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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • 5th Circuit reverses judgment in FDCPA case


    Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered an FDCPA case to be reversed and remanded after the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted a motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that the defendant law firm violated the FDCPA for misrepresenting judicial enforceability of a debt in their dunning letters. The case concerned Congress’s “Road Home” grant program, which was created to provide grants to repair and rebuild homes in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All Road Home grant recipients were required to disclose repair benefits previously received. The named plaintiffs in this case applied for and received Road Home grants but failed to disclose repair benefits previously received from FEMA or a privacy insurance carrier. In March 2008, the State’s contractor, ICF, noticed the potential double payments to the two named plaintiffs and placed an internal flag on their accounts in the Road Home database. After a decade, the defendant law firm was engaged to help recover these double payments. The defendants sent a dunning letter demanding repayment in 90 days or the defendants “may proceed with further action against you, including legal action.” The dunning letter further stated that “you may be responsible for legal interest from judicial demand, court costs, and attorneys fees if it is necessary to bring legal action against you.” The plaintiffs filed suit under Section 1692e of the FDCPA and, in an amended complaint, alleged the defendants collected or attempted to collect time-barred debts, failed to itemize the alleged debts, and threatened to assess attorneys’ fees without determining if that right existed. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants.

    The 5th Circuit reversed on appeal. Concerning the first allegation of collecting or attempting to collect a time-barred debt, the court reasoned that while it does not violate the FDCPA to collect on a time-barred debt, a debt-collector “can run afoul of the FDCPA by threatening judicial action while completely failing to mention that a limitations period might affect judicial enforceability.” Further, the appellate court found the dunning letters were “untimely even under the most liberal, 10-year time window” as the plaintiffs breached their agreements when they closed on their Road Home grants or when the State of Louisiana was provided actual notice of the alleged duplicative payments, both of which occurred more than 10 years before the dunning letters were received. The court also found that the defendants mischaracterized one plaintiff’s debt as the dunning letter said the amount owed was for insurance proceeds when it included a 30 percent penalty for lack of flood insurance. Finally, the court explained that because there was no lawful basis to recover attorneys fees, the defendants violated the FDCPA. 

    Courts FDCPA Louisiana FEMA

  • OCC announces FEMA's flood insurance payment deadline extension

    Federal Issues

    On April 15, the OCC released a statement addressing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) extension to the grace period for renewing flood insurance policies from 30 days to 120 days due to the Covid-19 pandemic. FEMA’s guidance in Bulletin W-20002 relates to National Flood Insurance Program policies with expiration dates from February 13, 2020 to June 15, 2020, and states that coverage will not lapse if the policy premium is paid prior to the end of the extended grace period. FEMA’s bulletin indicates that the payment grace period was extended “to allow additional time for policyholders who may be struggling financially during this unprecedented time to pay insurance premiums by ensuring that their policies are not canceled for nonpayment of premium due to circumstances beyond their control.” Likewise, the OCC statement “recognizes the serious impact the COVID-19 emergency may have on consumers” and conveys that it will not take enforcement or supervisory action against banks for “reasonable delays in complying with” the OCC’s force placement of flood insurance regulations. The OCC reminds banks that if flood insurance is force placed during the extended grace period, the banks must refund the cost of the overlapping coverage to the borrower.

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC FEMA National Flood Insurance Program Flood Insurance Force-placed Insurance Covid-19

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