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On November 18, the CFPB, OCC, and the Federal Reserve Board announced a final rule, which increases the TILA smaller loan exemption threshold for the special appraisal requirements for higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs). TILA requires creditors to obtain a written appraisal before making a HPML unless the loan amount is at or below the threshold exemption. Each year the threshold must be readjusted based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The exemption threshold for 2021 is $27,200, which remains at the same level it was in 2020.
Additionally, the CFPB and the Federal Reserve Board finalized the annual dollar threshold adjustments that govern the application of TILA (Regulation Z) and Consumer Leasing Act (Regulation M) (available here and here), as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. The exemption threshold for 2021, based on the annual percentage increase in the CPI-W, remains unchanged at $58,300 or less, except for private education loans and loans secured by real or personal property used or expected to be used as the principal dwelling of a consumer, which are subject to TILA regardless of the amount.
The final rules take effect on January 1, 2021.
On September 4, the FTC announced a settlement with group of auto dealers (defendants) with locations in Arizona and New Mexico near the Navajo Nation’s border, resolving allegations that the defendants advertised misleading discounts and incentives and falsely inflated consumers’ income and down payment information on certain financing applications. As previously covered by InfoBytes in August 2018, the FTC filed an action against the defendants alleging violations of the FTC Act, TILA, and the Consumer Leasing Act for submitting falsified consumer financing applications to make consumers appear more creditworthy, resulting in consumers—many of whom are members of the Navajo Nation—defaulting “at a higher rate than properly qualified buyers.”
The court-approved settlement requires the defendants to cease all business operations and includes a monetary judgment of over $7 million. Because the defendants are currently in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, the settlement will make the FTC an unsecured claimant in the bankruptcy proceedings. The settlement also prohibits the bankruptcy trustee from using or selling the consumer information obtained from the defendants’ business activities as part of the bankruptcy liquidation.
On May 13, the FDIC announced the April updates to its Consumer Compliance Examination Manual (CEM). The CEM includes supervisory policies and examination procedures for FDIC examination staff for evaluating financial institutions’ compliance with federal consumer protection laws and regulations, and is designed to promote consistency and efficiency in the FDIC’s examination process. The recent updates include, among other things, (i) changes to the pre-examination planning process; (ii) incorporation of threshold changes for TILA, HMDA, and the Consumer Leasing Act; and (iii) changes to asset-based definitions for small and intermediate banks for the Community Reinvestment Act.
On October 31, the CFPB and the Federal Reserve Board finalized the annual dollar threshold adjustments that govern the application of Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act) and Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act) to credit transactions, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act (published in the Federal Register here and here). Each year the thresholds must be readjusted based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The exemption threshold for 2020, based on the annual percentage increase in the CPI-W, is now $58,300 or less, except for private student loans and loans secured by real property, which are subject to TILA regardless of the amount.
On November 21, the CFPB and the Federal Reserve Board finalized the annual dollar threshold adjustments that govern the application of Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act) and Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act) to credit transactions, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. Each year the thresholds must be readjusted based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The exemption threshold for 2019, based on the annual percentage increase in the CPI-W, is now $57,200 or less, except for private student loans and loans secured by real property, which are subject to TILA regardless of the amount.
FTC announces charges against auto dealerships for falsifying consumer information on auto financing documents
On August 1, the FTC announced charges against a group of four auto dealers (defendants) with locations in Arizona and New Mexico near the Navajo Nation’s border alleging, among other things, that the defendants advertised misleading discounts and incentives through their vehicle advertisements, and falsely inflated consumers’ income and down payment information on certain financing applications. The charges brought against the defendants allege violations of the FTC Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and the Consumer Leasing Act. According to the complaint, by allegedly falsifying the customers’ income and down payments, the defendants “inaccurately made consumers appear more creditworthy” on the false financing applications. Moreover, the FTC claims the defendants often prevented consumers from reviewing the falsified information provide in the financing applications prior to signing. As a result, credit was extended to consumers—many of whom are members of the Navajo Nation—who then subsequently “defaulted at a higher rate than properly qualified buyers.” Furthermore, the complaint asserts that the defendants’ deceptive advertising practices concealed the true nature and terms of the financing or leasing offers, and were in violation of federal law for failing to disclose the required terms. The complaint seeks, among other remedies, a permanent injunction to prevent future violations, restitution, and disgorgement.
Auto finance company agrees to $19.7 million preliminary class action settlement over extra lease fees
On June 15, the lead plaintiff filed a motion in the U.S. District for the Southern District of Florida for preliminary approval of an approximately $19.7 million class action settlement between a group of consumers and an auto finance company over allegations that extra fees were charged beyond the set purchase option price disclosed in certain vehicle lease contracts. According to the motion, the lead plaintiff alleged that after he chose to purchase his vehicle at the end of his lease term and he was charged extra third-party fees not included in his original lease contract. The class action complaint alleges violations of the Consumer Leasing Act and breach of contract. The settlement class consists of consumers nationwide who entered into certain lease contracts with the company, purchased their leased vehicle after June 4, 2009, and that were required to pay a documentary or dealer fee not disclosed in the lease contract, which allegedly averages about $238 per consumer. The settlement would allow prospective opt-in members to submit a claim for repayment of 100% of the extra fees charged. The $19.7 million settlement figure was determined using a statistically significant sample of the transactional records available and includes up to $2.95 million in attorneys costs and fees. The settlement is awaiting the court’s approval.
