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On December 7, the CFPB announced a consent order against a Virginia-based bank, alleging it engaged in deceptive acts and practices and failed to comply with Regulation E. According to the CFPB, the bank did not comply with Regulation E because it did not provide appropriate written disclosures before enrolling customers in its overdraft service and imposing overdraft fees. The CFPB alleged that under the bank’s procedures, branch employees would provide oral disclosures and obtain oral consent but did not provide customers with the required written consent form under Regulation E until the end of the account-opening process. According to the CFPB, while the bank changed its practices partway through the period covered by the consent order, the disclosures it provided were still inadequate. The bank allegedly “requested that new customers orally specify their enrollment decision before providing them with adequate written notice describing the [opt-in] service,” which thereby allegedly breached the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.
The CFPB also alleged the bank committed deceptive actions or practices when marketing opt-in overdraft services to consumers via telephone. Specifically, the CFPB alleged that the bank did not provide its customer service representatives with a script, which resulted in representatives failing to clearly differentiate between transactions covered by the bank’s standard versus its opt-in overdraft protection service. The CFPB asserted that these statements qualified as “representations and omissions of key information were likely to mislead consumers,” and that as a result, the Bank did not comply with the CFPA and Regulation E.
The consent order imposes a $1.2 million civil money penalty and requires the bank to refund at least $5 million to affected consumers. The consent order also requires the bank to obtain a new overdraft enrollment decision from affected consumers before charging overdraft fees. Moreover, the bank must also create and implement a comprehensive compliance plan to ensure its overdraft program complies with all applicable laws. Finally, the consent order requires the bank to monitor compliance, maintain records, and inform the CFPB of any changes or developments that could impact its compliance responsibilities in the consent order.
CFPB obtains stipulated judgment ordering student financing company to pay over $30 million in damages
On November 20, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware entered a stipulated judgment in favor of the CFPB and 11 other state enforcement agencies in connection with an adversary proceeding against a vocational training program. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the complaint alleged that the education firm (company) engaged in deceptive practices by misrepresenting its income share agreement as not a loan and not debt, and misleading borrowers into believing that no payments would need to be made until they received a job offer. According to the CFPB, the company trained consumers to become sales development representatives, an entry-level role that requires “little or no prior sales experience or training,” and made promises it could not deliver on, such as promising a “6-figure” career in software sales. The company also initially priced its services at $2,500 in 2018, and then increased it to $15,000 the following year without any value justification. The company would recoup its payment through income share agreements (ISA). The CFPB alleged multiple causes of action against the company, including violations of the CFPA, TILA, and the FDCPA, among others. The stipulated judgment includes orders requiring the company to refund student borrowers, cancel outstanding loans, and permanently shut down.
On November 8, the CFPB announced an enforcement action against a large bank for allegedly discriminating against credit card applicants of Armenian descent. According to the consent order, from at least 2015-2021, respondent allegedly engaged in discriminatory practices that involved denying credit applications and providing false reasons for denials to credit applicants based on their national origin. Respondent’s supervisors also allegedly instructed employees not to discuss these practices in writing or on recorded phone lines. Respondent will pay $1.4 million to affected consumers and a $24.5 million civil money penalty. The CFPB found that respondent violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and its implementing Regulation B by unlawfully denying credit based on national origin stereotypes, as well as the CFPA.
On October 17, the CFPB announced an enforcement action against a nonbank international money transfer provider for alleged deceptive practices and illegal consumer waivers. According to the consent order, the company facilitated remittance transfers through its app that required consumers to sign a “remittance services agreement,” which included a clause protecting the company from liability for negligence over $1,000. The Bureau alleged that such waiver violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and its implementing Regulation E, including Subpart B, known as the Remittance Transfer Rule, by (i) requiring consumers sign an improper limited liability clause to waive their rights; (ii) failing to provide contact and cancellation information in disclosures, and other required terms; (iii) failing to provide a timely receipt when payment is made for a transfer; (iv) failing to develop and maintain required policies and procedures for error resolution; (v) failing to investigate and determine whether an error occurred, possibly preventing consumers from receiving refunds or other remedies they were entitled to; and (vi) failing to accurately disclose exchange rates and the date of fund availability. The CFPB further alleged that the company’s representations regarding the speed (“instantly” or “within seconds”) and cost (“with no fees”) of its remittance transfers to consumers were inaccurate and constituted violations of CFPA. The order requires the company to pay a $1.5 million civil money penalty and provide an additional $1.5 in consumer redress. The company must also take measures to ensure future compliance.
On October 10, the CFPB filed a lawsuit against a Florida-based nonbank mortgage originator for allegedly failing to accurately report mortgage data in violation of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). According to the complaint, in 2019 the Bureau found that the lender violated HDMA by intentionally misreporting data regarding applicants’ race, ethnicity and gender from 2014-2017, which resulted in the lender paying a civil money penalty and taking corrective action. In this action, the Bureau alleges that during its supervision process, it found the lender submitted HMDA data for 2020 contained “widespread errors across multiple data fields” including 51 errors in 159 files and the lender violated a 2019 consent order condition that required it to improve its data practices. The alleged errors include (i) mistakes in inputting data concerning subordinate lien loans and acquired loans; (ii) inclusion of loans in HMDA reporting that did not meet the HMDA criteria for reportable applications; (iii) incorrect characterization of purchaser type for tens of thousands of loans; (iv) erroneous rate spread calculations, leading to errors in interconnected fields; (iv) inaccurate data related to lender credits; and (v) incorrect categorization of specific loan applications as “approved but not accepted” when they were, in fact, withdrawn, resulting in discrepancies in associated fields. Along with the HDMA violations and the violations of the 2019 consent order, the CFPB also alleges violations of the CFPA and requests that the court permanently enjoin the lender from committing future violations of HMDA, require the lender to take corrective action to prevent further violations of HMDA, injunctive relief, and the imposition of a civil money penalty.
On September 19, the CFPB published a recent decision and order denying the petition of one of the nation’s largest private student loan servicers to set aside the CFPB’s civil investigative demand (CID) in connection with its investigation into potential violations of the CFPA’s prohibition of unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices for attempting to collect on loans that had been previously discharged in bankruptcy. The order instructs the servicer to “comply in full” with the requests for documents and information set forth in the Bureau’s June 2023 CID.
The servicer objected to the CFPB’s investigation, arguing, among other things, that the Bureau lacks authority to enforce the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The servicer also argued that the Bankruptcy Code displaces the CFPA if the reason a debt is not owed is due to a bankruptcy discharge.
The Bureau rejected the servicer’s arguments, stating “[t]he Bureau seeks to determine whether a student loan servicer violated the prohibition on unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices not just by making individual attempts to collect discharged debts from individual debtors, but also, more globally, by having no policies and procedures in place to determine whether loans in the servicer’s portfolio are dischargeable in bankruptcy via standard bankruptcy orders, a practice that could put entire populations of borrowers at risk of harmful and unlawful collection efforts.” It went on to say “[t]he bureau does not seek to investigate potential violations of the Bankruptcy Code, but rather potential violations of the CFPA.” The CFPB also noted that courts have “repeatedly held that the Bureau can bring CFPA claims based on companies’ attempts to collect debts that consumers do not owe due to the impact of some other statute.”
On September 11, the CFPB issued a consent order against an Ohio-based nonbank consumer finance company (respondent), for deceptive practices related to consumer leasing agreements. The CFPB, along with 41 states and the District of Columbia, addressed respondent’s conduct in a parallel multi-state settlement. According to the consent order, respondent, operating through major retailers, allegedly concealed contract terms and costs from consumers, leading them to unknowingly enter into costly leasing agreements. The Bureau claims that deceptive practices left consumers unable to return products and burdened with unexpectedly high payments, violating the CFPA and Regulation M, implementing the Consumer Leasing Act.
The consent order states that respondent concealed lease agreement terms, often providing consumers with copies of the agreements after transactions or relying on verbal descriptions from store employees. Consumers were also allegedly trapped by unreasonable return practices, as respondent did not accept returns for many items, forcing consumers to pay excessively high prices. Additionally, the CFPB claimed respondent failed to provide legally required disclosures, leading to revenues of approximately $192 million from around 325,000 consumers.
As a result of the consent order, respondent is permanently prohibited from offering consumer leases and is required to close all outstanding consumer accounts. Consumers will be allowed to keep leased merchandise without further payment, amounting to approximately $33.6 million in released payments. Respondent must also pay a $2 million penalty, with $1 million going to the CFPB's victims’ relief fund and the remaining $1 million allocated to the participating states.
The CFPB's director, Rohit Chopra, emphasized the significance of the order, stating that it permanently bans respondent from engaging in such agreements. The alleged deceptive practices, which occurred from January 1, 2015 to the present, and allegedly affected over 1.8 million consumers who entered into financial agreements with the company covering a wide range of items, from auto parts to furniture and jewelry. Respondent neither admitted nor denied the CFPB’s claims.
On August 28, the CFPB announced a proposed settlement with Utah-based credit repair telemarketers and various affiliates (collectively, "defendants") for allegedly committing deceptive acts and practices in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by collecting illegal advance fees. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in its initial lawsuit the CFPB alleged the defendants requested and received payment of “prohibited” upfront fees for telemarketed credit repair services when they signed up. In June, a district court ruling put a hold on the Bureau’s initial attempt to impose the settlement because of “outstanding issues of fact” which precluded it from entering the agency’s requested relief at that time (covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau and defendants have now agreed to a new settlement which will, among other things, (i) impose over $2.7 billion in redress (understanding that the principal corporate defendant is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings); (ii) impose over $64 million in civil money penalties; (iii) ban defendants from telemarketing and from doing business with certain marketing affiliates for ten years; and (iv) require defendants to send a notice of the settlement to “any remaining enrolled customers who were previously signed up through telemarketing.”
The proposed settlement is subject to final approval by the court.
On August 22, the CFPB announced it is suing a lending company and its subsidiaries that provide installment loans as a refinance option to consumers who have difficulty paying their existing loans. According to the complaint, the Bureau claims that through an array of underwriting, sales, and servicing practices, the company would encourage consumers with limited loan options to repeatedly refinance their existing loans, securing fees with each successful round of refinancing. The CFPB alleges the company and its subsidiaries generated over 40 percent of its net revenue through the loan costs and fees it derived from “churning” consumers in repeated refinances. The complaint includes details of the sales tactics, and how a district supervisor “plainly tells their employees that if they don’t refinance their delinquent customers, they’re not going to meet their monthly growth goals.” In addition, the company allegedly marketed the option to refinance existing loans as a “fresh start” and “solution” to their problems. The Bureau alleges that the company violated CFPA and engaged in unfair and abusive acts and practices.
The Bureau seeks redress for consumers, injunctive relief, and a civil money penalty.
On August 7, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a defendant’s motion to stay a lawsuit against an alleged predatory auto lender until the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of the CFPB’s funding in a separate lawsuit (CFSA Case; covered by InfoBytes here).
The CFPB and the New York Attorney General (AG) brought the complaint in January, accusing the lender of UDAAP and TILA violations that involved tricking consumers into loans financing used cars with high interest rates (typically above 22 percent) and add-on products they could not afford. The CFPB and AG alleged the dealers affiliated with the company (i) engaged in deceptive conduct; (ii) used high pressures sales tactics; (iii) pressured consumers into unaffordable auto loans; (iv) pressured family and friends to cosign the loans; (v) withheld prices of vehicles; and (vi) misrepresented key financial terms of the purchase, violating the CFPB, the Martin Act, and fraud and UDAP statutes, among other allegations.
In its decision, the district court reasoned that the stay awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision would (i) allow for clarity and guidance on the legal issues at hand and it may help the defendant avoid unnecessary litigation costs; and (ii) promote judicial efficiency and minimize the possibility of conflicts with other courts. Furthermore, the court determined that although it would be in the public interest to enforce consumer protection laws, the potential harm to the public caused by the stay is outweighed by the benefit to consumers “in proceeding in a streamlined fashion.” The order requires the parties to file a joint letter updating the court by the earlier of November 3 or one week after a major development in the CFSA case.