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On November 13, the CFPB and the Fed released updated dollar thresholds for whether certain credit and lease transactions are subject to Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) and Regulation M (Consumer Leasing) requirements for 2024. The thresholds for both regulations were increased from $66,400 to $69,500, an increase of 4.6 percent. Transactions at or below the 2024 threshold of $69,500 will be “subject to the protections of the regulations.” The CFPB derives its thresholds from the June 1, 2023, report on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earnings and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The thresholds for 2023 were previously increased at a rate of 8.8 percent, a larger increase given the rate of inflation during the previous year.
On July 12, the CFPB and the State of Maine filed an amicus brief in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court arguing that determining whether a loan is covered by TILA requires an assessment of the borrower’s primary purpose in entering into the transaction. The action involves a couple who obtained a loan from the bank to purchase land for the construction of a home. Due to the 2008 financial crisis, the value of the property depreciated, resulting in insufficient proceeds from the sale of the home to fully pay off the loan. To cover the shortfall, the couple acquired a new loan from the bank and used a cabin they owned as collateral. When the loan’s term ended, the couple defaulted after being unable to make the required balloon payment. The bank sued, seeking to take possession of the cabin. At trial, the couple attempted to present evidence that the bank had not provided them with certain necessary disclosures mandated by TILA and did not assess their ability to repay the loan. The couple maintained “that the bank’s liability under TILA fully offset the amount they owed to the bank under the loan.” The court determined, however, that since the loan documents indicated a commercial purpose, TILA did not apply.
The couple attempted to introduce extrinsic evidence to show that even though the loan was labeled “commercial,” it was actually used for personal, family, or household purposes and therefore was a covered consumer loan. The court relied on a case (Bordetsky v. JAK Realty Trust) holding that, for purposes of determining the applicability of Maine’s notice of default statute for residential real estate foreclosures, “courts should not look to extrinsic evidence to determine whether the loan had a commercial or consumer purpose if the loan document states on its face that the loan has a commercial purpose.”
The brief explained that TILA generally applies to consumer loans (i.e., loans that are primarily for a personal, family, or household purpose) but not to loans made for a commercial purpose, and that the Maine Consumer Credit Code fully incorporates TILA. The brief argued that the borrower’s primary purpose for obtaining the loan should determine whether TILA and the Maine Consumer Credit Code apply, and presented three arguments as to why the trial court erred in concluding that TILA is not applicable on the sole basis that the loan is labeled as a “commercial loan.” First, statutory text provides that a loan is generally covered by TILA if a borrower obtained the loan primarily for a family, personal or household purpose. TILA “requires a substantive and fact-intensive inquiry into the reasons why the borrower entered into the transaction,” the brief explained. Second, judicial precedent has established that “determining whether a loan has a covered purpose requires looking beyond the four corners of the contract.” The trial court erred in relying on Bordetsky because it pertains to a different Maine statute and does not address the judicial precedent or administrative guidance that govern TILA coverage, the brief said. Finally, permitting creditors to evade TILA by labeling a loan as “commercial” is at odds with TILA’s remedial purpose, the brief maintained.
“Why the consumer borrowed the money—not the label that the company sticks on the loan—determines whether the loan is covered by the law,” Seth Frotman, general counsel and senior advisor to the CFPB director, said in a blog post.
On May 24, Minnesota enacted SF 2744 (the “Act”) to amend several sections of the state statutes relating to payday loans. Among other things, Section 47.603 has been added to create barriers for payday lenders charging annual interest rates of more than 36 percent and to require payday lenders to assess the borrower’s ability to repay a payday loan or payday advance.
The provisions specify an ability to repay analysis, which requires a payday lender to first determine whether a borrower has the ability to make the loan payment at the end of the loan period. The Act further explains that a “payday lender’s ability to repay determination is reasonable if, based on the calculated debt-to-income ratio for the loan period, the borrower can make payments for all major financial obligations, make all payments under the loan, and meet basic living expenses during the period ending 30 days after repayment of the loan.” Additionally, amendments replace past provisions for charges in lieu of interest, with an umbrella policy for any consumer small loan with an annual percentage rate of up to 50 percent that bans lenders from adding any additional charges or payments in connection with the loan.
The amendments will apply to “consumer small loans” and “consumer short-term loans,” as defined by the Act, originated on or after January 1, 2024.
On June 6, the Colorado governor signed HB 23-1229 (the “Act”) to amend the state’s Uniform Consumer Credit Code (UCCC). Specifically, Colorado has invoked its right under the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (DIDMCA) to opt out of a provision that allows state-chartered banks to preempt state interest rates applicable to consumer credit transactions. Sections 521-523 of DIDMCA currently allow state-chartered banks to charge the interest allowed by the state where they are located, regardless of where the borrower is located and regardless of conflicting out-of-state law. Section 525, however, provides states with the authority to opt out of these sections.
Modifications to the UCCC impact requirements for alternative charges for loans not exceeding $1,000, and include the following changes:
- Reduces the permissible acquisition charge on the original loan or any refinanced loan from 10 to eight percent of the amount financed;
- Reduces permissible monthly installment account handling charges based on categories of the amount financed;
- Increases the minimum loan term from 90 days to six months;
- Removes the ability for a lender to charge a delinquency charge on a loan;
- Amends provisions relating to the conditions upon which an acquisition charge must be refunded to a consumer; and
- Limits the number of times a lender can refinance a consumer loan to once a year.
The amendments take effect July 1, 2024, and only apply to consumer credit transactions made after that date.
Minnesota enacts small-dollar consumer lending and money transmitter amendments; Georgia and Nevada also enact money transmission provisions
On May 24, the Minnesota governor signed SF 2744 to amend several state statutes relating to financial institutions, including provisions concerning small-dollar, short-term consumer lending, payday lending, and money transmitter requirements. Changes to the statutes governing consumer small loans and consumer short-term loans amend the definition of “annual percentage rate” (APR) to include “all interest, finance charges, and fees,” as well as the definition of a “consumer short-term loan” to mean a loan with a principal amount or an advance on a credit limit of $1,300 (previously $1,000). The amendments outline certain prohibited actions and also cap the permissible APR on a loan at no more than 50 percent and stipulate that lenders are not permitted to add other charges or payments in connection with these loans. The changes apply to loans originated on or after January 1, 2024. The amendments also make several modifications to provisions relating to payday loans with APRs exceeding 36 percent, including requirements for conducting an ability to repay analysis. These provisions are effective January 1, 2024.
Several new provisions relating to the regulation and licensing of money transmitters are also outlined within the amendments. New definitions and exemptions are provided, as well implementation instructions that provide the state commissioner authority to “enter into agreements or relationships with other government officials or federal and state regulatory agencies and regulatory associations in order to (i) improve efficiencies and reduce regulatory burden by standardizing methods or procedures, and (ii) share resources, records, or related information obtained under this chapter.” The commissioner may also accept licensing, examination, or investigation reports, as well as audit reports, made by other state or federal government agencies. To efficiently minimize regulatory burden, the commissioner is authorized to participate in multistate supervisory processes coordinated through the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), the Money Transmitter Regulators Association, and others, for all licensees that hold licenses in the state of Minnesota and other states. Additionally, the commissioner has enforcement, examination, and supervision authority, may adopt implementing regulations, and may recover costs and fees associated with applications, examinations, investigations, and other related actions. The commissioner may also participate in joint examinations or investigations with other states.
With respect to the licensing provisions, the amendments state that a “person is prohibited from engaging in the business of money transmission, or advertising, soliciting, or representing that the person provides money transmission, unless the person is licensed under this chapter” or is a licensee’s authorized delegate or exempt. Licenses are not transferable or assignable. The commissioner may establish relationships or contracts with the Nationwide Multi-State Licensing System and Registry and participate in nationwide protocols for licensing cooperation and coordination among state regulators if the protocols are consistent with the outlined provisions. The amendments also outline numerous licensing application and renewal procedures including net worth and surety bond, as well as permissible investment requirements.
The same day, the Nevada governor signed AB 21 to revise certain provisions relating to the licensing and regulation of money transmitters in the state. The amendments generally revise and repeal various statutory provisions to establish a process for governing persons engaged in the business of money transmission that is modeled after the Model Money Transmission Modernization Act approved by the CSBS. Like Minnesota, the commissioner may participate in multistate supervisory processes and information sharing with other state and federal regulators. The commissioner also has expanded examination and enforcement authority over licensees. The Act is effective July 1.
Additionally, the Georgia governor signed HB 55 earlier in May to amend provisions relating to the licensing of money transmitters (and to merge provisions related to licensing of sellers of payment instruments). The Act addresses licensee requirements and prohibited activities, outlines exemptions, and provides that applications pending as of July 1, “for a seller of payment instruments license shall be deemed to be an application for a money transmitter license as of that date.” Notably, should a license be suspended, revoked, surrendered, or expired, the licensee must, “within five business days, provide documentation to the department demonstrating that the licensee has notified all applicable authorized agents whose names are on record with the department of the suspension, revocation, surrender, or expiration of the license.” The Act is also effective July 1.
On May 15, the Pennsylvania attorney general announced a $11.4 million settlement with a rent-to-own lender and its subsidiaries accused of engaging in predatory practices targeting low-income borrowers and employing deceptive collection practices. According to the AG, the lender disguised one-year rent-to-own agreements as “100-Day Cash Payoffs” and then concealed the balances owed. The AG maintained that consumers were locked into binding 12-month agreements that included high leasing fees (equal to 152 percent APR interest). The AG explained that consumers entitled to restitution and relief “had already satisfied the cash price, the sales tax on the cash price, and the processing fees associated with their purchase – yet still owed [the lender] a balance.” Additionally, the AG accused the lender of using a web-based portal for creating and signing contracts, which made it easy for persons other than the consumer to sign the agreements.
The order requires the lender to pay $7.3 million in restitution that will be distributed to affected consumers, $200,000 in civil penalties, and $750,000 in costs to be paid to the AG to be used for public protection and education purposes. Additionally, the lender is required to reduce the balances of delinquent lease-to-own accounts for certain rental purchase agreements, resulting in a $3.15 million aggregate reduction in balances. The lender has also agreed to, among other things, not represent or imply that failure to pay a debt owed or alleged to be owed “will result in the seizure, attachment or sale of any property that is the subject of the debt unless such action is lawful” or that the lender’s subsidiary intends to take such actions. The lender is also prohibited from collecting any amount, including interest, fees, charges, or expenses incidental to the principal obligation, unless the amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the obligation or permitted by law. Furthermore, the lender’s subsidiaries must clearly and conspicuously disclose customer balances during servicing calls and through a customer portal.
On May 17, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra announced that the agency is currently reviewing several of its rules and guidance documents in an effort to eliminate unnecessary complexities and create “more durable rules that don’t over-rely on single entities.” Chopra flagged issues related to the federal mortgage rules as an example of unnecessarily complex policies with a penchant for accommodating “dominant industry incumbents.” Last month, the Bureau announced a revised version of its methodology for calculating the average prime offer rates (APORs), which highlighted broader weaknesses resulting from single points of failure and a reliance on overly complicated benchmarks. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the methodology statement was revised to address the imminent unavailability of certain data that the Bureau previously relied on to calculate APORs, including changes made by Freddie Mac to its Primary Mortgage Market Survey used to calculate APORs for three types of loans. Noting that the Bureau has had other challenges relying on a single entity for calculating the APOR benchmark over the last decade, Chopra commented that “[n]o consumer protection rule should be designed so that its important protections are threatened by single points of failure or single sources.” He added that the revised APOR methodology further “highlighted the risks of relying on complicated reference rates that must be manually constructed rather than potentially more robust market-based measures that stand on their own.”
The CFPB recently denied a lender’s request to set aside or modify a civil investigative demand (CID) issued in January related to its short-term and small-dollar lending practices. The lender’s redacted petition asserted that it “is a small business that is barely getting by” and that it has already provided documents and information, as well as corporate testimony from the lender’s CEO/chief compliance officer. Maintaining that the CID is overly broad, unduly burdensome, and contains “many deficiencies,” the lender stated that requests made to the Bureau to withdraw the CID, narrow its focus, or raise specific concerns have not been answered. Rather, the lender claimed it was expected to incur further expenses to comply with requests that “it cannot be expected to make sense of” and that “would almost certainly result in financial ruin.”
In denying the request, the Bureau stated that the lender did not meaningfully engage in the required meet-and-confer process, and informed the lender that, by regulation, it “will not consider a petition to set aside a CID where the petitioner does not first attempt to resolve any objections it has through good-faith negotiation with the Bureau’s investigators.” According to the Bureau, during the meet-and-confer, the lender refused to submit requested information and did not propose any modifications to the CID that would reduce the burden while still ensuring the necessary information would be provided. The Bureau also refuted the lender’s claims that the CID was overly broad, stating that it was seeking information that was “reasonably relevant” to a lawful purpose, i.e. information about its business practices as a short-term and small-dollar lender, employees in possession of relevant information, employee performance metrics, and consumers who took out loans. Obtaining information on the lender’s servicing and collection practices will “shed light on whether the representations it made about the nature and true costs of the loans were deceptive and whether the company improperly induced consumers to renew loans,” the Bureau maintained. The Bureau also disagreed with the assertion that the CID was unduly burdensome, stating that the lender, among other things, failed to establish that complying with the CID would impose excessive financial costs.
The Bureau directed the lender to comply with the CID within 14 days of the order.
On April 14, the CPFB announced a revised version of its Methodology for Determining Average Prime Offer Rates (APORs). APORs are a series of benchmark APRs derived from the average interest rates and other loan pricing terms currently offered to consumers by a representative sample of creditors for mortgage loans with low-risk pricing characteristics. APORs are used to determine whether a particular loan is a “Qualified Mortgage” or a “Higher-Priced Mortgage Loan,” which determines the treatment of that loan under various consumer protection laws.
The methodology statement has been revised to address the imminent unavailability of certain data the CFPB previously relied on to calculate APORs. Specifically, Freddie Mac recently made changes to its Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) used to calculate APORs for three types of loans. These changes make the PMMS unsuitable to be used in the APOR calculations. The CFPB is replacing data from the PMMS with data from ICE Mortgage Technology. This change also requires the CFPB to change certain of the product types for which APORs are produced. The CFPB will begin using ICE Mortgage Technology data and the revised methodology to calculate APORs on April 21, 2023.
We note that the CFPB is not changing the frequency of the APOR calculations, which will still be calculated on a weekly basis. These changes will therefore not address industry concerns that the APORs can be as much as seven days old, which can result in the APORs being significantly different than the actual market rates on a given day. This dissonance can lead to significant issues during periods where interest rates rise rapidly as we saw during much of 2022.
On March 29, Kentucky enacted SB 165 to amend Kentucky code to modify permitted loan charges for consumer loan companies. Specifically, licensees may make loans up to $15,000, excluding charges; however, the original principal amount determines how much a licensee may charge, contract for, and receive on a loan. For loans with an original principal amount under $5,000, a licensee may charge up to 3 percent per month on the original principal of the loan, as well as on any charges, including fees, costs, expenses, or other amounts authorized by the act on the loan contract. Licensees may charge 2.42 percent on loans between $5,000 and $10,000, and 2.25 percent on loans exceeding $10,000. Additionally, every loan payment may now “be applied to the face amount of the note until the loan contract is paid in full.” The amendments also stipulate that a licensee is not allowed to “induce or permit a person to become obligated to the licensee, directly or contingently, or both under any loan contract entered into within  days of the origination of another loan contract with the same person for the purpose or with the result of obtaining charges.” Moreover, should a licensee make a second or subsequent loan to a person outside of the 10-day period, “the licensee shall not be required to limit the loan charges to the aggregate amount of what the loans combined would dictate under this subtitle.” For borrowers that request loan funding in a manner other than a physical check, a licensee may charge a $3 funding fee per loan for distributing the proceeds in the manner requested by the borrower. The amendments are effective 90 days after adjournment of the legislature.