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Recently, the U.S. Senate passed a joint resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 32) under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the CFPB’s small business lending rule. As previously covered on InfoBytes, the rule, which requires financial institutions to collect and report to the CFPB credit application data for small businesses, has faced opposition from various politicians and is the subject of litigation brought by financial institutions that would be subject to the rule in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas. In support of the joint resolution, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who introduced the legislation, recently argued on the floor that “the CFPB is setting these small business people… up for lawsuits” because “[it] has promulgated a rule that totally perverts our intention in section 1071.” If the House of Representatives similarly passes the joint resolution, and President Biden signs it, the CFPB’s rule will be nullified under the Congressional Review Act.
The joint resolution follows the order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granting a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining the CFPB from enforcing the rule (covered by InfoBytes here and here).
On October 26, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas entered an order granting intervenors’ motions for preliminary injunction against the CFPB and its small business loan rule.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the district court entered an order in August enjoining enforcement of the rule pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Fin. Serv. of Am. and extending the rule’s compliance date to account for the tine the stay remained in place. The court, however, limited that relief to the plaintiffs at that time—a bank and two bank trade associations—and their members. In the wake of this ruling, separate trade associations representing small business lenders asked the CFPB to take administrative action to ensure that the compliance date for other lenders would be adjusted commensurately. The CFPB declined their request.
In response, separate groups of intervenor plaintiffs, including trade associations representing other types of small business lenders, intervened in the action and filed motions seeking to expand the scope of the preliminary injunction to all affected lenders (or at least their members), claiming the court’s decision to spare some from the rule put them at a competitive disadvantage. The CFPB opposed those motions (covered by InfoBytes here).
In its most recent order, the court reasoned that the preliminary injunction should extend to intervenors because the CFPB lacked evidence supporting its argument that that greater harm would result from a stay on its 1071 rule and “its intended benefits for small businesses failed to tip the balance in their favor.” The court reasoned that the purpose of the statute underlying the Bureau’s final rule is the equal application of lending laws to all credit applications to avoid disparate outcomes, presuming uniform application to covered financial institutions. Therefore, to exempt plaintiffs and not all other covered financial institutions would undermine the statute, leaving “non-exempted lenders subject to the discretion of an agency whose very ability to act is a matter of constitutional concern pending resolution on a nationwide scale.” Under that reasoning, the district court granted plaintiffs’ motions for preliminary injunction, enjoining the CFPB from implementing its 1071 Rule for small business lending.
CFPB report reveals high credit card costs, growing debt, and digital shifts led to consumers’ revolving debts in 2022
On October 25, the CFPB released a report on credit card interest rates and fees in 2022 highlighting the impact of the cost to consumers. The report found that credit card companies charged consumers more than $105 billion in interest and $25 billion in fees, with the bulk of the fees being late fees.
According to the 175-page report, consumers are rolling balances month-to-month, falling into debt, while credit card companies’ profit margins remain high. The CFPB highlighted additional trends, including how (i) the profits of major credit card companies have increased, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, which could indicate a lack of competition in the industry, with a few dominant players; (ii) Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) for credit cards continue to rise above the cost of offering credit (meaning cardholders are paying more in interest); (iii) many cardholders with subprime credit scores paid a significant percentage of their average balance in interest and fees; (iv) late fees charged to cardholders have risen to pre-pandemic levels, and more consumers are delinquent; (v) credit card debt reached a record $1 trillion by the end of 2022, and annual spending on credit cards increased, returning to pre-pandemic levels; and (vi) consumers who roll debt from month to month are paying a significant portion of interest and fees but earning only a small percentage of rewards. The report also notes a rise in digital communication—around 80 percent of cardholders, especially those under 65, use mobile apps for card management, which exhibits a shift in how consumers and financial institutions interact in the credit card industry.
On October 20, the CFPB Education Loan Ombudsman published its annual report on consumer complaints submitted between September 1, 2022, and August 31, 2023. The report is based on approximately 9,284 student loan complaints received by CFPB regarding federal and private student loans. Roughly 75 percent of complaints were related to federal student loans while the remaining 25 percent concerned private student loans. Overall, the report found underlying issues in student loan servicing that threaten borrowers’ ability to make payments, achieve loan cancellation, or receive other protections to which they are entitled under federal law. The report indicated that challenges and risks facing federal student loan borrowers include customer service problems, errors related to basic loan administration, and problems accessing loan cancellation programs. Similarly, private borrowers face issues accessing loan cancellation options, misleading origination tactics, and coercive debt collection practices related to private student loans.
The Ombudsman’s report advised policymakers, law enforcement, and industry participants to consider several recommendations: (i) ensuring that federal student loan borrowers can access all protections intended for them under the law; (ii) ensuring that loan holders and servicers of private student loans do not collect debt where it may no longer be legally owed or previously discharged; and (iii) using consumer complaints to develop policies and procedures when they reveal systemic problems.
On October 17, the CFPB announced an enforcement action against a nonbank international money transfer provider for alleged deceptive practices and illegal consumer waivers. According to the consent order, the company facilitated remittance transfers through its app that required consumers to sign a “remittance services agreement,” which included a clause protecting the company from liability for negligence over $1,000. The Bureau alleged that such waiver violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and its implementing Regulation E, including Subpart B, known as the Remittance Transfer Rule, by (i) requiring consumers sign an improper limited liability clause to waive their rights; (ii) failing to provide contact and cancellation information in disclosures, and other required terms; (iii) failing to provide a timely receipt when payment is made for a transfer; (iv) failing to develop and maintain required policies and procedures for error resolution; (v) failing to investigate and determine whether an error occurred, possibly preventing consumers from receiving refunds or other remedies they were entitled to; and (vi) failing to accurately disclose exchange rates and the date of fund availability. The CFPB further alleged that the company’s representations regarding the speed (“instantly” or “within seconds”) and cost (“with no fees”) of its remittance transfers to consumers were inaccurate and constituted violations of CFPA. The order requires the company to pay a $1.5 million civil money penalty and provide an additional $1.5 in consumer redress. The company must also take measures to ensure future compliance.
On October 19, the CFPB announced a proposed rule that it said would accelerate a shift toward open banking, would give consumers more control over their financial data, and would offer new protections against companies misusing consumer data. The proposed Personal Financial Data Rights rule activates a dormant provision of law enacted by Congress more than a decade ago, Section 1033 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act. According to the CFPB, the rule would “jumpstart competition” by prohibiting financial institutions from “hoarding” a person’s data and requiring companies to share data with other companies at the consumer’s direction about their use of checking and prepaid accounts, credit cards, and digital wallets. This would allow consumers to access competing products and services while ensuring that their data would be used only for their own preferred purpose. Among other things, the proposed rule would ensure that consumers: (i) can obtain their personal financial data at no cost; (ii) have a legal right to grant third parties access to information associated with their credit card, checking, prepaid, and digital wallet accounts; and (iii) can walk away from bad service. Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before December 29, 2023.
On October 10, the CFPB filed a lawsuit against a Florida-based nonbank mortgage originator for allegedly failing to accurately report mortgage data in violation of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). According to the complaint, in 2019 the Bureau found that the lender violated HDMA by intentionally misreporting data regarding applicants’ race, ethnicity and gender from 2014-2017, which resulted in the lender paying a civil money penalty and taking corrective action. In this action, the Bureau alleges that during its supervision process, it found the lender submitted HMDA data for 2020 contained “widespread errors across multiple data fields” including 51 errors in 159 files and the lender violated a 2019 consent order condition that required it to improve its data practices. The alleged errors include (i) mistakes in inputting data concerning subordinate lien loans and acquired loans; (ii) inclusion of loans in HMDA reporting that did not meet the HMDA criteria for reportable applications; (iii) incorrect characterization of purchaser type for tens of thousands of loans; (iv) erroneous rate spread calculations, leading to errors in interconnected fields; (iv) inaccurate data related to lender credits; and (v) incorrect categorization of specific loan applications as “approved but not accepted” when they were, in fact, withdrawn, resulting in discrepancies in associated fields. Along with the HDMA violations and the violations of the 2019 consent order, the CFPB also alleges violations of the CFPA and requests that the court permanently enjoin the lender from committing future violations of HMDA, require the lender to take corrective action to prevent further violations of HMDA, injunctive relief, and the imposition of a civil money penalty.
On October 12, the CFPB and DOJ issued a joint statement on fair lending and credit opportunities for noncitizen borrowers. The statement warned that, under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and its implementing regulations, it is unlawful for lenders to discriminate against credit applicants based on their national origin or race, regardless of their immigration status. In its press release announcing the joint statement, DOJ explained that the statement was prompted by reports of consumers being rejected for credit cards as well as auto, student, and personal loans because of their immigration status, even when they were otherwise qualified to receive the loans. The joint statement explained that, although a creditor may consider an applicant’s immigration status when necessary to ascertain the creditor’s rights regarding repayment, “unnecessary or overbroad reliance on immigration status in the credit decision process, including when that reliance is based on bias, may run afoul of ECOA’s antidiscrimination provisions and could also violate other laws.” Among other things, the agencies cautioned against the overbroad consideration of criteria that may “serve as a proxy for citizenship of immigration status,” such as how long a consumer has had a social security number. Likewise, requiring only certain groups of noncitizens to provide documentation, identification, or in-person applications may also violate ECOA by “harming applicants on the basis of national origin or race.”
On October 6, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra spoke at a digital payments event where he described the risks posed by private digital currencies and digital payments systems and provided steps that would increase the CFPB oversight so as to help protect consumers from these risks.
Chopra stated that from a consumer regulator’s perspective, it is important to safeguard against the risks of private currencies issued by nonbanks, which include the potential for sudden devaluation of the digital currency, intrusive data surveillance, censorship, private regulations that favor the issuer’s commercial interests, challenges with error resolution, and consumer fraud.
Further, Chopra shared what he believes are warranted steps to ensure that private digital dollars and payments systems do not harm consumers:
- The CFPB will issue supplemental orders to certain large technology platforms to acquire more data and information to better ascertain their business practices, especially with respect to the use of sensitive personal data and any issuance of private currencies.
- To reduce the harms of errors, hacks, and unauthorized transfers, the Bureau will explore providing additional guidance on the applicability of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act with respect to private digital dollars and other virtual currencies for consumer and retail use.
- The CFPB will use appropriate authorities to conduct supervisory examinations of nonbanks operating consumer payment platforms, including the authority over service providers to large depository institutions and the authority over large participants, which would subject nonbanks meeting a particular size threshold to CFPB supervision.
- The Bureau will publish a proposed rule regarding personal financial data rights pursuant to Section 1033 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act, which will seek to accelerate America’s shift to open, competitive, and decentralized banking, while also seeking to safeguard against misuse of personal financial data.
Additionally, Chopra stated the Financial Stability Oversight Council should consider exercising its authority under Title VIII of the Dodd-Frank Act to designate activity as, or as likely to become, a systemically important payment, clearing, or settlement activity so as to provide other agencies with critical oversight and tools to ensure that a stablecoin is actually stable.
On October 11, the CFPB’s Offices of Consumer Populations and Markets announced that through its analysis of a number of depository financial institutions it had determined that the imposition of non-sufficient fund (NSF) fee by these entities were on the decline, saving an estimated $2 billion annually for consumers going forward. Specifically, the CFPB determined that “[n]early two-thirds of banks with over $10 billion in assets have eliminated NSF fees,” “[n]early three-fourths of the banks that earned the most in overdraft/NSF fee revenue in 2021, including 27 of the top 30 earners, have eliminated NSF fees” and “[a]mong credit unions with over $10 billion in assets, 16 of 20 continue to charge NSF fees, including four of the five largest.” It was ultimately determined larger banks have been more likely to eliminate NSF fees. Based on the CFPB’s estimates, for banks “with over $10 billion in assets, 97% of NSF fee revenue has been eliminated.”