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On September 8, the FTC announced it approved final revisions to rules that would implement parts of the FCRA in line with the Dodd-Frank Act. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the agency sought comment on the proposed rule changes in 2020. In separate notices, the FTC approved largely technical, non-substantive changes, clarifying five FCRA rules enforced by the FTC, which apply only to motor vehicle dealers. The changes affect the following rules:
- Address Discrepancy Rule, which requires users of consumer reports to implement policies and procedures for, among other things, handling notices of address discrepancy received from a nationwide consumer reporting agency (CRA) and furnishing an address for a consumer that a “user has reasonably confirmed as accurate to the CRA from whom it received the notice.”
- Affiliate Marketing Rule, which provides consumers the right to restrict a person from using certain information received from an affiliate to make solicitations.
- Furnisher Rule, which requires entities to implement policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of the consumer information they provide to a CRA.
- Pre-screen Opt-Out Notice Rule, which outlines requirements for those who use consumer reports to make unsolicited credit or insurance offers to consumers.
- Risk-Based Pricing Rule, which requires that persons who use information from a consumer report to offer less favorable terms are required to provide a risk-based pricing notice to consumers about the use of such data.
On September 1, the Massachusetts attorney general announced “the largest settlement of its kind” with a Michigan-based auto finance company (defendant) resolving allegations of predatory lending and deceptive debt collection practices. The defendant allegedly made high-interest subprime auto loans that it knew or should have known that many borrowers would be unable to repay. The complaint alleges that some of the company’s borrowers were subject to hidden finance charges, which resulted in violations of Massachusetts’s 21 percent usury cap. The defendant also allegedly “failed to inform investors that it topped off securitization loan pools with higher-risk loans.” Under the terms of the settlement, the defendant must pay a total of $27.2 million and provide debt relief and credit repair to over 3,000 borrowers across the state who are expected to be eligible for settlement funds. The settlement also requires that the defendant make changes to its loan handling practices. According to the AG, this action “is part of her Office’s ongoing industry-wide review of securitization practices in the subprime auto loan market.”
On August 26, the CFPB released findings regarding trends in credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans for consumers through the Covid-19 pandemic. The post—the fifth and final in a series documenting trends in consumer credit outcomes during the Covid-19 pandemic—examines how access to new credit and the amount of extended credit for new account holders have been impacted by the pandemic. An August 2020 Bureau report (covered by InfoBytes here and updated here) found that while credit limit increases seemed to have been halted for many consumers, there was not a pronounced reduction in available credit card credit since the start of the pandemic (the 2020 report did not discuss access to new credit trends). According to the Bureau’s most recent report, access to new credit declined for credit cards but increased for mortgages and auto loans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Among other things, the Bureau noted that early in the pandemic, the success rate of credit card inquiries declined from around 45 percent in January 2020 to just over 30 percent in May 2020—a “drop well beyond what could be expected from seasonal variation.” Additionally, the volume of credit card inquiries also dropped substantially and did not recover until March 2021, with credit card inquiry success rates also similarly declining “across credit score groups as well as across age groups and subgroups of consumers classified by their census tract or county characteristics.”
Although the report noted that there was “a small and transitory dip” for auto loans in March and April 2020, by February 2021, success rates for auto loan and mortgage inquiries were well above pre-pandemic levels. According to the Bureau, “[t]his result for auto loan and mortgages inquiries contrasts somewhat with responses to the Federal Reserve’s survey of bank loan officers, which indicate that large banks tightened lending standards on auto and mortgage loans during 2020, only loosening standards in 2021.”
On August 18, a Florida District Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s decision that an auto dealer (defendant) waived its right to compel arbitration after failing to mention an arbitration provision until days before the hearing. The plaintiffs filed a class action complaint alleging that the defendant engaged in deceptive practices regarding fees on car sales. While the defendant raised seven affirmative defenses, it did not raise arbitration, even though an arbitration provision was included in the contract between the defendant and each vehicle purchaser. The defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings and argued “that the type of damages sought in the suit were unavailable under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act,” but the court denied the motion. According to the opinion, days before the hearing, the defendant “filed its motion to compel arbitration ‘in opposition to plaintiff’s motion for class certification,’ raising arbitration as an issue for the first time fourteen months after the class action complaint had been filed,” contending that it did not waive its right to arbitrate due to prior filings being defensive in nature. Later, the defendant argued that even if the court found a waiver as to the named plaintiffs, it could not have waived its right to arbitrate with the unnamed class members. The court ruled that the defendant “engaged in class discovery without objecting to it or preserving its right to compel arbitration with the unnamed class members.”
In making its decision, the appellate court cited a 2018 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which ruled that a bank had not waived its arbitration rights regarding the unnamed class members because it expressly stated it wished to preserve arbitration rights against those class members when the matter became ripe (covered by InfoBytes here). The appellate court agreed with the court, finding that the defendant acted inconsistently with regard to arbitration in the dispute and therefore waived any right to force the plaintiffs into arbitration.
On August 11, the Maryland attorney general announced that a circuit court in Maryland affirmed that an auto-lending company’s transactions were illegal loans, not pawn transactions, and upheld the Consumer Protection Division’s imposition of $2.2 million in restitution and a $1.2 million penalty. In its press release, the AG alleged that the company “made predatory loans at outrageous interest rates, illegally repossessed cars, and preyed on Maryland consumers,” in violation of the Maryland Consumer Loan Law, the Maryland Interest and Usury Law, and the Installment Loan-Licensing Provision. According to the memorandum of the court, the loans issued by the company were not considered to be title pawn transactions, but were instead illegal consumer loans which “violated the consumer protection statutes as respondents were not licensed to make loans in Maryland, failed to make the required disclosures to the consumer, engaged in unfair trade practices, exceeded the statutory interest rate caps, took unpermitted security interests for loans of less than $700.00 and engaged in illegal repossession activities.”
On July 29, the FTC announced a proposed settlement with the owner and manager of a group of auto dealers with locations in Arizona and New Mexico near the Navajo Nation’s border, resolving allegations that the individual defendant advertised misleading discounts and incentives and falsely inflated consumers’ income and down payment information on certain financing applications. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2018, the FTC filed an action against the defendants alleging violations of the FTC Act, TILA, and the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) for submitting falsified consumer financing applications to make consumers appear more creditworthy, resulting in consumers—many of whom are members of the Navajo Nation—defaulting “at a higher rate than properly qualified buyers.” A settlement was reached with the auto dealer defendants last September (covered by InfoBytes here), which required, among other things, that the auto dealer defendants cease all business operations and pay a monetary judgment of over $7 million.
If approved by the court, the proposed order would result in a $450,000 payment to the FTC, and would prohibit the individual defendant, who neither admits nor denies the allegations, from (i) misrepresenting information in any documents associated with a consumer’s purchase, financing, or leasing of a motor vehicle; (ii) misrepresenting the costs or any other material facts related to vehicle financing; or (iii) falsifying loan information. The individual defendant would also be required to provide consumers a reasonable opportunity and sufficient time to review documents associated with the vehicle financing, and is prohibited from violating the TILA and CLA.
On July 21, the Mississippi attorney general announced a settlement with an auto finance company to resolve alleged violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act. The AG claimed the auto finance company, among other things, allegedly placed consumers into loans with a high probability of default and engaged in aggressive collection practices. Under the terms of the settlement, the auto finance company will pay $3.7 million to the state, including $1.8 million in consumer restitution, and will stop collecting on loans allegedly extinguished under Mississippi law. Additionally, the auto finance company (i) will account for a borrower’s ability to pay and set a reasonable debt-to-income threshold; (ii) may not require dealers to sell any ancillary products; (iii) will “monitor dealers for possible inflation, power booking, or expense deflation”; (iv) may “not misrepresent a consumer’s prospect of redeeming a vehicle that has been repossessed”; (v) may not require borrowers to make payments through methods requiring additional third-party fees; and (vi) will notify all relevant credit reporting agencies that the borrowers’ debts have been extinguished.
On July 27, the CFPB published a special issue brief finding that consumer applications for auto loans, new mortgages, and revolving credit cards had, for the most part, returned to pre-pandemic levels by May 2021. The brief compares the number of applications made in these categories before the pandemic to the number being made now and provides a state-by-state analysis of the change in applications. Highlights of the brief include: (i) sub-prime borrower credit applications increased in conjunction with federal stimulus payments; (ii) auto loan inquiries dropped 52 percent by the end of March 2020 but returned to their usual pre-pandemic trend by January 2021; however, the Bureau reports wide geographic variability in the demand for auto loans while changes in credit card applications were generally uniform; (iii) new mortgage credit inquiries experienced a smaller drop in March 2020 compared to other credit types but later saw a surge, with inquiries exceeding the usual, seasonally adjusted volume by 10 to 30 percent—a reflection of unusually high activity seen throughout the pandemic; (iv) revolving credit card inquiries declined by over 40 percent and took the longest to rebound, not returning to normal levels until March 2021; and (v) consumers with deep subprime credit scores represented the largest decline in auto loan inquiries compared to prior years, followed by inquiries from consumers with subprime credit scores, with both categories of consumers also showing declines in new mortgage and revolving credit card inquiries. “While consumer credit applications have generally recovered to pre-pandemic levels in the aggregate, we see important differences across consumers,” acting CFPB Director David Uejio stated. “Both borrowers with superprime and subprime credit scores are still not applying for credit as much as they were pre-pandemic. We will continue to keep a close watch on the marketplace as the economic recovery continues, to help ensure all consumers have access to financial products and services that are fair, transparent, and competitive.”
On July 13, the CFPB released findings regarding trends in reported assistance on consumers’ credit records. The post—the second in a series documenting trends in consumer credit outcomes during the Covid-19 pandemic (the first covered by InfoBytes here)—examines consumer month-to-month transitions into and out of assistance from January 2020 to April 2021. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last August, the Bureau issued a report examining trends through June 2020 in delinquency rates, payment assistance, credit access, and account balance measures, which showed that generally there was an overall decrease in delinquency rates since the start of the pandemic for auto loans, first-lien mortgages, student loans, and credit cards. According to the Bureau’s recent findings, as of March 2021, auto loans and credit card accounts with assistance were slightly above pre-pandemic levels, and the share of mortgages and student loans on assistance continued to be significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels. Researchers also found that some communities have been disproportionately affected by the health and economic shocks of the pandemic: “majority Black census tracts, majority Hispanic census tracts, older borrowers and borrowers in counties hit hardest by COVID cases and layoffs were most likely to receive assistance in the early months of the pandemic.” Additionally, consumers in majority Hispanic census tracts were “more likely to exit assistance, but consumers in majority Black census tracts were somewhat less likely to exit assistance than their counterparts in majority white census tracts.”
On June 29, NYDFS announced settlements with two New York banks to resolve allegations that the banks violated New York Executive Law § 296-a while engaged in indirect automobile lending. NYDFS alleged that the banks’ practices resulted in members of protected classes paying higher interest rates that were not based on creditworthiness. According to NYDFS, the banks failed to monitor “dealers that were charging members of protected classes, namely race and ethnicity, more in discretionary Dealer Markups than borrowers identified as non-Hispanic White.”
Under the terms of the first consent order, the bank—which had voluntarily discontinued its indirect auto lending program in November 2017—agreed to pay a $275,000 civil money penalty, provide restitution to eligible impacted borrowers, and make a $50,000 contribution to local community development organizations. The second bank agreed to “move to a flat-fee business model in connection with indirect auto lending,” provide restitution to impacted borrowers, and undertake fair lending compliance remediation efforts to increase its monitoring of dealers participating in its indirect auto lending program. The consent order also requires the payment of a $350,000 civil money penalty.
- Buckley Webcast: Best practices for incident-response planning in a dangerous and regulated world
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Government investigations, and compliance 2021 trends” at the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference
- APPROVED Webcast: California debt collection license requirement: Overview and analysis
- Max Bonici to discuss “BSA/AML trends: What to expect with the implementation of the AML Act of 2020” at the American Bar Association Banking Law Fall Meeting
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss “Regulators are gearing up: Are you ready?” at HousingWire Annual
- Amanda R. Lawrence and Elizabeth E. McGinn discuss “U.S. state privacy legislation – Are you compliant?” at the Privacy+Security Forum
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss “Modifications and exiting forbearance” at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending” at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- John R. Coleman and Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek