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  • Michigan requires annual reporting on payday lending from director

    State Issues

    On May 22, Michigan enacted HB 4343 (the “Act”) to include new reporting requirements regarding payday lending for the director or the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (the Department). By October 31 of each year, from 2025 to 2031, the director of the Department must submit a report to the relevant senate and house committees tasked with the oversight of banking and financial services issues. The report must cover various aspects of the payday lending business in the state, including the number of licensed providers, program fees received by the Department, and local and statewide statistics on provider locations, transaction volumes and amounts, and customer usage patterns. The Act will require the Department to include the names and addresses of all licensees, the number of complaints filed against both licensees and non-licensees arising from transactions conducted in the state, and any additional information deemed relevant by the director. According to the Act, the purpose of this reporting will be to enforce and regulate the payday lending industry. The Act will go into effect after the 91st day after the final adjournment of the 2024 regular session.

    State Issues Michigan Payday Lending State Legislation

  • District Court grants motion for reconsideration on reverse redlining claim

    Courts

    On April 26, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration of its order granting the defendants summary judgment and dismissing claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the ECOA. The plaintiffs argued the court erred in its decision to dismiss their FHA and ECOA claims without addressing their disparate treatment claims. The court found plaintiffs’ arguments on reverse redlining (i.e., alleged intentional targeting of borrowers in minority areas for predatory loans) supported their claims of disparate treatment under the FHA and the ECOA, and the court had erred in “dismissing those claims in their entirety[.]”

    Since this revived plaintiffs’ FHA and ECOA claims, the court then addressed a defendant’s motion for summary judgment, which argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because it merely facilitated a loan to a co-defendant and did not engage in any conduct controlled or restricted by the FHA. The court found that the scope of FHA § 3604(a) extended beyond owners and agents to other actors who are in a direct position to deny housing rights to a member of a protected group. The court found the defendant participated actively in the acquisition and disposition of residential property (e.g., the defendant was the primary funder of property acquisitions, participated in the design of the purchase contracts, had detailed knowledge of a co-defendant’s business model, reviewed a co-defendant’s marketing and advertising strategies, and participated in decisions on individual purchase contracts).

    According to the court, this supported plaintiffs’ allegation that such defendant directly affected the availability of housing within the meaning of FHA § 3604(a). The court also disagreed with defendant’s alternative arguments regarding plaintiffs’ showing of disparate treatment, stating “plaintiffs can establish disparate treatment based on reverse redlining by showing that (1) they are a member of a protected class; (2) they applied for and were qualified for loans; (3) they received grossly unfavorable terms; and (4) they were intentionally targeted or intentionally discriminated against.” Therefore, because the court found issues of material fact on plaintiffs’ FHA and ECOA claims, the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

    Courts Predatory Lending FHA ECOA Michigan

  • District Court grants bank a MSJ in overdraft fee class action case

    Courts

    On April 16, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan entered an opinion and order granting defendant bank’s motion for summary judgment in an overdraft fee-related consumer class action. In this case, plaintiffs claimed that defendant breached its account agreements in connection with two related but distinct practices that the plaintiffs claimed were inconsistent with their account agreement. The first practice involved the assessment of overdraft fees on transactions that were initially authorized with a positive balance but settled at a time when the account had a negative balance, labeled Authorize Positive, Purportedly Settle Negative transactions (APPSN). The second practice imposed insufficient fund (NSF) fees each time the same item was re-presented by a merchant and declined by the bank due to a lack of funds. The complaint alleged a breach of contract and conversion against the bank based on these two fee practices.

    In a previous order in 2021, the court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss as to plaintiff’s breach of contract claim but granted dismissal as to plaintiff’s conversion claim. In denying the motion to dismiss the breach of contract of claim, the court determined the account agreement was ambiguous as to the overdraft fees since it was unclear whether defendant would assess overdraft fees at the time of a debit's authorization or at the time of its settlement. The court held that the account agreement was similarly ambiguous as to the NSF fees, since the agreement’s language lent itself to multiple reasonable interpretations of the meaning of “item.”

    In the current opinion, the court held that the language of the updated disclosure guide provided to the plaintiff removed the perceived ambiguity in the contractual language, finding that plaintiff’s interpretation was “unreasonable because it contradict[ed] the language of the [a]greement as a whole, including the updated disclosure guide.” The court explained that the updated disclosures made it clear that customers could still incur an overdraft fee if their balance goes negative before a debit authorization hold would be lifted and the actual transaction settled, despite having a positive balance at the time the hold was placed. The court highlighted that the new disclosure guide included a practical example demonstrating the impact of a temporary debit authorization hold on an account’s available balance.

    Further, the court noted that even if the agreement was ambiguous, plaintiff would still be unsuccessful in pursuing her breach of contract claim because it had been established that she did not actually read the specific contract terms in question. The court noted, under Michigan law, there cannot be a factual question as to the meaning of a contract where one party had not read the contract to form a different understanding of the contract. The court applied a similar analysis to dismiss the allegations relating to the NSF fees. Finally, the court held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact regarding her claim of breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing because the applicable fees were contemplated by the parties’ agreement.

    Courts Michigan Overdraft NSF Fees Disclosures

  • District Court dismisses suit challenging Biden’s student debt relief plan

    Courts

    On August 14, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed without prejudice a lawsuit filed against the federal government aimed at blocking the Biden administration’s effort to provide debt relief to student borrowers (covered by InfoBytes here). U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington held that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they failed to plausibly demonstrate how the government’s plans would impact their efforts to recruit participants as qualified employers under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The court detailed that “[Plaintiffs] merely make vague and conclusory statements that some ‘undisclosed’ number of borrowers will receive credit toward loan forgiveness for some periods of forbearance” but “do not allege that any current employee received Adjustment credit.” Furthermore, any such “hypothetical injur[y]” would be traceable to “Plaintiffs’ own employees or prospective employees, not the Adjustment.” Because there was no standing, the court dismissed the complaint without prejudice and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction as moot.

    Courts Federal Issues Biden Student Lending Michigan Department of Education Income-Driven Repayment PSLF

  • Plaintiffs file suit challenging Biden’s latest student debt relief plan

    Courts

    On August 4, two nonprofit entities filed a lawsuit against the federal government aimed at blocking the Biden administration’s recent effort to provide debt relief to student borrowers. The administration’s efforts were implemented in response to the Supreme Court’s June 30 decision striking down the DOE’s student loan debt relief program that would have canceled between $10,000 and $20,000 in debt for certain student borrowers (covered by InfoBytes here). The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, targets the administration’s efforts to credit borrowers participating in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) plan and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan by providing credit for periods when loans were in forbearance or deferment, which would affect more than 804,000 borrowers, forgiving approximately $39 billion in loan payments, according to the DOE.

    As an initial matter, plaintiffs assert that they are injured by the administration’s actions because, as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, they benefit from the PSLF program by allowing them to “attract and retain borrower-employees who might otherwise choose higher-paying employment with non-qualifying employers in the private sector.” Thus, according to plaintiffs, cancellation of PSLF loans would reduce the incentive for borrowers to work at public service employers and the decision “unlawfully deprives [PSLF] employers of the full statutory benefit to which they are entitled under PSLF.”

    Plaintiffs accuse the administration of putting the plan on an “accelerated schedule apparently designed to evade judicial review.” The plaintiffs assert that the DOE lacks authority to classify “non-payments as payments,” and that the statutes for the PSLF and IDR programs require actual payments to qualify for forgiveness under each plan. The suit brings four claims against the administration: (i) violation of the Appropriation Clause of the U.S. Constitution by canceling debt that Congress did not authorize; (ii) violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by issuing a final agency decision without appropriate statutory authority; (iii) violation of the APA by taking an arbitrary and capricious agency action by failing to “explain why [DOE] has changed its policy from not crediting non-payments during periods of loan forbearance to crediting such payments for purposes of PSLF and IDR forgiveness” and “entirely fail[ing] to consider the cost to taxpayers of crediting periods of forbearance toward PSLF and IDR forgiveness,” among other reasons; and (iv) violation of the APA by failing to undertake notice-and-comment procedures in implementing the changes. 

    Courts Federal Issues Biden Student Lending Michigan Department of Education Income-Driven Repayment PSLF

  • District Court says bank discrimination suit can proceed

    Courts

    On July 21, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan denied a bank’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s allegations that she was discriminated against on the basis of race when her account was frozen due to a purported suspicious deposit. Plaintiff, an African-American woman, sued the bank claiming violations of both federal and state anti-discrimination laws after she was allegedly questioned by bank employees about the authenticity of a check she tried to deposit in the amount of $27,616, which was money she received from a legal settlement. Plaintiff claimed that the bank maintained the check was fraudulent and soon afterward froze her account and deactivated her debit card. Plaintiff further stated that her debit card remained frozen even after her attorney explained the legal settlement to the bank and her check was cleared. Claiming the bank’s treatment was racially discriminatory, plaintiff maintained that because bank “employees assumed that her ‘having money must be evidence of fraud or wrongdoing,’” she suffered financial hardships and “significant emotional and physical distress.” The bank argued that plaintiff failed to state a claim because she has not shown a connection between the bank’s actions and her race and claimed the bank employees were acting to prevent fraud.

    The court disagreed, ruling that due to the bank’s alleged actions and the fact that plaintiff’s account was frozen in violation of its own policies, discriminatory intent is plausible. The court noted that “most significantly,” plaintiff’s account remained frozen for eight days after the check cleared and the possibility of fraud was discounted. The court reasoned that defendant failed to explain why its fraud-prevention policies would justify keeping an account frozen after a check has been cleared. “[A] defendant’s hostile treatment of a plaintiff can allow for an inference of discriminatory intent even if the defendant’s actions lack a direct connection to race,” the court wrote, noting that fraud prevention does not fully explain all of the bank’s actions, which “went beyond” simply conveying suspicion about a potentially fraudulent check or freezing plaintiff’s account.

    Courts State Issues Michigan Discrimination Consumer Finance

  • Michigan Supreme Court limits applicability of “usury savings clauses”

    Courts

    On June 23, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed a circuit court’s decision on a case involving Michigan’s “longstanding prohibition on excessive interest rates for certain loans.” The case involved a “usury savings clause,” which is a term sometimes used in notes, which requires the borrower to pay the maximum legal interest rate if the contractual terms impose an illegal rate.  In the case, a nonbank investment group (plaintiff) lent a realty service company (defendant) $1 million to flip tax-foreclosed homes. Plaintiff sued for breach of contract and fraud after defendant discontinued payments after paying more than $140,000 in interest on the loan. Defendant argued that plaintiff violated the criminal usury statute by, “knowingly charging an effective interest rate exceeding 25%,” which it alleged barred plaintiff from recovering on the loan under the wrongful-conduct rule.

    The circuit court determined that the fees and charges associated with the loan constituted disguised interest, making the total interest the plaintiff was seeking above the legal 25% limit and “criminally usurious.” However, the court agreed with the defendant that the usury savings clause was enforceable and the note was not facially usurious. Nevertheless, “the court agreed that the appropriate remedy is to relieve [defendant] of its obligation to pay the interest on the loan but not its obligation to repay the principal.”

    The Michigan Supreme Court held that in determining whether a loan agreement imposes illegal rates of interest, a usury savings clause is ineffective if the loan agreement requires a borrower to pay an illegal interest rate, even if the interest is labeled as a “fee” or something else. Further, the court held that enforcing usury savings clauses would undermine the state’s usury laws because it would nullify the statutory remedies for usury, which would relieve lenders of their obligation to ensure that their loans have a legal interest rate. The court also held that a lender is not criminally liable for seeking to collect on an unlawful interest rate in a lawsuit. The court reasoned that seeking relief through the court of law is generally encouraged over extrajudicial means. According to the opinion, the court held that “[t]he appropriate remedy for a lender’s abusive lawsuit is success for the borrower in that lawsuit and appropriate civil sanctions, not a criminal conviction for usury.”

    Courts State Issues Usury Consumer Finance Real Estate Mortgages Michigan Lending

  • Michigan Court of Appeals affirms dismissal of post-judgment interest case, says state court rule precludes class actions

    Courts

    On April 21, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of a post-judgment interest putative class action after concluding that a court rule that precludes “‘actions’ based on claimed violations of statutes that permit[ ] recovery of statutory damages in lieu of actual damages” necessitated the dismissal of the plaintiff’s class action claim. According to the opinion, after the plaintiff defaulted on her $900 credit card debt, the debt was assigned to the defendant debt collector who calculated the plaintiff’s unpaid balance to be $6,241.20. The defendant sought judgment against the plaintiff in that amount, plus interest, fees, and costs, and obtained a default judgment against the plaintiff after she did not respond. The defendant consequently obtained several writs of garnishment, all of which indicated that post-judgment interest had been added to the debt. Several years later, the plaintiff filed a putative class action alleging the defendant violated the FDCPA and the Michigan Regulation of Collection Practices Act (RCPA) by overstating how much she owed “and by impermissibly inflating [defendant’s] costs and the amount of interest it charged.” The state trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s class action claims with prejudice on the basis that Michigan Court Rules (MCR) preclude her from recovering statutory damages under the RCPA because the RCPA does not explicitly permit class actions. The court also dismissed her individual claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

    On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred when it dismissed her class action claims under MCR because she also sought equitable relief and actual damages; however, the Michigan Court of Appeals pointed to a provision in the MCR that states “[a]n action for a penalty or minimum amount of recovery without regard to actual damages imposed or authorized by statute may not be maintained as a class action unless the statute specifically authorizes its recovery in a class action.” The Court of Appeals explained that the RCPA is implicated under this rule because (i) it permits the recovery of statutory damages; and (ii) does not contain a provision explicitly permitting class actions, and as such, “plaintiff’s class action claims must be dismissed irrespective of the fact that she also sought injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and actual damages.” The Court of Appeals further held that even if the plaintiff attempted to plead individual claims, the case would not be allowed to proceed because the actual damages in this case are not high enough to meet the jurisdictional minimum amount in Michigan.

    Courts State Issues Michigan Consumer Finance Appellate Debt Collection Class Action

  • FDIC announces Michigan disaster relief

    Federal Issues

    On July 23, the FDIC issued FIL-52-2021 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Michigan affected by severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes. The FDIC acknowledged the unusual circumstances faced by institutions affected by the storms and suggested that institutions work with impacted borrowers to, among other things, (i) extend repayment terms; (ii) restructure existing loans; or (iii) ease terms for new loans to those affected by the severe weather, provided the measures are done “in a manner consistent with sound banking practices.” Additionally, the FDIC noted that institutions “may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery.” The FDIC further stated that it will also consider regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.

    Federal Issues FDIC Disaster Relief Consumer Finance Michigan CRA Bank Regulatory

  • Michigan regulator urges institutions to protect stimulus payments from overdrafts, fees

    State Issues

    On March 15, the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services issued a bulletin “strongly” encouraging financial institutions to protect payments made to customers under the American Rescue Plan from overdrafts and fees. The bulletin further instructs that if a financial institution’s system automatically applies such a payment to a preexisting overdraft, the institution should reverse the application of the direct payment as promptly as possible.

    State Issues Covid-19 Michigan Bank Compliance Overdraft Financial Institutions

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