On May 17, in response to a request from the CFPB, the FTC transmitted a letter summarizing its 2017 enforcement activities related to Regulation Z (TILA), Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act), and Regulation E (Electronic Fund Transfer Act) for the CFPB’s use in preparing its 2017 Annual Report to Congress. The FTC highlighted numerous activities related to the enforcement of the pertinent regulations, including:
- Payday Lending. The FTC acknowledged the continued litigation against two Kansas-based operations and their owner for allegedly selling lists of counterfeit payday loan debt portfolios to debt collectors in violation of the FTC Act, previously covered by InfoBytes here.
- Military Protection. The FTC identified the July 2017 military consumer financial workshop and the launch of the new Military Task Force (previously covered by InfoBytes here and here) among the activities the agency engaged in related to protecting the finances of current and former members of the military. The FTC also noted continued participation in the interagency group working with the Department of Defense on amendments to its rule implementing the Military Lending Act.
- “Negative Option.” For actions under the Regulation E/EFTA, the FTC highlighted numerous “negative option” enforcement actions, in which the consumer agrees to receive goods or services from a company for a free trial option, but if the consumer does not cancel before the trial period ends, the consumer will incur recurring charges for continued goods or services. Among the actions highlighted is a case in which the FTC imposed a $179 million judgment (suspended upon the payment of $6.4 million) settling allegations that the online marketers’ offers of “free” and “risk free” monthly programs for certain weight loss and other products were deceptive.
- Auto Loans. The letter highlighted, among others, the FTC action against a Southern California-based group of auto dealerships that allegedly violated a prior consent order with the FTC by misrepresenting the cost to finance or lease a vehicle, previously covered by InfoBytes here.
The Federal Reserve Board (Fed) issued a final rule on December 22 to repeal Regulation C, Home Mortgage Disclosure (HMDA), and a proposed rule to amend Regulation M, Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) to reflect the transfer of certain rulemaking authority to the CFPB. Regulation C is being repealed because the CFPB has issued its own final HMDA rules (previously covered by InfoBytes here) that supersede the Fed’s version. The proposed amendments to Regulation M implement the Dodd-Frank Act’s provisions on transferring CLA rulemaking authority to the CFPB, with the exception of retaining the Fed’s authority to issue rules for motor vehicle dealers that are predominantly engaged in the sale/leasing and servicing of motor vehicles and are not otherwise subject to the CFPB’s regulatory authority.
The repeal of Regulation C is effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Comments on the proposed amendments to Regulation M are due by March 5, 2018.
On June 1, the FTC announced that it submitted its 2016 Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report to the CFPB. The report—requested by the Bureau for its use in preparing its 2016 Annual Report to Congress—covers the FTC’s enforcement activities related to compliance with Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act or TILA), Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act), and Regulation E (Electronic Funds Transfer Act or EFTA), as well as its initiatives to engage in research and consumer education.
According to the report, the FTC’s enforcement actions in 2016 concerning TILA involved automobile purchasing and financing, payday loans, and financing of consumer electronics. Regarding mortgage-related credit activity, the report highlights continued litigation in two cases involving mortgage assistance relief services involving “forensic audit scams.” Furthermore, the FTC continued its consumer and business education efforts on issues related to consumer credit transactions in the following areas: military lending, auto sales and financing, payday lending, marketplace lending, and consumer disclosures and testing.
Regarding the Consumer Leasing Act, the report noted the FTC had issued a final administrative consent order for deceptive advertising practices and failure to disclose key lease offer terms. The FTC also filed two federal court actions against automobile dealers. The FTC also engaged in research and policy development and educational activities in this area.
Concerning the EFTA, the FTC reported six new or ongoing cases, including four cases alleging violations in the context of “negative option” plans, in which a consumer agrees to “receive various goods or services from a company for a trial period at no charge or at a reduced price” but later incurs unauthorized recurring charges after the end of the trial period, in violation of the EFTA. The remaining two cases involved payday lending and consumer electronics financing. The FTC also engaged in rulemaking, research, policy development, and educational activities involving the EFTA.
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The federal fraud sentencing guidelines: It's time to stop the madness" at a New York Criminal Bar Association webinar
- Buckley Webcast: From there to here – Anticipating comparative redlining claims
- Daniel P Stipano to moderate "Digital identity: The next gen of CIP" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference
- Buckley Webcast: New sheriff in town – AML and sanctions under the new administration
- Tim Lange to discuss "Impact of Covid-19 on your business" at the California Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues & Regulatory Compliance Conference