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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • Bank to pay $2 million in collection call suit


    On December 14, a Superior Court of California granted a stipulated final judgment resolving claims that a national bank (defendant) violated the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (RDCPA) and the FDCPA by making “harassing and annoying” debt collection calls to its customers. According to the stipulated final judgment, since at least March 2015, the defendant allegedly violated California and federal law by making phone calls with “unreasonably excessive frequency,” while also persisting in calling wrong numbers in attempts to collect on unpaid debts. The defendant, which did not admit any liability or wrongdoing, agreed to, among other things: (i) adopt or maintain policies and procedures to avoid such harassing calls; (ii) limit the number of calls it will make as part of its future debt collection efforts; and (iii) cease calling those who ask orally or in writing that they not be contacted. Under the terms of the stipulated final judgment, the defendant must pay $1.45 million in civil penalties, $300,000 in investigative costs, and $250,000 in restitution.

    Courts State Issues FDCPA California Debt Collection Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Consumer Finance

  • District Court says debtor bears the burden of asserting a garnishment exemption


    On December 15, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in a debt collection garnishment suit. One of the plaintiffs was referred to collections after he defaulted on his credit card debt, and a judgment was entered against him by the original creditor. The defendant filed for a writ of execution, seeking to garnish funds that were in a joint bank account maintained by both plaintiffs. The writ outlined major exemptions under Pennsylvania and federal law, noting that the plaintiff may also be able to rely on other exemptions, and instructed him to complete a claim for exemption. Plaintiffs sued for violations of the FDCPA, claiming, among other things, that the defendant should have known that the account was a joint account, and therefore exempt, before seeking the writ of execution. According to the plaintiffs, the defendant should have known or reasonably known “that the funds in the joint account were immune from execution because it ‘performed its own private asset search to discover’ the account.” The court disagreed, holding, that under Pennsylvania’s garnishment procedures, the debtor bears the burden of asserting an exemption. This assertion, the court said, must be more than a “self-serving statement that an exemption applies.”

    The court cited a ruling issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, in which the court determined that “[t]he bottom line here is that, right or wrong, a judgment creditor has no duty under either California or federal law to investigate, much less confirm, that a judgment debtor’s bank accounts contain only non-exempt funds prior to authorizing a levy on those accounts. It is unreasonable to conclude that a judgment creditor’s failure to conduct a pre-levy debtor’s exam, when there is no legal obligation or requirement to do so, constitutes unfair or unconscionable action.”

    Courts State Issues Pennsylvania Consumer Finance FDCPA Debt Collection

  • 10th Circuit: Vendor knowledge of consumer debt is not a public disclosure


    On December 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of an FDCPA suit. According to the opinion, the plaintiff, who had student loan debt, received a collection letter from the defendant that listed the assigned balance as $184,580.73 and the debt balance as $217,657.60 without explaining the difference or that the debt could increase due to interest, fees, and other charges. The defendant, who used an outside mailer to compose and send the letters, sent her two more letters without providing an explanation for the balances. The plaintiff sued, alleging the defendant violated the FDCPA by communicating information about the debt to a vendor that printed and mailed the letters. According to the plaintiff, communicating this information violated FDCPA provisions that prohibit debt collectors from communicating with, in connection with the collection of any debt, any person without the consumer’s consent or court permission. The plaintiff also claimed that the defendant violated the FDCPA by misrepresenting the amount of the debt because it did not indicate that the amount of the debt may increase.

    On the appeal, the appellate court affirmed dismissal after it found that the plaintiff lacked standing since neither of the plaintiff’s claims caused a concrete injury. First, the appellate court found that one private entity knowing about the plaintiff’s debt is not a public disclosure of private facts, which does not rise to the level of sustaining a concrete injury needed to sue in federal court. Second, regarding the substance of the letters, the appellate court noted that the plaintiff simply claimed that the letters she received caused her to be confused and to believe the debt was not accruing interest. However, the appellate court found that “confusion and misunderstanding are insufficient to confer standing.”

    Courts Tenth Circuit Appellate FDCPA Student Lending Debt Collection Consumer Finance

  • OCC rescinds FDCPA section of booklet

    On December 15, the OCC announced that the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s Task Force on Consumer Compliance adopted revised examination procedures for the FDCPA and its implementing regulation, Regulation F. Among other things, the revised interagency examination procedures incorporate the CFPB's 2020 and 2021 FDCPA that went into effect in November 2021. The announcement noted that the agency is rescinding the “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act” section of the “Other Consumer Protection Laws and Regulations” booklet of the Comptroller's Handbook. The revised interagency examination procedures address, among other things: (i) determinations of whether a bank is a debt collector under the FDCPA and Regulation F; (ii) prohibitions on certain communications with consumers in connection with debt collection; and (iii) requirements for a reasonable and simple method that consumers can use to opt out of additional communications and attempts to communicate.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC FDCPA Regulation F CFPB Comptroller's Handbook Examination Debt Collection

  • District Court grants MSJ for plaintiff in FDCPA suit


    On November 21, the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied a defendant debt collection company’s motion for summary judgment and granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in an FDCPA suit. According to the opinion, the plaintiff sent a letter to the defendant disputing the accuracy of the information being reported to the credit reporting agency, saying the amount of the debt was incorrect. The defendant received the letter on February 1, 2021, and on February 3, the defendant reported the debt to the CRA, but failed to note that the debt was disputed. The CRA then communicated information about plaintiff’s debt to additional third parties. The next reporting cycle for the plaintiff’s account closed on March 3, 2021. At that time, the defendant correctly reported that plaintiff’s debt was disputed. The defendant explained that although the servicer received the plaintiff’s dispute letter on February 1, 2021, “no one was able to analyze, process, and review” it until February 4, 2021, by which time it had already reported the debt to the CRA.

    The defendant argued that it can take up to seven business days for its credit review team to review a dispute letter that it receives, and information about a disputed debt may be communicated to third parties in the interim. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue because there was no negative impact on her credit score as a result of the dispute not being transmitted.

    According to the court, the defendant’s “system tolerates the communication of false information in cases where disputes arrive at its doorstep at the close of its monthly reporting periods, and it lacks procedures for promptly correcting information it later discovers was false at the time it was communicated to a third party.” The court also found that the plaintiff’s constitutional standing does not depend on proof of damage to her credit score.

    Courts Debt Collection Credit Reporting Agency Consumer Finance FDCPA

  • CFPB issues fall supervisory highlights

    Federal Issues

    On November 15, the CFPB released its fall 2022 Supervisory Highlights, which summarizes its supervisory and enforcement actions between January and June 2022 in the areas of auto servicing, consumer reporting, credit card account management, debt collection, deposits, mortgage origination, mortgage servicing, and payday lending. Highlights of the findings include:

    • Auto Servicing. Bureau examiners identified instances of servicers engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices connected to add-on product charges, loan modifications, double billing, use of devices that interfered with driving, collection tactics, and payment allocation. For instance, examiners identified occurrences where consumers paid off their loans early, but servicers failed to ensure consumers received refunds for unearned fees related to add-on products.
    • Consumer Reporting. The Bureau found deficiencies in credit reporting companies’ (CRCs) compliance with FCRA dispute investigation requirements and furnishers’ compliance with FCRA and Regulation V accuracy and dispute investigation requirements. Examples include: (i) NCRCs that failed to report the outcome of complaint reviews to the Bureau; (ii) furnishers that failed to send updated information to CRCs following a determination that the information reported was not complete or accurate; and (iii) furnishers’ policies and procedures that contained deficiencies related to the accuracy and integrity of furnished information.
    • Credit Card Account Management. Bureau examiners identified violations of Regulation Z related to billing error resolution, including instances where creditors failed to (i) resolve disputes within two complete billing cycles after receiving a billing error notice; (ii) conduct reasonable investigations into billing error notices due to human errors and system weaknesses; and (iii) provide explanations to consumers after determining that no billing error occurred or that a different billing error occurred from that asserted. Examiners also identified Regulation Z violations where credit card issuers improperly mixed original factors and acquisition factors when reevaluating accounts subject to a rate increase, and identified deceptive acts or practices related to credit card issuers’ advertising practices.
    • Debt Collection. The Bureau found instances of FDCPA violations where debt collectors engaged in conduct that harassed, oppressed, or abused the person with whom they were communicating. The report findings also discussed instances where debt collectors communicated with a person other than the consumer about the consumer’s debt when the person had a name similar or identical to the consumer, in violation of the FDCPA.
    • Deposits. The Bureau discussed how it conducted prioritized assessments to evaluate how financial institutions handled pandemic relief benefits deposited into consumer accounts. Examiners identified unfairness risks at multiple institutions due to policies and procedures that may have resulted in, among other things, (i) garnishing protected economic impact payments funds in violation of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021; or (ii) failing to apply the appropriate state exemptions to certain consumers’ deposit accounts after receiving garnishment notice.
    • Mortgage Origination. Bureau examiners identified Regulation Z violations and deceptive acts or practices prohibited by the CFPA. An example of this is when the settlement service had been performed and the loan originator knew the actual costs of those service, but entered a cost that was completely unrelated to the actual charges that the loan originator knew had been incurred, resulting in information being entered that was not consistent with the best information reasonably available. The Bureau also found that the waiver language in some loan security agreements was misleading, and that a reasonable consumer could understand the provision to waive their right to bring a class action on any claim in federal court.
    • Mortgage Servicing. Bureau examiners identified instances where servicers engaged in abusive acts or practices by charging sizable fees for phone payments when consumers were unaware of those fees. Examiners also identified unfair acts or practices and Regulation X policy and procedure violations regarding failure to provide consumers with CARES Act forbearances.
    • Payday Lending. Examiners found lenders failed to maintain records of call recordings necessary to demonstrate full compliance with conduct provisions in consent orders generally prohibiting certain misrepresentations.

    Federal Issues CFPB Supervision Examination UDAAP Auto Lending CFPA Consumer Finance Consumer Reporting Credit Report FCRA Regulation V Credit Furnishing Credit Cards Regulation Z Debt Collection FDCPA Mortgages Deposits Prepaid Accounts Covid-19 CARES Act

  • District Court certifies class in FDCPA suit


    On November 4, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granted a plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in an FDCPA suit related to credit reporting language used in collection letters. According to the opinion, the plaintiffs received collection letters from the defendant with a statement that read: “Our records indicate there is still a balance on this past due account. Please respond to this letter within seven days or we may take additional collection efforts. The creditor shown above has authorized us to submit this account to the nationwide credit reporting agencies. As required by law, you are hereby notified that a negative credit report reflecting your credit record may be submitted to a credit reporting agency if you fail to fulfill the terms of your credit obligations.” The plaintiffs alleged FDCPA violations against the defendant, claiming that the letters constituted false and misleading collection efforts because the defendants did not intend to report the debts to credit reporting agencies within seven days of the letters’ receipt, as the defendant’s policy was to report debts “approximately sixty (60) days from placement absent contract instructions from its client.” The court noted that the collection letter in question was sent to 984 individuals, meeting the numerosity component for class certification. The court also held that, because all members of the class share the same FDCPA claim, the commonality and predominance components of certification were satisfied. The court also ruled that typicality, adequacy, ascertainability, and superiority components were met, and certified the class.

    Courts Debt Collection Class Action FDCPA Consumer Finance

  • District Court grants FDCPA defendant’s motion for summary judgment


    On October 18, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a second summary judgment motion by a debt collection agency (defendant) in an FDCPA suit, after the plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration, ruling that a collection letter sent to the plaintiff was not false, deceptive, misleading, unfair or unconscionable. According to the order, the plaintiff received two bills after being treated at a hospital for an automobile accident: one in the amount of $675, which was adjusted from $900 because the plaintiff lacked insurance, and a second bill from a doctor’s network for $468. The hospital placed the unpaid account with the defendant who in turn sent a collection letter to the plaintiff, which was the only contact between the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging that under Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law the defendant was permitted to attempt to collect only $141.15, and that its failure to do so violated the FDCPA. This value was based on the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code associated with the doctor’s network bill, but the hospital’s bill did not contain a CPT code. The district court found that the plaintiff did not demonstrate any material issue of disputed fact that the services provided by the hospital were or should have been billed under the same CPT code as the doctor’s network bill, nor did the plaintiff provide sufficient evidence to prove that the amount billed by the hospital violated state law, and therefore, granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

    Courts FDCPA Debt Collection Consumer Finance State Issues Pennsylvania

  • District Court rules model validation is not required under FDCPA


    On October 13, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois granted a debt collector’s motion to remand a case back to state court in an FDCPA suit. According to the order, the plaintiff collected unpaid debts for a hospital (defendant) for approximately 15 years. The terms of the formalized agreement established a one-year term that was set to renew automatically so long as the parties agreed to its terms. The agreement required the plaintiff to comply with various laws and regulations, including the FDCPA, and regulations by the CFPB. In November 2021, Regulation F, promulgated by the CFPB, took effect, which clarified a provision of the FDCPA by requiring debt collectors to convey in their initial communications with debtors the debtors’ right to dispute the debt. The order further noted that after the Bureau “provided notice of its intent to enact Regulation F and the public comment period ended, [the plaintiff] ‘began working with its third-party software provider and third-party letter printer to modify [the plaintiff’s] initial contact letter to reflect the safe harbor model in Regulation F.’” However, the defendant was not able to ensure the changes were made before the regulation took effect. The defendant sent the plaintiff a letter declaring that it was in breach of the agreement since it failed to use the safe-harbor model language. The defendant asserted that the plaintiff’s “failure to use the safe-harbor model amounted to a violation of Regulation F and the FDCPA.” The letter requested that the plaintiff terminate all collection activity on the defendant’s accounts. The plaintiff filed suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that the letter it was using complied with the FDCPA. The defendant removed the case to federal court, and the plaintiff filed a motion to remand. The court found that using model notice language is not required under the FDCPA or Regulation F. The court noted that “[a] debt collector may comply by using a different form so long as the required information is provided in a clear and conspicuous manner.” The court further noted that the alleged federal issue in the claim “is not substantial enough” to warrant keeping the case in federal court and granted the plaintiff’s motion to remand the case back to state court.

    Courts FDCPA Debt Collection Model Valuation Regulation F CFPB

  • District Court partially dismisses FDCPA suit concerning disputed debt


    On October 5, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona partially granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss in an FDCPA suit, which alleged that the defendant furnished information to the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) that did not belong to the plaintiff. According to the order, the plaintiff noticed that the defendant was reporting a collection account to the CRAs for a debt he did not recognize. He called the defendant who was unable to locate the plaintiff through his personal identifiers. The defendant told the plaintiff that the debt reporting on the plaintiff’s credit report was a medical debt and was owed by a third party with a different name and a different social security number. After the defendant confirmed that the debt did not belong to him, the plaintiff submitted a dispute to the CRA challenging the defendant’s reporting of the debt and requested that the defendant and the CRA remove the debt from his report. The CRA notified the defendant of the plaintiff’s dispute within five days of receiving the dispute. The defendant allegedly continued to report the debt as belonging to the plaintiff to the CRA, and did not request that the CRA note on the plaintiff’s credit report that the debt was disputed by the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant violated the FDCPA, contending that his “credit score has decreased as a result of [the defendant’s] erroneous credit reporting, which has frustrated [the plaintiff’s] ability to obtain credit.” The plaintiff also alleged that he suffered emotional distress and anxiety.

    The defendant argued that it did not violate the FDCPA because it was the CRA that connected the underlying debt to the plaintiff’s credit report. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff did not provide the defendant with an appropriate period of time to mark the debt as disputed before filing the suit in question. The court found that the plaintiff had stated a claim upon which relief could be granted, explaining, among other things, that the defendant “does not point to any authority that, to state a claim under § 1692e(8), reporting of a debt must be to a credit report as opposed to any third party.” However, the court dismissed the § 1692f claim on the ground that the underlying conduct was already covered in the 1692e(8) claim.

    Courts FDCPA Debt Collection Consumer Finance Credit Reporting Agency


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