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On December 10, in a speech before the National Association of Attorneys General Capital Forum, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger discussed partnership with the states, as well as recent efforts between the Bureau and states in the areas of supervision and enforcement, including innovation policies. Kraninger also discussed the Bureau’s small dollar and debt collection rules. Noting that the Bureau will “effectively enforce the law to fulfill our consumer protection mission … after thoroughly reviewing the facts,” Kraninger recapped FY 2019 enforcement actions and settlements, which have resulted in more than $777 million in total consumer relief, which included over $600 million in consumer redress and more than $174 million in other relief. These actions, Kraninger stated, have resulted in more than $185 million in civil money penalties, not taking into account suspended amounts. Kraninger also highlighted several joint efforts with states and other agencies over the past year, including (i) a multi-agency action resolving a 2017 data breach (InfoBytes coverage here); (ii) a joint action with the New York Attorney General against a network of New York-based debt collectors that allegedly engaged in improper debt collection tactics (InfoBytes coverage here); (iii) a coordinated action with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, the North Carolina Department of Justice, and the Los Angeles City Attorney concerning a student loan debt relief operation (InfoBytes coverage here); and (iv) an action with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs against an operation that offered high-interest loans to veterans and other consumers in exchange for the assignment of some of the consumers’ monthly pension or disability payments (InfoBytes coverage here).
Kraninger also discussed the Bureau’s recently-announced American Consumer Financial Innovation Network (ACFIN), which is designed to enhance coordination among federal and state regulators to facilitate financial innovation. (InfoBytes coverage here). ACFIN currently includes nine state attorneys general and four state financial regulators. Kraninger noted that the Bureau is presently reviewing approximately 190,000 comments concerning proposed changes related to certain payday lending requirements and mandatory underwriting provisions (InfoBytes coverage here), as well as over 14,000 comments submitted in response to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in May concerning amendments to the debt collection rule (InfoBytes coverage here). Kraninger stressed that the Bureau plans to release a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “very early” in 2020, and will be “interested in practical and pragmatic ideas of how to make time-barred debt disclosures work.”
On November 18, the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, which would require several state specific requirements for mortgage loan originators (MLO) seeking to utilize temporary authority (Temporary Authority) in the state of Georgia pursuant to Section 106 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act—which is set to take effect November 24. Specifically, the proposed rule outlines the following additional requirements:
- Disclosure requirements. Mortgage companies are required to provide additional written disclosures to consumers showing that the MLO is not licensed and may ultimately not be granted a license. This written disclosure shall be “made no later than the date the consumer signs an application or any disclosure, whichever event occurs first,” and must be maintained by the company. Additionally, the disclosure must state that the Department “may take administrative action against the [MLO] that may prevent such individual from acting as a [MLO]” before a loan is closed. The language in the rule must appear on the loan documentation in 10-point bold-face type.
- Education requirements. Any MLO who qualifies to utilize Temporary Authority must submit proof to the Department that they have enrolled in a class to satisfy education requirements and have registered to take the national MLO test. Both notifications must be submitted within 30 days of the MLO’s application submission.
- Advertising requirements. All advertisements must “clearly and conspicuously” indicate that MLOs operating under Temporary Authority are currently unlicensed and have pending applications with the Department. Moreover, the advertisement must state that the “Department may grant or deny the license application.”
- Transaction journal requirements. Mortgage companies must maintain a journal of mortgage loan transactions that clearly identifies when any MLO utilizes Temporary Authority at any point in the application or loan process. The transaction journal should also notate the outcome of the MLO’s license application as either “approved, withdrawn, or denied.”
- Signature requirements. Any MLO operating under temporary authority must indicate “TAO,” (temporary authority to operate) or use a substantially similar designation next to any signature on a loan document, including those that relate to the negotiation of terms or the offering of a loan.
- Administrative fines. Mortgage companies who employ a person who does not satisfy the federal Temporary Authority requirements but engages in licensable MLO activities under Georgia law will be subject to a fine of $1,000 per occurrence and the mortgage companies’ license shall be subject to suspension or revocation.
Comments on the proposed rule must be received by December 18.
Visit here for additional guidance on MLO temporary authority from APPROVED.
On November 19, the FDIC announced a new advisory committee between the agency and state regulators to discuss issues related to the regulation and supervision of state-chartered financial institutions. The committee, titled the Advisory Committee of State Regulators (ACSR), will explore topics such as (i) safety and soundness; (ii) consumer protection issues; (iii) the creation of new banks; and (iv) financial system risks, including cyberattacks or money laundering. Members of the ACSR will be composed of state financial regulators, as well as other individuals “with expertise in the regulation of state-chartered financial institutions.”
On November 14, NYDFS announced a proposed regulation, which would allow regulated entities to share confidential supervisory information with legal counsel or with independent auditors without obtaining prior written approval from the agency. Currently, entities are required to receive prior written approval for each instance in which they want to share confidential supervisory information with hired legal counsel or independent auditors. The proposal would allow a regulated entity to share this information without prior written approval from NYDFS as long as there is a written agreement between the parties, in which the hired legal counsel or independent auditor agrees to, among other things, (i) only use the information for the purposes of legal representation or auditing services; (ii) not to disclose the information to its employees except on a “need to know” basis; (iii) promptly notify NYDFS of any requests for the information; and (iv) maintain records for all information disclosed pursuant to the regulation. Comments on the proposal will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the state register on November 27.
