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  • Court grants summary judgment to credit reporting agency over FCRA dispute

    Courts

    On April 4, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a consumer reporting agency’s motion for summary judgment, holding that a “firm offer of credit” under the FCRA does not require that an offer based on furnished information result in an enforceable contract. According to the opinion, a consumer filed a putative class action suit alleging that the consumer reporting agency violated the FCRA by providing California residents’ credit report information to two businesses that were not licensed to make consumer loans in California and that offered interest rates which exceed allowable limits under California law. The court disagreed, holding that the FCRA only requires that a prescreened offer not be retracted if the consumer meets the creditor’s pre-selection criteria. Additionally, the court rejected the consumer’s argument that the FCRA also imposes a duty on consumer reporting agencies to separately credential service providers who are given access to the furnished information from their credentialed principals. The court emphasized that “neither the FCRA, nor any case authority addressing the FCRA” imposes this duty.

    Courts FCRA Usury Prescreened Offers

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  • Tennessee amends interest rate legislation

    Lending

    On March 23, the Governor of Tennessee signed HB 1944, which amends lending provisions of the Tennessee Code Annotated to change the application of interest rates to the amount financed instead of the total amount of the loan with regard to certain loans made by Tennessee industrial loan and thrift companies. The following interest rate requirements under present Tennessee law now apply to the amount financed: (i) under $100, no interest shall be charged on the principal or on the unpaid balance due after maturity in excess of a maximum effective rate of 18 percent per annum; (ii) between $100 and $5,000, no interest shall be charged on the principal or on the unpaid balance due after maturity in excess of a maximum effective rate of 30 percent per annum; (iii) greater than $5,000, no interest shall be charged on the principal or on the unpaid balance due after maturity in excess of a maximum effective rate of 24 percent per annum; and (iv) for open-end credit plans, a maximum effective rate of 24 percent per annum applies to the principal or on the unpaid balance due after maturity. HB 1944 is effective immediately and applies to loans made on or after March 23.

    Lending State Issues Interest Rate Consumer Finance Usury State Legislation

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  • Colorado judge rules FDIA does not completely preempt state usury claims against a non-bank

    Courts

    On March 21, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado held that the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDIA) does not completely preempt a Colorado state regulator’s claims that a non-bank lender violated state law and remanded the case back to state court. The underlying action results from charges brought by the administrator of Colorado’s Uniform Consumer Credit Code against a non-bank lender – which the administrator argues is the “true lender” of loans issued by a New Jersey-chartered bank – for allegedly overcharging interest and other fees in violation of state law. In granting the motion to remand, the court noted that the administrator sufficiently alleged the non-bank was the “true lender” of the loans in question as the non-bank provided the website through which customers apply for the loans, determined the criteria for marketing the loans, decided which applications receive loans, and purchased the loans within two days after they were made by the New Jersey bank. The district court concluded that while courts are split as to banks, because the true lender of the loans was a non-bank, complete preemption by FDIA does not apply even though the non-bank lender has a “close relationship” with a state or national bank. The district court also stated that whether the non-bank is a “true lender” is “not relevant to the issues of complete preemption, which determine whether remand is warranted.”

    Courts Preemption State Issues Usury Interest Rate Non-bank True Lender FDIA

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  • Judge says overdraft fees are not usurious, removes claim from lawsuit

    Courts

    On February 28, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina dismissed a complaint from a consolidated class action against a national bank, which alleged that the bank’s $20 overdraft fee is an interest charge on credit and therefore exceeds usury limits under the National Bank Act (NBA). The plaintiffs in the consolidated class action challenged the bank’s methods for assessing overdraft fees, posting debit transactions, and assessing “sustained” overdraft fees, claiming they violated federal law. In granting the dismissal, the court noted that it had previously rejected a materially identical usury claim in December 2015 and that no new evidence or authority had been brought to light that would change its decision. In addition, the court concluded that “the law is still clear that sustained overdraft fees are not interest, and that assessing such fees cannot violate the usury provision of the NBA.” 

    Courts Usury Overdraft National Bank Act Class Action

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  • House passes bill that would effectively overturn Madden; others amend RESPA disclosure requirements and adjust points and fees definitions under TILA

    Federal Issues

    On February 14, in a bipartisan vote of 245-171, the House passed H.R. 3299, the “Protecting Consumers Access to Credit Act of 2017,” to codify the “valid-when-made” doctrine and ensure that a bank loan that was valid as to its maximum rate of interest in accordance with federal law at the time the loan was made shall remain valid with respect to that rate, regardless of whether the bank subsequently sells or assigns the loan to a third party. As previously covered in InfoBytes, this regulatory reform bill would effectively overturn the 2015 decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, which ruled that debt buyers cannot use their relationship with a national bank to preempt state usury limits. Relatedly, the Senate Banking Committee is considering a separate measure, S. 1642.

    The same day, in a separate bipartisan vote of 271-145, the House approved H.R. 3978, the “TRID Improvement Act of 2017,” which would amend the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 (RESPA) to modify disclosure requirements applicable to mortgage loan transactions. Specifically, the bill states that “disclosed charges for any title insurance premium shall be equal to the amount charged for each individual title insurance policy, subject to any discounts as required by either state regulation or the title company rate filings.”

    Finally, last week on February 8, the House voted 280-131 to pass H.R. 1153, the “Mortgage Choice Act of 2017,” to adjust definitions of points and fees in connection with mortgage transactions under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). Specifically, the bill states that “neither escrow charges for insurance nor affiliated title charges shall be considered ‘points and fees’ for purposes of determining whether a mortgage is a ‘high-cost mortgage.’” On February 12, the bill was received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation U.S. House Usury Lending RESPA TILA Mortgages Disclosures Madden

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  • House Financial Services Subcommittee conducts hearing on fintech opportunities and challenges

    Fintech

    On January 30, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit held a hearing entitled “Examining Opportunities and Challenges in the Financial Technology (“Fintech”) Marketplace.” The Subcommittee issued a press release following the hearing and presented the following key takeaways:

    • “Modern developments in digital technology are changing the way in which many financial services are offered and delivered”; and
    • “Congress and the federal prudential regulators must continue to examine this innovative marketplace to understand the opportunities and challenges it presents, and to ensure that financial services entities are allowed to use fintech to deliver new products and services while also protecting consumers.”

    Opening statements were presented by several members of the Subcommittee, including Subcommittee Vice Chair Keith Rothfus, R-PA, who noted that online lending, mobile banking, and other products could bring capital back to areas deserted by traditional banks. Subcommittee Chairman Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-MO, highlighted that loan originations passed through marketplace lenders accounted for nearly $40 billion over the past ten years, with online lenders often able to offer better lending terms. Luetkemeyer also discussed the rise of mobile banking and lending and raised the question presented by some states of whether fintech companies should be required to comply with current laws that apply to similar products. He stressed that understanding fintech’s capabilities “can better create an environment that fosters certainty and responsible innovation while maintaining consumer protections.” A broad range of topics were discussed at the hearing, including the following highlights:

    • Madden v. Midland / True Lender. Companies that have chosen to partner with banks have also run into regulatory and legal roadblocks, including the recent decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, which determined that a nonbank entity taking assignment of debts originated by a national bank is not entitled to protection under the National Bank Act from state-law usury claims. (See Buckley Sandler Special Alert here.) In prepared remarks, Andrew Smith, Partner at Covington and Burling, LLP, stated that because of varying outcomes in true lender court challenges, the lack of certainty means that “market participants will no longer be willing to enter into these types of transactions, thereby depriving consumers, banks, and the economy of the many benefits of bank partnerships with fintech providers while also hampering the liquidity necessary to support a robust lending market.” Smith went on to discuss H.R. 4439, the Modernizing Credit Opportunities Act, which was introduced to “reconfirm and reinforce existing federal law with respect to a bank’s identity as the true lender of a loan with the assistance of a third-party service provider.” Smith emphasized that the legislation would “resolve any uncertainty about a bank’s ability to use third-party service providers by confirming the principle that when a bank enters into a loan agreement, it is the bank that has made the loan.”
    • Marketplace Lending. During his testimony, witness Nathaniel Hoopes, Executive Director at the Marketplace Lending Association, highlighted the role marketplace lending platforms (MPPs) have had in delivering products to underserved consumers, but emphasized that a lot of work still needs to happen for more of the “broad American ‘middle class’ to fully realize and benefit from the potential of MPPs specifically and fintech more broadly.” He also expressed support for the Special Purpose National Bank charter currently under consideration by the OCC.
    • Regulatory Sandboxes. Witness Brian Knight, Director of the Program on Financial Regulation and Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, suggested in his prepared remarks various methods to improve the current regulatory environment, and opined that lawmakers could allow firms that participate in a regulatory sandbox program and comply with its requirements to avoid liability as long as the firm makes “customers whole if the firm causes harm owing to a violation of the law.” Knight added that states could be allowed to grant special non-depository charters similar to those offered by the OCC. And while witness Professor Adam J. Levitin of the Georgetown University Law Center agreed that sandboxes would allow companies to explore new ideas with the understanding that customers must be protected, he cautioned that the fragmentation of the regulatory system around fintech makes it hard for experimentation, and that risk would need to be regulated.
    • Virtual Currencies. Knight discussed his concerns with initial coin offerings (ICOs) and commented that while ICOs “may enable firms to access capital more effectively than traditional methods, there are significant concerns that they are being used by both outright frauds and well-meaning but ignorant firms to obtain capital in contravention of existing laws governing the sales of securities, commodities futures contracts, and products and services.” However, Knight testified that despite the potential for risk, peer-to-peer payments, cryptocurrencies, and other innovations demonstrate potential, and that innovative lenders are replacing banks in communities where it is no longer profitable for those banks to serve.

    Inconsistent Regulations. During his testimony, witness Brian Peters, Executive Director at Financial Innovation Now, advocated for improved coordination among regulators and stressed that the “current structure is needlessly fragmented and inconsistent among federal regulators, and varies widely across state jurisdictions.” Peters also commented on the need to modernize the regulatory structure to keep pace with innovation and meet consumers’ needs.

    Fintech House Financial Services Committee Marketplace Lending True Lender Virtual Currency Bank Regulatory Usury Third-Party Madden

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  • House Financial Services Committee Passes Bill That Would Pre-empt State Usury Laws

    Federal Issues

    On November 15, the House Financial Services Committee (Committee) announced the passage of H.R. 3299, “Protecting Consumers Access to Credit Act of 2017,” which would amend the “Revised Statues and the Federal Deposit Insurance Act” to explain that bank loans that were valid as to their maximum rate of interest in accordance with federal law at the time the loan was made shall remain valid with respect to that rate, regardless of whether the bank subsequently sells or assigns the loan to a third party. This would have the effect of preempting contrary state usury laws and effectively overturn the 2015 decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC.

    The bill passed Committee 42-17.

    InfoBytes previously covered the bill’s introduction and also, a similar measure introduced in the Senate.

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Usury Lending Federal Legislation Madden

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  • Virginia AG Announces Settlement With Internet Lender Over Licensing Claims and Excessive Interest

    State Issues

    On October 25, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced a settlement with a Nevada-based internet lender to resolve allegations that the lender violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting it was licensed by the state’s Bureau of Financial Institutions and collecting interest exceeding the state’s general usury limit. According to a press release issued by the Attorney General’s office, the settlement requires the lender to provide refunds and interest forgiveness of more than $265,000 to borrowers, and pay the state $50,000 in civil money penalties, costs, and fees. A permanent injunction also prohibits the lender from, among other things, misrepresenting its licensing status and collecting interest exceeding the amount allowed by the state’s general usury statute.

    State Issues State Attorney General Usury Predatory Lending Consumer Finance Settlement Enforcement

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  • OCC Acting Comptroller Shares Thoughts on Agency’s Innovation Efforts

    Fintech

    On September 25, OCC Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika spoke before the 2017 Online Lending Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways the maturing banking industry can respond to changing market conditions through the adoption of new business models and adjustments to long-term strategies. “Some pundits see the growth of the online lending industry as a response to the nation’s banking industry. And some say that if the industry had been sufficiently agile and fully met the need for lending, alternative lenders would not have grown so rapidly,” Noreika stated. “I do not share that view. I see the growth of online lending and marketplace lenders as the natural evolution of banking itself.”

    According to Noreika, about $40 billion in consumer and small business loans in the United States have been originated by marketplace lenders during the past decade, and since 2010, online lending has doubled each year. In fact, Noreika noted, “some analysts suggest that the market will reach nearly $300 billion by 2020, and others suggest as much as $1 trillion by 2025.” However, the online industry faces certain challenges and “adapting to new market conditions and effectively managing evolving risks” is pertinent to their success. Noreika highlighted recent innovation efforts by the OCC, such as the agency’s Office of Innovation’s “Office Hours,” which was created to facilitate discussions related to fintech and financial innovation. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Another example is the OCC’s plan to develop “regulatory sandboxes” and bank pilot programs to “foster responsible innovation by OCC-supervised banks” as a means to expand the OCC’s own knowledge in this space. Importantly, Noreika addressed the OCC’s position concerning chartering of fintech companies that seek to expand into banking, along with the possibility of “offering special-purpose national bank charters to nondepository fintech companies engaged in the business of banking”—a concept currently being contested by both the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS). According to Noreika, the OCC has not yet decided whether it will exercise its authority to issue special purpose bank charters. (See previous InfoBytes coverage of CSBS’ and NYDFS’ challenges here and here.)

    Finally, Noreika offered support for a legislative approach that would clarify the “valid when made” doctrine central to Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC by reducing uncertainty in establishing that “the rate of interest on a loan made by a bank, savings association, or credit union that is valid when the loan is made remains valid after transfer of the loan” and serving to reestablish a legal precedent that had been in place prior to the Madden decision, in which an appellate panel held that a nonbank entity taking assignment of debts originated by a national bank is not entitled to protection under the National Bank Act from state law usury claims. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Online Lending Department of Treasury Marketplace Lending Usury National Bank Act Madden

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  • Senators Introduce Legislation to Override Second Circuit’s Decision in Madden v. Midland

    Federal Issues

    On July 27, a bipartisan group of senators introduced draft legislation (S. 1642), which would require bank loans, sold or transferred to another party, to maintain the same interest rate. As previously covered in InfoBytes, similar legislation (H.R. 3299) was introduced in the House earlier in July to reestablish a “legal precedent under federal banking laws that preempts a loan’s interest as valid when made.” Both measures come as a reaction to the 2015 Second Circuit decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, in which an appellate panel held that a nonbank entity taking assignment of debts originated by a national bank is not entitled to protection under the National Bank Act from state-law usury claims. The draft legislation seeks to amend the Revised Statutes, the Home Owners’ Loan Act, the Federal Credit Union Act, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Act.

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation Usury Lending Second Circuit Litigation National Bank Act Madden

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