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On October 15, the CFPB Private Education Loan Ombudsman published its annual report on consumer complaints submitted between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2019. The report, titled Annual Report of the CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman, is based on approximately 20,600 complaints received by the Bureau relating to federal and private student loan servicing, debt collection, and debt relief services. The report focuses primarily on complaints and student loan debt relief scams, which are, according to Private Education Loan Ombudsman Robert G. Cameron, “two subjects that, if promptly addressed, may have the greatest immediate impact in preventing potential harm to borrowers.” Of the 20,600 complaints, roughly 13,900 pertained to federal student loans with approximately 6,700 related to private student loans. Both categories reflect a decrease in total complaints from previous years. The report also notes that the Bureau handled roughly 4,600 complaints related to student loan debt collection.
The report goes on to discuss collaborative efforts between federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the CFPB, FTC, Department of Education, and state attorneys general, to address student loan debt relief scams. According to the report, the FTC’s Operation Game of Loans (previous InfoBytes coverage here) has yielded settlements and judgments totaling over $131 million for the past two years, while Bureau actions (taken on its own and with state agencies) have resulted in judgments exceeding $17 million.
The report provides several recommendations, including that policymakers, the Department of Education, and the Bureau “assess and consider the sharing of information, analytical tools, education outreach, and expertise” to prevent borrower harm, and that when harm occurs, “reduce the window in which harm is occurring through timely identification and remediation.” With regard to student loan debt relief scams, the report recommends, among other things, that enforcement should be expanded “beyond civil enforcement actions to criminal enforcement actions at all levels.”
On October 11, the OCC announced that a national bank has agreed to pay a $30 million civil money penalty to resolve allegations relating to the holding period of other real estate owned (OREO). According to the OCC’s consent order, the bank violated the statutory holding period for OREO. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on OCC OREO regulations here.) The OCC asserted that the bank’s processes and controls for identifying and monitoring the OREO holding period were deficient, and following an investigation it determined the bank allegedly “failed to meet its commitment to implement corrective actions, resulting in additional violations.” While the OCC noted that it will continue to monitor the bank’s corrective actions, it determined that the bank’s implementation of effective policies and procedures to ensure OREO compliance over the last 12 months has “significantly reduced its inventory of OREO assets.”
On October 10, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee released a letter from Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Patty Murray (D-Wash) to the new CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman, Robert Cameron, outlining their expectations for his tenure in the Ombudsman’s Office. The senators state that Cameron should, among other things, (i) advocate for student loan borrowers by utilizing the Bureau’s statutory authority and tools, including policymaking and evidence gathering for supervision and enforcement; (ii) reestablish the information sharing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau; (iii) resume examinations of federal student loan servicers; and (iv) carry out his duties free of conflict of interests. The Senators request that Cameron provide additional information by October 25 regarding a potential conflict of interest (based on his prior work as Deputy Chief Counsel at a student loan servicer), the Bureau’s history of PSLF supervisory examinations, and current staffing in the Ombudsman Office.
On October 11, the CFPB announced the Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law that will examine the existing legal and regulatory environment facing consumers and financial services providers. The Bureau is accepting applications for the task force and seeking to fill the membership with a broad range of expertise in the areas of consumer protection and consumer financial products or services. Inspired by a commission established by the Consumer Credit Protection Act in 1968, the Bureau states that the task force will report to Director Kraninger and will “produce new research and legal analysis of consumer financial laws in the United States, focusing specifically on harmonizing, modernizing, and updating the enumerated consumer credit laws—and their implementing regulations—and identifying gaps in knowledge that should be addressed through research, ways to improve consumer understanding of markets and products, and potential conflicts or inconsistencies in existing regulations and guidance.”
On October 10, the FDIC issued Financial Institution Letter FIL-56-2019 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Texas affected by Tropical Storm Imelda. In the letter, the FDIC encourages institutions to consider, among other things, (i) extending repayment terms; (ii) restructuring existing loans; or (iii) easing terms for new loans to borrowers affected by the severe weather. Additionally, the FDIC notes that institutions may receive Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery.
Separately on October 8, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-19-27 to encourage mortgagees to provide relief for VA borrowers affected by Hurricane Dorian. Among other forms of assistance, the Circular encourages loan holders and servicers to (i) extend forbearances to borrowers in distress as a result of the disaster; (ii) establish a 90-day moratorium from the disaster date on initiating new foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waive late charges on affected loans; and (iv) suspend credit reporting. The Circular will be rescinded October 1, 2020. Mortgage servicers and veteran borrowers are also encouraged to review the VA’s Guidance on Natural Disasters.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief guidance 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 October 8, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it completed its home loan funding fee refund initiative, returning more than $400 million to VA borrowers. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in June the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report concluding that the VA improperly charged exempt veterans VA home loan funding fees. The OIG recommended that the VA develop a plan to, among other things, identify exempt veterans who were inappropriately charged funding fees and issue refunds. The VA reviewed nearly 20 years of loan originations, and identified 130,000 loans for potential refunds. VA notes that most fees were charged correctly, except for veterans whose exemption status changed after the closing of their loan. VA also announced changes to its program, in order to provide veterans with “the most up-to-date information possible on a Veteran’s funding fee exemption status,” including (i) enhancements to communications to veterans regarding the loan funding fee; (ii) new policy guidance directing lenders to inquire about a veteran’s disability claim status during the underwriting process; (iii) instructing lenders to obtain an updated Certificate of Eligibility for a veteran within three days of closing, if there was a disability claim pending; (iv) and procedural changes to ensure regulator internal oversight of funding fee activities.
On October 2, the California governor signed SB 208, the “Consumer Call Protection Act of 2019,” which requires telecommunications service providers (TSPs) to implement specified technological protocols to verify and authenticate caller identification for calls carried over an internet protocol network. Specifically, the bill requires TSPs to implement “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN) protocols or alternative technology that provides comparable or superior capability by January 1, 2021. The bill also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission and the Attorney General to enforce certain parts of 47 U.S.C. 227, making it unlawful for any person within the U.S. to cause any caller identification service to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, in June 2019, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) requiring voice providers to implement the “SHAKEN/STIR” caller ID authentication framework. The FCC argued that once “SHAKEN/STIR” is implemented, it would “reduce the effectiveness of illegal spoofing and allow bad actors to be identified more easily.”
McWilliams highlights upcoming CRA examination updates for MDIs, encourages partnerships between community banks and fintechs
On October 2, FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams spoke at the National Bankers Association’s annual convention to discuss the agency’s objectives regarding minority depository institutions (MDIs). McWilliams highlighted recent FDIC initiatives, including past and future roundtable discussions between large and minority banks regarding potential partnership opportunities. McWilliams noted that many large banks are unaware of how these partnerships can count for Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credit. Therefore, the FDIC is updating its examiner instructions for CRA performance evaluations to identify activities involving MDIs. McWilliams also reminded attendees about the upcoming inaugural meeting of the agency’s new MDI Subcommittee to its Advisory Committee on Community Banking, which will focus on issues, tools, and resources unique to MDIs. One of the subcommittee’s goals, she noted, is to “identify additional opportunities to provide regulatory relief for MDIs with less-complex balance sheets while maintaining safety and soundness.” Concerning the FDIC’s franchise-marketing process for failing MDIs, McWilliams commented that “[g]oing forward, when a new marketing initiative begins, we will provide a two-week window exclusively for MDIs,” and will also contact all qualified MDIs on the bid list and provide technical assistance.
Earlier, on October 1, McWilliams delivered keynote remarks at the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis, in which she warned community banks that their ability to survive and thrive depends on their ability to innovate and adapt to changing technology. Specifically, McWilliams discussed the growth of digitization, open banking, machine learning/artificial intelligence, and personalization, stressing that banking technology is advancing at a “relentless pace.” Consequently, “we all must challenge ourselves to think about what that means for the future of the banking industry, and community banks in particular.” McWilliams noted, however, that community banks’ inability to keep pace with innovation is due to both cost and regulatory uncertainty. “The cost to innovate is in many cases prohibitively high for community banks. They often lack the expertise, the information technology, and research and development budgets to independently develop and deploy their own technology.” She suggested that community banks partner with fintech firms that have already developed, tested, and rolled out new technology, and emphasized that her goal is for the FDIC to lay “the foundation for the next chapter of banking by encouraging innovation that meets consumer demand, promotes community banking, reduces compliance burdens, and modernizes our supervision.”
On September 30, the DOJ announced it filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland alleging that a Maryland used car dealership and its owner and manager violated ECOA by offering different terms of credit based on race to consumers seeking to finance cars. According to the complaint, between September 2017 and April 2018, compliance testing done by the DOJ concluded that the defendants’ “actions, policies, and practices discriminate against applicants on the basis of race with respect to credit transactions…by offering more favorable terms to white testers than to African American testers with similar credit characteristics.” Specifically, the complaint alleged that African American testers were, among other things, (i) told they needed higher down payment amounts than white testers for the same car; (ii) quoted higher bi-weekly payments for “buy here, pay here” financing than white testers for the same car; and (iii) not offered to fund down payments in two installments, as compared to white testers. The DOJ also alleges that the conduct was “intentional, willful, and taken in disregard of the rights of others” and seeks injunctive relief and monetary relief.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "BSA/AML culture of compliance roundtable" at the FiSCA Annual Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Is there a better way to fight money laundering" at the FiSCA Annual Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "What's trending in enforcement" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Convention & Expo
- Kathryn L. Ryan and Moorari K. Shah to discuss "Today's regulatory environment - Are you in the know?" at the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association Annual Convention
- Buckley Webcast: Smoke and mirrors: Navigating the regulatory landscape in banking the marijuana industry
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "CMS - Components of a successful monitoring program" at the RegList Annual Workshop
- Tim Lange to discuss "Temporary authority to operate - Are you prepared? Hear what the states are doing" at the RegList Annual Workshop
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss "Cybersecurity" at the RegList Annual Workshop
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Hot topics in mortgage origination" at the Conference on Consumer Finance Law Annual Consumer Financial Services Conference
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss "CCPA: Countdown to compliance – A discussion of common questions and what is next on the CA privacy horizon" at the Conference on Consumer Finance Law Annual Consumer Financial Services Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fintech regulatory developments, crypto-assets, blockchain and digital banking, and consumer issues" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Adapting to the rapidly changing compliance landscape involving marijuana and marijuana-related businesses" at an ACAMS webinar
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "How to balance a successful (and stressful) career with greater personal well-being" at the American Bar Association Women in Litigation Joint CLE Conference