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On February 21, the FTC announced that, at its request, a U.S. federal court stopped the operations of entities the FTC alleges collected over $5 million of payday loan debts that either did not exist or were owed to another entity. The FTC asked the court to freeze the assets of the firm while it continues its investigation and prosecution. The FTC charges that the defendants, California-based American Credit Crunchers LLC and affiliated entities and individuals, violated the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by posing as law enforcement and demanding immediate payment of payday loan debts from consumers that had no such debt.
On February 10, the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) launched the Consumer Protection Working Group, which is charged with coordinating federal and state law enforcement and regulatory efforts to address consumer financial fraud, including fraud targeting unemployed persons, students, active-duty military personnel and veterans. The group is co-chaired by Assistant Attorneys General Tony West and Lanny Breuer, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte, Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection David Vladek, and CFPB Director of Enforcement Kent Markus. The Department of Justice’s press release states that meeting participants set priorities for the group as it seeks to address fraud in (i) payday lending, (ii) high-pressure telemarketing and Internet scams, (iii) business opportunity schemes, (iv) for-profit colleges, and (v) third-party payment processors. The meeting also addressed plans to establish a best-practices tool kit, policy initiatives (including legislative and regulatory proposals), and an information-sharing structure for Working Group participants.
On January 19, the CFPB held a field hearing in Birmingham, Alabama to discuss payday lending products. The hearing, which was the first such hearing held by the CFPB, included three panels featuring CFPB staff, consumer groups, and industry representatives. In conjunction with the event, the CFPB also released its “Short-Term, Small-Dollar Lending Procedures,” which is a field guide for use in examining bank and nonbank payday lenders. These procedures are structured to mirror payday lending activities ranging from initial advertising to collection practices. The CFPB will prioritize its supervision of payday lenders depending on the perceived risk to consumers, taking into account factors such as a lender’s volume of business and the extent of existing state oversight. In remarks at the event, Director Richard Cordray stated that there are some payday lenders and practices that deserve more urgent attention because they present immediate risk to consumers and are “clearly illegal.” The Director identified two examples of such practices, including (i) unauthorized debits on a consumer’s checking account that can occur when the consumer unknowingly “is dealing with several businesses hidden behind a payday loan,” any one of which could be a “fraudster” merely seeking the customer’s private financial information, and (ii) “aggressive debt collection tactics” including “posing as federal authorities, threatening borrowers with criminal prosecution, trying to garnish wages improperly, and harassing the borrower.”
On December 30, the Finance Commission of Texas published two sets of rules impacting (i) mortgage lenders and servicers, (ii) credit access businesses, and (iii) debt management companies. The first set of rules reorganizes mortgage-related regulations to republish as Chapter 76 all regulations previously published as Chapter 79 of the Texas Administrative Code. This set of rules also establishes certain new regulations as Chapter 79 to implement SB 17 regarding residential mortgage loan servicers. Among the new rules are those to establish registration and bonding requirements for servicers.
The second set of rules includes two that implement HB 2594 and HB 2592, which require the Commission to establish licensing for credit access businesses that provide payday loans or title loans, and to design new consumer notice disclosure and notice requirements for such firms. These regulations, among other things, set up a process for provisional licenses and a transition period to allow businesses to continue operating while obtaining a full license. Another rule sets new requirements related to standard payoff statement forms for mortgage servicers responding to requests from title insurance companies. Finally, this set of rules revises credit counseling standards for debt management service providers to remove certain obsolete language.
For a copy of the rules as proposed, click here.