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Special Alert: California’s new consumer financial protection law expands UDAAP and enforcement authority
On Monday, August 31, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1864, which enacts the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) and changes the name of the Department of Business Oversight (DBO) to the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI).
- Establishes UDAAP authority for the new DFPI, adding “abusive” to “unfair or deceptive” acts or practices prohibited by California law, and authorizing remedies similar to those provided in the Dodd-Frank Act. The DFPI also has authority to define UDAAPs in connection with the offering or provision of commercial financing (e.g., merchant cash advance, lease financing, factoring) and other financial products or services to small business recipients, nonprofits, and family farms.
On August 18, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a lower court’s decision, holding that 2008 amendments to the Pennsylvania Loan Interest and Protection Law (also known as “Act 6”), which raised the mortgage principle-amount ceiling from $50,000 to nearly $215,000, do not apply retroactively to loans executed prior to 2008. According to the opinion, in May 2002, homeowners executed a mortgage for $74,000. In 2008, the homeowners defaulted on their mortgage and in 2009, their bank—through its counsel—filed a mortgage foreclosure complaint, which included $1,300 in attorneys’ fees. In 2012, while their foreclosure was still pending, the homeowners filed a class action against the bank’s counsel, alleging the counsel violated Act 6’s limit on attorney’s fees. The trial court sustained the counsel’s demurrer, concluding that the homeowners’ mortgage was not “a ‘residential mortgage’ as Act 6 defined that term in 2002.” The superior court affirmed.
On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the superior court, noting not only the “presumption against finding statutes retroactive,” but the state’s General Assembly’s “explicit instruction that courts should avoid applying legislation retroactively unless the statute clearly and manifestly states otherwise.” Because Act 6 does not expressly state that the 2008 increased mortgage-ceiling should apply to mortgages executed prior to the amendment, the Court concluded there was “no basis allowing for application of the updated law to the [homeowners]’ mortgage,” and thus, the counsel was not subject to Act 6’s limitation on attorneys’ fees.
On June 29, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed SB 74, Budget Act of 2020 (and accompanying budget summary), which allocates $10.2 million in 2020-21 growing to $19.3 million in 2022-23 to the Department of Business Oversight, contingent on the enactment of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (Law). As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert (which details an earlier version of the proposal), the Law was originally proposed as a trailer bill to the state’s budget, but was not finalized by lawmakers prior to the June 15th budget deadline. In this version, the proposed budget and Law would: (i) revamp and rename the state’s Department of Business Oversight (DBO) to the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI); (ii) establish an Office of Financial Technology Innovation to study emerging technologies in the financial industry; (iii) expand the DFPI’s authority to protect consumers from predatory practices by, among other things, prohibiting unlawful, unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts (consistent with Section 17200); and (iv) foster the responsible development of new financial products. California lawmakers now have until August 31 (end of session) to finalize “the statutory framework needed to implement the [Law].”
Notably, on August 6, the Assembly is holding a hearing to discuss the proposal and is seeking public feedback. Written comments should be submitted to BudgetSub6@asm.ca.gov prior to the hearing date.
On July 6, the Missouri governor signed SB 599, which, among other things, modifies the state’s mortgage broker licensing requirements. Specifically, the legislation (i) provides that a prelicensing education course that is completed by an applicant will not satisfy the state’s education requirement if the course precedes an application “by a certain period” as established by the Nationwide Multi-State Licensing System and Registry (NMLSR); (ii) requires persons with various financial relationships with a business applicant for a residential mortgage loan broker license to furnish fingerprints to the NMLSR for submission to the FBI and any other authorized government entity for a background check; and (iii) allows the Director of the Division of Finance to waive the requirement that residential mortgage loan brokers maintain at least one full-service office in the state of Missouri for persons “exclusively engaged in the business of loan processing or underwriting,” or providing mortgage loan servicing. The legislation is effective August 28.
On June 30, NYDFS issued two industry letters aimed at reminding New York regulated banking institutions of their responsibilities under New York State’s Community Reinvestment Act (NYCRA) with respect to minority-and women-owned businesses, as well as opportunities to receive NYCRA credit for Covid-19 pandemic activities.
The first industry letter discusses the state’s recent amendments to the NYCRA, which were effective January 11, 2020, and require NYDFS to consider “several aspects of banking institutions’ activities with respect to minority- and women-owned businesses.” These include, among other things, (i) “‘the banking institution’s participation, including investments, … in technical assistance programs for small businesses and minority- and women-owned businesses’”; and (ii) “‘banking institution’s origination of … minority-_and women-owned business loans within its community or the purchase of such loans originated in its community.’” NYDFS notes that later this year, it will begin to request information regarding programs related to minority- and women-owned businesses in order to begin evaluating banks under the new amendments. NYDFS also provided a spreadsheet with sample requests for guidance.
The second industry letter describes the circumstances in which regulated institutions may receive NYCRA credit for activities taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which the announcement notes is consistent with the guidance federal regulators have issued on the same topic (covered by InfoBytes here and here).
On June 24, the California Privacy Rights Act of 2020 (CPRA) ballot initiative was submitted to the California Country Clerk’s office as an initiative qualified for the November 2020 General Election ballot after receiving more than the 623,212 valid signatures required to qualify. The initiative was drafted by Alastair Mactaggart, the Founder and Chair of the Californians for Consumer Privacy, and would amend the CCPA in several significant ways. Notably, Mactaggart also drafted the initiative that ultimately resulted in the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The ballot initiative would, among other things:
- Provide consumers with the right to require a business to correct inaccurate personal information;
- Revise the definition of “business” to: (i) clarify that the time period for calculating annual gross revenues is based on the prior calendar year; (ii) provide that an entity meets the definition of a “business” if the entity, in relevant part, alone or in combination, annually buys, sell, or shares the personal information of 100,000 or more consumers or households; (iii) include a joint venture or partnership composed of businesses in which each business has at least a 40 percent interest; and (iv) include a person who does not otherwise qualify as a “business” but voluntarily certifies to the California Privacy Protection Agency (described below) that it is in compliance with, and agrees to be bound by, the CPRA;
- Create the California Privacy Protection Agency, which would have the authority to implement and enforce the CCPA (powers that are currently vested in the attorney general). The agency would be governed by a five-member board, including a single Chair, with members being appointed by the governor, the attorney general, and the leaders of the senate and assembly; and
- Expand on the CCPA’s opt-out provisions and prohibit businesses from selling a consumers’ “sensitive personal information”—a new term introduced by the initiative— without affirmative authorization.
Additional details regarding the proposed changes are available in the September 2019 InfoBytes post announcing the initiative. Since originally filing the initiative in September 2019, Mactaggart has amended the initiative several times, without significant change.
On June 9, the Louisiana governor signed HB 722, which provides that “[e]lectronic signatures used in transactions by and with financial institutions are enforceable to the full extent of the law.” Specifically, HB 722 states that financial institutions may submit evidence in electronic signature disputes proving that the purported signer’s electronic signature is valid and enforceable, including evidence showing that the purported signer (i) “received a direct or indirect benefit or value from the transaction, such as the deposit of funds into the purported signer’s preexisting account with the financial institution;” (ii) received loan proceeds; or (iii) paid a debt. The act takes effect August 1.
On May 21, the Oklahoma governor signed SB 1682, which prohibits any state municipality or other political subdivision from regulating certain practices of businesses and occupations licensed, regulated, and controlled under the supervision of the state’s Department of Consumer Credit. Specifically, local governments may not regulate interest rates, fees, or physical locations, or prevent licensed lenders from engaging in lending practices authorized under the state law. Additionally, SB 1682 allows a person whose rights are violated under the provisions of this section the right to bring an action for injunctive relief. The act takes effect November 1.
Special Alert: California Assembly to introduce legislation for Covid-19-related relief for mortgage loans, vehicle-secured credit, PACE financing, and deferred deposit transactions
We understand that the California State Assembly will shortly propose amendments to Assembly Bill No. 2501 to create the “COVID-19 Homeowner, Tenant, and Consumer Relief Law of 2020.” As of posting of this Alert, the proposed legislation is not available on California’s legislative service website. The proposed law would provide relief to homeowners, tenants, and vehicle owners by prohibiting creditors and loan servicers from taking specified actions, including initiating foreclosures or repossessions, during the period from the date of enactment of the proposed law through the 180-day period following the date that California Governor Gavin Newsom declares the emergency related to Covid-19 has ended. Additionally, the proposed law would require servicers to place certain loans that become delinquent into automatic forbearance for a period of at least six months.
The proposed law appears similar to portions of an appropriations bill, “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act,” which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 23, 2020, prior to the enactment of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and failed to pass. We understand that the proposed law is scheduled to be heard before the California State Assembly Banking Committee on May 19.
On April 22, the Virginia legislature enacted SB 77, which requires entities servicing student loans in the Commonwealth to be licensed by the State Corporation Commission (SCC). Notably, banks, savings institutions, credit unions, and financial institutions regulated under 12 U.S.C. § 2002 are exempt from the licensing requirements. In addition to outlining specific licensing requirements, SB 77 states that non-exempt student loan servicers must also refrain from, among other things, (i) engaging in any unfair or deceptive act or practice in connection with the servicing of a qualified education loan by misrepresenting the amount, nature, or terms of any loan fees or payments, the terms and conditions of the loan agreement, or the borrower’s loan obligations; (ii) misapplying loan payments to an outstanding balance; (iii) failing to report both the favorable and unfavorable payment history of a borrower to a nationally recognized consumer credit bureau at least once a year provided the loan servicer regularly reports such information; (iv) failing to communicate with a borrower’s authorized representative; and (v) making false statements or omitting material facts in connection with information provided to the SCC or another government authority. Student loan servicers must also comply with other requirements, such as evaluating qualified borrowers for income-driven repayment programs, and responding to borrowers’ written inquiries within 30 days.
Additionally, SB 77 creates a private cause of action available to “[a]ny person who suffers damage as a result of the failure of a qualified education loan servicer to comply” with the bill’s requirements or with applicable federal student loan servicing laws and regulations. The bill further provides that violations are subject to a civil penalty not exceeding $2,500 and are considered prohibited practices under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. SB 77 has a delayed effective date of July 1, 2021; however, the SCC will begin accepting applications starting on or before March 1, 2021.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "High standards: Best practices for banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Wait wait ... do tell me! Where the panelists answer to you" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Matthew P. Previn and Walter E. Zalenski to discuss "Is valid when made ... valid?" at the Women in Housing & Finance Partner Series webinar
- Warren W. Traiger and Caroline K. Eisner to discuss "CRA modernization and the OCC final rule" at CBA Live
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Transnational corruption: A chat with former U.S. federal prosecutors in New York" at Marval Live Talks
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk and Lauren Frank to discuss "New CFPB interpretation on UDAAP" at a California Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Quality and Compliance Committee webinar
- Thomas A. Sporkin to discuss "Managing internal investigations and advanced government defense" at the Securities Enforcement Forum
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Mortgage servicing in a recession: Early intervention, loss mitigation and more" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Independent monitoring in the United States" at the World Compliance Association Peru Chapter IV International Conference on Compliance and the Fight Against Corruption
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "The future of fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Pandemic fallout – Navigating practical operational challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute