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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Court Denies Restraining Order Preventing Mulvaney’s Appointment

    Federal Issues

    On November 28, Judge Timothy Kelly denied a request by Leandra English, who was appointed Deputy Director of the CFPB by Richard Cordray on the same day as his resignation, for a temporary restraining order preventing the President from appointing anyone other than English as Acting Director and preventing Mick Mulvaney from serving as the Acting Director (see previous InfoBytes coverage for details).

    English’s counsel, in remarks to reporters outside the courtroom, stated they may seek an appeal, may move for a preliminary injunction, or may move for an expedited final decision on the merits.

    Federal Issues CFPB OMB Trump Courts CFPB Succession English v. Trump

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  • Legal Battle Begins Over Mulvaney Appointment as Acting Director of CFPB

    Federal Issues

    On November 26, the newly appointed Deputy Director of the CFPB, Leandra English, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against President Trump and Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), seeking declaratory judgments that English is the Acting Director of the CFPB – and Mulvaney is not – as well as emergency temporary restraining orders preventing the President from appointing anyone other than English as Acting Director and preventing Mulvaney from acting as the Acting Director.

    The legal action results from the November 24 resignation of Richard Cordray as the Director of the CFPB and his naming of English as the Bureau’s Deputy Director (previously covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert) citing to section 1011(b)(5) of the Dodd-Frank Act (DFA), which provides that the CFPB’s Director may appoint the Deputy Director who “shall…serve as acting Director in the absence or unavailability of the Director.” Following Cordray’s official resignation, the White House issued an announcement appointing Mulvaney as Acting Director under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (FVRA).

    On November 25, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel released a memorandum in support of the President’s authority to designate Mulvaney as the Acting Director of the Bureau under the FVRA. According to the DOJ, while Congress recognized there would be cases in which FVRA was not the “exclusive means” for succession, Congress did not intend for the FVRA to be “unavailable” when another statute provides an alternative for succession. Accordingly, the DOJ asserts that, notwithstanding the succession provision in the DFA, FVRA gives the President the authority to, “rely upon it in designating an acting official in a manner that differs from the order of succession otherwise provided by an office-specific statute.” In her complaint, English argues that the succession provision in the DFA controls over the FVRA and that the appointment of a White House official is inconsistent with the CFPB’s independent structure.

    Similarly, on November 25, the General Counsel for the CFPB, Mary Mcleod, issued a statement to the senior leaders of the Bureau concurring with the DOJ’s conclusion that “the President may use the [FVRA] to designate an acting official, even when there is a succession statute under which another official may serve as acting.” Mcleod concluded that Mulvaney is the Acting Director of the CFPB and encouraged all Bureau staff to act consistently with that conclusion.

    Oral arguments on English’s emergency motion were held on November 27 by Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee. Judge Kelly did not rule on the motion and granted the government’s request to file papers responding to English’s arguments.

    Federal Issues Courts CFPB Trump Dodd-Frank DOJ OMB CFPB Succession English v. Trump

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  • Second Circuit Ruling May Expose Debt Collection Law Firms to Increased FDCPA Claims

    Courts

    On November 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a Southern District of New York dismissal of a lawsuit against a debt collection law firm regarding actions taken during state court collection proceedings. Concluding that the plaintiff had stated a claim against the law firm under two sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a three-judge panel vacated the dismissal and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its decision.

    The appeal stems from the law firm’s actions in attempting to collect on a default judgment entered against the plaintiff. After receiving a restraining notice from the law firm, the plaintiff’s bank placed a restraint on his checking account and the law firm told plaintiff that, unless he made a payment, he would have to get a court order to lift the restraint. The plaintiff sought such an order on the grounds that all the money in his checking account was Social Security Retirement Income (SSRI) and, therefore, exempt from restraint. The plaintiff claimed that the law firm’s objection to his request contained false statements in violation of the FDCPA and New York law because the plaintiff had earlier provided the law firm with documents supporting his exemption claim.

    In finding the complaint states a claim under FDCPA section 1692e, the Court rejected, among other arguments made by the law firm, the notion that FDCPA liability cannot be imposed based on conduct in litigation; the opinion contrasts bankruptcy court proceedings—where the Second Circuit has found the filing of false statements of claim does not violate the FDCPA—with those of state courts, “where . . . the consumer, often unfamiliar with the law governing garnishment of bank accounts, has the benefit of neither counsel nor a bankruptcy trustee.” The Court also held that “a debt collector engages in unfair or unconscionable litigation conduct in violation of [FDCPA] section 1692f when . . . it in bad faith unduly prolongs legal proceedings or requires a consumer to appear at an unnecessary hearing.”

    Courts Appellate FDCPA Second Circuit Debt Collection

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  • CFPB Initiates Complaint Against Company for Deceptive, Unfair, and Abusive Loan Collection Practices

    Consumer Finance

    On November 15, the CFPB announced it had filed a complaint against a Texas-based service provider, alleging that it had assisted in the collection of loans that were, in whole or in part, void under state law. The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana alleges that the service provider, which provided services to three tribal lending entities engaged in the business of extending online installment loans and lines of credit, along with two companies responsible for the collection process (collectively defendants), assisted in the collection of loans that consumers were not legally obligated to pay based on identified states’ usury laws or licensing requirements. Although the specific claims vary by defendant, the complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in deceptive, unfair, and abusive acts and practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by:

    • misrepresenting that consumers were responsible for money owed on loans that were void in whole or in part, or did not exist, because the loans were void under state licensing or usury laws (voided loans);
    • demanding repayment from consumers on voided loans by issuing “demand letters,” electronically debiting funds from consumer bank accounts, and placing phone calls to consumers;
    • failing to disclose to consumers that defendants had no legal right to collect on certain voided loans and that consumers were not legally obligated to repay the loans;
    • causing injury to consumers by servicing and collecting on the voided loans;
    • taking advantage of consumers’ “lack of understanding” regarding the voided loans; and
    • providing assistance in, or administering, the origination and collection of the voided loans.

    The CFPB is seeking monetary relief, civil money penalties, injunctive relief, and a prohibition of the service provider’s ability to commit future violations of the CFPA.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Debt Collection Installment Loans UDAAP CFPA Courts

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  • CFPB Urges Supreme Court to Reject Tribal Lenders' Petition

    Courts

    On November 9, the CFPB filed a brief with the Supreme Court opposing the petition for a writ of certiorari submitted by online tribal lending entities.  The lenders are challenging a January decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered the entities to comply with a CFPB investigation (previously covered by Infobytes). The litigation stems from the issuance of a civil investigative demand (CID) by the CFPB to online lending entities owned by Native American tribes. The entities argue that due to tribal sovereignty, the CFPB does not have jurisdiction over the small-dollar lending services in question. The district court and the Ninth Circuit concluded that the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) did not expressly exclude tribes from the CFPB’s enforcement authority and therefore, the entities cannot claim tribal sovereign immunity.

    In its brief opposing the certiorari petition, the CFPB argues that the Ninth Circuit’s holding does not conflict with any prior Supreme Court or court of appeals decision, making further review unwarranted. The CFPB also argues, among other things, that Supreme Court review is unnecessary because “[t]he question at this juncture is solely whether the Bureau may obtain information from petitioners pursuant to a CID,” not “whether petitioners are subject to the Bureau’s regulatory authority.” 

    Courts CFPB Payday Lending Consumer Lending U.S. Supreme Court Appellate Ninth Circuit

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  • District Court Upholds $60 Million Jury Verdict for Credit Reporting Agency’s Use of OFAC Alert

    Courts

    On November 7, the Northern District Court of California upheld a $60 million jury verdict against a credit reporting agency regarding the use of its OFAC Alert (previously covered by InfoBytes). The verdict stems from a 2012 class action lawsuit in which the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant had failed to distinguish law-abiding citizens from drug traffickers, terrorists, and other criminals with similar names found on the Treasury Department’s OFAC database. Following the defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, the district court agreed with the jury’s findings that the defendant (i) “willfully fail[ed] to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the OFAC information it associated with members of the class’’; (ii) “willfully failed to clearly and accurately disclose OFAC information in the written disclosures it sent to members of the class”; and (iii) “failed to provide class members a summary of their FCRA rights with each written disclosure made to them.”

    Courts FCRA OFAC Credit Reporting Agency Consumer Finance

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  • District Court Denies Summary Judgement to Both Parties, Cites Issue of Material Fact Concerning Prepopulated Electronic Signature

    Courts

    On October 18, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina denied summary judgment to both parties because there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether a “meaningful offer” of underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) was made. The insured’s electronic signature on the UIM form would indicate that the defendant made a “meaningful offer” of UIM coverage, as required under South Carolina law, and such coverage was rejected. The dispute however, in this case was about whether the electronic signature was prepopulated by the defendant.

    Plaintiff purchased an auto insurance policy from the defendant online, and the coverage did not include UIM coverage. Plaintiff argued that he never signed the UIM coverage provision and that instead, his signature was prepopulated by the defendant’s website. The plaintiff argued that his prepopulated signature did not satisfy the requirements for a meaningful offer of UIM coverage. The defendant rebutted by stating that prepopulating portions of the UIM form is compatible with providing a meaningful offer of UIM coverage. The court was “disinclined to agree” with the defendant’s argument that a “prepopulated signature that appears on an insurance policy before the insured reads through and signals affirmative consent. . .fulfills” the UIM requirements. After reviewing the record, which was limited to screenshots produced by the plaintiff (as the defendant’s attempt to proffer additional system-based evidence was refused by the court because the defendant previously objected to producing it during discovery), the court concluded that it could not grant summary judgment to either party because of the factual dispute regarding whether the plaintiff signed the UIM provision.

    Courts Litigation Electronic Signatures Insurance

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  • FTC Settles Suit Against Credit Score Site Schemers

    Courts

    On October 26, the FTC agreed to a settlement of $760,000 with two affiliate marketers of a credit score business who allegedly committed deceptive acts to lure consumers into signing up for their monthly credit monitoring service for $30.00.

    The settlement partly resolves a suit the FTC filed in January against the credit score company, the owner, and the company’s affiliate marketers. The FTC alleged that the defendants posted fake rental ads on Craigslist and required persons responding to the ads to obtain a purportedly “free” credit report from the company’s websites before viewing the property. The defendants, however, used the credit or debit card information consumers entered to obtain the credit report and enrolled consumers for a negative option credit monitoring service with a $30.00 monthly fee.

    The order suspended the balance of the total $6.8 million judgment on the condition that the affiliate marketers pay the FTC the settled amounts. The claims against the company and the owner are ongoing.

    Courts Consumer Finance FTC Fraud Settlement Litigation

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  • Servicemember Files Writ of Certiorari, Petitions Supreme Court to Review SCRA Protections for Non-Judicial Foreclosures

    Courts

    On October 11, a servicemember filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court review an opinion issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concerning whether the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can be applied to a mortgage loan obligation incurred during a borrower’s earlier, distinct period of military service. (See previous InfoBytes summary on Fourth Circuit opinion.) 

    Under the SCRA, servicemembers are afforded certain protections against non-judicial foreclosures of their home while in active military service. Section 3953 provides that a home mortgage “originated before the period of the servicemember’s military service and for which the servicemember is still obligated” cannot be foreclosed upon unless allowed by a court order. However, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision in favor of the bank, concluding that because the servicemember “incurred his mortgage obligation during his service in the Navy, the obligation was not subject to SCRA protection” even through the servicemember, after a discharge period, later re-enlisted with the Army.

    The petition argues that the appellate court “misconstrued” and narrowly interpreted the SCRA’s definition of the term “period of military service” under section 3911 by treating the servicemember’s “separate and distinct periods of military service as a single period of service.”

    Courts U.S. Supreme Court SCRA Foreclosure

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  • Seventh Circuit Upholds Ruling That Excludes Insurance Coverage for Overdraft Fees

    Courts

    On October 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed an Indiana District Court’s 2016 ruling, agreeing that an insurance company does not bear the responsibility for covering a bank’s $24 million class action settlement under a policy provision that excludes coverage for any case involving fees. In upholding the lower court’s decision, the three judge panel concluded that the insurance company had no duty to defend or indemnify the bank on the basis that the underlying overdraft fee claims fall under “Exclusion 3(n)” in the bank's professional liability insurance policy, which states that the insurance company “shall not be liable for [l]oss on account of any [c]laim . . . based upon, arising from, or in consequence of any fees or charges.” Class claims alleging that the bank manipulated its debit processing to “maximize overdraft revenue” by charging purportedly excessive fees to consumers who overdraw their checking and savings accounts triggered the exclusion. The panel also noted that an insurance company’s decision to include fee exclusions in banking liability policies is designed to prevent the “moral hazard” of allowing banks to “freely create other customer fee schemes” knowing they could easily secure coverage.

    Courts Appellate Seventh Circuit Overdraft Class Action Settlement Litigation

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