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CFPB Names John Coleman Deputy General Counsel for Litigation and Oversight
On October 13, the CFPB announced various senior leadership changes. John Coleman will now serve as the CFPB’s Deputy General Counsel for Litigation and Oversight in the Legal Division. Coleman joined the CFPB in November 2010 and has since served as Assistant General Counsel for Litigation and as Senior Litigation Counsel. Additional leadership changes include Stacy Canan serving as Assistant Director for the Office for Older Americans, and Sonya White serving as Deputy General Counsel for General Law and Ethics in the Legal Division.
ABA and Regional Members Lend Perspective on CFPB's Proposed Rule on Payday, Title, and Certain Other Installment Loans
On October 7, the American Bankers Association (ABA) sent a comment letter to the CFPB regarding the agency’s proposed rule on payday, title, and certain other installment loans. Describing the proposal as “exceedingly and unnecessarily complex,” the ABA argues that the proposed rule imposes significant restrictions on the small-dollar credit industry by limiting financial institutions’ ability to make small-dollar loans to consumers in need of such credit. In addition to asserting that the proposal reflects an over-reach of the CFPB’s statutory authority to regulate unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, the comment letter contends that, if adopted, the proposed rule would, among other things, (i) “stifle innovation in consumer lending, reduce consumer choice, and directly harm the very borrowers [it] was intended to protect”; (ii) impose an unlawful cap on interest rates; (iii) regulate insurance, thereby violating the Dodd-Frank Act; and (iv) levy substantial costs on consumers and lenders. Furthermore, the comment letter includes several testimonials to illustrate how receiving short-term credit helped consumers establish credit and overcome arduous financial conditions. In an effort to safeguard affordable financial services, the ABA urged the CFPB to “protect the ability of community banks to continue to meet small dollar lending needs.” In particular, the ABA sought to exempt entities that make no more than 2,500 loans subject to the proposed rule in the course of a year “if those loans comprise no more than 10% of the lender’s gross annual revenue.”
In addition to the ABA’s comment letter, various regional ABA members, such as individual banks and state bankers associations, sent a letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray expressing concern about the “substantial barriers and costs” the proposed rule would impose if adopted. ABA members called on the CFPB to “restore its previously proposed ‘5 percent payment-to-income ratio’ alternative compliance option” so that banks may maintain their ability to offer small-dollar credit.
OCC Releases Bulletin on Revised Examination Procedures for the Military Lending Act
On October 7, following the Federal Reserve’s and the CFPB’s leads, the OCC released Bulletin 2016-33 advising financial institutions of updated interagency examination procedures for compliance with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Military Lending Act (MLA) July 2015 final rule. As previously summarized in BuckleySandler’s Special Alert, the DoD issued an interpretive rule regarding the amendments to the regulations implementing the MLA on August 26, 2016. The 2015 final rule went into effect for consumer credit products other than credit cards on October 3, 2016. The requirements will take effect for credit card accounts one year later, on October 3, 2017. The OCC plans to include the updated interagency examination procedures in the Comptroller’s Handbook.
CFPB Releases Final Rule on Prepaid Financial Products; Chamber of Digital Commerce Comments on Scope of the Rule
On October 5, the CFPB released its final rule on prepaid financial products, including traditional prepaid cards, mobile wallets, person-to-person payment products, and other electronic accounts with the ability to store funds. The rule is intended to provide consumers with additional federal protections under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act analogous to the protections checking account consumers receive. The following federal protections are included in the new rule: (i) financial institutions will be required to provide certain account information for free via telephone, online, and in writing upon request, unless periodic statements are provided; (ii) financial institutions must work with consumers who find errors on their accounts, including unauthorized or fraudulent charges, timely investigate and resolve these incidents, and restore missing funds when appropriate; and (iii) consumers will be protected against unauthorized transactions, such as withdrawals or purchases, if their prepaid cards are lost or stolen. The rule contains new “Know Before You Owe” prepaid disclosures similar to those used for mortgages and student financial aid offers. In addition to requiring two (one short, the other long) disclosure forms, the new rule requires that prepaid account issuers post agreement offers made available to the general public on their websites, submit all agreements to the CFPB, and make agreements that are not required to be posted on their website available to relevant consumers. The new rule also includes credit protections stemming primarily from the Truth in Lending Act and the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, including providing consumers with monthly credit billing statements, giving consumers reasonable time – at least 21 days – to repay their debt before incurring late fees, ensuring that consumers are able to repay the debt before making a credit offer, and limiting the fee and interest charges to 25% of the total credit limit during the first year an account is open. The rule, which has not yet been published in the Federal Register, has a general compliance date of October 1, 2017, but includes certain accommodations, one of which is an October 2018 effective date for the requirement that agreements be submitted to the CFPB.
The Chamber of Digital Commerce submitted comments to the CFPB in December advocating that virtual currency products and services should fall outside the scope of the prepaid rule. Pursuant to the final rule, the CFPB found that “application of Regulation E and this final rule to such products and services is outside the scope of this rulemaking.”
CFPB Creates HMDA and ECOA Safe Harbor for New Fannie/Freddie Application Form
On September 29, the CFPB published an Approval Action in the Federal Register that provides a safe harbor under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and Regulation B for lenders who use the revised Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA) form issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in August 2016. The Bureau’s Approval Action states that it has “determined that the relevant language in the 2016 URLA is in compliance with” Regulation B’s requirements for whether, and how, a creditor may seek information about an applicant’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, and income sources, and information about an applicant’s spouse or former spouse.
The Bureau’s Approval Action also offers flexibility for lenders who must collect and report information about mortgage applicants’ ethnicity and race under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), implemented by Regulation C. On October 28, 2015, the Bureau amended Regulation C to require covered lenders to offer applicants the opportunity to self-identify using disaggregated categories of ethnicity and race, effective January 1, 2018. The CFPB notes in the Federal Register notice that before January 1, 2108, asking applicants to self-identify using the disaggregated categories would not have been allowed under Regulation B’s restrictions on seeking information about an applicant’s ethnicity, race and other characteristics. The Approval Action gives lenders the option of using the disaggregated categories of ethnicity and race for applications taken in 2017 without violating Regulation B. It states that if a lender opts to collect information using the disaggregated categories in 2017, for applications that see final action before January 1, 2018, the lender must report the data to the Bureau using only the current aggregate categories for ethnicity and race. If a lender takes final action in 2018 or later on an application received in 2017, it may choose to report the data using either the current aggregate or the new disaggregated categories.
California Amends Finance Lenders Law and Residential Mortgage Lending Act
The California legislature amended the California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) allowing persons to make one commercial loan in a 12-month period without obtaining a license. This change effectively reenacts a de minimis exemption that was repealed in 2014, and is effective January 1, 2017 through January 1, 2022.
Effective September 28, 2016, the implementing regulations to the CFLL and California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (CRMLA) were amended such that subsidiaries and affiliates of exempt institutions are no longer exempt, by nature of this association, from the licensing requirements with respect to consumer and residential mortgage loans. The Department of Business Oversight filed the action to reverse through regulation previous Commissioner opinions that interpreted licensing exemptions under the CFLL and CRMLA to apply broadly to include subsidiaries of exempt financial institutions.
The definition of a lender under the CRMLA was also amended and now includes a person, other than a natural person, and a natural person who is also an independent contractor, who engages in the activities of a loan processor or underwriter for residential mortgage loans, but does not solicit loan applicants, originate mortgage loans, or fund mortgage loans. Further, the Commissioner may require a licensee who is engaged in the processing or underwriting of residential mortgage loans to continuously maintain a minimum tangible net worth in an amount that is greater than $250,000, but that does not exceed the net worth required of an approved lender under the Federal Housing Administration.
FTC Announces $1.3 Billion Judgment Against Payday Lenders
On October 4, the FTC announced a $1.3 billion judgment against defendants responsible for operating an allegedly deceptive payday lending scheme. The judgment is the result of 2012 complaint in which the FTC alleged that the defendants engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the FTC Act by making false and misleading representations about costs and payment of the loans. According to the FTC, the defendants claimed that they would charge consumers the loan amount and a one-time finance fee. However, the court found that the defendants “made multiple withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts and assessed a new finance fee each time, without disclosing the true costs of the loan.” The $1.3 billion order is the largest litigated judgment the FTC has obtained to date.
CFPB Settles With Online Lender
On September 27, the CFPB entered into a consent agreement with a California-based online lender for allegedly misrepresenting, among other things, the fees charged, the loan products that were available to consumers, and whether the loans would be reported to credit reporting companies. As part of the agreement, the CFPB indicated that the lender would be required to include the correct finance charge and annual percentage rate in all of its online disclosures, and must test those disclosures annually to ensure accuracy and compliance with the Truth in Lending Act. As a result, the lender will be required to pay $1.83 million in consumer redress as well as $1.8 million as a civil penalty.
CFPB Reaches Agreement With Title Lender
On September 26, the CFPB entered into a consent agreement with a Georgia-based automobile-title lender and its affiliates, based on allegations that the lender violated the Unfair and Abusive prongs of the Consumer Financial Protection Act. The CFPB alleged that the lender “lur[ed] consumers into costly loan renewals by presenting them with misleading information about the deals’ terms and costs.” The CFPB specifically indicated the lender’s use of a “Payback Guide” that focused the consumer’s attention on the monthly payment, and not on the total cost of the transaction, including the costs to roll over the loan to an additional period, materially interferes with the consumer’s ability to understand the terms of the transaction. The CFPB also alleged that the lender committed unfair debt-collection practices by visiting consumers’ homes, references, and places of employment, and revealing information about past-due debt to third parties, including neighbors, roommates, family members, supervisors, and co-workers. Under the terms of the consent order, the lender is prohibited from using the Payback Guide and from encouraging consumers to exceed the original term of repayment. The order also prohibits the lender from making in-person visits to collect payments. Under the agreement, the lender must pay $9 million as a civil penalty to the CFPB.
CFPB Sues Credit Repair Company in Federal Court
On September 22, the CFPB filed a complaint in federal district court against a credit repair company, claiming that the company charged consumers a series of illegal fees, including a fee to access the consumer’s credit report, a fee to set up the consumer’s account, and a monthly fee that continues to accrue until the consumer affirmatively cancels the service. The CFPB also alleged that the company misrepresented the cost and effectiveness of its services, stating that it could “remove virtually any negative information from a consumer’s credit report,” and that it raises customer’s credit scores by an average of more than 100 points, without proper substantiation for either claim. The CFPB alleged that the company’s actions violate the Telephone Sales Rule, and the deceptive prong of the Consumer Financial Protection Act.
- Keisha Whitehall Wolfe to discuss “Tips for successfully engaging your state regulator” at the MBA's State and Local Workshop
- Max Bonici to discuss “Enforcement risk and trends for crypto and digital assets (Part 2)” at ABA’s 2023 Business Law Section Hybrid Spring Meeting
- Jedd R. Bellman to present “An insider’s look at handling regulatory investigations” at the Maryland State Bar Association Legal Summit