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  • Payday lender settles with California DBO for interest rate cap avoidance

    State Issues

    On March 12, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) announced a $160,000 settlement with the California subsidiary of a payday lender for allegedly adding improper fees to installment loan principle amounts in order to avoid the California Finance Law’s (CFL) interest rate cap. The settlement resulted from a DBO examination in which the DBO issued a finding that: (i) the lender failed to exclude fees payable to the California DMV when calculating the principal amount of certain vehicle title loans; (ii) excluding the DMV fees, the bona fide principal amount of the loans at issue was less than $2,500; and (iii) the loans were, therefore, subject to the CFL interest rate cap on loans with a principal amount of less than $2,500, which was exceeded on 591 loans. Without admitting to any wrongdoing, the lender agreed to pay an administrative penalty of approximately $78,000 to the DBO and to refund approximately $82,000 to allegedly affected borrowers.

    State Issues Settlement Payday Lending Vehicle Title Interest Rate DBO

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  • Pennsylvania judge partially dismisses action against investors of an online lending scheme


    On January 26, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania partially dismissed an action brought by the Pennsylvania Attorney General against out-of-state investors of an online payday lender and the lender for violating Pennsylvania’s Corrupt Organizations Act (COA). The Attorney General alleged that an online payday lender and the investors “designed, implemented, and profited from a consumer lending scheme to circumvent the usury laws of states.” The alleged conduct, which the court referred to generally as “rent-a-bank” and “rent-a-tribe” schemes, involved the online lender partnering with an out-of-state bank and later with tribal nation to act as the nominal lenders of the loans. The investors moved to dismiss the claims against them, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over them and that the Attorney General failed to plead sufficient allegations with respect to the investors’ involvement in the “rent-a-bank” scheme. The court rejected the jurisdictional arguments, holding that even though the investors were a Delaware LLC with no physical connection to the state, their participation in a scheme targeting Pennsylvania consumers constituted sufficient minimum contacts. However, the court dismissed the “rent-a-bank” aspects of the complaint as to the investors because it found that the Attorney General failed to allege that they were anything more than passive investors in the scheme.

    Courts Payday Lending State Attorney General Jurisdiction Lending

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  • 3rd Circuit holds payday lender’s arbitration clause unenforceable


    On February 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit held that an arbitration clause is unenforceable if the corresponding forum selection provision designates a forum that does not actually exist. According to the opinion, in 2012 the plaintiff obtained a $5,000 loan from the defendant, an online loan servicer. An arbitration provision accompanying the loan agreement stated that arbitration would be conducted by an authorized representative of a specific tribal nation. The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendants for allegedly violating the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, and various New Jersey state laws. The defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration, which the lower court denied. In affirming the lower court’s decision, the 3rd Circuit concluded that the tribal arbitration forum referenced in the loan agreement does not actually exist and “because the loan agreement’s forum selection clause is an integral, non-severable part of the arbitration agreement,” the entire arbitration agreement is unenforceable.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, in January, a district court judge ordered the same online loan servicer and its affiliates to pay a $10 million penalty for offering high-interest loans in states with usury laws barring the transactions. The penalty was based on a September 2016 finding that online loan servicer was the “true lender” of the loans issued through entities located on tribal lands. The penalty was significantly reduced from the CFPB’s request of over $50 million. 

    Courts Arbitration Third Circuit Payday Lending Appellate

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  • Texas Supreme Court says borrowers must arbitrate with payday lender


    On February 23, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed a state appeals court panel decision which found that borrowers’ claims in a class action alleging a payday lender’s wrongful use of the criminal justice system to collect unpaid debts were subject to an arbitration agreement in their loan contracts with the payday lender. According to the opinion, the borrowers entered into loan contracts with the payday lender and used postdated checks as security for the loans. The payday lender deposited the postdated checks after the borrowers defaulted on their payment obligations, which resulted in the checks being returned for insufficient funds. The borrowers were then charged by the State of Texas for the issuance of bad checks and the charges were ultimately dismissed. The borrowers filed a class action lawsuit against the payday lender alleging the wrongful use of the criminal justice system to collect on their unpaid loans and asserted violations of, among other things, the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Consumer Protection Act. The trial court denied the payday lender’s motion to compel arbitration because the court found that the class action allegations related to the use of the criminal justice system and not the underlying loan contract, and that the payday lender waived its right to arbitration by invoking the judicial process. Upon appeal, the panel versed the trial court’s decision. In affirming the appeals court panel holding, the Texas Supreme Court agreed that the class action suit was “factually intertwined with the loan contracts” and therefore, the arbitration provision applied and there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s holding that the payday lender waived its right to arbitrate.

    Courts State Issues Arbitration Payday Lending

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  • CFPB Succession: Senators express concern over CFPB’s investigation into data breach; Otting praises Mulvaney; & more

    Federal Issues

    On February 7, a bipartisan group of 32 senators wrote to the CFPB expressing concerns over reports that the Bureau may have halted an investigation into a large credit reporting agency’s significant data breach. The letter requests specific information related to agency’s oversight over the issue, such as, (i) whether the CFPB has stopped an on-going investigation into the data breach and if so, why; (ii) whether the CFPB intends to conduct on-site exams of the credit reporting agency at issue; and (iii) if an investigation is on-going, details related to the steps taken in that investigation. Additionally, on February 6, during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), Representative David Scott, D-Ga., addressed rumors that the CFPB has scaled back its investigation of a large credit reporting agency’s significant data breach. In response to Scott, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin noted that, while he has not done so yet, he intends to discuss the matter with acting Director Mulvaney and at FSOC. According to reports, a spokesperson for the Bureau noted that Mulvaney takes data security issues “very seriously” but that the Bureau does not comment on open enforcement or supervisory matters. It has also been reported that the CFPB may be deferring to the FTC’s on-going investigation.

    Comptroller of the Currency, Joseph Otting, issued a statement on February 6 after meeting with Mulvaney about ways the CFPB and the OCC can work together to pursue each agency’s mission. Otting praised Mulvaney’s leadership of the agency and noted that the recent announcements regarding HMDA compliance and the payday rule reconsideration have “helped to reduce the burden on the banking system.” (Previously covered by InfoBytes here and here).

    On the same day, the CFPB announced that Kirsten Sutton Mork was selected as the new chief of staff for the agency. Mork had been serving as staff director of the House Financial Services Committee under Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. Leandra English previously held the role of chief of staff, prior to her appointment as deputy director in late November. English’s litigation against the appointment of Mulvaney as acting director continues with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and oral arguments have been set for April 12.   

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession Credit Rating Agencies Enforcement CFPB HMDA Payday Lending

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  • CFPB Succession: Mulvaney removes Fair Lending office enforcement power; Warren sends payday congressional inquiry

    Federal Issues

    On February 1, it was reported that Mulvaney has moved The Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity from the Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending division (SEFL) of the CFPB to the Office of the Director. According to sources, Mulvaney sent an email which states that the Fair Lending office will now be focused on “advocacy, coordination and education” as opposed to the day-to-day responsibility of enforcement and supervision oversight, which will remain in the SEFL division. A spokesperson for the acting director stated, “by elevating the Office of Fair Lending to the Director’s Office, we have enhanced its ability to focus on its other important combining these efforts under one roof, we gain efficiency and consistency without sacrificing effectiveness.”

    On January 31, Senator Elizabeth Warren and five other Democratic members of congress sent a letter to the CFPB inquiring about the Bureau’s decision to reconsider its final rule addressing payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other extensions of credit, as previously covered by InfoBytes. The letter expresses dissatisfaction with the lack of explanation for this decision and for the CFPB’s decision to end a multiyear investigation into a national installment loan lender (previously covered by InfoBytes here). The letter requests specific information related to the payday rule decision, such as, (i) lists of personnel involved in providing legal advice and lists of meetings attended by political appointees related to the payday decision; (ii) an explanation of the analysis that lead to the decision; and (iii) information related to communications with certain members of the payday loan industry. Interestingly, the letter is addressed to Leandra English as “Acting Director” of the CFPB and Mick Mulvaney as “Director” of the Office of Management and Budget.

    As for Leandra English’s litigation, on January 31, English filed her corrected Appellant’s Brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The brief does not raise any significantly new arguments. The government’s response is due by February 23.  Additionally, on February 1, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a similar complaint brought by a NY credit union (previously covered by InfoBytes here). In granting the government’s motion to dismiss, the judge agreed that the credit union did not allege a “concrete and particularized injury caused by CFPB actions under Mulvaney’s leadership” and therefore, did not have standing to bring the action.   

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession Fair Lending Payday Lending Enforcement

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  • Maryland issues bipartisan consumer protection recommendations

    State Issues

    On January 26, the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission (the “Commission”) and ranking officials from the Maryland legislature announced bipartisan “Interim Recommendations” of the Commission for State and local action in response to the federal government’s “efforts to change or weaken […] important federal consumer protections.” New legislation in response to the recommendations is expected to be released in the near future. Key recommendations include, among other things: (i) requiring credit reporting agencies to provide an alert of data breaches promptly and provide free credit freezes; (ii) adopting new financial consumer protection laws in areas where the federal government may be weakening oversight; (iii) addressing potential issues with Maryland’s current payday and lending statutes; (iv) adopting the Model State Consumer and Employee Justice Enforcement Act that addresses forced arbitration clauses; and (v) adopting new laws that address new risk, such as, virtual currencies and financial technology.

    State Issues State Legislation Consumer Finance Data Breach Payday Lending Arbitration Virtual Currency Fintech Credit Reporting Agency

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  • CFPB Succession: An end to “regulation by enforcement,” says Mulvaney

    Federal Issues

    On January 23, acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney sent an email to staff (a similar version was later published as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal) outlining his vision for how the CFPB will enforce consumer protection laws. In the email, Mulvaney emphasizes that the CFPB will no longer “push the envelope” in pursuit of the agency’s mission, a phrase which he attributes to former CFPB Director Richard Cordray. While Mulvaney acknowledges that there will be times the agency will need to take “dramatic action to protect consumers,” he states that this will only be done as “the most final of last resorts,” after all other resolutions have failed. In terms of what this means for the Bureau’s current work, Mulvaney states that enforcement will be focused on “quantifiable and unavoidable harm to the consumer.” As for regulation, there will be “more formal rulemaking on which financial institutions can rely, and less regulation by enforcement.” Mulvaney also suggests that prioritization will be guided by complaint data, specifically noting that, in 2016, debt collection accounted for almost a third of complaints received by the CFPB whereas prepaid cards and payday lending accounted for nine-tenths of a percent and two percent respectively. 

    The statements in Mulvaney’s letter to staff are in line with many of the CFPB’s recent actions, including last week’s announcement that the Bureau intends to reconsider its final rule addressing payday loans and its December 21 announcement that it will be amending its prepaid card rule (previously covered by InfoBytes here and here). Additionally, on January 23, a national installment loan lender announced an end to a multi-year investigation by the CFPB, stating that the Bureau does not intend to recommend an enforcement action into the company’s practices. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB also recently dismissed its case against four online installment lenders.

    Leandra English’s challenge to Mulvaney’s authority to serve as acting director of the CFPB continues. On January 23, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed to the expedited appeal of English’s case, ordering English’s brief due by January 30 and the government’s response due by February 23. 

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession Enforcement Payday Lending Prepaid Rule

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  • Judge’s $10 million order against payday lender falls far short of CFPB request

    Consumer Finance

    On January 19, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ordered an online loan servicer and its affiliates to pay a $10 million penalty for offering high-interest loans in states with usury laws barring the transactions. The judge denied the CFPB’s requested penalty of over $50 million. The judge ordered the company to pay this penalty after determining in September 2016 that the online loan servicer was the “true lender” of the loans that were issued through entities located on tribal land, previously covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert. The judge found that a lower statutory penalty was more appropriate than the CFPB’s requested amount because the CFPB failed to show the company “knowingly violated the CFPA.” The judge also rejected the CFPB’s requested restitution of $235 million. In rejecting the CFPB’s requested restitution amount, the judge found that the CFPB had not put forth any evidence that the company “intended to defraud consumers or that consumers did not receive the benefit of their bargain from the [program]” for restitution to be an appropriate remedy. The judge also denied the CFPB’s request for a permanent injunction, finding that the CFPB did not present any evidence to support its assertion that the servicer would violate the CFPA in the future.

    Consumer Finance Payday Lending Courts CFPB

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  • CFPB plans to reconsider payday rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On January 16, the CFPB announced plans to reconsider its final rule addressing payday loans, vehicle titles loans, and certain other extensions of credit (previously covered in a Buckley Sandler Special Alert) by engaging in a rulemaking process. While the announcement was made on the effective date of the final rule, most provisions do not require compliance until August 19, 2019. However, the deadline for submitting a preliminary approval to become a registered information system is April 16, 2018. The Bureau noted that it will consider waiver requests from potential applicants.

    Notably, this marks the second recent announcement in which the agency refers to itself as “the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection,” instead of the more-commonly used “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” Both titles are used in the text of the Dodd-Frank Act, though the sections of the Dodd-Frank Act authorizing creation of the CFPB used the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection” naming convention.  The agency also previously updated its mission statement located at the bottom of each release.

    For more InfoBytes coverage on the latest CFPB changes, click here.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Succession CFPB Payday Lending

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