ registry of vacant and abandoned properties, are maintained properly, and that all quarterly filings for each property have been submitted.

    State Issues NYDFS Enforcement Mortgage Servicing

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  • CFPB releases new No-Action Letter policy and new product sandbox

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On December 10, the CFPB released a new proposed policy on No-Action Letters (NAL) and a new federal product sandbox. The new NAL proposal, which would replace the 2016 NAL policy, is “designed to increase the utilization of the Policy and bring certain elements more in line with similar no-action letter programs offered by other agencies.” The proposal consists of six sections. Highlights include:

    • Description of No-Action Letters. The letter would indicate to the applicant, that subject to good faith, substantial compliance with the terms of the letter, the Bureau would not bring a supervisory or enforcement action against the recipient for offering or providing the described aspects of the product or service covered by the letter.
    • Submitting Applications. The proposal includes a description of the items an application should contain and invites applications from trade associations on behalf of their members, and from service providers and other third parties on behalf of their existing or prospective clients.
    • Assessment of Applications. The Bureau intends to grant or deny an application within 60 days of notifying the applicant that the application is deemed complete.
    • Issuing No-Action Letters. NALs will be signed by the Assistant Director of the Office of Innovation or other members in the office, and will be duly authorized by the Bureau. The Bureau may revoke a NAL in whole or in part, but before the Bureau revokes a NAL, recipients will have an opportunity to cure a compliance failure within a reasonable period.
    • Regulatory Coordination. In order to satisfy the coordination requirements under Dodd-Frank, the Bureau notes it is interested in partnering with state authorities that issue similar forms of no-action relief in order to provide state applicants an alternative means of also receiving a letter from the Bureau.
    • Disclosure of Information. The Bureau intends to publish NALs on its website and in some cases, a version or summary of the application. The Bureau may also publish denials and an explanation of why the application was denied. The policy notes that disclosure of information is governed by the Dodd-Frank Act, FOIA and the Bureau’s rule on Disclosure of Records and Information, which generally would prohibit the Bureau from disclosing confidential information.

    Notable changes from the 2016 NAL policy include, (i) NALs no longer have a temporal duration—under the new proposal, there is no temporal limitation except in instances of revocation; (ii) applicants are no longer are required to commit to sharing data about the product or service covered by the application; and (iii) the letters are no longer staff recommendations, but issued by authorized officials in the Bureau to provide recipients greater assurance of the relief.

    The proposal also introduces the Bureau’s “Product Sandbox,” which offers substantially the same relief as the NAL proposal but also includes: (i) approvals under one or more of three statutory safe harbor provisions of TILA, ECOA, or the EFTA; and (ii) exemptions by order from statutory provisions of ECOA, HOEPA, and FDIA, or regulatory provisions that do not mirror statutory provisions under rulemaking authority. The proposal notes that two years is the expected duration for participation in the Sandbox, but similar to the no-action relief above, the no-action relief from the Sandbox program can be of unlimited duration—if approved under the sandbox program, “the recipient would be immune from enforcement actions by any Federal or State authorities, as well as from lawsuits brought by private parties.”

    Comments on the proposals are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Regulatory Sandbox No Action Letter CFPB Compliance Enforcement Supervision

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