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I. Overview of the CFPB's Final Prepaid Rule
On October 5, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) issued a final rule (Prepaid Rule) amending Regulations E and Z to extend consumer protections to prepaid card accounts. The new protections include pre-acquisition disclosures, error resolution rights, and periodic statements. In addition, prepaid card accounts that include a separate credit feature are subject to some of Regulation Z’s credit card provisions, including an ability-to-repay requirement. Prepaid card issuers are also required to submit to the Bureau and to post to their websites any new and revised prepaid card account agreements. In this alert we summarize key provisions of the Prepaid Rule except those provisions that apply only to payroll and government benefits prepaid cards, which will be covered in a separate alert.
II. Effective Date
The Prepaid Rule’s effective date is October 1, 2017, however, the effective date for posting prepaid card account agreements is October 1, 2018. Heeding concerns about burden, the Bureau stated that the Prepaid Rule does not require financial institutions to pull and replace prepaid account access devices or packaging materials that were manufactured, printed, or otherwise produced in the normal course of business prior to October 1, 2017. Instead, financial institutions must provide consumers with notice of certain changes in terms and updated initial disclosures, in certain circumstances.
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Questions regarding the matters discussed in this Alert may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.
- Manley Williams, (202) 349-8060
On October 17, the CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman (Ombudsman) released a report on student loan complaints related to debt collection and servicing issues submitted to the CFPB between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016. During the period covered in the report, the CFPB received approximately 5,500 private student loan - and 2,300 debt collection - related complaints. Following an August 18 CFPB report that focused primarily on student loan complaints regarding income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, the Ombudsman’s recently issued report emphasizes alleged breakdowns in the “rehabilitation” process: “The majority of borrowers who cure a default and seek to enroll in IDR do so by first rehabilitating their defaulted debt. However, these borrowers describe a range of communication, paperwork processing, and customer service breakdowns at every stage of the default-to-IDR transition.” According to the report, borrowers attempting to enroll in IDR plans face issues such as: (i) delays, do-overs, and dead ends when working with debt collectors to establish and verify income-driven rehabilitation payment amounts; (ii) communication gaps between debt collectors and servicers when transferring a borrower out of default and into an IDR plan; and (iii) servicers failing to “proactively take the steps necessary to help them understand how to access IDR and quickly enroll,” in some cases leading to subsequent delinquency and re-default. The report recommends that policy makers and industry stakeholders reform the default-to-IDR transition process by, among other things, (i) streamlining and simplifying its structure; (ii) improving borrower communication; and (iii) reevaluating the economic incentives currently in place for debt collectors and student servicers to encourage long-term borrower success, rather than focusing on short-term borrower outcomes.
On October 11, the CFPB issued a consent order to a Virginia-based federal credit union to resolve allegations that its debt collection activities were unfair and deceptive in violation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. According to the CFPB’s consent order, the credit union failed to implement adequate compliance controls and employee training on debt collection communications. The credit union’s actions involved employees who sent letters to “hundreds of thousands” of consumers containing various misrepresentations regarding the handling of consumer debt. The consent order alleged that these debt collection letters falsely threatened legal action, wage garnishment, and contacting servicemembers’ commanding officers for failure to remit payments. The consent order also noted that the same threats were made via telephone. The CFPB further contends that the credit union (i) sent approximately 68,000 letters misrepresenting the credit consequences of falling behind on a loan, alleging that members would “find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain additional credit because of [their] present unsatisfactory credit rating” (internal quotations omitted); and (ii) restricted consumers’ electronic account access and electronic accounts services – without providing adequate notice – once their accounts became delinquent. Pursuant to the consent order, the credit union must (i) pay $23 million in consumer redress; (ii) pay a $5.5 million civil money penalty; and (iii) establish a comprehensive compliance plan regarding its policies and procedures on consumer debt collection communications and electronic account restrictions.
On October 12, the CFPB issued an updated version of its small entity compliance guide on the Know Before You Owe TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) Rule. The updated TRID compliance guide incorporates guidance from CFPB webinars on various topics, including (i) record retention; (ii) Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure requirements, including format and delivery; (iii) good faith standards and determinations; (iv) disclosures related to seller-paid costs; and (v) construction loans. The newly released TRID compliance guide replaces the CFPB’s July 2015 guide. The CFPB also issued a separate revised guide for completing the Loan Estimate and Disclosure forms.
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.
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.”
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.
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.