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On January 15, the CFPB announced a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut against a mortgage lender and four executives (collectively, “defendants”) alleging the defendants engaged in unlawful mortgage lending practices in violation of TILA, FCRA, ECOA, the Mortgage Acts and Practices—Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and the CFPA. According to the complaint, from as early as 2015 until August 2019 (i) unlicensed sales people would take mortgage applications and offer and negotiate mortgage terms, in violation of TILA and Regulation Z; (ii) company policy regularly required consumers to submit documents for verification before receiving a Loan Estimate, in violation of TILA and Regulation Z; (iii) employees would deny consumers credit without issuing an adverse action notice, as required by the FCRA or ECOA; and (iv) defendants regularly made misrepresentations about, among other things, the availability and cost savings of a FHA streamlined refinance loan, in violation of the MAP Rule. The Bureau is seeking an injunction, as well as, damages, redress, disgorgement, and civil money penalties.
On January 8, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted final approval to a settlement resolving allegations brought by a national class and a California class against a national bank concerning the denial of credit to recipients who held valid and unexpired Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. In a motion for preliminary settlement filed last June, the plaintiffs claimed that the bank allegedly determined DACA recipients to be ineligible for direct auto financing because of their noncitizen status, even though “[t]here is no federal or state law or regulation that prohibits banks from lending to non-citizens generally, or DACA recipients specifically, based on their status as non-citizens.” The bank moved to dismiss, claiming the plaintiffs failed to plead facts sufficient to state claims under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The parties engaged in discovery, but ultimately agreed to stay the case and engaged a mediator to assist with settlement discussions.
Under the terms of the settlement, the bank is required to provide verified California class members up to $2,500 per claim and national class members up to $300 pending submission of a valid claim. The settlement also provides injunctive relief, a service award to the class representative, attorneys’ fees and costs, and settlement administration costs. Additionally, the bank will amend its direct auto lending practices in order “to extend loans to current and valid DACA recipients on the same terms and conditions as U.S. citizens,” and will provide class counsel an annual status report detailing the status of its programmatic relief for a two year period.
On December 22, the CFPB announced a settlement with a nonprime auto loan originator and servicer (company) for allegedly violating the FCRA by providing erroneous consumer loan data to consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). According to the consent order, between January 2016 and August 2019, the company (i) furnished inaccurate information to CRAs it knew or should have known was inaccurate; (ii) failed to promptly update information with the CRAs once it was determined to be inaccurate or incomplete; (iii) failed to furnish dates of first delinquency for severely delinquent or charged off accounts; and (iv) failed to implement reasonable written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy of furnished information. The consent order imposes a civil money penalty of $4.75 million and requires the company to, among other things, correct all inaccuracies identified by the Bureau, conduct monthly reviews of information furnished to CRAs, and establish reasonable written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of furnished information.
On December 11, the CFPB and the Arkansas attorney general announced a proposed settlement with a Utah-based home-security and alarm company for allegedly failing to provide proper notices under the FCRA. According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, the company allows consumers to defer payment for the alarm and security-system equipment over the life of a long-term contract, and therefore extends credit to its customers. The company—in extending credit to its customers—allegedly obtained and used consumers’ credit scores to determine the amount of activation fees it would charge for its products and services, and then charged consumers who had lower credit scores higher fees without providing those consumers with required risk-based pricing notices. Under the FCRA and implementing regulation, Regulation V, companies are required to provide notice to consumers if a consumer receives less favorable credit terms based on a review of his or her credit report. Under the proposed settlement, the company is required to pay a $600,000 civil money penalty, of which $100,000 will be offset provided the company pays that amount to settle related litigation with the State of Arkansas that is currently pending in state court. The company will also be required to provide proper risk-based pricing notices under the FCRA.
On November 30, the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland denied a motion to dismiss an action brought by the CFPB against a debt collection entity, its subsidiaries, and their owner (collectively, “defendants”), rejecting the defendants’ argument that the Bureau lacked standing to bring the action. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in September 2019, the Bureau alleged the defendants violated the FCRA, FDCPA, and the CFPA by, among other things, failing to (i) establish or implement reasonable written policies and procedures to ensure accurate reporting to consumer-reporting agencies; (ii) incorporate appropriate guidelines for the handling of indirect disputes in its policies and procedures; (iii) conduct reasonable investigations and review relevant information when handling indirect disputes; and (iv) furnish information about accounts after receiving identity theft reports about such accounts without conducting an investigation into the accuracy of the information. The defendants moved to dismiss the action arguing, among other things, that (i) the Bureau lacks standing to bring the action; and (ii) Director Kraninger’s ratification of the litigation was invalid. In the alternative, the defendants moved to stay the lawsuit until the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Collins v. Mnuchin (covered by InfoBytes here).
The court denied the motion to stay, concluding that the issues pending before the Supreme Court in Mnuchin may not necessarily apply to the Bureau, as they are different agencies and further, there is no issue of ratification in Mnuchin. Thus, given the “uncertainty surrounding the effect a decision in Collins v. Mnuchin will have on the present case,” the court denied the motion to stay. The court also denied the motion to dismiss, concluding, among other things, that the Supreme Court’s finding in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) that the Bureau had a constitutional defect in its leadership structure under Article II does not diminish the agency’s Article III standing. Moreover, the court concluded that the decision in Seila Law does not mean that the Bureau “lacked authority during the time in which it was led by an improperly removable Director,” and therefore the Bureau had the authority to initiate the September 2019 lawsuit against the defendants. Further, the court held that the July 2020 ratification of the enforcement action was proper.
On November 12, the CFPB announced a settlement with an Illinois-based non-bank debt collector, resolving allegations that the company violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Regulation V, and the Consumer Financial Protection Act when providing information to consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). According to the Bureau, the company allegedly (i) “furnished information to CRAs that it knew or had reasonable cause to believe was inaccurate and failed to report to CRAs an appropriate first date of delinquency on certain accounts”; (ii) failed to conduct reasonable investigations into disputes reported to the company and to the CRAs; (iii) failed to send required notices about the results of investigations; and (iv) “failed to establish, implement, and update its policies and procedures regarding its furnishing of consumer information to CRAs.” According to the consent order, the company, among other things, allegedly furnished actual payment amounts as $0.00 on roughly 165,000 accounts even though consumers had made payments. For about 72,000 accounts, the company allegedly furnished current balances and amounts past due in amounts other than $0.00 even though the accounts were settled in full.
The consent order requires the company to pay a $500,000 civil money penalty and to (i) regularly review samples of furnished account information for accuracy and integrity; (ii) review samples of consumer disputes to ensure they are handled in compliance with the FCRA; (iii) update its policies and procedures to ensure compliance and continued effectiveness; and (iv) secure at least one independent consultant who specializes in FCRA and Regulation V compliance to conduct a review of the company’s activities, policies, and procedures related to furnishing and credit reporting.
On November 9, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger sent a letter to the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) stating that the Bureau is not planning to make any changes to the guidance it issued in April (covered by InfoBytes here), which informed furnishers that the Bureau will refrain from taking enforcement actions and citing during exams in certain situations as long as furnishers make “good faith efforts” to investigate consumer disputes as quickly as possible. The letter was sent in response to a request made by the NCLC and several other consumer advocacy groups in September, which urged the Bureau to revoke the policy based on an alleged rise in consumer complaints received by the Bureau about dispute investigation delays. The advocacy groups claimed that the significant increase was “likely as a result of the CFPB guidance,” and requested that—at a minimum—the Bureau “limit the extra time provided to the CRAs and furnishers to 15 days, or at most 30 days beyond the FCRA-mandated 30-day deadline for investigation disputes.”
“I want to make clear that all companies continue to remain responsible for FCRA compliance with dispute resolutions in a timely fashion,” Kraninger responded. “However, during the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves, the Bureau does not intend to cite in an examination or bring an enforcement action against firms who exceed the deadlines to investigate such disputes—but only as long as efforts are made in good faith to do so as quickly as possible.” (Emphasis in the original.)
On appeal, the 9th Circuit concluded that the consumer was not bound to the new arbitration terms based on her 2018 visit to the website. The appellate court noted that the consumer did not allege she received notice of the new terms in effect, and therefore, she was bound to the 2014 terms to which she had previously assented. Moreover, the appellate court rejected the consumer’s argument that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable under the California Supreme Court decision in McGill v. Citibank, N.A (covered by a Buckley Special Alert here, holding that a waiver of the plaintiff’s substantive right to seek public injunctive relief is not enforceable). The appellate court held that the 2014 arbitration provision did not “flatly prohibit a plaintiff seeking public injunctive relief in court,” because it subjects disputes to arbitration “to the fullest extent of the law,” which presumably would “exclude claims for public injunctive relief in California.” Thus, the appellate court affirmed arbitration.
On October 8, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine granted a trade association’s motion for declaratory judgment against the Maine attorney general and the superintendent of Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection (collectively, “defendants”) after it sued the state for enacting amendments to the Maine Fair Credit Reporting Act. The trade association—whose members include the three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—filed the lawsuit concerning the 2019 amendments, which, among other things, place restrictions on how medical debts can be reported by the CRAs and govern how CRAs must investigate debt that is allegedly a “product of ‘economic abuse.’” The trade association argued that the amendments, which attempt to regulate the contents of an individual’s consumer report, are preempted by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The parties’ main contention was over how broadly the language under FCRA Section 1681t(b)(1)(E) concerning “subject matter regulated under . . . [15 U.S. C. § 1681c] relating to information contained in consumer reports” should be understood. Plaintiffs argued that the language should be read to encompass all claims relating to information contained in consumer reports. The defendants, on the other hand, claimed that § 1681c should be read “as an itemized list of narrowly delineated subject matters, some of which relate to information contained in consumer reports, and only find preemption where a state imposes a requirement or prohibition that spills into one of those limited domains,” which in this case, the defendants countered, the amendments do not.
The court disagreed, concluding that, as a matter of law, the amendments are preempted by § 1681t(b)(1)(E). According to the court, Congress’ language and amendments to the FCRA’s structure “reflect an affirmative choice by Congress to set ‘uniform federal standards’ regarding the information contained in consumer credit reports,” and that “[b]y seeking to exclude additional types of information” from consumer reports, the amendments “intrude upon a subject matter that Congress has recently sought to expressly preempt from state regulation.”
On August 27, the CFPB denied a petition by an auto financing company to set aside a civil investigative demand (CID) issued by the Bureau in June. The CID requested information from the company to determine, among other things, “whether auto lenders or associated persons, in connection with originating auto loans (including marketing and selling products ancillary to such loans), servicing loans, collecting debts (including through repossessing vehicles), or consumer reporting” may have violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s UDAAP provisions, as well as the FCRA and TILA. The company petitioned the Bureau to set aside the CID. Among other things, the company argued that because certain aspects of the CID do not fall within a “reasonable construction of the CID’s notification of purpose,” and thus failed to provide fair notice as to what the Bureau is investigating, the CID should be “modified to strike each of these requests or clearly confine them to the enumerated topics.”
The Bureau rejected the company’s request to set aside or modify the CID, countering that (i) the particular requests that the company objects to are “all reasonably relevant to the Bureau’s inquiry as described in the notification of purpose,” and that the company cannot rewrite the CID’s notification of purpose to describe only four specific topics and then argue that the Bureau is asking for irrelevant information; and (ii) the Bureau has broad authority to seek information that may be “reasonably relevant” to an investigation, and that the Bureau’s “own appraisal of relevancy must be accepted so long as it is not obviously wrong.” According to the Bureau, the company failed to overcome this “high hurdle established in the judicial precedent.” However, the Bureau granted the company’s request for confidential treatment of its petition and attached exhibits by agreeing to redact certain proprietary business information and confidential supervisory information.
- Daniel R. Alonso to moderate an interactive roundtable at the Latin Lawyer and GIR Connect: Anti-Corruption & Investigations Conference
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- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending” at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss anti-money-laundering at FELABAN Spanish-language webinar “Perspective for banks: LAFT, FINCEN, OFAC, Cryptocurrency”
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "What’s new in BSA/AML compliance?" at the Institute of International Bankers Regulatory Compliance Seminar
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- John R. Coleman and Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
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