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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • Alabama judge finds the Corporate Transparency Act unconstitutional, DOJ quickly appeals


    On March 1, the federal district court in the Northern District of Alabama entered a final declaratory judgment concluding that the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs, including a non-profit small business association consisting of more than 60,000 small business members as well as an individual small business owner, sued the Treasury Department, Secretary Janet Yellen, and FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das in their official capacities, alleging that the CTA’s mandatory disclosure requirements violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments and exceed Congress’s authority under Article I of the Constitution.

    Corporations, LLCs, or other similar entities that are either “(i) created by the filing of a document with a secretary of state… or (ii) formed under the law of a foreign country and registered to do business in the United States” are required to provide certain beneficial ownership information, as well as disclose any related changes to FinCEN under the CTA, excluding exempt entities. The CTA was passed in 2021 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and required most entities incorporated under state law to disclose beneficial ownership information to FinCEN to prevent financial crimes often committed through shell corporations. In September 2022, FinCEN issued a final rule implementing the CTA, which went into effect on January 1 of this year, and required currently existing entities and five million new entities formed each year from 2025 to 2034 to disclose the identity and information of any “beneficial owner” to FinCEN (see Orrick Insight here).

    According to the court, the CTA exceeds the Constitution’s limits on Congress’s power and does not have a strong enough connection to any of Congress’s listed powers to be considered a necessary or appropriate way to reach Congress’s policy objectives. The court rejected the government’s claims that the CTA is covered by various constitutional provisions, including the Commerce Clause, Taxing Clause, Necessary and Proper Clause, and Congress’s powers related to foreign affairs and national security.

    The judgment permanently enjoined the Department of the Treasury and FinCEN from enforcing the CTA against the plaintiffs and as a result they are not required to report beneficial ownership information to FinCEN at this time. The order does not ban enforcement of the CTA and its beneficial ownership disclosure requirements to FinCEN generally.

    On March 11, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke’s March 1 ruling.

    Courts Alabama Corporate Transparency Act Constitution Congress FinCEN Department of Treasury

  • Judge grants MSJ in class action over disputed debt investigation


    On July 28, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama granted summary judgment in favor of a defendant third-party debt collector in an FCRA and FDCPA putative class action, holding that the defendant carried out a reasonable investigation following plaintiff’s dispute of the debt it had reported to credit reporting agencies (CRAs) and that the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendant knew or should have known that the debt was inaccurate or invalid. Defendant entered into an asset purchase agreement with another third-party debt collector and reported debts to credit reporting agencies under the name of the non-defendant third-party debt collector, including an account erroneously associated with plaintiff. When defendant received notice that plaintiff disputed the erroneous account information, defendant verified the account information in its system and provided by the CRA, asked the creditor to provide account documentation, and then requested that the CRAs delete their reporting of the account once the creditor failed to provide account documentation within the requested thirty-day period.

    In relation to the FCRA claim, the court found that the defendant “did everything required by the FCRA in response to Plaintiff’s dispute” such that the plaintiff “failed to establish how this investigation was not reasonable” or in violation of the FCRA. The court also found that plaintiff “failed to show that any different result would have occurred had [defendant] conducted any part of its investigation differently.” Finally, plaintiff’s claim failed as a matter of law concerning defendant’s initial report of the debt to the CRAs because the defendant was not required under the FCRA to “investigate the validity of a debt before commencing to report on that account to the CRAs.” While the defendant was prohibited from reporting inaccurate consumer information, no private cause of action exists for violations of this initial reporting provision of the FCRA.

    For the FDCPA claim, the court held that the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendant had knowledge that the debt it reported was not accurate or was otherwise disputed or invalid. Because the CFPB passed Regulation F in November 2021, after the events at question in this litigation, furnishing information regarding a debt to a CRA before communication with plaintiff was not unlawful at that time. Finally, the court found that plaintiff failed to timely assert that defendant violated the FDCPA provision prohibiting false, deceptive, or misleading representation by using the non-defendant third-party debt collector’s name when reporting the account to the CRAs because this allegation was not present in plaintiff’s complaint.

    Courts Third-Party Debt Collection FCRA FDCPA Alabama Credit Reporting Agency Class Action

  • District court partially grants summary judgment in FDCPA suit


    On July 12, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama partially granted a plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in an FDCPA case. According to the memorandum opinion, the plaintiff purchased a home security system, which, after a period of time, she transferred to someone else. The account became delinquent and the plaintiff began receiving collection letters from a debt collection agency regarding the debt owed to the security company. The plaintiff filed for bankruptcy protection. More than two years later, the debt collection agency assigned plaintiff’s account to the defendant for collection. The plaintiff contended that the defendant violated the FDCPA because when it contacted her – via a text message and several alleged telephone calls – to collect a debt on behalf of the debt collection agency, she was a party to Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings in which the alleged debt was listed. The defendant argued that the text message was not an attempt to collect on the debt because it made no demand or request for payment. The district court disagreed, based on the “plain language” of the text message, which stated, “This communication is from a debt collector, this is an attempt to collect a debt.” The text message also referenced a specific debt, thus making the text a “false representation” because it asserted that money was due. The defendant also argued that it should be entitled to the FDCPA’s bona fide error defense. The district court found that the defendant’s actions were “not intentional,” stating that “[w]hen it sent the text message, [the defendant] was not aware that [the plaintiff] had filed for bankruptcy or was represented by an attorney in connection with the debt.” The district court continued, “Moreover, [the plaintiff] had not notified [the defendant] in writing that she refused to pay the debt or that she wished communications to cease. Thus, [the defendant] did not deliberately contact a debtor who had filed for bankruptcy, was represented by an attorney, was refusing to pay the debt, or wished communications to cease.” Though the district court found that the defendant’s error was bona fide, it held that the defendant’s procedure of “relying exclusively” on the collection agency that had assigned the debt to defendant, without any “internal controls,” was “not reasonably adapted to avoid” the error at issue—and thus the defendant was not entitled to the bona fide error defense.

    Courts Debt Collection Bankruptcy Alabama

  • HUD announces disaster relief for homeowners in several states

    Federal Issues

    On January 12, HUD announced disaster assistance for certain areas in Missouri impacted by severe storms, straight-line winds, and tornadoes in December 2021. The disaster assistance supplements state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in specific counties, and provides foreclosure relief and other assistance to affected homeowners following President Biden’s major disaster declaration on January 11. According to the announcement, HUD is providing an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties and is making FHA insurance available to victims whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged, such that “reconstruction or replacement is necessary.” HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program allows individuals who have lost homes to finance the purchase of a house or refinance an existing house along with the costs of repair, through a single mortgage. The program also allows homeowners with damaged property to finance the rehabilitation of existing single-family homes. HUD also announced it is allowing applications for administrative flexibility waivers for Community Planning and Development Grantees and public housing authorities. Recently, HUD announced it will provide the same foreclosure relief and assistance to Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, and Washington state homeowners affected by severe storms, flooding, tornados, and wildfires in those states. (See press releases here, here, here, and here).

    Federal Issues HUD Disaster Relief Mortgages Consumer Finance Arkansas Washington Alabama Kansas Missouri

  • FDIC announces Alabama disaster relief

    On December 23, the FDIC issued FIL-82-2021 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Alabama affected by severe storms and flooding. The FDIC acknowledged the unusual circumstances faced by institutions and their customers affected by the weather 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 will also consider regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.

    Bank Regulatory FDIC Disaster Relief CRA Consumer Finance Alabama Federal Issues

  • ARRC recommends SOFR fallbacks for one-week, two-month LIBOR contracts

    Federal Issues

    On December 3, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) under the New York and Alabama LIBOR Relevant Recommending Body, released a statement recommending forms of the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) and associated spread adjustments to replace references to 1-week and 2-month USD LIBOR in certain contracts affected by New York and Alabama state LIBOR legislation. The statement comes “with just one month until no new LIBOR and the cessation of these two USD LIBOR tenors,” noting that these recommendations are “important for the legacy contracts that rely on those tenors.”  Under the states’ LIBOR legislation, ARRC serves as the “Relevant Recommending Body,” while SOFR is the recommended rate and alternative to USD LIBOR.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, ARRC announced its recommendation of CME Group’s forward-looking SOFR term rates, following the completion of key changes in trading conventions on July 26 under the SOFR First initiative. According to the recently released statement, ARRC recommends applying SOFR only to the narrow set of LIBOR-based contracts that are affected by the states’ LIBOR legislation, which are generally contracts with no fallbacks or fallbacks that reference LIBOR. For contracts with fallbacks that give a party discretion to decide on a replacement rate, the state laws also provide a safe harbor if that party chooses the SOFR-based rate and conforming changes recommended by ARRC. ARRC also published a set of frequently asked questions regarding the application of New York state law.

    Federal Issues LIBOR ARRC New York Alabama SOFR

  • FDIC announces Kentucky and Alabama disaster relief

    Federal Issues

    On April 30, the FDIC issued FIL-31-2021 and FIL-32-2021 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Kentucky and Alabama affected by severe storms. 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 will also consider regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.

    Federal Issues FDIC Disaster Relief Kentucky Alabama Consumer Finance CRA Bank Regulatory

  • Alabama clarifies proclamation regarding eviction moratorium

    State Issues

    On May 8, the Alabama governor issued a Ninth Supplemental Proclamation amending an earlier proclamation providing relief from residential evictions and foreclosures, which we previously covered here. The earlier proclamation is amended to specify that the protection against evictions applies only to evictions based on nonpayment. The proclamation also extends the state of emergency issued on March 13, 2020, for an additional sixty days, unless sooner terminated. The proclamation will remain in effect for the duration of the public health emergency unless rescinded or extended by another proclamation.

    State Issues Covid-19 Alabama Mortgages Foreclosure

  • Alabama Securities Commission extends relief provided to registrants affected by Covid-19

    State Issues

    The Alabama Securities Commission has extended a temporary order providing relief to registrants affected by Covid-19 to May 15, 2020, in light of the Alabama governor’s issuance of the April 28, 2020 “Safer at Home” order. The temporary order was originally covered here.

    State Issues Covid-19 Alabama Securities

  • Alabama State Banking Department issues memorandum to licensees to work with customers

    State Issues

    On April 29, the Alabama State Banking Department issued a memorandum encouraging licensees to work proactively with customers and to keep the department apprised of such efforts. Licensees are also reminded to work with customers to make sure they are aware of the potential for scams during the COVID-19 pandemic. The department should be notified of any suspicious lending-related activity.

    State Issues Covid-19 Alabama Licensing Consumer Finance


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