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On January 29, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied dismissal of an action brought against the OCC by two community coalitions, requesting the court block the agency’s final rule to revise the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in June 2020, the groups filed a complaint alleging that, among other things, the OCC failed to provide for meaningful public input on key revisions to the agency’s final rule, and that the May 20 rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) failed to consider the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and is in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. The OCC moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the community groups lack standing, or in the alternative, that they do not fall within the CRA’s “zone of interests.” The district court disagreed. Specifically, the court concluded that the community groups adequately alleged standing because the members of their organizations “compete for OCC-regulated banks’ CRA dollars,” and their members “will now have to compete with investment opportunities that could not previously receive CRA credit.” Moreover, among other things, the court concluded that the community groups satisfy the “the zone-of-interests test, because they receive grants and loans for which banks obtain CRA credit, making them direct beneficiaries of the statute.”
On October 29, a national community advocate group filed a complaint against the CFPB challenging the Bureau’s repeal of the underwriting provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in July, the CFPB issued a final rule revoking, among other things, the Rule’s (i) provision that makes 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 loans according to their terms; (ii) prescribed mandatory underwriting requirements for making the ability-to-repay determination; and (iii) the “principal step-down exemption” provision for certain covered short-term loans.
The complaint alleges that the Bureau’s repeal of the underwriting provisions of the Rule was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” Specifically, the complaint asserts that the Bureau invented a “new evidentiary standard” when it required that evidence supporting the need for the underwriting provisions be “robust and reliable,” which, according to the complaint, is a standard “custom-designed” to repeal the provisions. The complaint further argues that the CFPB “failed to consider the harms that consumers suffer from no-underwriting lending” and relied on analysis and data that was not “previously made available for comment.” The complaint seeks a declaration that the repeal was unlawful and an order requiring the Bureau to “take necessary steps to ensure prompt implementation of the 2017 Payday Lending Rule’s Ability-to-Repay Protections.”
On October 25, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued an order granting a preliminary injunction and stay of effective date of HUD’s disparate impact regulation under the Fair Housing Act (Final Rule). As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, in September, HUD issued the Final Rule, which is intended to align its disparate impact regulation, adopted in 2013 (2013 Rule), with the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. Among other things, the Final Rule includes a modification of the three-step burden-shifting framework in its 2013 Rule, several new elements that plaintiffs must show to establish that a policy or practice has a “discriminatory effect,” and specific defenses that defendants can assert to refute disparate impact claims.
According to the order, two fair housing organizations (collectively, “plaintiffs”) filed the action against HUD seeking to vacate the Final Rule under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and subsequently filed for a preliminary injunction and stay, arguing, among other things, that the changes to the 2013 Rule are “arbitrary and capricious.” The court noted that the Final Rule “constitutes a significant overhaul to HUD’s interpretation of disparate impact standards,” and that the alterations to the 2013 Rule “appear inadequately justified.” The court further explained that the Final Rule’s “massive changes pose a real and substantial threat of imminent harm” to the plaintiffs by increasing “the burdens, costs, and effectiveness of disparate impact liability.” Lastly, the court noted that HUD did not identify any “particularized” harm to the government or public should the injunction be granted. Thus, the court granted the preliminary injunction and stayed the implementation date until further order.
On August 28, two payday loan trade groups (plaintiffs) filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in ongoing litigation challenging the CFPB’s 2017 final rule covering payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other installment loans (Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the court granted the parties’ joint motion to lift the stay of litigation, which was on hold pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB (covered by a Buckley Special Alert, holding that the director’s for-cause removal provision was unconstitutional but was severable from the statute establishing the Bureau). In light of the Supreme Court’s decision, the Bureau ratified the Rule’s payments provisions and issued a final rule revoking the Rule’s underwriting provisions (covered by InfoBytes here).
The amended complaint requests the court set aside the Rule and the Bureau’s ratification of the rule as unconstitutional and in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Specifically, the amended complaint argues, among other things, that the Bureau’s ratification is “legally insufficient to cure the constitutional defects in the 2017 Rule,” asserting the ratification of the payment provisions should have been subject to a formal rulemaking process, including a notice and comment period. Moreover, the amended complaint asserts that the payment provisions are “fundamentally at odds” with the Bureau’s lack of authority to create usury limits because they “improperly target installment loans with a rate higher than 36%.” Finally, the amended complaint argues that the Bureau “arbitrarily and capriciously denied” a petition from a lender seeking to exempt debit-card payments from the payment provisions of the rules.
On July 30, a group of consumer fair housing associations (collectively, “plaintiffs”) filed suit against the CFPB, challenging the Bureau’s final rule permanently raising coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting data about closed-end mortgage loans and open-end lines of credit under HMDA. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the final rule, which amends Regulation C, permanently increases the reporting threshold from the origination of at least 25 closed-end mortgage loans in each of the two preceding calendar years to 100, and permanently increases the threshold for collecting and reporting data about open-end lines of credit from the origination of 100 lines of credit in each of the two preceding calendar years to 200. In the complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the Bureau, among other things, (i) failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for the changes to the original threshold requirements; (ii) conducted a “flawed analysis of the costs and benefits” of the final rule; and (iii) failed to “adequately consider comments” that were submitted in response to the rule’s proposal. According to the complaint, the final rule “exempts about 40 percent of depository institutions that were previously required to report.” The plaintiffs assert this result “undermines the purpose” of HMDA by allowing potential violations of fair lending laws to go undetected. The plaintiffs argue that because the CFPB allegedly violated to the Administrative Procedures Act, the final rule should be vacated and set aside.
On June 25, two community coalitions filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California asking the court to block the OCC’s final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The complaint claims that the OCC failed to provide for meaningful public input on key revisions to the agency’s final rule, and argues that the May 20 rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) failed to consider the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and is in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. Notably, neither the FDIC nor the Federal Reserve Board joined in promulgating the final rule, the complaint notes. Among other things, the complaint argues that the final rule “guts the [CRA] and eviscerates the backing it provides to the [low- and moderate-income (LMI)] communities and communities of color that have long suffered from discrimination by financial institutions,” and will dilute benefits for these communities. The complaint also alleges that the final rule “will allow banks to claim credit for massive projects that they undoubtedly would have financed anyway; whose benefit to LMI people is questionable and speculative; and that are so costly that they will allow banks to fill up their CRA credits without making real investments in LMI communities as the CRA intended.” Additional arguments include that the final rule limits the coalitions’ ability to advocate for greater access to credit for LMI communities, issue evidence-based reports on banks’ CRA activity, and negotiate CRA funding increases with banks for specific communities. The complaint further alleges that the final rule includes definitions of “CRA deserts”—areas where banking services are not available—that were not part of the proposal, and fails to provide supporting data for many of the provisions. The coalitions seek injunctive and declaratory relief that would block the final rule from taking effect.
On March 31, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) motion to dismiss and denied two Iranian corporations’ (plaintiffs) cross-motion for summary judgment. According to the opinion, the plaintiffs requested to be delisted from OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) following the Court of Justice of the European Union’s decision in 2013 to lift its own sanctions, which were, according to the plaintiffs, “the basis for OFAC including [the plaintiffs] in its SDN list in the first place.” The plaintiffs were added to the SDN List in 2011 after OFAC allegedly determined that they had assisted certain U.S. and United Nations-sanctioned Iranian companies in procuring goods for uranium enrichment activities. OFAC denied the plaintiffs’ request to be delisted in 2018, causing the plaintiffs to file a complaint seeking to remove the sanctions or “cause OFAC to request the information needed to remove [the plaintiffs] from the SDN List,” citing violations of their rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. Among other things, the plaintiffs argued that OFAC’s decision to reject the request for delisting was based on “undisclosed/secret information,” and further, OFAC “never provided any evidence to substantiate the allegations” that the plaintiffs had worked with other OFAC-sanctioned Iranian firms. Moreover, the plaintiffs contended that OFAC violated their “procedural and substantive due process rights because it failed to provide [the plaintiffs] notice and opportunity to be heard before designating [them] as an SDN.”
The court, however, found among other things that OFAC’s actions were not “arbitrary or capricious,” stating that while OFAC considered classified evidence of the plaintiffs’ involvement, it also provided unclassified summaries to the plaintiffs. “In denying [the plaintiffs’] request for removal, OFAC requested and reviewed information provided by [the plaintiffs], and it responded to [the plaintiffs’] arguments for reconsideration,” the court stated, noting that OFAC ultimately concluded that the plaintiffs failed to submit credible arguments or evidence “establishing that an insufficient basis exists for the company’s designation.” In addition, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment argument, stating that the constitutional claims fail because the “Supreme Court has long held that non-resident aliens without substantial connections to the United States are not entitled to Fifth Amendment protections.”
On January 21, a bipartisan collation of attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia, along with the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, submitted a comment letter in response to the OCC’s proposed rule to clarify that when a national bank or savings association sells, assigns, or otherwise transfers a loan, the interest permissible prior to the transfer continues to be permissible following the transfer. (See Buckley Special Alert on the proposed rule.) The coalition, led by California, Illinois, and New York, urges the OCC to withdraw the proposed rule. Among their concerns, the AGs argue that the OCC’s proposal conflicts with the National Bank Act and Dodd-Frank, exceeds the OCC’s statutory authority, and is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Specifically, the AGs claim that the proposed rule conflicts with National Bank Act (NBA) provisions that grant benefits of federal preemption only to national banks and no one else. Moreover, the AGs assert that Congress explicitly stated in Dodd-Frank that “that the benefits of federal preemption provided by the NBA accrue only to [n]ational [b]anks,” (emphasis in original) and argue that the proposed rule would contravene “this important limitation” and “cloak non-banks in [the NBA’s] preemptive power.” Moreover, the NBA sections say “nothing about interest chargeable by assignees, transferees, or purchasers of bank loans,” the AGs write.
The AGs also argue that the proposed rule would facilitate predatory “rent-a-bank schemes” by allowing non-bank entities to ignore state interest rate caps and usury laws. “The OCC has not addressed, even summarily, how the [p]roposed [r]ule, if adopted, will serve to incentivize and sanction predatory rent-a-bank schemes,” the AGs state. “This failure to consider the substantial negative consequences this rule would have on consumer financial protection across the country renders the OCC’s [p]roposed [r]ule arbitrary and capricious.” Furthermore, the AGs contend that the OCC’s proposed rule contains no factual findings or reasoned analysis to support its proposal to extend NBA preemption to all non-bank entities that purchase loans from national banks. “[T]his is beyond the agency’s power,” the AGs argue, asserting that “[t]he OCC simply ‘may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate.’”
On May 14, the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) announced it filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the CFPB for allegedly failing to implement Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires the Bureau to collect and disclose data on lending to small, women, and minority-owned businesses. In the complaint, the CRC argues that the failure to implement Section 1071 violates two provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act. Specifically, the CRC alleges the that Bureau has “unlawfully withheld and unreasonably delayed” the implementation of Section 1071 since Dodd Frank’s passage in 2011, and also, that the Bureau has acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” by informing financial institutions to “not to make [the] inquiries, nor compile, maintain, and submit [the loan application] data” required by Section 1071. The CRC claims that the failure to collect and publish the data has harmed its ability to advocate for access to credit, advise organizations working with women and minority-owned small businesses, and work with lenders to arrange investment in low-income and communities of color. The CRC is seeking the court to invalidate the Bureau’s countermanding of Section 1071’s requirements on financial institutions and an order or writ compelling the Bureau to issue a final rule implementing Section 1071.
District Court holds that FTC investigation and initiation of enforcement proceedings do not qualify as final agency actions subject to judicial review
On May 29, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the FTC’s motion to dismiss a declaratory-judgment action filed by several California-based companies that provide student loan processing services, along with their CEO/primary shareholder (plaintiffs). In August 2017, having allegedly learned that the FTC “was in the final process of gathering information to file a lawsuit against one or more of [the] [p]laintiffs on the purported and factually unsupportable basis that the [c]ompanies made misrepresentations to consumers” and violated the TSR’s debt relief service provision, the plaintiffs filed for instant declaratory relief under the Declaratory Judgment Act, seeking a declaration that the Telemarketing Sales Rule’s (TSR) debt relief provisions did not apply to them or, alternatively, that they were in compliance with the provisions. In February 2018, the FTC filed an enforcement action against the plaintiffs alleging that their collection of fees in advance of providing services violated the FTC Act and the TSR, and seeking injunctive and equitable relief. The FTC also moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ declaratory judgment for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
According to the order granting the FTC’s motion, the court agreed with the FTC that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)—not the Declaratory Judgment Act—is the exclusive, proper vehicle to obtain judicial review of a federal agency’s action. The court then held that the plaintiffs failed to satisfy the two prerequisites for judicial review under the APA, that (i) the agency’s actions constitute as a “final” agency action, and (ii) there exists no other adequate remedy in court. Specifically, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the FTC’s “investigation into the lawfulness of the [plaintiffs’] actions and initiation of enforcement proceedings” qualified as a “final” agency action subject, and that the plaintiffs’ alternative “adequate remedy” was to be had in the enforcement action brought against them by the FTC, where they would be able to present all of the same defenses and arguments they sought to advance in their declaratory judgment action.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to moderate “Pandemic relief response and lasting impacts on access, credit, banking, and equality” at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Spring Meeting
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Post-pandemic CFPB exam preparation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Making fair lending work for you" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Reading the tea leaves of President Biden’s initial financial appointees" at LendIt Fintech
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss “CA, NY, federal licensing and disclosure” at the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association Legal Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Compliance under Biden" at the WSJ Risk & Compliance Forum
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference