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On December 12, the FCC adopted new rules to establish a single, comprehensive database designed to reduce the number of calls inadvertently made to reassigned numbers as part of its strategy to help stop unwanted calls. According to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the database would enable callers to verify—prior to placing a call—whether a number has been permanently disconnected and is therefore eligible for reassignment. Currently, callers may be held liable under the TCPA should they call a reassigned number where the new party did not consent to receiving calls. The FCC also announced it will (i) add a safeguard requiring a “minimum ‘aging’ period of 45 days before permanently disconnected telephone numbers can be reassigned”; and (ii) provide a safe harbor from TCPA liability for any calls to reassigned numbers due to database error. However, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly stated that while he supported the creation of the database, he expressed reservations about both the cost and effectiveness, stating “only the honest and legitimate callers will consult the reassigned numbers database—not the criminals and scammers.” O’Reilly suggested developing better, more logical interpretations of the TCPA, asserting that “much more work remains, particularly on narrowing the prior Commission’s ludicrous definition of ‘autodialer,’ and eliminating the lawless revocation of consent rule.”
Additionally, the FCC announced a ruling (see FCC 18-178) denying requests from mass-texting companies and other parties for text messages to be classified as ‘“telecommunications services’ subject to common carrier regulations under the Communication Act.” If the request had been granted, the FCC stated, the classification would have limited wireless providers’ efforts to effectively combat spam and scam robotexts. Rather, the FCC classified SMS and Multimedia Messaging Services as “information services” under the Communications Act, which allows wireless providers the ability to take action to stop unwanted text messages, such as applying filtering technologies to block messages that are likely spam.
On December 10, the CFPB released a new proposed policy on No-Action Letters (NAL) and a new federal product sandbox. The new NAL proposal, which would replace the 2016 NAL policy, is “designed to increase the utilization of the Policy and bring certain elements more in line with similar no-action letter programs offered by other agencies.” The proposal consists of six sections. Highlights include:
- Description of No-Action Letters. The letter would indicate to the applicant, that subject to good faith, substantial compliance with the terms of the letter, the Bureau would not bring a supervisory or enforcement action against the recipient for offering or providing the described aspects of the product or service covered by the letter.
- Submitting Applications. The proposal includes a description of the items an application should contain and invites applications from trade associations on behalf of their members, and from service providers and other third parties on behalf of their existing or prospective clients.
- Assessment of Applications. The Bureau intends to grant or deny an application within 60 days of notifying the applicant that the application is deemed complete.
- Issuing No-Action Letters. NALs will be signed by the Assistant Director of the Office of Innovation or other members in the office, and will be duly authorized by the Bureau. The Bureau may revoke a NAL in whole or in part, but before the Bureau revokes a NAL, recipients will have an opportunity to cure a compliance failure within a reasonable period.
- Regulatory Coordination. In order to satisfy the coordination requirements under Dodd-Frank, the Bureau notes it is interested in partnering with state authorities that issue similar forms of no-action relief in order to provide state applicants an alternative means of also receiving a letter from the Bureau.
- Disclosure of Information. The Bureau intends to publish NALs on its website and in some cases, a version or summary of the application. The Bureau may also publish denials and an explanation of why the application was denied. The policy notes that disclosure of information is governed by the Dodd-Frank Act, FOIA and the Bureau’s rule on Disclosure of Records and Information, which generally would prohibit the Bureau from disclosing confidential information.
Notable changes from the 2016 NAL policy include, (i) NALs no longer have a temporal duration—under the new proposal, there is no temporal limitation except in instances of revocation; (ii) applicants are no longer are required to commit to sharing data about the product or service covered by the application; and (iii) the letters are no longer staff recommendations, but issued by authorized officials in the Bureau to provide recipients greater assurance of the relief.
