Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On January 13, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced that it has withdrawn its complaint challenging the OCC’s Special Purpose National Bank (SPNB) Charters and a financial services provider’s application for an OCC nonbank charter. CSBS filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking the court to close the case. According to its press release, CSBS voluntarily took this action after the company, which had previously filed an application for an OCC SPNB charter, “amended its application to include seeking FDIC deposit insurance, thus complying with the legal requirement that national banks obtain federal deposit insurance before operating as a bank.”
As previously covered by InfoBytes, CSBS filed a complaint in December 2020, to oppose the OCC’s potential approval of the company’s SPNB charter application. CSBS argued that the company was applying for the OCC’s nonbank charter, which was invalidated by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in October 2019 (the court concluded that the OCC’s SPNB charter should be “set aside with respect to all fintech applicants seeking a national bank charter that do not accept deposits,” covered by InfoBytes here). At the time, CSBS argued that “by accepting and imminently approving” the company’s application, the “OCC has gone far beyond the limited chartering authority granted to it by Congress under the National Bank Act (NBA) and other federal banking laws,” as the company is not engaged in the “business of banking.” CSBS sought to, among other things, have the court declare the agency’s nonbank charter program unlawful and prohibit the approval of the company’s charter under the NBA without obtaining FDIC insurance.
OCC acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu issued a statement following the withdrawal of the legal challenge. “We must modernize the regulatory perimeter as a prerequisite to conducting business as usual with firms interested in novel activities. Modernizing the bank regulatory perimeter cannot be accomplished by simply defining the activities that constitute ‘doing banking,’ but will also require determining what is acceptable activity to be conducted in a bank. Consolidated supervision will help ensure risks do not build outside of the sight and reach of federal regulators.”
On November 24, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed, with prejudice, a putative class action alleging that a nonbank lender prioritized high-dollar Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applicants. The plaintiff’s complaint—which alleged claims of fraudulent concealment, fraudulent deceit, unfair business practices, and false advertising—claimed, among other things, that the lender (i) was not licensed to make loans in California when she applied; (ii) did not have adequate funding to make the loans; and (iii) advertised it would process loan requests on a first-come, first-served basis, but actually prioritized favored customers and higher-value loans that yielded higher lending fees. The court granted the lender’s motion to dismiss. According to the court, the plaintiff’s allegation that the parties were “transacting business in order to enter into a contractual, borrower-lender relationship” was not supported by any facts, and that while the plaintiff claimed she submitted a PPP loan application to the lender, a confirmation e-mail from the lender did not mention a submitted application—only a loan request. “This court cannot, therefore, assume the truth of Plaintiff’s allegation that she submitted a loan application, let alone her conclusory allegation that the parties entered into a borrower-lender relationship or engaged in any other transaction,” the court stated. The court also determined that the plaintiff’s fraudulent deceit claim failed because her allegation, made on information and belief, that the lender prioritized large loans had no factual foundation, and the plaintiff failed to plead the elements of that claim.
On November 12, the CFPB filed a complaint against a Texas-based pawn lender and its wholly owned subsidiary (together, “lenders”) for allegedly violating the Military Lending Act (MLA) by charging active-duty servicemembers and their dependents more than the allowable 36 percent annual percentage rate on pawn loans. According to the Bureau, between June 2017 and May 2021, the two lenders together allegedly made more than 3,600 pawn loans carrying APRs that “frequently exceeded” 200 percent to more than 1,000 covered borrowers. The Bureau further claimed that the lenders failed to make all loan disclosures required by the MLA and forced borrowers to waive their ability to sue. The identified 3,600 pawn loans only represent a limited period for which the Bureau has transactional data, the complaint stated, adding that the pawn stores located in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Washington that originated these loans only comprise roughly 10 percent of the Texas lender’s nationwide pawn-loan transactions. As such, that Bureau alleged that the lenders—together with their other wholly owned subsidiaries—made additional pawn loans in violation of the MLA from stores in these and other states. The Bureau seeks injunctive relief, consumer restitution, disgorgement, civil money penalties, and other relief, including a court order enjoining the lenders from collecting on the allegedly illegal loans and from selling or assigning such debts.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued a prior consent order against an affiliated lender in 2013, which required the payment of $14 million in consumer redress and a $5 million civil money penalty. The affiliated lender was also ordered to cease its MLA violations. In its current action, the Bureau noted that because the Texas lender (who was not identified in the 2013 action) is a successor to the prior affiliated lender, it is therefore subject to the 2013 order. Accordingly, the Bureau alleged that the Texas lender’s violations of the MLA also violated the 2013 order.
On November 8, Federal Reserve Board Governor, Michelle W. Bowman, spoke at the “Women in Housing and Finance Public Policy Luncheon” regarding U.S. housing and the mortgage market. Bowman observed that home prices have increased in the past year and a half, stating that “[i]n September, about 90 percent of American cities had experienced rising home prices over the past three months, and the home price increases were substantial in most of these cities,” which “raise[s] the concern that housing is overvalued and that home prices may decline.” She discussed several factors leading to the demand for housing as including (i) low interest rates; (ii) accumulated savings; and (iii) increased income growth. Additionally, she pointed out that mortgage refinancing has surged due to the decrease in long-term interest rates, and that nonbank servicers utilized the proceeds from the “refinacings to fund the advances associated with forbearance.” However, Bowman added that higher home prices and rising rents contributed to inflationary pressures in the economy. Bowman stated that the “multifamily rental market is at historic levels of tightness, with over 95 percent occupancy in major markets,” and she anticipates that these housing supply issues are unlikely to reverse materially in the short term, suggesting that there will be higher levels of inflation caused by housing. With respect to forbearance, Bowman said, “1.2 million borrowers were still in forbearance, down from a peak of 4.7 million in June 2020” on mortgage payments. Bowman stated that, “[f]orbearance, foreclosure moratorium, and fiscal support have kept distressed borrowers in their homes.” Bowman warned that transitioning borrowers from mortgage forbearance to modification may be a “heavy lift” for some servicers. Bowman disclosed that the Fed will be monitoring what happens as borrowers reach the end of the forbearance on mortgage payments and estimates that 850,000 of those in forbearance will reach the end of their forbearance period in January 2022, and “the temporary limitations on foreclosures put in place by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will expire at the end of the year.” Bowman recommended that state and federal regulators collaborate to collect data, identify risks, and strengthen oversight of nonbank mortgage companies.
On November 5, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued a fourth draft of proposed regulations implementing the requirements of the commercial financing disclosures required by SB 1235 (Chapter 1011, Statutes of 2018). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 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. California released the first draft of the proposed regulations in July 2019, initiated the formal rulemaking process with the Office of Administrative Law in September 2020, and subsequently released second and third rounds of modifications in August and October of this year (covered by InfoBytes here, here, here, and here). The fourth modifications to the proposed regulations follow a consideration of public comments received on the various iterations of the proposed text. Among other things, the proposed modifications amend the term “average monthly cost” to mean the average total amount paid by the recipient (for periodic and irregular payments) over a contract’s term divided by the number of months specified in the contract. Providers may divide the number of days in the contract term by 30.4 to determine the number of months in the contract term. This calculation may also be used to determine the “estimated monthly cost.” Comments on the fourth modifications must be received by November 22.
On November 1, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) released a report providing an update on its efforts to enhance the resilience of nonbank financial intermediation. According to FSB’s report, Enhancing the Resilience of Non-Bank Financial Intermediation, the non-bank financial intermediation (NBFI) sector has become more diverse and grown significantly to nearly half of global financial assets, compared to 42 percent in 2008. The report, among other things, provided an overview of the NBFI ecosystem and a framework for analyzing the availability of liquidity and the effective intermediation under stressed market conditions. The report noted that FSB’s “main focus of work to date” is intended “to assess and address vulnerabilities in specific areas that may have contributed to the build-up of liquidity imbalances and their amplification,” which includes, among other things: (i) enhancing money market fund resilience through policy work; (ii) assessing liquidity risk and its management in open-ended funds; (iii) examining the structure and drivers of liquidity during stress in government and corporate bond markets; (iv) examining “the frameworks and dynamics of margin calls in centrally cleared and non-centrally cleared derivatives and securities markets, and the liquidity management preparedness of market participants to meet margin calls”; and (v) assessing the fragilities in USD cross-border funding and their vulnerabilities in emerging market economies interactions. Based on these findings, the report noted that FSB’s future work will pursue a systemic approach to NBFI, which involves expanding the understanding of systemic risks in NBFI and ensuring that the current policy toolkit is adequate and effective from a system-wide perspective.
On November 1, the New York governor signed S5246A, which expands the New York Community Reinvestment Act (New York CRA) to cover non-depository lenders. Under the act, nonbank mortgage providers’ lending and investment in low- and moderate-income communities will be subject to NYDFS review. The anti-redlining law—which previously only measured banks’ activities in low- to moderate-income communities—is intended to “ensure everyone has fair and equal access to lending options in their pursuit of purchasing a home, especially in communities of color which continue to be impacted by the effects of the pandemic and have historically faced many more hurdles when seeking a mortgage,” Governor Kathy Hochul stated. The act follows a report issued by NYDFS in February, which examined redlining in the Buffalo metropolitan area and concluded that there is a “distinct lack of lending by mortgage lenders, particularly non-depository lenders” to majority-minority populations and to minority homebuyers in general. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) At the time, the report made numerous recommendations, including a recommendation to amend the New York CRA to cover nonbank mortgage lenders and a request that the OCC and the CFPB investigate federally regulated institutions serving the Buffalo area for violations of fair lending laws. The act takes effect in a year.
On October 27, the FTC announced a final rule updating the Safeguards Rule to strengthen data security protections for consumer financial information following widespread data breaches and cyberattacks. The final rule follows a 2019 notice of proposed rulemaking (covered by InfoBytes here) and makes the following modifications to the existing rule:
- Adds specific criteria financial institutions must undertake when conducting a risk assessment and implementing an information security program, including provisions related to access controls, data inventory and classification, authentication, encryption, disposal procedures, and incident response, among others. The final rule also adds measures to ensure employee training and service provider oversight are effective.
- Requires financial institutions to designate a single qualified individual to oversee the information security program. Periodic reports must also be made to an institution’s board of directors or governing bodies.
- Provides an exemption from requirements related to written risk assessments, incident response plans, and annual reporting to the board of directors, for financial institutions that collect information on fewer than 5,000 consumers.
- Expands the definition of “financial institution” to include “entities engaged in activities that the Federal Reserve Board determines to be incidental to financial activities.” Included in the definition are “finders” (i.e. companies that bring together buyers and sellers of products or services that fall within the scope of the Safeguards Rule).
- Adds several definitions and related examples into the Safeguards Rule itself instead of incorporating them through a reference from a related FTC rule.
Provisions of the final rule under Section 314.5 are effective one year after the date of publication in the Federal Register. The remainder of the provisions are effective 30 days following publication.
Additionally, the FTC issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comments on a proposal to further amend the Safeguards Rule to require financial institutions to report security events to the Commission where a determination has been made that consumer information has been misused, or is reasonably likely to be misused, in an event affecting at least 1,000 consumers. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The FTC also announced a final rule adopting largely technical changes to its authority under the Privacy of Consumer Financial Information Rule (Privacy Rule) under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which requires financial institutions to inform consumers about their information-sharing practices and allow consumers the ability to opt out of having their information shared with certain third parties. The Privacy Rule is amended to revise the rule’s scope, modify the definitions of “financial institution” and “federal functional regulator,” and update requirements pertaining to annual customer privacy notices. The FTC noted that these changes align the Privacy Rule with changes made under Dodd-Frank and the FAST Act.
On August 24, the OCC filed a statement of recent decision in support of its motion for summary judgment in an action brought against the agency by several state attorneys general challenging the OCC’s final rule on “Permissible Interest on Loans that are Sold, Assigned, or Otherwise Transferred” (known also as the valid-when-made rule). The final rule was designed to effectively reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s 2015 Madden v. Midland Funding decision and provide that “[i]nterest on a loan that is permissible under [12 U.S.C. § 85 for national bank or 12 U.S.C. § 1463(g)(1) for federal thrifts] shall not be affected by the sale, assignment, or other transfer of the loan.” (Covered by a Buckley Special Alert.) The states’ challenge argued that the rule “impermissibly preempts state law,” is “contrary to the plain language” of section 85 (and section 1463(g)(1)), and “contravenes the judgment of Congress,” which declined to extend preemption to non-banks. Moreover, the states contended that the OCC “failed to give meaningful consideration” to the commentary received regarding the rule, essentially enabling “‘rent-a-bank’ schemes.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Both parties sought summary judgment, with the OCC arguing that the final rule validly interprets the National Bank Act (NBA) and that not only does the final rule reasonably interpret the “gap” in section 85, it is consistent with section 85’s “purpose of facilitating national banks’ ability to operate their nationwide lending programs.” Moreover, the OCC asserted that 12 U.S.C. § 25b’s preemption standards do not apply to the final rule, because, among other things, the OCC “has not concluded that a state consumer financial law is being preempted.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
In its August 24 filing, the OCC brought to the court’s attention a recent order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Wisconsin court reviewed claims under the FDCPA and the Wisconsin Consumer Act (WCA) against a debt-purchasing company and a law firm hired by the company to recover outstanding debt and purported late fees on the plaintiff’s account in a separate state-court action. Among other things, the court examined whether the state law’s notice and right-to-cure provisions were federally preempted by the NBA, as the original creditor’s rights and duties were assigned to the debt-purchasing company when the account was sold. The court ultimately concluded that the WCA provisions “are inapplicable to national banks by reason of federal preemption,” and, as such, the court found “that a debt collector assigned a debt from a national bank is likewise exempt from those requirements” and was not required to send the plaintiff a right-to-cure letter “as a precondition to accelerating his debt or filing suit against him.”
On August 2, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation released a report examining residential mortgage lending, rates, consumer complaints, foreclosures, and other data elements during 2020. The DFPI compiled data submitted by licensed non-bank mortgage lenders under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (CRMLA). According to the report, “nonbank residential mortgage loans doubled from 2019 to 2020 as more Californians refinanced or obtained new loans in response to lower interest rates despite the economic downturn that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.” The report also noted that there was an approximate 68 percent decrease in foreclosures in response to Covid-19 moratoriums meant to protect consumers and an almost 19 percent decline in complaints. Other key findings include that (i) the number of mortgage loans originated increased by 100.5 percent; (ii) the number of loans brokered increased by 52.7 percent; and (iii) the aggregate average amount of loans serviced by licensees each month increased by 12.4 percent compared to 2019.
- Buckley Webcast: Privacy and cybersecurity outlook for 2022
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Be Your Compliance Best in 2022” at the California Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Hank Asbill to discuss white collar ethics issues at the Stetson Law Review Symposium
- Lauren R. Randell to discuss “Significant legal developments in the Northeast” at the 37th Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Small business & regulation: How fair lending has evolved & where it is heading?” at the Consumer Bankers Association Live program
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek
- Max Bonici to discuss “Fintech-bank partnerships and potential enforcement” at the 2022 ABA Spring Meetings
- Jonice Gray Tucker and Kari Hall to discuss “Equity, equality, regulation and enforcement – The evolving regulatory landscape of fair lending, redlining, and UDAAP” at the ABA Business Law Committee Hybrid Spring Meeting