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OCC issues final rule allowing certain federal savings associations to operate with national bank powers
On May 24, the OCC issued a final rule, which establishes standards permitting federal savings associations with total consolidated assets of $20 billion or less as of December 31, 2017, to elect to operate as “covered savings associations,” with the rights and privileges of national banks. The final rule—issued pursuant to section 206 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which amended the Home Owners’ Loan Act (HOLA)—provides that associations who choose this election will retain their federal savings association charters and existing governance frameworks, and will generally be subject to the same duties, restrictions, penalties, liabilities, conditions, and limitations that apply to national banks. Among other things, the final rule also states that “a covered savings association may continue to operate as a covered savings association if, after the effective date of the election, it has total consolidated assets greater than $20 billion.” The final rule takes effect July 1.
On May 22, the FTC published a final rule in the Federal Register rescinding model forms and disclosures promulgated pursuant to the FCRA. The FTC has determined the model forms and disclosures are no longer necessary and the rescission would reduce confusion as the CFPB’s FCRA model forms and disclosures were updated in 2018. Specifically, the final rule rescinds: (i) Appendix A—Model Prescreen Opt-Out Notices; (ii) Appendix D—Standardized Form for Requesting Annual File Disclosures; (iii) Appendix E—Summary of Identity Theft Rights; (iv) Appendix F—General Summary of Consumer Rights; (v) Appendix G—Notice of Furnisher Responsibilities; and (vi) Appendix H—Notice of User Responsibilities. The final rule also makes conforming amendments to FTC rules that reference the applicable forms issued under the FCRA. The rule is effective May 22.
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 May 16, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy held a hearing to examine the CFPB’s proposal to repeal parts of its “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the proposed repeal here.) Thomas Pahl, Policy Associate Director of the Research, Markets and Regulations Division at the Bureau, testified on the Bureau’s rulemaking and its position on the Rule. Committee Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) opened the hearing by discussing the Bureau’s five years of research on the payday loan industry, which resulted in the issuance of the Rule in 2017. Krishnamoorthi claimed that Americans overwhelmingly support the requirement that lenders must determine a borrower’s ability to repay before making payday, title, and other high-cost installment loans, and provided an example of a consumer’s experience in this industry.
In his opening remarks, Pahl stressed that a complete picture of the Bureau’s activities concerning payday lenders requires understanding the use of the CFPB’s range of tools provided under the Dodd-Frank Act, such as its (i) consumer financial education initiatives; (ii) supervision of payday lenders to ensure compliance with federal statutes and regulations; and (iii) enforcement actions that target bad actors. Pahl emphasized that enforcement remains a key part of the Bureau’s consumer protection efforts, and highlighted five consent orders as well as two final judgments obtained against payday lenders. According to Pahl, the “payday loan cases are a testament to the agency’s commitment to use its enforcement tool to take decisive action against wrongdoers and send a clear message to the marketplace that should deter unlawful behavior and support a level playing field.” Pahl next discussed the Rule, stating that the Mandatory Underwriting Provisions rest on a determination that it is an unfair and abusive practice 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. According to Pahl, the Bureau found that these provisions would lead to a decrease in the number of payday loans of between 51 and 52 percent (short-term vehicle title loans would decrease between 89 and 93 percent) and a decrease in revenue of between 67 and 68 percent, resulting in a contraction in the number of payday and vehicle title lenders. Pahl discussed the Bureau’s February 6 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), which sought comments on repealing the ability-to-repay provision (see InfoBytes coverage here), since the Bureau “has come to have serious doubts as to whether the appropriate legal standards were applied and whether the evidence was sufficiently robust and reliable to support the Bureau's determination that small dollar lenders engage in an unfair or abusive act or practice if they make loans without making a reasonable determination that consumers can repay them.” A second NPRM was issued the same day to delay the Rule’s compliance date, and Pahl commented that the Bureau has begun to evaluate the comments received on both NPRMs.
During the hearing, Krishnamoorthi also questioned Pahl as to whether there is a threshold at which point an interest rate on a payday loan would be considered unfair and abusive or unconscionable. Pahl responded that the Dodd-Frank Act prohibits the Bureau from imposing any usury requirements and that “unconscionability is a matter of state law traditionally.”
On May 15, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced the renewal of its Geographic Targeting Order (GTO), which requires U.S. title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind shell companies that pay “all cash” (i.e., the transaction does not involve external financing) for high-end residential real estate in 12 major metropolitan areas. The purchase amount threshold for the beneficial ownership reporting requirement remains set at $300,000 for residential real estate purchased in the 12 covered areas.
The renewed GTO takes effect May 16, and covers certain counties within the following areas: Boston; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; New York City; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; and Seattle.
FinCEN FAQs regarding GTOs are available here.
Previous InfoBytes coverage on FinCEN GTOs available here.
On May 13, the CFPB announced a plan to review its regulations under Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which specifies that agencies should review certain rules within 10 years of their publication, consider the rules’ effect on small businesses, and invite public comment on each rule undergoing the review. The announcement notes that RFA requires an agency to consider multiple factors when reviewing a rule, including (i) whether there is a continued need for the rule; (ii) the complexity of the rule; (iii) whether the rule overlaps, duplicates, or conflicts with federal, state, or other rules; and (iv) the degree to which factors, such as technology and economic conditions, have changed the relevant market since the rule was evaluated. Comments will be due within 60 days of the plan’s publication in the Federal Register.
The CFPB also announced that its first RFA review will be of the 2009 Overdraft Rule (Rule), which was originally issued by the Federal Reserve Board and limits the ability of financial institutions to assess overdraft fees for ATM and one-time debit card transactions that overdraw consumers’ accounts. The Bureau is seeking public comment on the economic impact of the Rule on small entities, including requesting feedback on topics such as (i) the impacts of the reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of the Rule; and (ii) how the Bureau could reduce the costs associated with the Rule for small entities. Comments on the economic impact of the Rule will be due within 45 days of publication in the Federal Register.
On May 6, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued Regulatory Notice 19-18, which provides guidance to member firms regarding suspicious activity monitoring and reporting obligations under FINRA’s Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Program. Specifically, the Notice is intended to assist broker-dealers with their existing obligations under Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) requirements by providing a list of “money laundering red flags,” augmenting the red flags list from the 2002 Notice to Members 02-21 with additional red flags published by a number of U.S. government agencies and international organizations. The guidance lists potential red flags in a number of categories, including (i) customer due diligence and interactions with customers; (ii) deposits of securities; (iii) securities trading; (iv) money movements; and (v) insurance products. The Notice emphasizes that the list of 97 red flags “is not an exhaustive list and does not guarantee compliance with AML program requirements or provide a safe harbor from regulatory responsibility,” but rather provides examples for firms to consider incorporating into their AML programs, as may be appropriate in implementing a risk-based approach to BSA/AML compliance. The Notice also reminds firms to be aware of emerging areas of risk, such as those associated with activity in digital assets.
On May 7, the OCC announced an update to the RESPA booklet of the Comptroller’s Handbook. Among other things, the revisions to the booklet reflect updates to Regulation X made by the CFPB in recent years, including (i) the establishment and implementation of a definition of “successor in interest;” (ii) compliance with certain servicing requirements when a person is a debtor in bankruptcy; and (iii) clarifications and revisions to the provisions regarding force-placed insurance notices, policy and procedure requirements, and early intervention and loss mitigation requirements.
On May 7, the DOJ (or the “Department”) announced the release of formal guidance to the Department’s False Claims Act (FCA) litigators, which explains how the DOJ awards credit to defendants who cooperate with the Department during a FCA investigation. Under the formal policy, which is located in Section 4-4.112 of the Justice Manual, cooperation credit in FCA cases may be earned by (i) voluntarily disclosing misconduct unknown to the government, which can be done even if the DOJ has already begun an investigation of other misconduct; (ii) cooperating in an ongoing investigation, such as by preserving documents beyond standard business or legal practices, identifying individuals who are aware of the relevant information or conduct, and facilitating review and evaluation of relevant data or information that requires access to special or proprietary technologies; or (iii) undertaking remedial measures in response to a violation, such as by implementing or improving an effective compliance program or appropriately disciplining or replacing those responsible for the misconduct.
The Department has discretion in awarding credit, which will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. With regard to voluntary disclosure or additional cooperation, the Department will consider (i) the timeliness and voluntariness of the assistance; (ii) the truthfulness, completeness, and reliability of any information or testimony provided; (iii) the nature and extent of the assistance; and (iv) the significance and usefulness of the cooperation to the government. Entities or individuals may quality for partial credit if they have “meaningfully assisted the government’s investigation by engaging in conduct qualifying for cooperation credit.” Most often, cooperation credit will take the form of a reduction in penalties or damages sought by the Department. However, the maximum credit that a defendant may earn may not exceed the amount that would result in the government receiving less than full compensation for the losses caused by the misconduct. In addition, the Department may consider in appropriate circumstances other forms of credit, including notifying a relevant agency about the defendant’s disclosure or other cooperation, publicly acknowledging such disclosure or cooperation, and assisting in resolving a qui tam litigation with a relator.
On May 7, the CFPB issued its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) amending Regulation F, to implement the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (the “Proposed Rule”). The Bureau also released a Fact Sheet on the Proposed Rule. The proposed effective date is one year after the final rule is published in the Federal Register, with comments on the Proposed Rule due 90 days after publication. Generally, the Proposed Rule covers debt collection communications and disclosures and addresses related practices by debt collectors. Highlights of the Proposed Rule include:
- Coverage. The Proposed Rule incorporates many existing provisions of the FDCPA into Regulation F including existing definitions of “debt collector” and “debt,” with only minor wording and organizational changes. The Proposed Rule would generally only cover third-party debt collectors, not the first-party efforts of the original creditor or its servicer, and specifically excludes in-house collectors of creditors (“[a]ny officer or employee of a creditor while the officer or employee is collecting debts for the creditor in the creditor’s name.”). The Proposed Rule restates the FDCPA’s definition of “consumer” but interprets the term to include “a deceased natural person who is obligated or allegedly obligated to pay a debt.” Additionally, with respect to the special definition of “consumer” for the section on communications in connection with debt collection, the Proposed Rule interprets that to include a confirmed successor in interest as well as the personal representative of a deceased consumer’s estate.
- Validation Notice. The Proposed Rule requires a debt collector to provide a consumer with a validation notice that includes certain information about the debt and the consumer’s rights with respect to the debt including: (i) the debt collector’s name and mailing address; (ii) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is currently owed and, for consumer financial product or service debt as defined in the Proposed Rule, the name of the creditor to whom the debt was owed on the itemization date; (iii) the itemization date and the amount of debt owed on that date; (iv) itemization of the current amount of the debt in a tabular format reflecting interest, fees, payments, and credits since the itemization date; (v) the current amount of the debt; (vi) if the debt is a credit card debt, the merchant brand, if any, associated with the debt, to the extent available to the debt collector; (vii) information about consumer protections; and (viii) consumer response information, including dispute prompts. The validation notice must also include the “debt collector communication disclosure” indicating the communication is for the purposes of collecting a debt.
- Disclosure Safe Harbor. Under the Proposed Rule, if a debt collector delivers in writing the Bureau’s Model Form B-3 validation notice, provided in appendix B to the Proposed Rule (available on pg. 491), it is considered to be in compliance with the validation notice requirements, though use of the model form is not required.
- Electronic Disclosures. The Proposed Rule would require debt collectors who provide required disclosures electronically to obtain the consumer’s affirmative consent directly to comply with Section 101(c) of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN Act). In the alternative, debt collectors can send the electronic disclosures to a particular email address or phone number (in the case of text messages), that the creditor or prior debt collector could have with regard to that debt in accordance with the E-SIGN Act. Additionally, the Bureau released a flow chart to clarify how a debt collector would provide certain required disclosures electronically.
- Conduct Provisions.
- Time and Place Restrictions. The Proposed Rule clarifies that calls to mobile telephones and electronic communications, such as emails and text messages, are subject to the FDCPA’s prohibition on communicating at times or places that the debt collector knows or should know are inconvenient to the consumer, subject to certain exceptions.
- Restriction on Number of Telephone Calls. With exceptions for certain types of calls (such as those responding to a consumer request for information or made with prior consent by the consumer given directly to the debt collector), the Proposed Rule prohibits a debt collector from calling a consumer about a particular debt more than seven times within a seven-day-period. The Proposed Rule also prohibits a debt collector from calling a consumer for seven consecutive days after having had a telephone conversation with the consumer regarding the debt, beginning with the date of the conversation. A debt collector who does not exceed the frequency limits is deemed in compliance with the FDCPA’s prohibition on harassment and the Dodd-Frank Act’s prohibition on unfair acts or practices as it relates to telephone calls.
- Text and Email Communications. The Proposed Rule does not contain a restriction on the frequency or number of communications a debt collector can make via email or text message. However, the Proposed Rule requires a debt collector to include—in emails, text messages and other electronic communications—an option for the consumer to unsubscribe from future such communications and would prohibit a debt collector from attempting to communication through a medium the consumer has requested the collector not use, including a particular phone number or email address. The Proposed Rule would prohibit a debt collector from contacting a consumer through a workplace email address (absent prior consent by the consumer or receipt by the debt collector of an email sent from the consumer’s work email account) or through a public-facing social media platform, except through the platform’s private message function.
- Limited-Content Messages. The Proposed Rule specifies certain content parameters for a “Limited-Content Message” that a debt collector could send by voicemail or text that would not be considered a “communication” and therefore, would not need to include the required disclosures. Additionally, if the limited-content message was heard or observed by a third party, it would not constitute a prohibited third-party disclosure.
- Other prohibitions. The Proposed Rule prohibits a debt collector from, among other things, (i) suing or threatening to sue on a time-barred debt; (ii) reporting debts to credit reporting agencies prior to initiating communications with the consumer; and (iii) selling, transferring or placing for collection a debt to another debt collector that the collector knows or should know has been paid or settled, discharged in bankruptcy, or relates to a filed identity theft report.
- APPROVED Webcast: Introducing Mogy — APPROVED’s licensing technology solution
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: Addressing prosecutions driven by hidden actors" at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers West Coast White Collar Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Mid-year policy update" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Keep off the grass: Mitigating the risks of banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Christopher M. Witeck and Moorari K. Shah to discuss "The latest in vendor management regulations" at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Buckley Webcast: Hot topics in debt collection — An analysis of recent federal FDCPA litigation
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "How to succeed in law school" at the SEO Law DC Panel Discussions
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Navigating the challenges of the latest data protection regulations and proven protocols for breach prevention and response" at the ACI National Forum on Consumer Finance Class Actions and Government Enforcement
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference