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  • Department of Defense Updates MLA Interpretive Guidance; Addresses Timing for Safe Harbor Qualification

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    The Department of Defense (DoD) published a new interpretive rule (rule) under the Military Lending Act (“MLA”) on December 14.  This interpretive rule takes effect immediately, and it both amends and adds to the interpretive rule issued by DoD in August 2016 (previously covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert). In general, the rule contains the following updated interpretations:

    • Exemption of Credit Secured by a Motor Vehicle or Personal Property. The rule provides additional guidance on the exemption covering purchase money-secured motor vehicle and personal property loans. Specifically, the rule states that additional costs may be added to an extension of credit so long as these costs relate to the object securing the credit, and not the extension of credit itself. For example, the rule explains that credit used to finance “optional leather seats,” “an extended warranty,” or “negative equity” in connection with the purchase of a motor vehicle will not cause the loan to be subject to the MLA.  However, the rule also states that, if credit is extended to cover “Guaranteed Auto Protection insurance or a credit insurance premium” or additional “cashout,” the loan is not eligible for the MLA exception.
    • Security Interests in Covered Borrowers’ Accounts.  The rule addresses the ability of a creditor to take a security interest in a covered borrower’s account. Specifically, the rule states that a covered borrower may “convey security interest for all types of consumer credit” to a creditor, so long as the creditor complies with all other laws and the MLA rule.  Similarly, the rule notes that the MLA does not prohibit a creditor from exercising rights to take an otherwise-valid statutory lien on funds that have been deposited into a covered borrower’s account “at any time.”  However, the rule also emphasizes methods a creditor may not use to obtain payment from a covered borrower’s account, such as a “remotely created check.”
    • Timing for Safe Harbor Qualification.  The rule provides additional clarity on when a creditor must check an applicant’s active duty status to obtain the MLA’s safe harbor. The rule states that an applicant’s covered borrower status should be determined when the applicant (i) initiates the transaction, (ii) submits an application to establish an account or during the processing of that application, or (iii) anytime during a 30-day period of time prior to such action.  In addition, the rule states that a covered borrower check can qualify for the safe harbor if it is performed “during the course of the creditor’s processing of that application for consumer credit.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Department of Defense Military Lending Act Auto Finance

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  • English Litigation Continues as Mulvaney Delays CFPB Enforcement Cases and Lawmakers Begin New Payday CRA Action

    Federal Issues

    On December 6, Deputy Director of the CFPB, Leandra English, filed an amended complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief and a motion for preliminary injunction with a supporting memorandum. In her amended complaint, English adds, among other things, a constitutional claim alleging that President Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney violates Article II, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which empowers the President to appoint “Officers of the United States,” subject to “the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” According to English, since Mulvaney was appointed without Senate approval and the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) allegedly does not provide the President with a separate authority, President Trump does not have the constitutional authority to appoint Mulvaney in the manner he chose.

    The amended complaint also alleges that the appointment of Mulvaney under the FVRA is illegal because that act cannot be used to make an appointment to an “independent multi-member board or commission without Senate approval,” and the CFPB Director is, by law, a member of the FDIC’s board. This argument mirrors the argument made in a new complaint filed on December 5 by a New York-based credit union against President Trump and Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to contest the legality of Mulvaney’s appointment. The defendants have yet to respond to the credit union’s complaint.

    With respect to English’s litigation, the defendants are set to respond to the motion for preliminary injunction, which builds off the arguments in the amended complaint, by December 18, and a hearing on the motion is set for December 22.

    Mulvaney has continued his work as Acting Director at the CFPB. On December 4, according to sources, he met with reporters to announce his decision to delay at least two active litigation cases as part of his plan to reevaluate the Bureau’s enforcement and litigation practices. The first case concerns a district court dispute between the Bureau and an immigration bond company over whether the CFPB has the authority to enforce a civil investigative demand for personal information about the company’s customers. The second case involves Mulvaney’s decision to withdraw the Bureau’s demand that a mortgage payment company post bond after being ordered to pay a $7.9 million civil money penalty (see previous InfoBytes coverage here). Mulvaney’s December 4 statements also included a freeze on the Bureau’s collection of consumers’ personally identifiable information. These actions follow directions issued by Mulvaney during his first week at the Bureau as previously covered by InfoBytes here.

    Mulvaney has also suggested that he would not seek to repeal the Bureau’s final rule concerning payday loans, vehicle title loans, deposit advance products, and longer-term balloon loans but expressed his support for resolution H.J. Res. 122, which was introduced December 1 by a group of bipartisan lawmakers to override the rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).  The final rule is set to take effect January 16, 2018, but compliance is not mandatory until August 19, 2019. A press release issued by the House Financial Services Committee in support of the resolution stated, “small-dollar loans are already regulated by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Native American tribes. The CFPB’s rule would mark the first time the federal government has gotten involved in the regulation of these loans.”

    On December 5, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a letter to Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) stating that CFPB Bulletin 2013-02 (Bulletin) on indirect auto lending and compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is a “general statement of policy and a rule” that is subject to override under the CRA. According to GAO, the CRA’s definition of a “rule” includes both traditional rules, which typically require notice to the public and an opportunity to comment, and general statements of policy, which do not. GAO concluded that the Bulletin meets this definition “since it applies to all indirect auto lenders; it has future effect; and it is designed to prescribe the Bureau’s policy in enforcing fair lending laws.” GAO’s decision may allow Congress to repeal the four year old Bulletin through a House and Senate majority vote under the CRA, followed by the President’s signature. Sen. Toomey issued a statement saying, “I intend to do everything in my power to repeal this ill-conceived rule using the [CRA].”

    Additionally, and as expected, on December 5, former Director Richard Cordray officially announced his candidacy for governor of Ohio.

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession Courts CFPB Auto Finance Fair Lending Payday Lending Congressional Review Act

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  • FTC Settles With Dallas Auto Dealer for Alleged Deceptive Advertisements

    Lending

    On December 1, the FTC announced a proposed order to settle with a Dallas, Texas auto dealership for alleged deceptive advertisements containing loan and lease terms in Spanish-language newspapers. According to the FTC, the dealership violated the FTC Act by prominently displaying advantageous loan and lease terms in Spanish and qualifying those terms in smaller-print English at the bottom of the page. The FTC alleges the dealership misrepresented (i) the total cost of purchasing or leasing; (ii) the underwriting restrictions for the advertised loan or lease; and (iii) the availability of the inventory advertised. Additionally, the FTC alleged that the dealership violated Truth in Lending Act and the Consumer Leasing Act by failing to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose credit and lease terms. The proposal requires the dealership to cease the allegedly deceptive conduct and comply with all applicable advertisement regulations in the future. The proposal is published in the Federal Register and is open for public comment until January 2, 2018.

    Lending Auto Finance FTC Settlement FTC Act TILA CLA Federal Register

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  • Federal Reserve Releases Survey on Bank Lending Practices

    Lending

    On November 6, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) released its October 2017 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices. Responses came from both domestic banks and U.S. branches and agencies of foreign banks, and focused on bank loans made to businesses and households over the past three months. The October survey results indicated that over the third quarter of 2017, on balance, lenders eased their standards on commercial and industrial loans with demand for such loans decreasing. However, lenders left their standards on commercial real estate (CRE) loans unchanged and reported that demand for CRE loans weakened. As to loans to households, banks reported that standards for all categories of residential real estate (RRE) lending “either eased or remained basically unchanged,” and that the demand for RRE loans also weakened.

    The survey also included two sets of special questions addressing changes in household lending conditions.

    The first set of these special questions asked banks to specify the reasons for changing this year their credit policies on credit card and auto loans to prime and subprime borrowers. Respondents’ most reported reasons for tightening standards or terms on these types of loans were (i) “a less favorable or more uncertain economic outlook”; (ii) “a deterioration or expected deterioration in the quality of their existing loan portfolio”; and (iii) “a reduced tolerance for risk.” Auto loan reasons also focused on “less favorable or more uncertain expectations regarding collateral values.”

    The second set of these special questions asked banks for their views as to why they have experienced stronger or weaker demand for credit card and auto loans over this year. Respondents’ reported that a strengthening of demand for credit card and auto loans from prime borrowers could be attributed to customers’ confidence as well as their improved ability to manage debt service burdens. The most reported reasons for weakened demand for credit card and auto loans from prime borrowers were an increase in interest rates and a shift in customers’ borrowing “from their bank to other bank or nonbank sources.”

    For additional details see:

    Lending Federal Reserve Consumer Lending Auto Finance Credit Cards Consumer Finance

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  • FTC Fines California Auto Dealer for Violating Order About Disclosures

    Lending

    On November 6, the FTC announced a settlement of $1.4 million with a Southern California auto dealership for violating a 2014 administrative order (Order). The Order prohibited the dealership from misrepresenting the cost to finance or lease a vehicle. In issuing the Order, the FTC alleged that the dealership had violated the FTC Act by using advertisements that deceptively stated a $0 up-front lease option while excluding other fees and costs, and also that the dealership’s advertisements violated disclosure requirements of the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) and TILA.

    The new settlement resolves a complaint in which the FTC alleged the auto dealership “routinely violated” the Order requiring the dealership to, among other things, (i) accurately represent costs and terms of financing or leasing vehicles; (ii) conform its advertisements to the requirements of the CLA and TILA; and (iv) maintain necessary records and make those records available to the agency. In addition to the monetary penalty and the prohibition of similar practices, the settlement also subjects the dealership to strong compliance and reporting requirements.

    Lending Auto Finance FTC Enforcement Settlement. FTC Act CLA TILA Disclosures

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  • CFPB Reports Increase in Longer-Term Auto Loans

    Consumer Finance

    On November 1, the CFPB released a report finding an increase in the number of auto loans with terms of six years or longer. Specifically, the report notes that these longer-term loans made up 42 percent of auto loans originated in 2017, an increase from 26 percent of auto loans originated in 2009. The report observes that, while longer-term loans may make monthly payments more affordable, it is not clear that consumers are “better off” or more likely to repay such loans because of the increased financing costs and larger amounts financed.

    The report is a product of the CFPB’s Consumer Credit Trends tool (previously covered by InfoBytes) – a web-based resource that collects data on the auto finance, credit card, mortgage, and student loan markets. The tool’s data is drawn from a “nationally representative sample of credit records” kept by one of the top three U.S. credit reporting companies.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Auto Finance

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  • New York AG, Auto Dealers Reach Settlement Over Advance Fee Allegations That Triggered Inflated Vehicle Prices

    State Issues

    On October 12, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced separate settlements (here and here) with two auto dealer groups to resolve allegations that they violated state and federal law by charging upfront fees for “after-sale” credit repair and identity theft protection services, which were provided by a third party, and bundling those fees into vehicle sale or lease prices. According to the settlements, the groups—which have neither admitted nor denied the allegations—are required to pay affected consumers more than $900,000 in restitution and pay a $135,000 fine to the state. The settlements also prohibit the groups from selling or marketing credit repair or identity theft protection services and require that consumers be informed—both orally and in writing—of any other “after-sale” products.

    State Issues State AG Auto Finance Consumer Finance Settlement Enforcement

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  • Massachusetts AG Takes Action Against Auto Dealer for Deceptive Marketing and Sales Tactics

    Lending

    On September 26, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a lawsuit against a large auto dealership and its in-house lender for allegedly misleading consumers into purchasing unfavorable sale packages. According to the Commonwealth’s complaint, filed in the Suffolk County Superior Court, the auto dealer purportedly (i) sold consumers cars priced at more than double their retail value; (ii) extended loans to consumers with an APR of 20 percent, regardless of credit qualifications; and (iii) combined these sales with an expensive and limited service contract. The complaint further alleges that because of these sales practices and a faulty underwriting process, more than half of the auto dealer’s sales fail or end in repossession. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, restitution, civil penalties, and attorney fees.

    Lending State AG UDAAP Auto Finance Enforcement Anti-Predatory Lending

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  • DOJ Announces Settlement With Financial Institution Over Alleged SCRA Violations Concerning Auto Repossessions

    Consumer Finance

    On September 18, the DOJ announced a settlement with a large financial institution resolving allegations that the financial institution had illegally repossessed 164 active-duty servicemembers’ vehicles without first obtaining necessary court orders in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The DOJ filed its complaint against the financial institution in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas the same day the settlement agreement was reached. According to the complaint, the financial institution repossessed the vehicles between 2007 and 2010, when it completed the sale of its automobile lending and servicing arm to a different company. As part of a separate enforcement action against the company that acquired the accounts, the DOJ discovered that the financial institution allegedly violated the SCRA by arranging “for the physical repossession of the automobile and later [selling] the account to [the new company], which attempted to collect fees relating to the unlawful repossession.” Further, the complaint alleges that the financial institution conducted repossessions without SCRA-required court orders, even though the company possessed information “in its own records suggesting that a borrower could be a SCRA-protected servicemember,” or knew that “the borrower was in military service or had received orders to report for military service” and “nevertheless continued repossession efforts and eventually succeeded in repossessing the [servicemembers’] vehicles.”

    While the financial institution has denied the allegations, it agreed to compensate affected servicemembers $907,000, 163 of whom are to receive $5,000 each, in addition to the $5,000 previously received as partial compensation from a separate settlement the DOJ reached with the company that acquired the accounts. The remaining impacted servicemember, who did not receive partial compensation, will receive $10,000 from the escrow account. All 164 servicemembers will also receive $500 for “lost equity” and accrued interest. In addition, the financial institution must provide credit repair relief to each affected servicemember and any co-borrowers, and are required to cooperate with an “Independent Settlement Administrator” who will monitor compliance. Further, should the financial institution resume originating or servicing automobile loans, it is required to provide notice to the DOJ every six months of any SCRA or military-related complaint.

    Consumer Finance DOJ Enforcement Settlement SCRA Auto Finance

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  • CFPB’s Summer Edition of Supervisory Highlights Discloses Findings Across Many Financial Services Areas

    Consumer Finance

    On September 12, the CFPB released its summer 2017 Supervisory Highlights, which outlines its supervisory and oversight actions in areas such as auto loan servicing, credit card account management, debt collection, deposit account supervision, mortgage origination and servicing, remittances, service provider programs, short-term small-dollar lending, and fair lending. According to the Supervisory Highlights, recent supervisory resolutions have “resulted in total restitution payments of approximately $14 million to more than 104,000 consumers during the review period” between January 2017 and June 2017.

    As examples, in the area of auto loan servicing, examiners discovered vehicles were being repossessed even though the repossession should have been cancelled. Coding errors, document mishandling, and failure to timely cancel the repossession order were cited causes. Regarding fair lending examination findings, the CFPB discovered, in general, “deficiencies in oversight by board and senior management, monitoring and corrective action processes, compliance audits, and oversight of third-party service providers.” Examiners also conducted ECOA Baseline Reviews on mortgage servicers and discovered weaknesses in servicers’ fair lending compliance management systems. Findings in other areas include the following:

    • consumers were provided inaccurate information about when bank checking account service fees would be waived, and banks misrepresented overdraft protection;
    • debt collectors engaged in improper debt collection practices related to short-term, small-dollar loans, including attempts to collect debts owed by a different person or contacting third parties about consumers’ debts;
    • companies overcharged mortgage closing fees or wrongly charged application fees that are prohibited by the Bureau’s Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rules; and
    • borrowers were denied the opportunity to take full advantage of the mortgage loss mitigation options, and mortgage servicers failed to “exercise reasonable diligence in collecting information needed to complete the borrower’s application.”

    The Bureau also set forth new examination procedures for HMDA data collection and reporting requirements as well as student loan servicers, in addition to providing guidance for covered persons and service providers regarding pay-by-phone fee assessments.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Enforcement Auto Finance Credit Cards Debt Collection Fair Lending ECOA Compliance Mortgage Origination Mortgage Servicing HMDA Student Lending

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