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CFPB Proposes Remittance Rule Amendments
On April 15, the CFPB issued a proposed rule and request for comment to extend a temporary exception to Regulation E’s requirement that remittance transfer providers disclose certain fees and exchange rates to consumers. Pursuant to Regulation E, as amended to implement section 1073 of the Dodd-Frank Act, insured depository institutions are permitted to estimate certain third-party fees and exchange rates in connection with a remittance transfer until July 21, 2015, provided the transfer is sent from the sender’s account with the institution, and the institution is unable to determine the exact amount of the fees and rates due to circumstances outside of the institution’s control. The CFPB is proposing to exercise its statutory authority to extend this exception for an additional five years, until July 21, 2020. The agency explained that, based on its outreach to insured institutions and consumer groups, allowing the initial temporary exception to lapse would negatively affect the ability of insured institutions to send remittance transfers. Comments on the proposed rule are due within 30 days of its publication in the Federal Register.
The proposed rule also includes several clarifications and technical corrections to the CFPB’s final remittance rule and official commentary, which were subsequently amended or delayed—including in August 2012 and January 2013—leading to a May 2013 revised final rule. In this latest round of proposed amendments, the CFPB is seeking to address concerns about the remittance rule’s applicability to U.S. military installations abroad. Because the rule does not expressly address transfers to such installations, the CFPB now seeks (i) comments on whether to treat locations on U.S. military installations abroad as being located within a State or a foreign country for the purposes of the rule, (ii) data on the relative number of transfers sent to and from individuals and/or accounts located on U.S. military installations abroad, and (iii) comments on the appropriateness of extending any clarification regarding U.S. military installations to other U.S. government installations abroad, such as U.S. diplomatic missions.
With respect to transfers from accounts (as defined under Regulation E), the CFPB is also proposing amendments to make clear that whether a transfer is for personal, family, or household purposes—and thus, whether the transfer could be a remittance transfer subject to the rule—is determined by ascertaining the purpose for which the account was established, rather than the purpose of the particular transfer. The proposed amendments would therefore clarify that the rule does not apply to, e.g., transfers from an account that was established as a business or commercial account or an account owned by a business entity. In addition, the proposed rule seeks to clarify that faxes are considered writings for purposes of the remittance rule, and that, in certain circumstances, a remittance transfer provider may give oral disclosures after receiving a written remittance inquiry from a consumer. The CFPB is also proposing to revise the rule’s error resolution requirements, including with regard to errors based on the sender’s provision of incorrect or insufficient information. Specifically, the proposed amendment would clarify that, where such errors occur, the remittance transfer provider may not deduct its own fee from the amount refunded or applied towards a new transfer.
CFPB Report, Field Hearing, Build Record For Changes To Payday Lending Market
On March 25, the CFPB released a report and held a field hearing on payday loans. Through both, the CFPB sought to expand the record on which it will formulate new rules to address its concerns about the payday lending market. Director Cordray indicated in his remarks at the field hearing that the CFPB is on the verge of initiating the public phase of a rulemaking.
The report—the first such “Data Point” report from the CFPB’s Office of Research—focuses on “loan sequences,” what the CFPB describes as “a series of loans taken out within 14 days of repayment of a prior loan.” The analysis was performed using the same data obtained from storefront payday lenders through the supervisory process and used by the CFPB in its prior analysis and report. Like the prior analysis, this latest analysis did not include online payday lending data. The CFPB acknowledges certain limitations of the data used, including that data collected from different lenders contain different levels of detail and that some lender data did not include default-related information. (Note that the CFSA challenged, under the Information Quality Act, the CFPB’s prior report and the data on which it relied. The CFPB rejected that challenge.)
The CFPB reports that over 80% of payday loans are rolled over or followed by another loan within 14 days. In addition, the CFPB’s report offers the following findings:
- State rollover restrictions: Same-day renewals are less frequent in states with mandated cooling-off periods, but 14-day renewal rates in states with cooling-off periods are nearly identical to states without such limitations.
- Sequence duration and volume: 36% of new loans end with loan being repaid; more than half of loans that are renewed are only renewed one time, but 22% of sequences extend for seven or more loans; 15% of new sequences are extended for 10 or more loans.
- Loan size and amortization: For more than 80% of the loan sequences that last for more than one loan, the last loan is the same size as or larger than the first loan in the sequence. Loan size is more likely to go up in longer loan sequences, and principal increases are associated with higher default rates.
- Loan usage: Monthly borrowers are disproportionately likely to stay in debt for 11 months or longer. Among new borrowers (i.e., those who did not have a payday loan at the beginning the year covered by the data), 22% of borrowers paid monthly averaged at least one loan per pay period. The majority of monthly borrowers are government benefits recipients. Most borrowing involves multiple renewals following an initial loan, rather than multiple distinct borrowing episodes separated by more than 14 days. Roughly half of new borrowers (48%) have one loan sequence during the year. Of borrowers who neither renewed nor defaulted during the year, 60% took out only one loan.
The Field Hearing
In remarks to open the hearing, Director Cordray offered his conclusion that “the business model of the payday industry depends on people becoming stuck in these loans for the long term, since almost half their business comes from people who are basically paying high-cost rent on the amount of their original loan.” He stated that the “fundamental problem is that too many borrowers cannot afford the debt they are taking on or at least cannot afford the size of the payments required by a payday loan.” He identified as a particular concern borrowers who receive monthly payments, including borrowers “who receive Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability or retirement benefits, are thus in serious danger of ensnaring themselves in a debt trap when they take out a payday loan.” Director Cordray suggested that state-mandated cooling off periods are insufficient to help consumers avoid these so-called debt traps.
Based on its payday lending supervisory program, the CFPB has concerns about the following payday practices: (i) inhibiting borrowers from using company payment plans that are intended to assist them when they have trouble repaying their outstanding loans; (ii) use of the electronic payment system in ways that pose risks to consumers; and (iii) unfair or deceptive collection activities, including using false threats, disclosing debts to third parties, making repeated phone calls, and continuing to call borrowers after being requested to stop.
Director Cordray stated that the Bureau is in “the late stages of its consideration about how [it] can formulate new rules to bring needed reforms to this market.” His comments and the study findings suggest that these new rules could include, among other things, ability to repay requirements, a two-week or more cooling off period, and limits on the number of rollover or renewal loans. The Director did not provide any additional detail on a rulemaking timeline, but it is likely to take many months . Director Cordray promised that any eventual rule will not limit access to small dollar credit for those who can afford it.
CFPB Begins Testing Model Prepaid Disclosures
On March 18, the CFPB announced that it has begun testing two potential model prepaid card disclosures. After holding field tests last month in Baltimore and this week in Los Angeles, the CFPB plans a final field test next month at a location to be determined. The model forms would provide a standard format for disclosing certain fees, including, among others, monthly, reload, per purchase, ATM withdrawal, and inactivity fees. The two models primarily differ in design—the fees included on the two test models are identical, but for a “decline” fee, which appears only on one of the models.
The field testing follows the CFPB’s May 2012 advance notice of proposed rulemaking soliciting comments to evaluate prepaid cards. The CFPB received hundreds of comments in response to that initial inquiry, and since that time, advocacy groups and members of Congress have continued to pressure the CFPB to take action on prepaid cards. For example, in the last several months, Senate Democrats introduced two prepaid card bills that would establish certain disclosure requirements, and the PEW Charitable Trusts released a paper outlining its latest position and model disclosures.
Finally, in addition to the field testing, the CFPB is seeking comments on the model disclosures through its blog, Twitter, Facebook, or email “from anyone who is interested in making prepaid card disclosures better.” Following completion of the testing, the CFPB expects to propose a rule “later this spring.” That timeline matches one laid out in the CFPB’s most recent rulemaking agenda, in which the Bureau anticipated a proposed rule in May 2014.
SEC Re-opens Comment Period On Asset-Backed Securities Proposals
On February 25, the SEC re-opened the comment period on two asset-backed securities proposals. Prior to passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC proposed to require that, with some exceptions, prospectuses for public offerings of asset-backed securities and ongoing Exchange Act reports contain specified asset-level information about each of the assets in the pool in a standardized tagged data format. In 2011, the SEC re-opened the comment period on those proposals given additional requirements included in the Dodd-Frank Act. During that comment period, some commenters raised concerns about the reporting of certain sensitive asset-level data. The SEC is now seeking additional comment on a potential method to address privacy concerns related to the dissemination of such information. The proposed method would require issuers to make asset-level information available to investors and potential investors through a Web site that would allow issuers to restrict access to information as necessary to address privacy concerns. Comments on the proposal are due by March 28, 2014.
CFPB Supplements Consumer Reporting Guidance, Holds Consumer Advisory Board Meeting, Issues Consumer Reporting Complaints Report
On February 27, the CFPB issued supplemental guidance related to consumer reporting and held a public meeting focused on consumer reporting issues. The CFPB also released a report on consumer reporting complaints it has received.
The CFPB issued a supervision bulletin (2014-01) that restates the general obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for furnishers of information to credit reporting agencies and “warn[s] companies that provide information to credit reporting agencies not to avoid investigating consumer disputes.” It follows and supplements guidance issued last year detailing the CFPB’s expectations for furnishers.
The latest guidance is predicated on the CFPB’s concern that when a furnisher responds to a consumer’s dispute, it may, without conducting an investigation, simply direct the consumer reporting agency (CRA) to delete the item it has furnished. The guidance states that a furnisher should not assume that it ceases to be a furnisher with respect to an item that a consumer disputes simply because it directs the CRA to delete that item. In addition, the guidance explains that whether an investigation is reasonable depends on the circumstances, but states that furnishers should not assume that simply deleting an item will generally constitute a reasonable investigation.
The CFPB promises to continue to monitor furnishers’ compliance with FCRA regarding consumer disputes of information they have furnished to CRAs. Furnishers should take immediate steps to ensure they are fulfilling their obligations under the law.
Consumer Advisory Board Meeting
The public session of this week’s two-day Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) Meeting featured remarks from Director Cordray, and a discussion among CAB members, industry representatives, and consumer advocates on several major topics: (i) use of credit history in employment decisions; (ii) consumer access to credit information; and (iii) the credit dispute process.
Mr. Cordray focused on steps the CFPB has taken related to the credit reporting market, including: (i) launching a complaint portal through which consumers have submitted 31,000 consumer reporting complaints, nearly 75% of which have related to the accuracy and completeness of credit reports; (ii) beginning to supervise large credit reporting companies and many large furnishers; (iii) identifying process changes, including upgrades to the e-Oscar consumer dispute system to allow consumers to file disputes online and to provide furnishers direct access to dispute materials; and (iv) issuing guidance to furnishers on resolving consumer disputes.
Mr. Cordray also expressed support for a “major initiative” in the credit card industry to make credit scoring information more easily and regularly available to card holders. Mr. Cordray stated that he sent letters to the CEOs of the major card companies “strongly encouraging them to consider making credit scores and educational content freely available to their customers on a regular basis.” He added that he sees “no reason why this approach should not be replicated with customers across other product lines as well.”
In his CAB remarks, Mr. Cordray also identified some persistent concerns that resulted in the additional furnisher guidance issued today, discussed above. He stated that “[s]ome furnishers are taking short-cuts to avoid undertaking appropriate investigations of consumer disputes. For example, a consumer may find an error on the credit report and file a dispute about an incorrect debt or a credit card that was never opened. In response, the furnisher may simply delete that account from the information it passes along to the credit reporting company.” He stated that such practices deprive consumers of important protections.
During the discussion session, consumer advocates complained that credit reports provided to consumers are not the same as the reports provided to creditors. They claimed that consumers receive “sterilized” versions and do not, for example, get to see if their file is mixed with some else’s file. They also complained that the reports do not provide credit scores.
With regard to the CFPB’s support for creditors disclosing credit scores on a regular basis, several participants, including a representative for CRAs, stated that creditors should be free to provide the credit score of their choice, and not only FICO. Mr. Cordray and the CFPB’s Corey Stone responded that the CFPB is encouraging voluntary participation in score disclosure programs, but stated the Bureau does not believe that any one score needs to be disclosed. Instead, Mr. Stone explained that creditors should provide the score that is most relevant and useful for its customers. Mr. Cordray stressed the importance of providing educational information with the score, regardless of what score is provided.
The consumer advocates also were sharply critical of the CRAs and certain creditors’ dispute resolution processes. One participant raised specific concerns about the lack of human interaction in online dispute processes and the sale of certain add-on products offered during the dispute process.
The industry’s representative defended recent enhancements to the dispute process and highlighted the efficiency benefits of online disputes, including quicker resolution. He added that many furnishers prefer to hear directly from their customers, and that the real issue is how creditors respond.
Report on Consumer Reporting Complaints
The “credit reporting complaint snapshot” states that of the nearly 300,000 complaints the CFPB has received on a range of consumer financial products and services, approximately 31,000 or 11 percent have been about credit reporting. The CFPB accepts consumer credit reporting complaints in five categories: (i) incorrect credit report information; (ii) credit reporting company’s investigation; (iii) improper use of a credit report; (iv) inability to obtain credit report or score; and (v) credit monitoring or identity protection services. The CFPB reports that the most common complaints related to incorrect information on a credit report, while very few complaints related to identity protection or credit monitoring services. The report reviews the complaint handling process, and indicates that companies have resolved approximately 91 percent of the complaints submitted to them.
Federal Reserve Board Finalizes Enhanced Prudential Standards For Large Bank Holding Companies, Foreign Banks
On February 18, the Federal Reserve Board issued a final rule that incorporates elements of two previously proposed rules related to U.S. bank holding companies with assets of $50 billion or more and foreign banking organization with assets of $50 billion or more. For covered domestic bank holding companies, the final rule (i) incorporates as an enhanced prudential standard previously-issued capital planning and stress testing requirements; and (ii) imposes enhanced risk-management, including liquidity risk-management standards. The rule further imposes a 15-1 debt-to-equity limit for companies that pose a grave threat to U.S. financial stability, as determined by the FSOC. For covered foreign banking organizations, the rule (i) implements enhanced risk-based and leverage capital requirements, liquidity requirements, risk-management requirements, stress testing requirements, and the debt-to-equity limit for FSOC-designated companies; and (ii) requires foreign banking organizations with U.S. non-branch assets of $50 billion or more to form a U.S. intermediate holding company (IHC) and imposes the same enhanced requirements on the IHC. The rule also establishes enterprise-wide risk-committee requirements for publicly traded domestic bank holding companies with total consolidated assets of $10 billion or more and for publicly traded foreign banking organizations with total consolidated assets of $10 billion or more, and implements stress-testing requirements for foreign banking organizations and foreign savings and loan holding companies with total consolidated assets of more than $10 billion. The final rule does not apply to non-bank financial firms designated as systemically important by the FSOC. The rule takes effect on June 1, 2014, but covered U.S. bank holding companies have until January 1, 2015 to comply. Foreign banking organizations must submit an implementation plan by January 1, 2015, but have until July 1, 2016 to comply. The final rule generally defers application of the leverage ratio to IHCs until 2018.
OCC Issues Guidance Regarding Secured Consumer Debt Discharged In Bankruptcy
On February 14, the OCC issued Bulletin 2014-02, which clarifies supervisory expectations for national banks and federal savings associations regarding secured consumer debt discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. The guidance describes (i) the analysis necessary to “clearly demonstrate and document that repayment is likely to occur,” which would preclude any charge-off as required by the Uniform Retail Credit Classification and Account Management Policy; and (ii) when a bank may consider post-discharge payment performance as evidence of collectability and when this performance demonstrates both capacity and willingness to repay the full amounts due. The OCC states that the repayment analysis should document (i) the existence of orderly repayment terms for structured collection of the debt without the existence of undue payment shock or the need to refinance the balloon amount; (ii) a history of payment performance that demonstrates the borrower’s ongoing commitment to satisfy the debt; and (iii) the consideration of post-discharge capacity to make future required payments. The guidance provides standards for post-discharge repayment capacity. Further, the guidance allows a bank to consider post-discharge payment performance as evidence of collectability, and states that the analysis can be conducted at a pool or individual level provided the bank considers whether (i) monthly payment includes both principal and interest that fully amortizes the remaining debt; (ii) sustained performance demonstrates ongoing capacity and willingness to repay post-discharge; and (iii) collateral levels indicate the bank is likely to recover the full amount due even if payments cease.
New York DFS Identifies Potential Next Steps for Virtual Currency Regulation
On February 11, at an event on the future of virtual currency, New York DFS Superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky reiterated his intention to move forward with a virtual currency rulemaking this year as the DFS is “increasingly coming to the conclusion that simply applying our existing money transmission regulations to virtual currency firms is not sufficient.” Mr. Lawsky’s remarks follow a recent two-day DFS hearing regarding the potential state regulation of virtual currency. According to his most recent remarks, the proposal may include a specifically tailored BitLicense that adapts existing money transmission rules to virtual currency. In addition, the proposed rules may, among other things, include “a strong set of specially tailored, model consumer disclosure rules” that could address, for example, the irreversible nature of most transactions, the need to keep private keys private, and potential volatility. The DFS proposal may also seek to address capital, collateral, net worth, and investment requirements. Mr. Lawsky explained that the DFS would like more input about whether it should require licensed firms to only use public ledgers and whether to ban or restrict the use of tumblers by licensed firms.
CFPB Announces First Steps In HMDA Rulemaking Process, Launches Additional HMDA Data Tools
On February 7, the CFPB announced the first public phase of its rulemaking to expand the scope of HMDA data reporting, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB is asking small businesses to provide feedback on its initial proposal to collect new mortgage origination data from financial institutions and potential changes to the data collection and reporting process.
Proposed Data Requirements
Section 1094 of the Dodd-Frank Act transferred responsibility for HMDA and its implementing regulation to the CFPB and directed the CFPB to conduct a rulemaking to expand the collection of mortgage origination data to include, among other things: (i) the length of the loan; (ii) total points and fees; (iii) the length of any teaser or introductory interest rates; (iv) the applicant or borrower’s age and credit score; and (v) the channel through which the application was made. The Dodd-Frank Act granted the CFPB discretion to collect additional information as it sees fit.
As detailed in its outline for small businesses, in addition to the statutorily required fields, the CFPB also is considering requiring financial institutions to report more underwriting and pricing information, such as the interest rate, the total origination charges, and the total discount points of the loan, which the CFPB believes will help regulators investigate “true trouble spots” in the mortgage market. The Bureau also states that it is considering new requirements that would “more accurately capture access to credit in the mortgage market.” Specifically, the CFPB is considering requiring institutions to (i) provide an explanation of rejected loan applications; (ii) explain whether the institution considers a loan to be a Qualified Mortgage; and (iii) report the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio. The CFPB states that debt-to-income data would allow the Bureau to determine whether financial institutions are making loans that are unsuitable for borrowers.
Potential Reporting Changes
In addition to the planned expansion in the types of data to be collected, the CFPB is seeking small business feedback on how financial institutions report HMDA data. The CFPB is considering streamlining the collection process to mitigate the burden on lenders, including by possibly aligning the HMDA data requirements with “well-established data standards already in use by a significant portion of the mortgage market.” The CFPB also is proposing to standardize the reporting threshold. It explains that currently, all banks, savings associations, and credit unions that meet certain conditions must submit annual reports if they make even a single loan, while nonbank mortgage lenders typically only report if they make 100 loans and meet other conditions. The Bureau is considering requiring all banks and nonbanks that meet certain conditions to report HMDA data if they make 25 or more loans in a year. Finally, the CFPB states it is seeking to improve data entry, including by potentially streamlining the data submission and editing processes for lenders by creating an interface that will allow lenders to connect their software to a CFPB intake system. The CFPB is consulting with other federal agencies on potential data entry streamlining options.
Enhanced Access To Existing HMDA Data
The CFPB also re-launched and expanded the capabilities of its new HMDA data tool, which it originally announced in September 2013. The tool now includes additional features, which allow users to (i) filter records by, among other things, geography (state, metropolitan area, county, and census tract), borrower characteristics, loan characteristics, and property type; (ii) create summary tables (e.g. to compare refinances, home purchases, and home improvement loans over a given time period); (iii) download data and summary tables to allow researchers and software developers to incorporate the CFPB-provided HMDA data into other applications and visualizations; and (iv) save and share results, including through social media platforms.
This initial framework for enhancing HMDA data collection and reporting was released as part of the small business review process required when a potential CFPB rule could have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. In such cases, including with this HMDA proposal, the CFPB must convene a panel of representatives from the Bureau, the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, and OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (the Review Panel) to meet with small business representatives. The CFPB released a fact sheet explaining the process, and a list of issues the Review Panel will discuss with small businesses. Within 60 days of convening the Review Panel, it must issue a report on the feedback received from small business, which then must be considered as the CFPB prepares a proposed rule. The small business review process is the first public step in a lengthy rulemaking process. Along the way, financial institutions of all sizes will have opportunities to weigh-in on the proposal, which could evolve over the coming months.
Federal Reserve Supplements Recovery And Resolution Preparedness For Large Banks
On January 24, the Federal Reserve Board issued SR 14-1, which attached new guidance for certain large banks titled Principles and Practices for Recovery and Resolution Preparedness. The document outlines additional expectations for the recovery and resolution preparedness of eight large domestic bank holding companies. The guidance stresses the importance of robust systems to manage collateral, information, and payments, clearing, and settlement activities. It also highlights the importance of adequate liquidity and funding arrangements during times of stress, and robust arrangements for the provision of shared or outsourced services necessary for critical operations. The Federal Reserve will incorporate the guidance into its ongoing recovery and resolution preparedness assessments of large bank holding companies subject to the guidance.