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On July 30, the CFPB published its second semiannual report to Congress. The report, which is mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act, provides an update of CFPB activities from January 1, 2012 through June 30, 2012. Included in the report is an overview of the CFPB’s complaint handling process and updated summary information about complaints received to date. The CFPB also states that it is currently conducting investigations spanning the “full breadth of the Bureau’s enforcement jurisdiction” while attempting to focus on violations that cause the most harm to consumers. As in the first report, this report identifies consumer “shopping challenges”, highlights planned regulatory activities for the remainder of 2012, and compiles citations to testimony and speeches delivered, and reports prepared or expected to be prepared over the coming months.
On July 30, the FTC released staff comments submitted in response to the CFPB’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the regulation of prepaid cards. The CFPB issued the Notice in May, noting its intention to extend Regulation E to cover general purpose reloadable gift cards and seeking comment, data, and information about such cards. In response, the FTC staff comments review the current regulation of payment cards, and identify for the CFPB’s consideration several consumer protection issues that may arise with regard to prepaid cards, including (i) liability limits, (ii) disclosure and fees expiration dates, (iii) error resolution procedures, (iv) authorization standards for recurrent payments, and (v) consumer access to account information.
On July 20, the CFPB released a report on private student loans, prepared in conjunction with the Department of Education. Pursuant to Section 1077 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the report covers (i) the evolution and current state of the private lending market, (ii) the characteristics of consumers of private student loans, (iii) consumer protections, including recent changes and possible gaps, (iv) fair lending compliance information currently available and its implications, and (v) statutory or legislative recommendations to improve consumer protections. The report includes a series of recommendations from the CFPB and the Department of Education. The CFPB recommends that Congress require lenders to obtain a certification of the student’s financial need from the educational institution before disbursing private student loan funds. The CFPB also recommends that Congress examine the impact that the 2005 amendments to the bankruptcy code that made private student loans non-dischargeable in bankruptcy absent a showing of undue hardship, have had on young borrowers. On July 24, the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman appeared before the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection to discuss the report and the CFPB’s recommendations. The hearing also included testimony from consumer groups and one private student lender.
On July 18, Representatives Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Baca (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6139, a bill that would create a national charter for qualified non-depository creditors, to be known as National Consumer Credit Corporations (NCCCs). The bill would task the OCC with assessing applications with a focus on the applicant institution’s ability to offer products that provide credit to underserved consumers, and developing a process for approving financial products to be offered by NCCCs. The OCC would be able to establish an annual fee for a charter, but it would not be permitted to restrict the method by which an NCCC offers its products, or to establish usury limits. NCCCs would be subject to certain restrictions, including a prohibition on consumer loans with terms of 30 days or less. The House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit held a hearing to consider H.R. 6139 on July 24, 2012.
On July 24, Senators Merkley (D-OR), Udall (D-NM), and Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill, first revealed by Senator Merkley in March 2012, and now formalized as S. 3426, the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic Lending Act. According to a press release, the bill seeks to (i) ensure that a third party doesn’t gain control of a consumer’s account through remotely created checks, (ii) allow consumers to cancel a debit in connection with a small-dollar loan, (iii) require all lenders, including banks, to abide by a state’s rules for small-dollar, payday-like loans they offer customers in the state, (iv) ban lead generators and anonymously registered payday lending websites, and (v) give the CFPB authority to shut down payment processing for lenders that are violating state and other consumer lending laws through the Internet.
Congress Acts on Bills Regarding Protection of Information Submitted to CFPB and ATM Fee Disclosure Requirements
On July 12, Representatives Renacci (R-OH) and Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced H.R. 6125, a bill that would amend the Federal Deposit Insurance Act to grant protections to documents and information submitted by banks and nonbanks to the CFPB and state bank and financial regulators. H.R. 4014, a similar bill, previously passed the House with broad bipartisan support. The House also recently passed by a wide margin H.R. 4367, a bill to eliminate the EFTA requirement that ATM providers attach a fee disclosure placard to their machines. On July 17, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Johnson (D-SD) introduced with the support of Ranking Member Shelby (R-AL) S. 3394, which combines versions of H.R. 4014 and H.R. 4367 for Senate consideration.
On July 18, the CFPB announced its first public enforcement action - a Consent Order entered into by a major credit card issuer to resolve allegations that the issuer’s vendors deceptively marketed ancillary products such as payment protection and credit monitoring. The OCC made a corresponding enforcement announcement and released a Cease and Desist Order and Civil Money Penalty to resolve related charges. Under the CFPB order, the issuer will refund approximately $140 million to roughly two million customers, and will pay a $25 million penalty. The OCC order requires restitution of approximately $150 million (of which $140 million overlaps with the CFPB order) and an additional $35 million civil money penalty. Under both agencies’ actions, the issuer is prohibited from selling and marketing certain ancillary products until it obtains approval to do so from the regulators, and the issuer must take specific actions to enhance compliance with consumer financial laws.
Concurrently, the CFPB issued Bulletin 2012-06, which states that the CFPB expects supervised institutions and their vendors to offer ancillary products in compliance with federal consumer financial laws. The guidance cites “CFPB supervisory experience [that] indicates that some credit card issuers have employed deceptive promotional practices when marketing” such products, including (i) failing to adequately disclose terms and conditions, (ii) enrolling customers without their consent, and (iii) billing for services not performed. The Bulletin reviews applicable federal law and outlines the compliance program components that the CFPB expects supervised institutions to maintain.
On July 16, the CFPB announced the release of its spring 2012 rulemaking agenda. The agenda lists the regulatory matters that the CFPB anticipates pursuing during the period June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2013. It also updates the CFPB’s first-ever such agenda, published as part of the fall 2011 Unified Agenda. For example, the updated agenda indicates that the CFPB expects to issue by January 2013, an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the registration of certain nonbank entities, whereas the fall 2011 agenda anticipated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this topic by March 2012. Similarly, the new rulemaking agenda updates the date by which the CFPB expects to take further action on developing regulations concerning the expanded HMDA data collection required by the Dodd-Frank Act from October 2012 to April 2013.
On July 16, the CFPB finalized a rule that will allow it to begin supervising certain consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB has authority to supervise, regardless of size, nonbanks offering (i) certain mortgage-related products and services, (ii) private education loans, and (iii) payday loans. The CFPB also has the power to supervise “larger participants” in any other market for consumer financial products or services, provided that it first conducts a rulemaking to define “larger participants.” Under this first “larger participant” rule, the CFPB will have supervisory authority over CRAs with more than $7 million in annual receipts from consumer reporting activities, effective September 30, 2012. The CFPB believes that the $7 million threshold will cover 30 companies that account for 94% of total industry receipts. The final rule is divided into two parts: (i) Subpart A sets the definitions and other terms applicable to the CFPB’s supervision of “larger participants” in general, and (ii) Subpart B identifies the market, terms, and “larger participant” test for the CRA industry. This latter part will be expanded for each new market the CFPB opts to supervise under its “larger participant” authority. While the rule as proposed also included a threshold for use in identifying “larger participants” in the debt collection market, the CFPB has postponed issuance of the final debt collection “larger participant” rule until the fall. The CFPB described the final rule as “the first in a series of rules to define larger participants of other markets.”
On July 2, the Chairman of a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee, Representative McHenry (R-NC), sent a letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray seeking information and documents regarding the CFPB’s contacts with the executive branch. As an independent federal agency, the letter explains, the CFPB should operate “free from executive control.” The letter catalogues meetings and other interactions between CFPB staff and executive branch personnel that Mr. McHenry believes “raise concerns about the [CFPB’s] commitment to regulatory independence.” Representative McHenry asks that the CFPB produce documents and information in response to a series of questions by July 16, 2012. For example, the letter seeks (i) information about requested or suggested actions originating from the Executive Office of the President (EOP), (ii) CFPB internal guidelines and procedures to ensure independence from the executive branch, and (iii) all documents and communications between the CFPB and any employee of the EOP.
This week, 90 members of the House of Representatives reportedly sent a letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray urging the CFPB to include a clear and strong safe harbor in its final “ability to repay” or “qualified mortgage” (QM) rule. The rule would require creditors to verify a consumer’s ability to repay prior to making a residential mortgage loan and would define a QM that has a presumption of compliance with the ability to repay requirement. The letter, which was initiated by Representatives Capito (R-WV) and Sherman (D-CA), adds to a record that some Members of Congress have been building with regard to the QM rule. The Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee chaired by Representative Capito held a hearing this week to receive testimony on the rule from stakeholders. While the witnesses generally agreed that the QM rule should be broad and provide clearly defined standards, differences of opinion remain with regard to the safe harbor issue. This week the extended comment period for the rule closed; the CFPB has indicated that it expects to issue its final rule before the end of 2012.
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to provide “Fair lending update” at the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association Operational and Compliance Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Justice for all: Achieving racial equity through fair lending” at CBA Live
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss “On the horizon for CRA modernization” at CBA Live
- APPROVED Webcast: Strategy & Technology: A dynamic duo for successful regulatory exams
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss “Primer on cross-border prosecutions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico for U.S. criminal lawyers” at a New York City Bar Association webinar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “State law regulatory and enforcement trends” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Government investigations, and compliance 2021 trends” at the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference
- Max Bonici to discuss “BSA/AML trends: What to expect with the implementation of the AML Act of 2020” at the American Bar Association Banking Law Fall Meeting
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss “Modifications and exiting forbearance” at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute