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  • Senate Nullifies CFPB Arbitration Rule

    Federal Issues

    On October 24, the Senate cleared a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the CFPB’s recently adopted final arbitration rule, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote to break the 50-50 tie. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the House passed H.J. Res. 111 earlier in July to invalidate the rule, which prohibits the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in certain contracts for consumer financial products and services. The resolution now heads to President Trump.

    Both CFPB Director Richard Cordray and Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith A. Noreika issued statements following the vote. Noreika stated: “The elected representatives acted to stop a rule from going into effect that would have likely increased the cost of credit for hardworking Americans and made it more difficult for small community banks to resolve differences with their customers without achieving the rule’s goal of deterring future financial abuse.” Noreika labeled the action by Congress as a “victory for consumers and small banks across the country.”

    However, according to many media outlets, Director Cordray condemned the Senate’s action. Cordray explained: “Tonight's vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country. Wall Street won and ordinary people lost. This vote means the courtroom doors will remain closed for groups of people seeking justice and relief when they are wronged by a company.”

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Arbitration CFPB U.S. Senate Congress CRA

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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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  • Senate and House Committees File Separate Resolutions Disapproving of CFPB Arbitration Rule

    Federal Issues

    On July 20, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and the House Financial Services Committee each announced Congressional Review Act Joint Resolutions of Disapproval against the CFPB’s Arbitration Agreements final rule issued July 10. In a press release issued by the Senate Committee, 24 Republican senators—including Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)—expressed concern that the anti-arbitration measure will discourage cost-effective dispute resolution and push consumers into class action lawsuits causing more harm than good. House Republicans outlined similar concerns in a press release issued the same day. H.J. Res. 111, co-sponsored by all 34 Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee, will seek to nullify the rule, which they believe “punish[es] consumers with decreased access to financial products, increased costs for such products, or both.”

    The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to overturn agency rules by a simple majority if moved within 60 days from the rule’s publication.

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Arbitration CFPB Senate Banking Committee CRA House Financial Services Committee Congress Class Action

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  • Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Releases Flood Insurance Bill

    Federal Issues

    On July 17, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) released the text of the National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2017, which would reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and extend it another six years. Among the provisions covered in the bill are: (i) risk mitigation, particularly in repeatedly flooded communities; (ii) compliance cost increases; (iii) predisaster hazard mitigation programs; (iv) flood risk disclosure requirements for sellers or lessors of real estate; (v) flood mapping program improvements; and (vi) various program improvements, including requirements for federal banking regulators to conduct annual compliance studies on mandatory purchase requirements in special flood hazard areas, and directions for “FEMA to annually study NFIP participation in areas outside of special flood hazard areas.”

    “We have held multiple hearings and worked on a bipartisan basis to hear thoughts and concerns from the Program's stakeholders, regulators and from Banking Committee members,” Crapo and Brown stated in a joint release. “This bill represents the many areas where we have found agreement, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to address outstanding issues.”

    The bill is one of many introduced this year in both the Senate and the House as the NFIP is set to expire at the end of September. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here and here.)

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation National Flood Insurance Program Congress Senate Banking Committee Flood Insurance

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  • CFPB Issues Semi-Annual Report to Congress

    Consumer Finance

    On June 26, the CFPB issued its eleventh semi-annual report to Congress, covering the period October 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017. The report highlights various supervisory and enforcement actions, regulations, and other guidance. The report focuses on Regulations E and Z, which “create a comprehensive set of consumer protections for prepaid products.” In addition, the report notes ongoing efforts to develop rules with respect to payday loans, auto title loans, installment loans, arbitration agreements, and overdraft programs.

    Consumer Finance Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Enforcement Congress

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  • Federal Reserve Chair Comments on CCAR and Stress Test Transparency

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 16, Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair Janet Yellen sent a letter to Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) underscoring the Fed’s understanding of the need to provide transparency in its Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) process and stress test scenarios. The Fed, Yellen asserts, will continue to published CCAR instructions in advance of the submission date for capital plans. Yellen further committed to releasing instructions and scenarios for the stress tests by February 15. The guidance will offer banks more details about the qualitative and quantitative components of the exam. However, Yellen warned that disclosing all the details of the Fed's modeling on the annual exams “would give banks an incentive to adjust their business practices in ways that change the results of the stress test without changing the risks faced by the firms . . . [resulting in] less effective stress tests that present a misleading picture of the actual vulnerabilities faced by firms. There would also be a risk of increased correlations in asset holdings among large banks, making the financial system more vulnerable to adverse economic shocks.” However, Yellen said the Fed is weighing different approaches to provide banks with more information about the agency's modeling.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve Stress Test Congress CCAR

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  • House Passes Financial CHOICE Act of 2017

    Federal Issues

    On June 8, by a vote of 233-186 with no Democrats voting in favor of the bill and one Republican voting against, the House passed the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (H.R. 10), as amended, which would repeal or modify provisions of Dodd-Frank and restructure the CFPB. Committee Report 115-163 accompanying House Resolution 375, which provided for consideration H.R. 10 and recommended that the resolution be adopted, outlines the provisions introduced to overhaul existing financial regulations. Included were five additional amendments incorporated into H.R. 10 introduced by members of Congress:

    • Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.): “Revises provisions subjecting certain FDIC and National Credit Union Association functions to congressional appropriations, relating to appointments of positions created by [H.R. 10], and providing congressional access to non-public [Financial Security Oversight Council] information”;
    • Rep. Joseph Hollingsworth (R-Ind.): “Allows closed-end funds that are listed on a national securities exchange, and that meet certain requirements to be considered ‘well-known seasoned issuers’”;
    • Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.): “Expresses the sense of Congress that consumer reporting agencies and their subsidiaries should implement stronger multi-factor authentication procedures when providing access to personal information files to more adequately protect consumer information from identity theft”;
    • Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.): “Requires the Department of Treasury” to submit a report to Congress regarding its efforts to work with Federal bank regulators, financial institutions, and money service businesses to ensure that legitimate financial transactions along the southern border move freely”; and
    • Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), “Requires the [General Services Administration] to study the [Consumer Law Enforcement Agency’s] real estate needs due to changes in the Agency’s structure. It would then authorize the GSA to sell the current CLEA building if CLEA’s real estate needs have changed and there is no government department or agency that can utilize the building.”

    See previous InfoBytes here and here for additional coverage.

    The bill now advances to the Senate where it is unlikely to pass in its current form—a fact acknowledged by both Democrats and Republicans.

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Financial CHOICE Act Congress Federal Legislation Dodd-Frank FDIC NCUA FSOC CFPB Department of Treasury

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  • House Energy and Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing June 8 on Fintech Options for Consumers

    FinTech

    On June 8, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee will hold a hearing as part of its “Disrupter Series.” In a press release issued June 1, the hearing, Improving Consumer’s Financial Options with FinTech, will discuss consumer needs and whether the fintech industry is offering financial products and services that meet these needs. “The FinTech industry has allowed the average American to have more control over their financial well-being while simultaneously promoting greater financial literacy. Next week’s hearing is an important opportunity for us to hear from companies on barriers they face in the market and learn how Congress can continue investing in its potential,” stated Committee Chairman, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio). The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Witnesses have not yet been announced.

    Fintech House Energy and Commerce Committee Congress

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  • Ransomware Attack Has Global Impact, Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Counter Hacking

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On May 12, a cyberattack spread around the world, affecting more than 230,000 computers in roughly 150 countries, according to a statement issued by the American Bankers Association. The ransomware, known as “WannaCry,” was used to exploit a vulnerability that affects computers running Microsoft Windows (see Department of Homeland Security Alert). Users of infected computers received a message that their files had been encrypted and that they must pay a ransom in bitcoin in order to decrypt their files. However, as conveyed in a press release issued by the Financial Services - Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), it appears that the majority of the attacks seem to be targeting and impacting non-financial sector entities globally. FS-ISAC “believes the current attacks utilize known vulnerabilities for which there are available software patches,” but that firms and service providers need to implement the patches. Agencies continue to monitor what may be the first in a series of attacks.

    SEC Office of Compliance and Examinations (OCIE) and FBI Issue Responses. The OCIE released a statement cautioning registrants to be vigilant in mitigating risk, and noted a recent OCIE study that determined a substantial number of registrants did not conduct periodic risk assessments, penetration tests, or vulnerability scans, while a smaller number had not updated critical security patches. The OCIE also provided links to guidance on cybersecurity risk management. Likewise, the FBI issued a bulletin providing guidance on additional protection measures following the attack.

    Bipartisan Legislation Introduced. On May 17, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House and Senate to add transparency and accountability to the federal government process for retaining or disclosing vulnerabilities in technology products, services, applications, and systems. The bill, Protecting our Ability To Counter Hacking (PATCH) Act, follows the apparently leaked NSA hacking tool which opened the door to the global “WannaCry” ransomware attack. It is sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Haw.),  Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Cal.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.). As described in a release issued by Sen. Schatz’s office, the proposed legislation would make the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP) more permanent, while altering its structure. It would also make the Department of Homeland Security the chair of the interagency board overseeing the VEP. Under the bill, the NSA and other security agencies would still be a permanent part of the board, while other agencies and the White House's National Security Council could attend meetings if the board deems it necessary. The established board would also produce a report for Congress on the policies it establishes regarding the disclosure of vulnerabilities no later than 180 days after the enactment of the Act. An unclassified version of the report will be publically available as well. “Striking the balance between U.S. national security and general cybersecurity is critical, but it's not easy,” Sen. Schatz noted. “This bill strikes that balance. Codifying a framework for the relevant agencies to review and disclose vulnerabilities will improve cybersecurity and transparency to the benefit of the public while also ensuring that the federal government has the tools it needs to protect national security.”

    Coalition for Cybersecurity Policy and Law. The legislation has already received support. The Coalition issued the following statement in support of the proposed bill: “We support the goals of the PATCH Act and we look forward to working with Chairman Johnson, Senators Schatz and Gardner, and Reps. Lieu and Farenthold as it moves forward in both chambers. The events of the past week clearly demonstrate the real-world consequences of exploited vulnerabilities. Governments have a critical role in getting vulnerability information to organizations capable of acting to protect security in a timely manner upon discovery.”

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security ABA SEC Congress Federal Legislation

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  • Proposed FCRA Liability Harmonization Act Seeks to Limit Consumer Remedies in Class Action Suits and Bring Consistency to Consumer Laws

    Federal Issues

    On May 4, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) introduced legislation that would limit the damages consumers could be awarded in class actions under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and eliminate the availability of punitive damages in such cases. As set forth in a May 8 press release issued by Rep. Loudermilk’s office, the FCRA Liability Harmonization Act (H.R. 2359) would “protect the right of consumers to pursue statutory damages and the right to just compensation for actual harm.”  Rep. Loudermilk, a member of the Financial Services Committee, has argued that eliminating the availability of punitive damages and capping class action damages would enable FCRA to be consistent with other consumer protection laws such as TILA, FDCPA, ECOA, and EFTA,  all of which have caps on punitive damages. A comment letter from 12 organizations in the consumer financial services industry expressed support for the proposed measure on similar grounds. Among other things, the letter notes that the absence of a cap on class action recoveries under FCRA—which allows plaintiffs to pursue unlimited damages, including punitive damages and attorneys’ fees—forces businesses to settle suits over “technical” or “speculative” violations in order to avoid the danger of excessive damage awards. The proposed legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. Edward Royce (R-Cal.), Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

    Federal Issues FCRA Class Action Congress

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