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On February 12, the FTC provided the CFPB with an annual summary of its 2023 enforcement, research and policy development, and educational-related initiatives on ECOA, as Dodd-Frank allows the Commission to enforce ECOA and any CFPB rules applicable to entities within the FTC’s jurisdiction. The letter emphasized the commitment of each agency to enforce laws protecting civil rights, fair competition, consumer protection, and equal opportunity in the development and use of automated systems and artificial intelligence. Additionally, the letter stated the FTC continued its involvement in initiatives such as military outreach and participation in interagency task forces on fair lending. Its initiatives focused on consumer and business education regarding issues related to Regulation B and guiding fair lending practices. The Commission also highlighted (1) an enforcement action against a group of auto dealerships alleging ECOA and its implementing Regulation B violations in connection with the sale of add-on products; (2) refund checks sent as a result of the settlement of two enforcement actions against auto dealerships in which it was alleged that the dealerships violated ECOA and Regulation B by discrimination against Black and Latino consumers by charging them higher financing costs; and (3) an amicus brief submitted to an appeals court in support of the CFPB’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit of the lower court’s decision regarding the applicability of ECOA to individuals other than “applicants.”
The CFPB recently issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work for the period beginning October 1, 2022 and ending March 31, 2023. The report, which is required by Dodd-Frank, includes, (i) a list of significant rules and orders (including final rules, proposed rules, pre-rule materials, and upcoming plans and initiatives); (ii) an analysis of consumer complaints, (iii) lists of public supervisory and enforcement actions, (iv) assessments of actions by state regulators and attorneys generals related to consumer financial law; (v) assessment of fair lending enforcement and rulemaking; and (vi) an analysis of efforts to increase workforce and contracting diversity.
On October 25, the Fed announced a proposed rule that would lower the maximum interchange fee that a debit card issuer with at least $10 billion in total consolidated assets can receive for a debit card transaction and would also establish a regular process for updating the maximum fee amount every other year going forward. Moreover, the Board approved the release of its latest biennial report which sets forth data collected from larger debit card issuers on interchange fees, issuer costs, and fraud related to debit card transactions.
Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Fed is required to establish standards for assessing whether the amount of any interchange fee received by a debit card issuer is reasonable and proportional to the costs incurred by the issuer for the applicable transaction, which results in the Fed setting an interchange fee cap. The FRB developed the fee cap in 2011 using data provided by large debit card issuers with $10 billion or more in assets. But since that time, the Fed has found that certain costs incurred by such debit card issuers have declined dramatically, yet the interchange fee cap has remained the same. As such, the Fed (i) proposes to update the interchange fee cap based on the latest data reported to the Board by large debit card issuers, and (ii) proposes to update the fee cap every other year by linking the fee cap to data from the Fed’s biennial report of large debit card issuers.
The comment period will close 90 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.
On September 27, the CFPB released a data point report titled 2022 Mortgage Market Activity and Trends, which analyzes residential mortgage lending activity and trends for 2022. The 2022 HMDA data reflects the fifth year of data that incorporates amendments to HMDA made by Dodd-Frank.
The CFPB noted in its press release accompanying the report that “in 2022, mortgage applications and originations declined markedly from the prior year, while rates, fees, discount points, and other costs increased. Overall affordability declined significantly, with borrowers spending more of their income on mortgage payments and lenders more often denying applications for insufficient income.” They also noted that “as in years past, independent lenders continued to dominate home mortgage lending, with the exception of home equity lines of credit.” Specifically, Lenders previously reported a 2.4 percent increase in closed-end site-built single-family originations from 2020 to 2021. In 2022, lenders reported 6.7 million closed-end site-built single-family originations, a 50.9 percent decrease from 13.7 million in 2021. Other highlighted trends in mortgage applications and originations found in the 2021 HMDA data point include, among other things:
- The total number of applications dropped 38.6 percent, and originations decreased by 44.1 percent;
- Borrowers’ costs and fees for taking out mortgages rose 22 percent from 2021, and a higher percentage of borrowers paid discount points than any year since this type of data has been collected;
- Refinances were down by 73.2 percent from 2021, with most refinances being cash-out refinances, which the CFPB noted can increase the risk of foreclosure. The CFPB noted that “in a reversal of recent trends, the median credit score of refinance borrowers declined below the median credit score of purchase borrowers.” Home-equity refinances, however, rose in 2022, with depository institutions dominating the home-equity lines of credit;
- Black and Hispanic white borrowers, borrowers of low- or moderate-income, and borrowers taking out loans secured with properties in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods accounted for a large share of refinance loans;
- Due to a rise in mortgage interest rates, average monthly mortgage payments increased by more than 46 percent;
- Debt to income ratio became more likely to be reported as a denial reason for denied applications across racial/ethnic groups in 2022.
In CFPB Director Rohit Chopra’s statement regarding the results of the 2022 HMDA data, he stated, “The significant changes in the rate environment in 2022 are having considerable impacts on the mortgage market. I expect these trends will continue in 2023 given further increases in average mortgage interest rates.”
On September 5, the CFPB filed an opposition to a motion for a preliminary injunction made by a group of Kentucky banks (plaintiff banks) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the plaintiff banks filed their motion for a preliminary injunction seeking an order to enjoin the CFPB from enforcing the Small Business Lending Rule against them for the same reasons that a Texas district court enjoined enforcement of the rule (Texas decision covered by InfoBytes here). The CFPB argues that the plaintiff banks have not satisfied any of the factors necessary for preliminary relief, including that they have not shown that their claim is likely to succeed on the merits, and they have not shown that they face imminent irreparable harm. The Bureau also argues that the plaintiff banks are factually wrong in asserting that the Rule would require lenders to compile “‘scores of additional data points’ about their small business loans,” and that the additional data requirements are consistent with the Bureau’s statutory authority to require such additional data if it assists in “‘fulfilling the purposes of [the statute].’” The CFPB argues, among other things, that the “outlier ruling of the 5th Circuit” in the Texas case does not demonstrate that the plaintiff banks are entitled to the relief they seek.
On September 1, the CFPB posted guidance to its website that affirms guidance on the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) that the Department of Housing and Urban Development previously issued. In 2011, the Dodd-Frank Act transferred responsibility for RESPA from HUD to the CFPB. At the time, the Bureau stated that it would apply “the official commentary, guidance, and policy statements” that HUD had issued on RESPA “pending further CFPB action” and would give “due consideration” to other (i.e., informal) guidance and interpretations. Although the Bureau has issued certain consent orders and other statements that may cast doubt on whether it interprets RESPA in the same manner that HUD did, in the most recent posting, the Bureau confirms that the list of documents posted by the Bureau generally “continue to be applied today by the CFPB.”
CFPB contests motions for preliminary injunctions to block enforcement of Small Business Lending Rule
On August 22, the CFPB filed an opposition to a motion made by a group of intervenors seeking to expand the scope of a preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, which enjoined the CFPB from implementing its Small Business Lending Rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the original plaintiffs in the litigation, a Texas banking association and a Texas bank, challenged the legality of the CFPB’s Small Business Lending Rule. After the American Bankers Association joined the case, the plaintiffs sought, and the court granted, a preliminary injunction enjoining implementation and enforcement of the rule against plaintiffs and their members. The intervenors, who consist of both banking and credit union trade associations, as well as individual banks and credit unions, seek a nationwide injunction that would apply beyond the parties to the case, or at least to the intervenors and their members. The CFPB’s opposition to this request for an expanded preliminary injunction argues that the intervenors fail to show that they would suffer immediate harm from enforcement of the Small Business Lending Rule.
In a related matter, on August 21, a group of Kentucky banks and a Kentucky banking association filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky against the CFPB, seeking a preliminary injunction enjoining the CFPB from enforcing the Small Business Lending Rule against the plaintiffs and their members. Referencing the parallel Texas litigation, the Kentucky plaintiffs allege that they are entitled to an order enjoining enforcement of the Small Business Lending Rule against them for the same reasons that the Texas district court enjoined enforcement of the rule.
The most recent litigation activity follows a request from a group of trade associations to the CFPB to take administrative action to address the disparity in compliance dates that results from the district court’s injunction, a disparity that the trade associations argue is both unfair and disruptive to the market’s compliance efforts. The CFPB declined this request.
Both of these challenges to the Small Business Lending Rule point to a recent decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Community Financial Services Association of America v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where the court found that the CFPB’s “perpetual self-directed, double-insulated funding structure” violated the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause (covered by InfoBytes here), as justification for why the final rule should ultimately be set aside.
On August 10, FHFA published the Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests Results – Severely Adverse Scenario containing the results of the ninth annual stress tests conducted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. Last year, FHFA published orders for the GSEs to conduct a stress test with specific scenarios to determine whether companies have the capital necessary to absorb losses as a result of severely adverse economic conditions (covered by InfoBytes here). According to the report, the total comprehensive income loss is between $8.4 billion and $9.9 billion depending on how deferred tax assets are treated. Notably, compared to last year, the severely adverse scenario includes a larger increase in the unemployment rate due to the lower unemployment rate at the beginning of the planning horizon. FHFA also expanded the scope of entities considered within the primary counterparty default component of the worldwide market shock. This expansion encompasses mortgage insurers, unsecured overnight deposits, providers of multifamily credit enhancements, nonbank servicers, and credit risk transfer reinsurance counterparties.
On August 9, Governor Hochul announced New York’s first-ever statewide cybersecurity strategy to protect the state’s digital infrastructure from cyber threats. The cybersecurity strategy articulates a set of high-level objectives and agency roles and responsibilities, as well as outlines how existing and planned initiatives will be weaved together in a unified approach. The central principles of the strategy are unification, resilience, and preparedness, with a focus on state agencies working together with local governments to strengthen the entire state’s defenses. Included in the plan was a $600 million commitment to improve cybersecurity, including (i) a $90 million investment for cybersecurity in Fiscal Year 2024; (ii) $500 million to enhance healthcare information technology; and (iii) $7.4 million for law enforcement entities to expand their cybercrime capabilities.
On August 9, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and John Fetterman (D-PA) wrote a letter to the Chair and Vice Chair of Supervision for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System urging the Fed to “review and reconsider” its procedures for approving bank mergers. The letter cites the Dodd-Frank Act’s amendment to the Bank Merger Act, which mandates that federal banking regulators consider whether a proposed merger “would result in greater or more concentrated risks” to the stability of the banking or financial system. The senators also voiced concern that the Fed has “not issued any rules or guidance indicating the types of bank mergers that would implicate financial stability concerns” and criticized the process around the Fed’s approval of recent acquisitions.