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  • District Court denies bank’s motion to dismiss class action regarding overdrafts

    Courts

    On August 23, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut denied a motion to dismiss a putative class action case, in which the plaintiff alleged that a national bank’s (defendant) overdraft opt-in notice failed to satisfy Regulation E of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA), and that the bank’s assessment of overdraft fees in light of such failure violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUFTA). The plaintiff alleged that she and other members of the putative class “opted into [the defendant’s] overdraft program for debit card and ATM transactions,” and were charged overdraft fees on an “available” balance policy multiple times. However, the defendant’s opt-in disclosure agreement states that an overdraft only happens “when you do not have enough money in your account to cover a transaction, but we pay it anyway,” which is a description of the “actual” balance of an account. Accordingly, the defendant “charge[d] overdraft fees even at times when there [was] a sufficient amount of money in a consumer’s account.” The plaintiff alleged that the defendant continued this system with knowledge of EFTA’s requirements and “that its opt-in agreement did not provide an accurate, clear, and easily understandable definition of an overdraft.”

    In its motion to dismiss, the defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to state a claim alleging violations of the EFTA because, among other things: (i) when the opt-in agreement is considered together with other documents provided to the customer upon opening an account, the policies are clearly explained; and (ii) the defendant is shielded from liability under the safe harbor provisions of the EFTA, because the opt-in language utilized is identical to the CFPB’s model form. The defendant also argued that it complied with Regulation E, “because the opt-in notice it used, when read together with an ‘Account Agreement’ and ‘Overdraft Disclosure’ it says were provided to [the plaintiff] when she opened her account, made clear that it would charge overdraft fees when her ‘available balance’ fell below zero.”

    The court found that the defendant’s argument regarding compliance with Regulation E “relies on documents that are not attached to, incorporated in, or otherwise ‘integral’ to the complaint” and that Regulation E requires that the notice itself be a “segregated” document, which utilizes “clear and readily understandable” language. The court also ruled that though the defendant utilized language from the CFPB model form, the plaintiff plausibly alleges that use of the form was not “an appropriate model” since the language did not disclose the defendants overdraft program in a “clear and readily understandable” manner.

    Courts Class Action Overdraft Regulation E EFTA State Issues Disclosures CFPB

  • CFPB appeals decision on Prepaid Accounts Rule

    Courts

    On August 16, the CFPB filed its opening brief in the agency’s appeal of a district court’s December 2020 decision, which granted a payment company’s motion for summary judgment and vacated two provisions of the Bureau’s Prepaid Account Rule: (i) the short-form disclosure requirement “to the extent it provides mandatory disclosure clauses”; and (ii) the 30-day credit linking restriction. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau claimed that it had authority to enforce the mandates under federal regulations, including the EFTA, TILA, and Dodd-Frank, but the district court disagreed, concluding, among other things, that the Bureau acted outside of its statutory authority with respect to the mandatory disclosure clauses of the short-form requirement in 12 CFR section 1005.18(b) by presuming that “Congress delegated power to the Bureau to issue mandatory disclosure clauses just because Congress did not specifically prohibit them from doing so.” In striking the mandatory 30-day credit linking restriction under 12 CFR section 1026.61(c)(1)(iii), the district court determined that “the Bureau once again reads too much into its general rulemaking authority,” and that neither TILA nor Dodd-Frank vest the Bureau with the authority to promulgate substantive regulations on when consumers can access and use credit linked to prepaid accounts. Moreover, the court deemed the regulatory provision to be a “substantive regulation banning a consumer’s access to and use of credit” under the disguise of a disclosure, and thus invalid. 

    In its appeal, the Bureau urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn the district court’s ruling, arguing that both the EFTA and Dodd-Frank authorize the Bureau to promulgate rules governing disclosures for prepaid accounts. “The model-clause provision simply ensures that institutions will always have a surefire way of complying with the statute, even when the Bureau’s regulations do not specify how information should be disclosed,” the CFPB said, stressing that “[n]either that provision nor anything else forecloses—let alone unambiguously forecloses—rules requiring disclosures to present specified content in a specified format so that consumers are better able to find, understand, and compare products’ terms.” The decision to adopt such rules, the Bureau added, is entitled to deference. According to the Bureau, the Prepaid Account Rule “does not make any specific disclosure clauses mandatory,” and companies are permitted to use the provided sample disclosure wording or use their own “substantially similar” wording. Additionally, the Bureau argued, among other things, that “[b]y mandating optional model clauses while remaining silent about content and formatting requirements, Congress did not ‘circumscribe[] the [agency’s] discretion’ to adopt such requirements.” Instead, the Bureau contended, “whether to adopt content and formatting requirements is left ‘to agency discretion.’” Moreover, the disputed requirements “fit comfortably” within its power to regulate disclosure standards under EFTA and Dodd-Frank, the Bureau argued, adding that the law “authorizes the Bureau to ‘prescribe rules to ensure that the features of any consumer financial product or service … are fully, accurately, and effectively disclosed to consumers.’”

    Courts CFPB Appellate Prepaid Rule D.C. Circuit Fees Disclosures Prepaid Cards EFTA TILA Dodd-Frank

  • Payday lender must comply with $50 million CFPB order

    Courts

    On July 30, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas granted a petition filed by the CFPB to enforce an administrative order that assessed more than $50 million in restitution and fines against a Delaware-based online payday lender and its CEO (collectively, “respondents”) while the parties await a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB filed an action in 2015 against the respondents for allegedly violating TILA and EFTA and for engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices concerning the terms of the loans they originated. The respondents also allegedly (i) continued to debit borrowers’ accounts using remotely created checks after consumers revoked their authorization to do so; (ii) required consumers to repay loans via pre-authorized electronic fund transfers; and (iii) deceived consumers about the cost of short-term loans by providing them with contracts that contained disclosures based on repaying the loan in one payment, while the default terms called for multiple rollovers and additional finance charges.

    In January 2021, former Director Kathy Kraninger adopted an administrative law judge’s findings and conclusions, affirming the respondents violated TILA, EFTA, and the CFPA and concluding the respondents should be held jointly and severally liable for restitution amounting to more than $38.4 million. Kraninger further held the lender liable for a $7.5 million civil penalty and the CEO liable for a civil penalty of $5 million. In March, acting Director Dave Uejio issued an order denying the respondents’ motion to stay Kraninger’s final decision pending appellate review, but granted their request for a 30-day stay to allow them the opportunity to seek a stay from the 10th Circuit. In opposition to the Bureau’s petition to enforce the final order, the CEO argued, among other things, that the final order is not valid and enforceable. The court noted, however, that it is not permitted to stay enforcement of or suspend the final order. The power to suspend the final order or stay its enforcement belongs to the 10th Circuit—a request, the court noted, that the respondents did not seek when they filed their appeal. The CEO “has not cited any authority indicating that this Court may or should refuse to grant a petition for enforcement under this statute,” the court wrote. “Accordingly, the Court grants the petition for enforcement of the Final Order, and respondents are hereby ordered to comply with the Final Order by paying the restitution and civil penalties imposed and by cooperating as directed.”

    Courts CFPB Enforcement Payday Lending TILA EFTA CFPA Unfair Deceptive

  • OCC outlines EFTA remittance transfer examination procedures

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On August 2, the OCC issued Bulletin 2021-33, which outlines supplemental examination procedures on remittance transfers used by OCC examiners and rescinds certain related booklets and bulletins. The examination procedures supplement EFTA procedures issued by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council that were adopted by the OCC in 2019 and address several provisions for implementing Regulation E’s requirement to disclose the exact cost of remittance transfers. These include: (i) a safe harbor threshold increase, which “excludes certain banks from the requirements for a bank that provides remittance transfers for consumers in the normal course of the bank’s business,” and (ii) certain allowable exchange rate and third-party fee disclosure exceptions. The bulletin also provides a summary of the CFPB’s Regulation E amendments concerning remittance transfers that took effect July 2020 (covered by InfoBytes here).

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC EFTA Examination Remittance Transfer Rule FFIEC Regulation E Bank Regulatory

  • District Court approves final settlement in tribal lending class action

    Courts

    On July 9, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted final approval of a revised class action settlement, certifying the settlement class, approving the settlement terms, and entering final judgment regarding allegations that an operation used tribal sovereign immunity to evade state usury laws when charging unlawful interest on loans. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in March, the plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against the operation alleging, among other things, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, EFTA, and TILA. The settlement cancels roughly 71,000 loans, requires the operation to pay $86 million in damages, and caps fees at $15 million. According to the final approval, the court finds the revised settlement to be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.”

    Courts Class Action Settlement Tribal Lending Online Lending Consumer Finance TILA EFTA Usury RICO

  • CFPB releases unauthorized EFTs and error resolution FAQs

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 4, the CFPB released eight new FAQs regarding compliance with the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and Regulation E. Highlights from the FAQs are listed below:

    • As explained by the commentary to Regulation E, unauthorized electronic funds transfers (EFTs) include transfers by a person who obtained an access device from a consumer through fraud or robbery. “Similarly, when a consumer is fraudulently induced into sharing account access information with a third party, and a third party uses that information to make an EFT from the consumer’s account, the transfer is an unauthorized EFT under Regulation E.”
    • “If a third party fraudulently induces a consumer to share account access information,” subsequent EFTs initiated using that information are not excluded from the definition of an unauthorized EFT under the exclusion for transfers initiated by persons who “furnished the access device to the consumer’s account by the consumer.”
    • Financial institutions cannot consider a consumer’s negligence when determining liability for unauthorized EFTs under Regulation E because it establishes “the conditions in which consumers may be held liable for unauthorized transfers, and its commentary expressly states that negligence by the consumer cannot be used as the basis for imposing greater liability than is permissible under Regulation E.”
    • Financial institutions cannot rely on a consumer agreement that “includes a provision that modifies or waives certain protections granted by Regulation E, such as waiving Regulation E liability protections if a consumer has shared account information with a third party” when determining whether the EFT was unauthorized and what liability provisions apply. The EFTA “includes an anti-waiver provision stating that ‘[n]o writing or other agreement between a consumer and any other person may contain any provision which constitutes a waiver of any right conferred or cause of action created by [EFTA].’”
    • Less protective rules do not change a financial institution’s Regulation E obligations, even if private network rules and other agreements provide additional consumer protections beyond Regulation E.
    • “A financial institution must begin its investigation promptly upon receipt of an oral or written notice of error and may not delay initiating or completing an investigation pending receipt of information from the consumer.”
    • “If a consumer has provided timely notice of an error under 12 CFR § 1005.11(b)(1) and the financial institution determines that the error was an unauthorized” EFT, Regulation E’s liability protections under Section 1005.6 would apply. “Depending on the circumstances regarding the unauthorized EFT and the timing of the reporting, a consumer may or may not have some liability for the unauthorized EFT.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Consumer Finance EFTA Regulation E

  • FTC shares 2020 enforcement report with CFPB

    Federal Issues

    On June 1, the FTC announced that it submitted its 2020 Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report to the CFPB. The report covers the FTC’s enforcement activities regarding the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA), and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). Highlights of the enforcement matters covered in the report include:

    • TILA and CLA. FTC enforcement actions concerning TILA/Regulation Z and CLA/Regulation M include: (i) efforts to combat deceptive automobile dealer practices; (ii) a payday lending action involving deceptive charges and tactics used to overcharge customers on loan repayments; and (iii) credit repair and debt relief schemes, including a student loan debt relief scheme involving illegal fees and false claims loan payments.
    • EFTA. The FTC reported eight new or ongoing cases related to EFTA/Regulation E. These include: (i) negative option plans involving, among other things, companies applying recurring charges to consumers’ debit or credit card numbers for goods or services without obtaining proper written authorization; and (ii) use of robocalls for marketing deceptive products.

    Additionally, the report addresses the FTC’s research and policy efforts related to truth in lending and leasing, and electronic fund transfer issues, including (i) collaboration with Department of Defense’s interagency group on preauthorized electronic fund transfer issues; (ii) a small business financing forum that provided “an overview of small business lending and the emergence of new online options available to businesses seeking finance”; and (iii) the FTC’s Military Task Force’s work on military consumer protection issues. The report also outlines the FTC’s consumer and business education efforts, which include several blog posts warning of new scams and practices.

    Federal Issues FTC CFPB Enforcement TILA CLA EFTA Regulation Z Regulation M

  • Bank enjoined from administering prepaid debit cards for EDD benefits

    Courts

    On June 1, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction enjoining a national bank from certain actions in administering prepaid debit cards to class member recipients of Employment Development Department unemployment or disability benefits. Under the terms of the preliminary injunction, the bank is prohibited from “considering the results of [its] initial automated fraud claims filter” when investigating or resolving any alleged unauthorized transaction error claims, or from closing claims or denying credit before conducting an investigation, pursuant to EFTA and Regulation E. Class members are also entitled to a written explanation of investigative findings before the bank can deny or close a claim. Additionally, the bank is, among other things, (i) prohibited from considering the results of its claim fraud filter as justification for freezing the card account of any class member; (ii) required to reopen any claims that were closed or denied “based solely” on results of its claim fraud filter if those claims have not already been paid or previously reopened and investigated; (iii) required to provide written notice to class members with blocked accounts explaining that their accounts will be unblocked if they authenticate their identity; and (iv) establish a process for handing class member claims.

    Courts Debit Cards Prepaid Cards Class Action Covid-19 EFTA Regulation E

  • Court signals approval of tribal lending settlement

    Courts

    On April 7, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia preliminarily approved a revised class action settlement concerning allegations that an operation used tribal sovereign immunity to evade state usury laws when charging unlawful interest on loans. The plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against the operation alleging, among other things, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, EFTA, and TILA. The preliminarily-approved revised settlement would cancel approximately 71,000 class member loans, including a group of loans sold by the operation to another investor. It would also require the operation to pay $86 million, including an additional $21 million payment from the individual defendant, and cap attorneys’ fees for class counsel at $15 million. The operation would also be required to comply with several non-monetary provisions, including (i) requesting that negative credit reporting information concerning the loans be deleted; and (ii) ensuring that key loan terms, including interest rates and payment schedules to borrowers, are disclosed in loan agreements in compliance with federal law.

    Courts Class Action Settlement Tribal Lending Online Lending Consumer Finance Usury RICO TILA EFTA

  • CFPB declines to stay $51 million order for online payday lender

    Federal Issues

    On March 9, the CFPB denied a request made by a Delaware online payday lender and its CEO (collectively, “respondents”) to stay a January 2021 final decision and order requiring the payment of approximately $51 million in restitution and civil money penalties, pending appellate review. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2015, the Bureau filed a notice of charges alleging the respondents (i) continued to debit borrowers’ accounts using remotely created checks after consumers revoked the lender’s authorization to do so; (ii) required consumers to repay loans via pre-authorized electronic fund transfers; and (iii) deceived consumers about the cost of short-term loans by providing them with contracts that contained disclosures based on repaying the loan in one payment, while the default terms called for multiple rollovers and additional finance charges. Former Director Kathy Kraninger issued the final decision and order in January, affirming an administrative law judge’s recommendation that the respondents’ actions violated TILA, EFTA, and the CFPA’s prohibition on unfair or deceptive acts or practices by, among other things, deceiving consumers about the costs of their online short-term loans.

    The Bureau’s March 9 administrative order determined that respondents (i) failed to show they have a substantial case on the merits with respect to their argument regarding ratification as an appropriate remedy for the respondents’ alleged constitutional violation; (ii) failed to show they “suffered irreparable harm” because the Bureau’s final decision does not infringe on the respondents’ constitutional rights and merely requires them to pay money into an escrow account; and (iii) failed to demonstrate that staying the final decision would not harm other parties and the public interest because the respondents might “dissipate assets during the pendency of further proceedings,” potentially impacting future consumer redress. The administrative order, however, granted a 30-day stay to allow respondents to seek a stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

    Federal Issues CFPB Online Lending Enforcement Payday Lending TILA EFTA CFPA Unfair Deceptive UDAAP Appellate Tenth Circuit

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