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  • District court dismisses FDCPA class action for lack of standing

    Courts

    Recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granted defendant debt collectors’ motion to dismiss a FDCPA class action without prejudice. In 2016, the defendants obtained the plaintiff’s credit card debt and then settled that debt with plaintiff for approximately half of the original amount owed. Thereafter, plaintiff initiated a putative class action alleging defendants made false and misleading representations in the collection letter because they did not specify if the total amount owed included interest, costs, or fees. To establish Article III standing, the Court stated that plaintiff must “allege some form of detrimental reliance on the representations made by a defendant in a collection letter.” The Court found that the plaintiff ultimately failed to demonstrate that the alleged missing interest information in defendants' collection letter was detrimental, and that “informational statements in the [c]ollection [l]etter are not an actual injury unless [p]laintiff acted on them.” Accordingly, the Court concluded that the plaintiff failed to allege any adverse effects of the misleading information, and as a result, failed to establish standing.

    Courts New Jersey Debt Collection Consumer Finance FDCPA

  • 6th Circuit affirms district court’s decision to discard case for lack of standing

    Courts

    On May 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s sua sponte dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. This case was brought by two nonprofit organizations seeking to halt the Department of Education’s (DOE) plan to provide participants in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program with a one-time account adjustment that would allow time spent in excessive forbearance status to count toward debt forgiveness under the program, as announced in April 2022 and July 2023. Plaintiffs alleged standing on the basis that they “have previously employed, and currently employ, borrowers who participate, may become eligible to participate, or have previously participated in the statutory PSLF program” and “expect to recruit other such employees in the future.” Notably, and not long after filing their complaint in the lower court, plaintiffs filed an ex parte motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, seeking to prevent the Department of Education from discharging any debt through the long-term forbearance aspect of the adjustment. Before defendants could respond, however, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint sua sponte without prejudice. 

    On appeal, plaintiffs argued that they were not required to link the proposed adjustment to a specific tangible loss and that the adjustment injured them by reducing their expected benefits under a loan forgiveness program. The Sixth Circuit disagreed. It found plaintiffs failed to allege standing due to an injury resulting “from the [student loan] adjustment based on competitor standing and deprivation of a procedural right” and affirmed the dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

    Courts Student Loans Appellate Department of Education

  • U.S. Supreme Court rules CFPB funding structure is constitutional

    Courts

    On May 16, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the funding structure of the CFPB was consistent with the Constitution’s appropriations clause, reversing a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that had called the Bureau’s ability to continue operating without Congressional action into question. The Supreme Court recognized that the CFPB’s funding structure was unique: Congress authorized the Bureau to draw from the Federal Reserve System instead of appropriating funds through the annual appropriations process. However, the Supreme Court found that this unique feature did have constitutional significance. The only question presented was whether the Bureau’s funding mechanism was an “Appropriatio[n] made by Law.” The Supreme Court found that the answer was yes.

    Specifically, the Supreme Court held that Congress’s statutory authorization to allow the Federal Reserve System to fund the CFPB satisfied the appropriations clause since “appropriations need only identify a source of public funds and authorize the expenditure of those funds for designated purposes to satisfy the Appropriations Clause,” and both criteria were met. The Supreme Court found the trade associations’ arguments as to why the Bureau’s funding mechanism violated the appropriations clause were unpersuasive.

    The CFPB’s constitutionality was challenged following the Bureau’s promulgation of a 2017 regulation on payday lending. In response to a challenge to that regulation, the District Court for the Western District of Texas granted summary judgment to the CFPB; however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with the trade associations’ arguments and reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that the CFPB’s funding mechanism violated the appropriations clause. The Supreme Court has now reversed this decision and remanded the case back to the court of appeals.

    Courts CFPB U.S. Supreme Court Appellate Funding Structure Constitution

  • CFPB’s credit card late fee rule stayed

    Courts

    On May 10, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas entered an opinion and order granting the plaintiffs, comprising several trade organization, its motion for preliminary injunction and placed a stay on the CFPB’s credit card late fee rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, a suit was filed against the CFPB by multiple trade organizations to challenge the Bureau’s final rule to amend Regulation Z and limit most credit card late fees to $8.

    The court decided not to address the plaintiffs’ arguments regarding the CARD Act, TILA, and APA violations due to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit opinion that the CFPB's funding structure was unconstitutional; therefore, any regulations promulgated by the CFPB would be unconstitutional. For that reason, due to the CFPB’s unconstitutional structure found by the 5th Circuit, the District Court decided that all factors weighed in favor of issuing a preliminary injunction and thus staying the final rule. 

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

  • 11th Circuit rejects a proposed TCPA class action settlement

    Courts

    On May 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded a proposed TCPA class action settlement agreement. The class, consolidated from three class actions, accused the defendant, the “world’s largest services platform for entrepreneurs,” of violating the TCPA by using an automatic telephone dialing system to send unwanted calls and text messages to promote its products. The $35 million settlement and attorney’s fees, up to $10.5 million, was approved preliminarily in 2020.

    According to the appellate court’s opinion, the district court abused its discretion in approving a proposed $35 million settlement because it: (i) did not consider the 2018 amendments to Rule 23(e)(2); (ii) overlooked possible collusion in the settlement agreement; and (iii) inadequately informed class members about the case. Additionally, the court incorrectly calculated the attorneys’ fees and wrongly treated the settlement as a common fund rather than a claims settlement. The class’s counsel was criticized for appearing to represent their own interests over those of the class since they were supposed to receive $10.5 million in fees. The court also found issues with the opt-out process, which was deemed overly complex and likely to discourage class members from opting out. As a result, the judgment was vacated.

    Courts Eleventh Circuit Appellate TCPA Settlement

  • District Court denies mortgage lender’s motion to dismiss against CFPB

    Courts

    On May 2, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied a mortgage lender’s motion to dismiss. The CFPB sued the lender in October 2023 for violating HMDA and Regulation C by intentionally misreporting data regarding borrower race, ethnicity, and sex pursuant to a data reporting requirement from a prior consent order. In a sample of the defendant’s data reporting submission, the CFPB allegedly found 51 data errors across seven data fields. The court sided with the CFPB on all four grounds raised in the lender’s motion to dismiss. First, the court found that the CFPB pleaded a plausible violation of the HMDA, sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Second, the court rejected the lender’s arguments that HMDA and Regulation C are “unconstitutionally vague” because they established a standard for covered loan data that meets a constitutional standard. Third, the court sided again with the CFPB in finding that the injunctive relief at issue did not qualify as an “obey the law” injunction since it provided reasonable clarity of what was required of the lender. And fourth, the court upheld the funding structure of the CFPB as constitutional, therein following guidance from the Second Circuit in upholding the structure as constitutional.

    Courts CFPB HDMA Regulation C Enforcement

  • Court grants summary judgment for lack of disputed debt evidence

    Courts

    On May 7, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma entered into an order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant, a debt recovery agency, on the basis that the plaintiff, an individual, failed to prove that the defendant knowingly provided false information to credit agencies in violation of the FDCPA. In this case, the plaintiff alleged violations of the FDCPA due to the defendant’s failure to report his debt as disputed to credit agencies.

    The plaintiff claimed that he disputed the debt during a phone call with the defendant by questioning the balance owed on his account. Upon reviewing the call recording and other evidence, the Court found that the plaintiff did not actually dispute the debt during the call and instead asked about the charges. Since there was no evidence of an actual dispute, the Court granted summary judgment in the defendant’s favor.

    Courts FDCPA Credit Report Oklahoma

  • Arizona court upholds debt collection act from industry challenge

    Courts

    On May 3, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the state superior court’s decision to uphold Arizona’s Predatory Debt Collection Act (the “Act”) after being challenged by judgment creditors. The Act lowered the interest rate cap on medical debt, increased the amount of the homestead exemption, increased the dollar value of personal property and assets exempt from creditor claims, and increased the amount of exempt earnings in garnishment actions. The plaintiffs alleged that the “Saving Clause” of the Act was unconstitutionally vague and unintelligible due to its failure to directly state whether the Act would apply when a judgment pre-dates the Act but a wage garnishment proceeding post-dates the Act. The appellate court found that the Saving Clause was not vague or unintelligible as the language “provides a framework and examples consistent with how Arizona courts have long ensured prospective application of the law[.]” As such, the appellate court upheld the superior court’s decision and could not rule the Act as unconstitutional.

    Courts Arizona Appellate Debt Collection Predatory Lending

  • District Court grants motion for reconsideration on reverse redlining claim

    Courts

    On April 26, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration of its order granting the defendants summary judgment and dismissing claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the ECOA. The plaintiffs argued the court erred in its decision to dismiss their FHA and ECOA claims without addressing their disparate treatment claims. The court found plaintiffs’ arguments on reverse redlining (i.e., alleged intentional targeting of borrowers in minority areas for predatory loans) supported their claims of disparate treatment under the FHA and the ECOA, and the court had erred in “dismissing those claims in their entirety[.]”

    Since this revived plaintiffs’ FHA and ECOA claims, the court then addressed a defendant’s motion for summary judgment, which argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because it merely facilitated a loan to a co-defendant and did not engage in any conduct controlled or restricted by the FHA. The court found that the scope of FHA § 3604(a) extended beyond owners and agents to other actors who are in a direct position to deny housing rights to a member of a protected group. The court found the defendant participated actively in the acquisition and disposition of residential property (e.g., the defendant was the primary funder of property acquisitions, participated in the design of the purchase contracts, had detailed knowledge of a co-defendant’s business model, reviewed a co-defendant’s marketing and advertising strategies, and participated in decisions on individual purchase contracts).

    According to the court, this supported plaintiffs’ allegation that such defendant directly affected the availability of housing within the meaning of FHA § 3604(a). The court also disagreed with defendant’s alternative arguments regarding plaintiffs’ showing of disparate treatment, stating “plaintiffs can establish disparate treatment based on reverse redlining by showing that (1) they are a member of a protected class; (2) they applied for and were qualified for loans; (3) they received grossly unfavorable terms; and (4) they were intentionally targeted or intentionally discriminated against.” Therefore, because the court found issues of material fact on plaintiffs’ FHA and ECOA claims, the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

    Courts Predatory Lending FHA ECOA Michigan

  • 3rd Circuit finds appellant does not have FDCPA standing where only injury was confusion

    Courts

    On April 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that an appellant who sued a debt collector for allegedly violating the FDCPA did not have standing to bring her claim because she “failed to plead a concrete injury” under Article III. The appellant received a debt collection letter that failed to explicitly state if the money was owed to the original creditor or the current creditor and then filed a putative class action alleging a violation of the FDCPA. The appellant asserted that the uncertainty caused her confusion, but failed to allege that she suffered any other harm as a result of the confusion and uncertainty. Relying on precedent, the Third Circuit found that while an intangible harm such as confusion or uncertainty could qualify as a cognizable injury, it must still “bear a ‘close relationship’ to an injury ‘traditionally recognized as providing a basis for a lawsuit in American courts[.]’” Failing to do so, the court ruled that the appellant did not reach the threshold for establishing Article III injury. Therefore, the Third Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court (a dismissal for failure to state a claim) and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the complaint.

    Courts Appellate Debt Collection FDCPA

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