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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Illinois adopts rules implementing Predatory Loan Prevention Act

    State Issues

    On April 22, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) published in the Illinois Register a notice of adopted rules to implement the Predatory Loan Prevention Act (PLPA or the Act). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Act was signed into law in March 2021 to prohibit lenders from charging more than 36 percent APR on all non-commercial consumer loans under $40,000, including closed-end and open-end credit, retail installment sales contracts, and motor vehicle retail installment sales contracts. Violations of the Act constitute a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and carry a potential fine up to $10,000. Additionally, any loan with an APR exceeding 36 percent will be considered null and void.

    In general, the adopted rules require lenders to provide a disclosure to consumers about the 36 percent APR rate cap established by the PLPA, incorporate the APR calculation method required by the PLPA, and amend the rules for reporting of payday loans to the state database. The rules specify that words in the definitions are not defined to have the same meaning as in Regulation Z, including any interpretation by the CFPB. For purposes of calculating the PLPA ARP, the rules specify that the calculation excludes only certain specified bona fide fees, but includes finance charges, loan application fees, and fees imposed for participation in any plan or arrangement for a loan, “even if that charge would be excluded from the finance charge under Regulation Z.”

    The IDFPR made several amendments related to rate cap disclosure notices. These specify that all loan applications must include a separate rate cap disclosure signed by the consumer (disclosures must be provided in English and in the language in which the loan was negotiated) that clearly and conspicuously states: “A lender shall not contract for or receive charges exceeding a 36% annual percentage rate on the unpaid balance of the amount financed for a loan, as calculated under the Illinois Predatory Loan Prevention Act (PLPA APR). Any loan with a PLPA APR over 36% is null and void, such that no person or entity shall have any right to collect, attempt to collect, receive, or retain any principal, fee, interest, or charges related to the loan. The annual percentage rate disclosed in any loan contract may be lower than the PLPA APR.”

    The rules take effect August 1.

    State Issues State Regulators Illinois Predatory Lending Consumer Finance Interest Rate APR

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  • D.C. reaches nearly $4 million settlement with online lender to resolve usury allegations

    State Issues

    On February 8, the District of Columbia attorney general announced a nearly $4 million settlement with an online lender to resolve allegations that lender marketed high-costs loans carrying interest rates exceeding D.C.’s interest rate cap. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the AG filed a complaint in 2020, claiming the lender violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) by offering two loan products to D.C. residents carrying annual percentage rates (APR) ranging between 99-149 percent and 129-251 percent. Interest rates in D.C., however, are capped at 24 percent for loans with the rate expressed in the contract (loans that do not state an express interest rate in the contract are capped at six percent), and licensed money lenders that exceed these limits are in violation of the CPPA. According to the AG, the lender—who allegedly never possessed a money lending license in D.C.—violated the CPPA by (i) unlawfully misrepresenting it was allowed to offer loans in D.C. and failing to disclose or adequately disclose that its loans contain APRs in excess of D.C. usury limits; (ii) engaging in unfair and unconscionable practices through misleading marketing efforts; and (iii) violating D.C. usury laws.

    Under the terms of the settlement, the company is required to (i) pay at least $3.3 million in restitution to refund alleged interest overcharges to D.C. borrowers; (ii) provide more than $300,000 in debt forgiveness to D.C. borrowers who would have paid future interest amounts in connection with an outstanding loan balance; and (iii) pay $450,000 to the District. According to the announcement, the company has also agreed that it “will not on its own, or working with third parties such as out of state banks, engage in any act or practice that violates the CPPA in its offer, servicing, advertisement, or provision of loans or lines of credit to District consumers.” The company is also prohibited from charging usurious interest rates, must delete negative credit information associated with its loans and lines of credit, and may not represent that it can offer loans or lines of credit in D.C. without first obtaining a D.C. money lender license.

    State Issues State Attorney General Settlement Enforcement Online Lending Usury Interest Rate Courts Predatory Lending

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  • Biden signs repeal of OCC’s “true lender” rule

    Federal Issues

    On June 30, President Biden signed S.J. Res. 15, repealing the OCC’s “true lender” rule pursuant to the Congressional Review Act. Issued last year, the final rule amended 12 CFR Part 7 to state that a bank makes a loan when, as of the date of origination, it either (i) is named as the lender in the loan agreement, or (ii) funds the loan. The final rule also provided that if “one bank is named as the lender in the loan agreement and another bank funds the loan, the bank that is named as the lender in the loan agreement makes the loan.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.)

    Federal Issues OCC True Lender U.S. House U.S. Senate Congressional Review Act Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Predatory Lending Bank Regulatory

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  • Maine enacts predominant economic interest standard

    State Issues

    On June 21, the Maine governor signed S.P. 205/L.D. 522, which enacts and amends provisions prohibiting certain actions in the making of consumer loans to protect consumers from predatory, fraudulent lending practices. Among other things, the act prohibits covered entities from “engag[ing] in any device, subterfuge or pretense to evade the requirements of this Article, including, but not limited to, making a loan disguised as a personal property sale and leaseback transaction, disguising loan proceeds as a cash rebate for the pretextual installment sale of goods or services or making, offering, assisting or arranging a debtor to obtain a loan with a greater rate of interest, consideration or charge than is permitted by this Article through any method.” Loans that violate these provisions are “void and uncollectible as to any principal, fee, interest or charge.” The act also specifies that a person qualifies as a lender subject to the act’s requirements if, among other things, (i) “[t]he person holds, acquires or maintains, directly or indirectly, the predominant economic interest in the loan”; (ii) “[t]he person markets, brokers, arranges or facilitates the loan and holds the right, requirement or first right of refusal to purchase the loan or a receivable or interest in the loan”; or (iii) “[t]he totality of the circumstances indicate that the person is the lender and the transaction is structured to evade the requirements of this Article.” Additionally, the act provides that a lender who violates the act’s provisions may not furnish information concerning a debt associated with the violation to a consumer reporting agency, nor may it refer the associated debt to a debt collector. The bill takes effect 90 days after legislative session adjourns.

    State Issues State Legislation Predatory Lending Consumer Finance

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  • Illinois regulator proposes implementation of Predatory Loan Prevention Act

    State Issues

    Last month, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) published proposed regulations in the state register to implement the Illinois Predatory Loan Prevention Act (Act). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Act was signed into law in March and prohibits lenders from charging more than 36 percent APR on all non-commercial consumer loans under $40,000, including closed-end and open-end credit, retail installment sales contracts, and motor vehicle retail installment sales contracts. Violations of the Act constitute a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, and carry a potential fine up to $10,000. Additionally, any loan with an APR exceeding 36 percent will be considered null and void “and no person or entity shall have any right to collect, attempt to collect, receive, or retain any principal, fee, interest, or charges related to the loan.”

    The IDFPR’s notice of proposed rules provides definitions and loan terms, including (i) general conditions; (ii) limits on the cost of a loan; (iii) how to calculate and compute the APR for the purposes of the Act; (iv) how to determine bona fide fees charged on credit card accounts, including outlining ineligible items, providing standards for assessing whether a bona fide fee is reasonable, and specifying bona fide fee safe harbors and “[i]ndicia of reasonableness for a participation fee”; and (iii) the effect of charging fees on bona fide fees.

    Additionally, the IDFPR proposes several amendments related to rate cap disclosure notices. These specify that (i) all loan applications must include a separate rate cap disclosure signed by the consumer (disclosures must be provided in English and in the language in which the loan was negotiated); (ii) lenders must “prominently display” a rate cap disclosure in both English and Spanish in any physical location and on all websites, mobile device applications, or any other electronic mediums owned or maintained by the lender; and (iii) lenders must disclose the rate cap in any written loan solicitations or advertisements.

    State Issues State Legislation State Regulators Predatory Lending Interest Rate Consumer Finance

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  • Illinois enacts 36 percent rate cap for consumer loans, creates state community reinvestment act

    State Issues

    On March 23, the Illinois Governor signed the Predatory Loan Prevention Act, SB 1792, which prohibits lenders from charging more than 36 percent APR on all non-commercial consumer loans under $40,000, including closed-end and open-end credit, retail installment sales contracts, and motor vehicle retail installment sales contracts. For purposes of calculating the APR, the act requires lenders to use the system for calculating a military annual percentage rate under the Military Lending Act. Any loan with an APR exceeding 36 percent will be considered null and void “and no person or entity shall have any right to collect, attempt to collect, receive, or retain any principal, fee, interest, or charges related to the loan.” Additionally, a violation constitutes a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, and carries a potential fine up to $10,000. The act also contains an anti-evasion provision that prohibits persons or entities from “making loans disguised as a personal property sale and leaseback transaction; disguising loan proceeds as a cash rebate for the pretextual installment sale of goods or services; or making, offering, assisting, or arranging a debtor to obtain a loan with a greater rate or interest, consideration, or charge than is permitted by this Act through any method including mail, telephone, internet, or any electronic means regardless of whether the person or entity has a physical location in the State.”

    The same day, the governor also signed SB 1608, which, among other things, creates a state version of the Community Reinvestment Act. The act will allow the state to assess whether covered financial institutions, including state-chartered banks, credit unions and non-bank mortgage lenders, are meeting the needs of local communities, including low-income and moderate-income neighborhoods. Financial institutions’ lending practices and community development/redevelopment program investments will be examined by the Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation, who is granted the authority to conduct examinations in compliance with other state and federal fair lending laws including, but not limited to, the Illinois Human Rights Act, ECOA, and HMDA.

    Both acts are effective immediately.

    State Issues State Legislation Interest Rate CRA Predatory Lending Consumer Finance

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  • 6th Circuit: Delegation clause in arbitration agreement keeps case out of court

    Courts

    On March 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined that a district court “exceeded its authority” when it ruled that an arbitration agreement was unenforceable in a case disputing an allegedly predatory loan. According to the 6th Circuit opinion, the plaintiff claimed she was the victim of an illegal “rent-a-tribe” scheme when she accepted a $1,200 loan with an interest rate exceeding 350 percent from an online lender owned and organized under the laws of a federally recognized Montana tribe. The loan contract the plaintiff signed included a provision stating that “‘any dispute. . .related to this agreement will be resolved through binding arbitration’ under tribal law, subject to review only in tribal court.” The plaintiff filed suit, alleging, among other things, that the arbitration agreement violated Michigan and federal consumer protection laws. The defendant moved to compel arbitration, arguing that because the plaintiff agreed to arbitrate issues regarding “the validity, enforceability, or scope” of the arbitration agreement through a “delegation clause,” the court should stay the case and compel arbitration. The district court denied the defendant’s motion, “maintaining that the enforceability of the arbitration agreement ‘has already been litigated, and decided against [the defendant], in a similar case from the 2nd Circuit.’” The defendant appealed, arguing that the district court disregarded the delegation clause.

    On remand, the 6th Circuit stated that its decision does not bear on the merits of the case but merely addresses who resolves the plaintiff’s challenges to the arbitration agreement. “It’s not even about whether the parties have to arbitrate the merits. Instead, it’s about who should decide whether the parties have to arbitrate the merits,” the appellate court wrote. Focusing on the delegation clause—which states that the parties agreed that an arbitrator, and not the court, would decide “gateway arbitrability issues”—the appellate court held that “[o]nly a specific challenge to a delegation clause brings arbitrability issues back within the court's province,” which was a challenge that the plaintiff failed to make.

    Courts Appellate Sixth Circuit Arbitration Tribal Lending Predatory Lending State Issues Usury

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  • Virginia reaches settlement with open-end credit plan lender

    State Issues

    On March 4, the Virginia attorney general announced a settlement with an open-end credit plan lender, resolving allegations that the company violated Virginia consumer finance laws by (i) imposing a $100 origination fee on loans during a statutorily-mandated finance charge-free grace period; (ii) “[e]ngaging in a pattern of repeat transactions and ‘rollover’ loans with thousands of consumers who were required to close accounts that they paid down to a $0 balance,” but were then allowed to open new accounts for which new fees were charged on a monthly basis; and (iii) charging interest on accounts at an annual rate of 273.75 percent, far exceeding the 36 percent limit that open-end credit lenders are allowed to charge. Under the terms of the settlement, the company is permanently enjoined from further violating Virginia’s consumer finance laws, and is required to pay $850,000 in restitution and $150,00 in attorneys’ fees and settlement costs. The company must also provide more than $10 million in debt forbearance on “accounts that remain unpaid and that were not converted to a separate loan program in October 2018.”

    State Issues State Attorney General Enforcement Consumer Protection Consumer Lending Predatory Lending

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  • CFPB, states sue defendants for predatory immigrant-services scam

    Federal Issues

    On February 22, the CFPB and state attorneys general from Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia filed a complaint against a group of defendants that provide immigration bond products or services for non-English speaking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees. The Bureau alleges that the defendants engaged in deceptive and abusive acts and practices in violation of the CFPA, while the states bring related claims that the defendants violated their respective consumer-protection laws, by, among other things, (i) representing that they paid the detainees’ bonds and that monthly payments go towards repaying the defendants for doing so (the Bureau and states allege that the monthly payments are actually “rental fees for a GPS device that do not go to repaying consumers’ bonds”); (ii) making false threats that detainees will be re-arrested, detained, or deported if they do not make the monthly payments or remove the defendants’ GPS devices, many of which, the complaint claims, do not actually work; (iii) threatening to send detainees’ accounts to collection, representing that failing to make payments could harm their credit, or threatening to sue detainees or their families for non-payment; (iv) representing that collateral payments would be refunded once the detainees’ proceedings were resolved but in many cases failing to do so; (v) presenting detainees, most of whom cannot read or understand English, with a series of English-only contracts requiring the payment of large upfront fees plus $420 per month to “lease” GPS-tracking ankle monitors until their cases are resolved; (vi) creating the illusion that defendants are affiliated with ICE, even though they have no affiliation with authorities; and (vii) offering financial rewards to employees who sign up new customers and collect payments. The Bureau is seeking an injunction, as well as damages, redress, disgorgement, and civil money penalties.

    Federal Issues CFPB State Issues State Attorney General Enforcement Predatory Lending CFPA Deceptive Abusive

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  • District of Columbia AG claims online lender violated usury statutes

    State Issues

    On June 5, the District of Columbia attorney general filed a complaint against an online lender for alleged violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) by marketing high-costs loans carrying interest rates exceeding D.C.’s interest rate caps. The complaint alleges that the lender offers two loan products to D.C. residents: (i) an installment loan with an annual percentage rate (APR) range of 99-149 percent; and (ii) a second loan product with an undisclosed APR that ranges between 129-251 percent. However, interest rates in D.C. are capped at 24 percent for loans with the rate expressed in the contract (loans that do not state an express interest rate in the contract are capped at six percent), and licensed money lenders that exceed these limits are in violation of the CPPA. According to the AG, the lender—who has allegedly never possessed a money lending license in D.C.—violated the CPPA by (i) unlawfully misrepresenting it is allowed to offer loans in D.C. and failing to disclose or adequately disclose that its loans contain APRs in excess of D.C. usury limits; (ii) engaging in unfair and unconscionable practices through misleading marketing efforts; and (iii) violating D.C. usury laws. In addition, the lender allegedly violated District of Columbia Municipal Regulations Title 16 by lending money in D.C. without being licensed. The complaint seeks a permanent injunction, restitution, and civil penalties. In addition, the complaint asks the court to order the lender’s loans unenforceable and void.

    State Issues State Attorney General Online Lending Usury Interest Rate Courts Predatory Lending

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