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On October 4, the California governor signed SB 531, which requires debt collectors to provide more information to consumers when assigned to collect a debt. Among other things, the bill: (i) expands the standards to allow Californians to verify a collector’s authority; (ii) bans creditors from selling the debt without first giving the debtor 30-day notice; (iii) requires debt buyers to provide a written statement to the debtor upon request; and (iv) prohibits, in certain circumstances, a debt collector from making a written statement to a debtor in an attempt to collect a delinquent consumer debt. The law is effective starting July 1, 2022.
On October 5, HUD issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking comments regarding the transition from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) to alternate indices on adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). According to the ANPRM, most ARMs insured by FHA are based on LIBOR, which is likely to become uncertain after December 31 and to no longer be published after June 30, 2023. Due to the uncertainty, HUD has begun to transition away from LIBOR and has approved the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) index in some circumstances. In recognizing that there may be certain difficulties for mortgagees transitioning to a new index, HUD “is considering a rule that would address a Secretary-approved replacement index for existing loans and provide for a transition date consistent with the cessation of the LIBOR index.” Furthermore, HUD “is also considering replacing the LIBOR index with the SOFR interest rate index, with a compatible spread adjustment to minimize the impact of the replacement index for legacy ARMs.” Comments on the ANPRM are due by December 6.
The same day, Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles spoke at the Structured Finance Association Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, reminding participants that they should cease utilizing LIBOR by the end of the year, “no matter how unhappy they may be with their options to replace it,” and further warned that the Fed will supervise firms accordingly. Quarles emphasized that, “[g]iven the availability of SOFR, including term SOFR, there will be no reason for a bank to use [LIBOR] after 2021 while trying to find a rate it likes better.”
On October 5, the FTC finalized a settlement with the operators of a movie subscription service, resolving allegations that the respondents violated the FTC Act by denying subscribers access to paid-for services and failed to secure subscribers’ personal information. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in June the FTC filed a complaint alleging the respondents, among other things, employed multiple tactics to prevent subscribers from using the advertised services, and failed to disclose all material terms before obtaining consumers’ billing information or obtain consumers’ express informed consent before charging them. The FTC further alleged that the respondents failed to take reasonable measures to protect subscribers’ personal information, including by storing personal data in unencrypted form and failing to restrict who could access the data, which led to a data breach in 2019. In a 4-1 vote, the FTC approved the settlement, which prohibits the respondents from misrepresenting their business and data security practices and requires the establishment of a comprehensive information security program. The respondents must also implement and annually test and monitor safeguards, take steps to address security risks, obtain biennial third-party information security assessments, notify the FTC of any future data breaches, and annually certify that they are complying with the order’s data security requirements. The FTC noted respondents may face monetary penalties of up to $43,792 per violation, per day, should they violate the terms of the order.
On October 6, the Department of Education announced several significant changes to its Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that will be implemented over the next year. According to the Department, approximately 22,000 borrowers with consolidated loans (including loans previously ineligible) may be immediately eligible to have their loans forgiven automatically. Another 27,000 borrowers could have their balances forgiven if they are able to certify additional periods of public service employment.
The changes will now give qualifying borrowers a time-limited PSLF waiver, which will allow all payments to count towards PSLF regardless of loan program or payment plan. These include payments made on loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or Perkins Loan Program. Restrictions will also be waived on the type of repayment plan as well as the requirement that payments be made in the full amount and on-time in order to count. Additionally, the Department states that all months a servicemember spent on active duty will now count toward PSLF, even if a borrower’s loans were in deferment or forbearance and were not actively being repaid. A fact sheet states that the Department is also, among other things, reviewing previously disqualified loan payments for errors and providing borrowers the opportunity to have their PSLF determinations reconsidered. Counting prior payments on additional types of loans will also help borrowers who have or had loans from the FFEL Program, many of whom, the Department says, reported receiving inaccurate information from their servicers about how to make progress toward PSLF. The Department will also “start automatically adjusting payment counts for borrowers who have already consolidated their loans into the Direct Loan Program and certified some employment for PSLF.” Waiver requests must be submitted by October 31, 2022.
In addition to these changes, the Department says it has started its first session of negotiated rulemaking, which includes PSLF. Future changes “would make it easier for borrowers to make progress toward forgiveness, including simplifying qualifying payment rules and allowing certain types of deferments and forbearances to count toward PSLF,” the Department explains.
On October 5, acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu stated the agency is exploring several options to improve bank board diversity and inclusion. Speaking during the Women in Housing & Finance Public Policy Luncheon, Hsu stated that the OCC is considering “encouraging banks to make it a practice to nominate or consider a diverse range of candidates or requiring institutions to either diversify their boards or explain why they have not.” Hsu cited examples such as the SEC’s approval of a new Nasdaq “diversify or explain” listing rule, as well as laws passed by the California legislature “requiring companies to have a certain number of female directors and directors from underrepresented communities.” In addition, the OCC is looking at ways other countries are approaching board diversity. “Without diverse leadership, banks and their regulators may develop blind spots or suffer from groupthink,” Hsu said. “These blind spots can lead to the kinds of nasty surprises that threaten safety and soundness—and possibly the financial sector as a whole. There is a growing body of empirical evidence that companies that address these blind spots by having diverse boards of directors have stronger earnings, more effective corporate governance, better reputations, and less litigation risk.” Hsu added that it is time to shift cultural expectations concerning diversity and inclusion and improve diversity transparency at banks, both at the executive and board levels.
On October 5, the FDIC released an update to the Questions and Answers Related to the Brokered Deposits Rule document. The FDIC added an FAQ to expressly state that a broker-dealer that sweeps deposits to only one insured depository institution (IDI) does not need to file a notice to rely upon the 25 percent designated exception, because a third party that has an exclusive deposit placement arrangement with only one IDI does not meet the definition of “deposit broker.” The FAQs also specify that an individual “meets the first part of the ‘deposit broker’ definition when it is ‘engaged in the business of placing deposits’ on behalf of a third party (i.e., a depositor) at IDIs.” The FAQs further clarify that an individual “is ‘engaged in the business of placing deposits’ of third parties if that person, while engaged in business, receives third party funds and deposits those funds at more than one IDI.”
Recently, the FTC released a report to Congress regarding the Commission’s actions in strengthening measures to link data privacy and competition enforcement, among other things. The report responds to the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, P.L. 116-260, which directed the FTC to “conduct a comprehensive internal assessment measuring the agency’s current efforts related to data privacy and security while separately identifying all resource-based needs of the FTC to improve in these areas.” The report highlights areas that the FTC is focusing on to improve the effectiveness of the Commission’s efforts to protect Americans’ privacy:
- Integrating competition concerns. The FTC intends to “spend more time on the overlap between data privacy and competition.” The report also points out that the FTC has a “structural advantage” compared to other agencies and will look with “privacy and competition lenses at problems that arise in digital markets.”
- Advancing remedies. The FTC is providing relief for consumers and deterring unfair or deceptive privacy and security practices though four remedies: (i) notifying harmed consumers; (ii) obtaining monetary remedies for harmed consumers; (iii) obtaining non-monetary remedial relief for consumers; and (iv) prohibiting companies from benefitting from illegal data collection.
- Focusing on digital platforms. The FTC intends to increase its focus on the data practices of dominant digital platforms, which includes focusing on order enforcement.
- Expanding the FTC’s guidance and understanding of the consumer protection and competition implications of algorithms. The FTC intends “to deepen [its] understanding of the consumer protection and competition risks associated with algorithms and to expand upon the guidance that [it has] provided to businesses on using algorithms and AI truthfully, fairly, and equitably.”
Among other things, the report also urges Congress “to clarify Section 13(b) of the FTC Act and shore up the FTC’s ability to enjoin illegal conduct and revive its authority return to consumers money they have lost, which will greatly assist [the FTC’s] efforts to protect consumers.” The report further notes that the FTC will continue to push Congress to enact privacy and data security legislation, enforceable by the FTC.
In a statement released on October 1, FTC Chair Lina Khan stated the agency “should approach data privacy and security protections by considering substantive limits rather than just procedural protections, which tend to create process requirements while sidestepping more fundamental questions about whether certain types of data collection and processing should be permitted in the first place.”
On October 4, the Federal Reserve Board announced that it will adopt the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 20022 message format for its Fedwire Funds Service—a real-time gross settlement system owned and operated by the Federal Reserve Banks that enables businesses and financial institutions to quickly and securely transfer funds. This change will enable “enhanced efficiency of both domestic and cross-border payments, and a richer set of payment data that may help banks and other entities comply with sanctions and anti-money laundering requirements,” the Fed stated. Additionally, the Fed requested public comments on a revised plan (targeted for no earlier than November 2023) to implement the ISO 20022 message format on a single day rather than in three separate phases, as originally proposed. According to the Fed, the adoption of ISO 20022 is part of the agency’s initiative to enhance its payment services. Comments must be received 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On October 4, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a petition filed by a New Jersey-based finance company accused by the CFPB and the New York attorney general of misleading first responders to the World Trade Center attack and NFL retirees about high-cost loans mischaracterized as assignments of future payment rights (see entry #20-1758). In 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a 2018 district court order, which had previously dismissed the case on the grounds that the Bureau’s single-director structure was unconstitutional, and that, as such, the agency lacked authority to bring claims alleging deceptive and abusive conduct by the company (covered by InfoBytes here). At the time, the district court also rejected an attempt by then-acting Director Mulvaney to salvage the Bureau’s claims, concluding that the “ratification of the CFPB’s enforcement action against defendants failed to cure the constitutional deficiencies in the CFPB’s structure or otherwise render defendants’ arguments moot.” The 2nd Circuit remanded the case to the district court, determining that the Court’s ruling in Seila Law LLC v. CPFB (which held that the director’s for-cause removal provision was unconstitutional but was severable from the statute establishing the Bureau, as covered by a Buckley Special Alert) superseded the 2018 ruling. The appellate court further noted that following Seila, former Director Kathy Kraninger ratified several prior regulatory actions (covered by InfoBytes here), including the enforcement action brought against the defendants, and as such, remanded the case to the district court to consider the validity of the ratification of the enforcement action.
In its June petition for writ of certiorari, the company argued that the Bureau could not use ratification to avoid dismissal of the lawsuit. The company noted that while several courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (covered by InfoBytes here) have “appl[ied] ratification to cure the structural problem,” other courts have rejected the Bureau’s ratification efforts, finding them to be untimely (see a dismissal by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, as covered by InfoBytes here). As such, the company had asked the Supreme Court to clarify this contradictory “hopeless muddle” by clarifying the appropriate remedy for structural constitutional violations and addressing whether ratification is still effective if it comes after the statute of limitations has expired.
As is customary when denying a petition for certiorari, the Supreme Court did not explain its reasoning.
On September 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the daily fees imposed on a consumer who failed to timely pay an overdraft were deposit-account service charges, not interest, and thus not subject to usury limits. The plaintiff allegedly overdrew her account and her bank paid the overdraft. The bank began charging a daily fee after the plaintiff did not repay the overdraft within five business days (called an “Extended Overdraft Charge”), which the plaintiff argued constituted interest on an extension of credit and was usurious in violation of the National Bank Act (NBA). In dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim, the district court reasoned that the bank does not make a loan to a customer when it covers the customer’s overdraft, and therefore the NBA’s limitations on interest charges do not apply. On appeal, the appellate court sided with the district court and deferred to the interpretation of the OCC that the fees at issue were not “interest” under the law. The court found the OCC’s interpretation to be reasonable and otherwise entitled to Auer deference, and on that basis affirmed.
- Daniel R. Alonso to moderate an interactive roundtable at the Latin Lawyer and GIR Connect: Anti-Corruption & Investigations Conference
- APPROVED Checkpoint Webcast: You have license renewal questions, we have answers
- 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
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Regulatory update: What you need to know under the new boss; It won’t be the same as the old boss" at the IMN Residential Mortgage Service Rights Forum (East)
- Benjamin B. Klubes to discuss “Creating a Fantastic Workplace Culture”
- 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
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek