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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • CFPB says ruling on funding structure doesn’t affect debt collector’s CID

    Federal Issues

    In December, the CFPB denied a petition by a debt collection agency to set aside a civil investigative demand (CID) issued last October. The company challenged the Bureau’s authority to issue the CID on the grounds that the agency’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional. The company’s argument relied on a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 19 (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), which found that the Bureau is unconstitutionally funded and vacated the CFPB’s Payday Lending Rule. The Bureau submitted a petition for a writ of certiorari in November asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 5th Circuit decision (covered by InfoBytes here).

    The debt collection agency and the CFPB held a “meet and confer” at the end of October, and the company argued that during the meet and confer the parties did not agree on two of the company’s objections: (i) the inadequate Notification of Purpose Pursuant to 12 C.F.R. §1080.5 contained in the CID; and (ii) the Bureau’s unconstitutional funding mechanism. The company filed a petition to set aside the CID, arguing that because the Bureau’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional, the Bureau lacks enforcement authority and the CID should be set aside in its entirety. The company claimed a similar nexus exists between the Bureau’s unconstitutional funding mechanism and the concrete harm suffered by the company. Just as the Payday Lending Rule was vacated by the 5th Circuit and set aside as unenforceable, “but for the Bureau’s unconstitutional spending, the CID would not have been issued,” the company said.

    In rejecting the company’s arguments, the Bureau commented that it “has consistently taken the position that the administrative process … for petitioning to modify or set aside a CID is not the proper forum for raising and adjudicating challenges to the constitutionality of the Bureau’s statute.” In declining to set aside the CID on constitutional grounds, the Bureau wrote that should it later determine that it is necessary to obtain a court order compelling compliance with the CID, the company will have an opportunity to raise any constitutional arguments as a defense in district court.

    Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement CID Debt Collection Constitution Appellate Fifth Circuit Funding Structure

  • NYDFS revises proposed amendments to third-party debt collection rules

    State Issues

    In December, NYDFS released revised proposed amendments to 23 NYCRR 1, which regulates third-party debt collectors and debt buyers. NYDFS first issued a proposed amendment to 23 NYCRR 1 in December 2021 (covered by InfoBytes here), which factored in findings from NYDFS investigations that revealed instances of abusive and deceptive debt collection practices, as well as consumer debt collection complaint data. The first proposed amendment, among other things, is intended to enhance consumer protections by increasing transparency, requiring heightened disclosures, reducing misleading statements about consumer debt obligations, and placing stricter limits on debt collection phone calls than those currently imposed under federal regulations. The revised proposal, among other things, also include the following requirements:

    • A debt collector must send written notification within five days after the initial communication with a consumer that clearly and conspicuously contains validation information as required under Regulation F. Debt collectors are prohibited from using the charge-off date as the itemization date for the alleged debt unless it is a revolving or open-end credit account. Instead, debt collectors should use the last payment date as the itemization date if available.
    • Written notifications must be clear and conspicuous and also include the following, in addition to validation information: (i) the reference date relied upon to determine the itemization date; (ii) for revolving or open-end credit accounts, an account number (or a truncated version of the account number) associated with the debt on the last payment date or the last statement date if no payment has been made; (iii) the merchant brand, affinity brand, or facility name, if any, associated with the debt; (iv) the date and amount of the last payment or a statement noting that no payment was made, if available; (v) the applicable statute of limitations expressed in years for debt that has not been reduced to judgment; (vi) information on a debt that has been reduced to a judgment, if applicable; and (vii) notice that a consumer has the right to dispute the validity of a debt and instructions on how to submit a dispute.
    • Debt collectors must inform consumers of available language access services and are required to record the consumer’s language preference, if other than English, in the written notification.
    • Unless affirmatively requested by the consumer, required disclosures may not be made exclusively by electronic communication. Additionally, a debt collector may communicate with a consumer exclusively through electronic communication only if: (i) the consumer has voluntarily provided contact information for electronic communication; (ii) the consumer has given revocable consent in writing to receive electronic communication from the debt collector in reference to a specific debt (electronic signatures constitute written consent); (iii) the debt collector retains the written consent for six years or until the debt is discharged, sold, or transferred (whichever is longer); and (iv) all electronic communications include clear and conspicuous disclosures regarding revoking consent.
    • Communications sent in the form of a pleading in a civil action will not be considered an initial communication for the purposes of these amendments.
    • Debt collectors must provide substantiation of debt within 45 days.
    • Debt collectors may not communicate or attempt to communicate excessively with a consumer. Specifically, debt collectors are limited to one completed phone call and three attempted phone calls per seven-day period per alleged debt. Telephone calls more than these limits may be permitted when required by federal or state law, or when made in response to the consumer’s request to be contacted and in the manner indicated by the consumer, if any.

    Comments are due February 13. The amendments are scheduled to take effect 180 days after the notice of adoption is published in the State Register.

    State Issues Bank Regulatory Agency Rule-Making & Guidance NYDFS New York Debt Collection State Regulators

  • National bank to pay $2 million in mortgage fee violation class action


    On December 19, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted final approval of a settlement in a $2 million class action resolving allegations that a national bank violated California’s Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (RFDCPA) and Unfair Competition Law (UCL). According to the order for preliminary approval, the plaintiff class alleged that the bank improperly charged and collected transaction fees when processing mortgage payments. The district court certified the class, which included “all persons who have or had a California address, and at any time between June 1, 2016 and the date of the Court’s order preliminarily approving the settlement, paid at least one transaction fee to [the defendant] for making a payment on a residential mortgage loan serviced by [the defendant] by telephone, IVR, or the internet.” The district court determined that the settlement agreement was “reasonable and adequate.” The two class representatives who filed the suit were awarded $1,500 each, and their attorneys were awarded $499,000 in fees.

    Courts State Issues California Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Debt Collection Mortgages Class Action Settlement Consumer Finance

  • District Court approves $2.8 million settlement in FDCPA convenience fee class action


    On December 22, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted preliminary approval of a $2.8 million settlement in an FDCPA class-action suit resolving allegations that convenience fees were charged when consumers made payments on their mortgages over the phone or online. According to the suit, the plaintiffs claimed the defendant did not charge processing fees if borrowers made payments by check or signed up for automatic monthly debits from their bank accounts. The plaintiffs further argued that the processing fees were “illegal and improper because neither the mortgages themselves nor applicable statutes authorize such fees.” The parties agreed to mediation in April 2022, and a motion for preliminary approval of a settlement was filed in August. A coalition of state attorneys general from 32 states and the District of Columbia, led by the New York AG filed an amicus brief in the district court opposing the original proposed $13 million settlement in the suit (covered previously by InfoBytes here). The AGs outlined concerns with the proposed settlement, including that (i) the relief provided to class members violates various state laws, and that the defendant seeks to ratify fees in an “unwritten, mass amendment” that violates state laws and regulations; (ii) class members only receive an “inadequate” one-time payment, while the defendant may continue to charge excessive fees for the life of the loan; and (iii) low- and moderate-income borrowers are not treated equitably under the proposed settlement. Under the terms of the new settlement, members of the class who do not opt out of the settlement will receive a share of the $2.8 million. The settlement also reduces the fees class members will have to pay when making payments online or via the telephone for the next two years. The defendant also agreed to add additional disclosures to its website to increase borrower awareness of alternative payment methods that could have lower fees or no fees. Defendant’s representatives will also receive additional training to ensure they provide additional information and disclosures about convenience fees when speaking with customers.

    On June 16, the court granted final approval of the settlement.

    Courts State Issues State Attorney General FDCPA Debt Collection Class Action Fees Consumer Finance Mortgages Settlement

  • Massachusetts reaches settlement in unfair debt collection and mortgage servicing matter

    State Issues

    On December 22, the Massachusetts attorney general announced a settlement with a South Carolina mortgage servicer to resolve claims that it allegedly failed to assist homeowners avoid foreclosure and engaged in unfair debt collection and mortgage servicing practices. According to an assurance of discontinuance filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the servicer allegedly violated the Massachusetts’ Act to Prevent Unlawful and Unnecessary Foreclosures, which requires servicers to make a good faith effort to help borrowers with certain unfair loan terms avoid foreclosure. Among other things, the servicer allegedly failed to (i) properly review borrowers’ income, debts, and obligations when assessing affordable loan modifications; (ii) provide borrowers with the results of these assessments; or (iii) provide borrowers with notice of their right to present a counteroffer after being offered a loan modification. The servicer also allegedly violated the state’s debt collection regulations by failing to timely issue compliant debt validation notices, and calling borrowers more than twice in a seven-day period. While denying the allegations, the servicer agreed to pay $975,000 to the state and will undertake significant business practice changes and provide ongoing reporting to the AG to ensure compliance.

    State Issues Enforcement State Attorney General Massachusetts Mortgage Servicing Mortgages Debt Collection Consumer Finance Foreclosure

  • Bank to pay $2 million in collection call suit


    On December 14, a Superior Court of California granted a stipulated final judgment resolving claims that a national bank (defendant) violated the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (RDCPA) and the FDCPA by making “harassing and annoying” debt collection calls to its customers. According to the stipulated final judgment, since at least March 2015, the defendant allegedly violated California and federal law by making phone calls with “unreasonably excessive frequency,” while also persisting in calling wrong numbers in attempts to collect on unpaid debts. The defendant, which did not admit any liability or wrongdoing, agreed to, among other things: (i) adopt or maintain policies and procedures to avoid such harassing calls; (ii) limit the number of calls it will make as part of its future debt collection efforts; and (iii) cease calling those who ask orally or in writing that they not be contacted. Under the terms of the stipulated final judgment, the defendant must pay $1.45 million in civil penalties, $300,000 in investigative costs, and $250,000 in restitution.

    Courts State Issues FDCPA California Debt Collection Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Consumer Finance

  • District Court says debtor bears the burden of asserting a garnishment exemption


    On December 15, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in a debt collection garnishment suit. One of the plaintiffs was referred to collections after he defaulted on his credit card debt, and a judgment was entered against him by the original creditor. The defendant filed for a writ of execution, seeking to garnish funds that were in a joint bank account maintained by both plaintiffs. The writ outlined major exemptions under Pennsylvania and federal law, noting that the plaintiff may also be able to rely on other exemptions, and instructed him to complete a claim for exemption. Plaintiffs sued for violations of the FDCPA, claiming, among other things, that the defendant should have known that the account was a joint account, and therefore exempt, before seeking the writ of execution. According to the plaintiffs, the defendant should have known or reasonably known “that the funds in the joint account were immune from execution because it ‘performed its own private asset search to discover’ the account.” The court disagreed, holding, that under Pennsylvania’s garnishment procedures, the debtor bears the burden of asserting an exemption. This assertion, the court said, must be more than a “self-serving statement that an exemption applies.”

    The court cited a ruling issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, in which the court determined that “[t]he bottom line here is that, right or wrong, a judgment creditor has no duty under either California or federal law to investigate, much less confirm, that a judgment debtor’s bank accounts contain only non-exempt funds prior to authorizing a levy on those accounts. It is unreasonable to conclude that a judgment creditor’s failure to conduct a pre-levy debtor’s exam, when there is no legal obligation or requirement to do so, constitutes unfair or unconscionable action.”

    Courts State Issues Pennsylvania Consumer Finance FDCPA Debt Collection

  • 10th Circuit: Vendor knowledge of consumer debt is not a public disclosure


    On December 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of an FDCPA suit. According to the opinion, the plaintiff, who had student loan debt, received a collection letter from the defendant that listed the assigned balance as $184,580.73 and the debt balance as $217,657.60 without explaining the difference or that the debt could increase due to interest, fees, and other charges. The defendant, who used an outside mailer to compose and send the letters, sent her two more letters without providing an explanation for the balances. The plaintiff sued, alleging the defendant violated the FDCPA by communicating information about the debt to a vendor that printed and mailed the letters. According to the plaintiff, communicating this information violated FDCPA provisions that prohibit debt collectors from communicating with, in connection with the collection of any debt, any person without the consumer’s consent or court permission. The plaintiff also claimed that the defendant violated the FDCPA by misrepresenting the amount of the debt because it did not indicate that the amount of the debt may increase.

    On the appeal, the appellate court affirmed dismissal after it found that the plaintiff lacked standing since neither of the plaintiff’s claims caused a concrete injury. First, the appellate court found that one private entity knowing about the plaintiff’s debt is not a public disclosure of private facts, which does not rise to the level of sustaining a concrete injury needed to sue in federal court. Second, regarding the substance of the letters, the appellate court noted that the plaintiff simply claimed that the letters she received caused her to be confused and to believe the debt was not accruing interest. However, the appellate court found that “confusion and misunderstanding are insufficient to confer standing.”

    Courts Tenth Circuit Appellate FDCPA Student Lending Debt Collection Consumer Finance

  • OCC rescinds FDCPA section of booklet

    On December 15, the OCC announced that the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s Task Force on Consumer Compliance adopted revised examination procedures for the FDCPA and its implementing regulation, Regulation F. Among other things, the revised interagency examination procedures incorporate the CFPB's 2020 and 2021 FDCPA that went into effect in November 2021. The announcement noted that the agency is rescinding the “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act” section of the “Other Consumer Protection Laws and Regulations” booklet of the Comptroller's Handbook. The revised interagency examination procedures address, among other things: (i) determinations of whether a bank is a debt collector under the FDCPA and Regulation F; (ii) prohibitions on certain communications with consumers in connection with debt collection; and (iii) requirements for a reasonable and simple method that consumers can use to opt out of additional communications and attempts to communicate.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC FDCPA Regulation F CFPB Comptroller's Handbook Examination Debt Collection

  • Collection firm to pay $100,000 for operating without a license

    On December 1, the Connecticut Department of Banking (Department) fined a collection law firm $100,000 and ordered it to cease and desist from collection activity for operating without a valid license. According to the order, in August, the Department issued a temporary order to cease and desist, a notice of intent to issue order to cease and desist, a notice of intent to impose a civil penalty, and a notice of a right to a hearing, which provided the firm 14 days to respond to request a hearing. Furthermore, the firm was warned that if a request for hearing was not made, a cease and desist order would likely be forthcoming. During its investigation, the state discovered that in 2019, the firm was conducting unlicensed collection agency activity for about 10,000 Connecticut accounts with a total balance of about $1.4 million. The firm allegedly collected approximately $81,000 of that amount. In late 2019, the state sent the firm a certified letter regarding its collection activity and asked for a response, which was never provided. In the August order, the firm was asked to supply the state with a list of all the creditors with whom the firm has entered into agreements for consumer collection services since July 2018, including copies of all the agreements with those creditors, and an itemized list of each Connecticut debtor account that the firm had attempted collections on for the same time period.

    Licensing State Issues Connecticut Debt Collection Consumer Finance


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