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On July 31, the NCUA proposed a rule that would give it a role in determining whether a state-chartered credit union is in “troubled condition.” Under current law, only a state supervisory authority is permitted to declare a federally insured, state-chartered credit union to be in troubled condition. The NCUA believes that the change would help protect the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund by leveraging the federal regulator’s resources to increase the likelihood that problems at covered credit unions are identified. The NCUA is accepting comments on the proposal through October 1, 2012.
Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of a defendant insurance company seeking to dispose of a challenge to an electronic signature executed by a policyholder. Zulkiewski v. Am. Gen. Life Ins. Co., No. 299025, 2012 WL 2126068 (Mich. Ct. App. Jun. 12, 2012). In this case, shortly before a life insurance policy holder died, the beneficiary information on his policy was changed through the insurance company’s online account management service. The former beneficiaries challenged the new beneficiary designation, arguing that although the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) permits an electronic signature, to validate the authenticity of such a signature the insurance company must prove the efficacy of its security procedures. On appeal, the court held that the trial court did not err when it relied on evidence provided by the insurance company showing the extent of the personal information required to change the beneficiary, combined with an affidavit that the new beneficiary did not change the beneficiary designation. The court further explained that the appellants misread the relevant portions of the UETA when they argued that the lower court improperly accepted the insurance company’s assertions that its security procedures were “adequate to prevent deception by an imposter.” The court explained that the insurance company need not prove the efficacy of its online security procedures to authenticate a customer’s signature since under the UETA doing so is merely one method by which to show attribution.
On July 25, the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) announced a transition period for certain mortgage loan originator companies (MLOCs) to comply with recently enacted mortgage loan originator (MLO) licensing requirements. Pursuant to Act 252 (Session 2012), effective July 1, 2012, all exempt registered MLOs and MLOCs of a subsidiary of an insured depository institution regulated by a federal banking agency are required to be licensed under the state’s SAFE Act. Under the DCCA action, affected MLOs can continue to engage in mortgage loan origination activity until September 30, 2012, provided that they take certain preliminary steps towards compliance, such as creating a record in the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System.
On July 30, the NCUA proposed a rule that would alter the emergency liquidity requirements applicable to all federally-insured credit unions. For those credit unions with assets of $10 million or more, the rule would require a contingency funding plan with strategies for addressing liquidity under an emergency scenario. The rule would require institutions with assets of $100 million or more to have access to backup federal liquidity. Institutions with less than $10 million in assets would have to establish a board-approved framework for managing liquidity under emergency circumstances, including a list of contingent liquidity sources. The proposal reminds credit unions that their access to the Central Liquidity Facility is expected to close in October 2012. Comments on the proposal are due by September 28, 2012.
On July 20, the CFPB released a report on private student loans, prepared in conjunction with the Department of Education. Pursuant to Section 1077 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the report covers (i) the evolution and current state of the private lending market, (ii) the characteristics of consumers of private student loans, (iii) consumer protections, including recent changes and possible gaps, (iv) fair lending compliance information currently available and its implications, and (v) statutory or legislative recommendations to improve consumer protections. The report includes a series of recommendations from the CFPB and the Department of Education. The CFPB recommends that Congress require lenders to obtain a certification of the student’s financial need from the educational institution before disbursing private student loan funds. The CFPB also recommends that Congress examine the impact that the 2005 amendments to the bankruptcy code that made private student loans non-dischargeable in bankruptcy absent a showing of undue hardship, have had on young borrowers. On July 24, the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman appeared before the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection to discuss the report and the CFPB’s recommendations. The hearing also included testimony from consumer groups and one private student lender.
On July 18, Representatives Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Baca (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6139, a bill that would create a national charter for qualified non-depository creditors, to be known as National Consumer Credit Corporations (NCCCs). The bill would task the OCC with assessing applications with a focus on the applicant institution’s ability to offer products that provide credit to underserved consumers, and developing a process for approving financial products to be offered by NCCCs. The OCC would be able to establish an annual fee for a charter, but it would not be permitted to restrict the method by which an NCCC offers its products, or to establish usury limits. NCCCs would be subject to certain restrictions, including a prohibition on consumer loans with terms of 30 days or less. The House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit held a hearing to consider H.R. 6139 on July 24, 2012.
