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  • CFPB Sues Online Lenders Following Investigation into Debt Collection Practices

    Consumer Finance

    On April 27, the CFPB announced that it filed a suit against four online installment lenders for allegedly deceiving customers by collecting debts they were not legally owed. In a complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the Bureau claims, among other things, that the lenders engaged in unfair, abusive, and deceptive acts—a violation of Dodd-Frank—by collecting on installment loans that are partially or wholly void under state law. The Bureau further claims that lenders violated the Truth in Lending Act for failing to disclose the annual percentage rate for their loans when they were required to do so. The complaint alleges that the lenders originated, serviced, and collected high-cost, small-dollar installment loans. Since at least 2012, consumers could borrow between $300 and $1,200 with annual percentage rates from 440 percent up to 950 percent. These high-cost loans allegedly violate licensing requirements or usury limits in a least 17 states—thus rendering the loans void in whole or in part. The CFPB asserts that the lenders not only misrepresented that consumers were obligated to pay debts that were void, but also reinforced the misrepresentations through actions such as sending letters, making phone calls demanding payment, and originating ACH debit entries from consumers’ bank accounts.The complaint seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the lenders from committing future violations of federal consumer financial law, as well as other legal and equitable relief including restitution to affected consumers, disgorgement of ill-gotten revenue, and civil money penalties.

    Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Debt Collection UDAAP

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  • Rep. Luetkemeyer Introduces CLEARR Act to Provide Regulatory Relief to Community Banks

    Federal Issues

    On April 26, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) introduced the Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory Relief Act of 2017 (CLEARR Act) (H.R. 2133) designed to provide community financial institutions with regulatory relief from certain burdensome federal requirements. Among other things, the CLEARR Act would limit the authority of the CFPB by raising the asset size threshold for CFPB supervision from $10 billion to $50 billion and amend Section 1031 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 by removing the term “abusive” from the CFPB’s “unfair, deceptive, or abusive” acts or practices authority. The CLEARR Act would also provide relief in the mortgage lending area by exempting community banks from certain escrow requirements and amend the Truth in Lending Act by adding a safe harbor for qualified mortgage loans held in portfolio. Moreover, the CLEARR Act would repeal all regulations issued to implement the Basel III and NCUA capital requirements. It would also repeal the Dodd-Frank Act provision amending the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to require collection of small business and minority-owned business loan data, as well as prohibit federal banking agencies from requiring depository institutions to terminate a specific account or group of accounts unless the agency has a material reason not based solely on reputational risk.

    Rep. Luetkemeyer—who is a senior member on the House Financial Services Committee and the Chairman of the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee—also issued a statement after President Trump called for the Treasury Secretary to conduct reviews of the Orderly Liquidation Authority and Financial Stability Oversight Council: “As a former bank examiner, community banker, and Chairman of the Financial Institutions Subcommittee, I have long advocated for eliminating the OLA, because it puts taxpayers on the hook for bailouts, instead of putting private companies on the hook for bankruptcy. For years, I have also introduced legislation to change FSOC’s arbitrary designation processes, which lead to higher costs, fewer services, and less available credit for American consumers. The American people deserve financial independence and I look forward to working with President Trump and my colleagues to help them achieve it.”

    Federal Issues CFPB Community Banks NCUA TILA UDAAP Dodd-Frank ECOA

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  • Trade Organizations Express Opinions on Proposed Legislation Regarding PACE Financings

    Federal Issues

    On April 24, various trade associations submitted a joint letter to U.S. Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Edward Royce (R-CA) expressing their opinions on the legislators’ recently-introduced bill, the Protecting Americans from Credit Entanglements (PACE) Act of 2017 (H.R.1958). The PACE Act of 2017 would, among other things, require specific consumer disclosures for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financings—a financial product that allows homeowners to pay for energy-efficient retrofitting (such as solar panels and high-efficiency air conditioners) through their property tax assessments. More than 30 states currently have PACE programs. The proposed legislation and its companion bill, S. 838, introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) in the Senate, would subject PACE financing originators and sales personnel to TILA requirements.

    Federal Issues Congress Lending PACE programs TILA

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  • Department of Education Withdraws Student Loan Guidance; Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Require APR Disclosure on Federal Student Loans

    Lending

    On March 16, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) Acting Assistant Secretary Lynn B. Mahaffie notified relevant agencies that the Department is withdrawing statements of policy and guidance regarding repayment agreements and liability for collection costs on Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans as previously stated in its July 10, 2015 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) GEN 15-14. GEN 15-14 barred a "guaranty agency from charging collection costs to a defaulted borrower who (i) responds within 60 days to the initial notice sent by the guaranty agency after it pays a default claim and acquires the loan from the lender; (ii) enters into a repayment agreement, including a rehabilitation agreement; and (iii) honors that agreement.” The Department emphasized that the "position set forth in the DCL would have benefited from public input on the issues discussed in the DCL,” and as a result, the Department has withdrawn the DCL and will not require compliance without the opportunity for the public to provide comments.

    Earlier in the month, Representatives Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Luke Messer (R-IN), and David Scott (D-GA) reintroduced the Transparency in Student Lending Act (H.R. 1283)—bipartisan legislation requiring the disclosure of the annual percentage rate on federal loans issued by the Department of Education. In 2008 the Truth in Lending Act disclosure requirements were applied to private loans, but not to federal student loans—an omission that does a “gross disservice” to borrowers according to Hultgren. “The Department of Education is the largest consumer lender in the United States, and should provide the most transparent and helpful information to borrowers. Helping borrowers understand their debt obligations is an important first step to ensuring they are able to make their payments, and also helps prevent taxpayers from being on the hook for delinquent borrowers,” noted Hultgren.

    Lending Agency Rulemaking & Guidance Student Lending Department of Education TILA

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  • 9th Circuit Panel Reverses and Remands Dismissal of Pro Se Plaintiff’s Breach of Contract Claim in Connection with Bank’s Trial Loan Modification Process

    Courts

    In an opinion filed on March 13, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded a district court’s dismissal of a homeowner-plaintiff’s breach of contract claim against a major bank for damages allegedly suffered when she unsuccessfully attempted to modify her home loan over a two-year period. Oskoui v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., [Dkt No. 47-1] Case No. 15-55457 (9th Cir. Mar. 13, 2017) (Trott, S.). The court also remanded with instructions to permit the pro-se plaintiff to amend her complaint to allege a right to rescind in connection with her previously-dismissed TILA claim in light of the Supreme Court’s January 2015 decision in Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. And, finally, the panel affirmed the district court’s ruling that the facts alleged demonstrated a claim under California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) because, among other reasons, the factual record supported a determination that the bank knew or should have known that the homeowner was plainly ineligible for a loan modification; yet, the bank encouraged her to apply for modifications (which she did), and collected payments pursuant to trial modification plans. 

    In reversing and remanding the district court’s ruling dismissing the breach of contract claim, the Ninth Circuit pointed to the styling on the first-page of the complaint—“BREACH OF CONTRACT”—along with allegations about the explicit offer language contained in the bank’s trial modification documents.  The Ninth Circuit relied on the Seventh Circuit’s opinion in Wigod v. Wells Fargo, which it identified as the “leading federal appellate decision on this issue of contract,” to “illuminate the viability” of plaintiff’s breach of contract claim in connection with trial plan documents.  673 F.3d 547 (7th Cir. 2012). The Ninth Circuit remanded the claim with instructions to permit the plaintiff to amend if necessary in order to move forward with her breach of contract claim.

    Courts Lending TILA UDAAP appellate Mortgages CA UCL

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  • FTC Reaches Settlement of More Than $3.6 Million with California-Based Auto Dealership Groups

    Consumer Finance

    On March 14, the FTC announced that it reached a settlement with a Los-Angeles-based auto dealership group over charges that the group engaged in deceptive and unfair sales and financing practices, deceptive advertising, and deceptive online reviews.  The settlement, in the form of a stipulated final order, requires that the auto group pay more than $3.6 million in consumer remediation and is pending approval by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The complaint, which was filed in September of last year, also alleged the defendants participated in deceptive and unfair practices related to add-on products that consumers did not authorize. Furthermore, the FTC claimed the defendants violated TILA and Regulation Z, as well as the Consumer Leasing Act and Regulation M, for “failing to clearly disclose required credit information and lease information in their advertising.” The proposed settlement order prohibits “the defendants from making misrepresentations relating to their advertising, add-on products, financing, and endorsements or testimonials,” and also bars “the defendants from engaging in other unlawful conduct when a sale is cancelled.”

    Consumer Finance UDAAP FTC TILA Regulation Z Consumer Leasing Act

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  • CFPB Reaches Settlement with Arizona-Based Title Lender

    Lending

    On March 13, the CFPB issued a consent order and stipulation in an enforcement action against the fifth of five Arizona-based title lenders under investigation for advertising periodic interest rates without including corresponding annual percentage rates. As previously covered in Infobytes in September and February, this marks the conclusion of the investigation initiated by the Bureau last year against five title lenders for alleged violations of TILA, Regulation Z, and the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s prohibition against unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. The terms of the consent order include a $40,000 civil money penalty, an agreement that the lender will refrain from further violations of TILA, and a requirement that the lender submit a comprehensive plan to ensure compliance with all applicable federal consumer financial laws and the terms of the consent order.

    Lending Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Regulation Z UDAAP

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  • CFPB Reaches Settlement with Arizona-Based Title Lender

    Courts

    On February 2, the CFPB announced a consent order and stipulation in an enforcement action against one of five Arizona-based title lenders under investigation for violations of TILA (see September 23 InfoBytes post). The terms of the February consent order and stipulation include a $10,000 civil money penalty as well as a mandatory requirement that the lender refrain from further violations of TILA and create a comprehensive compliance plan to ensure that its advertising practices for its title lending business conform to all applicable federal consumer financial laws and the terms of the consent order. On November 1 and December 20, 2016, the CFPB posted consent orders and stipulations against three of the other five title lenders (2016-CFPB-0018, 2016-CFPB-0019, 2016-CFPB-0021). The Bureau is still negotiating an agreement with the fifth title lender.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Title Loans regulator enforcement

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  • CFPB and Attorney General of Virginia Take Action Against Pawnbroker for TILA Disclosures

    Courts

    On February 2, the CFPB and the Attorney General of Virginia filed a lawsuit and proposed stipulated final judgment against a Virginia pawnshop for deceiving consumers about the actual annual costs of its loans. This complaint is one of many similar lawsuits filed recently against several Virginia pawnbrokers (see November 11 and December 23 Infobytes posts). The complaint alleges violations of TILA, the Dodd-Frank Act, Virginia’s pawnbroker statutes, and the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. The proposed stipulated final judgment orders the company to pay over $56,000 in restitution, forfeit over $17,000 in ill-gotten gains, and pay a $5,000 civil penalty.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Dodd-Frank Virginia Consumer Protection Act

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  • CFPB Adjusts Exemption Thresholds for Escrows Under TILA

    Federal Issues

    On December 23, the CFPB announced that it is amending the official commentary interpreting Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) to reflect a change in the asset size exemption thresholds required to establish an escrow account for higher-priced mortgages under Reg. Z. Under the amended commentary, the exemption threshold is adjusted to increase to $2.069 billion from $2.052 billion.

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance CFPB TILA Escrow Regulation Z

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