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On September 15, the FDIC issued FIL-41-2022 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (Arizona) affected by severe storms from July 17-18. 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.
On May 20, the Arizona governor signed SB 1580, which revises provisions related to money transmitters. The bill, among other things, provides that “a person may not engage in the business of money transmission or advertise, solicit or hold itself out as providing money transmission unless the person is licensed." The provision does not apply to “a person that is an authorized delegate of a person licensed under this article that is acting within the scope of authority conferred by a written contract with the licensee,” and to exempt persons provided the person “does not engage in money transmission outside the scope of the exemption.” The bill also creates provisions related to consistent licensure, application for licensure, and information requirements for certain individuals.
On May 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded a district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant furnisher, stating that it is up to a jury to decide whether the defendant’s “reasonable investigation” into the plaintiff’s dispute complied with the FCRA. After the plaintiff defaulted on both his first and second mortgages, the property was foreclosed and sold. Several years later, the plaintiff tried to purchase another home but was denied a mortgage due to a tradeline on his credit report that showed one of his mortgages as past due with accruing interest and late fees due to missed payments. The plaintiff disputed the debt through the consumer reporting agency (CRA) and provided a citation to the Arizona Anti-Deficiency Statute, which abolished his liability for the reported debt. The CRA then told the defendant about the dispute and provided information about the statutory citation. The defendant originally “updated” the plaintiff’s account to show that the debt was being disputed, but continued to report current and past due balances. Yet after the plaintiff again disputed the validity of his debt, the defendant marked the account as “paid, closed” and changed the balance to $0.
The plaintiff sued, claiming the defendant violated the FCRA by failing to reasonably investigate his dispute and for reporting inaccurate information. The district court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the reports it made were accurate as a matter of law and that the defendant had reasonably investigated the dispute. Moreover, “whether the Arizona anti-deficiency statute rendered [plaintiff’s] debt uncollectible is a legal question, not a factual one,” the district court stated, adding that “the FCRA does not impose on furnishers a duty to investigate legal disputes, only factual inaccuracies.”
The 9th Circuit disagreed, writing that Arizona law required that the plaintiff’s balance be “abolished,” so it was “patently incorrect” for the defendant to report otherwise. In applying Arizona law, the plaintiff had “more than satisfied his burden” of showing inaccurate reporting, the appellate court wrote, explaining that the “situation was no different than a discharge under bankruptcy law, which extinguishes ‘the personal liability of the debtor.’” The 9th Circuit also held that the FCRA does not “categorically exempt legal issues from the investigations that furnishers must conduct.” Pointing out that the “distinction between ‘legal’ and ‘factual’ issues is ambiguous, potentially unworkable, and could invite furnishers to ‘evade their investigation obligation by construing the relevant dispute as a ‘legal’ one,’” the panel referred to an April 2021 amicus brief filed in support of the plaintiff by the CFPB, which argued that the FCRA does not distinguish between legal and factual disputes when it comes to furnishers’ obligations to investigate disputes referred from CRAs. The CFPB recently made a similar argument in an amicus brief filed last month in the 11th Circuit (covered by InfoBytes here). There, the CFPB argued that importing this exemption would run counter to the purposes of FCRA, would create an unworkable standard that would be difficult to implement, and could encourage furnishers to evade their statutory obligations any time they construe the disputes as “legal.”
Holding that there was a “genuine factual dispute about the reasonableness” of the defendant’s investigation, the appellate court ultimately determined that it would “leave it to the jury” to decide whether the defendant’s investigation had been reasonable. “Unless ‘only one conclusion about the conduct’s reasonableness is possible,’ the question is normally inappropriate for resolution at the summary judgment stage,” the appellate court stated. “Here, as is ordinarily the case, this question is best left to the factfinder.”
On May 10, the Arizona attorney general announced it filed a stipulated consent judgment in the Superior Court of Arizona against a defendant, the owner and manager of a debt collection operation. The AG’s original action was part of the FTC’s “Operation Corrupt Collection”—a nationwide enforcement and outreach effort established by the FTC, CFPB, and more than 50 federal and state law enforcement partners to target illegal debt collection practices (covered by InfoBytes here).
According to the AG’s press release announcing the consent judgment, the defendant’s debt collection operation allegedly called consumers and made false claims and threats to convince people to pay debts the operation had no authority to collect. The complaint contended that employees frequently used spoofing software to reinforce claims that they were law enforcement officers, government officials, process servers, and law firm personnel to intimidate consumers into paying the alleged debts, and told consumers to immediately respond or be held in contempt of court. Employees also allegedly threatened to file lawsuits, garnish wages and tax returns, place liens on homes and car titles, freeze bank accounts, send law enforcement to consumers’ homes and/or places of employment, and arrest consumers.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, the defendant is required to pay more than $1.6 million in consumer restitution and up to $900,000 in civil penalties, and is permanently enjoined, restrained and prohibited from participating in the debt collection industry. Court approval of the stipulated judgment is pending.
On April 22, the Arizona governor signed SB 1204, which amends state provisions regarding mortgage broker and banker licensing. Among other things, the bill: (i) provides that “a parent company may apply for and be granted a certificate of exemption on behalf of an entity that allows a responsible individual to reside out of state,” as long as certain criteria is met; (ii) establishes qualifications, application, bond, fees, and renewal requirements for licensing of mortgage brokers; and (iii) states that “[a] person shall APPLY for a license or for a renewal of a license in writing on the forms, in the manner and accompanied by the information prescribed by the deputy director.”
On March 29, the Arizona governor signed HB 2146, amending the Arizona Revised Statutes’ security breach notification requirements. Specifically, if a person conducting business in the state that “owns, maintains or licenses unencrypted and unredacted computerized personal information becomes aware of a security incident” involving more than 1,000 individuals, the person is required to notify the three largest national consumer reporting agencies, the state attorney general, and the director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security within 45 days. The bill also makes various technical corrections and will take effect 90 days after legislature adjourns.
On March 24, the Arizona governor signed HB 2612, which eliminates requirements for there to be a finding on whether an applicant is law abiding, honest, trustworthy, and of good moral character in order to be eligible for a license, permit, or certification. This applies to bank or in-state financial institution acquisitions, banking, consumer lenders, trust companies, escrow agents, mortgage brokers, mortgage bankers, commercial mortgage brokers, loan originators, financial institution holding companies, premium finance companies, real estate appraisers and appraisal management companies, among others. The bill also makes other technical and conforming changes and takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the legislature.
Earlier, on March 23, the Utah governor signed HB 69, which modifies various licensing provisions under the state’s Residential Mortgage Practices and Licensing Act. The bill also makes various amendments under the Real Estate Licensing and Practices Act related to licensing, fees, and disciplinary actions. Among other things, the bill amends the general qualifications of licensure to make residential mortgage loans, including provisions related to mandatory education requirements for both state applicants and applicants licensed in other states and criminal background checks. Specifically, the bill removes a provision that states a “license is immediately and automatically revoked if the criminal background check discloses the applicant fails to accurately disclose a criminal history involving: (A) the real estate industry; or (B) a felony conviction on the basis of an allegation of fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit.” Additional amendments authorize the commission to impose sanctions against licensees and unregistered persons that were found to be in violation of a provision of the act; discuss the process for filing a written request for the vacation of a license revocation; address pending transactions should the death of a principal broker occur; and remove provisions regarding the payment of certain expenses and costs. The bill takes effect 60 days after adjournment of the legislature.
On October 25, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s order denying a motion for preliminary injunction against enforcement of an Arizona statute designed to strengthen privacy protections for consumers whose data is collected by auto dealers. Under the Dealer Law, database providers are prohibited from limiting access to dealer data by dealer-authorized third parties and are required to create a standardized framework to facilitate access. The plaintiffs—technology companies that license dealer management systems (DMS)—sued the Arizona attorney general and the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association in an attempt to stop the Dealer Law from taking effect. The plaintiffs contended that the Dealer Law is preempted by the Copyright Act because it gives dealers the right to access plaintiff’s systems and create unlicensed copies of its dealer management system, application programming interfaces, and data compilations. The plaintiffs further claimed the Dealer Law is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s contracts clause.
On appeal, the 9th Circuit agreed that the plaintiffs were not entitled to a preliminary injunction. The appellate court concluded that the Dealer Law was not preempted by the Copyright Act, because, among other things, the plaintiffs could comply with the Dealer Law without having to create a new copy of its software to process third-party requests. Moreover, the 9th Circuit noted that even if the plaintiffs had to create copies of their DMS on their servers to process third-party requests, they failed to established that those copies would infringe their reproduction right, and the copies the plaintiffs took objection to “would be copies of its own software running on its own servers and not shared with anyone else.” The appellate court further held that the Dealer Law was not a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s contracts clause because, among other things, plaintiffs did not show that complying with the Dealer Law prevented them from being able to keep dealer data confidential. “Promoting consumer data privacy and competition plainly qualify as legitimate public purposes,” the appellate court wrote. “[Plaintiffs] point out that the Arizona Legislature did not make findings specifying that those were the purposes motivating the enactment of the statute, but it was not required to do so. The purposes are apparent on the face of the law.”
On July 7, the Arizona Supreme Court issued Administrative Order No. 2020-105 regarding the disposition of residential eviction cases during the Covid-19 public health emergency. Among other things, the order requires any complaint seeking eviction for non-payment of rent for any part of the period between March 27 and July 25, 2020 to include an attestation by the plaintiff that the property in which the tenant resides is not covered by the CARES Act.
The Arizona Department of Financial Institutions announced the implementation of a new license renewal process that will enable licensees to renew licenses of the parent licensee and its branches at the same time. Previously, licensees were required to complete renewal at the parent level, and then repeat the process for each branch. The department is currently in the first phase of the project, which will cover renewals for advance fee loan brokers, debt management companies, and sales finance companies, which have licenses expiring in June 2020.
- Jedd R. Bellman to provide an “Attorney exemption/medical debt update” at the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association annual conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss “What should crypto regulation look like: Legislation, regulation and consumer issues” at WCL's First Annual Virtual Currency Law Institute
- Elizabeth E. McGinn to discuss “How to mitigate and manage third-party risks: Leveraging tools and best practices” at The Knowledge Group’s webcast
- Elizabeth E. McGinn, Benjamin W. Hutten, and James C. Chou to discuss “The evolving regulatory landscape: Third-party and cyber risk management” at the 2022 mWISE Conference
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss “Truth in lending” at ABA’s Consumer Financial Services Basics 2022 virtual conference
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss “For your eyes only: Privacy updates for 2022-2023” at CCFL’s Annual Consumer Financial Services Conference
- James T. Parkinson to present a “Global anti-corruption update” at IBA’s annual conference