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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • NYDFS recommends online lenders be subject to state licensure and usury limits in new report

    Lending

    On July 11, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS or the Department) released a study of online lending in New York, as required by AB 8938. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.)  In addition to reporting the results of its survey of institutions believed to be engaging in online lending activities in New York, NYDFS makes a series of recommendations that would expand the application of New York usury and other statutes and regulations to online loans made to New York residents, including loans made through partnerships between online lender and banks where, in the Department’s view, the online lender is the “true lender.”

    In particular, NYDFS recommends, “[a]ll New York lenders should operate under the same set of rules and be subject to consistent enforcement of those rules to achieve a level playing field for all market participants….”  Elsewhere in the report, the Department states that it “disagrees with [the] position” that online lenders are exempt from New York law if they partner with a federally-chartered or FDIC-insured bank that extends credit to New York residents.  NYDFS criticizes these arrangements, stating its view that “the online lender is, in many cases, the true lender” because the online lender is “typically … the entity that is engaged in marketing, solicitation, and processing of applications, and dealing with the applicants” and may also purchase, resell, and/or service the loan.  

    NYDFS also noted that it opposed pending federal legislation that would reverse the Second Circuit’s decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, which held that federal preemption of New York’s usury laws ceased to apply when a loan was transferred from a national bank to a non-bank.  The Department expressed concern that, if passed, the bill “could result in ‘rent-a-bank charter’ arrangements between banks and online lender that are designed to circumvent state licensing and usury laws.”

    Noting that many online lenders remain unlicensed in New York, the Department states that “[d]irect supervision and oversight is the only way to ensure that New York’s consumers and small business owners receive the same protections irrespective of the channel of delivery….”  To this end, NYDFS recommended lowering the interest rate threshold for licensure from 16 percent to 7 percent.

    Although NYDFS stressed that its survey results may be unreliable due to uneven response rates, it reported that, for respondents, the average median APR for online loans to businesses was 25.9%, the average median APR for online loans to individuals for personal use was 14.8%, and the average median APR for the underbanked customers was 19.6% (New York currently caps interest for civil liability at 16% and at 25% for criminal liability).

    Overall, the report appears to forecast a more difficult regulatory and enforcement environment in New York for online lenders, as has been the case in West Virginia and Colorado.

     

    Lending State Issues NYDFS Online Lending Usury Consumer Finance Madden

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  • Florida Supreme Court: lender may file second suit for deficiency claim provided foreclosure court has not adjudicated the claim

    Courts

    On July 5, the Florida Supreme Court held that Section 702.06, Florida Statutes (2014), allows a lender pursuing a deficiency claim in a foreclosure action in one court to bring a separate action against the homeowner in another court provided the foreclosure court that has reserved jurisdiction has not yet adjudicated the deficiency claim. Section 702.06 provides in part that, “In all suits for the foreclosure of mortgages . . . . [t]he complainant shall also have the right to sue at common law to recover for such deficiency, unless the court in the foreclosure action has granted or denied a claim for a deficiency judgment.” At issue was a residential property that was foreclosed by final judgment. In the judgment, the foreclosure court expressly reserved jurisdiction to rule on any future deficiency claim, although no one tried to adjudicate the claim in that forum. The mortgage loan purchaser filed a separate action against the homeowner in a different court and obtained a deficiency judgment. On appeal from that action, the First District Court of Appeal disagreed with several other Florida appellate courts and concluded that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the original foreclosure court had previously reserved jurisdiction. The high court unanimously disagreed, holding that a “reservation of jurisdiction is not a grant or denial of the claim. The foreclosure court would have only ‘granted or denied’ the deficiency judgment if it had adjudicated the claim. Therefore, [§ 702.06, Fla. Stat.] plainly precludes the separate action only where the foreclosure court has actually ruled on the claim—as held by the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth District Courts of Appeal.” In issuing its ruling, the high court quashed the decision of the First District Court of Appeal and approved the certified conflict decisions of the four other appellate courts.

    Courts State Issues Foreclosure Lending Deficiency Claim

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  • CFPB announces settlement with national bank to resolve alleged TILA violations

    Lending

    On June 29, the CFPB announced a $335 million settlement with a national bank who allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act by failing to properly implement annual percentage rate (APR) reevaluation requirements, which would reduce APRs for certain consumer credit card accounts, consistent with Regulation Z. According to the consent order, the Bureau also claimed the bank failed to put in place reasonable written policies and procedures to conduct the APR reevaluations. Under the terms of the consent order, the bank is required to pay $335 million in restitution to affected consumers and implement corrected policies and procedures to ensure proper APR reevaluation processes. The Bureau further noted that it did not assess civil monetary penalties due to efforts undertaken by the bank to self-identify and self-report violations to the Bureau. The bank also voluntarily corrected the deficiencies, took steps to initiate remediation to affected consumers, and implemented compliance management system enhancements.

    Lending TILA CFPB Credit Cards Settlement

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  • Court allows certain City of Oakland claims to proceed against national bank

    Courts

    On June 15, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted in part and denied in part a national bank’s motion to dismiss an action brought by the City of Oakland, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and California Fair Employment and Housing Act. In its September 2015 complaint, Oakland alleged that the bank violated the FHA and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act by providing minority borrowers mortgage loans with less favorable terms than similarly situated non-minority borrowers, leading to disproportionate defaults and foreclosures causing reduced property tax revenue for the city. After the 2017 Supreme Court decision in Bank of America v. City of Miami (previously covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert), which held that municipal plaintiffs may be “aggrieved persons” authorized to bring suit under the FHA against lenders for injuries allegedly flowing from discriminatory lending practices, Oakland filed an amended complaint. The amended complaint expanded Oakland’s alleged injuries to include (i) decreased property tax revenue; (ii) increases in the city’s expenditures; and (iii) neutralized spending in Oakland’s fair-housing programs. The bank moved to dismiss all of Oakland’s claims on the basis that the city had failed to sufficiently allege proximate cause. The court granted the bank’s motion without prejudice as to claims based on the second alleged injury to the extent it sought monetary relief and claims based on the third alleged injury entirely. The court allowed the matter to proceed with respect to claims based on the first injury and, to the extent it seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, the second injury.

    Courts Fair Housing FHA Lending Consumer Finance Mortgages

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  • New York Fed report finds CFPB oversight does not significantly reduce volume of mortgage lending

    Lending

    The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (New York Fed) released a June 2018 Staff Report titled “Does CFPB Oversight Crimp Credit?” which concludes that there is little evidence that CFPB oversight significantly reduces the overall volume of mortgage lending. The report compared the lending outcomes of companies subject to CFPB oversight with smaller institutions below $10 billion in total assets that are exempt from CFPB supervision and enforcement activities, as well as lending outcomes before and after the CFPB’s creation in July 2011. Using HMDA data, bank balance sheets, and bank noninterest expenses, the report concluded, among other things, that (i) CFPB oversight may have changed the composition of lending—supervised banks originated fewer loans to lower-income, lower-credit score borrowers; (ii) there has been a drop in lending to borrowers with no co-applicant by CFPB supervised banks; and (iii) there has been an increase in origination of  “jumbo” mortgage loans by CFPB supervised banks. The report noted that its results do not speak to the effect of the CFPB’s rulemaking, such as the TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure rule. 

    Lending CFPB Bank Supervision Mortgages Enforcement Mortgage Lenders

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  • CA Attorney General secures $67 million in debt relief for former students of defunct for-profit school

    State Issues

    On June 13, the Superior Court of the State of California ordered a California-based student loan provider to halt all debt collection efforts and forgive the balances on over 30,000 private student loans, which were used for programs at a now defunct for-profit college. According to the announcement by the California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, the debt relief totals $67 million for the former students. The complaint, filed on the same day as the order, alleges the company engaged in unlawful debt collection practices, including sending borrowers notices threatening legal action, to collect on the student loans at issue. In addition to the debt forgiveness, the order requires the company to (i) refund all payments made on the student loans by California-residents after August 1, 2017; (ii) refund payments made prior to August 1, 2017 by borrowers who received allegedly unlawful debt collection notices; and (iii) delete negative credit reporting associated with the student loans for all of the for-profit students around the country.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, in a class action filed by former students, the Department of Education was recently barred by a preliminary injunction from continuing collection efforts on student loans used for the same defunct for-profit college.

    State Issues State Attorney General Student Lending Debt Cancellation Debt Collection Consumer Finance Lending Courts

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  • New York governor signs bill authorizing NYDFS to study online lending in the state

    Lending

    On June 1, the New York governor signed AB 8938, which authorizes and directs the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) to study online lending institutions that conduct business in the state, and requires NYDFS to submit a report containing analysis, assessments, and recommendations pertaining to online lending institutions by July 1. As previously covered in InfoBytes, NYDFS announced plans on April 24 to issue a report, which would include an analysis of the differences between online lending products and services and those of traditional lending institutions, the risks/benefits of the products offered, and the availability of various credit products in the absence of online lending. With the enactment of AB 8938, NYDFS is also tasked with, among other things, surveying existing state and federal laws and regulations applicable to the online lending industry. The act is effective immediately and shall expire July 1—the report’s due date.

    Lending Online Lending State Issues NYDFS

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  • Court orders Department of Education to cease collection efforts on student loans used for defunct for-profit school

    Courts

    On May 25, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted in part a preliminary injunction barring the U.S. Department of Education (Department) from continuing collection efforts on student loans used for programs at a now defunct for-profit college. The for-profit school closed in 2015 after a federal fraud investigation by the Department. The decision results from a December 2017 putative class action filed by former students of the school against the Department. The complaint alleged the Department violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the Privacy Act of 1974 by its December 2017 announcement that it would use an “average earnings” metric to determine what to charge students for the value of the education they received at the college. According to the former students, the previous policy—which measured the job placement rate of graduates—would have provided full loan forgiveness for the federal student loans used for the defunct school. In response to the students’ motion for a preliminary injunction, the court granted the students’ request to prevent the Department from using the “average earnings” metric, but denied the motion to require the Department to use the previous job placement metric. Additionally, among other things, the judge denied the students’ request to order the Department to remove all negative credit reporting but did order the Department to cease collection efforts on the loans.

    Courts Department of Education Debt Collection Student Lending Lending Consumer Finance

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  • Maryland governor signs provisions amending Maryland Consumer Loan Law’s small lending requirements

    State Issues

    On May 15, the Maryland governor signed legislation to establish requirements for lenders making covered loans in the state. Among other things, HB1297 increases the threshold for which a loan is subject to small lending requirements within the Maryland Consumer Loan Law (MCLL) from $6,000 to $25,000. The law also prohibits (i) lenders who are not licensed in the state from making loans of $25,000 or less, unless the person is exempt from requirements under MCLL; (ii) a person contracting “for a covered loan that has a rate of interest, charge, discount, or other consideration greater than the amount authorized under state law”; and (iii) covered loans that would be a violation of the Military Lending Act. Loans that violate these provisions are deemed void and unenforceable except in limited circumstances. The law takes effect January 1, 2019.

    State Issues State Legislation Licensing Lending Military Lending Act Usury Consumer Finance

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  • DOJ, CFPB agree to early termination of consent order with indirect auto lender

    Lending

    On May 15, the auto lending branch of an international automobile company (indirect auto lender) reported in an 8-K filing that the DOJ and CFPB had reached an agreement that the indirect auto lender has met the requirements for early termination of a consent order entered into in 2016 over allegations of unfair lending practices. As previously covered in InfoBytes, a joint agency investigation under ECOA found that the indirect auto lender’s policies allowed for dealers to mark up a consumer’s interest rate on the retail installment contract above the established risk-based buy rate. The parties currently await final court approval of a joint stipulation and proposed order for early termination of the consent order from three years to two years in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

    Lending Fair Lending DOJ CFPB ECOA Auto Finance Consumer Finance

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