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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • California enacts several consumer financial protection measures

    State Issues

    Recently, the California governor enacted several state bills relating to consumer financial protection. On October 6, AB 790 was signed, which expands upon provisions of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act that relate to “home solicitations of a senior citizen where a loan encumbers the primary residence of the consumer for purposes of paying for home improvement.” Specifically, the bill extends the Act’s protections to cover loans for assessments under the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, or certain provisions regulating PACE under the California Financing Law, such that violations would qualify as unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

    On October 6, AB 424 was signed, which enacts the Private Student Loan Collections Reform Act. The bill prohibits a private education lender or loan collector from making a written statement to a debtor attempting to collect a private education loan unless the private education lender or private education loan collector has certain related information to the debt and provides it to the debtor. In addition, among other things, the bill: (i) prohibits a private education lender or private education loan collector from bringing certain legal proceeding to collect a private education loan if the statute of limitations expired; (ii) creates a state-mandated local program by expanding the scope of the crime of perjury; and (iii) makes other provisions related to settlement agreements and payment notification requirements. The bill is effective July 1, 2022.

    On October 4, AB 1221 was signed, which specifies that service contract requirements must include certain elements and cancellation policies. Among other things, the bill: (i) requires a service contract to include a clear description and identification of the covered product; (ii) makes a violation of certain provisions of the Electronic and Appliance Repair Dealer Registration Law a misdemeanor; and (iii) specifies “that a service contract may be offered on a month-to-month or other periodic basis and continue until canceled by the buyer or the service contractor and would require a service contract that continues until canceled by the buyer or service contractor to, among other things, disclose to the buyer in a clear and conspicuous manner that the service contract shall continue until canceled by the buyer or service contractor and provide a toll-free number, email address, postal address, and, if one exists, internet website the buyer can use to cancel the service contract.” In addition, by expanding the scope of the crime in violation of the Electronic and Appliance Repair Dealer Registration Law, the bill imposes a state-mandated local program. The law is effective January 1, 2022.

    On October 4, AB 1405 was signed, which enacts the Fair Debt Settlement Practices Act. Among other things, the bill: (i) specifies that customers in a debt settlement plan have a window of three days to review disclosures prior to the contract taking effect; (ii) defines “debt settlement provider”; (iii) prohibits unfair, abusive, or deceptive acts or practices from a debt settlement provider and a payment processor when providing certain services; (iii) authorizes a consumer to terminate a contract for debt settlement services at any time without a fee or penalty of any sort by notifying the debt settlement provider; and (iv) authorizes a consumer to bring a civil action for violation.

    State Issues State Legislation California PACE Programs Consumer Finance UDAP Contracts Debt Collection Student Lending

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  • Chopra sworn in as CFPB director

    Federal Issues

    On October 12, Rohit Chopra was sworn in as Director of the CFPB. Chopra issued a message to Bureau staff, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC Board of Directors, and members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, applauding former acting Director Dave Uejio’s service and stressing the importance of safeguarding household financial stability. Chopra explained that promoting competition, shifting market power toward consumers and law-abiding businesses, and anticipating emerging risks remain critically important to the CFPB’s mission. Noting that this is an “extremely fragile moment for our economy and our country,” Chopra explained that the Covid-19 pandemic has “put into clearer focus the longstanding systemic and structural barriers we must overcome to build a more inclusive economy.” He added that he intends to “build on” the work Uejio has already started to address racial equality and the pandemic, and said Uejio will remain at the Bureau until he is confirmed as assistant secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity.

    The CFPB also announced several leadership changes within the Bureau. Newly appointed Deputy Director Zixta Q. Martinez, whose roles at the Bureau previously included senior advisor for Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending, will oversee the Bureau’s Operations Division. Karen Andre, who most recently served as special assistant to the president for Economic Agency Personnel within the Executive Office of the President will serve as associate director for Consumer Education and External Affairs. Returning to the CFPB are Jan Singelmann who will serve as chief of staff. Singelmann previously served as senior litigation counsel in the Bureau’s Office of Enforcement and most recently served as counsel for Senator Sherrod Brown, whose work covers consumer finance and data privacy issues. Erie Meyer, who returns to serve as chief technologist, was previously on the implementation team that launched the Bureau and was a founding team member of the Bureau’s Office of Technology and Innovation. 

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Covid-19 Bank Regulatory

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  • NYDFS awards funds to support underserved communities

    State Issues

    On October 7, NYDFS announced the first awards from the New York Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund to support access to safe and affordable banking services in historically underserved and redlined, low-income communities. According to the announcement, with a multi-year $25 million New York state-commitment, the CDFI Fund plans to allocate resources for the growth of CDFIs to assist in the delivery of affordable financial products and services and financial literacy programming to low- and moderate-income New York citizens. In addition, the CDFI Fund will expand “access to capital and technical assistance services for New York State small businesses and non-profit organizations.” In total, 31 CDFIs were selected to receive financial inclusion grants, which totaled nearly $5 million.

    State Issues NYDFS Redlining Consumer Finance CDFI Bank Regulatory

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  • California authorizes prepaid accounts to accept publicly administered funds provided no overdraft fees

    State Issues

    On October 5, the California governor signed SB 497, which, among other things, amends the definition of a “qualifying account” use for the purposes of depositing certain publicly administered funds. The amendment eliminates prepaid card accounts from the definition of “qualifying account,” and instead authorizes “a prepaid account or a demand deposit or savings account offered by or through an entity other than an insured depository financial institution, as specified, that is not attached to an automatic credit or overdraft feature, unless the credit or overdraft feature has no fee, charge, or cost, or it complies with the requirements for consumer credit under the federal Truth in Lending Act.” Specifically, persons or entities that are not insured depository financial institutions but who offer, maintain, or manage non-“qualifying accounts” are prohibited from soliciting, accepting, or facilitating the direct deposit of the publicly administered funds into the accounts.

    State Issues State Legislation California Consumer Finance Overdraft Prepaid Cards TILA

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  • CFPB issues semi-annual report to Congress

    Federal Issues

    On October 8, the CFPB issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. The report, which is required by Dodd-Frank, addresses, among other things, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer credit, significant rules and orders adopted by the Bureau, consumer complaints, and various supervisory and enforcement actions taken by the Bureau. In his opening letter, Director Dave Uejio discusses the Bureau’s efforts to increase racial equity in the marketplace and to mitigate the financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumers, including measures such as reinstituted regular public reporting, developing Prioritized Assessments to protect consumers from elevated risks of harm related to the pandemic, and numerous enforcement actions with claims or findings of various violations. Uejio also notes that communities of color, particularly Black and Hispanic communities, have disproportionately experienced the health and economic effects of the pandemic, and states that the Bureau is utilizing “all [of its] tools to ensure that all communities, of all races and economic backgrounds, can participate in and benefit from the nation’s economic recovery.”

    Among other topics, the report highlights two publications by the Bureau: one focusing on the TRID Integrated Disclosure Rule (covered by InfoBytes here), and another focusing on credit record trends for young enlisted servicemembers during the first year after separation (covered by InfoBytes here). The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer credit are also discussed, as are the results from the Bureau’s Making Ends Meet Survey. In addition to these areas of focus, the report notes the issuance of several significant notices of proposed rulemaking related to remittance transfers, debt collection practices, the transition from LIBOR, and qualified mortgage definitions under TILA. Multiple final rules were also issued concerning Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z); remittance transfers; and payday, vehicle, title, and certain high-cost installment loans. Several other rules and initiatives undertaken during the reporting period are also highlighted.

    Federal Issues CFPB Covid-19 Consumer Finance Agency Rule-Making & Guidance TRID Servicemembers LIBOR TILA Payday Rule

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  • DFPI reports sharp decrease in consumer lending and PACE financing

    State Issues

    On October 7, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) released a report showing significant changes in consumer lending activity, likely attributable to a number of factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, state and federal financial assistance, student loan payment moratoriums, favorable interest rates, and increased reporting of alternative financing products. The 2020 annual report examined unaudited data gathered from finance lenders, brokers, and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) administrators licensed under the California Financing Law, as well as new data from the “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) industry. Findings showed, among other things, a sharp decrease in certain types of consumer loans with BNPL products (often interest-free), decreasing overall by 41 percent in 2019. However, the report found that consumer loans, excluding BNPL, increased 94.8 percent during the same period—a result likely caused by an increase in originations of consumer loans secured by real estate. Finance lenders, including BNPL, originated nearly 12 million consumer loans in 2020 (a 530 percent increase over the prior year), with the top six BNPL lenders accounting for 91 percent of the total consumer loans originated in 2020. DFPI noted that a surge in BNPL unsecured consumer loans reported to the regulator shows that BNPL payment options are becoming increasingly popular. DFPI also discussed recent BNPL enforcement actions, which required companies to consider a consumer’s ability to repay a loan and subjected the companies to rate and fee caps.

    The report also examined PACE financing data. According to findings, there was an 18 percent decline in the total number of PACE assessment contracts funded and originated in 2020, and a 30 percent decrease in gross income for PACE program administrators since 2019.

    State Issues State Regulators DFPI PACE Programs Consumer Finance Covid-19 Buy Now Pay Later

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  • California to examine feasibility of public banking

    State Issues

    On October 4, the California governor signed AB 1177, which establishes the California Public Banking Option Act and requires the state treasurer to convene a commission to conduct a market analysis to determine the feasibility of establishing a program for California consumers who lack access to traditional banking services. The CalAccount Program, if implemented, would protect unbanked and underbanked consumers from predatory, discriminatory, and costly alternatives by providing “access to a voluntary, zero-fee, zero-penalty, federally insured transaction account . . . and related payment services at no cost to accountholders.”

    Among other things, the Act would (i) require the establishment of a process for accountholders to deposit funds into a CalAccount for no fee; (ii) impose a mandate requiring employers and hiring entities to maintain payroll direct deposit arrangements to allow workers to voluntarily participate in the program; (iii) require landlords to allow tenants to pay rent and security deposits by electronic funds transfers from a CalAccount; (iv) require a board (established to administer the program) to contract with and coordinate financial services vendors for the program and build an expansive financial services network of participating ATMs, banks, credit union branches, and other in-network partners to allow account holders to load or withdraw funds from their CalAccount without paying fees; (v) require the board to establish a no-fee process to allow all account holders to arrange for payments to a registered payee using a preauthorized electronic fund transfer from a CalAccount; (vi) establish rules governing the participation of individuals under the age of 18; (vii) provide a secure web-based portal and mobile application to allow individuals access and management of their CalAccount; and (viii) facilitate connectivity with other state and local government agencies and entities so public assistance programs and other disbursements may be directly deposited by electronic fund transfer into a CalAccount. The Act requires the commission to be convened on or before September 1, 2022, with the market analysis due on or before July 1, 2024 to the Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions and the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Banking and Finance.

    State Issues State Legislation California Consumer Finance Public Banking

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  • California governor signs legislation on debt collection

    State Issues

    On October 4, the California governor signed SB 531, which requires debt collectors to provide more information to consumers when assigned to collect a debt. Among other things, the bill: (i) expands the standards to allow Californians to verify a collector’s authority; (ii) bans creditors from selling the debt without first giving the debtor 30-day notice; (iii) requires debt buyers to provide a written statement to the debtor upon request; and (iv) prohibits, in certain circumstances, a debt collector from making a written statement to a debtor in an attempt to collect a delinquent consumer debt. The law is effective starting July 1, 2022.

    State Issues California Debt Collection Consumer Finance State Legislation

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  • HUD announces Vermont and Montana disaster relief

    Federal Issues

    On September 30, HUD announced disaster assistance for certain areas in Vermont impacted by a severe storm and flooding from July 29 to July 30, providing foreclosure relief and other assistance to affected homeowners. This followed President Biden’s major disaster declaration for the counties of Bennington and Windham issued on September 29. The following day, HUD announced disaster assistance for certain areas in Montana affected by the Richard Spring Fire from August 8 to August 20, also providing foreclosure relief and other assistance to affected homeowners. This followed President Biden’s major disaster declaration for Rosebud County and the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation issued on September 30. According to the announcement, federal funding is additionally available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation in all areas of Montana.

    For both disaster relief measures, HUD is providing an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties and is making FHA insurance available to victims whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged, such that “reconstruction or replacement is necessary.” Additionally, HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program will allow individuals who have lost homes to finance the purchase of a house, or refinance an existing house and the costs of repair, through a single mortgage. The program will also allow homeowners with damaged property to finance the rehabilitation of existing single-family homes. Flexibility measures for state and local governments, public housing authorities, tribes, and tribally designated house entities are also addressed.

    Federal Issues HUD Disaster Relief Mortgages Consumer Finance Montana Vermont

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  • CFPB examines subprime auto loans

    Federal Issues

    On September 30, the CFPB released a Data Point report, titled Subprime Auto Loan Outcomes by Lender Type, which examines interest rate and default risk trends across different types of subprime lenders, including how much of the variation of interest rates charged among subprime lenders can be explained by differences in default rates and how much is left to be explained. The report found notable average differences across lender types in the borrowers they serve and the types of vehicles they finance. Banks and credit unions offering subprime auto loans typically lend to borrowers with higher credit scores compared to finance companies and buy-here-pay-here dealerships, the report noted, adding that different lenders also charge very different interest rates on average. According to the report’s sample, a bank’s average subprime loan interest rate is approximately 10 percent, compared to 15 to 20 percent at finance companies and buy-here-pay-here dealerships. The report found that higher default rates were found at lenders that charged higher interest rates, and that “the likelihood of a subprime auto loan becoming at least 60 days delinquent within three years is approximately 15 percent for bank borrowers and between 25 percent and 40 percent for finance company and buy-here-pay-here borrowers.”

    However, the report presented statistical analysis that called into question whether differences in default rates fully explained the average differences in interest rates across subprime lender types. As an example, an average borrower with a 560 credit score or higher would have the same default risk whether the borrower obtained a loan from a bank or a small buy-here-pay-here lender, but the estimated interest rate would be nine percent with a bank loan versus 13 percent from a small buy-here-pay-here lender. The report noted that there are other variables, not observed in the data collected, that may explain differences in interest rates charged by different types of auto lenders, such as down payments, vehicle values, variations in borrowers’ access to information, borrowers’ financial sophistication, and variations within lenders’ business practices and incentives.

    Federal Issues CFPB Auto Finance Subprime Credit Scores Consumer Finance Interest Rate

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