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  • Court approves 1.8 million FCRA class action settlement with national bank

    Courts

    On August 16, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California approved a $1.8 million class action settlement resolving allegations that a national bank’s soft credit report inquiries were not permitted under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In 2015, a consumer filed the class action complaint alleging that the bank pulled his credit information without consent following a bankruptcy. The consumer alleged that because his debts to the bank had been discharged, the bank did not have a “permissible purpose” to pull the credit information. The approved settlement covers 114,512 claimants, who state their credit reports were accessed without permission by the bank, and grants each claimant $4.06. The settlement also requires the bank to pay attorneys’ fees and litigation costs for the plaintiff.

    Courts FCRA Bankruptcy Settlement Class Action

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  • 5th Circuit affirms dismissal of automatic stay violation claim on grounds of judicial estoppel

    Courts

    On July 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision following a bench trial to dismiss plaintiffs’ allegations that a bank violated an automatic stay imposed during one of the plaintiff’s (debtor) bankruptcy schedules when it took foreclosure action, holding that the plaintiffs were barred by judicial estoppel from pursuing claims because the debtor failed to amend his bankruptcy schedules to disclose a quitclaim deed for his mortgage or note a change in his financial status. In this case, the debtor filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but failed to list the address or creditor information for a property in which he had entered into an equity sharing agreement with his son. When the son signed a quitclaim deed conveying the property to the debtor, the deed was recorded but not listed on the bankruptcy schedules.

    According to the appellate court, the debtor failed to “disclose an asset to a bankruptcy court, but then pursue[d] a claim in a separate tribunal based on that undisclosed asset” when it filed a lawsuit against the bank for wrongful foreclosure. The doctrine of judicial estoppel requires that three elements be met: (i) “the party against whom estoppel is sought has asserted a position plainly inconsistent with a prior position”; (ii) “a court accepted the prior position”; and (iii) "the party did not act inadvertently.” The court held the first two elements were met by the plaintiff’s failure to amend his bankruptcy schedules to disclose the quitclaim deed or his legal action against the bank. The court noted, however, the debtor’s actions were not inadvertent because he was aware of the inconsistency and had a motive to conceal the asset. The appellate court specifically noted the motive to conceal was “self-evident” because the debtor’s failure to disclose his changed financial status had the potential to provide a financial benefit to the debtor. The appellate court further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs' motion for a new trial, and that, moreover, the plaintiffs failed to show that the district court abused its discretion when it chose to exclude several of their exhibits.

    Courts Appellate Fifth Circuit Mortgages Bankruptcy Foreclosure

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  • Colorado Court of Appeals holds attorney fees award is a non-dischargeable civil penalty

    Courts

    On May 17, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that an attorney fees award imposed under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) is a civil penalty and is not dischargeable under the Bankruptcy Code. According to the opinion, the State of Colorado sued a law firm, its owners, and affiliated companies for allegedly violating the CCPA and the Colorado Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (CFDCPA) by fraudulently billing mortgage servicers for full costs associated with title insurance premium charges even though not all the costs were incurred. The district court agreed with the State and awarded attorney fees and costs for the violations. In the appeal, one of the defendants argued, among other things, that the district court was precluded from awarding attorney fees because his debts had previously been discharged in bankruptcy. In affirming the district court’s decision, the appeals court concluded that attorney fees awards made under the CCPA and the CFDCPA are not dischargeable because the award “made under the CCPA’s mandatory provision was sufficiently penal to constitute a ‘fine, penalty or forfeiture’ under § 523(a)(7) [of the Bankruptcy Code] and was not dischargeable.”

    Courts State Issues Bankruptcy Civil Money Penalties Attorney Fees

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  • Supreme Court of Appeals for West Virginia upholds summary judgment for consumer against check cashing company

    Courts

    On May 11, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia affirmed summary judgment for a consumer who alleged a check cashing company and its debt collector violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA) by contacting her multiple times after being notified of her Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. According to the opinion, the consumer filed a Chapter 7 petition for bankruptcy in February 2012 and the cash checking company was notified on or about March 6, 2012 of the filing. On March 9, the company, in response to the bankruptcy notice, sent a letter to the consumer notifying her collection efforts would be stayed but the company would be pursuing a criminal complaint against her. Additionally, a debt collection agency under contract with the company contacted the consumer five additional times in attempt to collect the debt. The trial court first granted the consumer’s motion for summary judgment in part, finding that the company violated the WVCCPA by not contacting the consumer’s attorney and by threatening criminal prosecution even though the company was aware of the bankruptcy filing. The court awarded the consumer over $19,000 in statutory damages. Subsequently, the trial court granted the consumer’s second motion for summary judgment, holding, among other things, that the company instructed the debt collector to contact the consumer despite having “actual knowledge” that an attorney represented the consumer. The court granted additional statutory damages in the amount of $18,000 and awarded attorney’s fees and costs.

    Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of Appeals concluded that the check cashing company’s violations of the WVCCPA were deliberate and intentional, and therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by awarding the consumer over $37,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

    Courts State Issues Check Cashing Debt Collection Bankruptcy

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  • Pennsylvania district court denies payday lender’s transfer request to bankruptcy court

    Courts

    On April 3, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied a motion to move an action, filed by a group of online payday lenders (defendants), from Pennsylvania to Texas. The defendants—who filed for bankruptcy in Texas last year—sought to centralize lawsuits referred to by the court as ”rent-a-bank” and “rent-a-tribe” schemes. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the allegations here.) The defendants argued that the presumption of trying cases related to a bankruptcy proceeding in the court where the proceeding is pending, which is commonly recognized under 28 U.S.C. Section 1412, should apply. The court, however, found that Section 1412’s presumption of transfer does not apply to police and regulatory actions. In support, the district court cited to a Montana federal judge’s decision this past January, which denied a transfer request in a similar suit brought by the CFPB against one of the defendants. In the summary of its findings, the court noted “[s]imply put, Congress has favored the interest of permitting states’ regulatory and police actions to independently proceed over the interest in centering the administration of the defendant’s related bankruptcy proceedings.”

    Courts Payday Lending State Attorney General Bankruptcy CFPB

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  • CFPB updates mortgage servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide, releases mortgage servicing coverage chart

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 29, the CFPB released version 3.1 of its mortgage servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide. The updated guide supports the implementation of the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule, including the amendment to the Rule released earlier this month. The Rule replaces the previous single-billing-cycle exemption with a single-statement exemption when servicers transition to providing modified or unmodified periodic statements and coupon books to consumers entering or exiting bankruptcy. See previous InfoBytes coverage here. The Bureau also released a mortgage servicing coverage chart, which summarizes the mortgage servicing rules that will be in effect as of April 19.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgage Servicing Bankruptcy Consumer Finance Regulation X Regulation Z

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  • CFPB releases FAQs on bankruptcy issues under the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 20, the CFPB released updated FAQs to support the implementation of the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule. Specifically, the updated FAQs pertain to the mortgage-servicing provisions regarding bankruptcy, which are effective April 19. The CFPB released ten bankruptcy-related question and answers. The bankruptcy topics include periodic statements, coupon books, reaffirmation, successors in interest, and timing of compliance.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB recently issued a final rule updating technical aspects of the upcoming periodic statement requirements for borrowers in bankruptcy under Regulation Z.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgage Servicing Bankruptcy Consumer Finance Regulation Z Regulation X

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  • 2nd Circuit finds bankruptcy claim non-arbitrable

    Courts

    On March 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit denied a bank’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that arbitration of the debtor’s claims would present an inherent conflict with the intent of the Bankruptcy Code because the dispute concerns a core bankruptcy proceeding. The debtor’s claims against the bank relate to a purported refusal to remove a “charge-off” status on the debtor’s credit file after the debtor was released from all dischargeable debts through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court allowed the debtor to reopen the proceeding in order to file a putative class action complaint against the bank alleging that the designation amounted to coercion to pay a discharged debt. The bank moved to compel arbitration, based on a clause in the debtor’s cardholder agreement, and the court denied the motion. On appeal, the district court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision. In affirming both lower courts’ decisions, the 2nd Circuit reasoned that a claim of coercion to pay a discharged debt is an attempt to undo the effect of the discharge order and, therefore, “strikes at the heart of the bankruptcy court’s unique powers to enforce its own orders.” The circuit court found the debtor’s complaint to be non-arbitrable based on a conclusion that it would create an inherent conflict with the intent of the bankruptcy code.

    Courts Second Circuit Arbitration Bankruptcy Appellate

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  • CFPB issues final rule on periodic statements during bankruptcy

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 8, the CFPB issued a final rule updating technical aspects of the upcoming periodic statement requirements for borrowers in bankruptcy under Regulation Z. The Bureau adopted the proposed rule, released in October 2017, without revision (previously covered by InfoBytes here). Specifically, the final rule changes the transition rules for borrowers who enter or leave bankruptcy by replacing the previous single-billing-cycle exemption with a single-statement exemption for the next periodic statement or coupon book that a servicer would otherwise have to provide, regardless of when in the billing cycle the triggering event occurs. The Bureau also added new commentary to clarify the operation of the single-statement exemption. The rule is effective April 19. 

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgage Servicing Bankruptcy Consumer Finance Regulation Z

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  • Department of Education releases RFI on undue hardship threshold

    Lending

    On February 21, the Department of Education published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking feedback on whether there is a need to clarify the threshold for “undue hardship” when evaluating bankruptcy cases in which borrowers seek to discharge student loans. According to the RFI, current U.S. Bankruptcy Code states that student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy claims only if “excepting the debt from discharge would impose an ‘undue hardship’ on the borrower and the borrower’s dependents.” However, according to the RFI, the term “Undue hardship” has never been defined by Congress in the Bankruptcy Code, nor has the Department been delegated the authority to do so. Instead, the context for proving a hardship claim falls under one of two tests summarized in the department’s 2015 Dear Colleague Letter (2015 Letter). The RFI requests comments on the following: (i) what factors should be considered when evaluating undue hardship claims; (ii) the weight to be given to any such factors; (iii) whether the use of two tests result in any “inequities among borrowers”; (iv) under what circumstances should loan holders “concede an undue hardship claim by the borrower”; and (v) whether and how changes should be made to the 2015 Letter. Comments on the RFI are due May 22.

    Lending Student Lending Department of Education Bankruptcy

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