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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • Senator Warren invites student loan servicer to testify before Congress

    Federal Issues

    On March 18, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent a letter to a large student loan servicer, inviting its executives to testify at an upcoming hearing hosted by the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy on April 10. The hearing will focus on the servicer’s performance, student loan borrowers’ experience with return to repayment, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The letter alleged the servicer “mishandl[ed]” borrowers return to repayment after the pandemic by impeding public servants’ access to PSLF relief, among other things. Senator Warren also alleged the servicer failed to perform “basic servicing functions” for PSLF borrowers which led to a backlog of public service workers’ forms eligible towards receiving credit on their student debts. The letter further alleged the servicer implemented a “call deflection scheme” to redirect borrowers' calls from customer service representatives. Testifying would give the servicer the chance to provide context to the allegations, Warren said.

    Federal Issues Congress Testimony Student Loan Servicer Consumer Finance Consumer Protection

  • Banking associations petition District Court for summary judgment against CFPB’s Final Rule on small business lending


    On March 1, several banking associations (plaintiffs) petitioned a district court under a motion for summary judgment in an ongoing case against CFPB’s Final Rule in §1071, claiming that the Final Rule goes beyond the scope of the CFPB’s rulemaking authority. (For rule, see 88 Fed. Reg. 35150 from May 31, 2023). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Court last ordered granting motions for a preliminary injunction against the CFPB and its small business loan rule. The rule expanded the number of data points to 81 so certain lenders––including women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses––would be required to disclose to covered financial institutions. The plaintiffs argued that the Final Rule would be a “fruitless attempt to capture the complexity of small business lending” given the number of extraneous data fields and would not fulfill the underlying purpose of the rule set forth by ECOA. That purpose would be to “facilitate enforcement of fair lending laws and enable communities, government entities, and creditors to identify business and community development needs and opportunities for credit for women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses.”

    In their argument, the banking associations alleged that the CFPB had exceeded its statutory authority by requiring the extra data disclosures, that the data would not provide any tangible benefit, and that implementation of the rule is arbitrary and capricious as it ignores the significant costs that will be incurred by requiring lenders to provide such a large amount of extra information. The plaintiffs emphasized that while Congress granted the CFPB the power to add data points to information a lender might be expected to disclose, the CFPB exceeded its authority in adopting the Final Rule and that its only consequence “will be the imposition of a staggering compliance burden on lenders” and ultimately reduce opportunities for small businesses.

    Courts CFPB Small Business Section 1071 ECOA Congress

  • Alabama judge finds the Corporate Transparency Act unconstitutional, DOJ quickly appeals


    On March 1, the federal district court in the Northern District of Alabama entered a final declaratory judgment concluding that the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs, including a non-profit small business association consisting of more than 60,000 small business members as well as an individual small business owner, sued the Treasury Department, Secretary Janet Yellen, and FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das in their official capacities, alleging that the CTA’s mandatory disclosure requirements violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments and exceed Congress’s authority under Article I of the Constitution.

    Corporations, LLCs, or other similar entities that are either “(i) created by the filing of a document with a secretary of state… or (ii) formed under the law of a foreign country and registered to do business in the United States” are required to provide certain beneficial ownership information, as well as disclose any related changes to FinCEN under the CTA, excluding exempt entities. The CTA was passed in 2021 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and required most entities incorporated under state law to disclose beneficial ownership information to FinCEN to prevent financial crimes often committed through shell corporations. In September 2022, FinCEN issued a final rule implementing the CTA, which went into effect on January 1 of this year, and required currently existing entities and five million new entities formed each year from 2025 to 2034 to disclose the identity and information of any “beneficial owner” to FinCEN (see Orrick Insight here).

    According to the court, the CTA exceeds the Constitution’s limits on Congress’s power and does not have a strong enough connection to any of Congress’s listed powers to be considered a necessary or appropriate way to reach Congress’s policy objectives. The court rejected the government’s claims that the CTA is covered by various constitutional provisions, including the Commerce Clause, Taxing Clause, Necessary and Proper Clause, and Congress’s powers related to foreign affairs and national security.

    The judgment permanently enjoined the Department of the Treasury and FinCEN from enforcing the CTA against the plaintiffs and as a result they are not required to report beneficial ownership information to FinCEN at this time. The order does not ban enforcement of the CTA and its beneficial ownership disclosure requirements to FinCEN generally.

    On March 11, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke’s March 1 ruling.

    Courts Alabama Corporate Transparency Act Constitution Congress FinCEN Department of Treasury

  • GAO report calls for FDIC, Fed to fix bank supervision issues

    On March 6, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report to congressional requesters, including Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, regarding the Fed and FDIC’s communication of supervisory concerns related to the 2023 banking issues and the agencies’ procedures for escalating concerns. The report found that while both regulators generally met their requirements for communicating concerns, the Fed’s escalation procedures lacked clarity and specificity, which could have contributed to delayed enforcement last year.

    The GAO recommended that the Fed revise its escalation procedures to be more precise and include measurable criteria. The Fed agreed with the recommendation and acknowledged that clearer examination procedures could help in addressing supervisory concerns more promptly. For the FDIC, the GAO recognized that the FDIC already updated its escalation procedures in August 2023 and will intend to implement further revisions to respond promptly. The GAO report also suggested that Congress amend the FDI Act to incorporate noncapital triggers related to unsafe banking practices before they affect capital.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues FDIC Federal Reserve Bank Supervision GAO Congress

  • Treasury opens comment period for financial inclusion initiatives

    Federal Issues

    On December 22, 2023, the Treasury released its request for information to develop a national strategy for financial inclusion. Financial inclusion is loosely defined by the Treasury as expanding accessibility, developing financial security, and expanding opportunities for Americans to build wealth, including closing the racial wealth gap among underserved communities, where “discrimination… [has] resulted in significant disparities in access to… financial products and services across… communities, including low-income and low-wealth communities and [minority groups].” The Treasury’s initiative fulfills its requirements from the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act portion of the 2022 omnibus spending bill known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, and will help the Treasury advance its strategic vision for financial inclusion and create a roadmap for any future actions. The Treasury offers its request for information to identify opportunities through “policy, government programs, financial products and services, technology, and other tools and market infrastructure.” Comments can be submitted here and will be open until February 20, 2024.

    Federal Issues Department of Treasury Congress

  • CFPB report analyzes college banking and credit card agreements

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, the CFPB released a report titled College Banking and Credit Card Agreements: Annual Report to Congress, which found that some college-sponsored financial products marketed towards students have less advantageous terms and conditions, and higher fees compared to typical market products.

    According to the report, when colleges decided to subcontract with third-party financial service providers to facilitate the application of federal financial aid, they entered “college banking agreements” offering deposit accounts for students, which can function as debit or prepaid cards. The report distinguished between colleges that pay for certain service providers to facilitate the processing of federal financial aid disbursements (referred to as Tier One college banking arrangements), and colleges that are paid by certain service providers to offer deposit accounts and prepaid cards to the student population (referred to as Tier Two college banking arrangements). Tier Two account issuers paid colleges an aggregated of over $19.6 million in 2022. The CFPB observed that some colleges’ financial product partners charge students overdraft fees, despite the general industry trend to move away from such fees.  The CFPB also warned in its report that certain overdraft fees can violate the CFPA.

    The report also found that students at HBCUs and Hispanic-servicing institutions on average pay higher fees per account. The CFPB also noted several other additional fees charged to students by financial institutions, including (i) dormant account fees; (ii) deposit and withdrawal fees for student ID cards that also function as prepaid cards; and (iii) “sunset” fees imposed on students to pay after graduation or reaching a certain age.

    Regarding partnerships in credit cards, the CFPB noted that although the passage of the CARD Act reduced the profitability of marketing credit cards on college campuses, thousands of new accounts between colleges and credit card issuers are opened every year. The CFPB also noted that college students maintain a high level of reliance on credit cards to cover costs and it indicated that it “will continue to research evolving practices” to understand how credit cards are being marketed to college students.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Protection CARD Act Congress

  • FTC publishes letter to CFPB on its law enforcement and public outreach

    Federal Issues

    On November 16, the FTC released its letter of its annual summary of activities in 2022 to the CFPB. The CFPB used the findings in its annual report to Congress on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In the letter, the FTC outlined several of its important procedural law enforcement activities, such as debt collection issues affecting small businesses, redressing consumers harmed by debt collection schemes, halting collection in consumer debt, and combating unauthorized charges to consumers. The second part of the letter outlines how the FTC enables public outreach and cross-agency coordination. For public outreach, the FTC proactively educates consumers about their rights under the FDCPA, and how debt collectors can comply with the law. The FTC also noted that it publishes material in both English and Spanish to broaden its outreach. In addition, the FTC added that it distributes print publications to libraries and businesses and logs more than 50 million views on its website pages. In its efforts to raise awareness about scams targeting the Latino community, the FTC highlighted its series of fotonovelas (graphic novels) in Spanish.

    Federal Issues FTC CFPB Congress FDCPA Small Business Debt Collection

  • Senate passes resolution seeking to nullify CFPB’s small business lending rule

    Federal Issues

    Recently, the U.S. Senate passed a joint resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 32) under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the CFPB’s small business lending rule. As previously covered on InfoBytes, the rule, which requires financial institutions to collect and report to the CFPB credit application data for small businesses, has faced opposition from various politicians and is the subject of litigation brought by financial institutions that would be subject to the rule in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas. In support of the joint resolution, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who introduced the legislation, recently argued on the floor that “the CFPB is setting these small business people… up for lawsuits” because “[it] has promulgated a rule that totally perverts our intention in section 1071.”  If the House of Representatives similarly passes the joint resolution, and President Biden signs it, the CFPB’s rule will be nullified under the Congressional Review Act.

    The joint resolution follows the order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granting a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining the CFPB from enforcing the rule (covered by InfoBytes here and here).

    Federal Issues CFPB Section 1071 Congress Peer-to-Peer Small Business Lending Texas

  • SEC’s SAB 121 should be subject to congressional review, says GAO


    On October 31, the GAO opined that the SEC’s Staff Accounting Bulletin 121 (SAB 121) is a rule, and thus the SEC was required to submit it for congressional review. SAB 121 describes how SEC staff would expect entities to account for and disclose their custodial obligations for engaging in crypto-asset services, noting that crypto companies may have to present such obligations as a liability on their balance sheets. The GAO found that SAB 121 provides interpretive guidance, but the SEC failed to submit a report as required under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) before a rule can take effect.

    The GAO’s opinion notes that the SEC maintains a different position than the GAO on the nature of SAB 121, arguing that SAB 121 is not a rule (and thus subject to CRA review), but instead is “guidance” indicating “how the Office of the Chief Accountant and the Division of Corporation Finance would recommend that the agency act,” and is not an agency statement from the full Commission. However, the GAO’s found that “[SAB 121] is a statement made by the SEC,” and that “a statement issued by a subset of the agency may still constitute an agency statement for CRA purposes.”

    Securities GAO CRA Congress

  • Request for GAO examination of agencies’ role in Basel III endgame proposal

    Federal Issues

    The Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry (R-NC), and Representative Andy Barr (R-KY), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Monetary Policy, sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting the GAO to “examine the role U.S. federal banking agencies played in work at the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to develop the recent Basel III Endgame proposal, which calls for massive increases in capital requirements for already well-capitalized U.S. financial institutions.”

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, the federal banking agencies issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would substantially revise the capital requirements of large U.S. banking organizations. According to the letter, Congress has very little insight into the basis of such policy changes that “would fundamentally change the policy of the U.S. banking system.”

    The letter requests the GAO to evaluate each federal banking agency’s participation in the development of Basel III Endgame. GAO’s evaluation should include: (i) a summary of each material proposal submitted by a federal banking agency to the Basel Committee; and (ii) a summary of concerns raised by a federal banking agency with respect to a consultative document or other proposal considered by the Basel Committee.

    Further, the letter requests the GAO prioritize each proposal or concern from the federal banking agencies related to:

    • Any proposals or concerns from the federal banking agencies that did not receive a fulsome response by the Basel Committee.
    • Any evidence or rationale supporting the requirement that a “corporate entity (or parent) must have securities outstanding on a recognized securities exchange for an exposure to that entity (or parent) to be eligible for the reduced risk weight for investment-grade corporate exposures;”
    • The absence of a tailored approach to “high-fee revenue banks under the Basel III Endgame business-indicator approach to operational risk capital”;
    • The calibration of the “scaling factor, multiplier, dampener, and other coefficients for that business-indicator approach”; and
    • The calibration of the “correlation factors and the profit-and-loss attribution test thresholds for the models-based measure of market risk capital.”

    Federal Issues GAO Congress Capital Requirements FDIC OCC Compliance Basel Committee


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