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On May 19, the FCC unanimously adopted proposed rules to ensure gateway providers that channel international call traffic comply with STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication protocols and validate the identity of the providers whose traffic they are routing to help weed out robocalls. As part of the agency’s robocall mitigation efforts, the proposed rules would require gateway providers to (i) “develop and submit traffic mitigation plans to the Robocall Mitigation Database”; (ii) “apply STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication to all unauthenticated foreign-originated Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) calls with U.S. North American Numbering Plan (NANP) numbers”; and (iii) “respond to traceback requests in 24 hours, block calls where it is clear they are conduits for illegal traffic, and implement ‘know your upstream provider’ obligations.”
“Gateway providers serve as a critical choke-point for reducing the number of illegal robocalls received by American consumers,” the FCC stated in its announcement. “The new rules require gateway providers to participate in robocall mitigation, including blocking efforts, take responsibility for illegal robocall campaigns on their networks, cooperate with FCC enforcement efforts, and quickly respond to efforts to trace illegal robocalls to their source.” Non-compliance may cause a gateway provider to lose its ability to operate. The FCC also announced it is requesting further comments on a proposal to expand robocall mitigation requirements to intermediate providers in the U.S. and not just gateway providers. The agency will also decide whether anti-robocall and spoofing rules should also apply to these intermediate providers, as they are currently not required to certify with the Robocall Mitigation Database.
Requiring domestic entry points to use STIR/SHAKEN, register in the Robocall Mitigation Database, and comply with traceback requests from the FCC and law enforcement will help the agency “figure out where these junk calls are originating from overseas,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “These measures will help us tackle the growing number of international robocalls. Because we can’t have these scam artists multiplying abroad and hiding from our regulatory reach. We also can’t have them hiding from our state counterparts.” To aid efforts, the FCC announced that to date 36 states have signed memoranda of understanding with the agency to share resources and information to reduce robocalls.
On May 20, the Oklahoma governor signed HB 3168, which establishes the Telephone Solicitation Act of 2022. The bill, among other things, prohibits (i) certain sales calls without the prior express written consent of the called party; (ii) commercial telephone sellers or salespersons from using certain technology to conceal their true identity; and (iii) commercial telephone sellers or salespersons from using automated dialing or recorded messages to make certain commercial telephone solicitation phone calls. The bill also establishes a time frame during which a commercial telephone seller or salesperson may make commercial solicitation phone calls. The bill is effective November 1.
On May 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded a district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant furnisher, stating that it is up to a jury to decide whether the defendant’s “reasonable investigation” into the plaintiff’s dispute complied with the FCRA. After the plaintiff defaulted on both his first and second mortgages, the property was foreclosed and sold. Several years later, the plaintiff tried to purchase another home but was denied a mortgage due to a tradeline on his credit report that showed one of his mortgages as past due with accruing interest and late fees due to missed payments. The plaintiff disputed the debt through the consumer reporting agency (CRA) and provided a citation to the Arizona Anti-Deficiency Statute, which abolished his liability for the reported debt. The CRA then told the defendant about the dispute and provided information about the statutory citation. The defendant originally “updated” the plaintiff’s account to show that the debt was being disputed, but continued to report current and past due balances. Yet after the plaintiff again disputed the validity of his debt, the defendant marked the account as “paid, closed” and changed the balance to $0.
The plaintiff sued, claiming the defendant violated the FCRA by failing to reasonably investigate his dispute and for reporting inaccurate information. The district court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the reports it made were accurate as a matter of law and that the defendant had reasonably investigated the dispute. Moreover, “whether the Arizona anti-deficiency statute rendered [plaintiff’s] debt uncollectible is a legal question, not a factual one,” the district court stated, adding that “the FCRA does not impose on furnishers a duty to investigate legal disputes, only factual inaccuracies.”
The 9th Circuit disagreed, writing that Arizona law required that the plaintiff’s balance be “abolished,” so it was “patently incorrect” for the defendant to report otherwise. In applying Arizona law, the plaintiff had “more than satisfied his burden” of showing inaccurate reporting, the appellate court wrote, explaining that the “situation was no different than a discharge under bankruptcy law, which extinguishes ‘the personal liability of the debtor.’” The 9th Circuit also held that the FCRA does not “categorically exempt legal issues from the investigations that furnishers must conduct.” Pointing out that the “distinction between ‘legal’ and ‘factual’ issues is ambiguous, potentially unworkable, and could invite furnishers to ‘evade their investigation obligation by construing the relevant dispute as a ‘legal’ one,’” the panel referred to an April 2021 amicus brief filed in support of the plaintiff by the CFPB, which argued that the FCRA does not distinguish between legal and factual disputes when it comes to furnishers’ obligations to investigate disputes referred from CRAs. The CFPB recently made a similar argument in an amicus brief filed last month in the 11th Circuit (covered by InfoBytes here). There, the CFPB argued that importing this exemption would run counter to the purposes of FCRA, would create an unworkable standard that would be difficult to implement, and could encourage furnishers to evade their statutory obligations any time they construe the disputes as “legal.”
Holding that there was a “genuine factual dispute about the reasonableness” of the defendant’s investigation, the appellate court ultimately determined that it would “leave it to the jury” to decide whether the defendant’s investigation had been reasonable. “Unless ‘only one conclusion about the conduct’s reasonableness is possible,’ the question is normally inappropriate for resolution at the summary judgment stage,” the appellate court stated. “Here, as is ordinarily the case, this question is best left to the factfinder.”
On May 17, the Connecticut governor signed S.B. 268, which makes various revisions to state banking statutes. Among other things, the bill establishes that a money transmission license is not transferable or assignable, but a licensee may be acquired under certain circumstances. The bill also establishes that the commissioner cannot approve a state-bank’s loan production office to be established unless the commissioner has considered the out-of-state bank's record of compliance. Additionally, the bill establishes certain definitions, including the meaning of “control”, “control person,” “key individual,” and “passive investor.” The bill is effective October 1.
On May 12, the Florida governor signed HB 273, which amends provisions related to money services business activities. The bill, among other things, revises provisions related to prohibited activities without a license and other requirements for written contracts between a money transmitter or payment instrument seller and an authorized vendor, and provides requirements for a money transmitter that receives virtual currency, among other things. The bill also establishes that “each money transmitter that receives virtual currency, either directly or through an authorized vendor, for the purpose of transmitting such virtual currency from one person to another location or person must at all times, until the transmission obligation is completed, hold virtual currency of the same type and amount owed or obligated to the other location or person.” The bill is effective January 1, 2023.
On May 19, the CFPB issued an interpretive rule addressing states’ authority to bring enforcement actions for violations of federal consumer financial protection laws, including the CFPA. Though the Bureau is charged with, among other things, administering, interpreting, and enforcing federal consumer financial laws, a category that includes the CFPA itself, the agency said it is not the only enforcer of these laws. According to the interpretive rule, “states can enforce [federal consumer financial laws] to the full extent authorized under those laws—including against entities that are not covered persons or service providers (and thus not subject to liability under section 1036(a)(1)(A)) and including against national banks and Federal savings associations.”
The interpretive rule establishes:
- States can enforce any provision of the CFPA, which includes making it unlawful for covered persons or service providers to violate any provision of federal consumer financial protection law. This provision covers the CFPA itself, in addition to its 18 enumerated consumer laws and certain other laws, along with any rule or order prescribed by the Bureau under the CFPA, an enumerated consumer law, or pursuant to certain other authorities.
- States can pursue claims and actions against a broad range of entities. The interpretive rule states that “the limitations on the Bureau’s authority in sections 1027 and 1029 generally do not constrain States’ enforcement authority.” States can bring actions against a broader cross-section of companies and individuals.
- States may pursue actions under section 1042 even if the Bureau is pursuing a concurrent enforcement action against the same entity. States are not restricted from bringing enforcement actions in coordination with the Bureau, and may also bring an enforcement action to stop or remediate harm that is not addressed by an action taken by the Bureau against the same entity. “Nothing in the [CFPA] precludes these complementary enforcement activities that serve to protect consumers at both the national and state levels,” the Bureau said in its announcement.
The Bureau stated the interpretive rule is a “part of the CFPB’s expansion of its efforts to support state enforcement activity,” and noted that it “plans to consider other steps to promote state enforcement of federal consumer financial protection law, including ways to facilitate victim redress.”
On May 13, the Illinois governor signed SB 3971, which makes various amendments to Illinois Banking Act and Savings Bank Act provisions concerning the confidentiality of customer financial records. Among other things, the Act provides that a bank must disclose financial records “only after the bank sends a copy of the subpoena, summons, warrant, citation to discover assets, or court order,” to the person establishing the relationship with the bank if living (or the person’s representative otherwise), at the person’s last known address. Further, such requests must be sent through a third-party commercial carrier or courier, with delivery charge fully prepaid, by hand or by electronic delivery at an email address on file with the bank (provided the person has consented to electronic delivery).
The Act also stipulates that a bank retain customer financial records “in a manner consistent with prudent business practices and in accordance with this Act and applicable State or Federal laws, rules, and regulations.” A bank may also destroy records (with reasonable precautions taken to ensure the confidentiality of the information contained in the records) except where a retention period is required by law. The Act is effective immediately.
9th Circuit: Incomplete loan modification application bars plaintiff's CA Homeowner Bill of Rights claims
On May 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal of a plaintiff’s allegations that a lender violated RESPA and the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), breached its contract, and breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court also dismissed the plaintiff’s request for promissory estoppel. In affirming the district court, the appellate court determined that the plaintiff’s HBOR claims failed, specifically because the plaintiff insufficiently showed that she incurred actual damages because of a RESPA violation. The appellate court also agreed that the plaintiff’s HBOR claims failed because she did not submit a complete application. Under HBOR, mortgage servicers are prohibited from reporting a notice of default if a lender’s “complete application for a first lien loan modification” is pending. The appellate court concluded that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently show that she had submitted a complete loan modification application, and did not demonstrate that she took follow-up action in response to a letter stating her loan modification application was incomplete, meaning her claim failed.
With respect to the plaintiff’s remaining claims, the 9th Circuit held, among other things, that the lender’s “alleged promise to consider plaintiff’s loan modification application upon dismissal of her lawsuit was neither sufficiently definite to create a contract nor sufficiently ‘clear and unambiguous to support a promissory estoppel.’” Moreover, the plaintiff’s claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing also failed because she could not prove breach of contract. Specifically, she did not state a claim for breach of the deed of trust because, as the plaintiff herself noted, “she failed to perform under the deed of trust when she did not make loan payments, and performance under the contract is a necessary element of a breach of contract claim.”
The dissenting judge disagreed with the majority in two key respects. First, the judge argued the majority wrongfully rejected the plaintiff’s HBOR claim because the complaint contended that the lender “would send out such boilerplate letters so that it did not have to comply with the requirement that it cease foreclosure activities once an application is complete,” and that “a lender’s bad faith conduct does not render a borrower’s application incomplete.” Regarding the plaintiff’s good faith and fair dealing claim, the judge argued that the plaintiff plausibly alleged that she submitted a complete application to the lender. According to the complaint, the plaintiff submitted the necessary documents and was allegedly informed by the lender’s lawyer that “her application was ‘in review, which meant that plaintiff’s application was complete.’”
On May 10, the Arizona attorney general announced it filed a stipulated consent judgment in the Superior Court of Arizona against a defendant, the owner and manager of a debt collection operation. The AG’s original action was part of the FTC’s “Operation Corrupt Collection”—a nationwide enforcement and outreach effort established by the FTC, CFPB, and more than 50 federal and state law enforcement partners to target illegal debt collection practices (covered by InfoBytes here).
According to the AG’s press release announcing the consent judgment, the defendant’s debt collection operation allegedly called consumers and made false claims and threats to convince people to pay debts the operation had no authority to collect. The complaint contended that employees frequently used spoofing software to reinforce claims that they were law enforcement officers, government officials, process servers, and law firm personnel to intimidate consumers into paying the alleged debts, and told consumers to immediately respond or be held in contempt of court. Employees also allegedly threatened to file lawsuits, garnish wages and tax returns, place liens on homes and car titles, freeze bank accounts, send law enforcement to consumers’ homes and/or places of employment, and arrest consumers.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, the defendant is required to pay more than $1.6 million in consumer restitution and up to $900,000 in civil penalties, and is permanently enjoined, restrained and prohibited from participating in the debt collection industry. Court approval of the stipulated judgment is pending.
On May 10, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued a notice of approval of amendments to regulations under the California Financing Law (CFL) related to the agency’s pilot program for increased access to responsible small-dollar loans (RSDL program). The RSDL program, which became operative in 2014, allows finance lenders licensed under the CFL and approved by the DFPI commissioner to charge specified alternative interest rates and charges, including an administrative fee and delinquency fees, on loans subject to certain requirements.
The approved amendments, among other things, increase the upper dollar loan limit from $2,500 to $7,500, require applicants to submit mandatory policies and procedures for addressing customer complaints and responding to questions from loan applicants and borrowers, require lenders report additional information about the finders they use, and allow lenders to use qualified finders to disburse loan proceeds, collect loan payments, and issue notices and disclosures to borrowers. (See also DFPI’s final statement of reasons, which outlines specific revisions and discusses the agency’s responses to public comments.) The amendments are effective July 1.
- Buckley Webcast: State supervision, enforcement, and multistate coordination
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Latest on AML regulations and impact of economic sanctions” at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Hank Asbill to discuss “Ethical issues at sentencing” at the 31st Annual National Seminar on Federal Sentencing
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Fundamentals of financial crime compliance” at the Practicing Law Institute
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar