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On June 25, the CFPB held its “Abusive Acts or Practices Symposium,” the first event in a symposia series covering a range of consumer financial services topics. The event had two panels of experts discussing unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices (UDAAP)—the first was a policy discussion, moderated by Tom Pahl, CFPB’s Policy Associate Director, Research, Markets and Regulation; and the second, examined how the “abusive” standard has been used in practice in the field and was moderated by David Bleicken, CFPB Deputy Associate Director, Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending. Director Kraninger began the symposium noting that it will help to “inform the Bureau’s thinking as to whether the Bureau should use its rulemaking or other tools to provide clarity about the general meaning of abusiveness—and, if so, which principles should be applied to determine the scope of abusiveness.”
The policy panel focused on whether consumer harm was required for a practice to be considered abusive. One panelist noted that while the Dodd-Frank Act statutory definition of abusive does not specifically require proof of consumer harm, it would be surprising if consumer harm wasn’t a priority in weighing enforcement claims. As for what principles the Bureau should apply in determining the scope of abusive acts and practices, one panelist identified three: “fidelity, autonomy, and modesty,” meaning the Bureau should follow the statutory language, protect autonomy of consumer decision-making, and be careful not to tie its hands prematurely based on current market information.
The practitioners’ panel focused on whether there was even a need to clarify the abusive standard, as it is already statutorily defined. Most panelists agreed that a guidance document or policy statement would be an important first step for the Bureau in providing clarity to the industry. Specifically, the panelists noted that the industry has struggled with examples of how abusiveness is different from unfairness or deception, arguing the Bureau has been “inconsistent at times” in the application of the abusive standard. One panelist explained that the Bureau often brings abusive claims in connection with a claim of deception or unfairness, stating “while this may work for the Bureau’s litigation strategy the market looks to enforcement for guidance on the policy. Standalone abusiveness claims that show how abusiveness is different from deception and unfairness would provide direction to staff and industry.” Because the standard is unclear to industry, a panelist argued that many companies choose to limit products or offerings to avoid unknown compliance risks.
An archived copy of the webcast will be available on the Bureau’s website.
On June 24, the CFPB and the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) announced a final rule amending Regulation CC to adjust dollar amounts cited in the rule for inflation. The Dodd-Frank Act requires that the dollar amounts be adjusted for inflation every five years by the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The agencies selected July as the CPI-W month and will use July 2011 to July 2018 as the initial inflation measurement period. If there is no aggregate percentage increase in the CPI-W or it is negative, the dollar amounts will not be adjusted. The final rule also implements certain measures of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act , including extending coverage of the Expedited Funds Availability Act to American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.
The compliance date for the adjustment amounts is July 1, 2020. Other amendments are effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On June 24, the FTC finalized the “Free Electronic Credit Monitoring for Active Duty Military Rule,” which implements the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act requirement for nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to provide free electronic credit monitoring services for active duty military consumers. The proposed rule, issued in November 2018 (covered by InfoBytes here), defined the term “electronic credit monitoring service” as a service through which the CRAs provide, at a minimum, electronic notification of material additions or modifications to a consumer’s file and requires CRAs to notify active duty military consumers within 24 hours of any material change. The proposal noted that CRAs may require that active duty military provide contact information, proof of identity, and proof of active duty status in order to use the free service and outlines how a servicemember may prove active duty status, such as with a copy of active duty orders. Additionally, the proposal prohibited CRAs from requiring active duty military consumers to purchase a product in order to obtain the free service.
In response to comments on the proposal, the final rule refers to the definition of “active duty military consumer” in the FCRA, which requires that the servicemember be assigned to service away from their usual duty station, or be a member of the National Guard, regardless of whether the National Guard member is stationed away from their normal duty station. The FTC noted that commenters requested the requirement that the servicemember be stationed away from their normal duty station be eliminated but “the statutory language limit[ed] the Commission’s discretion on [the] topic.” However, the FCRA does not apply the same duty station requirement to the National Guard. Additionally, the final rule, among other things (i) requires CRAs to provide free access to a credit file when it notifies an active duty military consumer about a material change to the file; (ii) extends the amount of time the CRAs have to notify an active duty military consumer of a material change from 24 hours to 48 hours; and (iii) prohibits CRAs from requiring that active duty military consumers agree to terms or conditions as a requirement to obtain their free credit file, unless the terms or conditions are necessary to comply with certain legal requirements.
While the final rule goes into effect three months after publication in the Federal Register, CRAs will be allowed to comply with certain portions of the final rule by offering existing credit monitoring services to active duty military consumers for free, for a period of up to one year from the effective date.
On June 20, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a final interim rule amending its Reporting, Procedures and Penalties Regulations, which set forth the standard reporting and recordkeeping requirements, license application, and other procedures relevant to the economic sanctions programs administered by OFAC. Among other things, the final interim rule: (i) expands the information that must be included in reports on blocked property and rejected transactions; (ii) includes details on the information that must be included when OFAC requires a report that property has been unblocked; (iii) revises procedures for (a) reporting on rejected transactions; (b) licensing of otherwise prohibited transactions; and (c) releasing blocked funds; and (iv) clarifies rules governing the availability of information under the Freedom of Information Act. Importantly, the revisions clarify that all U.S. persons must report transactions that have been rejected for sanctions compliance reasons. Previously, the requirement was thought to apply only to U.S. financial institutions. The final interim rule will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for June 21.
On June 19, the OCC issued Bulletin 2019-28, which highlights “core lending principles” for banks offering higher loan-to-value (LTV) loans. The Bulletin rescinds 2017 guidance from the OCC—Bulletin 2017-28, “Mortgage Lending: Risk Management Guidance for Higher-Loan-to-Value Lending Programs in Communities Targeted for Revitalization”— noting that “banks have engaged in responsible, innovative lending strategies that are different from [the previous bulletin’s] specific program parameters while being consistent with its goals.” The new guidance instead covers core lending principles that banks should consider when offering higher-LTV loans in an effort revitalize communities. Among other things, the OCC states that higher-LTV loans (i) should be consistent with safe and sound banking and comply with applicable laws and regulations; (ii) performance is effectively monitored, tracked, and managed; (iii) should be underwritten consistent with the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending and the bank’s standards for review and approval of exception loans. The Bulletin notes examples of sound policies and processes for higher-LTV loans, including underwriting standards and portfolio limits for the aggregate amount of higher-LTV loans. Lastly, the Bulletin emphasizes that marketing and consumer disclosures should describe the potential financial impacts and marketability of a higher-LTV loan where the value of the property is and could remain less than the loan amount.
On June 11, Len Wolfson, the Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at HUD sent a letter to Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA) specifying that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are not eligible for FHA loans. According to the letter, HUD has not implemented any new policies changes during the current Administration with respect to FHA eligibility requirements for DACA recipients. Wolfson asserts that, “Since at least October 2003, FHA has maintained published policy that non-U.S. citizens without lawful residency ‘are not eligible for FHA-insured loans,’” and determination of immigration status is not the responsibility of HUD. Therefore, Wolfson argues, “because DACA does not confer lawful status, DACA recipients remain ineligible for FHA loans.”
On June 17, the FDIC, the OCC, and Federal Reserve issued the final rule to streamline regulatory reporting for qualifying small institutions to implement Section 205 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. The agencies adopted the final rule as proposed in November 2018 (covered by InfoBytes here). The final rule permits depository institutions with less than $5 billion in assets—previously set at $1 billion—that do not engage in certain complex or international activities to file the FFIEC 051 Call Report, the most streamlined version of the Call Reports. Additionally, the rule reduces the existing reportable data items in the FFIEC 051 Call Report by approximately 37 percent for the first and third calendar quarters. The rule also includes similar provisions for uninsured institutions with less than $5 billion in total consolidated assets that are supervised by the Federal Reserve and the OCC. The rule notes that the agencies are also committed to “exploring further burden reduction and are actively evaluating further revisions to the FFIEC 051 Call Report, consistent with guiding principles developed by the FFIEC.” The rule will take effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
On June 11, the CFPB announced that its first symposium, regarding the meaning of “abusive acts or practices” under Section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act, will be held on June 25. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB announced a symposia series that will convene to discuss consumer protections in “today’s dynamic financial services marketplace.” The June 25 symposium will be a public forum with two panels of experts discussing unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices (UDAAP). The first panel will be a policy discussion, moderated by Tom Pahl, CFPB’s Policy Associate Director, Research, Markets and Regulation. The second panel will examine how the “abusive” standard has been used in practice in the field and will be moderated by David Bleicken, CFPB Deputy Associate Director, Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending.
In addition to the June 25 symposium, the series will have future events discussing behavioral law and economics, small business loan data collection, disparate impact and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, cost-benefit analysis, and consumer authorized financial data sharing.
On June 11, House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters and 64 other Democratic House members sent a letter to the CFPB urging rescission of its May proposal to permanently raise the coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting HMDA data and to retire its HMDA Explorer tool. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In the letter, members argue that recent data “showed widespread discrimination in bank lending” and that redlining continues to be a pervasive problem. They note that HMDA data is an important tool for public officials to understand access to credit in their communities, and that the Bureau’s proposal would exempt “about half of lending institutions from reporting data about closed-end mortgages … [and] sacrifice information that can make a difference in the lives of creditworthy, lower-income consumers.” The members also ask for information regarding the new Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) query tool that is to be used as a replacement for the HMDA Explorer tool and Public Data Platform API that the Bureau plans to retire, as previously covered by InfoBytes here.
On June 6, twenty six Democratic Senators sent a letter to the CFPB requesting that the Bureau reconsider the recent debt collection rulemaking proposal to “pursue more meaningful reforms that put consumers . . . first.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in May, the CFPB released its highly anticipated debt collection rulemaking, which regulates debt collection communications and disclosures and addresses related practices by debt collectors. Among other things, the proposed rule would (i) require debt collectors to provide consumers with a validation notice containing specific information regarding the debt; (ii) restrict debt collectors from calling consumers regarding a particular debt more than seven times within a seven-day-period and prohibit telephone contact for seven days after the debt collector has had a conversation with the consumer; (iii) allow for consumers to unsubscribe from various communication channels with debt collectors, including text or email; and (iv) prevent debt collectors from contacting consumers on their workplace email addresses or through public-facing social media platforms.
In the letter, the Senators argue that the proposed rule as currently written “will only exacerbate and increase troubling harassment tactics” by debt collectors. The Senators note that the Bureau received 81,500 consumer debt collection complaints, and the FTC received nearly 458,000 such complaints in 2018, and argue that the proposed rule does not do enough to address the particular abusive practices that those complaints raised. The Senators allege that the proposed rule “permits collectors to overwhelm consumers with intrusive communications” because it allows for unlimited text messages and emails and allows for collectors to call consumers seven times per week, per debt. Additionally, the Senators argue that the proposed rule “could encourage collectors to practice willful ignorance about the status of the debt they collect,” as it only “prohibits filing or threatening to file a lawsuit if the collector ‘knows or should know’ that the debt is not enforceable.” Lastly, the Senators assert that the Bureau should hold attorneys who engage in debt collection to a “higher standard, [they should] not be granted a safe harbor to engage in abusive and deceptive practices.”
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Ethical guidance in conducting internal investigations – The intersection of Yates and Upjohn" at the American Bar Association Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Recent developments in fair lending and avoiding the pitfalls" at the Arkansas Community Bankers/Bankers Assurance 2019 Compliance Conference
- 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 "Risk management in enforcement actions: Managing risk or micromanaging it" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Valerie L. Hletko to discuss "Banking on guns ‘n drugs: Social policy meets financial services" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Navigating the conflicting federal and state laws for doing business with cannabis companies" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Tim Lange to discuss "Services and value" at the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association Annual Conference
- Katherine L. Halliday to discuss "UDAP, UDAAP & the Map rule compliance basics" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "How to ace your TRID exam" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Data privacy litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Navigating FHA rules and regs" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "HMDA data is out, now what?" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Washington regulatory overview" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "The state’s role in fintech: Providing an industry framework for innovation" at Lend360
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending" at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions" at the Institute of International Bankers Risk Management and Regulatory Examination/Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fintech regulatory developments, crypto-assets, blockchain and digital banking, and consumer issues" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "How to balance a successful (and stressful) career with greater personal well-being" at the American Bar Association Women in Litigation Joint CLE Conference