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  • District judge enters final judgment against company posing as a direct lender; rules in favor of CFPB

    Consumer Finance

    On January 30, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered a New Jersey-based company along with two associated individuals (defendants) to pay civil money penalties totaling $75,000 for allegedly offering loans to consumers who were awaiting payouts from legal settlements or victim-compensation funds. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the order stems from a complaint filed against defendants for allegedly engaging in deceptive acts and practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act by purportedly representing itself as a direct lender, when in actuality it did not provide loans to consumers, but instead brokered transactions while charging a commission for the service. Defendants neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the complaint. In addition to civil money penalties, the order permanently bans defendants from participating either directly or indirectly in any activities related to funding post-settlement litigation or victim compensation funds.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Lending UDAAP CFPA Enforcement

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  • CFPB Fines Large Bank for Alleged Student Loan Servicing Issues

    Lending

    On November 21, the CFPB announced it had entered into a consent order with a large national bank over allegations that the bank engaged in unfair and deceptive practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFPA) related to its student loan servicing activities. The order, which the bank consented to without admitting or denying the findings, asserts that for the student loan accounts it was servicing, the bank (i) misrepresented information to borrowers about tax benefits; (ii) failed to refund interest and fees inaccurately charged; (iii) misstated minimum monthly payment amounts in bills; and (iv) failed to provide required information when denying co-signer release requests. In addition to imposing a civil money penalty, the CFPB’s order requires the bank to pay restitution to certain consumers and implement certain policies.

    Lending Student Lending CFPB Enforcement UDAAP CFPA

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  • CFPB Fines Loan-Servicing Software Company $1.1 Million for Flaws Leading to the Reporting of Inaccurate Consumer Information

    Consumer Finance

    On November 17, the CFPB ordered a loan-servicing software company to pay a $1.1 million penalty for errors that resulted in the company furnishing incorrect consumer information related to over one million borrowers to the credit reporting agencies. The consent order alleges that the company violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act when its third-party software application generated and furnished inaccurate and incomplete information to consumer reporting agencies because of known software defects. The company allegedly did not share the existence of the defects with its auto-lender clients. In addition to the civil money penalty, the company was ordered to: (i) explain its errors to its clients; (ii) fix the faulty software; and (iii) provide the Bureau with a compliance plan outlining how it plans to identify and fix the defects, as well as ensure that the software is capable of reporting accurate information.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Enforcement Credit Reporting Agency Credit Scores CFPA UDAAP

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  • CFPB Initiates Complaint Against Company for Deceptive, Unfair, and Abusive Loan Collection Practices

    Consumer Finance

    On November 15, the CFPB announced it had filed a complaint against a Texas-based service provider, alleging that it had assisted in the collection of loans that were, in whole or in part, void under state law. The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana alleges that the service provider, which provided services to three tribal lending entities engaged in the business of extending online installment loans and lines of credit, along with two companies responsible for the collection process (collectively defendants), assisted in the collection of loans that consumers were not legally obligated to pay based on identified states’ usury laws or licensing requirements. Although the specific claims vary by defendant, the complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in deceptive, unfair, and abusive acts and practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by:

    • misrepresenting that consumers were responsible for money owed on loans that were void in whole or in part, or did not exist, because the loans were void under state licensing or usury laws (voided loans);
    • demanding repayment from consumers on voided loans by issuing “demand letters,” electronically debiting funds from consumer bank accounts, and placing phone calls to consumers;
    • failing to disclose to consumers that defendants had no legal right to collect on certain voided loans and that consumers were not legally obligated to repay the loans;
    • causing injury to consumers by servicing and collecting on the voided loans;
    • taking advantage of consumers’ “lack of understanding” regarding the voided loans; and
    • providing assistance in, or administering, the origination and collection of the voided loans.

    The CFPB is seeking monetary relief, civil money penalties, injunctive relief, and a prohibition of the service provider’s ability to commit future violations of the CFPA.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Debt Collection Installment Loans UDAAP CFPA

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  • CFPB Takes Action Against Largest Debt Settlement Provider

    Consumer Finance

    On November 9, the CFPB announced the filing of a complaint against the largest debt settlement provider in the country and its co-CEO for allegedly deceiving consumers about its debt settlement services. According to the complaint, the defendants engaged in deceptive acts and practices in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Consumer Financial Protection Act by:

    • misleading consumers about the settlement provider’s ability to negotiate with creditors that the settlement provider knew maintained policies against working with settlement companies;
    • instructing consumers to mislead creditors when asked about their participation in a debt settlement program;
    • leading consumers to believe the defendants would negotiate on their behalf when, in fact, some consumers were only “coached” on how to negotiate settlements on their own;
    • misleading consumers by charging them the full fee when creditors stop collection efforts without the defendants taking any action despite advertising that the fee is only charged if settlement is negotiated by the settlement provider and payments begin under the terms of a settlement; and
    • failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose consumers’ rights to refunds from their deposit accounts if they leave the settlement program.

    The CFPB is seeking monetary relief, civil money penalties, and injunctive relief against the defendants.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Debt Collection Enforcement Debt Settlement Telemarketing Sales Rule CFPA

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  • CFPB Takes Action Against Debt Relief Companies for Allegedly Violating the TSR and Claiming to be Affiliated With the Federal Government

    Consumer Finance

    On October 12, the CFPB announced the filing of a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against two companies, their service provider, and their owners (defendants) for allegedly misleading consumers about their debt validation program. According to the complaint, the defendants allegedly engaged in abusive and deceptive acts and practices in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Consumer Financial Protection Act by purportedly (i) charging advance fees for debt-relief services before altering the terms of the consumers’ debts or achieving promised results; (ii) misrepresenting the abilities of their debt-relief and credit-repair services; (iii) failing to disclose to consumer that if they stopped making payments on debts enrolled in the service they may be subject to collections or lawsuits from creditors that could increase the overall amount of money owed due to fees and interest; and (iv) misrepresenting an affiliation, endorsement, or sponsorship with the federal government by using direct mailers designed to look like an official government notice.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Debt Relief Enforcement CFPA Telemarketing Sales Rule UDAAP

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  • CFPB Files Complaint Against Company that Allegedly Made False Loan Offers

    Consumer Finance

    On September 19, the CFPB announced it had filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a New Jersey-based company and two associated individuals (defendants) that allegedly offered loans to consumers who were awaiting payouts from legal settlements or statutory- or victim-compensation funds. According to the complaint, the company engaged in deceptive acts and practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act by purportedly representing itself as a direct lender, when in actuality it did not provide loans to consumers, but instead brokered transactions while charging a commission for the service. Among other things, the defendants allegedly (i) misrepresented the annual percentage rates (APR) on the advances given to consumers, often representing that interest rates were as small as one to two percent when the actual APR was much higher; (ii) falsely claimed that it had offices in all 50 states and employed a staff of accounting, financial, and legal professionals; and (iii) misled consumers by stating in their marketing materials that consumers could receive loan proceeds within one hour, when the process took longer.

    According to the proposed final judgment and order, which must be approved by the district court, the defendants shall be banned from offering these types of loans or advances to consumers in the future. In addition, the company and the owner—who was responsible for decision-making and operations—are jointly liable for a $60,000 civil money penalty to the CFPB. The second individual—who was responsible for recruiting consumers through marketing materials and websites—must pay a $10,000 civil money penalty to the CFPB. The Bureau noted in the announcement that the low penalties take into account the defendants’ inability to pay greater amounts.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Enforcement Lending UDAAP CFPA

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  • CFPB UDAAP Claim in Structured Settlement Factoring Case Moves Forward

    Courts

    On September 13, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland allowed a UDAAP claim brought by the CFPB to move forward in which the defendants allegedly employed abusive practices when purchasing structured settlements from consumers in exchange for lump-sum payments. The court also dismissed several UDAAP claims related to an attorney acting as a financial advisor in the transactions. The 2016 complaint alleged that defendants violated the Maryland Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by encouraging consumers to take advances on their structured settlements and falsely representing that the consumers were obligated to complete the structured settlement sale, “even if they [later] realized it was not in their best interest.” According to the complaint, many of the consumers “’did not understand the risks or conditions of the advances, including that the advances did not bind them to complete the transactions.” The CFPB also alleged several counts based on the conduct of an attorney acting as a financial advisor for the transactions, who allegedly provided “virtually no advice,” and whose services were arranged and directly paid by the structured settlement buyer.

    In the order and memorandum, the court rejected several of the defendants’ arguments to dismiss based on procedural grounds and allowed the CFPB’s UDAAP claim against the structured settlement buyer and its officers to proceed. However, the court dismissed the claims related to the financial advisor, finding that he satisfied the requirements for an exemption under the CFPA for attorneys engaged in the practice of law.

    Courts CFPB UDAAP Litigation Structured Settlement CFPA

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  • CFPB Proposes Permanent Ban on Credit Repair Company for Misleading Consumers, Illegal Fees

    Consumer Finance

    On August 30, the CFPB and a credit repair company requested a California federal court to enter a final judgment and order to end the CFPB’s lawsuit against the company. The Bureau claimed that the company had violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 and the Telemarketing Sales Rule among other things. According to a CFPB press release, the company “[c]harged illegal advance fees”; “[m]isled consumers about the benefits of its credit repair services”; “[m]isrepresented the costs of its services”; and “[f]ailed to disclose limits on ‘money-back guarantee.’” As previously reported in InfoBytes, the CFPB filed similar proposed final judgments against other credit repair companies for largely the same reasons.

    In addition to permanently prohibiting the defendant from working in the credit repair industry, the proposed settlement also requests a civil money penalty of $150,000.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Telemarketing Sales Rule CFPA Enforcement

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  • District Court Dismisses CFPB Lawsuit Against Payment Processors, Cites “Blatant Disregard” for Discovery Order

    Courts

    On August 25, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia filed an order dismissing claims brought by the CFPB against four payment processors for allegedly engaging in an illegal robocall phantom debt collection operation involving certain payment processors and a telephone broadcast service provider (defendants). (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) According to a complaint filed in 2015, the defendants “knew, or should have known” that the debt collectors were contacting millions of consumers in an attempt to collect debt that consumers did not owe or that the collectors were not authorized to collect by using threats, intimidation, and deceptive techniques in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

    According to the order, however, the CFPB displayed a “blatant disregard” for the court’s instructions when asked repeatedly to identify the factual bases for its claims, and willfully failed to present a knowledgeable 30(b)(6) witness during depositions. As examples of “willful disregard,” the court noted that the CFPB’s approach was to first “bury the Defendants in so much information that [they] cannot possibly identify, with any reasonable particularity, what supports the CFPB’s claims,” and second, to “assert privilege objections to questions that the Court … repeatedly ordered to be answered.” The court also indicated that Bureau witnesses relied on “memory aids”—which the court characterized as “scripts”—to provide answers to the defendants’ questions and were unable to testify beyond what was stated on the memory aids. This behavior made the court “not optimistic that reopening the depositions would be fruitful.” As a result, the court dismissed the defendants from the action, granting sanctions under Rule 37, which permits “a district court [to] impose sanctions upon a party for failure to comply with a discovery order,” which may include striking pleadings in whole or in part.

    Courts Payment Processors CFPB CFPA FDCPA UDAAP

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