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  • FTC announces charges against auto dealerships for falsifying consumer information on auto financing documents

    Lending

    On August 1, the FTC announced charges against a group of four auto dealers (defendants) with locations in Arizona and New Mexico near the Navajo Nation’s border alleging, among other things, that the defendants advertised misleading discounts and incentives through their vehicle advertisements, and falsely inflated consumers’ income and down payment information on certain financing applications. The charges brought against the defendants allege violations of the FTC Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and the Consumer Leasing Act. According to the complaint, by allegedly falsifying the customers’ income and down payments, the defendants “inaccurately made consumers appear more creditworthy” on the false financing applications. Moreover, the FTC claims the defendants often prevented consumers from reviewing the falsified information provide in the financing applications prior to signing. As a result, credit was extended to consumers—many of whom are members of the Navajo Nation—who then subsequently “defaulted at a higher rate than properly qualified buyers.” Furthermore, the complaint asserts that the defendants’ deceptive advertising practices concealed the true nature and terms of the financing or leasing offers, and were in violation of federal law for failing to disclose the required terms. The complaint seeks, among other remedies, a permanent injunction to prevent future violations, restitution, and disgorgement.

    Lending Consumer Finance FTC Auto Finance FTC Act TILA Consumer Leasing Act

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  • District court approves stipulated final judgment in favor of CFPB against one of the operators of online lending operation

    Courts

    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. 

    Courts CFPB CFPA EFTA TILA Payday Lending

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  • CFPB announces settlement with Alabama-based operation for allegedly failing to properly disclose finance charges

    Consumer Finance

    On July 19, the CFPB announced a settlement with a small-dollar lending operation that allegedly failed to properly disclose finance charges and annual percentage rates associated with auto title loans in violation of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the prohibition on deceptive practices in the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). According to the consent order, the Alabama-based operation, which owned and operated approximately 100 retail lending outlets in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina under several names, materially misrepresented the finance charges consumers would incur for Mississippi auto title loans by disclosing a finance charge based on a 30-day term while having consumers sign a 10-month payment schedule. The Bureau asserts that “[c]onsumers acting reasonably likely would not understand that the finance charge disclosed in the loan agreement does not actually correspond to their loan payment term.” Furthermore, the Bureau contends that the operation also failed to disclose the annual percentage rate on in-store advertisements as required under TILA. The order requires the operation to pay redress in the amount of $1,522,298, which represents the total undisclosed finance charges made directly or indirectly by affected consumers on their loans. However, based on defendants’ inability to pay this amount, full payment is suspended subject to the operation’s paying $500,000 to affected consumers. In addition to the penalties, the operation is prohibited from continuing the illegal behavior and the operation’s board must ensure full compliance with the consent order.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Settlement CFPA TILA Auto Finance Disclosures

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  • CFPB announces settlement with national bank to resolve alleged TILA violations

    Lending

    On June 29, the CFPB announced a $335 million settlement with a national bank who allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act by failing to properly implement annual percentage rate (APR) reevaluation requirements, which would reduce APRs for certain consumer credit card accounts, consistent with Regulation Z. According to the consent order, the Bureau also claimed the bank failed to put in place reasonable written policies and procedures to conduct the APR reevaluations. Under the terms of the consent order, the bank is required to pay $335 million in restitution to affected consumers and implement corrected policies and procedures to ensure proper APR reevaluation processes. The Bureau further noted that it did not assess civil monetary penalties due to efforts undertaken by the bank to self-identify and self-report violations to the Bureau. The bank also voluntarily corrected the deficiencies, took steps to initiate remediation to affected consumers, and implemented compliance management system enhancements.

    Lending TILA CFPB Credit Cards Settlement

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  • FTC reports on certain 2017 enforcement activities to the CFPB

    Federal Issues

    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.

    Federal Issues FTC Act Payday Lending FTC Auto Finance Enforcement Military Lending Act Department of Defense CFPB TILA Consumer Leasing Act EFTA Congress

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  • OCC highlights key risks affecting the federal banking system in spring 2018 semiannual risk report

    Federal Issues

    On May 24, the OCC released its Semiannual Risk Perspective for Spring 2018, identifying and reiterating key risk areas that pose a threat to the safety and soundness of national banks and federal savings associations. Priorities focus on credit, operational, compliance, and interest risk, and while the OCC commented on the improved financial performance of banks from 2016 to early 2018, in addition to the “incremental improvement in banks’ overall risk management practices,” the agency also noted that risks previously highlighted in its Fall 2017 report have “changed only modestly.” (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Specific areas of concern noted by the OCC include: (i) easing of commercial credit underwriting practices; (ii) increasing complexity and severity of cybersecurity threats; (iii) use of third-party service providers for critical operations; (iv) compliance challenges under the Bank Secrecy Act; (v) challenges in risk management involving consumer compliance regulations; and (vi) rising market interest rates, including certain risks associated with the “potential effects of rising interest rates, increasing competition for retail and commercial deposits, and post-crisis liquidity regulations for banks with total assets of $250 billion or more, on the mix and cost of deposits.” Additionally, concerns related to integrated mortgage disclosure requirements under TILA and RESPA previously considered a key risk have been downgraded to an issue to be monitored.

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Risk Management Bank Regulatory Third-Party Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering TILA RESPA Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Vendor Management

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  • 3rd Circuit reverses district court’s decision, rules TILA provisions misapplied to unauthorized-charge suit

    Courts

    On May 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit reversed a district court’s decision, holding that the lower court, among other things, misapplied a TILA provision under Regulation Z that requires cardholders to dispute charges within 60 days of the “first periodic statement that reflects the alleged billing error.” According to the opinion, the plaintiff-appellant filed a suit against the bank after he was allegedly rebilled for a $657 fraudulent money transfer charge that originally appeared on his statement in July 2015. The charge was originally removed from his account but reappeared in mid-September of that year after the bank claimed the charge was valid after verifying transaction details. The plaintiff-appellant challenged the decision in writing, and later filed a complaint against the bank, alleging he had “timely submitted a written notice of billing error,” and that the bank “had neither credited the charge nor conducted a reasonable investigation” and imposed liability of more than $50. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim, which the plaintiff appealed.

    At issue, the three-judge panel determined, were two provisions under TILA: (i) the “Fair Credit Billing Act” (FCBA), which stipulates that creditors must “comply with particular obligations when a consumer has asserted that his billing statement contains an error,” and (ii) the “unauthorized-use provision,” which requires certain conditions to be met before a credit card issuer can hold the cardholder liable, up to a limit of $50, for any unauthorized use. The panel first addressed the district court’s finding that the bank’s obligations under FCBA were “never triggered” because his written notice came 63 days after the July statement first included the charge. The panel held that, because the plaintiff-appellant’s August billing statement showed a credit to his account for the charge and that “there was no longer anything to dispute” and no reason to believe his statement contained a billing error, the 60-day time limit should have started when the bank rebilled him in September. In addressing the second issue, the district court held that plaintiff-appellant was not entitled to “reimbursement” under the unauthorized-use claim. However, the panel opined that he was not seeking reimbursement but rather “actual damages,” for which the statute does provide relief. “We conclude that a cardholder incurs ‘liability’ for an allegedly unauthorized charge when the issuer, having reason to know the charge may be unauthorized, bills or rebills the cardholder for that charge,” the panel wrote.

    Courts Third Circuit Appellate Fair Credit Billing Act TILA Regulation Z Consumer Finance

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  • Mortgage servicer must face TCPA allegations after court dismisses other claims

    Courts

    On May 2, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted in part and denied in part a mortgage loan owner and mortgage loan servicer’s motion to dismiss a consumer’s lawsuit alleging various violations of TILA, RESPA, FDCPA, TCPA and certain New York state laws. The court’s decision explains that the mortgage loan owner first initiated foreclosure proceedings against the consumer in 2009, but in August 2013 that action was dismissed and the parties executed a modification agreement. The consumer argues in the amended complaint that the mortgage debt is time-barred based on the six year statute of limitations to enforce the mortgage note, starting the clock with the 2009 foreclosure filing. The consumer alleges that after the statute of limitations expired, the mortgage servicer contacted the consumer by mail and by telephone to collect the mortgage debt, totaling over 600 calls placed by an autodialer and up to four threatening collection letters per month since 2015. The court, however, agreed with the mortgage companies that the execution of the 2013 modification agreement restarted the statute of limitations and therefore, the consumer’s alleged violations of New York state laws and the FDCPA failed because the mortgage debt was not time-barred. The court also held that the consumer failed to plead sufficient facts to support the alleged violations of TILA, RESPA, and New York’s General Business Law. In contrast, the court denied the mortgage servicer’s motion to dismiss the consumer’s claim under the TCPA, holding that the mortgage application signed by the consumer did not clearly consent to contact by an autodialer on his cell phone.

     

    Courts Mortgages TILA RESPA TCPA Autodialer

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  • CFPB finalizes KBYO amendment to address “black hole”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On April 26, the CFPB issued a final amendment to its “Know Before You Owe” mortgage disclosure rule to address when mortgage lenders with a valid changed circumstance or other justification are permitted to reset tolerances and pass on increased closing costs to consumers using the Closing Disclosure. Last summer, as previously covered in a Buckley Sandler Special Alert, the Bureau published a proposal seeking public comment on whether to close the “black hole” that prohibited creditors from passing on cost increases (particularly rate lock extension fees) when closing was significantly delayed after the Closing Disclosure. After considering comments, the Bureau finalized the proposed amendment. The final amendment will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB TRID Mortgages Disclosures TILA RESPA

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  • Federal Reserve releases updates to interagency examination procedures for Regulations X and Z

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On April 19, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) issued a consumer affairs letter (CA 18-3) announcing revised interagency examination procedures for Regulation X (RESPA) and Regulation Z (TILA) that supersede procedures previously issued in September 2015. The updated procedures account for amendments to mortgage servicing rules under Regulations X and Z that took effect October 19, 2017 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), as well as amendments to Regulation Z published by the CFPB through April 2016, including rules concerning small creditors’ mortgage lending to rural and underserved areas. However, the Fed stated in its letter that, at this time, the updated procedures do not incorporate Regulation Z amendments concerning the CFPB’s TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure rule or those regarding prepaid accounts. These amendments will be addressed in a future update.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve CFPB Regulation X Regulation Z RESPA TILA Mortgages Mortgage Servicing

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