On July 24, Senators Merkley (D-OR), Udall (D-NM), and Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill, first revealed by Senator Merkley in March 2012, and now formalized as S. 3426, the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic Lending Act. According to a press release, the bill seeks to (i) ensure that a third party doesn’t gain control of a consumer’s account through remotely created checks, (ii) allow consumers to cancel a debit in connection with a small-dollar loan, (iii) require all lenders, including banks, to abide by a state’s rules for small-dollar, payday-like loans they offer customers in the state, (iv) ban lead generators and anonymously registered payday lending websites, and (v) give the CFPB authority to shut down payment processing for lenders that are violating state and other consumer lending laws through the Internet.
On July 26, the OCC and the DOJ announced resolution of actions brought against a national bank for alleged violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The DOJ filed a complaint and consent order in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, simultaneously bringing and resolving allegations that over a roughly five year period the bank failed to provide sufficient protections to servicemembers (i) denying valid requests for interest rate reductions because the servicemembers’ military orders did not include specific end dates for the period of military service, (ii) foreclosing without a court order, (iii) repossessing motor vehicles without a court order, and (iv) obtaining default judgments without first filing accurate affidavits. Under the DOJ settlement, the bank must pay $12 million in damages to servicemembers. Concurrently, the OCC released consent orders resolving similar allegations. Under both the DOJ and OCC orders, the bank must take specific actions to enhance compliance with SCRA, including with regard to vendor management, training, and internal reporting. The OCC also is requiring that the bank report periodically to the OCC, and conduct a look-back review of its servicemember accounts. The DOJ notes that the bank already has adopted enhanced SCRA policies on its own initiative, including extending a four percent interest rate to qualifying servicemembers and giving an additional one-year grace period before de-enrolling servicemembers from the reduced interest rate program.
This week, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and the Office of Financial Research (OFR) each published annual reports to Congress, as mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. This is the first such report the OFR has prepared. The FSOC annual report surveys the macroeconomic environment within which the U.S. economy exists, identifies risks to U.S. financial stability, reports on implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act and activities of FSOC, and provides a series of recommendations for policymakers. The FSOC’s recommendations fall into four categories: (i) reforms to address structural vulnerabilities, (ii) heightened risk management and supervisory attention, (iii) housing finance reforms, and (iv) implementation and coordination of financial reform. Within the housing finance category, the FSOC notes recent efforts to encourage private capital to re-enter the market in the near term but stresses the continued need for long-term housing finance reform. This section also reviews federal efforts to alter mortgage servicing standards and recommends that federal agencies finalize comprehensive servicing standards. The OFR report summarizes the OFR’s efforts to (i) analyze threats to financial stability, (ii) conduct research on financial stability, (iii) address data gaps, and (iv) promote data standards. According to the report, over the next year, the OFR will focus on the migration of financial activities into the so-called shadow banking system, and will continue to build on research related to threats to financial stability, stress tests, and risk management.
On July 24, a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Barton (R-TX) and Markey (D-MA), sent letters to nine firms the members identified as “major data brokerage companies.” The letters ask each firm to provide information about how it collects, assembles, and sells consumer information. Among the series of specific inquiries, the letters seek information about collection processes and sources, data security measures, and consumer fees and notices. The House members asked each company to respond by August 15, 2012.
Senators Unveil Bill to Increase SEC Civil Penalties; House Members Propose Competing Bills to Enhance the SEC's Investment Adviser Oversight
On July 23, Senators Reed (D-RI) and Grassley (R-IA) unveiled legislation to increase statutory limits on SEC civil monetary penalties to $1 million per violation for individuals, and $10 million per violation for entities. The bill, S. 3416, would also allow for the size of penalties to be linked to the scope of harm and associated investor losses, and provide substantially higher penalties for repeat offenders. The legislation follows a letter SEC Chairman Shapiro sent to Senators Reed and Crapo (R-ID) in November 2011, seeking reforms to the SEC’s authority to impose civil penalties.
On July 24, Representatives Waters (D-CA), Frank (D-MA), and Capuano (D-MA) announced new legislation, H.R. 6204, that would provide the SEC with the authority to impose user fees on investment advisers for the purpose of funding an increase in the number and frequency of SEC examinations. This bill follows an earlier bill from Reps. Bachus (R-AL) and McCarthy (D-NY), H.R. 4624, which also seeks to improve oversight of investment advisers, but through the establishment of self-regulatory organizations overseen by the SEC that investment advisers with retail customers would be required to join.