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On July 20, a group of eighteen senators wrote to the acting Comptroller of the OCC, Brian Brooks, regarding reports that senior officials at the agency “have undermined OCC examiners’ efforts to investigate and pursue violations of civil rights laws,” including the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and ECOA. The letter cites to reports of at least three instances where examiners allegedly found discriminatory lending patterns present, yet OCC leadership failed to pursue action against the institutions.
The senators argue that failing to pursue fair lending violations “not only harms borrowers and their communities, but also undermines meaningful bank evaluations under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).” The senators list a series of questions regarding the OCC’s supervision of the FHA and ECOA since 2017, including information covering the number of fair lending citations that the OCC has issued, as well the number of fair lending referrals the OCC has made to the DOJ. The letter sets a response deadline of July 31.
On May 16, Senator Warren (D-MA) released an April 23 letter from CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger outlining the Bureau’s efforts to oversee student loan servicers, which was sent in response to an inquiry by six democratic senators. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the senators wrote to the CFPB seeking additional information on the Bureau’s oversight of student loan companies and servicers involved in the administration of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) and asking about the effect of the Department of Education’s (Department) December 2017 guidance to loan servicing contractors not to produce documents directly to other government agencies. In response, Kraninger noted that since December 2017, the Bureau has conducted “several exams” of student loan servicers, some that included questions regarding PSLF. However, and most notably, Kraninger stated that, “[s]ince December 2017, student loan servicers have declined to produce information requested by the Bureau for supervisory examinations related to Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP)…based on the Department’s guidance.” The Bureau has pursued “options” to obtain the information necessary for these examinations, according to Kraninger. Additionally, Kraninger noted that creating a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Department is a priority for the Bureau, once a new Student Loan Ombudsman is hired.
On April 29, nine Democratic Senators, led by Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), wrote to the CFPB expressing “deep concern” regarding the Bureau’s plan to retire its tools for public exploration of HMDA data—HMDA Explorer Tool and the Public Data Platform API. In the letter, the Senators argue that retiring the tools with no plan for adequate replacements “threatens to undermine the statutory purposes of HMDA and does not live up the commitments to transparency and accountability” that Director Kraninger promised to uphold during her nomination hearing. The Senators cite to the Bureau’s decision to move the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity from the Supervision and Enforcement section to the Office of the Director and argue that “[r]reductions in available data and its accessibility, combined with weakened [fair lending] enforcement, is a disservice to the consumers the CFPB was created to protect.” The letter urges the CFPB to reverse course and requests that the Bureau provide a “detailed briefing” on the decision by May 10.
In the notice regarding the tools’ retirement, the Bureau states that the FFIEC “will publish a query tool for the 2018 data in the coming months.”
On April 3, six Democratic Senators wrote to the CFPB seeking additional information on the Bureau’s oversight of student loan companies and servicers involved in the administration of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). In the letter, the Senators expressed concern that the Bureau’s leadership “has abandoned its supervision and enforcement activities related to federal student loan servicers.” The Senators noted that consumers owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. and that loan servicing companies under contract with the U.S. Department of Education (the “Department”) are “covered persons” under Title X of the Dodd Frank Act, which allows the Bureau “broad oversight authority over their actions.” The Senators cited to a number of lawsuits brought by private citizens and state authorities challenging student loan servicing companies’ actions with regard to PSLF, and requested the Bureau respond to a series of questions regarding its activities overseeing student loan servicers’ handling of PSLF since December 2017. Among other things, the Senators requested information regarding (i) the Bureau’s examinations of student loan servicers’ PSLF administration; (ii) the effect of the Department’s December 2017 guidance to loan servicing contractors not to produce documents directly to other government agencies; (iii) the status of the CFPB’s alleged investigation into a specific student loan servicer’s actions; and (iv) the status of information sharing with the Department since August 2017.
Waters announces subcommittee chairs, including newly formed Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion
On January 24, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters, announced that Joyce Beatty (D-OH) will serve as the first Chair of the newly formed Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion. According to Waters’ policy speech on January 17, the new Subcommittee will be “dedicated to looking at diversity and inclusion issues under the Committee’s jurisdiction.” Specifically, Waters cited to low representation of minorities and women in the financial services industry, particularly at the management level, as a reason for the creation of the subcommittee. Using the Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion of the federal financial services regulators as an example, Waters suggested that the subcommittee be responsible for overseeing diversity in management, employment, and business activities in the financial industry. In addition to diversity and inclusion, Waters noted that, among other things, fair housing, including conducting “robust oversight” of HUD, and fintech would be top priorities for the subcommittee.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “How the new administration sets the tone for 2021” at the American Conference Institute Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum on Fintech & Emerging Payment Systems
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP in consumer finance at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable