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On February 6, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger testified at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the CFPB’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The hearing covered the semi-annual report to Congress on the Bureau’s work from April 1, 2019, through September 30, 2019. In her opening remarks, Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters argued, among other things, that the Bureau’s recent policy statement on the “abusiveness” standard in supervision and enforcement matters “undercuts” Dodd-Frank’s prohibition on unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. Waters also challenged Kraninger on her support for the joint notice of proposed rulemaking issued by the OCC and FDIC to strengthen and modernize Community Reinvestment Act regulations (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), arguing that the proposal would lead to disinvestment in communities, while emphasizing that Kraninger’s actions have not demonstrated the Bureau’s responsibility to meaningfully protect consumers. However, in her opening statement and written testimony, Kraninger highlighted several actions recently taken by the Bureau to protect consumers, and emphasized the Bureau’s commitment to preventing harm by “building a culture of compliance throughout the financial system while supporting free and competitive markets that provide for informed consumer choice.”
Additional highlights of Kraninger’s testimony include:
- Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Education (Department). Kraninger discussed the recently announced information sharing agreement (covered by InfoBytes here) between the Bureau and the Department, intended to protect student borrowers by clarifying the roles and responsibilities for each agency and permitting the sharing of student loan complaint data analysis, recommendations, and data analytic tools. Kraninger stated that the MOU will give the Department the same near real-time access to the Bureau’s complaint database enjoyed by other government partners, and also told the Committee that the Bureau and Department are currently discussing a second supervisory MOU.
- Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans. Kraninger told the Committee that a rewrite of the payday lending rule—which will eliminate requirements for lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to repay loans—is expected in April. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Kraninger noted that the Bureau is currently reviewing an “extensive number of comments” and plans to address a petition on the rule’s payments provision. “[F]inancial institutions have argued that there were some products pulled into that that were, you know, unintended,” she stated. “[W]orking through all of that and. . .moving forward in a way that is transparent in. . .April is what I am planning to do.”
- Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgages (QM). Kraninger discussed the Bureau’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would modify the QM Rule by moving away from the 43 percent debt to income ratio requirement and adopt an alternative such as a pricing threshold to ensure responsible, affordable mortgage credit is available to consumers. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) She stated that the Bureau would welcome legislation from Congress in this area.
- Supervision and Enforcement. Kraninger repeatedly emphasized that supervision is an important tool for the Bureau, and stated in her written testimony that during the reporting period discussed, “the Bureau’s Fair Lending Supervision program initiated 16 supervisory events at financial services institutions under the Bureau’s jurisdiction to determine compliance with federal laws intended to ensure the fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory access to credit for both individuals and communities, including the Equal Credit Opportunity Act  and HMDA.” In addition to discussing recent enforcement actions, Kraninger also highlighted three innovation policies: the Trial Disclosure Program Policy, No-Action Letter Policy, and the Compliance Assistance Sandbox Policy. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- Military Lending Act (MLA). Kraninger reiterated her position that she does not believe Dodd-Frank gives the Bureau the authority to supervise financial institutions for military lending compliance, and repeated her request for Congress to grant the Bureau clear authority to do so. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Congressman Barr (R-KY) noted that while he introduced H.R. 442 last month in response to Kraninger’s request, the majority has denied the mark up.
- UDAAP. Kraninger fielded a number of questions on the Bureau’s recent abusiveness policy statement. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Several Democrats told Kraninger the new policy will put unnecessary constraints on the Bureau’s enforcement powers, while some Republicans said the policy fails to define what constitutes an abusive act or practice. Kraninger informed the Committee that the policy statement is intended to “clarify abusiveness and separate it from deceptive and unfairness because Congress explicitly gave us those three authorities.” Kraninger reiterated that the Bureau will seek monetary relief only when the entity has failed to make a good faith effort to comply, and that “[r]estitution for consumers will be the priority in these cases.” She further emphasized that “in no way should that policy be read to say that we would not bring abusiveness claims.” Congresswoman Maloney (D-NY) argued, however, that a 2016 fine issued against a national bank for allegedly unfair and abusive conduct tied to the bank’s incentive compensation sales practices “would have been substantially lower if the [B]ureau hadn’t charged [the bank] with abus[ive] conduct also.” Kraninger replied that the Bureau could have gotten “the same amount of restitution and other penalties associated with unfairness alone.”
- Constitutionality Challenge. Kraninger reiterated that while she agrees with Seila Law on the Bureau’s single-director leadership structure, she differs on how the matter should be resolved. “Congress obviously provided a clear mission for this agency but there are some questions around. . .this and I want the uncertainty to be resolved,” Kraninger testified. “Congress will have the opportunity to make any changes or respond to that and I think that’s appropriate,” she continued. “I would very much like to see a resolution on this question because it has hampered the CFPB’s ability to carry out its mission, virtually since its inception.” (Continuing InfoBytes coverage on Seila Law LLC v. CFPB here.)
On February 3, the CFPB issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from April 1, 2019, through September 30, 2019. The report, which is required by the Dodd-Frank Act, addresses, among other things, 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. In her opening letter, Director Kathy Kraninger reported that she has focused, “whenever appropriate and possible” on two areas: (i) encouraging saving, by establishing a program called “Start Small, Save Up”; and (ii) unleashing innovation by reducing regulatory constraints and revising innovation policies and promoting cooperation between state and federal regulators, as demonstrated with the launch of the American Consumer Financial Innovation Network last year.
Among other things, the report highlights credit scores, credit reporting, and the consumer credit card market as areas in which consumers face significant problems. The report notes that credit reports and credit scores greatly affect credit available to consumers. With respect to the availability of general purpose credit cards the report cites Bureau findings that in 2018, consumers with high credit scores had an 83 percent approval rate, whereas consumers with subprime credit scores had only a 17 percent approval rate. In addition to these areas of focus, the report notes the issuance of one significant final rule—Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans; Delay of Compliance Date; Correction Amendments—last year. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Several less significant rules were also finalized, including (i) Technical Specifications for Submissions to the Prepaid Account Agreements Database; (ii) Availability of Funds and Collection of Checks (Regulation CC); and (iii) Home Mortgage Disclosure (Regulation C)–2019 Final Rule.
On November 20, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s fall 2019 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau announcement, the information released represents regulatory matters it “reasonably anticipates having under consideration during the period from October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020.”
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing: As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in March 2019 seeking feedback on the unique features of PACE financing and the general implications of regulating PACE financing under TILA. The Bureau notes it is currently reviewing comments as it considers next steps.
- Small Business Rulemaking: On November 6, the Bureau held a symposium on small business lending to gather information for upcoming rulemaking (previously covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau emphasized it will focus on rulemaking that would not impede small business access to credit by imposing unnecessary costs on financial institutions. According to the Bureau, materials will be released prior to convening a panel under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act to consult with businesses that may be affected by future rulemaking.
- HMDA/Regulation C: The Bureau plans to finalize the permanent thresholds for reporting data on open-end lines of credit and closed-end mortgage loans in March 2020, and expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to govern the collection of HMDA data points and the disclosure of this data in July 2020. Both initiatives follow an NPRM and an ANPR issued by the Bureau in May (previously covered by InfoBytes here).
- Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans: As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau published two NPRMs related to certain payday lending requirements under the final rule titled “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans.” Specifically, the Bureau proposed to rescind the portion of the rule that would make it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay, and to delay the rule’s compliance date for mandatory underwriting provisions. The Bureau notes it is currently reviewing comments and expects to issue a final rule in April 2020.
- Debt Collection: Following an NPRM issued in May concerning debt collection communications, disclosures, and related practices (previously covered by InfoBytes here), the Bureau states it is currently “engaged in testing of consumer disclosures related to time-barred debt disclosure issues that were not addressed in the May 2019 proposal.” Once testing has concluded, the Bureau will assess the need for publishing a supplemental NPRM related to time-barred debt disclosures.
- Remittance Transfers: The Bureau expects in December to issue a proposed rule to address the July 2020 expiration of the Remittance Rule’s temporary exception for certain insured depository institutions from the rule’s disclosure requirements related to the estimation of fees and exchange rates. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.)
- GSE Patch: The Bureau plans to address in December the so-called GSE patch, which confers Qualified Mortgage status for loans purchased or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while those entities operate under FHFA conservatorship. The patch is set to expire in January 2021, or when Fannie and Freddie exit their conservatorships, whichever comes first. (See Buckley Special Alert here.)
The Bureau further notes in its announcement the addition of entries to its long-term regulatory agenda “to address issues of concern in connection with loan originator compensation and to facilitate the use of electronic channels of communication in the origination and servicing of credit card accounts.”
On October 17, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger testified at a hearing held by the Senate Banking Committee on the CFPB’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress. (Previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the hearing covered the semi-annual report to Congress on the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. While Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) praised recent key initiatives undertaken by Kraninger pertaining to areas such as innovation, small dollar lending underwriting provisions, and proposed amendments to the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule, he stressed the importance of reconsidering the fundamental structure of the Bureau. Conversely, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) argued that Kraninger’s leadership has led to zero enforcement actions taken against companies for discriminatory lending practices, and that her initiatives have, among other things, failed to protect consumers. In her opening testimony, Kraninger reiterated her commitment to (i) providing clear guidance; (ii) fostering a “‘culture of compliance’” through the use of supervision to prevent violations; (iii) executing “vigorous enforcement”; and (iv) empowering consumers. Notable highlights include:
- Constitutionality challenges. The Bureau recently filed letters in pending litigation arguing that the for-cause restriction on the president’s authority to remove the Bureau’s single Director violates the Constitution’s separation of powers, and on October 18, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, to answer the question of whether an independent agency led by a single director violates Article II of the Constitution. (InfoBytes coverage here.) Senator Brown challenged, however, Kraninger’s “credibility as a public official,” arguing that she changed her original position about not speaking on constitutionality issues.
- Supervision of student loan servicers. Kraninger addressed several Senators’ concerns about the Department of Education reportedly blocking the Bureau from obtaining information about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for supervisory examinations, as well as and the need for a stronger response from the Bureau to obtain the requested information. Kraninger stressed that the CFPB will move forward with a statutorily required Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies, and emphasized that the Bureau continues to examine private education loans and is collaborating with the Department of Education to ensure consumer protection laws are followed.
- Proposed revisions to Payday Rule. Several Democratic Senators questioned the Bureau’s notice of proposed rulemaking to rescind the Payday Rule’s ability-to-repay provisions. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.) Specifically, one Senator argued that the Bureau has failed to “present any new research in defense of the change.” Kraninger replied that while she defends the Bureau’s proposal, “a final decision has not been made in this issue.” Kraninger also addressed questions as to why—if the Bureau does not believe there is a reason to delay the effective date of the Payday Rule’s payment provisions—the Bureau has not yet filed a motion to lift a stay and allow payment provision to be implemented. Kraninger indicated that the CFPB had not done so because the payday loan trade groups were also challenging the Bureau’s constitutionality (InfoBytes here).
- Clarity on abusive practices under UDAAP. Kraninger noted the Bureau intends to, “in the not too distant future,” provide an update as to whether more guidance is necessary in order to define what constitutes an abusive act or practice.
A day earlier, Kraninger also presented testimony at the House Financial Services Committee’s hearing to discuss the semi-annual report, in which committee members focused on, among other things, constitutionality questions and concerns regarding recent Bureau settlements. Similar to the Senate hearing, Democratic committee members questioned Kraninger’s change in position concerning the Bureau’s constitutionality, and argued that for her “to second-guess Congress’ judgment on [the] constitutionality of the CFPB and to argue against the CFPB structure in court is disrespectful to Congress.” With regard to recent Bureau enforcement actions, many of the committee members’ questions revolved around consumer restitution, as well as a recently released majority staff report, which detailed the results of the majority’s investigation into the CFPB’s handling of consumer monetary relief in enforcement actions since Richard Cordray stepped down as director in November 2017. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)
On October 8, the CFPB issued its Dodd-Frank mandated semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. In presenting the report, Director Kathy Kraninger stressed that the Bureau will continue to use the tools provided by Congress to protect consumers, including “vigorous and even-handed enforcement” with a focus on prevention of harm. Kraninger also reiterated her commitment “to strengthening the consumer financial marketplace by providing financial institutions clear ‘rules of the road’ that allow them to offer consumers a range of high-quality, innovative financial services and products.” Among other things, the report analyzed significant problems consumers face when obtaining consumer financial products and services, assessed actions taken by state attorneys general or state regulators relating to federal consumer financial law, and provided a recap of supervisory and enforcement activities.
While the Bureau did not adopt any significant final rules or orders during the preceding year, it did issue two significant notices of proposed rulemaking relating to certain payday lending requirements under the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans.” (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The Bureau also adopted several “less significant rules,” and engaged in significant initiatives concerning, among other things, (i) the disclosure of loan-level HMDA data; (ii) Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy proposed rulemaking; (iii) an assessment of significant rules, including the Remittance Rule, the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule, and the RESPA Mortgage Servicing Rule; (iv) trial disclosure programs; (v) innovation policies related to no-action letters and product sandbox and trial disclosure programs; and (vi) suspicious activity reports on elder financial exploitation.
On August 23, House Financial Services Committee Chair, Maxine Waters (D-Calif) and 101 other members of Congress wrote to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger to express concern over the Bureau’s recent amendment of and delay to certain ability-to-repay provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule), previously covered by InfoBytes here and here. Specifically, the letter opposes the CFPB’s decision to remove certain ability-to-repay requirements, as well as the Bureau’s June 2019 decision to delay the August 19 compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the Rule until November 19, 2020. The letter cites to an April 30 subcommittee hearing that examined the payday lending industry and argues that “payday and car-title lenders lack the incentive to make loans that borrowers have the ability to repay while still being able to afford basic necessities of life.” The agency, according to the letter, is betraying “its statutory purpose and objectives to put consumers, rather than lenders, first” by delaying the Rule’s implementation.
Additionally, in the press release announcing the letter, Waters also expressed concern that the CFPB had not yet asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to lift a stay of compliance so that the payment provisions of the Rule could be implemented. As previously covered by InfoBytes, two payday loan trade groups initiated the suit against the Bureau in April 2018, asking the court to set aside the Rule on the grounds that, among other reasons, the Bureau is unconstitutional and the rulemaking failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act. The court recently ordered the stay of the full Rule’s compliance date to remain in full force and effect and requested another joint status report from the parties by December 6.
On June 28, the CFPB updated its Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Payday Lending Rule, which covers the payment-related requirements of the Rule. In addition to technical corrections, the update reflects the delayed compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the Rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, on June 6, the Bureau released a final rule to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the Rule. Compliance with these provisions is now required by November 19, 2020.
On June 6, the CFPB released a final rule to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). Compliance with these provisions of the Rule is now due by November 19, 2020.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, in February, when the CFPB released two notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) related to certain lending requirements under the Rule—one proposing the delay to the compliance date for mandatory underwriting provisions, and the other proposing to rescind the underwriting portion of the Rule that would make it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans, or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay—the Bureau emphasized that the NPRM extending the compliance date for mandatory underwriting provisions did not extend the effective date for the Rule’s provisions governing payments.
Notably, on May 30, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas entered an order continuing the stay of the original compliance date for both the underwriting provisions and the payment provisions of the Rule in a payday loan trade group’s litigation challenging the Rule. (Previous InfoBytes coverage on the litigation is available here.) The order requires the parties to file a joint status report no later than August 2.
On May 22, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s spring 2019 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau blog post, the information presented represents regulatory matters it “reasonably anticipates having under consideration during the period of May 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020.” The rulemaking activities include implementing statutory directives mandated in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act), continuing certain other rulemakings previously outlined in the Bureau’s fall 2018 agenda (covered by InfoBytes here), as well as considering future projects and requests for information.
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Loans (PACE): On March 4, the Bureau published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) and request for comments in response to Section 307 of the Act, which amended TILA to mandate the CFPB propose regulations related to PACE financing. The regulations must carry out the purposes of TILA’s ability-to-repay requirements, and apply TILA’s general civil liability provisions for violations. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Remittance Transfers: On April 25, the Bureau issued a request for information (RFI) on two aspects of the Remittance Rule that require financial companies handling international money transfers, or remittance transfers, to disclose to individuals transferring money the exact exchange rate, fees, and the amount expected to be delivered. The RFI seeks information related to the expiration of the temporary exception and whether to propose changing the number of remittance transfers a provider must make to be governed by the rule. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- HMDA/Regulation C: On May 2, the Bureau issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to raise permanently coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting data about closed-end mortgage loans and open-end lines of credit under the HMDA rules. Specifically, the NPRM would raise permanently the reporting threshold for closed-end mortgage loans from 25 loans in each of the two preceding calendar years to either 50 or 100 closed-end loans in each of the preceding two calendar years. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Debt Collection Rule: On May 7, the Bureau issued a NPRM to amend Regulation F, which implements the FDCPA, covering debt collection communications and consumer disclosures and addressing related practices by debt collectors. The Bureau reports that the NPRM “builds on research and pre-rulemaking activities regarding the debt collection market, which remains a top source of complaints.” (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Payday Rule/Delay of Compliance Date: On February 6, the Bureau released two NPRMs related to certain payday lending requirements under the CFPB’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). The first proposal would rescind portions of the Rule related to ability-to-repay underwriting standards for payday loans and related products scheduled to take effect later this year, while the second proposal would delay the compliance date for those same provisions for fifteen months. The Bureau anticipates it will issue a final rule concerning the compliance date this summer and a final determination on reconsideration thereafter. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
Long term priorities include rulemaking addressing (i) consumer reporting; (ii) amendments to FIRREA concerning automated valuation models; (iii) disclosure of records and information; (iv) consumer access to financial records; (v) Regulation E modernization; (vi) rules to implement the Act, concerning various mortgage requirements, student lending, and consumer reporting; and (vii) clarity for the definition of abusive acts and practices.
On May 15, a group of 25 Democratic Attorneys General submitted a comment letter in response to the CFPB’s February proposal to rescind certain provisions related to the underwriting standards of the “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule) (covered by InfoBytes here). In the comment letter, the Attorneys General argue, among other things, that the elimination of the underwriting provisions of the Rule: (i) is inconsistent with the Bureau’s obligations to protect consumers under the Dodd-Frank Act; (ii) ignores state experiences with payday and vehicle title lending; and (iii) would reduce states’ ability to protect their residents from predatory lending.
Specifically, the letter argues that the Bureau’s reasoning for repealing the underwriting requirements—that the findings of the Rule “were not supported by sufficiently ‘robust and reliable’ evidence”—would saddle the Bureau with an unreasonably high evidentiary standard that would prevent the Bureau from regulating unfair and abusive practices. Additionally, the letter states that the Bureau’s conclusion that the underwriting requirements would harm consumers by reducing consumer’s access to credit and ability to choose lenders offering credit ignores “the experiences of numerous states that have implemented restrictions on payday and vehicle title lending—restrictions that have protected consumers without unreasonably limiting consumers’ access to credit.” States’ restrictions on payday and vehicle title lending, according to the letter, have “benefited consumers and expanded access to manageable credit.” Lastly, the letter asserts that maintaining a federal regulatory floor on lending activities is “crucial to supporting and complementing state oversight,” and removal of the floor will “enable lenders to continue trying to avoid state regulation and continue marketing expensive and often unlawful products to consumers without providing borrowers an opportunity for negotiation or comparison.”
The comment letter was written by the Attorneys General of the District of Columbia, New Jersey, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the same group of Attorneys General had urged the CFPB via a previous comment letter not to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for any aspect of the Rule, and had warned that they would consider taking legal action if the Bureau did so.
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