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  • CFPB and New York Attorney General File Lawsuit Against Company that Lured 9/11 Heroes Out of Millions of Dollars

    Courts

    On February 7, the CFPB announced that it has—in partnership with the New York Attorney General (NYAG)—filed a complaint in federal district court against a finance company and two affiliates that offer lump-sum advances to consumers entitled to periodic payouts from victim compensation funds or lawsuit settlements. A press release from the NYAG’s Office can be accessed here.

    The Bureau and the NYAG claim, among other things, that the defendants misled World Trade Center attack first responders and professional football players in selling expensive advances on benefits to which they were entitled and mischaracterized extensions of credit as assignments of future payment rights, thereby misleading their victims into repaying far more than they received. Specifically, according to the allegations in the complaint, the New Jersey-based companies:  (i) used “confusing contracts” to prevent the individuals from understanding the terms and costs of the transactions; (ii) lied to the individuals by telling them the companies could secure their payouts more quickly; (iii) misrepresented how quickly they would receive payments from the companies, and (iv) collected interest at an illegal rate.

    These actions, the two regulators argue, constitute violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act ban on unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices, New York usury laws, and other state consumer financial protection laws. The lawsuit seeks to end the company’s illegal practices, obtain relief for the victims, and impose penalties.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB Compensation CFPA State Attorney General

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  • Intervention by Lawmakers in PHH Case Denied by D.C. Circuit

    Courts

    On February 2, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., in a brief order, denied a motion by the Democratic Ranking Members of the Senate and House Committees with jurisdiction over the CFPB to intervene in PHH Corp. v. CFPB. The order also denied similar motions submitted by 16 state attorneys general and a coalition of interest groups. As previously covered on InfoBytes, the court is still considering a petition by the Bureau for rehearing an October ruling that said CFPB Director Richard Cordray may be removed by the president without cause.

    Courts Consumer Finance PHH v. CFPB Cordray Mortgages RESPA Litigation

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  • CFPB Reaches Settlement with Arizona-Based Title Lender

    Courts

    On February 2, the CFPB announced a consent order and stipulation in an enforcement action against one of five Arizona-based title lenders under investigation for violations of TILA (see September 23 InfoBytes post). The terms of the February consent order and stipulation include a $10,000 civil money penalty as well as a mandatory requirement that the lender refrain from further violations of TILA and create a comprehensive compliance plan to ensure that its advertising practices for its title lending business conform to all applicable federal consumer financial laws and the terms of the consent order. On November 1 and December 20, 2016, the CFPB posted consent orders and stipulations against three of the other five title lenders (2016-CFPB-0018, 2016-CFPB-0019, 2016-CFPB-0021). The Bureau is still negotiating an agreement with the fifth title lender.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Title Loans Regulator Enforcement

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  • CFPB and Attorney General of Virginia Take Action Against Pawnbroker for TILA Disclosures

    Courts

    On February 2, the CFPB and the Attorney General of Virginia filed a lawsuit and proposed stipulated final judgment against a Virginia pawnshop for deceiving consumers about the actual annual costs of its loans. This complaint is one of many similar lawsuits filed recently against several Virginia pawnbrokers (see November 11 and December 23 Infobytes posts). The complaint alleges violations of TILA, the Dodd-Frank Act, Virginia’s pawnbroker statutes, and the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. The proposed stipulated final judgment orders the company to pay over $56,000 in restitution, forfeit over $17,000 in ill-gotten gains, and pay a $5,000 civil penalty.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Dodd-Frank Virginia Consumer Protection Act

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  • CFPB Fines Prepaid Debit Card Company and Payment Processor $13 Million for Preventable Service Breakdown, Claims Consumers Denied Access to Their Own Money

    Courts

    On February 1, the CFPB announced that it had entered a consent order against two companies—a prepaid card company and its payment processor—for failing to conduct adequate testing and preparation before and during a switch to a new payment processing platform in 2015. In addition, the Bureau cited both companies for improper administration of accounts after the switch. The allegations arise out of an approximate three week breakdown in services in October 2015 which, among other things, denied cardholders access to their accounts, delayed the processing of deposits and payments, and also, in some instances, erroneously double posted deposits which falsely inflated account holders’ balances. The consent order also notes that the prepaid card company failed to provide adequate customer service to consumers impacted by the breakdown. The CFPB stated that it received roughly 830 consumer complaints in the weeks following the switch. Based on these and other allegations, the Bureau ordered the two companies to prepare a plan to prevent future service disruptions and pay an estimated $10 million in restitution to harmed consumers as well as a $3 million civil penalty.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB Prepaid Cards Payments Payment Processors

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  • CFPB Fines Mortgage Lender $3.5 Million for Paying Illegal Kickbacks

    Courts

    On January 31, the CFPB issued consent orders against four entities—a mortgage lender, two real estate brokers, and a mortgage servicer—alleged to have participated in an illegal mortgage business referral scheme. According to the first order (2017-CFPB-0006), the mortgage lender violated RESPA when it, among other things, (i) paid for referrals pursuant to various agreements with real estate brokers and other counterparties; (ii) encouraged brokers to require consumers to “prequalify” with the lender; and (iii) split fees with a mortgage servicer to obtain consumer referrals. Based on these and other allegations, the CFPB ordered the lender to pay a $3.5 million civil money penalty. In addition, the Bureau issued consent orders against the two real estate brokers and the mortgage servicer that allegedly participated in the kickback scheme (see 2017-CFPB-0008, 2017-CFPB-0009, and 2017-CFPB-0007).  Notably, the Bureau alleges that the servicer also violated FCRA by ordering “trigger leads” from credit bureaus so that it could market the lender to consumers. The real estate brokers and servicer were ordered to pay a combined $495,000 in consumer relief, repayment of ill-gotten gains, and penalties. Read the special alert issued February 1 on InfoBytes.

    Courts Mortgages Consumer Finance CFPB FCRA RESPA

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  • Texas Appeals Court Holds Email From: Line to be a Valid Electronic Signature Under State's Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA)

    Courts

    On December 22, in an unpublished decision, a Texas Court of Appeals held that an email exchange constituted an executed contract between two individuals under the state’s enactment of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). Khoury v. Tomlinson, No. 01-16-00006-CV (Tex. App. Dec. 22, 2016). The dispute involved an email sent from Appellant to Appellee, which outlined terms of an agreement to repay investment funds. Appellee responded to the email, stating "We are in agreement," but did not type his name or include a signature block at the end of his message. A jury found that an electronic contract was formed by this exchange, but the trial court granted the Appellee’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the basis that the electronic contract violated the state statute of frauds. On appeal, the Appellant invoked the UETA, arguing that the email satisfied the writing requirement of the statute of frauds because it was an electronic record and that the header, which included a “From:” field bearing the Appellee’s name, constituted Appellee’s signature because that field serves the same “authenticating function” as a signature block. The appellate court agreed that the email was an electronic record sufficient to satisfy the writing requirement in the statute of frauds.

    Courts Digital Commerce Electronic Signatures UETA Payments

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  • CFPB Sues Law Firms for Unlawful Debt Relief Scheme

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    On January 30, the CFPB announced that it was seeking a permanent injunction against a group of affiliated law firms and their managing attorneys who charged illegal fees to consumers seeking debt relief. In a complaint filed with the Central District of California, the Bureau alleges, among other things, that the firms violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule by (i) collecting improper fees in advance of providing debt relief services; (ii) misrepresenting that advance fees would not be charged; and (iii) providing substantial  assistance to another company it knew or should have known was engaged in acts or practices that violated the rule, because the company had itself been the subject of a $40 million final judgment for similarly deceptive upfront fee arrangements in March 2016. The CFPB contends that the same attorneys from the earlier 2016 action—presently under appeal—took over operations of the firms now targeted.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB Telemarketing Sales Rule

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  • Bank Fined $18.3 Million for Billing Rate Discrepancies

    Courts

    On January 26, a cease-and-desist order was announced between the SEC and the bank regarding alleged violations involving unauthorized advisor fee overcharges affecting at least 60,000 advisory client accounts. The order claims that during a 15-year period, the bank failed to confirm the accuracy of billing rates entered into its computer systems in comparison to fee rates outlined in client contracts, billing histories, and other documents. Furthermore, the order alleges that the bank cannot locate approximately 83,000 advisory contracts for accounts opened from 1990 to 2012, preventing the bank from accurately validating the fee rates billed to clients over the years against the fee rates that were negotiated when the accounts were opened. As part of the settlement, the bank agreed to enhance its fee-billing and books-and-records practices, and will pay an $18.3 million fine.

    Courts Banking Consumer Finance SEC Regulator Enforcement

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  • **UPDATE** PHH v. CFPB

    Courts

    On January 27, PHH filed a scheduled response brief to views briefed last month by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) under President Obama, likely bringing to a close the parties’ briefing of the CFPB’s petition for en banc review by the full D.C. Circuit of the October 2016 three-judge panel decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB. Also on January 27, PHH separately filed a (less significant) brief, opposing the recent-filed motion to intervene on the CFPB’s behalf submitted by 17 Attorneys General.

    As previously covered on InfoBytes, late last year the Court invited briefing by President Obama’s DOJ on behalf of the United States. (Note that the DOJ does not represent the CFPB; the Bureau is legally permitted to litigate on its own behalf.) The DOJ’s brief focused on the constitutional issue (without wading into the RESPA rulings), and argued that the en banc court should either (i) review the panel’s majority holding that the CFPB’s structure was unconstitutional because the majority’s reasoning was erroneous in view of Supreme Court precedent, or (ii) review and simply adopt the dissenting panelist’s view that because the panel was in all events reversing the CFPB’s RESPA rulings and remanding to the CFPB on that basis, the panel majority should not have reached the constitutional issue.

    In response to the DOJ, PHH argues that en banc review is unnecessary because the DOJ had only pointed to an error in the panel’s constitutional reasoning, without stating whether DOJ’s preferred mode of analysis would have led to a different result than the one reached by the panel, namely the severing of the “for cause” removal provision applicable to the CFPB Director under Dodd-Frank. PHH also contended that there is no precedent for an en banc court panel to review a panel decision just to determine whether the panel had properly reached a constitutional issue, and that in any event the panel’s decision to reach the issue was entirely proper (and therefore not worthy of review) because, as PHH’s framed the matter, the panel could not have remanded the case to an agency with a potentially unconstitutional structure.

    In addition, on January 26, two other non-parties filed two motions to intervene on the CFPB’s side:  (i) one by the Democratic Ranking Members of the Senate and House Committees with jurisdiction over the CFPB, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Rep. Maxine Waters of California, respectively; and (ii) one by a coalition of interest groups, which included the Center for Responsible Lending, US PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and other movants.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB RESPA DOJ PHH v. CFPB Cordray Mortgages Litigation U.S. Supreme Court Single-Director Structure

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