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Texas Office of Consumer Credit updates guidance urging motor vehicle sales finance licensees to work with borrowers
On November 16, the Texas Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner updated its advisory bulletin urging motor vehicle sales finance licensees to work with consumers during the Covid-19 crisis (previously covered here, here, here, here, here, and here). Among other measures, the regulator urges licensees to increase consumer communication regarding the effects of Covid-19 for licensees, work out modifications for payment difficulties, and review policies for fees, late charges, delinquency practices, and repossessions. The guidance also: (i) reminds licensees of legal requirements for using electronic signatures and (ii) continues to permit licensees to conduct activity from unlicensed locations, subject to certain conditions. The guidance is in effect through December 31, 2020, unless withdrawn or revised.
Texas Office of Consumer Credit updates guidance urging motor vehicle sales finance licensees to work with borrowers
On October 27, the Texas Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner updated its advisory bulletin urging motor vehicle sales finance licensees to work with consumers during the Covid-19 crisis (previously covered here, here, here, here, and here ). Among other measures, the regulator urges licensees to increase consumer communication regarding the effects of Covid-19 for licensees, work out modifications for payment difficulties, and review policies for fees, late charges, delinquency practices, and repossessions. The guidance also: (i) reminds licensees of legal requirements for using electronic signatures and (ii) continues to permit licensees to conduct activity from unlicensed locations, subject to certain conditions. The guidance is in effect through November 30, 2020, unless withdrawn or revised.
On October 16, 2020, the Maryland governor issued Executive Order 20-10-16-01 to amend and restate an April 3 executive order regarding foreclosures and repossessions (previously covered here). The executive order, among other things: (i) suspends requirements regarding the repossession of any chattel home by self-help until the state of emergency is terminated; (ii) suspends the sale of certain properties unless certain notices are provided, (iii) suspends the operation of the commissioner’s Notice of Intent to Foreclose Electronic System, and discontinues acceptance of Notices of Intent to Foreclose until January 4, 2021, and (iv) suspends any judgment for possession or repossession, or warrant for restitution of possession or repossession of residential, commercial, or industrial real property, if the tenant can demonstrate that he/she suffered a substantial loss of income resulting from Covid-19 or related events. Maryland’s commissioner of financial regulation issued a Foreclosure Update and Repossession Update outlining the executive order.
On September 21, the CFPB announced a settlement with a California-based auto-loan servicer to resolve allegations that the company engaged in unfair practices with respect to its Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) product, in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act. The CFPB alleged that the company engaged in unfair practices by charging certain borrowers for LDW coverage, but then failed to provide the coverage. Specifically, the LDW agreement allowed the company to suspend coverage if borrowers became 10-days delinquent on their auto loans. The company, however, continued to charge borrowers LDW premiums even though coverage was no longer being provided. The Bureau also alleged that the company assessed LDW claim-related fees that were not disclosed in the LDW contract, which the borrowers were not contractually obligated to pay.
Under the terms of the consent order, the company is required to pay more than $1.3 million in consumer redress to approximately 4,000 impacted consumers, as well as a $100,000 civil money penalty. The order also prohibits the company from “failing to provide consumers with LDW coverage, collateral protection insurance, or similar products or services for which [the company] has charged consumers” or from “charging consumers fees that are not authorized by its LDW contracts.”
On August 27, the CFPB denied a petition by an auto financing company to set aside a civil investigative demand (CID) issued by the Bureau in June. The CID requested information from the company to determine, among other things, “whether auto lenders or associated persons, in connection with originating auto loans (including marketing and selling products ancillary to such loans), servicing loans, collecting debts (including through repossessing vehicles), or consumer reporting” may have violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s UDAAP provisions, as well as the FCRA and TILA. The company petitioned the Bureau to set aside the CID. Among other things, the company argued that because certain aspects of the CID do not fall within a “reasonable construction of the CID’s notification of purpose,” and thus failed to provide fair notice as to what the Bureau is investigating, the CID should be “modified to strike each of these requests or clearly confine them to the enumerated topics.”
The Bureau rejected the company’s request to set aside or modify the CID, countering that (i) the particular requests that the company objects to are “all reasonably relevant to the Bureau’s inquiry as described in the notification of purpose,” and that the company cannot rewrite the CID’s notification of purpose to describe only four specific topics and then argue that the Bureau is asking for irrelevant information; and (ii) the Bureau has broad authority to seek information that may be “reasonably relevant” to an investigation, and that the Bureau’s “own appraisal of relevancy must be accepted so long as it is not obviously wrong.” According to the Bureau, the company failed to overcome this “high hurdle established in the judicial precedent.” However, the Bureau granted the company’s request for confidential treatment of its petition and attached exhibits by agreeing to redact certain proprietary business information and confidential supervisory information.
On September 3, the California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) announced a formal investigation into a California auto title lender to determine whether the lender is evading state interest rate caps through a recent partnership with a Utah-based bank. The California Fair Access to Credit Act—enacted in 2019—caps annual simple interest rates on loans between $2,500 and $10,000 made by state-licensed lenders at around 36 percent (covered by InfoBytes here). The CDBO asserts that prior to the new interest rate caps taking effect, the auto title lender frequently made loans carrying interest rates in excess of 100 percent. Rather than reducing its interest rates to comply with the new law, the lender “stopped making state-licensed auto title loans in California,” and instead used “its existing lending operations and personnel” to market and service auto title loans purportedly made by the Utah-based bank. These loans, the CDBO claims, still carry interest rates greater than 90 percent, but because the Utah-based bank is not regulated or supervised by the CDBO it is not subject to the interest rate caps when lending in California. According to the CDBO, its investigation is intended to find out whether the auto title lender’s “role in the arrangement is so extensive as to require compliance with California’s lending laws” and if the arrangement is a “direct effort to evade the Fair Access to Credit Act,” which CDBO contends would be illegal.
On September 4, the FTC announced a settlement with group of auto dealers (defendants) with locations in Arizona and New Mexico near the Navajo Nation’s border, resolving allegations that the defendants advertised misleading discounts and incentives and falsely inflated consumers’ income and down payment information on certain financing applications. As previously covered by InfoBytes in August 2018, the FTC filed an action against the defendants alleging violations of the FTC Act, TILA, and the Consumer Leasing Act 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.”
The court-approved settlement requires the defendants to cease all business operations and includes a monetary judgment of over $7 million. Because the defendants are currently in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, the settlement will make the FTC an unsecured claimant in the bankruptcy proceedings. The settlement also prohibits the bankruptcy trustee from using or selling the consumer information obtained from the defendants’ business activities as part of the bankruptcy liquidation.
On September 1, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California determined that certain claims could proceed in a suit alleging a national bank failed to properly refund payments made pursuant to guaranteed asset protection (GAP) waiver agreements entered into in connection with auto loans. According to the plaintiffs’ suit, the bank knowingly collected unearned fees for GAP Waivers and “concealed its obligation to issue a refund on the GAP Waiver fees for the portion of the GAP Waiver’s initial coverage that was cut short by early payoff, and denied any obligation to return the unearned GAP fees.” The bank sought dismissal of the suit, arguing, among other things, that—with the exception of one consumer’s claims—all of the plaintiffs’ contracts include “a condition precedent under which the [p]laintiffs must first submit a written refund request for unearned GAP fees before being entitled to a refund,” which condition was not fulfilled.
The court dismissed breach of contract claims brought by eight of the 11 plaintiffs, noting that seven of these plaintiffs were not excused from complying with the condition precedent in their contracts with the bank, and had not pled sufficient facts to allege compliance; the court held that the eighth plaintiff’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The court allowed the breach of contract claims filed by two plaintiffs whose contracts did not contain condition precedent language to proceed, and allowed the final plaintiff’s breach of contract claim to proceed because the bank did not move to dismiss such. The court kept the declaratory judgment requests intact for the three plaintiffs whose contract claims were allowed to proceed, but determined such plaintiffs could not assert standing under laws of states where they do not reside and did not receive an injury. Further, the court granted the bank’s request to dismiss TILA claims—noting that the statute does not apply to indirect auto lenders like the bank—and tossed claims brought under California’s Unfair Competition Law.
The bank also asked the court to strike the six class action claims included in the plaintiffs’ first amended complaint. However, the court denied the bank’s request to strike the plaintiffs’ nationwide class allegations calling it premature. “Deciding whether the alleged classes can be maintained is properly done on a motion for class certification because at that point ‘the parties have had an opportunity to conduct class discovery and develop a record,’” the court noted.
On August 31, the Massachusetts attorney general announced an action against a national auto lender for allegedly making unfair and deceptive auto loans and engaging in unfair debt collection practices. According to the complaint, since 2013, the auto lender allegedly made “high-risk high-interest subprime” loans to Massachusetts borrowers who the lender “knew or should have known were unable to repay their loans,” in violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. Additionally, the attorney general asserts that consumers were subject to “hidden finance charges,” which resulted in consumers’ actual interest rates being higher than the state’s usury ceiling of 21 percent. Moreover, the lender’s collection employees allegedly “harassed” consumers in default by calling them “as often as eight times a day,” when state law limits collection calls to no more than two calls per week, sent improper repossession notices, and failed to use the correct fair market value when calculating deficiency amounts. Lastly, the attorney general argues that the lender used “false or misleading statements” concerning the characteristics of the loans packaged and securitized to investors.
The attorney general is seeking a permanent injunction, restitution, and civil penalties.
On August 24, the FTC announced several Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) intended to clarify that five Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) rules promulgated by the FTC will now apply only to motor vehicle dealers. The NPRMs also propose non-substantive amendments to correspond to changes made to the FCRA by the Dodd-Frank Act, and will apply to the following rules:
- Address Discrepancy Rule. This rule 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.” The proposed amendments narrow the scope of the rule to motor vehicle dealers excluded from CFPB jurisdiction.
- Affiliate Marketing Rule. This rule provides consumers the right to restrict a person from using certain information obtained from an affiliate to make solicitations to the consumer. While the proposed amendments narrow the scope of the rule to “motor vehicle dealers” excluded from CFPB jurisdiction, they retain the substantive provisions of the rule because they “addresses the relationship between covered motor vehicle dealers and their affiliates, which may not be motor vehicle dealers.”
- Furnisher Rule. Under this rule, furnishers are required to implement policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of the consumer information they provide to a CRA. The amendments propose changes including narrowing the rule’s scope to entities set forth in Dodd-Frank “that are predominantly engaged in the sale and servicing of motor vehicles, excluding those dealers that directly extend credit to consumers and do not routinely assign the extensions of credit to an unaffiliated third party.”
- Prescreen Opt-Out Notice Rule. This rule outlines requirements for those who use consumer reports to make unsolicited credit or insurance offers to consumers. The proposed amendments will narrow the scope of the rule to cover only motor vehicle dealers. The model form is unchanged from the previous model notice and is identical to the model notice used by the CFPB.
- Risk-Based Pricing Rule. Under this rule persons that 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. Under the proposed amendments, only motor vehicle dealers will be required to comply.
The FTC seeks feedback on the effectiveness of the five rules, including (i) whether there exists a continuing need for each rule’s specific provisions; (ii) what benefits have been provided to consumers under each rule; and (iii) should modifications be made to each rule in order to benefit consumers and businesses or to account for changes in relevant technology or economic conditions.
Comments are due 75 days after the NPRMs are published in the Federal Register.
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The federal fraud sentencing guidelines: It's time to stop the madness" at a New York Criminal Bar Association webinar
- Daniel P Stipano to moderate "Digital identity: The next gen of CIP" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference