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Recently, the Massachusetts Division of Banks published guidance related to the conduct of debt collectors, student loan servicers, and third-party loan servicers. 209 CMR 18.00 defines unfair or deceptive acts or practices for entities servicing loans or collecting debts within the commonwealth, and provides licensing, registration, and supervision procedures. Those provisions of the regulation that govern fair debt collection and third party loan servicing practices apply both to licensed entities, and entities exempt from licensure. Additionally, the regulation specifies that licensed debt collectors are not required to register as third party loan servicers but must still comply with all relevant state and federal laws and regulations that govern third party loan servicers when acting in that capacity. Student loan servicers engaged in third party loan servicing activities or debt collection activities within the scope of student loan servicing activities described within Massachusetts’ law are also required to comply with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations governing third party loan servicers and debt collectors when acting in such capacity. Additionally, 209 CMR 18.00 outlines, among other things, (i) licensing application requirements; (ii) licensing standards; (iii) registration procedures and standards; (iv) notice, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements; (v) collection practices and consumer communication restrictions; (vi) prohibitions related to harassment or abuse, false or misleading representations, and unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable practices; (vii) debt validation requirements; (viii) mortgage loan servicing practices; (ix) student loan servicing practices; and (x) confidentiality provisions. The regulation took effect July 1.
On July 7, the Connecticut governor signed SB 848, which, among other things, amends certain mortgage licensing provisions in the state’s banking statutes. Amendments include defining “residential mortgage loan” to include a “shared appreciation agreement” which is defined as “a nonrecourse obligation in which an advance sum of monetary value is extended to a consumer, as a lump sum or otherwise, in exchange for an equity interest in a dwelling, residential real estate or a future obligation to repay a sum upon the occurrence of an event, including, but not limited to, the transfer of ownership, repayment maturity date, death of the consumer or as outlined and explicitly agreed to within said agreement.” Amendments also include defining an “out-of-state mortgage loan originator” as “an individual who maintains a unique identifier through the system and holds a valid mortgage loan originator license issued pursuant to the laws of any state other than this state.” Additionally, effective October 1, all individuals must “obtain a mortgage loan originator license prior to conducting such business unless such individual does not engage directly in the activities of a mortgage loan originator or conducts such business pursuant to the temporary authority provided in subsection (e).”
New Subsection (e) provides that individuals employed by a person licensed as a mortgage lender, mortgage correspondent lender, or mortgage broker in the state will be granted temporary authority to act as a mortgage loan originator in the state for the certain period of time, provided the individual meets certain specified criteria, including that the individual has not had a loan originator licensing application denied, has not had a loan originator license revoked or suspended, has not been subject to, or served with, a cease and desist order in any governmental jurisdiction or by the CFPB, has not been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony that would preclude licensure in this state, and was registered in the system as a registered loan originator during the one-year period immediately preceding the date on which the individual submitted an application and supporting materials. Temporary licenses will remain effective until a determination is made on the status of a permanent license, and temporarily licensed individuals will “be subject to the laws of this state to the same extent as if the individual is licensed as a mortgage loan originator in this state.” The amendments are effective October 1.
On July 7, the Connecticut governor signed SB 890, which requires student loan servicers of federal student loans to register with the Department of Banking commissioner and comply with various state requirements and consumer protection mandates. The act now requires, subject to certain exemptions, entities servicing federal student loans (directly or indirectly) to obtain a license from the commissioner. Private student loan servicers are also still required to obtain licenses from the commissioner, and no licensee or registrant will be permitted to use any name other than its legal name or a fictitious name approved by the commissioner. Among other things, the act’s amendments provide new definitions and outline servicer duties, responsibilities, and prohibitions. Additionally, the amendments grant the commissioner the authority to impose civil penalties for violations of the act’s provisions after providing notice and an opportunity for hearing, and permits the commissioner to “suspend, revoke or refuse to renew any registration filed pursuant to section 3 of this act if any fact or condition exists which, if it had existed at the time of filing for registration, would have precluded eligibility for such registration.” The amendments took effect July 1.
On July 12, the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) published an announcement reminding debt collectors that all persons must apply for a license through the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) by December 31, 2021. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last September, California enacted the “Debt Collection Licensing Act” (the Act), which requires a person engaging in the business of debt collecting in the state, as defined by the Act, to be licensed and provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by DFPI. Under the Act, debt collection licenses will be required starting January 1, 2022; however, debt collectors who submit applications before January 1, 2022 will be allowed to operate while their applications are pending. However, a debt collector that submits an application after December 31 must wait for DFPI to issue a license before it can operate in the state. All required application materials must be submitted through NMLS, and NMLS reminded applicants that fingerprints must also be submitted to the California Department of Justice. The application will be available on NMLS beginning September 1.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on DFPI’s debt collector licensing requirements here.
On June 29, the Colorado governor signed SB21-057, which expands the Colorado Student Loan Servicers Act by adding new provisions covering private lenders, creditors, and collection agencies connected to postsecondary non-federal student loans. The act adds “Part 2” to the Colorado Revised Statutes, which, among other things, provides new definitions and stipulates that on or after September 1, lenders may not offer or make a private education loan to a state resident without first registering with the administrator and then annually providing specific loan data and contact information. Additionally, the act (i) outlines cosigner disclosure requirements and specifies that private education lenders are required to grant a release to cosigners provided certain conditions are met; (ii) provides that if a cosigner dies, the lender will not attempt to collect against the cosigner’s estate except for payment default; (iii) expands disability discharge requirements so that a borrower or cosigner may be released from payment obligations if permanently disabled; (iv) requires lenders to provide additional disclosures related to loans that will be used to refinance an existing loan; (v) outlines prohibited conduct concerning unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, such as placing a loan into default or accelerating a loan while a borrower is seeking a loan modification or enrolling in a flexible repayment plan; (vi) discusses debt collection prerequisites; and (vii) allows borrowers to bring a private right of action, including a counterclaim, against a lender or collection agency to recover or obtain actual damages or $500 (whichever is greater), restitution, punitive damages, injunctive relief, credit report corrections, attorney fees and costs, among others. Additionally, if it is proven that a lender or a collection agency has provided false information, the court will award the borrower the greater of treble damages or $1,500. Moreover, a violation of Part 2 is defined as a deceptive trade practice. Lenders or collection agencies that fail to comply with the outlined provisions will be liable for, among other things, actual damages sustained by a borrower or cosigner, as well as a monetary award equal to three times the total amount collected from the borrower in violation of Part 2. The act takes effect immediately.
On July 6, the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) published a notice announcing the rescission of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation’s “Combination of License Types” option. Between July 1 and September 30, companies that hold a combination license must transition back to the following appropriate licenses in order to conduct business in the state: lender license, mortgage broker license, loan solicitation license, and/or loan servicer license. Companies will need to file a company form application (MU1) and an individual form (MU2) for each of their control persons, and electronic surety bonds will need to be obtained for each new license to pass NMLS’s completeness check. However, companies will only need to update their MU1 and MU2s, and not need to re-enter information that has already been provided. Additionally, companies are required to complete the transition process for each branch that holds a combination license. NMLS reminds companies that this transition is not optional.
Recently, California’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) released a new opinion letter covering aspects of the California Money Transmission Act (MTA) related to certain cryptocurrency activities. According to the letter, the requesting company intends to provide an internet-enabled peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace for the purchase and sale of certain decentralized digital currencies. The P2P marketplace will enable buyers and sellers of the specified cryptocurrency “to connect and arrange for the direct settlement of purchases and sales between such users” through a variety of means, such as bank transfers, gift cards, money transmission, debit card, credit card, among others. Additionally, the company’s P2P marketplace will allow customers to (i) buy goods or services with the specified cryptocurrency from unaffiliated, third-party online retailers who accept that cryptocurrency as a form of payment; (ii) exchange their cryptocurrency for the rights to a US dollar-backed stablecoin; and (iii) remit funds in different currencies, including foreign currency. The company emphasized that it will “not collect, store, or transmit any digital or fiat currency” in any of its four proposed products. DFPI concluded that the Delaware company’s proposed services are not subject to licensing under the MTA, explaining that the sale and purchase of cryptocurrency directly between two parties, in which the company does not facilitate the exchange of the fiat currency or the cryptocurrency, does not meet the definition of money transmission. Likewise, the company’s other proposed products do not constitute money transmission either. DFPI reminded the company, however, that its determination is limited to the facts as presented and that at any time DFPI may determine that the activities are subject to regulatory supervision. Moreover, the letter does not relieve the company from any FinCEN or federal agency obligations.
On July 12, the Division of Banks of the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations (Division) issued guidance that authorizes its licensees and registrants to continue permitting their personnel to operate remotely from non-licensed locations subject to certain conditions and restrictions. Among other things, the licensee or registrant: (i) cannot hold the unlicensed location out to the public as a place of business; (ii) must ensure that the individual working remotely only engages in activities that can be completed safely and in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and Division guidance; (iii) must ensure that the individual working remotely is strictly prohibited from engaging in any in-person customer interactions at the remote location; (vi) must have established security protocols to securely access systems through a virtual privacy network or other secure system; (v) must have policies and procedures to protect data; (vi) must protect sensitive customer information; and (vii) must ensure adequate supervision of remote personnel. The guidance also notes that the work location for mortgage loan originators (MLOs) has been the subject of various inquiries over the years and clarifies that MLOs are not required to live within a certain distance of a branch office and that “the Division will look to determine that the [branch] manager is able to provide adequate supervision for the given number and location of MLOs under his/her supervision.” The guidance replaces any previous guidance issued by the Division regarding telework and will continue, unless modified or withdrawn.
On June 23, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to incorporate changes to its debt collection license requirements and application. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, California enacted the “Debt Collection Licensing Act” (the Act), which requires a person engaging in the business of debt collecting in the state, as defined by the Act, to be licensed and provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by DFPI. In April, DFPI issued a NPRM to adopt new requirements for debt collectors seeking to obtain a license to operate in the state (covered by InfoBytes here).
Among other things, the most recent NPRM seeks to:
- Revise the definition of “applicant” to clarify that an affiliate who is not applying for a license is not an applicant.
- Include language requirements for documents filed with DFPI.
- Clarify the requirements and appointment process of DFPI as the agent for service of process.
- Eliminate the requirement that an applicant must file a copy of the California Department of Justice Request for Live Scan Service form for each individual with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) instead of DFPI.
- Remove requirements regarding the submission of the management chart being submitted to DFPI, the extent to which an applicant intends to utilize third parties to perform debt collection functions, and the filing with NMLS of policies and procedures.
- Refine requirements for maintaining media records.
- Refine the process of filing a change in control amendment for new officers, directors, partners, and other control people.
- Establish new branch office registration procedures.
- Eliminate requiring the submission of the total dollar amount of debt collected from consumers to determine whether a higher surety bond is required.
- Remove provisions that would permit DFPI to set a higher surety bond amount.
DFPI’s notice specifies that comments on the most recent proposed modifications are due July 12.
Earlier this year, the Wyoming governor signed HB 8 to authorize sales-finance activities for some licensees and establish procedures and calculations for refunding certain credit-insurance products upon prepayment. Among other things, this act exempts certain supervised financial institutions from certain notice and fee requirements in the Wyoming Uniform Consumer Credit Code (the Code) and generally restructures the Code to repeal statutes for consumer-related and supervised loans, consolidating the provisions for those loans into existing laws for consumer loans. Regarding the MLA, the act authorizes that “the administrator may seek an appropriate remedy, penalty, action or license revocation or suspension.” This act is effective July 1.
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to provide “Fair lending update” at the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association Operational and Compliance Forum
- Kari K. Hall to discuss “Justice for all: Achieving racial equity through fair lending” at CBA Live
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss “On the horizon for CRA modernization” at CBA Live
- APPROVED Webcast: Strategy & Technology: A dynamic duo for successful regulatory exams
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to participate in Q&A on flood insurance at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance School
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss “Primer on cross-border prosecutions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico for U.S. criminal lawyers” at a New York City Bar Association webinar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “State law regulatory and enforcement trends” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Government investigations, and compliance 2021 trends” at the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference
- Max Bonici to discuss “BSA/AML trends: What to expect with the implementation of the AML Act of 2020” at the American Bar Association Banking Law Fall Meeting
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss “Modifications and exiting forbearance” at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond,” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute