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On August 16, the CFPB announced Robert G. Cameron as the Bureau’s private education loan ombudsman. Cameron, who served in the U.S. Army for 29 years and is a Colonel and Staff Judge Advocate for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, joins the Bureau from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency—a national student loan servicing company. While there, Cameron was responsible for overseeing efforts related to litigation, risk mitigation, and compliance with federal and state laws, including Dodd-Frank. Cameron’s new responsibilities as ombudsman will include overseeing student loan borrower complaints and analyzing complaint data to make recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Education, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger, and Congress.
On August 15, the CFPB and the Arkansas attorney general announced a proposed settlement with three loan brokerage companies, along with their owner and operator (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly misrepresenting the contracts offered to veterans and other consumers. According to the complaint, from 2011 through 2016, the defendants offered high-interest credit to consumers, deceptively marketed as purchases of future pension or disability payments. The contracts allegedly required veterans to instruct that their pension direct deposits or monthly allotments be routed to the bank account controlled by the defendants or pay the contracted amounts from other sources, including purchasing life-insurance policies, to ensure the contract amount would be paid. The defendants allegedly did not disclose to consumers the interest rates associated with the products, marketing the contracts as sale of payments and not credit offers. The defendants also allegedly did not disclose that the contracts were void under federal and state law, which prohibit the assignment of certain benefits.
Under the proposed settlement, the defendants are: (i) prohibited from brokering or participating in agreements that sell future pension rights; (ii) required to pay a civil money penalty of $1 to the Bureau; and (iii) required to pay $75,000 to the Arkansas AG’s Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund. Additionally, the settlement imposes a judgment of $2.7 million in redress, which is suspended upon the owner paying $200,000 in redress and making the payments to the Bureau and the Arkansas AG.
On August 12, the CFPB announced a proposed settlement with a defunct for-profit educational institution to resolve allegations that the defendant engaged in unfair and abusive acts and practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act through its private student loan origination practices. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB filed a lawsuit in 2014 alleging, among other things, that the defendant offered new students short-term zero-interest loans to cover the difference between the cost of attendance and federal loans obtained by students, but when the short-term loans came due at the end of the students’ first academic year, the defendant forced borrowers into “high-interest, high-fee” private student loans knowing that borrowers could not afford them. According to the Bureau, this practice resulted in a 64 percent default rate on the loans. The terms of the proposed settlement include a $60 million judgment against the defendant as well as an injunction prohibiting the defendant from offering or providing student loans in the future.
Earlier in June, the Bureau announced a settlement with a company that managed student loans for the defendant, which includes approximately $168 million in student loan forgiveness. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The company has also agreed to permanently cease enforcing, collecting, or receiving payments on any of its loans.
On August 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed a summary judgment ruling in favor of a consumer, concluding that a debt collector’s emails did not constitute a “communication” under the FDCPA. According to the opinion, the debt collector sent a consumer two emails about separate medical debts containing hyperlinks to the debt collector’s website, which then required the user to click through various screens to access and download a document containing the disclosures required under Section 1692g(a) of the FDCPA. The consumer did not open the emails. After finding out about the debt collection effort from the hospital, the consumer called the debt collector for more information; however, the required disclosures were not provided over the phone or sent in a written notice within the next five days. The consumer filed suit against the debt collector alleging it violated Section 1692g(a) by not providing the disclosures during her phone call or within five days after the call as required by law. The company argued that the emails were the FDCPA’s “initial communications” and contained the mandatory disclosures. The lower court granted the consumer’s motion for summary judgment.
On appeal, the 7th Circuit rejected the debt collector’s arguments that the emails constituted a “communication” under the FDCPA, noting that other appellate courts have held the message “must at least imply the existence of a debt,” and the emails only contained the name and email address of the debt collector. Moreover, the appellate court took issue with the multistep process required to access the validation notice, concluding “[a]t best, the emails provided a digital pathway to access the required information. And we’ve already rejected the argument that a communication ‘contains’ the mandated disclosures when it merely provides a means to access them.”
Notably, the CFPB filed an amicus brief in the action, seeking affirmation of the lower court’s ruling on the separate theory that the debt collector allegedly failed to satisfy the conditions of the E-Sign Act. However, because the court affirmed the decision on other grounds, it chose not to address the E-Sign Act.
On August 6, the CFPB published a blog providing an update on credit access and the Bureau’s first-issued No-Action Letter (NAL), and reporting that use of alternative data in underwriting may expand access to credit. In 2017, the CFPB announced its first NAL to a company that uses alternative data and machine learning to make credit underwriting and pricing decisions. One condition for receiving the NAL required the company to agree to a model risk management and compliance plan, which analyzed and addressed risks to consumers and the real-world impact of its service. Through specific testing, the company worked to answer two key questions: (i) “whether the tested model’s use of alternative data and machine learning expands access to credit, including lower-priced credit, overall and for various applicant segments, compared to the traditional model”; and (ii) “whether the tested model’s underwriting or pricing outcomes result in greater disparities than the traditional model with respect to race, ethnicity, sex, or age, and if so, whether applicants in different protected class groups with similar model-predicted default risk actually default at the same rate.”
According to the Bureau, the company reported that in the access to credit comparisons, the alternative data model approved 27 percent more applicants as compared to a traditional underwriting model, and yielded 16 percent lower average APRs for approved loans, with the expansion in access to credit “occur[ing] across all tested race, ethnicity, and sex segments.” For the fair lending testing, the company reported that no disparities were found in the approval rate and APR analysis results provided for minority, female, and older applicants. Additionally, the company reported significant expansion of access to credit for certain consumer segments under the tested model, including that (i) “consumers with FICO scores from 620 to 660 are approved approximately twice as frequently”; (ii) “[a]pplicants under 25 years of age are 32 [percent] more likely to be approved”; and (iii) “[c]onsumers with incomes under $50,000 are 13 [percent] more likely to be approved.” The Bureau noted that the testing results were provided by the company, and the simulations and analyses were not separately replicated by the Bureau.
On August 2, the CFPB announced that it is extending the comment period on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking implementing the FDCPA to “facilitate the ability of commenters to consider the issues raised in the NPRM, gather data, and prepare their responses.” The comment period now closes on September 18.
Detailed InfoBytes coverage on the CFPB’s debt collection proposal is available here.
On July 31, the CFPB released FAQs to assist with TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID Rule) compliance. The five new FAQs relate to providing loan estimates to consumers. Highlights include:
- If a consumer submits the six pieces of information (name, income, social security number, property address, estimate of the value of the property, and loan amount sought) that constitute an application under the TRID Rule, the creditor must ensure that a loan estimate is delivered or placed in the mail within three business days.
- A creditor cannot require the consumer to submit anything other than the six pieces of information that constitute an application under the TRID Rule as a condition to providing a loan estimate.
- A creditor cannot require a consumer to provide verifying documents in order to receive a loan estimate.
- If a consumer submits the six pieces of information that constitute an application, in order to receive a pre-approval or a pre-qualification letter, the creditor must also provide a loan estimate within three business days of receipt.
- A creditor may collection additional information, beyond the six pieces of information that constitute an application, it deems necessary to process a request for a mortgage loan, including a request for a pre-approval or pre-qualification letter.
On July 31, the CFPB announced that it is reopening the comment period for certain aspects of its May Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (covered by InfoBytes here), which would permanently raise coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting data about closed-end mortgage loans and open-end lines of credit under the HMDA rules. The comment period originally closed on June 12, but to allow for the submission of comments that reflect the national loan level dataset for 2018 (which will be released “later this summer”), the Bureau is reopening the comment period for certain aspects of the May proposal. Specifically, the Bureau is reopening comments on (i) the proposed changes to the permanent coverage threshold for closed-end mortgage loans, which would permanently raise the reporting threshold 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; (ii) the proposed changes to the permanent coverage threshold for open-end lines of credit, which would extend the temporary threshold of 500 loans for calendar years 2018 and 2019 to January 1, 2022, and then permanently lower the threshold to 200 open-end lines of credit after that date; and (iii) the appropriate effective date for any change to the closed-end coverage threshold. Comments are due by October 15.
On August 1, the CFPB published in the Federal Register the final rule amending Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), including as amended by the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA), and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage (ATR/QM) provisions. The CFPB is required to make annual adjustments to dollar amounts in certain provisions in Regulation Z, and has based the adjustments on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index in effect on June 1, 2019. The following thresholds will be effective on January 1, 2020:
- For open-end consumer credit plans under TILA, the threshold for disclosing an interest charge will remain unchanged at $1.00;
- For open-end consumer credit plans under the CARD Act amendments, the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a first violation penalty fee will increase from $28 to $29, and the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a subsequent violation penalty fee will increase from $39 to $40;
- For HOEPA loans, the adjusted total loan amount threshold for high-cost mortgages will be $21,980, and the adjusted points and fees dollar trigger for high-cost mortgages will be $1,099; and
- The maximum thresholds for total points and fees for qualified mortgages under the ATR/QM rule will be: (i) 3 percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $109,898; (ii) $3,297 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $65,939 but less than $109,898; (iii) 5 percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $21,980 but less than $65,939; (iv) $1,099 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $13,737 but less than $21,980; and (v) 8 percent of the total loan amount for loan amounts less than $13,737.
On July 25, the CFPB issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that is intended as a first step in an orderly expiration of 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 expires in January 2021, or when Fannie and Freddie exit their conservatorships, whichever comes first. The ANPR solicits feedback on amending Regulation Z and the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule (ATR/QM Rule) to minimize disruption from the patch’s expiration. Comments are due 45 days after the ANPR’s publication in the Federal Register, which has not occurred as of the publication of this Special Alert.
The Bureau has previously solicited comments on the ATR/QM Rule, including the GSE Patch — first through a request for information relating to its adopted regulations in March 2018, and then in its ATR/QM Rule Assessment Report in January 2019.
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Click here to read the full special alert.
If you have questions about the GSE Patch and potential changes to the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule, please visit our Consumer Financial Protection Bureau practice page or contact a Buckley attorney with whom you have worked in the past.
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Ethical guidance in conducting internal investigations – The intersection of Yates and Upjohn" at the American Bar Association Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Recent developments in fair lending and avoiding the pitfalls" at the Arkansas Community Bankers/Bankers Assurance 2019 Compliance Conference
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Risk management in enforcement actions: Managing risk or micromanaging it" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Valerie L. Hletko to discuss "Banking on guns ‘n drugs: Social policy meets financial services" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Navigating the conflicting federal and state laws for doing business with cannabis companies" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Tim Lange to discuss "Services and value" at the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association Annual Conference
- Katherine L. Halliday to discuss "UDAP, UDAAP & the Map rule compliance basics" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "How to ace your TRID exam" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Data privacy litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Navigating FHA rules and regs" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "HMDA data is out, now what?" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Washington regulatory overview" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "The state’s role in fintech: Providing an industry framework for innovation" at Lend360
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending" at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions" at the Institute of International Bankers Risk Management and Regulatory Examination/Compliance Seminar
- 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
- 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