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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Democratic Senators Commission GAO to Study Fintech Industry

    Fintech

    On April 18, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting that it complete a study on the fintech industry. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the GAO is required to examine the regulatory structure of person-to-person (P2P) lending. While the letter recognizes that the GAO issued a report on P2P lending in 2011, the senators urged the GAO to recognize that the lending platforms of financial technology firms (often called fintech) “has changed dramatically and evolved beyond consumer lending,” and that “P2P lending, now generally called marketplace lending, is not the only form of fintech that has developed over the last several years.” The letter further cautions that, “gaps in understanding and regulation of emerging financial products may result in predatory lending, consumer abuse, or systemic issues.” Finally, Senators Brown, Merkley, and Shaheen urged the GAO to provide responses to questions relating to, among other things, (i) the size and structure of the loan portfolios maintained by privately owned fintech lenders; (ii) how fintech lenders’ relationships with financial institutions impact both the financial system at large and regulatory framework; (ii) whether the risks that may arise from the investor base shifting from individual investor to institutional investor have grown since this issue was first noted in the GAO’s 2011 report; and (iii) the anti-money laundering, data security, and privacy requirements fintech companies are subject to.

    Anti-Money Laundering U.S. Senate Online Lending GAO Fintech Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Marketplace Lending Peer-to-Peer Predatory Lending

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  • Congress Passes Bill to Extend Foreclosure Protection Element of the SCRA

    Lending

    On March 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S.B. 2393, which extends through 2017 the provision of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act’s (SCRA) that protects servicemembers against foreclosure without a court order or waiver for one year following completion of their service. On January 1, 2016, the foreclosure protection provision reverted back to the period of active duty military service plus 90 days, rather than the period of active duty military service plus one year. Upon the President’s signature, the SCRA’s protection against foreclosure without a court order or waiver will return to the period of active duty military service plus one year through December 31, 2017.       

    Foreclosure Servicemembers SCRA U.S. Senate U.S. House

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  • Senator Murray Sponsors Bill to Expand and Strengthen the SCRA

    Consumer Finance

    On March 17, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sponsored the SCRA Enhancement and Improvement Act of 2016 (the Act). The Act focuses especially on student loan servicers, but encompasses all financial institutions covered by the SCRA. Although the text of the Act is not yet available, the recently issued press release on the Act describes its proposed changes to the SCRA. Among other changes, the Act would revise the SCRA by: (i) requiring automatic application of the SCRA’s interest rate cap; (ii) ensuring that student loan servicers have a dedicated SCRA representative; (iii) reducing the SCRA’s interest rate cap from 6% to 3%; (iv) protecting servicemembers when their loans are transferred or sold by requiring “sufficient notice”; (v) forgiving all federal and private student loan debt if a servicemember dies in the line of duty; (vi) expanding the interest rate cap to all debts, no matter when incurred; (vii) clarifying that servicemembers may bring a private right of action under the SCRA; (viii) doubling the fines for violations of the SCRA; and (ix) expanding certain protections on mortgages, leases, and cable and internet contracts.

    Student Lending SCRA U.S. Senate

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  • State AGs Urge Senate to Pass Bill Banning Debt Collection Robocalls

    Consumer Finance

    On February 10, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, along with 23 other state attorneys general, wrote to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (Committee) urging it to pass legislation repealing a recent amendment to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that allows debt collection robocalls to consumers’ cellphones. According to the AGs’ letter, the TCPA currently “permits citizens to be bombarded by unwanted and previously illegal robocalls to their cell phones if the calls are made pursuant to the collection of debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The letter references the FCC’s efforts to slow the proliferation of robocalling and calls the recent amendment to the TCPA a “step backward in our law enforcement efforts” to protect consumers from “unwanted and unwelcome robocalls.”

    TCPA State Attorney General Debt Collection FCC U.S. Senate

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  • Obama Administration's FY 2017 Budget Proposal Makes Room for Small Dollar Loan Program

    Consumer Finance

    This week, the Obama Administration released the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Proposal. President Obama’s proposed budget for the Department of the Treasury would, through the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, reserve at least $10 million until September 30, 2018 to provide grants for loan loss reserve funds and to provide technical assistance for small dollar loan programs under section 1206 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The Small Dollar Loan Program, according to the budget proposal, “will support broader access to safe and affordable financial products and provide an alternative to predatory lending by encouraging CDFIs to establish and maintain small dollar loan programs.” Earlier this year, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), in a letter to the President, requested that the FY 2017 budget proposal prioritize funding for small dollar loan programs, as outlined in Title XII – Improving Access to Mainstream Financial Institutions – of the Dodd-Frank Act.    

    On a similar note, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing titled, “Short-term, Small Dollar Lending: The CFPB’s Assault on Access to Credit and Trampling of State and Tribal Sovereignty,” on February 11, which examined the short-term, small dollar credit marketplace. During the hearing, House members expressed concern that the CFPB and other government agencies are “overextending their efforts” in regulating the industry, thus limiting consumers’ access to credit. Per the CFPB’s 2015 Regulatory Agenda, the agency is “in the process of developing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address concerns in markets for payday, auto title, and similar lending products.” This stimulated conversations on how the potential rule would affect consumers and existing state and tribal law. CFPB Acting Deputy Director David Silberman was present at the hearing; Silberman maintained that the CFPB’s regulatory efforts are to ensure that small dollar loans are affordable and that consumers are not “spiraling into continual debt.”

    CFPB Payday Lending Department of Treasury U.S. Senate U.S. House Obama Predatory Lending

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  • Senator Brown Requests Funding for Dodd-Frank Small Dollar Loan Programs

    Consumer Finance

    On January 6, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who serves on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the FY 2017 budget proposal prioritize funding for programs outlined in Title XII – Improving Access to Mainstream Financial Institutions of the Dodd-Frank Act, which has yet to be implemented. According to Senator Brown, resources are needed in order to implement Title XII, which would, among other things, (i) allow the Treasury to establish partnerships with certain eligible entities to help low and moderate income individuals access accounts at banks and credit unions; and (ii) foster partnerships with non-profits, federally insured depository institutions, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), or State, local, or tribal governments to provide low-cost, small dollar loans to traditionally unbanked or underbanked Americans as a more affordable option to the more costly alternative financial services (AFS), such as payday loans, money orders, cash checking, remittances, and auto title loans.

    CFPB Payday Lending Dodd-Frank U.S. Senate

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  • Omnibus Spending Package Affects Cybersecurity Legislation

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On December 15, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled the omnibus spending bill, which includes the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 – legislation that would affect how businesses share information with each other and the government, and establish an information system for the government to share “cyber threat indicators and defensive measures in real time consistent with the protection of classified information” with federal and non-federal entities. The cybersecurity text included in the omnibus bill is a combination of three cybersecurity bills that were under legislative consideration this year, as follows: S. 754 - Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015; H.R. 1731 - National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015; and H.R. 1560 - Protecting Cyber Networks Act. Designating the Department of Homeland Security as the government’s proxy, the revised legislation provides entities with liability protections to voluntarily share with the government cybersecurity threat information. Specifically, regarding the sharing or receipt of cyber threat indicators, the legislation reads, “[n]o cause of action shall lie or be maintained in any court against any private entity, and such action shall be promptly dismissed, for the sharing or receipt of a cyber threat indicator or defensive measure under section 104(c).” Although the legislation includes text mandating that entities “implement and utilize a technical capability configured to remove any information not directly related to a cybersecurity threat that the non-Federal entity knows at the time of sharing to be personal information of a specific individual or information that identifies a specific individuals,” critics from privacy and civil liberties organizations argue that the language is vague, offering citizens little protection while enhancing intelligence agencies’ capability to invade personal privacy.

    The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Friday, December 18, with the Senate – should the legislation pass the House – acting shortly thereafter.

    U.S. Senate U.S. House Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • Legislation Seeking Better Transparency in Federal Agency Settlements Passes Unanimously in U.S. Senate

    Consumer Finance

    On September 21, Senate Bill 1109, the Truth in Settlements Act, passed in the U.S. Senate with amendments by unanimous consent and has now been referred to the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for consideration. Originally introduced in January 2014 and sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the Truth in Settlements Act would require federal agencies to post online, in a searchable format, a list of each covered settlement agreement, criminal or civil, with payments totaling $1 million or more. The list would entail, among other things, (i) the names of the settling parties and the amount each must pay; (ii) a description of the claims each party settled; (iii) whether a portion of the settlement amount is tax-deductible; and (iv) any actions the settling parties must take under the settlement agreement in lieu of payment. If enacted, the bill would require agencies to publicly explain via written statement why confidentiality is justified for certain instances. The bill, co-sponsored by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), aims to provide greater transparency and oversight regarding settlements reached by federal enforcement agencies.

    FDIC Federal Reserve OCC SEC DOJ Enforcement U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren

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  • Banking Trade Associations Urge Senate Leaders to Pass Regulatory Relief Legislation for Community Institutions

    Consumer Finance

    On September 8, four trade associations representing 14,000 financial institutions – the American Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America, and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions – submitted a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown urging them to enact bipartisan legislation that would provide “regulatory relief to community financial institutions.” The letter describes the measures that community banks have been forced to make to address the “growing volume and complexity of regulations,” including cutting back on their loan officers ranks in favor of additional compliance staff and adjusting or eliminating financial products and services offered to consumers. The letter urges the Senate to pass the Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015, S. 1484, which was approved by the Senate Banking Committee in May. This legislation, the letter claims, will “addresses statutory and regulatory obstacles that thwart the ability of community banks and credit unions to fully serve the diverse financial services needs of consumers.”

    U.S. Senate Community Banks

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  • U.S. Senators Introduce Automobile-Focused Cybersecurity Legislation

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On July 21, Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Markey (D-MA) introduced legislation, the Security and Privacy in Your Car Act (“SPY Car" Act), that would protect drivers’ privacy while allowing them to remain connected to the growing technological advances in the automobile industry. In addition to directing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the FTC to develop federal cybersecurity and privacy standards that would secure motor vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States and protect drivers, the SPY Car Act seeks to establish a rating system, or “cyber dashboard,” that “informs consumers about how well the vehicle protects drivers’ security and privacy” beyond the minimum standards potentially set by the NHTSA and the FTC. The requirements that motor vehicles: (i) be equipped with reasonable measures to protect against hacking attacks; (ii) maintain the ability to reasonably secure data collected within electronic systems; and (iii) be equipped with capabilities to immediately detect, report, and stop attempts to intercept driving data or control the vehicle, are among the cybersecurity standards outlined in the SPY Car Act. In regards to privacy standards, the legislation proposes the following: (i) transparency, such that owners or lessees are explicitly aware of the collection, transmission, retention, and use of driving data; (ii) consumer choice, allowing owners or lessees to opt out of data collection and retention without losing access to other features, such as key navigation; and (iii) marketing prohibition, which would ban companies from using personal driving information for advertising purposes without obtaining the affirmative express consent of the owner or lessee. The introduction of the SPY Car Act follows Senator Markey’s 2015 Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk report, which showed gaps in the auto industry’s ability to prevent hackers from accessing internet-connected features in vehicles.

    Auto Finance U.S. Senate Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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