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On October 8, the CFPB issued its Dodd-Frank mandated semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. In presenting the report, Director Kathy Kraninger stressed that the Bureau will continue to use the tools provided by Congress to protect consumers, including “vigorous and even-handed enforcement” with a focus on prevention of harm. Kraninger also reiterated her commitment “to strengthening the consumer financial marketplace by providing financial institutions clear ‘rules of the road’ that allow them to offer consumers a range of high-quality, innovative financial services and products.” Among other things, the report analyzed significant problems consumers face when obtaining consumer financial products and services, assessed actions taken by state attorneys general or state regulators relating to federal consumer financial law, and provided a recap of supervisory and enforcement activities.
While the Bureau did not adopt any significant final rules or orders during the preceding year, it did issue two significant notices of proposed rulemaking relating to certain payday lending requirements under the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans.” (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The Bureau also adopted several “less significant rules,” and engaged in significant initiatives concerning, among other things, (i) the disclosure of loan-level HMDA data; (ii) Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy proposed rulemaking; (iii) an assessment of significant rules, including the Remittance Rule, the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule, and the RESPA Mortgage Servicing Rule; (iv) trial disclosure programs; (v) innovation policies related to no-action letters and product sandbox and trial disclosure programs; and (vi) suspicious activity reports on elder financial exploitation.
On August 23, House Financial Services Committee Chair, Maxine Waters (D-Calif) and 101 other members of Congress wrote to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger to express concern over the Bureau’s recent amendment of and delay to certain ability-to-repay provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule), previously covered by InfoBytes here and here. Specifically, the letter opposes the CFPB’s decision to remove certain ability-to-repay requirements, as well as the Bureau’s June 2019 decision to delay the August 19 compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the Rule until November 19, 2020. The letter cites to an April 30 subcommittee hearing that examined the payday lending industry and argues that “payday and car-title lenders lack the incentive to make loans that borrowers have the ability to repay while still being able to afford basic necessities of life.” The agency, according to the letter, is betraying “its statutory purpose and objectives to put consumers, rather than lenders, first” by delaying the Rule’s implementation.
Additionally, in the press release announcing the letter, Waters also expressed concern that the CFPB had not yet asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to lift a stay of compliance so that the payment provisions of the Rule could be implemented. As previously covered by InfoBytes, two payday loan trade groups initiated the suit against the Bureau in April 2018, asking the court to set aside the Rule on the grounds that, among other reasons, the Bureau is unconstitutional and the rulemaking failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act. The court recently ordered the stay of the full Rule’s compliance date to remain in full force and effect and requested another joint status report from the parties by December 6.
On June 28, the CFPB updated its Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Payday Lending Rule, which covers the payment-related requirements of the Rule. In addition to technical corrections, the update reflects the delayed compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the Rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, on June 6, the Bureau released a final rule to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the Rule. Compliance with these provisions is now required by November 19, 2020.
On June 6, the CFPB released a final rule to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). Compliance with these provisions of the Rule is now due by November 19, 2020.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, in February, when the CFPB released two notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) related to certain lending requirements under the Rule—one proposing the delay to the compliance date for mandatory underwriting provisions, and the other proposing to rescind the underwriting portion of the Rule that would make it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans, or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay—the Bureau emphasized that the NPRM extending the compliance date for mandatory underwriting provisions did not extend the effective date for the Rule’s provisions governing payments.
Notably, on May 30, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas entered an order continuing the stay of the original compliance date for both the underwriting provisions and the payment provisions of the Rule in a payday loan trade group’s litigation challenging the Rule. (Previous InfoBytes coverage on the litigation is available here.) The order requires the parties to file a joint status report no later than August 2.
On May 22, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s spring 2019 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau blog post, the information presented represents regulatory matters it “reasonably anticipates having under consideration during the period of May 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020.” The rulemaking activities include implementing statutory directives mandated in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act), continuing certain other rulemakings previously outlined in the Bureau’s fall 2018 agenda (covered by InfoBytes here), as well as considering future projects and requests for information.
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Loans (PACE): On March 4, the Bureau published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) and request for comments in response to Section 307 of the Act, which amended TILA to mandate the CFPB propose regulations related to PACE financing. The regulations must carry out the purposes of TILA’s ability-to-repay requirements, and apply TILA’s general civil liability provisions for violations. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Remittance Transfers: On April 25, the Bureau issued a request for information (RFI) on two aspects of the Remittance Rule that require financial companies handling international money transfers, or remittance transfers, to disclose to individuals transferring money the exact exchange rate, fees, and the amount expected to be delivered. The RFI seeks information related to the expiration of the temporary exception and whether to propose changing the number of remittance transfers a provider must make to be governed by the rule. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- HMDA/Regulation C: On May 2, the Bureau issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to raise permanently coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting data about closed-end mortgage loans and open-end lines of credit under the HMDA rules. Specifically, the NPRM would raise permanently the reporting threshold for closed-end mortgage loans from 25 loans in each of the two preceding calendar years to either 50 or 100 closed-end loans in each of the preceding two calendar years. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Debt Collection Rule: On May 7, the Bureau issued a NPRM to amend Regulation F, which implements the FDCPA, covering debt collection communications and consumer disclosures and addressing related practices by debt collectors. The Bureau reports that the NPRM “builds on research and pre-rulemaking activities regarding the debt collection market, which remains a top source of complaints.” (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Payday Rule/Delay of Compliance Date: On February 6, the Bureau released two NPRMs related to certain payday lending requirements under the CFPB’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). The first proposal would rescind portions of the Rule related to ability-to-repay underwriting standards for payday loans and related products scheduled to take effect later this year, while the second proposal would delay the compliance date for those same provisions for fifteen months. The Bureau anticipates it will issue a final rule concerning the compliance date this summer and a final determination on reconsideration thereafter. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
Long term priorities include rulemaking addressing (i) consumer reporting; (ii) amendments to FIRREA concerning automated valuation models; (iii) disclosure of records and information; (iv) consumer access to financial records; (v) Regulation E modernization; (vi) rules to implement the Act, concerning various mortgage requirements, student lending, and consumer reporting; and (vii) clarity for the definition of abusive acts and practices.
On May 15, a group of 25 Democratic Attorneys General submitted a comment letter in response to the CFPB’s February proposal to rescind certain provisions related to the underwriting standards of the “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule) (covered by InfoBytes here). In the comment letter, the Attorneys General argue, among other things, that the elimination of the underwriting provisions of the Rule: (i) is inconsistent with the Bureau’s obligations to protect consumers under the Dodd-Frank Act; (ii) ignores state experiences with payday and vehicle title lending; and (iii) would reduce states’ ability to protect their residents from predatory lending.
Specifically, the letter argues that the Bureau’s reasoning for repealing the underwriting requirements—that the findings of the Rule “were not supported by sufficiently ‘robust and reliable’ evidence”—would saddle the Bureau with an unreasonably high evidentiary standard that would prevent the Bureau from regulating unfair and abusive practices. Additionally, the letter states that the Bureau’s conclusion that the underwriting requirements would harm consumers by reducing consumer’s access to credit and ability to choose lenders offering credit ignores “the experiences of numerous states that have implemented restrictions on payday and vehicle title lending—restrictions that have protected consumers without unreasonably limiting consumers’ access to credit.” States’ restrictions on payday and vehicle title lending, according to the letter, have “benefited consumers and expanded access to manageable credit.” Lastly, the letter asserts that maintaining a federal regulatory floor on lending activities is “crucial to supporting and complementing state oversight,” and removal of the floor will “enable lenders to continue trying to avoid state regulation and continue marketing expensive and often unlawful products to consumers without providing borrowers an opportunity for negotiation or comparison.”
The comment letter was written by the Attorneys General of the District of Columbia, New Jersey, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the same group of Attorneys General had urged the CFPB via a previous comment letter not to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for any aspect of the Rule, and had warned that they would consider taking legal action if the Bureau did so.
On May 16, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy held a hearing to examine the CFPB’s proposal to repeal parts of its “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the proposed repeal here.) Thomas Pahl, Policy Associate Director of the Research, Markets and Regulations Division at the Bureau, testified on the Bureau’s rulemaking and its position on the Rule. Committee Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) opened the hearing by discussing the Bureau’s five years of research on the payday loan industry, which resulted in the issuance of the Rule in 2017. Krishnamoorthi claimed that Americans overwhelmingly support the requirement that lenders must determine a borrower’s ability to repay before making payday, title, and other high-cost installment loans, and provided an example of a consumer’s experience in this industry.
In his opening remarks, Pahl stressed that a complete picture of the Bureau’s activities concerning payday lenders requires understanding the use of the CFPB’s range of tools provided under the Dodd-Frank Act, such as its (i) consumer financial education initiatives; (ii) supervision of payday lenders to ensure compliance with federal statutes and regulations; and (iii) enforcement actions that target bad actors. Pahl emphasized that enforcement remains a key part of the Bureau’s consumer protection efforts, and highlighted five consent orders as well as two final judgments obtained against payday lenders. According to Pahl, the “payday loan cases are a testament to the agency’s commitment to use its enforcement tool to take decisive action against wrongdoers and send a clear message to the marketplace that should deter unlawful behavior and support a level playing field.” Pahl next discussed the Rule, stating that the Mandatory Underwriting Provisions rest on a determination that it is an unfair and abusive practice to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay. According to Pahl, the Bureau found that these provisions would lead to a decrease in the number of payday loans of between 51 and 52 percent (short-term vehicle title loans would decrease between 89 and 93 percent) and a decrease in revenue of between 67 and 68 percent, resulting in a contraction in the number of payday and vehicle title lenders. Pahl discussed the Bureau’s February 6 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), which sought comments on repealing the ability-to-repay provision (see InfoBytes coverage here), since the Bureau “has come to have serious doubts as to whether the appropriate legal standards were applied and whether the evidence was sufficiently robust and reliable to support the Bureau's determination that small dollar lenders engage in an unfair or abusive act or practice if they make loans without making a reasonable determination that consumers can repay them.” A second NPRM was issued the same day to delay the Rule’s compliance date, and Pahl commented that the Bureau has begun to evaluate the comments received on both NPRMs.
During the hearing, Krishnamoorthi also questioned Pahl as to whether there is a threshold at which point an interest rate on a payday loan would be considered unfair and abusive or unconscionable. Pahl responded that the Dodd-Frank Act prohibits the Bureau from imposing any usury requirements and that “unconscionability is a matter of state law traditionally.”
On March 18, a coalition of 25 Democratic state Attorneys General urged the CFPB not to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for any aspect of the Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans rule (Rule) and warned that they would consider taking legal action if the Bureau does so. (CFPB’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which announced the proposed delay in the effective date, was covered by InfoBytes here.) The AGs assert that the Bureau did not provide enough legal justification for delaying the underwriting provisions until November 2020 because the 2017 Rule already provided affected lenders ample time to comply. Moreover, the AGs emphasize that the Bureau cannot use the related proposal of future rescission of the underwriting requirements as a justification for the compliance delay; the delay “must be justified on its own merits.” As for the merits of the Bureau’s justification, among other things, the AGs reject the Bureau’s conclusion that “it should not assign the weight that it did in the 2017 [Rule] to ‘the interest of enacting protections for consumers as soon as possible,’” arguing that diminishing the weight assigned to consumer protection is in opposition to the Bureau’s statutory mandate. The AGs also raise concern about the ambiguity in the compliance date for the payment-related provisions of the Rule and stress that the August 19, 2019 date should stay in effect because “lenders will have had 21 months to prepare.” The AGs conclude that they “will closely examine whether to take action to address any unlawful action by CFPB” should the proposed delay be finalized.
On March 8, the CFPB and two payday loan trade groups filed a joint status report with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in the litigation over the Bureau’s final rule on payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other installment loans (Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the two payday loan trade groups initiated the suit against the Bureau in April 2018, asking the court to set aside the Rule on the grounds that, among other reasons, the Bureau is unconstitutional and the rulemaking failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act. In June 2018 and November 2018, the court stayed the litigation and the compliance date of the Rule, after the Bureau’s announcement that it intended to issue a proposed rulemaking to reconsider parts of the Rule. In February 2019, the Bureau issued a proposal, which seeks to rescind certain provisions of the Rule related to the ability-to-repay underwriting standards and delay the compliance date of those affected provisions until August 2020. The proposal does not reconsider the payment-related provisions of the Rule, leaving the compliance date for those provisions at August 19, 2019. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
In the joint status report, both parties agree that the court’s stay of compliance date and stay of litigation should remain with regard to the underwriting provisions until the Bureau concludes the rulemaking process. As for the payment-related provisions, the payday loan trade groups request the court maintain both the litigation stay and compliance stay of payment provisions until the Bureau completes the underwriting rulemaking process, because the Bureau acknowledged in the proposals that it intends to examine issues related to the payment provisions and “and if the Bureau determines that further action is warranted, the Bureau will commence a separate rulemaking initiative,” which may ultimately moot the litigation. Moreover, the trade groups believe lifting the stays would lead to “piecemeal and potentially wasteful litigation.”
The Bureau also does not seek a lift to the stay of the litigation or compliance date for the payment-related provisions, but for separate reasons. The Bureau argues that the stay of the litigation should be “more limited,” at least until the 5th Circuit issues a decision on the Bureau’s constitutionality in a pending action (covered by InfoBytes here). As for the compliance date stay for the payment-related provisions, the Bureau believes it is not an issue the court needs to decide at this time, but acknowledges that should it request the court lift the stay in the future, the trade groups and the Bureau would have an opportunity to address whether lifting the stay should be delayed to “allow companies to come into compliance with the payments provisions.”
In response to the joint status report, on March 19, the court entered an order continuing the stay of the litigation and the compliance date for both the Rule’s underwriting provisions and its payment-related provisions.
On March 12, Director of the CFPB, Kathy Kraninger, testified at a hearing held by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee on the CFPB’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress. While Kraninger’s opening statement and question responses were similar to her comments made last week during a House Financial Services Committee hearing (detailed coverage here), notable highlights include:
- Fair Lending. Kraninger did not provide a status update on the Bureau’s pre-rulemaking activities as they relate to whether disparate impact is cognizable under ECOA, but emphasized that the Bureau is committed to the fair lending mission.
- Data Collection. In response to concerns over the Bureau’s history of expansive data collection, Kraninger noted that data collection is an especially important tool for rulemaking, but stated that going-forward she would ensure the Bureau only collects the information needed to carry out the Bureau’s mission, noting that the less personally identifiable information that is collected, the less that requires protection. She acknowledged the Bureau is reviewing the comments submitted in response to its fall 2018 data governance program report (covered by InfoBytes here) and stated the Bureau remains committed to reviewing the internal processes it has for collecting and using data.
- Military Lending Act (MLA). Kraninger stated that she disagrees with the Democratic Senator’s broad interpretation of Section 1024(b)(1)(C) of the Dodd-Frank Act allowing for the Bureau to examine for compliance with the MLA because that interpretation would permit the Bureau to examine for anything that is a “risk to consumers,” including things like safety and soundness, which is not currently under the Bureau’s purview. While she acknowledged that the Bureau has the direct authority to enforce the MLA, she repeatedly rejected the notion that this would also give the Bureau the authority to supervise for the MLA, as Dodd-Frank separates the Bureau’s enforcement and supervision powers.
- Payday Rule. Kraninger repeatedly emphasized that the reconsideration of the underwriting standards in the Payday Rule was to determine if the legal and factual basis used to justify certain practices as unfair and abusive was “robust” enough. She acknowledged that the Bureau will be reviewing all the comments to the proposal and that the evidence used for the original Rule will be part of the record for the reconsideration.
- GSE Patch. In response to questions regarding the 2021 expiration of the Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio exception for mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs), Kraninger acknowledged the “non-QM” market hasn’t materialized over the last few years, as was originally anticipated. However, Kraninger was reluctant to provide any further details, noting that she would not be making any “dramatic changes” to the mortgage market. Additionally, she acknowledged that the GSE patch has the potential to expire at the end of the conservatorship as well.
- CFPB Structure. Kraninger did not specify whether she believes the Bureau should be led by a board, rather than a single director, or whether the Bureau should be under appropriations. Specifically Kraninger stated that she would “welcome any changes Congress made that would increase the accountability and transparency of the Bureau,” and would “dutifully carry out” legislation that would place the Bureau under appropriations if the President signed it.
- Student Lending. Kraninger stated that the Bureau intends to re-engage with the Department of Education on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to assist with complaint and information sharing once a new Student Loan Ombudsmen has been hired. The MOUs were previously terminated by the Department in August 2018 (covered by Infobytes here).