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On March 30, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) announced it has permanently banned an individual and three companies he owns or controls for allegedly evading Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) laws. According to DFPI, the respondents, among other things, engaged in unfair and deceptive marketing tactics by “marketing their product as a ‘no-cost’ government-funded program” and “using an unenrolled company to advertise and solicit consumers for PACE financing.” DFPI claimed the respondents offered and sold PACE financing without enrolling with a PACE program administrator, failed to clearly and accurately inform consumers about how PACE financing works, and “misled consumers about their relationships with public agencies, lenders, PACE program administrators, and each other.” Under the terms of the consent order, the respondents agreed to cease and desist from offering PACE financing to consumers, agreed not to use “PACE” in business names, websites, marketing materials, or construction communications, and agreed not to seek future enrollment with any PACE program administrator.
On May 27, the California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) filed an order to ban an Encino-based company from the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) industry for allegedly engaging in fraudulent behavior. According to the press release, the CDBO received 30 complaints from 2018 to 2019 alleging the company solicited homeowners by advertising a “free government program,” but used the homeowners’ personal financial information to submit contracts to PACE program administrators with forged electronic signatures. Additionally, complaints alleged various other fraudulent and illegal actions including, (i) the creation of false email accounts to have the PACE financing documents routed to the agents instead of the homeowners; and (ii) the impersonation of homeowners’ voices on state law required completion calls. The CDBO also asserts that the company sold products at three to five times the usual industry rate and used “high-pressure” sales tactics directed at the elderly and non-primary English speakers. In addition to the Desist and Refrain Order, which demands the company discontinue illegal practices and stop soliciting PACE contract, the CDBO notes that a similar but separate order will also be filed against the company president, who is a PACE solicitor agent.
Special Alert: California Assembly to introduce legislation for Covid-19-related relief for mortgage loans, vehicle-secured credit, PACE financing, and deferred deposit transactions
We understand that the California State Assembly will shortly propose amendments to Assembly Bill No. 2501 to create the “COVID-19 Homeowner, Tenant, and Consumer Relief Law of 2020.” As of posting of this Alert, the proposed legislation is not available on California’s legislative service website. The proposed law would provide relief to homeowners, tenants, and vehicle owners by prohibiting creditors and loan servicers from taking specified actions, including initiating foreclosures or repossessions, during the period from the date of enactment of the proposed law through the 180-day period following the date that California Governor Gavin Newsom declares the emergency related to Covid-19 has ended. Additionally, the proposed law would require servicers to place certain loans that become delinquent into automatic forbearance for a period of at least six months.
The proposed law appears similar to portions of an appropriations bill, “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act,” which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 23, 2020, prior to the enactment of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and failed to pass. We understand that the proposed law is scheduled to be heard before the California State Assembly Banking Committee on May 19.
On March 26, the CFPB announced several regulatory flexibility measures to help financial companies work with consumers affected by Covid-19. Specifically, the measures postpone certain industry data collections on Bureau-related rules. These include:
- HMDA. Quarterly information reporting by certain mortgage lenders as required under HMDA and Regulation C will not be expected during this time. However, entities should continue collecting and recording HMDA data in anticipation of making annual submissions. Entities will be provided information by the Bureau on when and how to commence new quarterly HMDA data submissions. (See statement here.)
- TILA. During this time, annual submissions required under TILA, Regulation Z, and Regulation E “concerning agreements between credit card issuers and institutions of higher education; quarterly submission of consumer credit card agreements; collection of certain credit card price and availability information; and submission of prepaid account agreements and related information” will not be expected. (See statement here.)
- Section 1071. A survey seeking information from financial institutions on the cost of compliance in connection with pending rulemaking on Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act has been postponed. As previously covered by InfoBytes, under the terms of a stipulated settlement resolving a 2019 lawsuit that sought an order compelling the Bureau to issue a final rule implementing Section 1071, the Bureau agreed to outline a proposal for collecting data and studying discrimination in small-business lending.
- PACE Financing. A survey of firms providing Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to consumers for the purposes of implementing Section 307 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act has been postponed.
- Supervision and Enforcement. The Bureau’s policy statement provides “that it does not intend to cite in an examination or initiate an enforcement action against any entity for failure to submit to the Bureau” specified information related to credit card and prepaid accounts. However, the Bureau’s announcement advises entities to “maintain records sufficient to allow them to make delayed submissions pursuant to Bureau guidance.” With respect to operational challenges facing institutions due to Covid-19, the Bureau states that it will work with institutions when scheduling examinations and other supervisory activities to minimize disruption and burden. “[W]hen conducting examinations and other supervisory activities and in determining whether to take enforcement action, the Bureau will consider the circumstances that entities may face as a result of the [Covid-19] pandemic and will be sensitive to good-faith efforts demonstrably designed to assist consumers,” the announcement states.
On January 16, the FHFA issued a notice requesting public comment on prospective policy changes to its residential energy retrofitting programs, or Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs. According to the request for comment, PACE programs are “financed through special state legislation enabling a ‘super-priority lien’ over existing and subsequent first mortgages.” Because the loans are only recorded in tax rolls and not in land records, they do not show up in title searches. This may potentially cause problems for prospective buyers and mortgage lenders. Additionally, the programs are not uniform across states and the GSEs cannot buy properties encumbered by PACE loans.
Comments must be received by March 16.
On November 20, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s fall 2019 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau announcement, the information released represents regulatory matters it “reasonably anticipates having under consideration during the period from October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020.”
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing: As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in March 2019 seeking feedback on the unique features of PACE financing and the general implications of regulating PACE financing under TILA. The Bureau notes it is currently reviewing comments as it considers next steps.
- Small Business Rulemaking: On November 6, the Bureau held a symposium on small business lending to gather information for upcoming rulemaking (previously covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau emphasized it will focus on rulemaking that would not impede small business access to credit by imposing unnecessary costs on financial institutions. According to the Bureau, materials will be released prior to convening a panel under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act to consult with businesses that may be affected by future rulemaking.
- HMDA/Regulation C: The Bureau plans to finalize the permanent thresholds for reporting data on open-end lines of credit and closed-end mortgage loans in March 2020, and expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to govern the collection of HMDA data points and the disclosure of this data in July 2020. Both initiatives follow an NPRM and an ANPR issued by the Bureau in May (previously covered by InfoBytes here).
- Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans: As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau published two NPRMs related to certain payday lending requirements under the final rule titled “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans.” Specifically, the Bureau proposed to rescind the portion of the rule that would make it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay, and to delay the rule’s compliance date for mandatory underwriting provisions. The Bureau notes it is currently reviewing comments and expects to issue a final rule in April 2020.
- Debt Collection: Following an NPRM issued in May concerning debt collection communications, disclosures, and related practices (previously covered by InfoBytes here), the Bureau states it is currently “engaged in testing of consumer disclosures related to time-barred debt disclosure issues that were not addressed in the May 2019 proposal.” Once testing has concluded, the Bureau will assess the need for publishing a supplemental NPRM related to time-barred debt disclosures.
- Remittance Transfers: The Bureau expects in December to issue a proposed rule to address the July 2020 expiration of the Remittance Rule’s temporary exception for certain insured depository institutions from the rule’s disclosure requirements related to the estimation of fees and exchange rates. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.)
- GSE Patch: The Bureau plans to address in December 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 is set to expire in January 2021, or when Fannie and Freddie exit their conservatorships, whichever comes first. (See Buckley Special Alert here.)
The Bureau further notes in its announcement the addition of entries to its long-term regulatory agenda “to address issues of concern in connection with loan originator compensation and to facilitate the use of electronic channels of communication in the origination and servicing of credit card accounts.”
On October 25, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) published proposed regulations that (i) require all licensees under the California Financing Law (CFL) to register through NMLS; and (ii) establishes regulatory requirements for the oversight of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program administrators. Currently, under the CFL, some licensees engaged in residential mortgage origination and brokering are already licensed through the NMLS, while other lenders and brokers not engaged in the business of making or brokering loans secured with residential real property or financing PACE transactions are not on NMLS. According to the initial statement of reasons, the proposed regulations would amend existing licensing rules to transition all licensees under the CFL to registration through NMLS. Moreover, the proposed regulations implement AB 1284—which was signed into law on October 4, 2017, and, beginning January 1, 2019, requires a private entity that administers a PACE program on behalf of a public agency to be licensed under the CFL—and make conforming changes to the existing rules under the CFL. According to the DBO, the objectives of the proposed regulations “are to protect property owners who are offered PACE financing from deception, misrepresentations, or misunderstandings, to promote transparency in PACE financing, to provide oversight of persons soliciting property owners, and to facilitate a fair marketplace where the financing option can provide benefits to both property owners and the environment.” Comments on the proposed regulations are due by December 9.
On May 22, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s spring 2019 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau blog post, the information presented represents regulatory matters it “reasonably anticipates having under consideration during the period of May 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020.” The rulemaking activities include implementing statutory directives mandated in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act), continuing certain other rulemakings previously outlined in the Bureau’s fall 2018 agenda (covered by InfoBytes here), as well as considering future projects and requests for information.
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Loans (PACE): On March 4, the Bureau published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) and request for comments in response to Section 307 of the Act, which amended TILA to mandate the CFPB propose regulations related to PACE financing. The regulations must carry out the purposes of TILA’s ability-to-repay requirements, and apply TILA’s general civil liability provisions for violations. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Remittance Transfers: On April 25, the Bureau issued a request for information (RFI) on two aspects of the Remittance Rule that require financial companies handling international money transfers, or remittance transfers, to disclose to individuals transferring money the exact exchange rate, fees, and the amount expected to be delivered. The RFI seeks information related to the expiration of the temporary exception and whether to propose changing the number of remittance transfers a provider must make to be governed by the rule. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- HMDA/Regulation C: On May 2, the Bureau issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to raise permanently coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting data about closed-end mortgage loans and open-end lines of credit under the HMDA rules. Specifically, the NPRM would raise permanently the reporting threshold for closed-end mortgage loans 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. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Debt Collection Rule: On May 7, the Bureau issued a NPRM to amend Regulation F, which implements the FDCPA, covering debt collection communications and consumer disclosures and addressing related practices by debt collectors. The Bureau reports that the NPRM “builds on research and pre-rulemaking activities regarding the debt collection market, which remains a top source of complaints.” (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Payday Rule/Delay of Compliance Date: On February 6, the Bureau released two NPRMs related to certain payday lending requirements under the CFPB’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). The first proposal would rescind portions of the Rule related to ability-to-repay underwriting standards for payday loans and related products scheduled to take effect later this year, while the second proposal would delay the compliance date for those same provisions for fifteen months. The Bureau anticipates it will issue a final rule concerning the compliance date this summer and a final determination on reconsideration thereafter. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
Long term priorities include rulemaking addressing (i) consumer reporting; (ii) amendments to FIRREA concerning automated valuation models; (iii) disclosure of records and information; (iv) consumer access to financial records; (v) Regulation E modernization; (vi) rules to implement the Act, concerning various mortgage requirements, student lending, and consumer reporting; and (vii) clarity for the definition of abusive acts and practices.
On March 4, the CFPB issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, which often takes the form of loans to facilitate residential solar energy and other home improvement projects. The ANPR was issued in response to Section 307 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which amended TILA to mandate the CFPB propose regulations related to PACE financing. Specifically, the regulations are required to carry out the purposes of TILA’s ability-to-repay requirements and apply TILA’s general civil liability provisions for violations, accounting for the “unique nature” of the transaction. In addition to seeking feedback on the unique features of PACE financing and the general implications of regulating PACE financing under TILA, the ANPR also requests commenters (i) provide samples of any written materials used in PACE financing transactions; (ii) describe the current standards and practices in PACE financing origination, including application information obtained and underwriting standards used; and (iii) identify parties in a PACE financing transaction to whom civil liabilities may apply, including information related to any rescission rights and loss mitigation programs available upon borrower default. Comments must be submitted within 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On October 17, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s fall 2018 rulemaking agenda. According to the Bureau’s preamble, the information presented is current as of August 30 and represents regulatory matters it “reasonably anticipates” having under consideration during the period of October 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019. The Bureau also states it plans on “reexamining the requirements of [ECOA] in light of recent Supreme Court case law and the Congressional disapproval of a prior Bureau bulletin concerning indirect auto lender compliance with ECOA and its implementing regulations.”
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Loans (PACE): The Bureau is planning to complete an assessment of its 2013 rules for assessing consumers’ ability to repay mortgage loans by January 2019, which will inform the drafting of a request for information or advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) on PACE issues to facilitate the Bureau’s rulemaking process.
- HMDA/Regulation C: The Bureau plans to follow-up on its action in August 2017 to amend Regulation C to increase the threshold for collecting and reporting data with respect to open-end lines of credit for a period of two years so that financial institutions originating fewer than 500 open-end lines of credit in either of the preceding two years would not be required to begin collecting such data until January 1, 2020.
- Debt Collection: The Bureau states it plans to issue an ANPR addressing issues such as communication practices and consumer disclosures by March 2019, and has received support from industry and consumer groups to engage in rulemaking to explore ways to apply the FDCPA to modern collection practices.
- Small Dollar Lending: The Bureau anticipates it will issue a proposed rule on small dollar lending in January 2019.
- Payday Rule: The Bureau estimates it will issue an ANPR in January 2019 to reconsider the merits and compliance date for its final payday/vehicle title/high-cost installment loan rule.
- FCRA: Comments must be submitted by November 19 on the changes and underlying disclosures implemented by its interim final rule, which amended certain model forms under the FCRA and took effect September 21. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the interim final rule here.)
Long term priorities now include rulemaking addressing (i) small business lending data collection; (ii) consumer reporting; (iii) amendments to FIRREA concerning automated valuation models; (iii) consumer access to financial records; (iv) rules to implement the the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, concerning various mortgage requirements, student lending, and consumer reporting; and (v) clarity for the definition of abusive acts and practices.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to moderate “Pandemic relief response and lasting impacts on access, credit, banking, and equality” at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Spring Meeting
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Post-pandemic CFPB exam preparation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Making fair lending work for you" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Reading the tea leaves of President Biden’s initial financial appointees" at LendIt Fintech
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss “CA, NY, federal licensing and disclosure” at the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association Legal Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Compliance under Biden" at the WSJ Risk & Compliance Forum
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference