Skip to main content
Menu Icon Menu Icon
Close

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations
Section Content

Upcoming Events

Filter

Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter for news affecting the financial services industry.

  • Multiple states pass bills addressing GAP waiver framework

    State Issues

    On March 28, HB 4186, which amends the Code of West Virginia by adding a section related to guaranteed asset protection waivers (GAP waivers), became law without the governor’s signature. Among other things, HB 4186 clarifies that GAP waivers are not insurance, and that GAP waivers issued after the bill’s effective date are exempt from West Virginia insurance laws. The bill also (i) specifies terms and conditions when offering GAP waivers; (ii) provides requirements for offering GAP waivers, including “contractual liability” obligations, certain disclosures, and cancellation/non-cancellation terms; and (iii) outlines exemptions, such as commercial transactions and GAP waivers sold or issued by federally regulated depository institutions. Additionally, HB 4186 clarifies the procedures a borrower must follow to activate benefits under a GAP waiver. The bill will apply to all GAP waivers in effect on or after July 1.

    On March 28, the Wisconsin governor signed Assembly Bill 663 (AB 663), which amends statutes related to GAP waivers sold in connection with the credit sale or lease of a vehicle. Among other things, AB 663 prohibits creditors from requiring borrowers to purchase GAP waivers and requires creditors to provide written disclosures to borrowers prior to, or at the time of execution, which include that (i) the purchase of a GAP waiver is optional; (iii) outlines the costs and terms; and (iii) specifies procedures borrowers are required to follow to receive GAP waiver benefits. AB 663 also addresses cancellation provisions for borrowers. Furthermore, the bill clarifies that GAP waivers are not insurance and that any cost to a borrower must be separately stated as part of the finance agreement and cannot be considered a finance charge or interest. AB 663 becomes effective September 1.

    Finally, on March 26, the Mississippi governor signed SB 2929, which clarifies that GAP waivers are not insurance and are therefore exempt from Mississippi insurance laws. Provisions promulgated under SB 2929 provide a framework for which GAP waivers may be offered to borrowers in the state and include (i) requirements for contractual liability and other policies to insure a GAP waiver; (ii) disclosure requirements; and (iii) cancellation policies for GAP waivers and procedures for borrowers to obtain a refund in the instance of cancellation or early termination. Similar to Wisconsin AB 663, any cost to a borrower associated with a GAP waiver must be separately stated as part of the finance agreement and cannot be considered a finance charge or interest. The act takes effect July 1.

    State Issues State Legislation GAP Waivers Disclosures Auto Finance

    Share page with AddThis
  • DOJ sues California subprime auto lender for alleged SCRA violations

    Consumer Finance

    On March 28, the DOJ filed a complaint in the Central District of California against a California-based indirect auto lending company (defendant) for allegedly repossessing servicemembers’ vehicles in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The allegations stem from an investigation into the defendant’s practices after an Army Private submitted a complaint to the DOJ in 2016. The DOJ’s investigation concluded that the defendant repossessed the vehicle without obtaining a court order or confirming whether the servicemember was SCRA-protected. According to the DOJ’s complaint, its investigation revealed that the defendant allegedly failed to have policies or practices in place to verify borrowers’ military status before repossessing vehicles. As such, the DOJ believes that the defendant may have repossessed vehicles of other servicemembers without obtaining the necessary court others or verifying military status. The DOJ contends that the defendant’s conduct was “intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of servicemembers.” In addition to monetary damages, the DOJ seeks civil monetary penalties and injunctive relief.

    Consumer Finance DOJ SCRA Servicemembers Auto Finance Repossession

    Share page with AddThis
  • CFPB Succession: CFPB drops payday lawsuit, new CRA measures introduced in Congress

    Federal Issues

    On March 22, Senator Moran, R-Kan, with 15 GOP co-sponsors introduced a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to block the CFPB’s Bulletin 2013-02 (Bulletin) on indirect auto lending and compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The resolution follows a December 2017 letter issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) stating that the Bulletin is a “general statement of policy and a rule” that is subject to override under the CRA, previously covered by InfoBytes here.

    On the same day, Senator Graham, R-SC, introduced a resolution to overturn the CFPB’s final rule addressing payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other extensions of credit. A similar resolution was introduced in the House in December 2017 by a group of bipartisan lawmakers. As previously covered by InfoBytes, while acting Director Mick Mulvaney has suggested he would not seek his own repeal of the Bureau’s rule but may “reconsider” it, he has expressed his support for the Congressional measures to block the rule. Additionally, according to media reports, the CFPB has recently dropped a case against an online payday loan company and Mulvaney is currently reviewing whether to continue three other investigations into lenders of similar products.

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession Payday Lending Congressional Review Act Auto Finance

    Share page with AddThis
  • DOJ settles SCRA lease termination allegations against motor vehicle finance company

    Federal Issues

    On February 22, the DOJ announced a settlement agreement with a motor vehicle finance company regarding allegations that the company did not refund a portion of the capitalized cost reduction (CCR), after the motor vehicle leases were terminated early under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The DOJ took the position that the CCR was a prepayment subject to refund upon termination. Consistent with industry practice, the finance company treated the CCR as an amount comparable to a down payment in a finance agreement, not subject to refund, rather than a prepayment. Though not admitting any violation of law, the company agreed to refund certain portions of CCR pre-payments and update its policies and procedures, among other relief. Buckley Sandler attorneys John Redding and Sasha Leonhardt represented the company in this matter.

    Federal Issues DOJ SCRA Auto Finance Servicemembers

    Share page with AddThis
  • District judge rules financing contingency clause in retail installment contract does not violate TILA

    Courts

    On February 12, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California held that a financing contingency clause in a retail installment contract (contract) did not violate the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). The clause provided that the dealership (defendant) could cancel the contract if it could not assign it to a financial institution on terms acceptable to the seller. According to the opinion, the plaintiff signed the contract with the defendant to purchase a car after being told she was approved for financing; however, the defendant later contacted the plaintiff and informed her that it was unable to assign her loan to a third party bank and demanded that she “return to the dealership with a co-signor or surrender the [v]ehicle.” The plaintiff asserted that “she never received a written notice explaining why [the] defendant [had] revoked its extension of credit” or why it had cancelled the contract. Among other things, the plaintiff argued that the defendant’s actions violated (i) TILA when it inserted a seller’s right to cancel provision in the contract, and (ii) a “breach of ‘good faith and fair dealing obligation.’” However, with respect to TILA, the judge found no violation, holding that while TILA requires certain disclosures for the purpose of avoiding the “uninformed use of credit,” it does not prohibit the inclusion of financing contingencies. Here, the contract included all required elements under TILA and the properly disclosed credit terms were not rendered meaningless or invalid just because the dealership reserved a unilateral right to rescind the contract. The judge further dismissed the breach of good faith claim, noting that the defendant was acting within the allowed terms of the right to cancel provision.

    Courts TILA Auto Finance

    Share page with AddThis
  • District Court sanctions bankruptcy law firm for allegedly harming consumers and auto lenders

    Consumer Finance

    On February 12, following a four-day trial, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia entered a memorandum opinion to sanction and enjoin a national consumer bankruptcy law firm and its local partner attorneys (defendants) for “systematically engag[ing] in the unauthorized practice of law, provid[ing] inadequate representation to consumer debtor clients, and promot[ing] and participat[ing] in a scheme to convert auto lenders’ collateral and then misrepresent[ing] the nature of that scheme.” According to a DOJ press release, the combined order was entered in two actions consolidated for trial brought by the DOJ’s U.S. Trustee Program. The actions concern a Chicago-based law firm that offered legal services via its website to financially distressed consumers and allegedly had “non-attorney ‘client consultants’” engage in the unauthorized practice of law and employ “high-pressure sales tactics” when encouraging consumers to file for bankruptcy relief. Among other things, the defendants allegedly (i) refused to refund bankruptcy-related legal fees to clients for whom the firm failed to file bankruptcy cases; (ii) failed to have in place oversight and supervision procedures to prevent non-attorney salespeople from practicing law; and (iii) partnered with an Indiana-based towing company to implement a scheme that would allow clients to have their bankruptcy-related legal fees paid if they transferred vehicles “fully encumbered by auto lenders’ liens” to the towing company without lienholder consent. Under the “New Car Custody Program,” the towing company allegedly claimed rights to the vehicles, sold the vehicles at auction, paid the client’s bankruptcy fees to the defendants, and pocketed the proceeds. According to the release, this program “harmed auto lenders by converting collateral in which they had valid security interests,” and exposed clients to “undue risk by causing them to possibly violate the terms of their contracts with their auto lenders as well as state laws.”

    Under the terms of the order, the court sanctioned the defendants $250,000, imposed additional sanctions totaling $60,000 against the firm’s managing partner and affiliated partner attorneys, ordered the defendants to disgorge all funds “collected from the consumer debtors in both bankruptcy cases,” and revoked the defendants’ privileges to practice in the Western District of Virginia for various specified periods of time. The court also sanctioned the towing company and “ordered the turnover of all funds it received in connection” with the program. The towing company did not respond to the filed complaints.

    Consumer Finance DOJ Bankruptcy Auto Finance State Issues Courts

    Share page with AddThis
  • FTC releases report on military consumer finance

    Consumer Finance

    On February 2, the FTC released a new Staff Perspective (perspective) which highlights takeaways from a July 2017 FTC workshop focused on examining the array of financial issues that may affect military consumers (defined as servicemembers, veterans, and their families). The perspective notes, among other things, that servicemembers may struggle during auto financing transactions because of a lack of time to shop and lack of credit history, which may result in disadvantageous credit terms. Additionally, the perspective highlights that debt collection problems may result in a servicemember not qualifying for a security clearance and that debt collectors may threaten to contact servicemembers’ commanding officers. The perspective also summarized the additional legal rights that may apply to military consumers, such as the Military Lending Act (MLA) and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), and emphasized the FTC’s focus on financial education for servicemembers throughout the various stages of their military career.

    Consumer Finance FTC Debt Collection Military Lending Act Auto Finance SCRA

    Share page with AddThis
  • District court grants motion to compel arbitration, cites failure to dispute scope of clause

    Courts

    On January 29, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granted a motion to compel arbitration, finding that an arbitration clause set forth under extension agreements with an automobile finance company to refinance and extend the plaintiff’s loan obligation is “valid and enforceable.” Additionally, the court ruled that alternative motions to dismiss filed by other defendants were moot, and then stayed and administratively closed the matter pending the resolution of the claims subject to arbitration. The plaintiff alleged violations of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, and several other state and federal credit statutes, when defendants—including the automobile finance company—repossessed her vehicle despite having signed extension agreements. In response to the defendants’ assertion that her claims were subject to the arbitration clause, the plaintiff argued that the extension agreements were unenforceable due to the unavailability of the “designated arbitrators,” and that defendants were barred from trying to obtain “alternative relief” by relying on additional terms outlined in a second extension agreement that released defendants from liability. However, the court ruled that the plaintiff’s failure to dispute the scope of the arbitration clause meant that the defendants were “entitled to enforcement of the arbitration clause with respect to all claims and defenses asserted,” so long as the designated arbitrators are available.

    Courts Auto Finance Arbitration Debt Collection Repossession FDCPA

    Share page with AddThis
  • 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

    Share page with AddThis
  • 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

    Share page with AddThis

Pages