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Recently, FTC staff submitted a comment letter in response to the CFPB’s request for information (RFI) seeking input on ways to provide additional clarity under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and implementing Regulation B. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB issued the RFI last July requesting comments on ways to create a regulatory environment that expands credit access and ensures consumers and communities are protected from discrimination with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction. Included in the RFI was a request for input on whether “the Bureau should provide additional clarity regarding its approach to disparate impact analysis under ECOA and/or Regulation B.” Citing to legislative history, the FTC noted that Regulation B explicitly incorporates disparate impact, and stressed that “[a]rticulating a single approach to disparate impact analysis that covers diverse sets of present and future facts and circumstances of discrimination could be difficult and could risk being both over and under inclusive.” The FTC suggested that if the Bureau chooses to provide additional detail regarding its approach to disparate impact analysis, a disclaimer should be included that such information is not intended to “bless” any violations of ECOA and Regulation B, but is rather “intended to provide examples of how the agency might approach a fair lending matter.”
In response to the Bureau’s request for information about ways it might support efforts to meet the credit needs of small businesses, the FTC highlighted recent enforcement actions involving small businesses, including actions involving deceptively advertised financial products and unfair billing and collection practices, particularly with respect to merchant cash advances. The FTC also urged the Bureau to remind entities offering credit to small businesses that ECOA and Regulation B apply and that entities cannot avoid application of these statutes based solely on how they characterize a transaction or the benefits they claim to provide. The FTC further stressed that collecting small business lending demographic data could aid in enforcement efforts, as would encouraging small businesses to report misconduct and refer complaints to the FTC and the states. In addition, the FTC highlighted the importance of educating small businesses about different products and terms, as well as potential law violations, which could assist small businesses in comparing products resulting in less expensive financing options.
On January 6, a member of the New York Senate introduced S1061, which would update the New York Banking Law (the “Law”) to require a license for persons or entities engaging in the business of making or soliciting a “commercial financing product” in New York. The legislation defines a commercial financing product as “any advance of funds to a commercial or business enterprise made for the purpose of assisting the business with its capital needs,” including (i) loans made to a commercial enterprise of $500,000 or less; (ii) asset-based financing in the amount of $500,000 or less; and (iii) leasing transactions in the amount of $500,000 or less.
“Making or soliciting” includes:
- Providing commercial financing products to small businesses;
- Marketing commercial financing products for providers of commercial financing products;
- Receiving compensation from a provider of a commercial financing product in exchange for a referral; and
- An entity that partners with a federal or state banking organization originator and the entity: (i) acquires a participation interest in the commercial financing product, if the entity either (a) receives compensation from the originator or (b) services the commercial financing product; or (ii) provides indemnity or loss protection to the originator for losses the originator may incur based on the performance of the commercial financing product.
The legislation would exempt banking organizations as defined by the Law (all banks, trust companies, private bankers, savings banks, safe deposit companies, savings and loan associations, credit unions and investment companies), any lender who makes or solicits five or fewer commercial financing products within a 12-month period, and check casher licensees, among others. Notably, the legislation does not currently contemplate any changes to existing Section 340, Article 9 of the Law, which generally requires licensure to originate commercial-purpose loans in New York of $50,000 or less with a rate above 16 percent.
On December 23, the New York governor signed S5470, which establishes consumer-style disclosure requirements for certain commercial transactions. For open and closed-end commercial financing transactions, the legislation requires that the disclosures include, among other things, (i) the amount financed or the maximum credit line; (ii) the total cost of the financing; (iii) the annual percentage rate; (iv) payment amounts; (v) a description of all other potential fees and charges; and (vi) prepayment charges. Violations are subject to a civil penalty no greater than $2,000 per violation. Notably, the legislation exempts (i) financial institutions (defined as a chartered or licensed bank, trust company, industrial loan company, savings and loan association, or federal credit union, authorized to do business in New York); (ii) lenders regulated under the federal Farm Credit Act; (iii) commercial financing transactions secured by real property; (iv) technology service providers; (v) lenders who make no more than five applicable transactions in New York in a 12-month period; and (vi) any individual commercial financing transaction over $500,000. The legislation is effective 180 days after enactment.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, California is currently finalizing proposed regulations implementing the requirements of the commercial financing disclosures required by SB 1235 (Chapter 1011, Statutes of 2018), which was enacted in September 2018. The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation previously signaled its intent to finalize the regulations by January 2021.
On December 15, the CFPB released a report detailing the results of the panel convened pursuant to the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), which discussed the Bureau’s pending rulemaking to implement Section 1071 Dodd-Frank Act. Section 1071 requires the Bureau to engage in a rulemaking to collect and disclose data on lending to both women-owned and minority-owned small businesses. In September, the Bureau released a detailed outline describing the proposals under consideration for Section 1071 implementation, including factors such as scope, covered lenders, covered products, data points, and privacy (details covered by InfoBytes here). The October panel was comprised of a representative from the Bureau, the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, and a representative from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget. The panel consulted with small entity representatives (SERs)—those who would likely be directly affected by the Section 1071 rulemaking—to discuss the economic impacts of compliance with the outline’s proposals, as well as regulatory alternatives to the proposals.
The report includes, among other things, the feedback and recommendations made by the SERs, and the findings and recommendations of the panel. Generally, the SERs were supportive of the proposal with “many expressly support[ing] broad coverage of both financial institutions and products in the 1071 rulemaking.” The SERs backed data transparency and simple regulations but expressed significant concern that the rulemaking would cause smaller financial institutions to “incur disproportionate compliance cost compared to large [financial institutions]” and would ultimately either decrease lending or increase costs for small businesses. The SERs also recommended that the Bureau take into account different types of financial institutions operating in the small business lending market, including non-depository institutions. The report also details specific recommendations by the panel, including that the Bureau issue compliance materials in connection with the rulemaking and consider providing sample disclosure language related to the collection of race, sex, and ethnicity information for principal owners as well as women-owned and minority-owned business status.
On October 2, the Small Business Administration issued a procedural notice providing guidance for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lenders when a recipient of a PPP loan experiences a change in ownership. According to the guidance, a “change of ownership” occurs when (i) at least 20 percent of common stock or other ownership interest of a PPP borrower is sold or transferred; (ii) the PPP borrower sells or transfers at least 50 percent of its assets; or (iii) the PPP borrower merges with or into another entity. Borrowers must notify their PPP lenders in writing before the closing of any change in ownership. The guidance specifies that, regardless of the change of ownership circumstances, the loan terms still apply and PPP lenders are “required to continue submitting the monthly 1502 reports until the PPP loan is fully satisfied.” Among other things, the guidance explains that the PPP borrower remains responsible for performing all PPP loan obligations and PPP-related certifications (including the certification of economic necessity), as well as complying with all other applicable PPP requirements. Additionally, PPP borrowers are still required to obtain, prepare, retain, and provide all required documentation to their PPP lender or lender responsible for servicing the PPP loan or to the SBA upon request.
On September 25, the FTC announced a settlement with a Rhode Island-based company and its owner (defendants), resolving allegations that the defendants violated the FTC Act by claiming to be an approved lender for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) even though the defendants are neither affiliated with the SBA nor an SBA-authorized lender. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the FTC filed an action against the defendants in April, alleging that the defendants made deceptive statements on their websites, such as “WE ARE A DIRECT LENDER FOR THE PPP PROGRAM!,” and directly contacted small businesses claiming to represent the SBA in order to solicit loan applications on behalf of the businesses’ banks. The settlement prohibits the defendants from engaging in the conduct subject to the action, including misrepresenting that they are affiliated with the SBA and that they are authorized to accept or process applications on behalf of the SBA. Moreover, the defendants are prohibited from disclosing or benefitting from consumer information obtained prior to the settlement without express, informed consent from the consumer, and are subject to certain reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
On September 15, the CFPB released its “Outline of Proposals Under Consideration and Alternatives Considered” (Outline) for implementing the requirements of Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which instructs the Bureau to collect and disclose data on lending to women and minority-owned small businesses. The detailed Outline describes the proposals under consideration and discusses other relevant laws, the regulatory process, and potential economic impacts. The Bureau also released a high-level summary of the Outline. Highlights of the proposals include:
- Scope. The Bureau is considering proposing that the data collection and reporting requirements would apply only to applications for credit by a small business. Financial institutions would not be required to collect and report data for women- and minority-owned businesses that are not considered “small,” as defined by the Small Business Act and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) implementing regulations.
- Covered Lenders. The Bureau is considering proposing a broad definition of “financial institution” that would apply to a variety of entities engaged in small business lending, but is also considering proposing exemptions based on either a size-based (examples include $100 million or $200 million in assets), or activity-based threshold (examples range from 25 loans or $2.5 million to 100 loans or $10 million), or both.
- Covered Products. The Bureau is considering proposing exemptions from the definition of “credit” to include consumer-designated credit, leases, factoring, trade credit, and merchant cash advances.
- Application. Because an “application” would trigger requirements under Section 1071, the Bureau is considering proposing a definition that is largely consistent with Regulation B; however, the Bureau is also considering “clarifying circumstances,” such as inquiries/prequalifications, that would not be reportable.
- Data Points. The Bureau is considering a range of data points for collection, including, in addition to the mandatory data points required by Section 1071, “discretionary data points” to aid in fulfilling the purposes of Section 1071: “pricing, time in business, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code, and number of employees.”
- Privacy. The Bureau is considering using a “balancing test” for public disclosure of the data. Specifically, data “would be modified or deleted if its disclosure in unmodified form would pose risks to privacy interests that are not justified by the benefits of public disclosure.”
Additionally, the Bureau will convene a panel, as required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), in October 2020 to “consult small entities regarding the potential impact of the proposals under consideration.” Feedback on the proposals is due no later than December 14.
On September 11, the California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) initiated the formal rulemaking process with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for the proposed regulations implementing the requirements of the commercial financing disclosures required by SB 1235 (Chapter 1011, Statutes of 2018). In September 2018, California enacted SB 1235, which requires non-bank lenders and other finance companies to provide written consumer-style disclosures for certain commercial transactions, including small business loans and merchant cash advances (covered by InfoBytes here). In July 2019, California released the first draft of the proposed regulations (covered by InfoBytes here) to consider comments prior to initiating the formal rulemaking process with the OAL.
The new proposed regulations, which have been modified since the July 2019 draft, provide general format and content requirements for each disclosure, as well as specific requirements for each type of covered transaction. Additionally, the proposed regulations provide information on calculating the annual percentage rate (APR), including additional details for calculating the APR for factoring transactions, as well as calculating the estimated APR for sales-based financing transactions, among other things. Additional details about the proposed regulations can be found in the CDBO’s initial statement of reasons. Comments on the proposed regulations will be accepted through October 28.
On August 27, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a new interim final rule (IFR), which provides additional guidance for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lenders on the treatment of business owners and the forgiveness of certain non-payroll costs. The new IFR specifies that “owner-employees with less than a 5 percent ownership stake in a C- or S- Corporation are not subject to the owner-employee compensation rule.” The SBA explained that the exemption, which was decided upon in consultation with the Secretary of Treasury, is intended to cover owner-employees who “have no meaningful ability to influence decisions over how loan proceeds are allocated.” With respect to the forgiveness of certain non-payroll costs, the SBA clarified that costs attributable to the business operations of tenants or sub-tenants of a PPP borrower or, for household expenses of home-based businesses, do not qualify for forgiveness. However, rent payments to a related third party are eligible for loan forgiveness under certain conditions. The IFR takes effect upon publication in the Federal Register. Comments on the provisions are due within 30 days.
On August 25, the CFPB announced a Request for Information (RFI) on the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), consistent with the requirements of Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which specifies that agencies should review certain rules within 10 years of their publication to consider the rules’ effect on small businesses. Specifically, the Bureau is seeking comments from stakeholders on the economic impact of the CARD Act on small entities and whether regulations should be adjusted to address those impacts. Additionally, the RFI seeks information, pursuant to section 502(a) of the CARD Act, related to the consumer credit card market. Among other things, the Bureau requests stakeholders comment on (i) the terms of credit card agreements; (ii) the effectiveness of credit card disclosures; (iii) the cost and availability of credit cards; and (iv) credit card product innovation.
Comments on the RFI will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "Non-QM market overview & the impact of QM 2.0" at the IMN Non-QM Virtual Conference
- Buckley Webcast: Looking ahead — Tighter scrutiny of deposit and payment practices
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What have you bought non-QM post-Covid?" at the IMN Non-QM Virtual Conference
- Garylene D. Javier to moderate "Innovation in an evolving privacy landscape" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Consumer Financial Services Committee Winter Meeting