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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • CFPB reports on the relationship between discount points and interest rates

    Federal Issues

    On April 5, the CFPB issued a report on the relationship between trends in discount points and interest rates. The report used HMDA data between Q1 of 2019 and Q3 of 2023 when interest rates were at “record-highs” and before the Federal Reserve announced its intention to lower interest rates. The CFPB found that (i) the majority of borrowers paid discount points, (ii) more borrowers paid discount points as interest rates increased, and (iii) borrowers with low credit scores were even more likely to pay discount points. Delving deeper into the data, 87 percent of borrowers with cash-out refinances paid discount points (up from 61 percent in 2021), and borrowers with cash-out refinance loans paid twice the number of discount points compared to other borrowers (with a median of 2.1 points per loan). Additionally, almost 77 percent of FHA borrowers with a credit score below 640 paid discount points compared to 65 percent of all FHA borrowers. Considering these trends, the CFPB will plan to monitor the use of discount points and weigh the advantages against the potential risks to borrowers.      

    Federal Issues CFPB Interest Rate Discount Points HMDA FHA

  • FDIC’s Consumer Compliance report outlines most frequently cited violations and observations

    On March 28, the FDIC released its March 2024 version of the Consumer Compliance Supervisory Highlights from the previous year, a report that enhanced transparency regarding the FDIC’s consumer compliance supervisory activities. The FDIC reported 16 formal enforcement actions and another 16 informal enforcement actions to address consumer compliance examination findings. The report highlighted how the FDIC conducted almost 900 consumer compliance examinations. The top five most frequently cited violations of moderate severity (levels two and three out of five of supervisory concern), which represented 74 percent of the total violations, included, in order from most frequently cited to least: TILA, and its implementing regulation, Regulation Z; the Flood Disaster Protection Act (FDPA) and its implementing regulation, Part 339; EFTA, and its implementing regulation, Regulation E; TISA, and its implementing regulation, Regulation DD; and Section 5 of the FTC Act. The report noted how Section 5 of the FTC Act dropped from the second most frequently cited to the fifth.

    The FDIC’s report outlined the most significant consumer compliance examination observations including the misuse of the FDIC’s logo, advertising of credit builder products, electronic fund transfer (EFT) error resolutions by third parties, mortgage broker relationships, and fair lending compliance. On the misuse of the FDIC’s logo, the FDIC found “a number of third parties” misrepresented the FDIC’s deposit insurance in violation of Section 18(a)(4) of the FDI Act. On substantiating claims in the advertising of credit builder products, the FDIC found that institutions collaborated with fintech companies on credit builder products and falsely advertised “these products would improve” one’s credit score, in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. On EFTs handled by third parties, the FDIC identified an issue with a security program in validating customer transactions in violation of Regulation E of EFTA. On payments for mortgage brokerage services, the FDIC found RESPA Section 8 violations involving mortgage broker relationships. On oversight of third parties, the FDIC identified issues with an institution that partnered with third-party lenders to offer unsecured consumer loans, finding the institution violated Section 39 of the FDI Act. Last and on fair lending, the FDIC found that most of the DOJ’s referral matters pertinent to discrimination related to redlining, automobile financing, and credit underwriting.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues FDIC Enforcement FTC Act TILA

  • CFPB, FTC submit amicus brief in FCRA case

    Federal Issues

    On March 29, the CFPB and the FTC filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, arguing that the FCRA mandated consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) when a consumer challenged the “completeness or accuracy of any item or information” in their file, must perform a “reasonable reinvestigation.”

    In the underlying case, a consumer claimed she identified multiple inaccuracies in her credit report held by the defendant CRA, including issues with her name, address, and Social Security number. She allegedly contacted the defendant three times to dispute these errors, but the defendant directed her to resolve the issues with the misinformation sources and did not conduct its own reinvestigation as the consumer believed was required by the FCRA.

    The consumer then filed a lawsuit against the defendant CRA for not performing the reinvestigation. The district court acknowledged that the defendant should have completed the reinvestigation under the FCRA but nonetheless concluded that the defendant did not violate the statute because it did not reasonably interpret that the FCRA did not require a reinvestigation.

    The case will now be under the appeal process and the CFPB and FTC have submitted a joint amicus brief arguing that the FCRA required a CRA to reinvestigate a consumer’s dispute about personal identifying information, and that the district court correctly determined that a reinvestigation was required. The brief also argued that the district nonetheless erred in concluding that the defendant did not negligently or willfully violate the FCRA because the defendant’s interpretation of the FCRA was not “objectively reasonable.”  

    Federal Issues Courts CRA CFPB FTC Amicus Brief

  • FTC to hold an informal hearing on its proposed “junk fee” rules

    Federal Issues

    On March 27, the FTC published a notice in the Federal Register informing the public of its decision to hold an informal hearing on its proposed rule prohibiting “junk fees.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the FTC released a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) titled “Rule on Unfair or Deceptive Fees” and extended the comment period last October. In the NPRM, the FTC presented the opportunity for any party to present their positions orally. The FTC announced that 17 commenters requested to partake in the informal hearing by presenting oral statements and an administrative law judge for the FTC will serve as the presiding officer. The informal hearing will be presented virtually on April 24 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. The hearing will be presented live to the public on the FTC’s website, and a recording will be placed in the rulemaking record.

    Federal Issues FTC Junk Fees ALJ

  • State AGs sue to block Biden's SAVE Plan for student loan forgiveness

    Federal Issues

    On April 1, 10 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas against President Biden, the Secretary of Education, and the Department of Education seeking to block the enactment of the SAVE Plan. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the SAVE Plan was an income-driven repayment plan, intended to calculate payments based on a borrower’s income and family size, rather than the loan balance, and forgave balances after several years since repayment. According to the complaint, the government released a rule for the new SAVE Plan intended to eliminate at least $156 billion in student debt as the second step in a three-part loan forgiveness initiative. The first step involved an attempt to cancel $430 billion in student loans under the HEROES Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in Biden v. Nebraska.

    The SAVE Plan assumed $430 billion in loans would be forgiven beforehand, but after the Supreme Court's decision, the defendants allegedly did not revise the cost estimate in anticipation of overturning the case. This oversight led to a significant underestimation of the SAVE Plan's true cost; plaintiffs alleged.

    Plaintiffs further claimed that the SAVE Plan was written before the Supreme Court's ruling in Biden v. Nebraska and thus included outdated statements of confidence in the defendants' authority to pursue debt relief. The rule would take effect on July 1, but defendants allegedly have already started forgiving loans for some individuals before this date. The complaint alleged that on February 21, the Department of Education forgave the debt of 153,000 borrowers, which the state attorneys general claimed violated Biden v. Nebraska.

    Plaintiffs brought claims under the Administrative Procedure Act, contending that the Department of Education exceeded its authority under the Higher Education Act of 1965 by issuing the rule and that the rule would be arbitrary and capricious since defendants failed to account for the full cost of the rule.

    Federal Issues Courts State Attorney General SAVE Plan Student Loans Biden

  • OCC releases Q4 report on first-lien mortgage performance

    On March 19, the OCC released a report on the performance of first-lien mortgages in the federal banking system during the fourth quarter of 2023. According to the report, 97.2 percent of mortgages included in the report were current and performing at the end of the quarter, which is a slight improvement from the fourth quarter of 2022, but also a minor decline from the third quarter of 2023. The report also shows

    • a rise in the percentage of seriously delinquent mortgages compared to the previous quarter (1.2 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 1.1 percent in the third quarter), but this percentage has trended down since the fourth quarter of 2021 (when it was 2.3 percent);
    • a decline in new foreclosures, with 8,320 new foreclosures in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared to 8,965 new foreclosures the previous quarter and a high of 19,524 new foreclosures in the first quarter of 2022;
    • finalization of 7,382 loan modifications, which was less than the 7,436 modifications completed in the prior quarter. Eighty-seven percent of the modifications were “combination modifications,” which are modifications that incorporate more than one type of modification action to improve the loan’s affordability, such as an interest rate reduction and a loan term extension.

    First-lien mortgages account for 22.2 percent of the total outstanding residential mortgage debt in the country, representing approximately 11.7 million loans with a combined principal balance of $2.9 trillion. 

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC Mortgages Foreclosure

  • Agencies extend applicability date of certain provisions of their Community Reinvestment Act final rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 21, the FDIC, Fed, and OCC jointly issued an interim final rule to extend the applicability date of certain provisions of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) final rule and requested comments on the extension. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the final rule was intended to modernize how banks comply with the CRA, a law that encouraged banks to help meet the credit needs of low- and moderate-income communities.

    Stated “[t]o promote clarity and consistency,” the agencies have postponed the applicability date of the facility-based assessment areas and public file provisions from April 1, 2024, to January 1, 2026. As a result, banks would not be required to modify their assessment areas or public files in response to the final rule until the new 2026 date. This extension would put these elements on the same timeline as other components of the 2023 CRA final rule that also would take effect on January 1, 2026, including the performance tests and geographic area provisions.

    The agencies also made technical, non-substantive updates to the CRA final rule and related agency regulations that reference it. One of these technical adjustments specified that banks are not required to update their public CRA Notices until January 1, 2026. Public comments on the postponed implementation date must be received 45 days following the rule's publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC FDIC CRA

  • FHA implements changes to branch office registration requirements

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 19, the FHA issued Mortgagee Letter 2024-04 to implement the provisions of a Final Rule, “Changes in Branch Office Registration Requirements.” The Final Rule will eliminate the requirement for mortgagees and lenders to register with HUD in each branch office from which they conduct FHA business, making branch registration optional and branch registration fees applicable only to branch offices that mortgagees or lenders choose to register with FHA. As previously covered by InfoBytes, FHA proposed the rule last March. Following public comments, HUD published the Final Rule without changes from the proposed rule, and the Final Rule became effective on March 4.

    The Final Rule will exclude branch offices not registered with HUD from the HUD Lender List Search page. The Mortgagee Letter will summarize changes that will be incorporated into Handbook 4000.1 to implement the Final Rule, including updating the policy for registering branch offices, clarifying the “Area Approved for Business” for home offices and branch offices, updating the definitions for Branch Manager and Regional Manager, and clarifying the policy requirements that apply to registered branch offices. Although the Mortgagee Letter will go into effect immediately, it will not impact annual recertifications due to be completed by March 31; rather, the recertification fee “will be calculated based on the registered branches as of the last business day of the mortgagee’s certification period (fiscal year end).”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FHA Mortgagee Letters Mortgages HUD

  • CFPB warns remittance transfer providers against falsely advertising the costs and speed of transfers

    Federal Issues

    On March 27, the CFPB issued a circular cautioning remittance transfer providers against falsely advertising the costs or speed of sending transfers to avoid violating the CFPA’s prohibition on deceptive acts or practices. The CFPB would administer and enforce the Remittance Rule under the EFTA, but the Bureau noted that remittance providers also can be liable under the CFP Act for deceptive marketing practices, regardless of whether they comply with the Remittance Rule’s disclosure requirements. Through the circular, the CFPB warned against falsely marketing “no fee” or “free” services if the remittance transfer provider actually charges a fee, noting that “[w]ith respect to digital wallets or other similar products, it can be deceptive to market a transfer as ‘free’ if the provider imposes costs to convert funds into a different currency or withdraw funds,” and that “[i]t may also be deceptive to market international money transfers as ‘free’; if the provider is imposing costs on consumers through the exchange rate spread.” The Bureau also warned against “burying” promotional conditions in fine print, and falsely advertising how long a transfer will take especially if transfers may take longer to reach recipients. The circular would apply to traditional international money transfer providers, as well as “digital wallets” that send money internationally from the U.S. and would be part of the Bureau’s initiative to “rein in” alleged “junk fees.”

    Federal Issues CFPB CFPA Remittance UDAAP EFTA

  • CFPB wins approval to move credit card late fee case to Washington, D.C.

    Federal Issues

    On March 28, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted the CFPB’s motion to transfer a case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after identifying several concerns regarding litigating the case in the Texas venue. This case has been brought by multiple trade organizations to challenge the CFPB’s attempt to alter the structure and amount of credit card late fees under its alleged authority under the CARD Act, covered by InfoBytes here. The court agreed to transfer the case after finding that both defendants, along with three of the six plaintiffs, resided in Washington where the rule at issue was promulgated; comparatively, only one of the six plaintiffs resided in Fort Worth.

    The court analyzed both private- and public-interest factors. On private-interest factors, the court agreed that Washington was a more practical venue, noting that eight of the ten attorneys representing the parties list offices in Washington, while only one plaintiff was headquartered in Texas. The court concluded that plaintiffs also have not identified any substantial or practical issues with this case being held in Washington. On public interest factors, the court weighed the comparative dockets and noted that, on average, a case in Washington would be resolved faster than in Texas. The court also reasoned that there was a strong interest in having the case decided in Washington. “The Rule at issue in this case was promulgated in Washington D.C., by government agencies stationed in Washington D.C., and by employees who work in Washington D.C. Most of the Plaintiffs in this case are also based in Washington D.C. and eighty percent of the attorneys in this matter work in Washington D.C. Thus, the [U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia] has a stronger interest in resolving this dispute, as it is the epicenter for these types of rules and challenges thereto.”

    Federal Issues CFPB Junk Fees Credit Cards Texas


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