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On January 25, the CFPB, the Department of Defense, the FTC, and the New York Attorney General announced a partnership to develop the Repeat Offenders Against Military (ROAM) Database to track enforcement actions against entities or individuals engaged in consumer financial frauds against military personnel, veterans, and their families. The database, which should be available by mid-February, will compile publicly available information about completed civil and criminal legal actions and will be accessible and searchable by state attorneys general, U.S. Attorneys, and Judge Advocates from all branches of the armed services. The Consumer Protection Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General already has sent a letter to state attorneys general asking them to populate the new database with their enforcement action information. The FTC noted that the ROAM database will complement its Consumer Sentinel Network, which collects and provides wide access to consumer complaints, including those related to the frauds against servicemembers and their families.
On January 24, the CFPB announced a third round of testing of prototype mortgage closing forms as part of its Know Before You Owe campaign. In this round, the CFPB asks the public to compare two versions of its prototype closing forms and consider how each works with the prototype initial disclosure form the CFPB previously developed. The CFPB asks consumers to consider certain specific questions, including whether changes to loan terms or costs are easily identifiable from initial disclosure to closing. The CFPB also seeks comment on whether the disclosures are easy for lenders and settlement agents to use and explain. As with prior rounds of testing, the CFPB will travel to local communities to review the forms with the public. A fourth and final round of testing is expected next month.
On January 24, the House Oversight Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services, and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs held a hearing to receive testimony from newly appointed CFPB Director Richard Cordray. Committee members (i) sought the Director’s interpretation of the term “abusive” as it is used in the Dodd-Frank Act, (ii) requested more transparency into the CFPB’s planned regulatory actions, and (iii) requested CFPB action to mitigate the impacts of its regulations on small and community institutions. Mr. Cordray declined to offer a definition of “abusive”, relying instead on the statutory language. The Director did state that abusive practices that are not also either “unfair or deceptive”, likely would be addressed on a “facts and circumstances” basis rather than through an “abstract” regulatory definition. He did not rule out using “abusive practices” as the basis of an enforcement action prior to issuing any further guidance or rulemaking. The Director committed to consider following the SEC’s model of periodically publishing a regulatory agenda. He also explained that the CFPB will consider and address impacts of its regulatory actions on community banks and financial institutions with under $10 billion in assets.
On January 23, the CFPB and the FTC announced that the agencies had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to facilitate coordination of the agencies’ consumer financial rulemaking, enforcement, and supervision activities. The MOU establishes regular meetings between the two entities, as well as processes for providing notice of enforcement activities. Under the MOU, the CFPB and the FTC will be able to share consumer complaint information, and the FTC can request CFPB examination reports and confidential supervisory information.
On January 20, the CFPB issued a final rule to amend regulations applicable to consumer remittance transfers of over fifteen dollars originating in the United States and sent internationally. Generally, the final rule requires remittance transfer providers to (i) provide written pre-payment disclosures of the exchange rates and fees associated with a transfer of funds, as well as the amount of funds the recipient will receive, and (ii) investigate consumer disputes and remedy errors. The rulemaking stems from a Dodd-Frank Act provision that expanded the scope of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to cover international money transfers, and concludes an effort started by the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) that was transferred to the CFPB last year. The final rule closely tracks the proposed FRB rule, but among other things, provides (i) a thirty-minute cancellation period for consumers, as opposed to the proposed one-day period, (ii) additional compliance guidance for specific circumstances, including for transactions conducted by mobile applications, and (iii) revised model disclosure forms. Concurrent with the final rule, the CFPB issued a request for comment on additional revisions to the regulations, including comments and information for use in (i) setting a specific safe harbor for remittance transfer providers that do not provide such services “in the normal course of business”, and (ii) applying the new disclosure and cancellation requirements in cases where the request is made several days in advance of the transfer date. Comments on the proposal will be accepted for sixty days following publication in the Federal Register.
On January 19, the CFPB held a field hearing in Birmingham, Alabama to discuss payday lending products. The hearing, which was the first such hearing held by the CFPB, included three panels featuring CFPB staff, consumer groups, and industry representatives. In conjunction with the event, the CFPB also released its “Short-Term, Small-Dollar Lending Procedures,” which is a field guide for use in examining bank and nonbank payday lenders. These procedures are structured to mirror payday lending activities ranging from initial advertising to collection practices. The CFPB will prioritize its supervision of payday lenders depending on the perceived risk to consumers, taking into account factors such as a lender’s volume of business and the extent of existing state oversight. In remarks at the event, Director Richard Cordray stated that there are some payday lenders and practices that deserve more urgent attention because they present immediate risk to consumers and are “clearly illegal.” The Director identified two examples of such practices, including (i) unauthorized debits on a consumer’s checking account that can occur when the consumer unknowingly “is dealing with several businesses hidden behind a payday loan,” any one of which could be a “fraudster” merely seeking the customer’s private financial information, and (ii) “aggressive debt collection tactics” including “posing as federal authorities, threatening borrowers with criminal prosecution, trying to garnish wages improperly, and harassing the borrower.”
On January 12, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, which is responsible for providing legal advice to the President, released the memorandum it prepared in advance of the President’s recent decision to appoint Richard Cordray as CFPB Director. In short, the memorandum finds when the Senate is in a periodic pro forma session in which no business is to be conducted, the President may (i) conclude that the Senate is unavailable to perform its advise-and-consent function and (ii) exercise his power to make recess appointments. Pro forma sessions do not have the legal effect of interrupting an intrasession recess otherwise long enough to qualify as a "Recess of the Senate” under the Constitution. The conclusions are based on three considerations explored in detail in the memorandum: (i) the original understanding of the framers and the “longstanding views” of the executive and legislative branches with regard to the practical availability of the Senate to consider nominees, (ii) the inconsistent result of allowing pro forma sessions to prevent Presidential recess appointments given the purpose of the recess appointment clause and historical practice in similar situations, and (iii) the need to preserve constitutional separation of powers.
On January 11, the CFPB took its first action to implement its nonbank supervision program by releasing the procedures it will use in examining all bank and nonbank mortgage originators. The Mortgage Origination Examination Procedures describe the types of information examiners will collect to (i) evaluate policies and procedures, (ii) assess compliance with applicable consumer financial services law, and (iii) identify risks to consumers throughout the mortgage origination process. CFPB mortgage origination exams will focus on specific products and will cover one or more of the following modules: (i) company business model; (ii) advertising and marketing; (iii) loan disclosures and terms; (iv) underwriting, appraisals, and originator compensation; (v) closing; (vi) fair lending; and (vii) privacy. These newly released procedures are an extension of the Supervision and Examination Manual the CFPB released in October 2011 (see BuckleySandler Special Alert, October 17, 2011).
On January 4, President Obama invoked his office's recess appointment authority and appointed former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as Director of the CFPB. Mr. Cordray had been serving as Assistant Director for Enforcement at the CFPB while his nomination for Director was pending in the Senate. Although approved by the Senate Banking Committee, Mr. Cordray's confirmation had been blocked by lawmakers seeking to make substantive changes to the CFPB, such as replacing the director structure with a five-member commission. Republican senators objected to Cordray's appointment on constitutional grounds. They have argued that because the Senate has been holding "pro forma" sessions during its recess, President Obama lacked the authority to make a recess appointment. Click here for additional explanation from the White House.
On January 6, Mr. Cordray appointed Raj Date as Deputy Director of the CFPB. Most recently, Mr. Date, as Special Advisor to the Treasury Secretary, was responsible for operation of the CFPB pending confirmation of a director. Additionally, Mr. Cordray elevated Kent Markus to Assistant Director of the Office of Enforcement. Mr. Markus had been the CFPB Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Enforcement.
On January 4, the CFPB issued Bulletin 12-01 regarding treatment of privileged and confidential information collected during CFPB's supervisory processes. The Bulletin addresses the concern of supervised institutions that providing attorney-client privileged or work product documents during the supervisory process will waive such privileges with respect to third parties. The CFPB contends in the Bulletin that any privilege would not be waived by obligatory production to the CFPB, and that the CFPB "will not consider waiver concerns to be a valid basis for the withholding of privileged information responsive to a supervisory request." Nonetheless, the Bulletin indicates that the CFPB will give "due consideration" to requests to limit the scope of requests for privileged information, and invites institutions to "memorialize privilege claims when conveying privileged documents" to the CFPB. The Bulletin also clarifies all information obtained in the supervisory process will be exempt from production in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, but that sharing of information between federal and state supervisory and enforcement authorities may be required or appropriate in certain circumstances.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to moderate “Pandemic relief response and lasting impacts on access, credit, banking, and equality” at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Spring Meeting
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Post-pandemic CFPB exam preparation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Making fair lending work for you" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Reading the tea leaves of President Biden’s initial financial appointees" at LendIt Fintech
- APPROVED Webcast: Staying in the know with Buckley regtech solutions
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss “CA, NY, federal licensing and disclosure” at the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association Legal Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Compliance under Biden" at the WSJ Risk & Compliance Forum
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable