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On November 12, the CFPB published a notice and request for comment in the Federal Register detailing a plan for payday loan disclosure testing. The Bureau notes that a contractor will conduct one-on-one consumer interviews to evaluate potential options for payday loan disclosures. The interviews will focus on how consumers use the disclosure information to assess the cost, payment, and timing of the loan. The results of the testing, which are estimated to conclude in September 2021, will be used to inform a future potential rulemaking covering payday loan disclosures. Comments on the notice must be submitted by December 14.
On November 3, according to reports, voters passed Nebraska Initiative 428, which proposed an amendment to Nebraska statutes to prohibit delayed deposit services licensees (otherwise known as payday lenders) from offering loans with annual percent rates (APRs) above 36 percent. Under the amendment, loans with APRs that exceed this cap will be deemed void, and lenders who make such loans will not be authorized to collect or retain fees, interest, principal, or any other associated charges. Specifically, Initiative 428 proposed removal of the existing limit that prohibited lenders from charging fees in excess of $15 per $100 loaned and replaced it with the 36 percent APR cap. It would additionally prohibit lenders from offering, arranging, or guaranteeing payday loans with interest rates exceeding 36 percent in Nebraska regardless of whether the lender has a physical location in the state.
On October 29, a national community advocate group filed a complaint against the CFPB challenging the Bureau’s repeal of the underwriting provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in July, the CFPB issued a final rule revoking, among other things, the Rule’s (i) provision that makes it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loans according to their terms; (ii) prescribed mandatory underwriting requirements for making the ability-to-repay determination; and (iii) the “principal step-down exemption” provision for certain covered short-term loans.
The complaint alleges that the Bureau’s repeal of the underwriting provisions of the Rule was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” Specifically, the complaint asserts that the Bureau invented a “new evidentiary standard” when it required that evidence supporting the need for the underwriting provisions be “robust and reliable,” which, according to the complaint, is a standard “custom-designed” to repeal the provisions. The complaint further argues that the CFPB “failed to consider the harms that consumers suffer from no-underwriting lending” and relied on analysis and data that was not “previously made available for comment.” The complaint seeks a declaration that the repeal was unlawful and an order requiring the Bureau to “take necessary steps to ensure prompt implementation of the 2017 Payday Lending Rule’s Ability-to-Repay Protections.”
On October 23, the CFPB filed a cross-motion for summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in ongoing litigation involving two payday loan trade groups (plaintiffs) concerning the Bureau’s 2017 final rule covering payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other installment loans (Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in August the plaintiffs asked the court to set aside the Rule and the Bureau’s ratification of the payment provisions of the Rule as unconstitutional and in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. Earlier in July, the Bureau issued a final rule revoking the Rule’s underwriting provisions and ratified the Rule’s payment provisions (covered by InfoBytes here) in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Seila Law LLC v CPFB (covered by a Buckley Special Alert, holding that the director’s for-cause removal provision was unconstitutional but was severable from the statute establishing the Bureau). A motion for summary judgment filed by the plaintiffs last month requested the court to hold the Bureau’s payment provisions as unlawful and set them aside so a new notice-and-comment rulemaking process could be conducted, since the provisions “were part of a rule issued by an invalidly constituted agency.” The plaintiffs further argued that “[a]s binding precedent makes clear, an invalid agency cannot take lawful action. So the provisions were void from the start. Nor can the Bureau cure this problem by waving the magic wand of ratification.”
The Bureau, however, urged the court in its cross-motion to reject the plaintiffs’ challenge to the Rule’s payment provisions because while “they were initially promulgated by a Bureau whose Director was unconstitutionally insulated from removal by the President[,] . . . that problem has been fixed.” Moreover, “[a]s case after case confirms, such a ratification by an official unaffected by a separation-of-powers violation remedies an earlier constitutional problem—and Plaintiffs cite no authority suggesting otherwise,” the Bureau challenged, stating that “[w]hile Plaintiffs may want a more drastic remedy—wholesale invalidation of a rule they do not like—they can no longer complain that the Payment Provisions were adopted without adequate presidential oversight.”
On September 4, the CFPB released its summer 2020 Supervisory Highlights, which details its supervisory and enforcement actions in the areas of consumer reporting, debt collection, deposits, fair lending, mortgage servicing, and payday lending. The findings of the report, which are published to assist entities in complying with applicable consumer laws, cover examinations that generally were completed between September and December of 2019. Highlights of the examination findings include:
- Consumer Reporting. The Bureau cited violations of the FCRA’s requirement that lenders first establish a permissible purpose before they obtain a consumer credit report. Additionally, the report notes instances where furnishers failed to review account information and other documentation provided by consumers during direct and indirect disputes. The Bureau notes that “[i]nadequate staffing and high daily dispute resolution requirements contributed to the furnishers’ failure to conduct reasonable investigations.”
- Debt Collection. The report states that examiners found one or more debt collectors (i) falsely threatened consumers with illegal lawsuits; (ii) falsely implied that debts would be reported to credit reporting agencies (CRA); and (iii) falsely represented that they operated or were employed by a CRA.
- Deposits. The Bureau discusses violations related to Regulation E and Regulation DD, including requiring waivers of consumers’ error resolution and stop payment rights and failing to fulfill advertised bonus offers.
- Fair Lending. The report notes instances where examiners cited violations of ECOA, including intentionally redlining majority-minority neighborhoods and failing to consider public assistance income when determining a borrower’s eligibility for mortgage modification programs.
- Mortgage Servicing. The Bureau cited violations of Regulation Z and Regulation X, including (i) failing to provide periodic statements to consumers in bankruptcy; (ii) charging forced-placed insurance without a reasonable basis; and (iii) various errors after servicing transfers.
- Payday Lending. The report discusses violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act for payday lenders, including (i) falsely representing that they would not run a credit check; (ii) falsely threatening lien placement or asset seizure; and (iii) failing to provide required advertising disclosures.
The report also highlights the Bureau’s recently issued rules and guidance, including the various responses to the CARES Act and the Covid-19 pandemic.
On August 28, two payday loan trade groups (plaintiffs) filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in ongoing litigation challenging the CFPB’s 2017 final rule covering payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other installment loans (Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the court granted the parties’ joint motion to lift the stay of litigation, which was on hold pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB (covered by a Buckley Special Alert, holding that the director’s for-cause removal provision was unconstitutional but was severable from the statute establishing the Bureau). In light of the Supreme Court’s decision, the Bureau ratified the Rule’s payments provisions and issued a final rule revoking the Rule’s underwriting provisions (covered by InfoBytes here).
The amended complaint requests the court set aside the Rule and the Bureau’s ratification of the rule as unconstitutional and in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Specifically, the amended complaint argues, among other things, that the Bureau’s ratification is “legally insufficient to cure the constitutional defects in the 2017 Rule,” asserting the ratification of the payment provisions should have been subject to a formal rulemaking process, including a notice and comment period. Moreover, the amended complaint asserts that the payment provisions are “fundamentally at odds” with the Bureau’s lack of authority to create usury limits because they “improperly target installment loans with a rate higher than 36%.” Finally, the amended complaint argues that the Bureau “arbitrarily and capriciously denied” a petition from a lender seeking to exempt debit-card payments from the payment provisions of the rules.
CFPB denies company’s petition to set aside CID, citing investigative authority broader than enforcement authority
On August 13, the CFPB denied a petition by a credit repair software company to set aside a civil investigative demand (CID) issued by the Bureau in April. The CID requested information from the company “to determine whether providers of credit repair business software, companies offering credit repair that use this software, or associated persons, in connection with the marketing or sale of credit repair services, have: (1) requested or received prohibited payments from consumers in a manner that violates the Telemarketing Sales Rule [(TSR)]. . .; or (2) provided substantial assistance in such violations in a manner that violates [the CFPA or TSR].” The company petitioned the Bureau to set aside the CID, arguing, among other things, that the CID exceeds the Bureau’s jurisdiction and scope of authority because the agency lacks investigative and enforcement authority over companies that provide credit repair services and companies that provide customer relationship management software for such services. The company also argued that (i) the CID is invalid because the company does not engage in telemarketing, perform credit repair services, or market or sell credit repair services to consumers; (ii) the company is not a “covered person” or “service provider” under the CFPA; and (iii) the company is not required to respond to the CID because “it is clear that [the company] does not provide any assistance, let alone substantial assistance, to any covered person in violation of the CFPA.”
The Bureau rejected the company’s arguments, countering that its “authority to investigate is broader than its authority to enforce.” According to the Bureau, “[r]egardless of whether [the company] itself engages in telemarketing or accepts payments from consumers in a manner that violates the TSR, the Bureau has the authority to obtain information from [the company] that will help it assess whether others may have done so.” Furthermore, the Bureau stated that the CFPA grants it the authority to prohibit unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices committed by a “covered person” or a “service provider,” and “the authority over those who, knowingly or recklessly, provide substantial assistance to a covered person,” which include companies that provide credit repair services. “Whether a company that sells business software to credit repair firms does, in fact, substantially assist any violations committed by those firms depends upon the facts,” the Bureau explained.
On August 20, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas granted a joint motion to lift a stay of litigation in a lawsuit filed by two payday loan trade groups (plaintiffs) challenging the CFPB’s 2017 final rule covering payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other installment loans (Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2018 the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit asking the court to set aside the Rule, claiming the Bureau’s rulemaking failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act and that the Bureau’s structure was unconstitutional. The parties filed their joint motion to lift the stay last month following several recent developments, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, which held that the clause that required cause to remove the director of the CFPB was unconstitutional but was severable from the statute establishing the Bureau (covered by a Buckley Special Alert). In light of the Court’s decision, the Bureau ratified the Rule’s payments provisions and issued a final rule revoking the Rule’s underwriting provisions (covered by InfoBytes here). The litigation will focus on the Rule’s payments provisions, with the Bureau noting in the joint motion that it intends to “promptly fil[e] a motion to lift the stay of the compliance date for the payments provisions of the 2017 Rule.” The order outlines the briefing schedule for the parties, with summary judgment briefing due to be completed by December 18.
On August 11, the CFPB released updated FAQs pertaining to compliance with the payment provisions of the “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (Payday Lending Rule). Earlier in June, the Bureau issued a final rule revoking certain underwriting provisions of the Payday Lending Rule (previously covered by InfoBytes here), along with FAQs discussing the details of covered loans and “payment transfers” under the rule. The updated FAQs provide guidance on several topics, including (i) exemptions for certain loans originated by a federal credit union; (ii) Regulation Z’s coverage threshold; (iii) conditions for when closed-end and open-end loans may become covered longer-term loans; (iv) exclusions for real estate secured credit; (v) the purchase money exclusion’s applicability to automobile loans; (vi) situations where failed payment transfers count towards the limit under Payday Lending Rule; (vii) how a “business day” is determined; and (viii) situations where a lender must provide an unusual payment withdrawal notice.
On August 4, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) recommended that a Delaware-based online payday lender and its CEO be held liable for violations of TILA, CFPA, and the EFTA and pay restitution of $38 million and $12.5 million in civil penalties in a CFPB administrative action. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in November 2015, the Bureau filed an administrative suit against the lender and its CEO alleging violations of TILA and the EFTA, and for engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Specifically, the CFPB argued that, from May 2008 through December 2012, the online lender (i) continued to debit borrowers’ accounts using remotely created checks after consumers revoked the lender’s authorization to do so; (ii) required consumers to repay loans via pre-authorized electronic fund transfers; and (iii) deceived consumers about the cost of short-term loans by providing them with contracts that contained disclosures based on repaying the loan in one payment, while the default terms called for multiple rollovers and additional finance charges. In 2016, an ALJ agreed with the Bureau’s contentions, and the defendants appealed the decision. In May 2019, CFPB Director Kraninger remanded the case to a new ALJ.
After a new hearing, the ALJ concluded that the lender violated (i) TILA (and the CFPA by virtue of its TILA violation) by failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose consumers’ legal obligations; and (ii) the EFTA (and the CFPA by virtue of its EFTA violation) by “conditioning extensions of credit on repayment by preauthorized electronic fund transfers.” Moreover, the ALJ concluded that the lender and the lender’s owner engaged in deceptive acts or practices by misleading consumers into “believing that their APR, Finance Charges, and Total of Payments were much lower than they actually were.” Lastly, the ALJ concluded the lender and its owner engaged in unfair acts or practices by (i) failing to clearly disclose automatic rollover costs; (ii) misleading consumers about their repayment obligations; and (iii) obtaining authorization for remote checks in a “confusing manner” and using the remote checks to “withdraw money from consumers’ bank accounts after consumers attempted to block electronic access to their bank accounts.” The ALJ recommends that both the lender and its owner pay over $38 million in restitution, and orders the lender to pay $7.5 million in civil money penalties and the owner to pay $5 million in civil money penalties.
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The federal fraud sentencing guidelines: It's time to stop the madness" at a New York Criminal Bar Association webinar
- Buckley Webcast: From there to here – Anticipating comparative redlining claims
- Daniel P Stipano to moderate "Digital identity: The next gen of CIP" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference
- Buckley Webcast: New sheriff in town – AML and sanctions under the new administration
- Tim Lange to discuss "Impact of Covid-19 on your business" at the California Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues & Regulatory Compliance Conference