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  • City of Philadelphia’s discriminatory lending lawsuit moves forward

    Lending

    On January 16, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied a national bank’s motion to dismiss the City of Philadelphia’s (City) claims that the bank engaged in alleged discriminatory lending practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As previously covered in InfoBytes, the City filed a complaint in May of last year against the bank alleging discrimination under both the disparate treatment and disparate impact theories. The City asserted that the bank’s practice of offering better terms to similarly-situated, non-minority borrowers or refusing to make loans in minority neighborhoods has led to foreclosures and vacant homes, which in turn, has resulted in a suppression of property tax revenue and increased cost of providing services such as police, fire fighting, and other municipal services. In support of its motion to dismiss, the bank argued, among other things, that the City’s claim (i) is time barred; (ii) improperly alleges the disparate impact theory; and (iii) fails to allege proximate cause as required by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling (see previous Special Alert here).

    While the court expressed “serious concerns about the viability of the economic injury aspect of the City’s claim with regard to proximate cause,” the court found that the bank “has not met its burden to show why the City’s entire FHA claim should be dismissed.” Consequently, the court held that the case may proceed to discovery beyond the two-year statute of limitations period for FHA violations in order to provide the City an opportunity to prove whether the bank’s policy caused a racial disparity that constituted a violation continuing into the limitations period.

    Lending State Issues Fair Lending Redlining FHA U.S. Supreme Court Disparate Impact Mortgages

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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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  • Freddie Mac Announces Guide Bulletin 2017-26 Covering Changes to Eligibility for Certain Mortgage Products

    Lending

    On November 15, Freddie Mac announced the issuance of Guide Bulletin 2017-26 (Bulletin), which, among other things, expands borrower options for mortgage financing, eases certain underwriting requirements, and adds non-discrimination language. Specifically, the Bulletin announces the availability of 5-year ARMs as a newly eligible product under “Home Possible,” “Freddie Mac Relief Refinance,” and “Financed Permanent Buydown” mortgage programs. Freddie Mac is also removing the requirement that all income reported on Home Possible Mortgage applications must be verified. Additionally, effective March 15, 2018, consistent with the FHFA Minority and Women Inclusion Amendments Final Rule, all covered sellers “must not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, disability, veteran status, genetic information (including family medical history), pregnancy, parental status, familial status, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics protected by law.”

    Lending Freddie Mac Mortgages Fair Lending Underwriting

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  • DOJ Announces $5.4 Million in Additional Relief for Servicemembers Impacted by Bank’s Alleged SCRA Violations

    Lending

    On November 14, the DOJ announced it had secured an additional $5.4 million from a major U.S. bank related to a September 2016 settlement (previously covered by InfoBytes) resolving allegations that between January 2008 and July 2015 the bank repossessed vehicles owned by active duty servicemembers without required court orders in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The original consent order with the DOJ required the bank to pay $10,000, plus lost equity, to each of the 413 affected servicemembers whose cars were found to be unlawfully seized and further stipulated the bank could be required to compensate additional servicemembers. Since entering into the 2016 settlement with the DOJ, the bank announced it had uncovered another 450 qualifying servicemembers, bringing the combined affected total to 863, with compensatory payouts of more than $10 million.

    Lending Fair Lending DOJ SCRA Servicemembers Settlement Enforcement

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  • FHFA Includes a Language Preference Question in the Universal Residential Loan Application

    Lending

    On October 20, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that it would include a language preference question on its updated Universal Residential Loan Application (URLA). The question will allow borrowers to indicate if they prefer to communicate in a language other than English and to identify that language. In response to industry concerns, in the preferred language question text, FHFA includes disclosure language that informs borrowers their response will not negatively affect their application, indicates a preferred language does not mean the lender agrees to communicate in that language, and provides language assistance resources.

    FHFA plans to issue the new URLA form later this year, which will go into effect beginning in July 2019. The form will be mandatory for loans made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac beginning in February 2020.

    Lending Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FHFA URLA Fair Lending Mortgages Fannie Mae Freddie Mac

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  • OCC Policy Outlines CRA Evaluation Process and Impact of Discriminatory Practices

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 12, the OCC issued OCC Bulletin 2017-40 announcing the release of its Policies and Procedures Manual 5000-43 (PPM 5000-43), which outlines the OCC’s policy and framework for how the agency determines Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) ratings when there’s evidence of discriminatory or other illegal credit practices directly related to a supervised financial institution’s CRA lending activities. First, PPM 5000-43 requires a “logical nexus” between the assigned ratings and the evidence of discriminatory or other illegal practices to ensure that the CRA evaluation “does not penalize a bank for compliance deficiencies or illegal credit practices unrelated to its CRA lending activities.” Second, the OCC examiners will give “full consideration” to any remedial actions the institution has already taken to address such discriminatory or other illegal credit practices to ensure that the CRA rating “does not penalize a bank for compliance deficiencies or illegal credit practices that have been, or are substantially being, addressed by the bank.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC CRA Lending Consumer Finance Fair Lending

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  • DOJ Civil Rights Division Issues Annual Report to Congress

    Federal Issues

    In September, the DOJ Civil Rights Division issued its Annual Report to Congress regarding its 2016 activities related to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Highlights include:

    • Fair lending: The DOJ opened 18 fair lending investigations; filed seven lawsuits and settled six of them; and obtained almost $37 million in relief. At the end of 2016, the DOJ had 33 open fair lending investigations.
    • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act: In November 2016, the DOJ announced a new pilot program funding additional attorneys and resources to support enforcement efforts related to the SCRA. In addition, the DOJ entered into two SCRA settlements, initiated a new lawsuit (subsequently settled in 2017), and continued to support distribution of compensation under the National Mortgage Settlement.
    • ECOA/FHA Referrals: The DOJ received 22 ECOA and FHA referrals in 2016; opened eight investigations from these referrals; and noted that all but one of the lawsuits filed by the Civil Rights Division in 2016 were based in part on referrals.

    Federal Issues DOJ Congress Enforcement ECOA FHA SCRA Fair Lending

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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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  • CFPB’s Project Catalyst Issues First “No-Action” Letter to Consumer Lending Firm

    Consumer Finance

    On September 14, the CFPB’s Project Catalyst initiative issued its first “no-action” letter to a consumer lending firm that provides an online lending platform that uses alternative data when making lending decisions. As previously discussed in InfoBytes, Project Catalyst explores innovation in the consumer financial services sector and examines the potential challenges facing consumers, entrepreneurs, and investors. With the issuance of the no-action letter—at the lender’s request—the CFPB indicated that it does not, at the present, intend to take enforcement action against the lender under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. However, the letter does not waive the Bureau’s right to choose to “conduct supervisory activities or engage in an enforcement investigation” should the lender fail to comply with the outlined terms. Further, the letter stipulates that the Bureau has the right to evaluate other matters concerning the lender. According to a press release issued by the Bureau, the lender has agreed to “share certain information with the CFPB regarding the loan applications it receives, how it decides which loans to approve, and how it will mitigate risk to consumers, as well as information on how its model expands access to credit for traditionally underserved populations.”

    Earlier this year the CFPB issued a request for information seeking input about the use of alternative data, and it believes the information it will receive under the terms of the no-action letter will help to “further its understanding of how these types of practices impact access to credit generally and for traditionally underserved populations, as well as the application of compliance management systems for these emerging practices.” (See previous InfoBytes summary here.)

    Consumer Finance CFPB Alternative Data Credit Scores Fair Lending ECOA

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  • CFPB Consent Order to Banking Subsidiaries Resolves Discriminatory Credit Card Term Practices in Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories

    Consumer Finance

    On August 23, the CFPB announced it was taking action against two banking subsidiaries of a multi-bank holding corporation for violating the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) by allegedly offering credit card products and services to consumers in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other U.S. territories that were inferior to those offered to consumers in the 50 states and discriminating against certain consumers with Spanish-language preferences. The consent order alleges the pattern of discrimination started in January 2005 and continued through November 2015. In 2013, the subsidiaries began self-reporting to the Bureau differences between credit cards and charge cards offered to consumers in the territories versus those offered to consumers in the 50 states, including disparities in pricing, terms and conditions, underwriting, rebates, promotional offers, customer and account management services, credit score requirements, credit limits, and debt collection practices. During the course of the CFPB’s review, the subsidiaries provided monetary and non-monetary relief to more than 200,000 affected consumers, resulting in approximately $95 million of remediation broken into the following amounts paid or credited to consumers: (i) roughly $55.7 million towards pricing, rebates, and promotional offer differences; (ii) approximately $3.2 million towards disparities in underwriting; and (iii) $35.7 million towards customer service, account management, collections, debt mitigation, and line assignment differences. The order also states that the subsidiaries instituted enhancements to their policies and procedures and compliance management systems. Pursuant to the consent order, the subsidiaries must (i) pay at least a $1 million more in restitution to fully compensate affected consumers; and (ii) develop and implement a compliance plan to ensure credit and charge card provisions are handled in a non-discriminatory manner in compliance with ECOA, make any necessary changes to their compliance management systems based on an annual compliance audit program assessment of current business structure, and correct any identified deficiencies. The Bureau further notes that penalties were not assessed due to efforts undertaken by the subsidiaries to self-report deficiencies, self-initiate remediation, and cooperate with the CFPB’s investigation. Furthermore, the Bureau concluded through its review that the subsidiaries did not intentionally discriminate against the consumers, but that the differences occurred as a result of business units utilizing different card management structures in the territories versus in the states.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Credit Cards ECOA Fair Lending

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