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On October 1, the CFPB released the assessment report required by Section 1022(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act for the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID), concluding that the TRID Rule “made progress towards several of its goals.” The assessment report was conducted using the Bureau’s own research and external sources. In opening remarks, Director Kraninger noted that the Bureau was “unable to obtain or generate the data necessary” to include a cost-benefit analysis, but documented the benefits and costs when possible. In addition to studying the effectiveness of the TRID Rule, the report also summarized the public comments the Bureau received from its November 2019 request for information (covered by InfoBytes here).
The Bureau issued the TRID Rule in November 2013, and the Rule took effect on October 3, 2015. Among other things, the TRID Rule integrated TILA’s Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and RESPA’s settlement statement (HUD-1), as well as other Dodd-Frank required disclosures, into the “Loan Estimate” and “Closing Disclosure” forms. Key findings of the assessment include:
- The TRID disclosure forms improved borrower abilities to locate key mortgage information, and compare costs and features of different mortgage offers;
- Evidence was mixed as to whether the TRID disclosure forms improved borrower abilities to understand loan estimates and transactions, and the TRID Rule increased consumer shopping for mortgages;
- The median response for one-time costs for lenders of implementing the rule was roughly $146 per mortgage originated in 2015;
- Evidence was unclear regarding ongoing costs for lenders, noting that over the last decade, lenders’ costs have increased steadily, but the data does not show a clear increase from the time the TRID Rule took effect; and
- Purchases and refinances dropped notably (around 14 percent and eight percent, respectively) in the first two months after the effective date, and purchase closing times lengthened by about 13 percent. However, both changes returned to pre-TRID Rule amounts and durations.
Additionally, the Bureau released a Data Point report titled, “How mortgages change before origination,” which details how the terms and costs of a mortgage loan may change during the origination process. The Bureau examined about 50,000 mortgages originated between March 2016 and November 2017, and found, among other things, that (i) APR changes occurred in more than 40 percent of mortgages; (ii) loan amount and the loan to value ratio changed for nearly 25 percent of mortgages; and (iii) interest rate changed for eight percent of mortgages.
On September 30, On September 30, the OCC issued Bulletin 2020-84 announcing the Task Force on Consumer Compliance of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s adoption of revised interagency examination procedures for TILA, as implemented by Regulation Z. The updated interagency procedures reflect changes made to Regulation Z that relate to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Mortgage Disclosure Rule. Updates also reflect amendments to TILA that relate to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA), such as (i) special provisions relating to high-cost loans, appraisals, and student lending; (ii) “an additional type of qualified mortgage for insured depository institutions with less than $10 billion in assets”; and (iii) “an additional type of escrow exemption for insured depository institutions with less than $10 billion in assets.” The bulletin rescinds the “Truth in Lending Act” booklet of the Comptroller’s Handbook, as well as OCC Bulletin 2018-31, “Truth in Lending Act: Revised Comptroller's Handbook Booklet and Rescissions.” Going forward, examiners should only rely on the revised interagency examination procedures.
On August 27, the CFPB denied a petition by an auto financing company to set aside a civil investigative demand (CID) issued by the Bureau in June. The CID requested information from the company to determine, among other things, “whether auto lenders or associated persons, in connection with originating auto loans (including marketing and selling products ancillary to such loans), servicing loans, collecting debts (including through repossessing vehicles), or consumer reporting” may have violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s UDAAP provisions, as well as the FCRA and TILA. The company petitioned the Bureau to set aside the CID. Among other things, the company argued that because certain aspects of the CID do not fall within a “reasonable construction of the CID’s notification of purpose,” and thus failed to provide fair notice as to what the Bureau is investigating, the CID should be “modified to strike each of these requests or clearly confine them to the enumerated topics.”
The Bureau rejected the company’s request to set aside or modify the CID, countering that (i) the particular requests that the company objects to are “all reasonably relevant to the Bureau’s inquiry as described in the notification of purpose,” and that the company cannot rewrite the CID’s notification of purpose to describe only four specific topics and then argue that the Bureau is asking for irrelevant information; and (ii) the Bureau has broad authority to seek information that may be “reasonably relevant” to an investigation, and that the Bureau’s “own appraisal of relevancy must be accepted so long as it is not obviously wrong.” According to the Bureau, the company failed to overcome this “high hurdle established in the judicial precedent.” However, the Bureau granted the company’s request for confidential treatment of its petition and attached exhibits by agreeing to redact certain proprietary business information and confidential supervisory information.
On September 4, the FTC announced a settlement with group of auto dealers (defendants) with locations in Arizona and New Mexico near the Navajo Nation’s border, resolving allegations that the defendants advertised misleading discounts and incentives and falsely inflated consumers’ income and down payment information on certain financing applications. As previously covered by InfoBytes in August 2018, the FTC filed an action against the defendants alleging violations of the FTC Act, TILA, and the Consumer Leasing Act for submitting falsified consumer financing applications to make consumers appear more creditworthy, resulting in consumers—many of whom are members of the Navajo Nation—defaulting “at a higher rate than properly qualified buyers.”
The court-approved settlement requires the defendants to cease all business operations and includes a monetary judgment of over $7 million. Because the defendants are currently in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, the settlement will make the FTC an unsecured claimant in the bankruptcy proceedings. The settlement also prohibits the bankruptcy trustee from using or selling the consumer information obtained from the defendants’ business activities as part of the bankruptcy liquidation.
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.
On August 4, the Pennsylvania attorney general announced it had entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with a third-party financing company, which permanently shuts down the company’s operations in the state and requires the company to cancel nearly $200,000 in debt for its former customers. According to the AG, the company entered into agreements with various debt relief companies to provide third-party financing to student loan borrowers so they could be enrolled in certain federal student loan repayment programs offered by the Department of Education. However, the company allegedly violated provisions of the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Law and TILA related to closed end credit transaction by, among other things, (i) misrepresenting that the finance plan was a revolving credit plan, when it was actually a closed end transaction; (ii) misrepresenting that it retained a security interest as a result of its financing agreements when in in fact it did not; (iii) financing consumers’ student loan debt relief services when it knew, or should have known, that consumers were not receiving the services as advertised; and (iv) failing to provide Regulation Z-required disclosures for closed end credit transactions, including the amount financed, finance charges, total of payments, and the number and amount of payments necessary to repay the total payments. In addition, the AG claimed that the company charged consumers unacceptably high interest rates. Under the terms of the settlement, the company is banned from financing or assisting others in financing student loan debt relief services and from collecting debt from Pennsylvania borrowers. The company must also request that credit reporting agencies delete the reported debts from consumers’ credit reporting files. Monetary relief in the amount of $930,000 is suspended unless a court determines the company has violated the terms of the settlement.
On July 30, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), the Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, announced new legislation titled, “Small Business Lending Disclosure and Broker Regulation Act,” which would amend TILA and subject small business financing transactions to APR disclosures. The federal legislation would track similar state legislation enacted in California and currently pending the governor’s signature in New York, covered by InfoBytes here and here. However, unlike both California and New York, the federal legislation does not exempt depository institutions from coverage. Highlights of the TILA amendments include:
- CFPB Oversight. The legislation provides the CFPB with the same authority with respect to small business financing as the Bureau has with respect to consumer financial products and services.
- Coverage. The legislation defines small business financing as, “[a]ny line of credit, closed-end commercial credit, sales-based financing, or other non-equity obligation or alleged obligation of a partnership, corporation, cooperative, association, or other entity that is [$2.5 million] or less,” that is not intended for personal, family, or household purposes.
- Disclosure. The legislation would require disclosure of the following information at the time an offer of credit is made: (i) financing amount; (ii) annual percentage rate (APR); (iii) payment amount; (iv) term; (v) financing charge; (vi) prepayment cost or savings; and (vii) collateral requirements.
- Fee Restriction. The legislation prohibits charging a fee on the outstanding principal balance when refinancing or modifying an existing loan, unless there is a tangible benefit to the small business.
Additionally, the legislation would amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act to create the Office of Broker Registration, which would be responsible for oversight of brokers who “solicit and present offers of commercial financing on behalf of a third party.” The legislation would, among other things: (i) require commercial brokers to register with the CFPB; (ii) require commercial brokers to provide certain disclosures to small business borrowers; (iii) prohibit the charging of fees if financing is not available or not accepted; and (iv) require the CFPB to collect and publicly publish broker complaints from small businesses. Lastly, the legislation would require each state to establish a small business broker licensing law that includes examinations and enforcement mechanisms.
Relatedly, the FTC recently took action against New York-based merchant cash advance providers and two company executives for allegedly engaging in deceptive practices by misrepresenting the terms of their merchant cash advances (MCAs), using unfair collection practices, making unauthorized withdrawals from consumers’ accounts, and misrepresenting collateral and personal guarantee requirements. See detailed InfoBytes coverage on the complaint here.
On July 17, the CFPB released the final rule revising the dollar amounts for provisions implementing the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and amendments to TILA, including the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA), and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage (ATR/QM) provisions. The CFPB is required to make annual adjustments to dollar amounts in certain provisions in Regulation Z, and has based the adjustments on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index in effect on June 1, 2020. The following thresholds will be effective on January 1, 2021:
- For open-end consumer credit plans under TILA, the threshold for disclosing an interest charge will remain unchanged at $1.00;
- For open-end consumer credit plans under the CARD Act, the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a first violation penalty fee will remain unchanged at $29, and the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a subsequent violation penalty fee will also remain unchanged at $40;
- For HOEPA loans, the adjusted total loan amount threshold for high-cost mortgages will be $22,052, and the adjusted points and fees dollar trigger for high-cost mortgages will be $1,103; and
- The maximum thresholds for total points and fees for qualified mortgages under the ATR/QM rule will be: (i) three percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $110,260; (ii) $3,308 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $66,156 but less than $110,260; (iii) five percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $22,052 but less than $66,156; (iv) $1,103 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $13,783 but less than $22,052; and (v) eight percent of the total loan amount for loan amounts less than $13,783.
On July 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a class action challenging the lender placed insurance practices of a mortgage servicer, concluding that the filed-rate doctrine blocked the claims. According to the opinion, borrowers from North Carolina and New Jersey filed suit against their reverse mortgage lender and insurance company, alleging the lender and insurer colluded to overcharge consumers for lender placed insurance in violation of TILA, the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and various state laws. Specifically, the plaintiffs asserted that the insurance company charged an insurance rate, which was appropriately filed with state regulators, that was higher than the mortgage lender paid. The plaintiffs asserted the insurer then returned a portion of the profits back to the lender in order to induce continued insurance business. The district court dismissed the action, holding that the filed-rate doctrine blocked the claims.
On appeal, the 3rd Circuit agreed with the lower court. The appellate court emphasized that under the filed-rate doctrine, there is no distinction between “challenging a filed rate as unreasonable and…challenging an overcharge fraudulently included in a filed rate.” Because the plaintiffs sought damages in connection with the alleged overcharge of insurance premiums, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiffs were “functionally challeng[ing] the reasonableness of rates filed with state regulators.” Moreover, the appellate court noted that if the court were to award damages to the plaintiffs, the court would essentially be “giving these borrowers a better price for [lender placed insurance] than other  borrowers using a different lender,” but the same insurer. Thus, because the insurance rate was appropriately filed with the state regulators, the appellate court had no ability to decide whether the rate was “unreasonable or fraudulently inflated,” because the claims were precluded by the filed-rate doctrine.
On July 2, the CFPB issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend Regulation Z, as required by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, and exempt certain insured depository institutions and credit unions from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for certain higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs). Under the proposed amendment, any loan made by an insured depository institution or credit union that is secured by a first lien on the principal dwelling of a consumer would be exempt from Regulation Z’s HPML escrow requirement if (i) the institution has assets of no more than $10 billion; (ii) “the institution and its affiliates originated 1,000 or fewer loans secured by a first lien on a principal dwelling during the preceding calendar year”; and (iii) the institution meets certain existing HPML escrow exemption criteria. Comments on the NPRM will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Being fair, responsible, & profitable" at the QuestSoft Lending Compliance & Risk Management Virtual Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "NMLS mortgage call report – Where’s NMLS 2.0?" at the QuestSoft Lending Compliance & Risk Management Virtual Conference
- Thomas A. Sporkin to discuss "Managing internal investigations and advanced government defense" at the Securities Enforcement Forum
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "2021 - A new beginning/what's to come" at the QuestSoft Lending Compliance & Risk Management Virtual Conference
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Mortgage servicing in a recession: Early intervention, loss mitigation and more" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Independent monitoring in the United States" at the World Compliance Association Peru Chapter IV International Conference on Compliance and the Fight Against Corruption
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Cyber security, incident response, crisis management" at the Legal & Diversity Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "The future of fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Pandemic fallout – Navigating practical operational challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "BSA/AML - Covid impact and regulatory/guidance roundup" at an NAFCU webinar