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  • WA Superior Court: Insurance commissioner overstepped in banning credit scoring in underwriting

    State Issues

    On August 29, the Washington State Superior Court entered a final order declaring that the Washington Insurance Commissioner exceeded his authority when he issued an emergency rule earlier this year banning the use of credit-based insurance scores in the rating and underwriting of insurance for a three-year period. As previously covered by InfoBytes, several industry groups led by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) sued to stop the rule from taking effect. The rule was intended to prevent discriminatory pricing in private auto, renters, and homeowners insurance in anticipation of the end of the CARES Act, and specifically prohibited insurers from “us[ing] credit history to place insurance coverage with a particular affiliated insurer or insurer within an overall group of affiliated insurance companies.” The rule applied to all new policies effective, and existing policies processed for renewal, on or after June 20, 2021. Industry groups countered that the rule would harm insured consumers in the state who pay less for auto, homeowners, and renters insurance because of the use of credit-based insurance scores to predict risk and set rates.

    According to a press release issued by APCIA, earlier this year the superior court issued a bench decision granting the trade group’s petition for a declaratory judgment and invalidating the rule. The superior court “held that the Commissioner could not rely on the more general rating standard statute that prohibited “excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory” rates to “eliminate all meaning from the more specific credit history statutes by which the legislature had authorized its use.” Calling the final order “an important victory for Washington consumers, particularly lower risk senior policyholders who were forced to pay more to subsidize higher risk policyholders because the rule eliminated the use of credit,” the trade groups said they were pleased that the court agreed with their position that the Commissioner “exceeded his authority when he acted contrary to the longstanding statute that authorized the use of credit in the property and casualty insurance space.”

    State Issues Courts Insurance Consumer Finance Credit Report Covid-19 Credit Scores Underwriting CARES Act

  • CFPB receives rulemaking petition seeking validation of credit score models for credit unions

    Federal Issues

    Recently, the CFPB received a rulemaking petition seeking validation of credit score models for credit unions. The petition, which seeks “a rule governing the requirement to periodically validate credit scores for all lending or financing entities,” argues that validation is necessary to measure the effectiveness of credit scores being used to measure credit risk. Claiming that general letters of compliance from credit reporting agencies are inadequate, the petitioner explains that these letters do not “address the misapplication of credit scores by banks, credit card issuers, auto financing groups or individual credit unions that are the primary cause of errors and financial exclusion.” According to the petitioner, “[o]nly a statistically valid empirically derived study based on funded and declined loans will resolve many of the issues in consumer lending today.” The petitioner points out that validation reports “provide the information necessary to measure the efficiency of the credit score being used to measure credit risk,” and that “[d]emographic comparisons of funded and declined applicants can also be used to identify if the underwriting guidelines used in the application of credit scores result in acceptable percentages of financial inclusion for minorities or protected consumer groups.”

    Federal Issues CFPB Credit Scores Credit Union Consumer Finance Credit Reporting Agency

  • Fannie and Freddie release updated guidance on credit score coding glitch

    Federal Issues

    On June 24, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued additional guidance related to a coding issue that impacted approximately 12 percent of credit scores earlier this year. As previously covered by InfoBytes, a consumer reporting agency informed lenders and industry members that it experienced a coding issue when it changed some of the technology to its legacy online model platform.

    After making a determination that the underlying credit report data errors resulting from the coding issue “are not considered to be material erroneous credit data errors under Selling Guide B3-2-09,” Fannie Mae issued LL-2022-02 to provide requirements applicable specifically to impacted loans. Specifically, lenders are not required to obtain an updated credit report and re-underwrite the impacted loan “by resubmitting the loan to Desktop Underwriter® (DU® )” nor are they required to “re-assess the underwriting decision for non-DU loans, based solely on this issue.” An inaccurate credit score used at the time of underwriting will not render the loan ineligible for purchase, Fannie Mae stated, adding that a “repurchase request will not be issued based solely on this issue.” Guidance related to obtaining corrected credit scores and making data corrections, as well as information concerning loan-level price adjustments, post-closing quality control review, and representation and warranty relief is also provided in the lender letter.

    Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2022-14 to provide similar guidance to sellers about their credit reporting and data correction responsibilities, and stated that it will also “not issue a repurchase based solely on an inaccurate credit score used in the underwriting of a mortgage.”

    The guidance is effective immediately.

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Credit Scores Consumer Finance Consumer Reporting Agency Mortgages GSEs

  • CFPB says BNPL needs standardized credit reporting

    Federal Issues

    On June 15, the CFPB published a blog post calling on the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) industry to establish standardized codes and formats for furnishing information to credit reporting agencies that take into account the unique characteristics of these short-term, no-interest consumer credit products. Citing to the rapid growth within the BNPL industry, the Bureau stressed the need for standardization in how BNPL debts are reported on consumers’ credit reports. According to the Bureau, the three major credit reporting agencies have different policies for handing positive and negative reports on BNPL transactions in consumers’ core credit files. Moving to a more standardized approach would “facilitate the consistent and accurate furnishing of BNPL payment information” the Bureau said, noting that the agency “believes that when BNPL payments are furnished it is important that lenders furnish both positive and negative data.” Consumers who pay on time and may be seeking to build credit should receive the benefits of making timely payments on their BNPL debts, the Bureau said, explaining that this may also impact lenders seeking to understand how much debt a consumer is carrying.

    The Bureau stressed it will continue to monitor the progress of BNPL lenders, credit reporting agencies, and credit scoring companies, and said it plans to “revisit this issue as part of a broader report on the industry stemming from our market monitoring order and responses to a public request for comments.” The Bureau is currently conducting an industry review, which includes a series of orders sent last December to five companies seeking information on the risks and benefits of the BNPL credit model (covered by InfoBytes here).

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Buy Now Pay Later Credit Reporting Agency Credit Scores

  • Coding glitch hits credit scores

    Federal Issues

    Recently, a consumer reporting agency (CRA) informed lenders and industry members that it experienced a coding issue when it changed some of the technology to its legacy online model platform. As a result of the issue, the CRA advised that the miscalculation impacted approximately 12 percent of credit scores, although credit reports were not affected. 

    In response, on June 1, Fannie Mae issued a notice regarding the coding error.  Fannie Mae reminded lenders “of their obligations under the Selling Guide to correct erroneous credit data, ensure the accuracy of the credit data submitted to Desktop Underwriter® (DU® ) at the time of loan sale, and to provide any corrected information to us.” Freddie Mac issued a similar notice advising lenders of their credit reporting and data correction responsibilities. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are monitoring the situation and may issue additional guidance regarding the coding issue.

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance Consumer Reporting Agency Credit Scores Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgages

  • CFPB examines subprime auto loans

    Federal Issues

    On September 30, the CFPB released a Data Point report, titled Subprime Auto Loan Outcomes by Lender Type, which examines interest rate and default risk trends across different types of subprime lenders, including how much of the variation of interest rates charged among subprime lenders can be explained by differences in default rates and how much is left to be explained. The report found notable average differences across lender types in the borrowers they serve and the types of vehicles they finance. Banks and credit unions offering subprime auto loans typically lend to borrowers with higher credit scores compared to finance companies and buy-here-pay-here dealerships, the report noted, adding that different lenders also charge very different interest rates on average. According to the report’s sample, a bank’s average subprime loan interest rate is approximately 10 percent, compared to 15 to 20 percent at finance companies and buy-here-pay-here dealerships. The report found that higher default rates were found at lenders that charged higher interest rates, and that “the likelihood of a subprime auto loan becoming at least 60 days delinquent within three years is approximately 15 percent for bank borrowers and between 25 percent and 40 percent for finance company and buy-here-pay-here borrowers.”

    However, the report presented statistical analysis that called into question whether differences in default rates fully explained the average differences in interest rates across subprime lender types. As an example, an average borrower with a 560 credit score or higher would have the same default risk whether the borrower obtained a loan from a bank or a small buy-here-pay-here lender, but the estimated interest rate would be nine percent with a bank loan versus 13 percent from a small buy-here-pay-here lender. The report noted that there are other variables, not observed in the data collected, that may explain differences in interest rates charged by different types of auto lenders, such as down payments, vehicle values, variations in borrowers’ access to information, borrowers’ financial sophistication, and variations within lenders’ business practices and incentives.

    Federal Issues CFPB Auto Finance Subprime Credit Scores Consumer Finance Interest Rate

  • CFPB, Arkansas AG settle FCRA violations

    Federal Issues

    On August 4, in an action brought by the CFPB and the Arkansas attorney general, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas entered a stipulated final judgment and order against a Utah-based home-security and alarm company (defendant) for allegedly failing to provide proper notices under the FCRA. As previously covered by InfoBytes here, according to the complaint, the company extended credit to its customers by allowing them to defer payment for alarm and security-system equipment over the life of a long-term contract. In extending credit to its customers, the company allegedly obtained and used consumers’ credit scores to determine the amount of activation fees it would charge for its products and services and then charged higher fees to consumers who had lower credit scores, without providing those consumers with required risk-based pricing notices in accordance with the FCRA and Regulation V. Under the terms of the order, the company is required to submit a compliance plan and pay a $600,000 civil money penalty, of which $100,000 will be offset if it pays that amount to settle related litigation with the State of Arkansas that is pending in state court. The company will also be required to provide proper risk-based pricing notices as required under the FCRA.

    Federal Issues CFPB State Attorney General Enforcement Credit Scores Consumer Finance FCRA State Issues

  • Industry group sues to stop Washington’s emergency rule banning credit scoring in insurance underwriting

    State Issues

    On April 8, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) filed a lawsuit in Washington Superior Court in an attempt to stop an emergency rule issued last month by the Washington Insurance Commissioner, which bans the use of credit-based insurance scores in the rating and underwriting of insurance for a three-year period. The rule specifically prohibits insurers from “us[ing] credit history to place insurance coverage with a particular affiliated insurer or insurer within an overall group of affiliated insurance companies” and applies to all new policies effective, and existing policies processed for renewal, on or after June 20, 2021.

    According to a press release issued by the Commissioner, the emergency rule is intended to prevent discriminatory pricing in private auto, renters, and homeowners insurance in anticipation of the end of the CARES Act, which will expire 120 days after President Biden declares an end to the national emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the CARES Act, Congress required furnishers of information to credit bureaus to modify credit reporting practices if and when they grant an “accommodation”—that is, an agreement to defer payments, modify a loan, or grant other relief—to borrowers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, irrespective of asset type to ensure that borrowers who sought and obtained forbearance or other relief were not credit reported as becoming delinquent or further delinquent as a result of the forbearance or other relief (see Buckley Special Alert), which the Commissioner believes has disrupted the credit reporting process and reportedly caused credit bureaus to collect inaccurate credit histories for some consumers. The Commissioner further contends that because “the predicative ability of current credit scoring models cannot be assumed,” scoring models used by insurers to set rates for policyholders have been degraded and will have a disparate impact on consumers with lower incomes and communities of color. Sources report that APCIA’s lawsuit—which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief (and asks the court to declare the Commissioner’s rule invalid and to enjoin its enforcement)—claims the Commissioner’s rule will harm insured consumers in the state who pay less for auto, homeowners, and renters insurance because of the use of credit-based insurance scores to predict risk and set rates.

    State Issues State Regulators Covid-19 Credit Scores Insurance Underwriting Courts CARES Act

  • CFPB and Arkansas AG settle with company for failing to provide risk-based pricing notices

    Federal Issues

    On December 11, the CFPB and the Arkansas attorney general announced a proposed settlement with a Utah-based home-security and alarm company for allegedly failing to provide proper notices under the FCRA. According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, the company allows consumers to defer payment for the alarm and security-system equipment over the life of a long-term contract, and therefore extends credit to its customers. The company—in extending credit to its customers—allegedly obtained and used consumers’ credit scores to determine the amount of activation fees it would charge for its products and services, and then charged consumers who had lower credit scores higher fees without providing those consumers with required risk-based pricing notices. Under the FCRA and implementing regulation, Regulation V, companies are required to provide notice to consumers if a consumer receives less favorable credit terms based on a review of his or her credit report. Under the proposed settlement, the company is required to pay a $600,000 civil money penalty, of which $100,000 will be offset provided the company pays that amount to settle related litigation with the State of Arkansas that is currently pending in state court. The company will also be required to provide proper risk-based pricing notices under the FCRA.

    Federal Issues CFPB State Attorney General Enforcement Credit Scores Consumer Finance FCRA

  • CFPB Consumer Financial Protection Week roundup

    Federal Issues

    As part of the CFPB’s Consumer Financial Protection Week, the Bureau released several reports and tools, including a recently published study analyzing the impact of credit builder loans (CBLs) on consumer credit scores. The study, Targeting Credit Builder Loans: Insights from a Credit Builder Loan Evaluation (accompanied by a practitioner’s guide and research on CBLs), provides insight for community-based organizations and financial institutions on expanding financial inclusion through the use of CBLs, which are designed to assist individuals with no credit records or poor credit histories to build or repair their credit. According to the Bureau, the central feature of a CBL is that a borrower makes payments before receiving funds. When a CBL is opened by a borrower, the lender moves its own funds into a locked escrow account and the borrower makes installment payments, including interest and fees, typically over a period of six to 24 months. These payments appear on the borrower’s credit report, and the lender deposits the principal payments into the borrower’s savings account “after each payment or in entirety when the borrower completes the program.” According to the Bureau, a typical CBL ranges from $300 to $1,000. The Bureau’s study examined 1,531 credit union members who were offered CBLs. The research revealed that a CBL increased the likelihood of having a credit score by 24 percent for borrowers without an existing loan, and that borrowers without existing debt saw their credit scores rise by 60 points more than borrowers carrying existing debt. Additionally, the Bureau found an association between having a CBL and an increase in a borrower’s savings balance. The Bureau cautioned, however, that the study’s findings also indicated that CBLs appeared to cause a decrease in credit scores for borrowers with existing debt, suggesting that these borrowers experienced difficulty making payments on both their CBL and their existing debt obligations.  

    The Bureau also released the results from the Making Ends Meet survey, which provides insight into how U.S. consumers cope with financial shortfalls. The survey, conducted prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2019, offers a nationally representative assessment of consumers with credit records. Among its findings, the report noted that 52 percent of survey respondents said they could cover expenses for two months or less without their main source of income, while 20 percent could cover expenses for only two weeks or less.

    A report exploring the credit records of young servicemembers that compares servicemembers’ credit profiles to the credit profiles of civilians was also recently published, along with an online tool to help students make informed decisions about paying for college.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Credit Scores Credit Builder Loans Servicemembers Student Lending

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