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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • CFPB Puts Consumer Lenders on Notice Regarding Discriminatory Practices

    Consumer Finance

    The CFPB today put consumer lenders on notice that it “will use all available legal avenues, including disparate impact, to pursue lenders whose practices discriminate against consumers.” The CFPB intends to employ disparate impact when examining auto lenders, credit card issuers , student lenders, mortgage lenders, and other providers of consumer credit, allowing the CFPB to claim an institution has engaged in discriminatory lending based on the effects and not the intent of the lending practices. In remarks to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition today, CFPB Director Richard Cordray stated that “[t]he consequences of ‘disparate impact’ discrimination are very real and they affect consumers just as significantly as other forms of discrimination.” To help consumers identify and avoid credit discrimination, the CFPB also compiled and released new lending discrimination “tips and warning signs.”

    Concurrent with the announcement, the CFPB published Bulletin 2012-04 to specifically reaffirm its commitment to applying  disparate impact when conducting supervision and examination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and its implementing regulation, Regulation B. In support of this application, the CFPB cites what it refers to as the “consensus approach” outlined by a 1994 interagency Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending, which notes court findings that discriminatory lending in violation of ECOA can be established through (i) overt evidence of discrimination, (ii) evidence of disparate treatment, and (iii) evidence of disparate impact. The CFPB also argues that the ECOA legislative history, as characterized in the original Regulation B adopted by the Federal Reserve Board, supports application of the disparate impact doctrine.

    Credit Cards CFPB Nonbank Supervision Auto Finance Fair Lending

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  • CFPB Previews Mortgage Servicing Rules

    Lending

    On April 9, the CFPB previewed its upcoming mortgage servicing rules, which likely will be proposed this summer and finalized in January 2013. The key aspects of the proposal relate broadly to (i) monthly mortgage statements, (ii) ARM adjustment disclosures, (iii) force-placed insurance, (iv) payment crediting, (v) error resolution and borrower inquiries, and (vi) borrower outreach and borrower information. The majority of the details were provided in an outline prepared for a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel, which will consider the potential impact of the planned rules on small businesses. The outline includes model forms related to periodic statements, ARM reset notices, and force-placed insurance notices, which the CFPB has been testing in recent months. The CFPB release also included questions directed to the small entity representatives in order to assist the SBREFA panel in understanding the potential economic impacts of the particular proposals under consideration by the CFPB. Generally, the servicing proposals incorporate statutory changes imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act, which would go into effect in January 2013 unless final rules are issued on or before that date. The concepts in the proposal that do not address specific Dodd-Frank requirements are consistent with servicing requirements imposed by recent mortgage servicing consent orders and/or recent requirements for servicing delinquent loans owned by or serviced on behalf of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (see, e.g., Federal Reserve Board Consent Orders and Fannie Mae Ann. SVC 2011-08R).

    CFPB Fannie Mae Federal Reserve Mortgage Servicing

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  • CFPB Issues Bulletin Regarding Supervision of Vendors

    Consumer Finance

    On April 13, the CFPB issued Bulletin 2012-3, which states the CFPB's expectation that supervised banks and nonbanks have an effective process for managing the risks of service provider relationships. In a press release announcing the Bulletin, the CFPB promised to “take a close look at service providers’ interactions with consumers” and “hold all appropriate companies accountable when legal violations occur.” According to the Bulletin, the CFPB expects supervised institutions to (i) conduct thorough due diligence to verify that a service provider understands and is capable of complying with the law, (ii) request and review a service provider’s policies, procedures, internal controls, and training materials to ensure that the service provider conducts appropriate training and oversight of employees or agents that have consumer contact or compliance responsibilities, (iii) include in the contract with a service provider clear expectations about compliance, as well as appropriate and enforceable consequences for violating any compliance-related responsibilities; (iv) establish internal controls and on-going monitoring to determine whether a service provider is complying with the law, and (v) take prompt action to address fully any problems identified through the monitoring process.

    CFPB Nonbank Supervision

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  • CFPB Proposes Narrowing Application of Credit Card Fee Limit

    Consumer Finance

    On April 12, the CFPB published a proposed rule that would lift the current limit on credit card fees charged prior to account opening. Under the current rule, as adopted by the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) in April 2011, card issuers are limited to charging fees up to 25 percent of the credit limit in effect when the account is opened. The FRB rule applies this fee limit prior to account opening and during the first year after account opening. The CFPB proposal would limit the application of this fee restriction to only during the first year after account opening.  This proposal addresses a legal challenge to restricting the amount of fees charged prior to account opening, which resulted in a court issuing a preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of the FRB’s broader application of the fee limit. The CFPB is accepting comments on the proposal through June 11, 2012.

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  • Financial Services Committee Members Seek Information on CFPB Cost-Benefit Analysis

    Consumer Finance

    On March 29, Representatives Randy Neugebauer and Shelley Moore Capito sent a letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray seeking his assurance that the CFPB will “conduct rigorous, transparent cost-benefit analysis whenever it drafts a new rule.” The letter also asks the CFPB to respond by April 19 to a series of questions related to its rulemaking and other regulatory processes and procedures, as well as the applicability of federal regulatory reform initiatives to the CFPB’s regulatory activities.

    CFPB

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  • CFPB Issues Guidance On Loan Originator Compensation

    Lending

    In response to questions it has received from loan originators and their firms seeking to comply with compensation rules issued under TILA Regulation Z, the CFPB today issued Bulletin 2012-02. The Bulletin states that employers of loan originators may make contributions to employees’ qualified profit sharing, 401(k), and stock ownership plans (qualified plans) out of a profit pool derived from loan originations. The Federal Reserve Board previously had indicated that any compensation—even contributions to a qualified retirement plan—to a loan originator that derived from the profits of mortgage loan originations was “problematic” and likely prohibited by Regulation Z.

    While the Bulletin expands the ability of lenders to contribute to their employees’ qualified plans, the Bulletin does not provide guidance about other types of profit-sharing arrangements, noting that such issues are “fact-specific.” According to the Bulletin, the CFPB will address these and other loan originator compensation issues in more detail in a proposed rule, which it plans to release in the “near future.” Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB is required to finalize loan originator compensation rules by January 21, 2013, and these rules must take effect by January 21, 2014.

    Pursuant to rules issued by the Federal Reserve Board in September 2010 that became effective April 6, 2011, loan originators may not receive, either directly or indirectly, compensation that is based on any terms or conditions of a mortgage transaction, subject to certain limited exceptions. Commentary issued as part of that rulemaking describes compensation to include salaries, commissions, and annual or periodic bonuses, while covered transaction terms and conditions include the interest rate, loan-to-value ratio, or prepayment penalty. Moreover, compensation may not be tied to proxies for such transaction terms, such as credit scores.

    In July 2011, administration of TILA Regulation Z was transferred to the CFPB, and employers have since been expressing their concern to the CFPB and asking for clarification. This CFPB guidance, issued almost exactly one year after the loan originator compensation rules became effective, signals a shift from the Federal Reserve's guidance, and employers should now be able to make contributions to qualified plans, even if the contributions derive from mortgage-origination profits. Originators and their employers also should look for the CFPB’s planned loan origination compensation rule, which may provide further clarification and guidance on these issues, but likely also will provide new general requirements for originator compensation.

    CFPB TILA Mortgage Origination

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  • CFPB Files Amicus in TILA Rescission Case

    Consumer Finance

    The CFPB announced today that it recently filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in a case involving the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) right to rescind a transaction, Rosenfield v. HSBC Bank, No. 10-1442 (10th Cir.). The CFPB argued that borrowers who do not receive the material disclosures required by TILA can rescind the transaction as long as they notify the lender of the cancellation within three years of consummation, even if they do not file suit within the three-year period. The CFPB urged the Tenth Circuit to reject the view of the majority of courts that the borrower must both notify the lender and file suit within three years.  Citing both the statute and the CFPB’s implementing Regulation Z, the CFPB argued that the holding in Beach v. Ocwen Federal Bank, 523 U.S. 410 (1998), that the right to rescind expires completely after three years, simply means that “consumers [must] exercise their rescission right by providing notice to their lender within three years of obtaining the loan,” and that consumers could file suit after three years if the lender failed to honor the rescission notice. As an indication of the Bureau’s intense interest in this issue, it noted that it plans to file amicus briefs on the same question in at least three other circuits in which briefing is still pending.

    CFPB TILA

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  • CFPB Submits First Annual FDCPA Report to Congress

    Consumer Finance

    On March 20, the CFPB submitted to Congress its first annual report on the administration and enforcement of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). The CFPB inherited the annual reporting function as part of the Dodd-Frank Act’s transfer to the CFPB of the primary regulatory responsibility for the FDCPA. Prior to this report, the FTC prepared the annual report, and this year it submitted a letter to the CFPB detailing its efforts under the FDCPA. The report, as informed by the FTC letter, provides (i) a brief background on the FDCPA, (ii) a summary of consumer complaints about the debt collection industry, (iii) a description of the CFPB’s FDCPA supervision authority, including its rulemaking to expand that authority by defining “larger participant” nonbanks, (iv) an outline of recent FTC and CFPB enforcement activity and amicus briefs filed against entities engaged in debt collection, including ongoing non-public investigations of debt collection practices, and (v) each regulator’s FDCPA-related research and policy initiatives.

    CFPB FTC FDCPA

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  • FTC Releases Survey on Consumer Reporting Agencies and FACTA

    Consumer Finance

    On March 12, the FTC released the results of a survey conducted to gauge consumer experiences in dealing with consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) following an identity theft. While the survey indicates that the majority of consumers were satisfied with their experiences, many consumers were unaware of their rights under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) before contacting a CRA. In response to concerns raised by consumers in the survey, the report recommends that (i) CRAs make it easier for consumers to reach a live person and (ii) the CFPB use its examination and rulemaking authority, and the FTC employ its enforcement authority, to address CRAs’ practice of attempting to sell identity theft products to consumers reporting identify thefts.

    CFPB FTC FACTA Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • Senators Push for CFPB Action on Payday Lending, Propose Federal Legislation

    Consumer Finance

    On March 12, Senators Jeff Merkley and Daniel Akaka released a letter sent to CFPB Director Richard Cordray urging that the CFPB take action to address online, offshore, and insured depository payday lending activities and products. The letter specifically pushes the CFPB to adopt rules and partner with state attorneys general to address (i) Internet-based lead generators that collect data on potential customers for payday lenders, (ii) offshore Internet lenders that avoid state laws by relying on loopholes in the rules covering debit transactions and remotely-created checks, and (iii) insured depository institutions that offer payday loan or similar products. In the same announcement, Senator Merkley revealed plans to introduce legislation that will, broadly, (i) require greater disclosure for online lending websites, (ii) address the abusive practice of providing false or misleading data to payday lenders and debt collectors to defraud consumers in paying debts they do not owe, (iii) attempt to limit the activities of offshore payday lenders, and (iv) address bank and insured depository institution payday loan products.

    CFPB Payday Lending

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