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  • District Court Grants Preliminary Settlement Approval in SCRA Class Action Suit

    Courts

    On September 13, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina granted preliminary approval to settle a class-action suit resolving allegations that a national bank overcharged military families on interest and fees related primarily to mortgage and credit card accounts in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The order also, in the context of the proposed settlement only, preliminarily certifies the class, which is comprised of members who—after September 11, 2001—were entitled to “additional compensation related to military reduced interest rate benefits from [the bank].” The plaintiffs filed the complaint against the bank in 2015 claiming alleged violations of the SCRA, TILA, and the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. In May 2016, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the first amended complaint, and at the end of 2016, the parties agreed to mediation. A second amended complaint—now the operative complaint—was filed just prior to the motion for preliminary approval. While the bank has not admitted any wrongdoing, it has agreed to refrain from using an “interest subsidy method for interest benefits calculations for a five-year period,” which, plaintiffs pleaded, can lead to higher costs.

    According to the terms of the memorandum in support of the motion for preliminary approval, class members will receive payments based on the strength of their individual claims, considering such factors as: (i) loan type; (ii) whether they previously received remediation from the bank, and how much; and (iii) the eligible period for interest rate refunds. The memorandum further stipulates that approximately $15.4 million of the nearly $42 million overall settlement will be provide to class members who have not received or deposited any payments from the bank. Unclaimed amounts from the first round will be pooled with the remainder of the settlement to be allocated as outlined in the distribution plan. A final approval hearing is scheduled for February of next year.

    Courts SCRA TILA Servicemembers Mortgages Credit Cards Class Action Litigation Settlement

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  • CFPB Issues Summary of Changes and Clarifications to 2017 TILA-RESPA Rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On August 30, the CFPB released “2017 TILA-RESPA Rule: Detailed Summary of Changes and Clarifications” to assist the mortgage industry in implementing the disclosure requirements of the CFPB’s recently finalized TILA-RESPA Rule. The summary provides an in-depth outline of modifications to the rule, and explains and corrects certain provisions.

    Topics covered by the summary include:

    • “Effective date and mandatory compliance date”;
    • “Coverage,” specifically with respect to cooperative units, trusts, and housing assistance loans;
    • “Good faith requirement (i.e., tolerances) and revised disclosures”;
    • “Shopping for settlement services”;
    • “Disclosure of principal reductions (also known as principal curtailments)”;
    • “Total of payments disclosure”;
    • “Simultaneous subordinate lien loans”;
    • “Construction loans”;
    • “Use of positive and negative numbers for certain disclosures in the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure”;
    • “Rounding”;
    • “Calculating cash to close”;
    • “Disclosure of payoffs of existing liens, and unsecured debt”;
    • “Disclosure of estimated value when no sales price or appraised value”;
    • “Separation of consumer and seller information on Closing Disclosures”;
    • “Other disclosures in the Loan Estimate”;
    • “Other disclosures in the Closing Disclosure”; and
    • “Other minor changes” (including correcting typographical errors).

    In addition to the summary, the CFPB also provided additional reference materials to help industry participants to comply with the rule. The rule becomes effective on October 10.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB RESPA TILA TRID Mortgages

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  • CFPB Publishes Final Rule Amending Annual Dollar Threshold in TILA Regulations

    Lending

    On August 30, the CFPB issued a final rule amending Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), under the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA), and the Dodd-Frank ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage provisions (ATR/QM). The CFPB is required to make adjustments to dollar amounts in the Regulation Z provisions implementing these laws based on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index effective June 1, 2017. For open-end consumer credit plans under TILA, the minimum interest charge disclosure threshold will remain unchanged at $1.00 in 2018. For open-end consumer credit plans under the CARD Act amendments, the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a first violation penalty fee will remain unchanged at $27 in 2018, and the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a subsequent violation penalty fee will remain unchanged at $38 in 2018. For HOEPA loans, the adjusted total loan amount threshold for high-cost mortgages in 2018 will increase to $21,032, and the adjusted points and fees dollar trigger for high-cost mortgages in 2018 will be $1,052. To satisfy the underwriting requirements under the ATR/QM rule, the maximum thresholds for total points and fees for qualified mortgages in 2018 will be: (i) 3 percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $105,158; (ii) $3,155 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $63,095 but less than $105,158; (iii) 5 percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $21,032 but less than $63,095; (iv) $1,052 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $13,145 but less than $21,032; and (v) 8 percent of the total loan amount for loan amounts less than $13,145. The final rule is effective January 1, 2018.

    Lending Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB TILA Credit Cards HOEPA Ability To Repay Qualified Mortgage Federal Register Regulation Z Mortgages

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  • Amendments and Proposal to TRID Rule Published in Federal Register, Comments Due October 10

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    As previously reported in a Special Alert, the CFPB issued amendments to its TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule, which importantly included a concurrent proposal to address the “black hole” issue that prevents creditors from resetting tolerances using the Closing Disclosure except in very limited circumstances. On August 11, the Bureau published the amendments in a final rule and the proposal in the Federal Register. The final rule takes effect October 10, 2017 with mandatory compliance by October 1, 2018. Comments on the proposal are due October 10, 2017.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB TRID RESPA TILA Federal Register

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  • Legislation Introduced to Reduce Mortgage Appraisal Requirements in Rural Communities

    Federal Issues

    On July 13, Representative David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation intended to decrease costs and delays when obtaining a mortgage by reducing appraisal requirements. As set forth in a July 13 press release issued by Rep. Kustoff’s office, the Securing Access to Affordable Mortgage Act of 2017 (H.R. 3221) would (i) ease “unfair” appraisal requirements, which would benefit rural communities where there is a demonstrated lack of qualified appraisers, and (ii) assist prospective homebuyers by decreasing costs and delays. H.R. 3221 would increase access to affordable mortgages by excluding loans of $250,000 or less from property appraisal requirements through new exemptions under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 and the Truth in Lending Act.

    As previously discussed in InfoBytes, earlier this year several financial agencies jointly issued an Interagency Advisory to address concerns regarding the shortage of certified and licensed appraisers, particularly in rural areas.

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation Mortgages TILA Appraisal

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  • CFPB Seeks Comments on Proposed Amendments to Prepaid Rule, Releases Updated Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 15, the CFPB announced a request for comment on proposed amendments to Regulation E, which concerns prepaid accounts under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z). According to the Bureau, the request aims to address prepaid companies’ concerns over “unanticipated complexities” regarding certain aspects of the rule. As previously covered in InfoBytes, in April the CFPB issued a final rule delaying the general effective date to April 1, 2018. The prepaid rule provides consumers, among other things, additional federal protections under EFTA on prepaid financial products, person-to-person payment products, and other electronic accounts with the ability to store funds. Specifically, the proposed amendments would impact error resolution requirements for unregistered accounts, enhance flexibility for credit cards linked to digital wallets, and open for consideration whether a further delay to the rule’s effective date is necessary due to the proposed amendments or if safe harbor provisions should be added for early compliance. The proposal also addresses amendments affecting the following: (i) the exclusion of loyalty, award, or promotional gift cards; (ii) “unsolicited issuance of access devices and pre-acquisition disclosures”; and (iii) submission of account agreements to the Bureau. Comments are due 45 days after the request is published in the Federal Register.

    Separately, on the same day, the Bureau released an updated edition of its small entity compliance guide for the prepaid rule. The guide notes the new effective date, and also offers clarification on prepaid reload packs, the consistent use of fee names and other terms, foreign language disclosure requirements, URL names in short form disclosures, mobile accessible transaction histories, account agreement submissions to the Bureau, and clarification that stipulates “reversing a provisional credit does not otherwise trigger Regulation Z coverage under the Prepaid Rule.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Prepaid Rule EFTA TILA Regulation E Regulation Z Prepaid Cards

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  • CFPB Withdraws CID, Petition to Enforce CID is Moot Due to Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

    Courts

    On June 8, the CFPB filed a petition to withdraw a 2015 CID issued to a financial services company concerning its structured settlement and annuity payment purchasing activities, and subsequently agreed to the dismissal of the petition to enforce the CID as moot due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The action stems from a petition filed by the company to set aside the CID, arguing that structured settlements and annuity payment purchasing is not an extension of credit, nor qualifies as a consumer financial product. Therefore, the company claimed, its business activities do not fall under the CFPB’s UDAAP or Truth in Lending Act authority. The Bureau denied the petition, and in June 2016, it filed a memorandum in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for an order requiring the company to comply with the CID, asserting that “regulations authorize the Bureau to petition the district court in ‘any judicial district in which [that entity] resides, is found, or transacts business’ for an order to enforce the CID.” However, on June 5, the CFPB filed a notice to withdraw stating that “[b]ecause the CID is no longer active, the Bureau intends to soon dismiss the Petition,” and asked the court to “refrain from ruling on the petition.” The CFPB did not disclose a reason for its decision to withdraw the CID.

    Notably, before the dismissal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) filed an amicus brief opposing the CFPB’s petition. The Chamber opined that, should the CFPB be allowed to issue CIDs under a “virtually unlimited definition of the term ‘financial advisory services,’” under which it would include “advice with a financial element offered in connection with transactions unrelated to a consumer financial product,” it would expand the Bureau’s jurisdiction beyond the limits of Dodd-Frank’s prohibition on unfair, deceptive, and abuse acts and practices.

    Courts CFPB CIDs UDAAP TILA Litigation Financial Advisers

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  • FDIC Releases List of Enforcement Actions Taken Against Banks and Individuals in April 2017

    Courts

    On May 26, the FDIC released its list of 18 administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in April. Among the consent orders on the list are civil money penalties for violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and its flood insurance requirements. Also on the list are a cease and desist order and a civil money penalty assessment issued to a Louisiana-based bank (Bank) for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), EFTA, RESPA, TILA, HMDA, and the National Flood Insurance Program. According to the cease and desist order, the FDIC Board of Directors agreed with the Administrative Law Judge’s recommended decision that the Bank engaged in unsafe or unsound practices, which warranted a cease and desist order and civil money penalty. The order also addressed a number of shortcomings identified by the Bank’s examiners, including the following: (i) the Bank’s BSA program lacked adequate internal controls to ensure compliance; (ii) it failed to provide correct and compete electronic funds transfer disclosures to consumers; (iii) borrowers were provided “untimely and improperly completed” good faith estimates; and (iv) the Bank repeatedly failed to accurately report required HMDA information to federal agencies.

    An additional eight actions listed by the FDIC related to unsafe or unsound banking practices and breaches of fiduciary duty, including five removal and prohibition orders. There are no administrative hearings scheduled for June 2017. The FDIC database containing all of its enforcement decisions and orders may be accessed here.

    Courts Consumer Finance Enforcement FDIC Litigation National Flood Insurance Program Bank Secrecy Act EFTA RESPA TILA HMDA

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  • FTC Submits Annual Report on 2016 Enforcement Actions to CFPB

    Consumer Finance

    On June 1, the FTC announced that it submitted its 2016 Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report to the CFPB. The report—requested by the Bureau for its use in preparing its 2016 Annual Report to Congress—covers the FTC’s enforcement activities related to compliance with Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act or TILA), Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act), and Regulation E (Electronic Funds Transfer Act or EFTA), as well as its initiatives to engage in research and consumer education.

    According to the report, the FTC’s enforcement actions in 2016 concerning TILA involved automobile purchasing and financing, payday loans, and financing of consumer electronics. Regarding mortgage-related credit activity, the report highlights continued litigation in two cases involving mortgage assistance relief services involving “forensic audit scams.” Furthermore, the FTC continued its consumer and business education efforts on issues related to consumer credit transactions in the following areas: military lending, auto sales and financing, payday lending, marketplace lending, and consumer disclosures and testing.

    Regarding the Consumer Leasing Act, the report noted the FTC had issued a final administrative consent order for deceptive advertising practices and failure to disclose key lease offer terms. The FTC also filed two federal court actions against automobile dealers. The FTC also engaged in research and policy development and educational activities in this area.

    Concerning the EFTA, the FTC reported six new or ongoing cases, including four cases alleging violations in the context of “negative option” plans, in which a consumer agrees to “receive various goods or services from a company for a trial period at no charge or at a reduced price” but later incurs unauthorized recurring charges after the end of the trial period, in violation of the EFTA. The remaining two cases involved payday lending and consumer electronics financing. The FTC also engaged in rulemaking, research, policy development, and educational activities involving the EFTA.

    Consumer Finance CFPB FTC Enforcement Litigation Marketplace Lending TILA Consumer Leasing Act EFTA Mortgages

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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 TILA 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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