The proposal also introduces the Bureau’s “Product Sandbox,” which offers substantially the same relief as the NAL proposal but also includes: (i) approvals under one or more of three statutory safe harbor provisions of TILA, ECOA, or the EFTA; and (ii) exemptions by order from statutory provisions of ECOA, HOEPA, and FDIA, or regulatory provisions that do not mirror statutory provisions under rulemaking authority. The proposal notes that two years is the expected duration for participation in the Sandbox, but similar to the no-action relief above, the no-action relief from the Sandbox program can be of unlimited duration—if approved under the sandbox program, “the recipient would be immune from enforcement actions by any Federal or State authorities, as well as from lawsuits brought by private parties.”
Comments on the proposals are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.
On December 7, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the OCC issued guidance regarding the HMDA key data fields that Federal Reserve examiners use to evaluate the accuracy of HMDA data collected since January 1 pursuant to the CFPB’s October 2015 and August 2017 amendments and the May 2018 Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act) exemptions (all of which have been previously covered by InfoBytes here, here, and here).
The guidance cites to the October 2017 list of 37 key data fields identified by the agencies and notes that “[o]nce examiners have selected a random sample of entries from an institution’s HMDA Loan Application Register (HMDA LAR) and have received the corresponding loan files, they would verify the accuracy of the applicable HMDA key data fields in the entries in the HMDA LAR sample(s) against information in the loan files.” Additionally, for institutions eligible for the partial exemption granted by the Act, and covered by the Bureau’s August interpretive and procedural rule (InfoBytes coverage here), the guidance notes that these institutions are responsible for collecting, recording, and reporting only 21 of the 37 designated HMDA key data fields, as the exemption covers the other 16 fields.
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council members are currently developing a set of revised interagency HMDA examination procedures regarding HMDA requirements relating to data collected from January 1, 2018 onward.
On December 6, the FDIC issued FIL-84-2018 announcing updates to the Affordable Mortgage Lending Guide, Part I: Federal Agencies and Government Sponsored Enterprises (Guide), which reflect current information available about mortgage products offered through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Guide covers federal programs targeted to a variety of communities and individuals including rural, Native American, low- and moderate-income, and veterans, and is designed to provide community banks resources “to gain an overview of a variety of products, compare different products, and identify next steps to expand or initiate a mortgage lending program.” Updates to the Guide include, among other things, (i) revisions to the Program Matrix; (ii) changes to student loan debt in FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac programs; and (iii) updates to certain FHA loan insurance products, USDA single family housing programs, and various Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac products.
On December 4, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) released an invitation for comments from interested stakeholders in the development of regulations to implement the state’s new law on commercial financing disclosures. As previously covered by InfoBytes, on September 30, the California governor signed SB 1235, which requires non-bank lenders and other finance companies to provide written consumer-style disclosures for certain commercial transactions, including small business loans and merchant cash advances. Most notably, the act requires financing entities subject to the law to disclose in each commercial financing transaction —defined as an “accounts receivable purchase transaction, including factoring, asset-based lending transaction, commercial loan, commercial open-end credit plan, or lease financing transaction intended by the recipient for use primarily for other than personal, family, or household purposes”—the “total cost of the financing expressed as an annualized rate” in a form to be prescribed by the DBO.
The act requires the DBO to first develop regulations governing the new disclosure requirements, addressing, among other things, (i) definitions, contents, and methods of calculations for each disclosure; (ii) requirements concerning the time, manner, and format of each disclosure; and (iii) the method to express the annualized rate disclosure and types of fees and charges to be included in the calculation. While the DBO has formulated specific topics and questions in the invitation for comments covering these areas, the comments may address any potential area for rulemaking. Comments must be received by January 22, 2019.
FDIC encourages more de novo bank applicants, launches initiatives to streamline and promote transparency in deposit insurance applications
On December 6, the FDIC announced several initiatives designed to streamline and promote transparency in the federal deposit insurance application process, while encouraging more applications from de novo banks. According to FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams, the “application process should not be overly burdensome and should not deter prospective banks from applying.” As part of its initiative, the FDIC issued a request for information (RFI) soliciting feedback on all aspects of the deposit insurance application process—the RFI applies to all institutions, including those with less than $1 billion in total assets, as well as traditional community banks. The RFI seeks comments on: (i) suggestions for modifying the application process as it relates to traditional community banks; (ii) potential ways to “support the continuing evolution of emerging technology and fintech companies . . . [and whether there are] particular risks associated with any such proposals”; (iii) aspects of the application process such as legal, regulatory, economic, or technological factors that may discourage potential applications; and (iv) other suggestions for addressing stakeholder concerns regarding the application process, as well as methods for improving effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency. Comments on the RFI will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
The FDIC also discussed a new, voluntary process for new deposit insurance applicants to request feedback on draft applications before filing formal submissions. “The new process is intended to provide an early opportunity for both the FDIC and organizers to identify potential challenges with respect to the statutory criteria, areas that may require further detail or support, and potential issues or concerns,” the announcement stated.
In addition to updating publications related to the application process (available through FIL-83-2018), the FDIC also released FIL-81-2018 and FIL-82-2018, which respectively provide application processing timeframe guidelines and an overview of the review process for draft deposit insurance proposals.
On December 4, the FTC released a request for public comment on whether the agency should make changes to its identity theft detection rules—the Red Flags Rule and the Card Issuers Rule—which require financial institutions and creditors to take certain actions to detect signs of identity theft affecting their customers. The FTC is seeking comment as part of its systematic review of all of its regulations and guides. According to the FTC, consumer complaints relating to identity theft represented the third largest category of consumer complaints made to the FTC through the first three quarters of 2018 and the second largest category in 2017. The FTC is seeking comment on all aspects of the two rules, but also poses specific questions for commenters to address, such as (i) whether there is a continuing need for the specific provisions of the rules; (ii) what significant costs have the rules imposed on consumers and businesses; and (iii) whether there are any types of creditors that are not currently covered by the Red Flags Rule but should be covered. The request for comment is due to be published in the Federal Register shortly, and comments must be received by February 11, 2019.
On November 30, the OCC announced a 10 percent reduction in the marginal rates for assessments on national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks for 2019. The OCC projects the change will reduce total assessments collected by more than $90 million in 2019. The change will take effect with the March 31, 2019 assessment period.
Additionally, the OCC announced a change to the refund policy for institutions that leave the federal system during an assessment period. If an institution leaves the federal system during the first half of a semiannual assessment period, the OCC will issue a refund for the second half of the assessment period. If an institution leaves during the second half of an assessment period, the OCC will not issue a refund. As a result of this revised policy, institutions will no longer be required to prepay for three months of supervision after they leave the federal system.
On November 23, the CFPB, OCC, and the Federal Reserve Board published a final rule in the Federal Register, which increases the smaller loan exemption threshold for the special appraisal requirements for higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs) under TILA. TILA requires creditors to obtain a written appraisal based on a physical visit to the home’s interior before making a HPML, unless the loan meets or is less than the threshold exemption. Each year the threshold must be readjusted based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. The exemption threshold for 2019 is $26,700, up from $26,000. This final rule is effective January 1, 2019.
On November 21, the CFPB and the Federal Reserve Board finalized the annual dollar threshold adjustments that govern the application of Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act) and Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act) to credit transactions, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. Each year the thresholds must be readjusted based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The exemption threshold for 2019, based on the annual percentage increase in the CPI-W, is now $57,200 or less, except for private student loans and loans secured by real property, which are subject to TILA regardless of the amount.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Trends in regulatory enforcement" at the American Bar Association Banking Law Committee Meeting
- Jessica L. Pollet to discuss "Your career is impacting your life..." at the Ark Group Women Legal Conference
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Successors in interest updates" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "Keeping your head above water in flood insurance compliance" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo