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  • Massachusetts amends legislation protecting consumers from security breaches

    State Issues

    On January 10, the Massachusetts Governor signed HB 4806, following the House and Senate’s adoption of amendments to the bill. The bill, which is effective April 10, amends current law related to security breaches and the protection of consumer financial and credit information. Among other provisions, the amendments to the current law:

    • Prohibit users from requesting or obtaining the consumer credit report of a consumer unless the user obtains the consumer’s prior written, verbal, or electronic consent, and discloses the user's reason for accessing the consumer report to the consumer prior to obtaining consent.
    • Require every consumer reporting agency to disclose to consumers, when properly identified, (i) the nature, contents, and substance of all information on file (except medical information) at the time of the request; (ii) the sources of all credit information; and (iii) “the recipients of any consumer report on the consumer which it has furnished for employment purposes within the 2-year period preceding the request, and for any other purpose within the 6-month period preceding the request.”
    • State that a consumer reporting agency may not charge a fee to any consumer for placing, lifting, or removing a security freeze from a consumer report.
    • Specify that a consumer reporting agency may not “knowingly offer a paid product to prevent unauthorized access or restrict access to a consumer's credit.”
    • Require persons who experience a security breach to report specific information to the state Attorney General, as well as certify that their credit monitoring services are in compliance.
    • State that consumers shall receive notice provisions in the event of a breach of security, including the right to obtain police reports, steps for requesting a security freeze, and various mitigation services.
    • Require persons who experience a breach that compromises social security numbers to provide at least 18 months of free credit monitoring for affected individuals.

    State Issues State Legislation Credit Reporting Agency Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Security Freeze Data Breach

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  • New York enacts law covering collection of family member debts

    State Issues

    On December 28, the New York governor signed S3491A, which amends the state’s general business law to add a section prohibiting principal creditors and/or debt collection agencies from making any representations that a person is required to pay the debt of a family member in a way that contravenes the FDCPA or that misrepresent the person’s obligation to pay such debts. The amendment defines “debt collection agency” as “a person, firm or corporation engaged in business, the principal purpose of which is to regularly collect or attempt to collect debts: (a) owed or due or asserted to be owed or due to another; or (b) obtained by, or assigned to, such person, firm or corporation, that are in default when obtained or acquired by such person, firm or corporation.” The law is effective 90 days after enactment.

    State Issues State Legislation Debt Collection Vicarious Liability FDCPA

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  • New York enacts law covering collection of family member debts

    State Issues

    On December 28, the New York governor signed S3491A, which amends the state’s general business law to add a section prohibiting principal creditors and/or debt collection agencies from making any representations that a person is required to pay the debt of a family member in a way that contravenes the FDCPA or that misrepresent the person’s obligation to pay such debts. The amendment defines “debt collection agency” as “a person, firm or corporation engaged in business, the principal purpose of which is to regularly collect or attempt to collect debts: (a) owed or due or asserted to be owed or due to another; or (b) obtained by, or assigned to, such person, firm or corporation, that are in default when obtained or acquired by such person, firm or corporation.” The law is effective 90 days after enactment.

    State Issues State Legislation Debt Collection Vicarious Liability FDCPA

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  • 3rd Circuit: Enrollment packet e-signature requires student to arbitrate claims

    Courts

    On January 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit held that a student (plaintiff) attending an online school (defendant) consented to an arbitration agreement and waiver of jury trial when she electronically signed an enrollment packet. According to the opinion, when the defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit and compel arbitration, the plaintiff argued that she did not realize the enrollment packet contained an arbitration agreement. She maintained that her e-signature was applied to the agreement without her permission. The lower court, however, granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss and entered an order to compel arbitration.

    On appeal, the 3rd Circuit agreed with the lower court in a non-precedential decision that her contentions that she was never presented with the agreement and that the defendant had applied an e-signature on file were insufficient to create an issue of material fact. It observed, “[t]he most reasonable inference we can draw from the evidence presented is that [the plaintiff] simply did not read or review the [e]nrollment [p]acket PDF closely before she e-signed it, which will not save her from her obligation to arbitrate.” The 3rd Circuit further noted that Pennsylvania allows electronic signatures as a valid way to register assent, and that a “physical pen and ink signature” is not required.

    Courts Third Circuit Appellate E-Signature Arbitration

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  • 3rd Circuit: Enrollment packet e-signature requires student to arbitrate claims

    Courts

    On January 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit held that a student (plaintiff) attending an online school (defendant) consented to an arbitration agreement and waiver of jury trial when she electronically signed an enrollment packet. According to the opinion, when the defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit and compel arbitration, the plaintiff argued that she did not realize the enrollment packet contained an arbitration agreement. She maintained that her e-signature was applied to the agreement without her permission. The lower court, however, granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss and entered an order to compel arbitration.

    On appeal, the 3rd Circuit agreed with the lower court in a non-precedential decision that her contentions that she was never presented with the agreement and that the defendant had applied an e-signature on file were insufficient to create an issue of material fact. It observed, “[t]he most reasonable inference we can draw from the evidence presented is that [the plaintiff] simply did not read or review the [e]nrollment [p]acket PDF closely before she e-signed it, which will not save her from her obligation to arbitrate.” The 3rd Circuit further noted that Pennsylvania allows electronic signatures as a valid way to register assent, and that a “physical pen and ink signature” is not required.

    Courts Third Circuit Appellate E-Signature Arbitration

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  • Massachusetts enacts legislation amending consumer protections from security breaches

    State Issues

    On January 10, the Massachusetts Governor signed HB 4806, following the House and Senate’s adoption of amendments to the bill. The bill, which is effective April 10, amends current law related to security breaches and the protection of consumer financial and credit information. Among other provisions, the amendments to the current law:

    • Prohibit users from requesting or obtaining the consumer credit report of a consumer unless the user obtains the consumer’s prior written, verbal, or electronic consent, and discloses the user's reason for accessing the consumer report to the consumer prior to obtaining consent.
    • Require every consumer reporting agency to disclose to consumers, when properly identified, (i) the nature, contents, and substance of all information on file (except medical information) at the time of the request; (ii) the sources of all credit information; and (iii) “the recipients of any consumer report on the consumer which it has furnished for employment purposes within the 2-year period preceding the request, and for any other purpose within the 6-month period preceding the request.”
    • State that a consumer reporting agency may not charge a fee to any consumer for placing, lifting, or removing a security freeze from a consumer report.
    • Specify that a consumer reporting agency may not “knowingly offer a paid product to prevent unauthorized access or restrict access to a consumer's credit.”
    • Require persons who experience a security breach to report specific information to the state Attorney General, as well as certify that their credit monitoring services are in compliance.
    • State that consumers shall receive notice provisions in the event of a breach of security, including the right to obtain police reports, steps for requesting a security freeze, and various mitigation services.
    • Require persons who experience a breach that compromises social security numbers to provide at least 18 months of free credit monitoring for affected individuals.

    State Issues State Legislation Credit Reporting Agency Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Security Freeze Data Breach

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  • District Court dismisses non-borrower action against mortgage servicer

    Courts

    On January 11, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi granted a mortgage servicer’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit with prejudice brought by a homeowner’s widow alleging violations of, among other claims, TILA, RESPA, and FDCPA, for failing to include a credit-life-insurance provision in the loan note. According to the opinion, the plaintiff sued the mortgage servicer and mortgage originator after her husband passed and the servicer initiated foreclosure proceedings. The plaintiff argued that her husband, who was the sole borrower, and the mortgage originator had an oral agreement to include a credit-life-provision in the mortgage loan note but the originator failed to include it. The mortgage servicer moved to dismiss the action arguing, among other things, that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring the action. Upon review, the court agreed with the mortgage servicer, determining that the plaintiff lacks standing under TILA, RESPA, and the FDCPA because she was neither an “obligor” nor “borrower” on the loan even though she  was identified as a “borrower” on the Deed of Trust. Moreover, the court rejected the plaintiff’s alternative claim that she is a third-party beneficiary with standing to sue under the laws, finding that no valid contract existed as to the credit-life-insurance policy and therefore, the plaintiff could not claim to be a beneficiary of a non-existent contract. The court also dismissed the plaintiff’s other state law and fraud claims, finding she failed to provide sufficient facts to make the claims plausible.

    Courts Foreclosure FDCPA TILA RESPA Mortgage Servicing

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  • 6th Circuit holds elements of Michigan foreclosure process are collection efforts under FDCPA

    Courts

    On January 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit held that a debt collector should not allow the essential elements of a Michigan foreclosure to proceed after receiving a dispute letter under the FDCPA. According to the opinion, in September 2016, a debt collector sent a notice to a mortgage debtor informing the homeowner it intended to foreclose on the property, and two weeks later it began the Michigan state foreclosure process. After the process began, and within 30 days of receiving the debt collection notice, the mortgage debtor sent a certified dispute letter to the collector, challenging the validity of the debt. After receiving the dispute letter, the debt collector posted a foreclosure notice on the property and published notices in the newspaper. The debt collector never sent the mortgage debtor a verification of the debt. The mortgage debtor filed suit against the debt collector alleging violations of, among other things, the FDCPA. The district court granted summary judgment for the debt collector, holding that as a matter of law, the FDCPA did not require that the debt collector verify the debt and that it had “cease[d] collection of the debt” pursuant to the statute. The mortgage debtor appealed, arguing the district court (i) erred in its decision to end discovery and consider summary judgment, and (ii) erred in its interpretation of the FDCPA and its finding that the collector ceased collection efforts.

    On appeal, the 6th Circuit rejected the mortgage debtor’s arguments that summary judgment was granted while there were outstanding discovery motions, concluding the debtor provided no evidence the debt collector failed to comply with discovery requests and noted that most of the motions were filed after discovery period expired. As for the FDCPA appeal, the court reversed the district court’s decision, concluding that, as a matter of law, the debt collector was required to intervene and stop the foreclosure actions that were put into motion prior to receiving the dispute letter. The appellate court agreed with the debtor that the newspaper advertisement and posted notice are necessary elements of the Michigan foreclosure process and therefore constituted “collection activity” under the FDCPA. Regardless of whether the debt collector personally took any actions after receiving the dispute letter, the appellate court concluded the debt collector had the responsibility to cancel any elements of the Michigan foreclosure process until it obtained sufficient verification of the debt.

    Courts Sixth Circuit Appellate FDCPA State Issues Foreclosure Debt Collection

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  • District Court approves class action settlement over threatening collection letters

    Courts

    On January 10, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia approved an $861,000 class settlement resolving allegations that a bank violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit Protection Act by falsely threating “legal action” in the collection of foreclosure fees. According to the complaint, the bank, in an attempt to collect foreclosure and attorney’s fees, sent letters to consumers stating “notice of pending litigation,” misrepresenting that a legal proceeding had been filed, when no filings had occurred. The settlement covers any West Virginia automobile or home loan consumer who received one of three specified letters since 2012 and 2013, and awards the plaintiffs’ attorneys one-third of the cash settlement. The three lead plaintiffs will each receive $5,000 “in recognition of service to the class.”

    Courts Debt Collection State Issues Class Action Foreclosure

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  • Regulators encourage financial institutions to work with borrowers impacted by government shutdown; FHA also issues shutdown guidance

    Federal Issues

    On January 11, the Federal Reserve Board, CSBS, CFPB, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC (together, the “Agencies”) released a joint statement (see also FDIC FIL-1-2019) to encourage financial institutions to work with consumers impacted by the federal government shutdown. According to the Agencies, borrowers may face temporary hardships when making payments on mortgages, student loans, auto loans, business loans, or credit cards. FDIC FIL-1-2019 states that prudent workout arrangements, such as extending new credit, waiving fees, easing limits on credit cards, allowing deferred or skipped payments, modifying existing loan terms, and delaying delinquency notice submissions to credit bureaus, will not be subject to examiner criticism provided the efforts are “consistent with safe-and-sound lending practices.”

    Separately, on January 8, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner Brian Montgomery issued a letter regarding the shutdown reminding FHA-approved lenders and mortgagees of their ongoing obligation to offer special forbearance to borrowers experiencing loss of income and to evaluate borrowers for available loss mitigation options to prevent foreclosures. In addition, FHA also encourages mortgagees and lenders to waive late fees and suspend credit reporting on affected borrowers.

    Federal Issues Federal Reserve OCC FDIC CSBS NCUA FHA Consumer Lending Mortgages Credit Report

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