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On December 21, the CFPB announced a settlement with a large non-bank remittance transfer provider resolving allegations that the company violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and the Remittance Transfer Rule by failing to adequately comply with the rules’ requirements. According to the Bureau, the company sent $2.2 billion in remittance transfers from the United States to several countries in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Africa. In sending the remittance transfers, the Bureau claims the company failed to (i) honor cancellation requests or provide cancellation rights; (ii) develop and maintain appropriate error resolution policies and procedures; (iii) promptly investigate whether errors have occurred and make error determinations; (iv) provide consumers with written reports of investigation findings; (v) refund certain fees and taxes when funds were not available on time; (vi) treat international bill pay services as remittances covered by the Remittance Rule; and (vii) make proper disclosures in numerous instances. The consent order requires the company to pay a $750,000 civil money penalty, and prohibits the company from offering or providing remittance transfers without complying with EFTA and Remittance Rule requirements. The company is also required to adopt a compliance plan to ensure that its remittance transfer acts and practices are in compliance with all applicable federal consumer financial laws and the consent order.
On May 11, the CFPB issued final amendments to the Remittance Transfer Rule (Final Rule), which implements the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and imposes requirements on insured institutions that handle international money transfers—also known as remittance transfers—on behalf of consumers. The Final Rule follows a notice of proposed rulemaking issued last December (covered by InfoBytes here). Among other things, the Final Rule grants a permanent safe harbor from exact remittance cost disclosures to insured institutions that do fewer than 500 remittances annually in the current and prior calendar years.
The Final Rule also addresses anticipated compliance challenges following the July 21 expiration of an existing exemption that allows certain insured institutions to disclose estimated exchange rates and third-party money transfer fees. Specifically, the Final Rule adopts a new, permanent exception that permits insured institutions to estimate the exchange rate for a remittance transfer to a particular country if, among other things, the remittance payment is made in the local currency of the designated recipient’s country and the insured institution processing the transaction made 1,000 or fewer remittance payments to that country in the previous calendar year. A second permanent exception will allow insured institutions to estimate covered third-party fees for remittance transfers to a recipient’s institution provided, among other things, the insured institution made 500 or fewer remittance transfers to the recipient’s institution in the prior calendar year. While the adopted final amendments will take effect July 21, the Bureau is adopting a transition period for both exceptions that will allow insured institutions that exceed the 1000-transfer or 500-transfer thresholds to “provide estimates for a reasonable period of time while they come into compliance with the requirement to provide exact amounts.”
The Bureau also reminded institutions of its April 10 policy statement (covered by InfoBytes here), which established a temporary exception allowing institutions providing remittance transfers to estimate these fees to consumers in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. From July 1 until January 21, 2021, the Bureau will not cite supervisory violations or initiate enforcement actions against certain institutions for disclosing estimated fees and exchange rates.
On December 3, the CFPB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) relating to the Remittance Transfer Rule (Rule), which implements the Electronic Fund Transfer Act’s (EFTA) protections for consumers sending international money transfers, or remittance transfers. The NPRM makes three proposals. First, the Bureau proposes to increase the Rule’s safe harbor threshold, mitigating compliance costs for financial institutions. The EFTA and the Rule consider a “remittance transfer provider” to include “any person that provides remittance transfers for a customer in the normal course of business.” However, the Rule currently includes a “safe harbor” provision that excludes persons that process 100 or fewer remittance transfers annually. The NPRM proposes increasing this threshold from 100 to 500 international remittance transfers per year. According to the Bureau’s announcement, the change would “reduce the burden on over 400 banks and almost 250 credit unions that send a relatively small number of remittances—less than .06 percent of all remittances.”
Second, the NPRM proposes adopting two permanent exceptions. The first is a permanent statutory exception that would allow certain insured institutions to estimate exchange rates and money transfer fees they are required to disclose, rather than provide consumers with exact costs when they send money abroad. Such an exemption would only apply in instances where a remittance payment is made in the local currency of the designated recipient’s country and the insured institution processing the transaction made 1,000 or fewer remittance payments to that country in the previous calendar year. An identical exemption provision is currently set to expire July 21, 2020. (Previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The NPRM proposes adopting a second permanent exception to allow insured institutions to estimate covered third-party fees for remittance transfers to a recipient’s institution provided, among other things, the insured institution made 500 or fewer remittance transfers to the recipient’s institution the prior calendar year.
Third, the NPRM requests comments on a list of safe harbor countries for which providers may use estimates for remittance transfers.
Comments must be received 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. In conjunction with the NPRM, the Bureau also released a summary of the NPRM, a table of contents, and an unofficial redline of the proposed amendments to the Rule.
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 April 25, the CFPB issued a Request for Information (RFI) on two aspects of the Remittance Rule, which took effect in 2013, and requires financial companies handling international money transfers, or remittance transfers, to disclose to individuals transferring money information about the exact exchange rate, fees, and the amount expected to be delivered. The RFI seeks feedback on (i) whether to propose changing the number of remittance transfers a provider must make to be governed by the rule, as well as the possible introduction of a small financial institution exception; and (ii) a possible extension of a temporary exemption to the Rule set to expire July 21, 2020, that allows certain insured institutions to estimate exchange rates and certain fees they are required to disclose (the RFI states that the EFTA section 919 expressly limits the length of the temporary exemption and does not authorize the CFPB to extend the term beyond the July 21 expiration date unless Congress changes the law). The RFI also seeks feedback on the Rule’s scope of coverage, including whether the Bureau should change a safe harbor threshold that allows persons providing 100 or fewer remittance transfers in the previous and current calendar year to be outside of the Rule’s coverage. Additionally, the RFI includes a consideration of issues discussed in the Bureau’s assessment of the Rule, which examined if the Rule had been effective in achieving its goals. Comments on the RFI are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Separately, on April 24, the CFPB released a revised assessment report of its Remittance Rule to “correct an understatement of the dollar volume of remittance transfers by banks in the original report,” which increases the share of the remittance dollars transferred by banks. The Bureau notes that the correction does not affect the report’s conclusions. (See previous InfoBytes coverage of the October 2018 assessment report here.)
On March 12, the CFPB released its winter 2019 Supervisory Highlights, which outlines its supervisory and enforcement actions in the areas of auto loan servicing, deposits, mortgage servicing, and remittances. The findings of the report cover examinations that generally were completed between June 2018 and November 2018. Highlights of the examination findings include:
- Auto Loan Servicing. The Bureau determined that attempts to collect miscalculated deficiency balances from extended warranty products were unfair. The Bureau also found that deficiency notices were deceptive where eligible rebates were not sought or applied, although the notice purported to be calculated to include such rebates.
- Deposits. The Bureau found that companies engaged in a deceptive act or practice by failing to adequately disclose that when a payee accepts only a paper check through the institutions online bill-pay service, a debit may occur earlier than the date selected by the consumer.
- Mortgage Servicing. The Bureau noted several issues related to mortgage servicing, including servicers (i) charging consumers late fees greater than the amount permitted by mortgage notes; (ii) misrepresenting the reasons PMI could not be cancelled; and (iii) failing to complete loss mitigation applications with “reasonable diligence.”
- Remittances. The Bureau determined that remittance transfer providers erred when they failed to refund fees and taxes when funds were not made available to recipients by the date listed in the disclosure and the mistake did not result from one of the exceptions listed in the Remittance Rule.
The report notes that in response to most examination findings, the companies have already remediated or have plans to remediate affected consumers, and implement corrective actions, such as new policies and procedures.
Lastly, the report also highlights recent public enforcement actions and guidance documents issued by the Bureau.
On October 26, the CFPB released an assessment report of its Remittance Rule, in accordance with the Dodd-Frank Act’s requirements that the Bureau conduct an assessment of each significant rule within five years of the rule’s effective date. The Bureau’s 2013 Remittance Rule (Rule), including its subsequent amendments, requires providers to (i) give consumers disclosures showing costs, fees and other information before they pay for a remittance transfer; (ii) provide cancellation and refund rights; and (iii) investigate disputes and remedy certain errors. The assessment was conducted using the Bureau’s own research and external sources. Key findings of the assessment include:
- Money services businesses (MSBs) conduct 95.6 percent of all remittance transfers and the volume of transfers from these businesses was increasing before the effective date of the Rule and continued to increase afterwards at the same or higher rate.
- The average price of remittances was declining before the Rule took effect and has continued to do so.
- Initial compliance costs for the Rule were between $86 million, based on analysis at the time of the rulemaking, and $92 million, based on estimates from a survey of industry conducted by the Bureau.
- Ongoing compliance costs are estimated between $19 million per year and $102 million per year.
- Consumers cancel between 0.3 percent and 4.5 percent of remittance transfers, according to available data sources, and there is evidence of some banks initiating a delay in the transfer to make it easier to provide a refund if a consumer cancels within the 30-minute cancellation window permitted under the Rule.
- Approximately 80 percent of banks and 75 percent of credit unions that offer remittance transfers are below the 100-transfer threshold in a given year and are therefore, not subject to the Rule’s requirements.
As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB recently released its summer 2017 Supervisory Highlights (Highlights) outlining its supervisory progress this year. Included among the issues highlighted by the Bureau is its recent activity in the remittance transfer rule (RTR) space under Regulation E. The Highlights indicate that the CFPB intends to continue its focus on RTR compliance at both large and small institutions. Of particular note, the Bureau—for the first time—has provided informal guidance on international mobile top-up products for telephone airtime. Prior to the Highlights, it was unclear to what extent these products were subject to the RTR. The Highlights confirm that the CFPB will take the position that these products fall within the scope of the rule and has taken supervisory action against at least one institution for that institution’s failure to treat international mobile top-ups in excess of $15 as remittance transfers subject to the RTR.
This edition of the Highlights helps to clear up prior confusion around the industry regarding international mobile top-ups and bill pay products, as discussed in a recent article.
As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB issued a request for comment on its plan for assessing the effectiveness of its May 2013 final rule governing consumer remittance transfers (Remittance Rule). The request, which closed for public comment on May 23, focused on, among other things: (i) “whether the market for remittances has evolved . . . in ways that promote access, efficiency, and limited market disruption”; and (ii) whether the Remittance Rule (and other CFPB regulatory activity) has “brought more information, transparency, and greater predictability of prices to the market.” The CFPB received over 35 public comments from a vast array of large and small credit unions, as well as some of the leading providers of money transfer by volume. The consensus among these institutions was that implementing and maintaining the Remittance Rule’s new disclosures, cancellation windows, and audits are costly and the benefits to consumers are negligible. Specifically, one commenter noted increased consumer confusion, increased consumer delays in receiving their funds, and some have discontinued offering money transfers altogether.
On May 23, the American Bankers Association (ABA) submitted a comment letter calling upon the Bureau to conduct an evidence-based assessment on whether the rule has preserved consumers’ access to remittance services. According to a survey conducted by the ABA of 75 member banks of varying asset sizes and cited in the comment letter, the rule—intended to “provide additional information to help consumers shop for remittances and establish error resolution procedures and protections”—has “restricted consumers’ access to remittances, increased fees for use of the service, and unnecessarily delayed remittance requests.” As explained in the letter, the ABA expressed concern about the rule, stating that there is “little evidence that the final rule has improved consumer decision-making or facilitated comparison shopping.” Furthermore, the ABA has asked the CFPB to examine the following issues: (i) whether consumers, including those in rural areas, have access to remittance transfer services; (ii) whether consumers are provided information about remittance services that inform rather than confuse; and (iii) whether regulation of remittances is not unnecessarily burdensome to the financial institutions that provide this service.
Separately, on May 23, The Clearing House, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Bankers Association for Finance and Trade, and the ABA (Associations), issued a joint letter urging the CFPB to examine the effects of the rule from the perspective of both consumer-senders of remittance transfers and the providers of those services. The Associations outlined recommendations for the CFPB including: (i) continuing to permit depository institutions to provide estimates of third-party fees and exchange rates rather than actual fees and rates in cases where obtaining exact data is not feasible; (ii) excluding from the rule high-value transfers in excess of a certain dollar amount as well as excluding from coverage transfers effectuated through reloadable prepaid cards; (iii) modifying disclosure requirements and cancellation and resend rights; and (iv) making changes to the rule’s error resolution provisions to hold the sender responsible for transaction costs resulting from sender error.
On March 20, the CFPB issued a request for comment on its plan for assessing the effectiveness of its May 2013 final rule governing consumer remittance transfers. According to a March 17 blog post on the CFPB’s website, the self-assessment—which is required under Section 1022(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act—will focus on, among other things: (i) “whether the market for remittances has evolved . . . in ways that promote access, efficiency, and limited market disruption”; and (ii) whether the Remittance Rule (and other CFPB regulatory activity) has “brought more information, transparency, and greater predictability of prices to the market.” In describing the approach it planned to take in conducting its evaluation, the CFPB explained that it would seek to “compare consumer outcomes to a baseline that would exist if the Remittance Rule’s requirements were not in effect.” Comments on the plan will be due 60 days following the notice’s publication in the Federal Register.
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- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Post-pandemic CFPB exam preparation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
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- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Compliance under Biden" at the WSJ Risk & Compliance Forum
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- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference