Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On November 30, the CFPB announced the finalization of its Advisory Opinions Policy, which will allow entities seeking to comply with existing regulatory requirements to request an advisory opinion in the form of an interpretive rule from the Bureau to address areas of uncertainty. Persons or entities interested in submitting a request for an advisory opinion should email firstname.lastname@example.org. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last June the Bureau launched a pilot advisory opinion program to focus primarily on clarifying ambiguities in Bureau regulations, and issued a request for public comment on a proposal for a new policy on advisory opinions. Under the final policy, the Bureau will review submissions, prioritize requests for response, issue opinions with a description of the incoming request, and “may also decide to issue advisory opinions on its own initiative.” All advisory opinions will be published in the Federal Register to increase transparency. The Bureau notes that it will prioritize open questions within its purview that can be addressed legally through an interpretive rule and adds that it “intends to further evaluate potential topics for advisory opinions based on additional factors, including: alignment with the Bureau’s statutory objectives; size of the benefit offered to consumers by resolution of the interpretive issue; known impact on the actions of other regulators; and impact on available Bureau resources.”
Concurrently, the Bureau issued two advisory opinions: one on earned wage access (EWA) products and one clarifying the definition of certain student education loan products. The EWA advisory opinion addresses the uncertainty as to whether EWA providers that meet short-term liquidity needs that arise between paychecks “are offering or extending ‘credit’” under Regulation Z, which implements TILA. The advisory opinion states that “a Covered EWA Program does not involve the offering or extension of ‘credit,’” noting that the “totality of circumstances of a Covered EWA Program supports that these programs differ in kind from products the Bureau would generally consider to be credit.”
The second advisory opinion addresses a different area of uncertainty concerning the application of Regulation Z, clarifying that “loan products that refinance or consolidate a consumer’s pre-existing Federal, or Federal and private, education loans meet the definition of ‘private education loan’ in [TILA] and Regulation Z and are subject to the disclosure and consumer protection requirements in subpart F of Regulation Z.”
CFPB announces advisory opinion program, updates business conduct bulletin, proposes whistleblower award legislation
On March 6, the CFPB announced three new measures it is undertaking to prevent customer harm, including (i) implementing an advisory opinion program; (ii) updating its bulletin regarding responsible business conduct; and (iii) advancing whistleblower award legislation through engagement with Congress. Details of each measure are as follows:
- Advisory Opinion Program. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued three new innovation policies last September to reduce regulatory uncertainty and improve compliance. Similarly, the Bureau’s March 6 announcement states that the advisory opinion program should “provide clear guidance to assist companies in better understanding their legal and regulatory obligations.” The program directs that requests for advisory opinions should be submitted through the CFPB website. The opinions will then be published in the Federal Register and on its website.
- Responsible Business Conduct Bulletin. The amended bulletin, originally released in 2013, “clarif[ies] [the Bureau’s] approach to responsible business conduct” and emphasizes “the importance of such conduct.” The updated bulletin presents four categories of “responsible conduct” that entities are encouraged to adopt to improve the culture of compliance and that the CFPB will use to evaluate whether credit is warranted in an enforcement investigation or supervisory matter, including (i) self-assessment; (ii) self-reporting; (iii) remediation; and (iv) cooperation.
- Whistleblower Award Legislation. The proposed legislative language would amend Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act and authorize the Bureau to create a whistleblower award program. For individuals that volunteer information leading to a “successful enforcement action,” the program would enable the Bureau to provide a monetary award of between 10 to 30 percent of the collected penalty amount, up to $10 million.
- 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