On November 5, the FTC and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah against a Utah-based company and its affiliates (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly using deceptive marketing to persuade consumers to purchase real estate training packages costing thousands of dollars. According to the complaint, the defendants violated the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and Utah state law by marketing real estate training packages with false claims through the use of celebrity endorsements. The defendants’ marketing materials allegedly told consumers, among other things, that they would (i) receive strategies for making profitable real estate deals during seminars included in the packages; and (ii) learn how to access wholesale or deeply discounted properties. The complaint argues, however, that the promises were false and misleading, as, among other things, the seminars promoted additional workshops costing more than $1,100 to attend where consumers largely received general information about real estate investing, along with promotions for “advanced training” costing tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, the discounted properties were typically sold or brokered to consumers by the defendants at inflated prices with concealed markups, the complaint alleges. Among other things, the FTC and Utah Division of Consumer Protection seek monetary and injunctive relief against the defendants.
On October 25, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) published proposed regulations that (i) require all licensees under the California Financing Law (CFL) to register through NMLS; and (ii) establishes regulatory requirements for the oversight of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program administrators. Currently, under the CFL, some licensees engaged in residential mortgage origination and brokering are already licensed through the NMLS, while other lenders and brokers not engaged in the business of making or brokering loans secured with residential real property or financing PACE transactions are not on NMLS. According to the initial statement of reasons, the proposed regulations would amend existing licensing rules to transition all licensees under the CFL to registration through NMLS. Moreover, the proposed regulations implement AB 1284—which was signed into law on October 4, 2017, and, beginning January 1, 2019, requires a private entity that administers a PACE program on behalf of a public agency to be licensed under the CFL—and make conforming changes to the existing rules under the CFL. According to the DBO, the objectives of the proposed regulations “are to protect property owners who are offered PACE financing from deception, misrepresentations, or misunderstandings, to promote transparency in PACE financing, to provide oversight of persons soliciting property owners, and to facilitate a fair marketplace where the financing option can provide benefits to both property owners and the environment.” Comments on the proposed regulations are due by December 9.
On October 25, NYDFS Superintendent Linda Lacewell announced that the state regulator has joined the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN). The GFIN was created by the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority in 2018 and is an international network of 50 organizations, including most recently the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, FDIC, OCC, and SEC. (Previous InfoBytes coverage here.) According to NYDFS, participation will provide opportunities to engage with international partners to support financial innovation, increase financial market resiliency, and create “better uses of technology for overseeing supervised marketplaces” by, among other things, facilitating cross-border testing of new products and services. NYDFS also reiterated the recent establishment of its new Research and Innovation Division (previous InfoBytes coverage here) as a demonstration of its commitment to innovation.
On October 22, the New York governor directed NYDFS to investigate instances of alleged mortgage deed fraud and deceptive practices targeting homeowners in Brooklyn. In addition to the investigation, the governor also directed NYDFS to “dispatch the Department's Foreclosure Relief Unit to provide assistance to homeowners who believe they may have been a victim of deed fraud or unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices in regard to the sale or attempted purchase of their home.”
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the governor recently signed a package of bills intended to increase consumer homeowner protections. Specifically, A 5615 amended state law related to distressed home loans to extend consumer protections for homes in default and foreclosure by, among other things, (i) providing homeowners additional time to cancel a covered contract with a purchaser; (ii) preventing distressed property consultants from inducing the consumer to transfer the deed to the consultant or anyone else; and (iii) allowing consumers to void contracts, deeds, or other agreements material to the consumer’s property where an individual was convicted of or pled guilty to making false statements in connection with that agreement.
Buckley Special Alert
Last week, the California attorney general released the highly anticipated proposed regulations implementing the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA — which was enacted in June 2018 (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), amended several times and with the most recent amendments signed into law on Oct. 11, and is currently set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020 — directed the California attorney general to issue regulations to further the law’s purpose.
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If you have any questions about the CCPA or other related issues, please visit our Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security practice page, or contact a Buckley attorney with whom you have worked in the past.
On October 1, the CFPB and the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs filed an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina against two companies and their owner, alleging that the defendants violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) and the South Carolina Consumer Protection Code (SCCPC) by offering high-interest loans to veterans and other consumers in exchange for the assignment of some of the consumers’ monthly pension or disability payments. The complaint alleges that the majority of the credit offers are brokered for veterans with disability pensions or retirement pensions. The defendants allegedly did not disclose to consumers the interest rates associated with the products, marketing the contracts as sale of payments and not credit offers. The defendants also allegedly did not disclose that the contracts were void under federal and state law, which prohibit the assignment of certain benefits. The Bureau and South Carolina are seeking injunctive relief, restitution, damages, disgorgement, and civil money penalties.
The Bureau’s announcement notes that this is the third action in 2019 related to the marketing or administration of high-interest credit to veterans. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in January 2019, the Bureau settled with an online loan broker resolving allegations that the broker violated the CFPA by operating a website that connected veterans with companies offering high-interest loans in exchange for the assignment of some or all of their military pension payments. Additionally, in August 2019, the Bureau and the Arkansas attorney general announced a proposed settlement with three loan brokerage companies, along with their owner and operator, for allegedly misrepresenting high-interest credit offers to veterans and other consumers as purchases of future pension or disability payments (covered by Infobytes here).
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The federal fraud sentencing guidelines: It's time to stop the madness" at a New York Criminal Bar Association webinar
- Daniel P Stipano to moderate "Digital identity: The next gen of CIP" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference