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On October 17, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s fall 2018 rulemaking agenda. According to the Bureau’s preamble, the information presented is current as of August 30 and represents regulatory matters it “reasonably anticipates” having under consideration during the period of October 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019. The Bureau also states it plans on “reexamining the requirements of [ECOA] in light of recent Supreme Court case law and the Congressional disapproval of a prior Bureau bulletin concerning indirect auto lender compliance with ECOA and its implementing regulations.”
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Loans (PACE): The Bureau is planning to complete an assessment of its 2013 rules for assessing consumers’ ability to repay mortgage loans by January 2019, which will inform the drafting of a request for information or advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) on PACE issues to facilitate the Bureau’s rulemaking process.
- HMDA/Regulation C: The Bureau plans to follow-up on its action in August 2017 to amend Regulation C to increase the threshold for collecting and reporting data with respect to open-end lines of credit for a period of two years so that financial institutions originating fewer than 500 open-end lines of credit in either of the preceding two years would not be required to begin collecting such data until January 1, 2020.
- Debt Collection: The Bureau states it plans to issue an ANPR addressing issues such as communication practices and consumer disclosures by March 2019, and has received support from industry and consumer groups to engage in rulemaking to explore ways to apply the FDCPA to modern collection practices.
- Small Dollar Lending: The Bureau anticipates it will issue a proposed rule on small dollar lending in January 2019.
- Payday Rule: The Bureau estimates it will issue an ANPR in January 2019 to reconsider the merits and compliance date for its final payday/vehicle title/high-cost installment loan rule.
- FCRA: Comments must be submitted by November 19 on the changes and underlying disclosures implemented by its interim final rule, which amended certain model forms under the FCRA and took effect September 21. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the interim final rule here.)
Long term priorities now include rulemaking addressing (i) small business lending data collection; (ii) consumer reporting; (iii) amendments to FIRREA concerning automated valuation models; (iii) consumer access to financial records; (iv) rules to implement the the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, concerning various mortgage requirements, student lending, and consumer reporting; and (v) clarity for the definition of abusive acts and practices.
On September 6, the CFPB released its summer 2018 Supervisory Highlights, which outlines its supervisory and oversight actions in the areas of auto loan servicing, credit card account management, debt collection, mortgage servicing, payday lending, and small business lending. The findings of the report cover examinations that generally were completed between December 2017 and May 2018. Highlights of the examination findings include:
- Auto loan servicing. The Bureau determined that billing statements showing “paid-ahead” status after insurance proceeds from a total vehicle loss were applied, where consumers were treated as late if they failed to pay the next month, were deceptive. The Bureau also found that servicers unfairly repossessed vehicles after the repossession should have been canceled because the account was not coded correctly, or because an agreement with consumer was reached.
- Credit card account management. The Bureau found that companies failed to reevaluate accounts for eligibility for a rate reduction under Regulation Z or failed to appropriately reduce annual percentage rates.
- Debt collection. The Bureau found that debt collectors failed to mail debt verifications to consumers before engaging in continued debt collection, activities as required by the FDCPA.
- Mortgage servicing. The Bureau found that mortgage servicers delayed processing permanent modifications after consumers successfully completed their trial modifications, resulting in accrued interest and fees that would not otherwise have accrued, which the Bureau determined was an unfair act or practice.
- Payday lending. The Bureau found that companies threatened to repossess consumer vehicles, notwithstanding that they generally did not actually do so or have a business relationship with an entity capable of doing so, which the Bureau determined was a deceptive practice. The Bureau also found that companies did not obtain valid preauthorized EFT authorizations for debits initiated using debit card numbers or ACH credentials provided for other purposes, in violation of Regulation E.
- Small business lending. The Bureau found that some institutions collect and maintain only limited data on small business lending decisions, which it determined could impede the institution’s ability to monitor ECOA risk. The Bureau noted positive exam findings including, (i) active oversight of an entity’s CMS framework; (ii) maintaining records of policy and procedure updates; and (iii) self-conducted semi-annual ECOA risk assessments, which included small business lending.
The report notes that in response to most examination findings, the companies have already remediated or have plans to remediate affected consumers and implement corrective actions, such as new policies in procedures.
Finally, the report highlights, among other things, (i) two recent enforcement actions that were a result of supervisory activity (covered by InfoBytes here and here); (ii) recent updates to the mortgage servicing rule and TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure rule (covered by InfoBytes here and here); and (iii) HMDA implementation updates (covered by InfoBytes here).
On August 10, the CFPB announced a settlement with multiple defendants that allegedly made unauthorized payday loans. The settlement results from a 2014 complaint that alleged, among other things, that the defendants accessed consumer checking accounts to illegally deposit the proceeds of payday loans and withdraw related fees without consumer consent. The stipulated final judgment and order, among other things, (i) imposes a penalty of up to approximately $69 million if the defendants fail to fully comply with the operative terms of the settlement; (ii) prohibits the defendants from performing similar activities in the future; and (iii) assesses a civil money penalty of $1, in part based on the defendants’ inability to pay.
On July 23, as previously covered by InfoBytes, a court approved a stipulated final judgment and order against one of the defendants, who neither admitted nor denied the Bureau’s allegations, for a civil money penalty of $1 (based, in part, on his inability to pay) and agreement to fully cooperate with the Bureau.
On July 30, Ohio’s Governor signed into law HB 123, which “modifies the Short-Term Loan Act, specifies a minimum loan amount and duration for loans made under the Small Loan Law and General Loan Law, and limits the authority of credit services organizations to broker extensions of credit for buyers.” Under these amendments, payday lenders in the state will now be restricted to short-term loans of $1,000 or less, with terms for a single short-term loan set at a 91-day minimum and a one year maximum. Exemptions provided under the legislation will allow short-term loans with a minimum term of less than 91 days if the total monthly payments do not exceed an amount greater than six percent of the borrower’s verified gross monthly income or seven percent of the borrower’s verified net monthly income. Moreover, lenders are: (i) prohibited from demanding collateral for short-term loans; (ii) restricted to a small-dollar loan cap—including both fees and interest—set at 60 percent of the original principal; and (iii) required to grant borrowers three business days to rescind loans without interest. HB 123 further prohibits credit service organizations from extending credit in amounts of $5,000 or less, with repayment terms of one year or less, or with annual percentage rates exceeding 28 percent. The amendments, which take effect 90 days after the governor’s signature, will “apply only to loans that are made, or extensions of credit that are obtained, on or after the date that is  days after the effective date of this act.”
District court approves stipulated final judgment in favor of CFPB against one of the operators of online lending operation
On July 23, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri approved a stipulated final judgment and order against one of the two dozen defendants in the CFPB’s suit against an alleged online payday lending operation. In 2014, the Bureau filed a complaint against numerous entities and three individuals, accusing the defendants of violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act, Truth in Lending Act, and Electronic Fund Transfer Act by, among other things, purchasing information from online lead generators in order to access checking accounts to illegally deposit payday loans and withdraw fees without consumer consent, along with falsifying loan documents as evidence that the consumers had agreed to the loans. The stipulated final judgment and order resolved the Bureau’s claims against one of the individual defendants, an in-house accountant who monitored the bank accounts and the movement of funds between the entity and individual defendants. While the settling defendant neither admitted nor denied the Bureau’s allegations (except with respect to jurisdiction), he agreed to pay a civil money penalty of $1 (based, in part, on his inability to pay) and to fully cooperate with the Bureau.
On June 8, the governor of New Hampshire signed HB 1687, to clarify the applicability of various state banking and consumer credit laws. Among other changes, the law (i) clarifies information required to be provided in a note, agreement, or promise to pay that is entered into by a small, title, or payday lender; (ii) prohibits small, title, or payday lenders from taking “any note, agreement, or promise to pay in which blanks are left to be filled in after the loan is made”; and (iii) makes certain other clarifying technical updates. The law is effective August 7.
On June 26, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed two forfeiture complaints, which cover agreements with two Native American tribes to forfeit a combined $3 million in profits made from their involvement in an allegedly fraudulent payday lending scheme (see here and here). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in October 2016, the FTC required a Kansas-based operation and its owner to pay more than $1.3 billion for allegedly violating Section 5(a) of the FTC Act by making false and misleading representations about costs and payment of the loans. The business owner and his attorney were subsequently found guilty in October 2017 of operating a criminal payday loan empire. As part of the agreements, the two tribes admit that representatives filed affidavits containing false statements in the legal actions against the payday loan scheme. If the tribes comply with agreement requirements, the DOJ will not pursue criminal action for the specified violations.
In February, multiple federal agencies entered into a $613 million deferred prosecution agreement over Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money laundering (AML) compliance program deficiencies with a national bank, which included allegations that the bank was on notice of the owner’s use of the bank to launder proceeds from his fraudulent payday lending scheme. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.)
On June 4, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) published in the Federal Register a proposal to create a new payday alternative loan product (PAL II) in addition to the current payday alternative loan product (PAL I), which has been available since 2010. According to the NCUA announcement, the goal of PAL II is to expand access to safe and affordable short-term, small-dollar loans for consumers of modest means. PAL II would include most features of PAL I, with four changes: (i) eliminating a loan minimum while setting the maximum at $2,000; (ii) setting a term maximum of 12 months; (iii) eliminating the requirement for membership minimum length; and (iv) as long as the consumer only has one outstanding loan at the time, eliminating the time restriction on the number of loans a credit union can make to the borrower in a six month period.
The proposal also requests input on the potential features of a possible third option, PAL III, including lending restrictions, associated fees, and underwriting guidelines.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the OCC recently issued a bulletin encouraging banks to offer short-term, small dollar installment lending.
On May 17, in response to a request from the CFPB, the FTC transmitted a letter summarizing its 2017 enforcement activities related to Regulation Z (TILA), Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act), and Regulation E (Electronic Fund Transfer Act) for the CFPB’s use in preparing its 2017 Annual Report to Congress. The FTC highlighted numerous activities related to the enforcement of the pertinent regulations, including:
- Payday Lending. The FTC acknowledged the continued litigation against two Kansas-based operations and their owner for allegedly selling lists of counterfeit payday loan debt portfolios to debt collectors in violation of the FTC Act, previously covered by InfoBytes here.
- Military Protection. The FTC identified the July 2017 military consumer financial workshop and the launch of the new Military Task Force (previously covered by InfoBytes here and here) among the activities the agency engaged in related to protecting the finances of current and former members of the military. The FTC also noted continued participation in the interagency group working with the Department of Defense on amendments to its rule implementing the Military Lending Act.
- “Negative Option.” For actions under the Regulation E/EFTA, the FTC highlighted numerous “negative option” enforcement actions, in which the consumer agrees to receive goods or services from a company for a free trial option, but if the consumer does not cancel before the trial period ends, the consumer will incur recurring charges for continued goods or services. Among the actions highlighted is a case in which the FTC imposed a $179 million judgment (suspended upon the payment of $6.4 million) settling allegations that the online marketers’ offers of “free” and “risk free” monthly programs for certain weight loss and other products were deceptive.
- Auto Loans. The letter highlighted, among others, the FTC action against a Southern California-based group of auto dealerships that allegedly violated a prior consent order with the FTC by misrepresenting the cost to finance or lease a vehicle, previously covered by InfoBytes here.
District Court rules South Dakota banking regulator exceeded authority in revoking payday lender’s license
On May 29, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota denied a motion to dismiss filed by the director of the South Dakota Division of Banking (defendant), ruling that the defendant exceeded his authority when he revoked a payday lender’s (plaintiff) operating license instead of initiating a cease and desist order, and that he failed to provide sufficient opportunities for the plaintiff to respond. According to the court, the defendant “had good cause to revoke [the plaintiff’s] money lending licenses,” having determined that late fees on the plaintiff’s loan product violated the 36 percent finance charge cap in the state’s 2017 payday lending law. But the court also held that the defendant committed a “procedural error” when he chose to “revoke the licenses rather than afford a hearing or [give the plaintiff] an opportunity to bring its practices into compliance. . . .”
The court further granted the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment “on the violation of procedural due process” for a period from September 13 through September 28, 2017—the date that the defendant issued a limited stay on the license revocation allowing the company to collect on loans issued before the South Dakota payday lending law went into effect. “In short, [the defendant’s] Order did not meaningfully advance the interests of the state (and indeed contravened state law), and the ‘substitute procedures’ sought by [the plaintiff] (and required under state law) would have accommodated the competing interests, provided due process, and not needlessly compromised the private interests of [the plaintiff],” the court wrote.
- Valerie L. Hletko to discuss "Forecasting litigation and settlement trends in the mortgage servicing and fair lending context" at the American Conference Institute National Forum on Residential Mortgage Regulatory Enforcement & Litigation
- Michelle L. Rogers and Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Building a govt affairs program; Government investigations” at the TechGC National Summit
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Foundation Montgomery Summer Research Diversity Fellowship 30th Anniversary Celebration
- Douglas F. Gansler to discuss "Privacy, security and protection of your assets in contracts; Security exercises and tactical measures" at the TechGC National Summit
- H Joshua Kotin will discuss federal regulatory developments in mortgage lending and servicing at the Mortgage Bankers Association of Arkansas Fall Conference
- Kate Shrout to discuss "Conducting workplace investigations" at the TechGC National Summit
- Kathryn R. Goodman to discuss "HECM servicing policies and updates" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Fredrick S. Levin to discuss "Reverse mortgage litigation trends" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to speak at the "Digital marketing compliance roundtable" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The role of the media in white collar criminal investigations and the Mueller probe" at the American Bar Association White Collar Crime Town Hall
- John C. Redding to discuss "Regulatory compliance update" at PowerSports Finance
- Matthew P. Previn to discuss "Enforcement trends: Who is doing what and how?" at the Cambridge Forums Inc. Forum on Consumer Finance Litigation & Enforcement
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Protect yourself from a CFPB investigation" at the National Association of Settlement Purchasers Conference
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Association Professional Success Summit
- Andrea K. Mitchell to discuss "Developments in fair lending law" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Summit on Diversity and Inclusion
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "New CDD Rule: Pitfalls in compliance" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference