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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

  • CFPB Posts Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022

    Consumer Finance

    On October 18, the CFPB released and requested feedback on its draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2018-2022. This strategic plan identifies the Bureau’s long-term goals and objectives.

    The proposed strategic plan outlines four broad goals for the next five years with multiple objectives and various strategies defined for each goal. Consistent with previous CFPB releases, these objectives reflect the Bureau’s continued use of data and technology to advance its mission. The four goals are:

    • “Prevent financial harm to consumers while promoting good practices that work for consumers, responsible providers, and the economy as a whole.” Objectives include creating and modifying regulations; supervising institutions; and enforcing consumer financial laws.
    • “Empower consumers to make informed financial choices to reach their own life goals and enhance their own financial well-being.” Objectives include handling complaints and sharing data; and creating and offering educational resources.
    • “Inform the public, policy makers, and the CFPB’s own policy-making with market intelligence and data-driven analysis of consumer financial markets and consumer behavior.” Objectives include monitoring markets and producing research reports.
    • “Advance the CFPB’s performance by maximizing resource productivity.” Objectives include hiring a diverse work force; using technology for public engagement; ensuring effective and efficient management; and maintaining meaningful channels for feedback.

    The CFPB is requesting comments by November 18.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

  • Virginia AG Announces Settlement With Internet Lender Over Licensing Claims and Excessive Interest

    State Issues

    On October 25, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced a settlement with a Nevada-based internet lender to resolve allegations that the lender violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting it was licensed by the state’s Bureau of Financial Institutions and collecting interest exceeding the state’s general usury limit. According to a press release issued by the Attorney General’s office, the settlement requires the lender to provide refunds and interest forgiveness of more than $265,000 to borrowers, and pay the state $50,000 in civil money penalties, costs, and fees. A permanent injunction also prohibits the lender from, among other things, misrepresenting its licensing status and collecting interest exceeding the amount allowed by the state’s general usury statute.

    State Issues State Attorney General Usury Predatory Lending Consumer Finance Settlement Enforcement

  • CFPB Consumer Advisory Board Public Meeting Notice

    Consumer Finance

    The CFPB Consumer Advisory Board will host a public meeting on Thursday, November 2, at 10:00am EST in Tampa, Florida. According to the notice, published in the Federal Register on October 17, the board will discuss Know Before You Owe: Reverse Mortgages; financial well-being; trends and themes; and payday, vehicle title, and certain high-cost installment loans.

    Attendees must RSVP by noon, November 1, to CFPB_CABandCouncilsEvents@cfpb.gov.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Reverse Mortgages Payday Lending

  • Federal Reserve Governor Calls for Collaboration Between Banks and Fintech Firms for Safe and Secure Payment System

    Fintech

    On October 18, Federal Reserve Board Governor, Jerome H. Powell, spoke at the 41st Annual Central Banking Seminar regarding the impact of technology on retail banking and payment services. Powell noted that rapidly changing technology for more timely and convenient payment methods, “should not come at the cost of a safe and secure payment system. . .” In doing so, he encouraged banks, fintech companies, and all other stakeholders in the industry to collaborate to achieve a payment system that is reliable, secure, and convenient.

    Powell went on to highlight the work of the Faster Payments Task Force (as previously covered by InfoBytes) and the Secure Payments Task Force. For secure payments, he discussed the Federal Reserve’s plan to launch a study analyzing payment security vulnerabilities in early 2018 and its plan to establish work groups focused on approaches for reducing the prevalence and cost of specific payment security vulnerabilities.

    As covered by InfoBytes, the OCC Acting Comptroller of Currency, Keith A. Noreika, also recently spoke about the continuing innovation of banks and fintech companies within the financial technology sector.

    Fintech Federal Issues Federal Reserve Payments Consumer Finance

  • President Trump Signs Law to Prevent Elder Abuse and Exploitation

    Federal Issues

    On October 18, President Trump signed the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which establishes new requirements aimed at improving the DOJ’s response to elder abuse crimes. Among other things, S 178 expands data collection and information sharing provisions to prevent financial crimes committed against seniors. The law also broadens the federal criminal code to include “email marketing” fraud, such as marketing measures designed to induce the commitment to a loan. Other notable provisions include enhanced penalties for fraud and increased training for federal investigators and prosecutors. Further, the law requires the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and the DOJ to appoint elder justice coordinators to oversee enforcement, consumer education efforts, and policy activities related to elder justice issues.

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation Consumer Finance FTC DOJ Elder Financial Exploitation Trump

  • NYDFS Announces Two New Regulations Targeting Title Insurance Practices

    State Issues

    On October 17, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) adopted two final regulations designed to stop “unscrupulous practices” in the title insurance industry. The final regulations—which are the culmination of a NYDFS’ investigation into the practices of title insurers—supersede “emergency” versions of both regulations that went into effect earlier this year. (See previously InfoBytes coverage here.) Specifically, the first rule clarifies that certain “reasonable and customary” advertising and marketing expenses will be permitted provided “they are without regard to insured status or conditioned directly or indirectly on the referral of title business.” Meals, entertainment, and other forms of inducements are prohibited. According to a NYDFS press release, the state’s “anti-inducement statute is not limited to situations in which there is a direct quid pro quo for business.” The second rule requires, among other things, that title insurance companies or agents function independently from any affiliates through which they generate a portion of their business and make “good faith” efforts to accept business from non-affiliate sources.

    State Issues Consumer Finance NYDFS Kickback Title Insurance Mortgages

  • FTC Obtains Default Judgment Against Operations That Allegedly Sold Counterfeit Payday Loan Debt Portfolios

    Consumer Finance

    On October 17, the FTC issued a press release announcing a default judgment in an action brought against two Kansas-based operations and their owner (defendants), who allegedly violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by selling lists of counterfeit payday loan debt portfolios to debt collectors. The allegations claimed that in numerous instances, the portfolios listed “loans that the identified lenders have not, in fact, made to the identified consumers,” and that the defendants “have not purchased, or otherwise obtained, any rights to collect loan debts originated by the lenders listed . . ., nor have they engaged in any transaction that authorizes them to collect, sell, distribute, or transfer any valid loans originated by those lenders.” As a result, numerous consumers were contacted by various debt collectors demanding repayment of the fake debts, and in some instances, consumers made payments to either stop the collection calls or because they feared becoming delinquent. Under the terms of the default judgment, the defendants (i) must pay more than $4.1 million as equitable monetary relief; (ii) are banned from handling sensitive financial information, such as “bank account numbers, credit or debit card numbers, or social security numbers”; and (iii) are prohibited from misrepresenting material facts.

    Consumer Finance FTC Enforcement Payday Lending Settlement Debt Collection FTC Act Regulator Enforcement

  • CFPB Issues Principles Concerning Security and Transparency for Financial Data Sharing and Third-Party Aggregation

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On October 18, the CFPB published guidelines entitled “Consumer Protection Principles” (Principles), which are “intended to reiterate the importance of protecting consumers” when companies, including “fintech” firms, banks, and other financial institutions, get authorization from consumers to access their account data that reside in separate organizations to provide products and services. Earlier this year, industry groups responded to a CFPB request for information and weighed in on the benefits and risks associated with consumers authorizing third parties to access their financial and account information held by financial service providers. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) Along with the Principles, the CFPB published a summary of stakeholder insights, which highlights the feedback received by the Bureau. Separately, on October 16, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Director Richard Cordray raising concerns about data security during the transfer of consumer data to third-party aggregators and highlighting the need for transparency concerning the use of the data.

    The Principles address the following areas: (i) data access; (ii) data scope and usability; (iii) control of data and informed consent; (iv) payment authorizations; (v) data security; (vi) transparency on data access rights; (vii) data inaccuracies; (viii) dispute rights and unauthorized access resolution; and (ix) mechanisms for efficient and effective accountability.

    Notably, the Bureau recognized that there already exist statutes and regulations that apply to consumer protections in this market. As such, the Principles “are not intended to alter, interpret, or otherwise provide guidance on—although they may accord with—the scope of those existing protections,” and therefore do not establish “binding requirements.”

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Consumer Finance CFPB Vendor Management Third-Party Fintech eCommerce

  • Federal Agencies Offer Consumer Relief Measures Following Recent Natural Disasters

    Lending

    On October 13, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released two circulars (here and here) describing measures mortgagees may employ to provide relief to VA home loan borrowers affected by recent California wildfires and Hurricane Nate. Referencing the VA’s guidance on natural disasters, the VA’s recommendations include: (i) extending forbearance to distressed borrowers; (ii) establishing a 90-day moratorium on initiating foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waiving late charges; (iv) suspending credit bureau reporting with the understanding that servicers will not be penalized by the VA; and (v) extending “special forbearance” to National Guard members who report for active duty to assist recovery efforts.

    Separately, on October 17, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, National Credit Union Administration, and OCC released a joint notice under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act that temporarily eases appraisal requirements for real estate-related financial transactions in areas impacted by recent hurricane disasters. The four agencies will allow appraisal exceptions, provided that financial institutions determine, and obtain documentation related to, the following: (i) the property involved is located in a major disaster area; (ii) there exists a binding commitment to fund the transaction within 36 months of the date the area was declared a major disaster; and (iii) “the value of the real property supports the institution’s decision to enter into the transaction.” The expiration date for exceptions in each area covered by the notice is three years after the date the President declared the area to be a major disaster area.

    As previously discussed in InfoBytes, several federal agencies have announced regulatory relief for victims of recent natural disasters.

    Lending Disaster Relief Mortgages Foreclosure FIRREA Federal Reserve Department of Veterans Affairs FDIC NCUA OCC Consumer Finance Mortgage Modification

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