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On June 11, the CFPB announced that its first symposium, regarding the meaning of “abusive acts or practices” under Section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act, will be held on June 25. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB announced a symposia series that will convene to discuss consumer protections in “today’s dynamic financial services marketplace.” The June 25 symposium will be a public forum with two panels of experts discussing unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices (UDAAP). The first panel will be a policy discussion, moderated by Tom Pahl, CFPB’s Policy Associate Director, Research, Markets and Regulation. The second panel will examine how the “abusive” standard has been used in practice in the field and will be moderated by David Bleicken, CFPB Deputy Associate Director, Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending.
In addition to the June 25 symposium, the series will have future events discussing behavioral law and economics, small business loan data collection, disparate impact and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, cost-benefit analysis, and consumer authorized financial data sharing.
On June 11, House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters and 64 other Democratic House members sent a letter to the CFPB urging rescission of its May proposal to permanently raise the coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting HMDA data and to retire its HMDA Explorer tool. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In the letter, members argue that recent data “showed widespread discrimination in bank lending” and that redlining continues to be a pervasive problem. They note that HMDA data is an important tool for public officials to understand access to credit in their communities, and that the Bureau’s proposal would exempt “about half of lending institutions from reporting data about closed-end mortgages … [and] sacrifice information that can make a difference in the lives of creditworthy, lower-income consumers.” The members also ask for information regarding the new Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) query tool that is to be used as a replacement for the HMDA Explorer tool and Public Data Platform API that the Bureau plans to retire, as previously covered by InfoBytes here.
On June 6, twenty six Democratic Senators sent a letter to the CFPB requesting that the Bureau reconsider the recent debt collection rulemaking proposal to “pursue more meaningful reforms that put consumers . . . first.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in May, the CFPB released its highly anticipated debt collection rulemaking, which regulates debt collection communications and disclosures and addresses related practices by debt collectors. Among other things, the proposed rule would (i) require debt collectors to provide consumers with a validation notice containing specific information regarding the debt; (ii) restrict debt collectors from calling consumers regarding a particular debt more than seven times within a seven-day-period and prohibit telephone contact for seven days after the debt collector has had a conversation with the consumer; (iii) allow for consumers to unsubscribe from various communication channels with debt collectors, including text or email; and (iv) prevent debt collectors from contacting consumers on their workplace email addresses or through public-facing social media platforms.
In the letter, the Senators argue that the proposed rule as currently written “will only exacerbate and increase troubling harassment tactics” by debt collectors. The Senators note that the Bureau received 81,500 consumer debt collection complaints, and the FTC received nearly 458,000 such complaints in 2018, and argue that the proposed rule does not do enough to address the particular abusive practices that those complaints raised. The Senators allege that the proposed rule “permits collectors to overwhelm consumers with intrusive communications” because it allows for unlimited text messages and emails and allows for collectors to call consumers seven times per week, per debt. Additionally, the Senators argue that the proposed rule “could encourage collectors to practice willful ignorance about the status of the debt they collect,” as it only “prohibits filing or threatening to file a lawsuit if the collector ‘knows or should know’ that the debt is not enforceable.” Lastly, the Senators assert that the Bureau should hold attorneys who engage in debt collection to a “higher standard, [they should] not be granted a safe harbor to engage in abusive and deceptive practices.”
On June 6, the FTC announced that it submitted its 2018 Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report to the CFPB. The report—which the Bureau requested for its use in preparing its 2018 Annual Report to Congress—covers the FTC’s enforcement activities regarding Regulation Z (the Truth in Lending Act or TILA), Regulation M (the Consumer Leasing Act or CLA), and Regulation E (the Electronic Fund Transfer Act or EFTA). Highlights of the enforcement matters covered in the report include:
- Auto Lending and Leasing. The report discusses two enforcement matters related to deceptive automobile dealer practices. The first, filed in August 2018, alleged that a group of four auto dealers, among other things, advertised misleading discounts and incentives in their vehicle advertisements, and falsely inflated consumers’ income and down payment information on financing applications. The charges brought against the defendants allege violations of the FTC Act, TILA, and the CLA. The FTC sought, among other remedies, a permanent injunction to prevent future violations, restitution, and disgorgement. (Detailed InfoBytes coverage of the filing is available here.) In the second, in December 2018, the FTC mailed over 43,000 checks, totaling over $3.5 million, to consumers allegedly harmed by nine dealerships and owners engaged in deceptive and unfair sales and financing practices, deceptive advertising, and deceptive online reviews. (Detailed InfoBytes coverage is available here.)
- Payday Lending. The report covers two enforcement matters, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s December 2018 decision upholding the $1.3 billion judgment against defendants responsible for operating an allegedly deceptive payday lending program. The decision is the result of a 2012 complaint in which the FTC alleged that the defendants engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the FTC Act by making false and misleading representations about costs and payment of the loans. (Detailed InfoBytes coverage is available here.) The report also indicates that, in February 2018, the FTC issued over 72,000 checks totaling more an $2.9 million to consumers stemming from a July 2015 settlement, that alleged that online payday operators used personal financial information purchased from third-party lead generators or data brokers to make unauthorized deposits into and withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts, regardless of whether the consumer applied for a payday loan. (Detailed InfoBytes coverage is available here.)
- Negative Option. The report covers six enforcement matters related to alleged violations of the EFTA and Regulation E for “negative option” plans, including three new filings against online marketers for allegedly advertising “free trial” offers for products that enrolled consumers in expensive, ongoing plans without their knowledge or consent. The report notes that, in 2018, the FTC reached a settlement with one entity and obtained a court judgment against another, both resulting in injunctive relief and monetary settlements (which were suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay). The report also notes that the FTC mailed 2,116 refund checks totaling more than $355,000 to people who bought an allegedly deceptive “memory improvement” supplement.
Additionally, the report addresses the FTC’s research and policy efforts related to truth in lending and leasing, and electronic fund transfer issues, including (i) a study of consumers’ experiences in buying and financing automobiles at dealerships; and (ii) the FTC’s Military Task Force’s work on military consumer protection issues. The report also outlines the FTC’s consumer and business education efforts, which include several blog posts warning of new scams and practices.
On May 21, the CFPB issued two orders partially modifying civil investigative demands (CID) issued by the Bureau in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, a revised CID was issued to a provider of tax debt relief products and services concerning potential violations of UDAAP provisions under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). Thereafter, the company petitioned the Bureau to set aside or modify the CID, arguing, among other things, that (i) the CFPA does not empower the CFPB to issue a CID to a tax preparation company given it does not provide a “‘consumer financial product or service’”; (ii) the investigation should be limited initially to information relevant to determining whether the Bureau has enforcement authority over the company; and (iii) the CID is overly broad because the notification of purpose does not comply with the CFPA’s requirements for authorizing Bureau CIDs. In the order, the Bureau rejected the company’s argument that it is not subject to the Bureau’s enforcement authority, stating that the agency is authorized to issue a CID to any person who may have information relevant to a violation, and moreover, the Bureau need not accept as true the company’s factual assertions that its business conduct does not include any activities covered by the CFPA. It also declined the company’s request that the CID be modified to focus solely on information relevant to determining whether the Bureau has enforcement authority over the company, stating that an agency may simultaneously investigate jurisdictional facts and possible violations. The Bureau further noted that the CFPA does not require a notification of purpose to identify particular persons who engaged in the conduct at issue or whether the company itself is under investigation. However, the CFPB modified the notification of purpose to include a statement reflecting that an additional purpose of the investigation is to determine whether false and misleading representation have been made to consumers regarding tax debt relief products and services.
In 2018 a second CID was issued to a financial services company to investigate whether it has engaged in any potential UDAAP violations concerning its marketing and servicing of deferred- interest financing. The company petitioned the Bureau to set aside the CID on the grounds that it (i) provides an inadequate notification of purpose; (ii) seeks information not relevant to any investigation; (iii) is unduly broad and burdensome; and (iv) “is fundamentally at odds” with the Bureau’s mission. Among other things, the Bureau’s order rejected the company’s argument that oral misrepresentations related to deferred-interest financing “are not relevant because no such representations were made to consumers (or, if they were, they were not so numerous as to merit the Bureau’s attention),” or they were not made by the company. According to the Bureau, these objections go to whether the company complied with the law, not whether the information the Bureau seeks is relevant. The Bureau also rejected the company’s arguments related to whether the agency could seek information related to transactions outside of the limitations period for potential violations of the CFPA, stating that the information may allow the Bureau to develop an understanding of the company’s practices and operations. However, while the Bureau emphasized that the company failed to demonstrate that complying with the CID would be overly burdensome, it did make some modifications to the notification of purpose on the recommendation of enforcement counsel, and extended the production timeline.
On June 6, the CFPB released a final rule to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). Compliance with these provisions of the Rule is now due by November 19, 2020.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, in February, when the CFPB released two notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) related to certain lending requirements under the Rule—one proposing the delay to the compliance date for mandatory underwriting provisions, and the other proposing to rescind the underwriting portion of the Rule that would make it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans, or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay—the Bureau emphasized that the NPRM extending the compliance date for mandatory underwriting provisions did not extend the effective date for the Rule’s provisions governing payments.
Notably, on May 30, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas entered an order continuing the stay of the original compliance date for both the underwriting provisions and the payment provisions of the Rule in a payday loan trade group’s litigation challenging the Rule. (Previous InfoBytes coverage on the litigation is available here.) The order requires the parties to file a joint status report no later than August 2.
On May 30, the CFPB released the latest quarterly consumer credit trends report, which examines the fluctuations in consumers’ credit scores and the timing of consumers’ applications for credit. The report analyzes consumers whose credit scores showed large increases or decreases between 2009 and 2017. Key findings of the report include, (i) consumers with large credit score changes, in either direction, tend to be younger and have considerably lower credit scores on average; (ii) application rates drop sharply as credit scores reach their minimums, and then, after hitting bottom application rates trend steadily upward; and (iii) patterns in application rates generally hold regardless of the levels of minimum and maximum credit scores.
The report notes that while the Bureau did not perform “a full accounting of the underlying mechanism” that leads to the observed patterns, there are a few possible explanations, including (i) consumers are more aware of their credit scores due to the wider availability of them, which would influence timing of applications; (ii) hard inquiries and results from hard inquiries may contribute to the observed peaks and troughs in the scores; (iii) marketing practices by card issuers may contribute to increased applications after a consumer’s credit score qualifies the consumer for a prescreened offer.
On May 31, the CFPB released FAQs to assist with TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID) compliance. The two new FAQs relate to the application of TRID to construction loans. Highlights include:
- Most construction-only and construction-permanent loans are covered by TRID as long as such a loan: (i) is made by a creditor as defined in Regulation Z; (ii) is a closed-end, consumer credit transaction; (iii) is secured in full or in part by real property or cooperative unit; (iii) is not a reverse mortgage; and (iv) is not exempt for any reason under Regulation Z.
- There are three special disclosure provisions for construction-only or construction-permanent loans under TRID: (i) Section 1026.17(c)(6) permits a creditor to issue separate or combined disclosures for construction-permanent loans based on whether each phase is treated as a separate transaction; (ii) Appendix D provides methods that may be used for estimating construction phase financing disclosures; and (iii) Section 1026.19(e)(3)(iv)(F) permits creditors, in certain instances involving new construction, to use a revised estimate of a charge for good faith tolerance purposes when settlement will occur more than 60 days after the original Loan Estimate. The Bureau notes that these provisions apply “even if the creditor does not necessarily label the product as construction-only or construction-permanent, so long as the product meets the requirements discussed in each provision.”
On May 22, the FTC published a final rule in the Federal Register rescinding model forms and disclosures promulgated pursuant to the FCRA. The FTC has determined the model forms and disclosures are no longer necessary and the rescission would reduce confusion as the CFPB’s FCRA model forms and disclosures were updated in 2018. Specifically, the final rule rescinds: (i) Appendix A—Model Prescreen Opt-Out Notices; (ii) Appendix D—Standardized Form for Requesting Annual File Disclosures; (iii) Appendix E—Summary of Identity Theft Rights; (iv) Appendix F—General Summary of Consumer Rights; (v) Appendix G—Notice of Furnisher Responsibilities; and (vi) Appendix H—Notice of User Responsibilities. The final rule also makes conforming amendments to FTC rules that reference the applicable forms issued under the FCRA. The rule is effective May 22.
On May 22, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s spring 2019 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau blog post, the information presented represents regulatory matters it “reasonably anticipates having under consideration during the period of May 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020.” The rulemaking activities include implementing statutory directives mandated in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act), continuing certain other rulemakings previously outlined in the Bureau’s fall 2018 agenda (covered by InfoBytes here), as well as considering future projects and requests for information.
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Loans (PACE): On March 4, the Bureau published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) and request for comments in response to Section 307 of the Act, which amended TILA to mandate the CFPB propose regulations related to PACE financing. The regulations must carry out the purposes of TILA’s ability-to-repay requirements, and apply TILA’s general civil liability provisions for violations. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Remittance Transfers: On April 25, the Bureau issued a request for information (RFI) on two aspects of the Remittance Rule that require financial companies handling international money transfers, or remittance transfers, to disclose to individuals transferring money the exact exchange rate, fees, and the amount expected to be delivered. The RFI seeks information related to the expiration of the temporary exception and whether to propose changing the number of remittance transfers a provider must make to be governed by the rule. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- HMDA/Regulation C: On May 2, the Bureau issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to raise permanently coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting data about closed-end mortgage loans and open-end lines of credit under the HMDA rules. Specifically, the NPRM would raise permanently the reporting threshold for closed-end mortgage loans from 25 loans in each of the two preceding calendar years to either 50 or 100 closed-end loans in each of the preceding two calendar years. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Debt Collection Rule: On May 7, the Bureau issued a NPRM to amend Regulation F, which implements the FDCPA, covering debt collection communications and consumer disclosures and addressing related practices by debt collectors. The Bureau reports that the NPRM “builds on research and pre-rulemaking activities regarding the debt collection market, which remains a top source of complaints.” (InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Payday Rule/Delay of Compliance Date: On February 6, the Bureau released two NPRMs related to certain payday lending requirements under the CFPB’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (the Rule). The first proposal would rescind portions of the Rule related to ability-to-repay underwriting standards for payday loans and related products scheduled to take effect later this year, while the second proposal would delay the compliance date for those same provisions for fifteen months. The Bureau anticipates it will issue a final rule concerning the compliance date this summer and a final determination on reconsideration thereafter. (InfoBytes coverage here.)
Long term priorities include rulemaking addressing (i) consumer reporting; (ii) amendments to FIRREA concerning automated valuation models; (iii) disclosure of records and information; (iv) consumer access to financial records; (v) Regulation E modernization; (vi) rules to implement the Act, concerning various mortgage requirements, student lending, and consumer reporting; and (vii) clarity for the definition of abusive acts and practices.
- APPROVED Webcast: Introducing Mogy — APPROVED’s licensing technology solution
- 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 "Mid-year policy update" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management 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
- Christopher M. Witeck and Moorari K. Shah to discuss "The latest in vendor management regulations" at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Buckley Webcast: Hot topics in debt collection — An analysis of recent federal FDCPA litigation
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "How to succeed in law school" at the SEO Law DC Panel Discussions
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Navigating the challenges of the latest data protection regulations and proven protocols for breach prevention and response" at the ACI National Forum on Consumer Finance Class Actions and Government Enforcement
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference