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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • CFPB Releases Report on Student Debt Incurred by Older Consumers

    Federal Issues

    On January 5, the CFPB announced the release of a report, entitled Snapshot of Older Consumers and Student Loan Debt, which examines the “increasing student loan debt that older consumers are carrying, as well as how the increased debt burden is impacting borrowers’ later life financial security.” Among other things, the Report notes that the number of older student loan borrowers has quadrupled over the last decade, and that the amount of debt per older borrower has roughly doubled over that same time period, particularly as many borrowers take out loans for children or grandchildren. The Report notes further that, in 2015, nearly 40 percent of federal student loan borrowers age 65 and older were in default.

    The Report also examines complaints from older consumers with private and federal student loans and highlights common problems that appear to arise, including, among other things, co-signing private student loans and difficulties accessing protections guaranteed under federal law for many federal student loan borrowers.

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance CFPB Student Lending Debt Collection

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  • CFPB Releases Annual Report to Congress on Transparency, Accountability in 2016

    Federal Issues

    On January 3, the CFPB announced the release of its annual report to the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations for 2016. The report—which covers October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016—identifies the specific responsibilities that the Dodd-Frank Act tasked to the CFPB and explains how the Bureau has attempted to meet those responsibilities. Among other things, the report describes Bureau regulations and guidance related to the Dodd-Frank Act including, but not limited to: (i) a proposed rule on arbitration; (ii) a proposed rule related to payday loans, vehicle title loans, and other similar credit products; (iii) a final rule to amend various provisions of the mortgage servicing rules implementing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and the Truth in Lending Act; and (iv) a final rule amending Regulation C, implementing the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The report also includes descriptions of the Bureau’s supervisory activities and enforcement actions undertaken by in the 2016 fiscal year.

    Federal Issues Mortgages Consumer Finance CFPB Dodd-Frank RESPA HMDA U.S. Senate U.S. House Regulation C TILA

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  • CFPB Adjusts Exemption Thresholds for Escrows Under TILA

    Federal Issues

    On December 23, the CFPB announced that it is amending the official commentary interpreting Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) to reflect a change in the asset size exemption thresholds required to establish an escrow account for higher-priced mortgages under Reg. Z. Under the amended commentary, the exemption threshold is adjusted to increase to $2.069 billion from $2.052 billion.

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Escrow Regulation Z

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  • CFPB Outlines Fair Lending Priorities for 2017

    Federal Issues

    On December 16, the Director of the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity at the CFPB announced the Bureau’s fair lending priorities for 2017. According to Ms. Ficklin’s blog post, the CFPB will increase its efforts to prevent credit discrimination and improve credit access by focusing on redlining, mortgage and student loan servicing, and small business lending. Specifically, the Bureau will increase its focus on evaluating: (i) whether lenders are intentionally avoiding lending in minority neighborhoods; (ii) if delinquent borrowers face more difficulty in working out payment arrangements with mortgage or student loan servicers because of their race or ethnicity; and (iii) whether women-owned and minority-owned small businesses experience discrimination when applying for credit.

    Federal Issues Mortgages Consumer Finance CFPB Student Lending Fair Lending Mortgage Lenders Redlining

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  • CFPB Orders Payday Lender to Pay Over $500k in Civil Monetary Penalty and Restitution to Customers

    Federal Issues

    On December 16, the CFPB announced that it had entered a stipulation and consent order assessing a $250,000 civil monetary penalty and other remediation against a financial-services company that offers payday loans and check-cashing services based on allegations that it misled consumers through deceptive online advertisements and collections letters and made unauthorized electronic transfers from consumers’ bank accounts. Among other things, the Bureau took particular issue with the fact that Bureau examiners had previously identified “significant compliance-management-system weaknesses that heightened the risk that violations w[ould] occur,” and that “[a]t the times the violations described in this order, the company had not adequately addressed these issues.”

    According to the terms of the consent order, the company is required to: (i) end its deceptive practices and obtain authorization for any electronic-fund transfers; (ii) pay approximately $255,000 to redress harm caused to affected consumers; and (iii) pay a civil monetary penalty of $250,000. As explained by CFPB Director Richard Cordray, “consumers were making decisions based on false and deceptive information, and today’s action will give the company’s customers the redress they are owed.”

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance CFPB Payday Lending Electronic Fund Transfer Check Cashing

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  • CFPB Takes Action Against Pawnbrokers for Misleading Annual Percentage Rates

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, the CFPB announced it had filed enforcement actions (3:16cv987, 3:16cv988, 1:16cv1566, 1: 16cv1567) in federal district court against four Virginia pawnbrokers for misleading customers through deceptively low annual percentage rates that intentionally omit or hide certain fees and charges. In each Complaint, the Bureau alleges both TILA violations and unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices under Dodd-Frank and the CPA. The complaints seek injunctive relief ordering the pawnbrokers to stop the allegedly illegal practices, restitution for consumers, and statutory penalties.

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Dodd-Frank CPA

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  • CFPB Unveils Web-based Tool To Deliver Regular Updates on Consumer Lending Markets

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, the CFPB announced the release of “Consumer Credit Trends,” a beta version of its new web-based tool to help the public monitor developments in the mortgage, credit card, auto loan, and student loan markets. According to the Bureau, the data used by Consumer Credit Trends “draws from a nationally representative sample of credit records maintained by one of the top three U.S. credit repositories.” The CFPB plans to update this information regularly, and will offer analyses on notable findings as warranted. It also clarifies that “before being provided to the Bureau,” the credit records are “stripped of any information that might reveal consumers’ identities, such as names, addresses, and Social Security numbers.” The ability to “chart the state of consumer markets,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray, “will help us identify and act on trends that warn of another crisis or that show credit is too constricted.”

    Federal Issues Mortgages Consumer Finance Credit Cards CFPB Auto Finance Student Lending Payments

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  • CFPB Orders Credit Services Provider to Pay $200K Civil Penalty for Improper Contract Disclosures

    Federal Issues

    On December 19, the CFPB entered a consent order against a Virginia-based credit services provider assessing a $200,000 penalty and other remediation for making loans with improper disclosures. It was the CFPB’s second enforcement action against the company, as the Bureau had previously taken action against the company, requiring it, among other things, to revise its contract disclosures back in 2014. Under the terms of the consent order released this week, the company must hire an independent consultant with specialized experience in consumer-finance compliance to conduct an independent review of the company’s issuance and servicing of credit, and report to the CFPB a compliance plan based on the findings of such review. The Bureau also assessed a $200,000 civil monetary penalty.

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance CFPB

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  • PHH v CFPB Update: PHH and U.S. Solicitor General Respond to CFPB's Petition for En Banc Review

    Courts

    On December 22, PHH filed its brief opposing the CFPB’s petition for en banc review of the October 2016 three-judge panel decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB. PHH argued that the case is not worthy of review by the full D.C. Circuit because, although the majority of the panel determined that the CFPB’s structure violated the constitutionally-mandated separation of powers, that “conclusion, which horrifies the CFPB, simply means that an agency of the Executive Branch will be answerable to the Chief Executive.” With respect to the panel’s unanimous decision that the CFPB incorrectly interpreted RESPA, PHH argued that en banc review is inappropriate because, among other reasons, the D.C. Circuit could not side with the CFPB without “creat[ing] a circuit split with every other court to have considered the proper scope of RESPA.”

    At the invitation of the D.C. Circuit, the U.S. Solicitor General also filed its brief later the same day. While the Solicitor General supported the CFPB’s petition for en banc review of the constitutional question, it also suggested that, consistent with Judge Henderson’s dissent from the panel opinion, the full D.C. Circuit could simply vacate the CFPB’s order against PHH on the grounds that the Bureau misinterpreted RESPA. Doing so, the Solicitor General notes, would be consistent with the “well-established principle … that normally the Court will not decide a constitutional question if there is some other ground upon which to dispose of the case.” This ruling would vacate the panel majority’s conclusion that the CFPB’s structure was unconstitutional, although the Solicitor General noted that PHH could renew its constitutional challenge if the CFPB continues to pursue the case on remand.

    With respect to the separation of powers question itself, the Solicitor General argued that en banc review is warranted because the majority departed from the analysis used by the Supreme Court to decide such questions. Specifically, the Solicitor General suggests that the panel majority erred by concluding “that an agency with a single head poses a greater threat to individual liberty than an agency headed by a multi-member body that exercises the same powers,” noting that the President’s authority over the multi-member FTC was similarly limited and the FTC enjoyed similar powers at the time the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

    Finally, after the filing of the Solicitor General’s brief, PHH requested permission to file an additional brief on the grounds that the Solicitor General had raised arguments not presented in the CFPB’s petition.

    For additional background, please see our summaries of the panel decision, the CFPB's petition for rehearing, and the D.C. Circuit’s order directing PHH to respond and the Solicitor General to provide views.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB FTC U.S. Supreme Court RESPA PHH v. CFPB Cordray U.S. Solicitor General Litigation Single-Director Structure

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  • CFPB Report Reveals That One in Ten Adults are Credit Invisible

    Federal Issues

    On December 12, the CFPB announced the release of a brief on credit invisibility, following up on a 2015 report, which found that 26 million Americans—or one in 10 adults—do not have a credit history with one of the nationwide credit reporting companies. According to CFPB research, an additional 19 million consumers have “unscorable” credit files—i.e., files that are thin or contain insufficient or too brief credit history—and thus, overall, there are 45 million consumers who may be denied access to credit because they do not have credit records that can be scored. The Bureau also provided a checklist for consumers that incorporates the information from the post and identifies actions that consumers can take concerning credit reports. According to the CFPB, consumers should obtain and read credit reports and act quickly to correct any errors they may find in the reports.

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance CFPB Credit Scores

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