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On March 25, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (collectively, the “agencies”) issued a joint statement providing guidance to financial institutions impacted by flooding in the Midwest. In the statement, the agencies encourage lenders to work with borrowers in impacted communities and to consider, among other things (i) modifying existing loans based on the facts and circumstances; and (ii) requesting expedited approval to operate temporary bank facilities if faced with operational difficulties. The agencies ask institutions to contact their appropriate federal and/or state regulator if they experience disaster-related difficulties complying with publishing or regulatory reporting requirements. The agencies further note that institutions may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery. The statement also provides links to previously issued examiner guidance for institutions affected by major disasters.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.
On March 22, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (New York Fed) announced the launch of its Fintech Advisory Group, which is designed to offer “views and perspectives on the emerging issues related to financial technologies, the application and market impact of these technologies, and the potential impact on the New York Fed’s ability to achieve its missions.” The group’s members will participate on a rotating basis, and will include representatives from financial institutions, nonprofits, and research providers. According to the head of the Supervision Group at the New York Fed, “The Fintech Advisory Group will provide the New York Fed with a more complete picture of the rapidly evolving fintech landscape. The Advisory Group will also gather insights that may inform our interaction with market participants and institutions, our training and hiring efforts, and the application of innovative approaches for internal business use.” The group’s first meeting will be held on April 1.
In March, the CFPB updated its examination procedures for short-term, small-dollar lending (payday lending) in its Supervision and Examinations Manual. The procedures are comprised of modules and each examination will cover one more module. Prior to using the procedures, examiners will complete a risk assessment and examination scope memorandum, which will assist in determining which of the five modules the exam will cover: (i) marketing; (ii) application and origination; (iii) payment processing and sustained use; (iv) collections, accounts in default, and consumer reporting; and (v) service provider relationships. The examinations will review for potential violations of TILA, EFTA, FDCPA, FCRA, ECOA, UDAAP, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), all of which apply to payday lending.
On March 21, the Federal Reserve Board announced the release of its biennial report on debit card transactions in 2017. The report is the fifth in a series published every two years pursuant to Section 920 of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). As in prior years, the 2017 report reflected that issuers’ costs of authorizing, clearing, and settling debit card transactions (excluding issuer fraud losses) varied significantly across respondents. Among other things, data compiled in the report estimates that (i) in 2017, payment card networks processed 68.5 billion debit and prepaid card transactions valued at $2.62 trillion in the U.S.; (ii) debit and prepaid card fraud losses to all parties increased to 11.2 basis points in 2017 from 10.3 basis points in 2015; and (iii) the median covered issuer had average fraud prevention and data security costs of 1.5 cents per transaction, down from 1.7 in 2015.
On March 20, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons spoke at the 2019 ANA Advertising Law and Public Policy Conference to discuss FTC consumer protection initiatives, including those that target advertisers who make deceptive claims about their products. Simons noted that focusing solely on fraudulent advertising is not sufficient, and that the FTC is committed to investigating deceptive advertising intended to mislead consumers, even if the product or service is legitimate. Simons cited several recent enforcement actions, including challenges to dietary supplement health benefit claims and deceptive environmental claims, and stated the agency is prepared to “proceed in federal court as warranted.” (See InfoBytes coverage here and here.) Simons also commented that the FTC is rethinking its approach to the types of remedies used to enforce consumer protection laws in order to both deter future violations and provide meaningful relief to harmed consumers.
Concerning targeted advertising and its connection to privacy concerns, Simons discussed three relevant “fundamental principles of consumer protection”: companies should (i) be fully transparent about the true nature of their data collection and sharing practices; (ii) focus on consumer outcomes when making business decisions to use consumer data; and (iii) make themselves aware of the practices of companies with whom they do business.
On March 19, the OCC issued a proclamation permitting OCC-regulated institutions, at their discretion, to close offices affected by severe weather in the Central Plains and Midwest regions of the U.S. “for as long as deemed necessary for bank operation or public safety.” In issuing the proclamation, the OCC noted that only bank offices directly affected by potentially unsafe conditions should close, and that institutions should make every effort to reopen as quickly as possible to address customers’ banking needs. The proclamation directs institutions to OCC Bulletin 2012-28 for further guidance on natural disasters and other emergency conditions.
On March 21, the CFPB announced the Bureau’s advisory committee programs will be enhanced as a result of Director Kraninger’s engagement with current and former committee members during her three-month listening tour. Effective 2020, the committees—Consumer Advisory Board (CAB), Community Bank Advisory Council (CBAC), and Credit Union Advisory Council (CUAC)—will expand their focus to “broad policy matters” and will meet in-person three times a year, instead of two. Additionally, the Academic Research Council (ARC) will be a “Director-level” advisory committee and will meet separately, in-person and twice a year. Memberships to all committees will now be two-year terms, and the terms will be staggered. The Bureau is now accepting applications for 2020 committee membership. Applications must be submitted within 45 days of the notice being published in the Federal Register.
On March 20, the CFPB and the FTC released (here and here) their annual report to Congress on the administration of the FDCPA, which highlights the 2018 efforts of the agencies. The agencies coordinate in enforcement; share supervisory and consumer complaint information; and collaborate on education under a memorandum of understanding that was reauthorized in February. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In the report, the Bureau acknowledges its intent to release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on debt collection covering issues such as “communication practices and consumer disclosures” in spring 2019. In addition to highlighting the Bureau’s debt collection education efforts, the report also states that in 2018 the Bureau (i) received approximately 81,500 debt collection complaints related to first-party and third-party collections; (ii) initiated six public enforcement actions alleging violations of the FDCPA, one resulting in an $800,000 civil money penalty; and (iii) identified one or more violations of the FDCPA through supervisory examinations.
As for the FTC, in addition to education efforts, the report states that in 2018 the agency (i) initiated or resolved seven enforcement actions, three of which were related to phantom debt collection, obtaining more than $58.9 million in judgments; (ii) returned money to thousands of consumers who were targeted by phantom debt collection operations; and (iii) banned 32 companies and individuals from working in the debt collection market.
On March 18, a coalition of 25 Democratic state Attorneys General urged the CFPB not to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for any aspect of the Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans rule (Rule) and warned that they would consider taking legal action if the Bureau does so. (CFPB’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which announced the proposed delay in the effective date, was covered by InfoBytes here.) The AGs assert that the Bureau did not provide enough legal justification for delaying the underwriting provisions until November 2020 because the 2017 Rule already provided affected lenders ample time to comply. Moreover, the AGs emphasize that the Bureau cannot use the related proposal of future rescission of the underwriting requirements as a justification for the compliance delay; the delay “must be justified on its own merits.” As for the merits of the Bureau’s justification, among other things, the AGs reject the Bureau’s conclusion that “it should not assign the weight that it did in the 2017 [Rule] to ‘the interest of enacting protections for consumers as soon as possible,’” arguing that diminishing the weight assigned to consumer protection is in opposition to the Bureau’s statutory mandate. The AGs also raise concern about the ambiguity in the compliance date for the payment-related provisions of the Rule and stress that the August 19, 2019 date should stay in effect because “lenders will have had 21 months to prepare.” The AGs conclude that they “will closely examine whether to take action to address any unlawful action by CFPB” should the proposed delay be finalized.
On March 15, the FDIC announced a settlement with an accounting firm to resolve a professional negligence action stemming from allegations that the firm failed to detect a massive mortgage fraud in its audits of an Alabama-based bank that failed in 2009. According to a July 2018 order entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, the court originally ruled that the accounting firm owed more than $625 million in damages for negligent audits. The court’s findings, among other things, determined that the firm “did not design its audits to detect fraud,” which prevented it from detecting the mortgage fraud scheme.
One member of the FDIC Board, Martin J. Gruenberg, released a statement noting that he “voted against authorizing the settlement because the settlement did not include a written admission of liability” from the accounting firm.
- Buckley Webcast: Maintaining privilege in cross-border internal investigations
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss "State regulatory and disclosures" at the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association Legal Forum
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "The state of the BSA 2019: What’s working, what’s not, and how to improve it" at the West Coast Anti Money-Laundering Forum
- Buckley Webcast: The future of the Community Reinvestment Act
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Creative character evidence in criminal and civil trials" at the Litigation Counsel of America Spring Conference & Celebration of Fellows
- Buckley Webcast: Amendments to the CFPB's proposed debt collection
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "Flood NFIP in the age of extreme weather events" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "UDAAP compliance" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Major state law developments" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Leveraging big data responsibly" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "State examination/enforcement trends" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Benjamin K. Olson to discuss "LO compensation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- APPROVED Webcast: State and SAFE Act licensing requirements for banks
- John C. Redding to discuss "TCPA compliance in the era of mobile" at the Auto Finance Risk Summit
- Buckley Webcast: The next consumer litigation frontier? Assessing the consumer privacy litigation and enforcement landscape in 2019 and beyond
- Buckley Webcast: Data breach litigation and biometric legislation
- Buckley Webcast: Trends in e-discovery technology and case law
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: Addressing prosecutions driven by hidden actors" at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers West Coast White Collar Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Keep off the grass: Mitigating the risks of banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Mid-year policy update" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program