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  • CFPB Clarifies Remittance Transfer Rule Compliance

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB recently released its summer 2017 Supervisory Highlights (Highlights) outlining its supervisory progress this year. Included among the issues highlighted by the Bureau is its recent activity in the remittance transfer rule (RTR) space under Regulation E. The Highlights indicate that the CFPB intends to continue its focus on RTR compliance at both large and small institutions. Of particular note, the Bureau—for the first time—has provided informal guidance on international mobile top-up products for telephone airtime. Prior to the Highlights, it was unclear to what extent these products were subject to the RTR. The Highlights confirm that the CFPB will take the position that these products fall within the scope of the rule and has action against at least one institution for that institution’s failure to treat international mobile top-ups in excess of $15 as remittance transfers subject to the RTR.

    This edition of the Highlights helps to clear up prior confusion around the industry regarding international mobile top-ups and bill pay products, as discussed in a recent article.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Remittance Remittance Transfer Rule Regulation E Mobile Top-Ups Compliance

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  • House Financial Services Committee Issues Second Interim Report on Bureau’s Role in Fraudulent Accounts Scandal Investigation

    Federal Issues

    On September 19, the Majority Committee Staff of the House Financial Services Committee (Committee) released a second interim report and supporting documents on the investigation of the role the CFPB played in detecting and remedying a major national bank’s practice of opening unauthorized bank accounts. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the first interim report, issued June 6, accused Director Richard Cordray, among other things, of failing to cooperate with the Committee’s “comprehensive investigation.” The second interim report claims the CFPB and Director Cordray failed to comply with the Committee’s repeated requests for documents related to the investigation into the bank’s practices, never conducted its own independent investigation (but, instead, “relied primarily, if not exclusively,” on a third party report), and withheld a crucial Recommendation Memorandum from the Committee for over a year that disclosed analysis of the legal and factual components of the Bureau’s investigation, as well as an evaluation of whether to enter into a settlement. The Committee’s accusations also include claims that Director Cordray allegedly misled Congress about the agency's investigation into the bank’s illegal sales practices and may have “rushed” a settlement with the bank, which resulted in a $100 million fine when it was potentially liable for a statutory civil monetary penalty exceeding $10 billion. Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) said in a press release that “[t]he premature suspension of its investigation means that the CFPB also potentially lost the opportunity to discover recently revealed instances of further consumer harm.”

    Federal Issues CFPB House Financial Services Committee Settlement Enforcement Fraud Investigations

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  • CFPB Files Complaint Against Company that Allegedly Made False Loan Offers

    Consumer Finance

    On September 19, the CFPB announced it had filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a New Jersey-based company and two associated individuals (defendants) that allegedly offered loans to consumers who were awaiting payouts from legal settlements or statutory- or victim-compensation funds. According to the complaint, the company engaged in deceptive acts and practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act by purportedly representing itself as a direct lender, when in actuality it did not provide loans to consumers, but instead brokered transactions while charging a commission for the service. Among other things, the defendants allegedly (i) misrepresented the annual percentage rates (APR) on the advances given to consumers, often representing that interest rates were as small as one to two percent when the actual APR was much higher; (ii) falsely claimed that it had offices in all 50 states and employed a staff of accounting, financial, and legal professionals; and (iii) misled consumers by stating in their marketing materials that consumers could receive loan proceeds within one hour, when the process took longer.

    According to the proposed final judgment and order, which must be approved by the district court, the defendants shall be banned from offering these types of loans or advances to consumers in the future. In addition, the company and the owner—who was responsible for decision-making and operations—are jointly liable for a $60,000 civil money penalty to the CFPB. The second individual—who was responsible for recruiting consumers through marketing materials and websites—must pay a $10,000 civil money penalty to the CFPB. The Bureau noted in the announcement that the low penalties take into account the defendants’ inability to pay greater amounts.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Enforcement Lending UDAAP CFPA

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  • CFPB Announces Final Rule Modifying ECOA Regulations, Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Disclosure of HMDA Data

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 20, the CFPB announced its Final Rule amending Regulation B, which implements the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), as well as a notice of proposed policy guidance requesting public comment on modifications to loan-level HMDA data that will be made publicly available beginning in 2019.

    Amendments to Regulation B. The Final Rule, among other things, permits institutions not subject to HMDA reporting requirements to choose, on an “application-by-application basis,” between two approaches to collecting race and ethnicity data from applicants for certain dwelling-secured loans: either collect such data in the aggregate or use the disaggregated and more expansive categories required for HMDA-reporting institutions under revisions to Regulation C effective in 2018.  According to the Final Rule, this means that creditors that are not HMDA reporters could transition to using the 2016 Uniform Residential Loan Application, which was updated to comply with the upcoming changes to Regulation C. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the justification for the change was to provide consistency and clarity with respect to other Bureau rules.

    Proposed Policy Guidance Regarding Publicly Available Loan-Level HMDA Data. The CFPB has issued a notice of proposed policy guidance with a request for public comment concerning modifications that it intends to apply to publicly available loan-level HMDA data that financial institutions will be required to report in connection with the new HMDA data reporting requirements that become effective January 1, 2018. The CFPB is specifically seeking comment on whether certain data fields should be included or modified in the publicly available loan-level HMDA data; these fields include the universal loan identifier, application date, loan amount, action taken date, property address, age, credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and property value, among others. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB issued its final rule amending Regulation C in August. Comments on the proposed guidance are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Consumer Finance CFPB ECOA HMDA Mortgages Regulation B Regulation C

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  • CFPB Publishes Small Entity Compliance Guide on Arbitration Rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 15, the CFPB published a small entity compliance guide concerning the Bureau’s final arbitration rule that became effective this month. Compliance is required for “pre-dispute arbitration agreements” entered into on or after March 19, 2018. This guide provides a summary of the rule and highlights the parties and consumer financial products and services covered by the rule, as well as exclusions from the rule’s requirements. In addition, the guide includes descriptions of provisions to be included in pre-dispute arbitration agreements, clarifies the rule’s prohibition on relying on pre-dispute arbitration agreements to block class actions, and explains the record submission requirements under the rule.

    However, as previously discussed in InfoBytes, while the arbitration rule went into effect September 18, the House earlier passed a disapproval resolution, in July, to repeal the rule, with a similar measure set for discussion in the Senate.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Arbitration Compliance Class Action

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  • CFPB Takes Action Against Delaware Trusts, Debt Collector for Allegedly Filing Illegal Student Loan Debt Collection Lawsuits

    Consumer Finance

    On September 18, the CFPB announced it had filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware against a collection of 15 Delaware statutory trusts and their debt collector for, among other things, allegedly filing lawsuits against consumers for private student loan debt that they could not prove was owed or that was outside the applicable statute of limitations. According to the CFPB, between 2001 and 2007, the trusts bought and securitized more than 800,000 private student loans, while the trusts contracted with the debt collector to collect on delinquent and defaulted loans. The complaint alleges that the trusts and debt collector engaged in deceptive and unfair practices between November 2012 and the end of April 2016 by: (i) filing false and misleading affidavits, including more than 25,000 affidavits that were notarized by notaries who had not witnessed the documents being signed; (ii) filing at least 2,000 suits to collect loans without the necessary documentation to show that the trusts owned the loans or to prove that a debt was owed; (iii) filing at least 486 collection suits after the statute of limitations had expired; and (iv) in some instances, providing court testimony consistent with the false affidavit statements. As a result, the trusts and the debt collector allegedly obtained over $21.7 million in judgments against consumers and collected an estimated $3.5 million in payments in cases where they lacked the intent or ability to prove the claims, if contested.

    According to the proposed consent judgment, which must be approved by a judge in the district court, the trusts are required to pay at least $3.5 million in restitution to more than 2,000 consumers who made payments resulting from the improper collection suits, to pay $7.8 million in disgorgement to the Treasury Department, and to pay an additional $7.8 million civil money penalty to the CFPB. In addition, the trusts must: (i) hire an independent auditor, subject to the Bureau’s approval, to audit all 800,000 student loans in the portfolio to determine if collection efforts must be stopped on additional accounts; (ii) cease collection attempts on loans that lack proper documentation or that are time-barred; and (iii) ensure false or misleading documents are not filed and that documents requiring notarization are handled properly.

    A separate consent order issued against the debt collector orders the company to pay a $2.5 million civil money penalty to the CFPB.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Student Lending Debt Collection Enforcement

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  • CFPB UDAAP Claim in Structured Settlement Factoring Case Moves Forward

    Courts

    On September 13, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland allowed a UDAAP claim brought by the CFPB to move forward in which the defendants allegedly employed abusive practices when purchasing structured settlements from consumers in exchange for lump-sum payments. The court also dismissed several UDAAP claims related to an attorney acting as a financial advisor in the transactions. The 2016 complaint alleged that defendants violated the Maryland Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by encouraging consumers to take advances on their structured settlements and falsely representing that the consumers were obligated to complete the structured settlement sale, “even if they [later] realized it was not in their best interest.” According to the complaint, many of the consumers “’did not understand the risks or conditions of the advances, including that the advances did not bind them to complete the transactions.” The CFPB also alleged several counts based on the conduct of an attorney acting as a financial advisor for the transactions, who allegedly provided “virtually no advice,” and whose services were arranged and directly paid by the structured settlement buyer.

    In the order and memorandum, the court rejected several of the defendants’ arguments to dismiss based on procedural grounds and allowed the CFPB’s UDAAP claim against the structured settlement buyer and its officers to proceed. However, the court dismissed the claims related to the financial advisor, finding that he satisfied the requirements for an exemption under the CFPA for attorneys engaged in the practice of law.

    Courts CFPB UDAAP Litigation Structured Settlement CFPA

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  • CFPB’s Summer Edition of Supervisory Highlights Discloses Findings Across Many Financial Services Areas

    Consumer Finance

    On September 12, the CFPB released its summer 2017 Supervisory Highlights, which outlines its supervisory and oversight actions in areas such as auto loan servicing, credit card account management, debt collection, deposit account supervision, mortgage origination and servicing, remittances, service provider programs, short-term small-dollar lending, and fair lending. According to the Supervisory Highlights, recent supervisory resolutions have “resulted in total restitution payments of approximately $14 million to more than 104,000 consumers during the review period” between January 2017 and June 2017.

    As examples, in the area of auto loan servicing, examiners discovered vehicles were being repossessed even though the repossession should have been cancelled. Coding errors, document mishandling, and failure to timely cancel the repossession order were cited causes. Regarding fair lending examination findings, the CFPB discovered, in general, “deficiencies in oversight by board and senior management, monitoring and corrective action processes, compliance audits, and oversight of third-party service providers.” Examiners also conducted ECOA Baseline Reviews on mortgage servicers and discovered weaknesses in servicers’ fair lending compliance management systems. Findings in other areas include the following:

    • consumers were provided inaccurate information about when bank checking account service fees would be waived, and banks misrepresented overdraft protection;
    • debt collectors engaged in improper debt collection practices related to short-term, small-dollar loans, including attempts to collect debts owed by a different person or contacting third parties about consumers’ debts;
    • companies overcharged mortgage closing fees or wrongly charged application fees that are prohibited by the Bureau’s Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rules; and
    • borrowers were denied the opportunity to take full advantage of the mortgage loss mitigation options, and mortgage servicers failed to “exercise reasonable diligence in collecting information needed to complete the borrower’s application.”

    The Bureau also set forth new examination procedures for HMDA data collection and reporting requirements as well as student loan servicers, in addition to providing guidance for covered persons and service providers regarding pay-by-phone fee assessments.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Enforcement Auto Finance Credit Cards Debt Collection Fair Lending ECOA Compliance Mortgage Origination Mortgage Servicing HMDA Student Lending

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  • District Judge Issues Order Against Bi-Weekly Payment Company, Denies Restitution Sought by CFPB

    Courts

    On September 8, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an opinion and order against a company after a seven-day bench trial, finding that the company misrepresented its bi-weekly payment program in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB filed a complaint in 2015 against the company, its wholly owned subsidiary, and the company’s founder, alleging that the company’s false and misleading marketing practices were abusive and deceptive when it minimized the existence or amount of the program’s setup fee, misled borrowers on the amount of actual savings, and created the impression that the company was affiliated with the lender. The payment program allowed the defendants to contract with borrowers to make their mortgage, credit card, or other loan payments for them. The program automatically debited their accounts every two weeks in an amount equal to one-half of the monthly payment on the loan. This resulted in 26 payments per year, with the extra payments going towards paying down the principal on the loan. The judge granted the $7.9 million civil penalty proposed by the CFPB but denied the restitution of almost $74 million that the CFPB had sought—a full refund of all setup fees—because it found that “the CFPB has not proved that defendants engaged in the type of fraud commonly connoted by the well-worn phrase ‘snake oil salesmen,’” and specifically had “not shown, and could not show, that the [payment] program never provid[ed] a benefit to consumers, or that no fully-informed consumer would ever elect to pay to participate in the program.” The court found that further injunctive relief is warranted but directed the parties to meet and confer to determine the specific terms of the relief. The court noted that the CFPB had only sought civil penalties under the “basic tier” of the CFPA’s civil penalties provision and speculated that the CFPB did not propose higher penalties because it also expected to obtain a large amount of restitution. Nevertheless, the court found that higher penalties for reckless or knowing violations were not warranted because the defendants had taken “affirmative steps such as training, quality control, and seeking legal counsel, in an effort to stay on the right side of the line.”

    Courts CFPB Payment Processors UDAAP Settlement

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  • Agencies Issue Proposed Rulemaking to Amend CRA Regulations to Conform With HMDA Regulation Changes

    Lending

    On September 13, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the OCC (Agencies) issued a joint notice of proposed rulemaking to amend Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations to conform to the CFPB’s changes to Regulation C, which implements the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). The proposed amendments revise the definition of “home mortgage loan” and “consumer loan,” update the public file content requirements to comply with recent Regulation C changes, and make various technical corrections. In addition, the proposal will eliminate obsolete references to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), an initiative created by HUD to help stabilize communities contending with foreclosures and abandonment. In 2016, under CRA regulations, NSP-eligible activities were no longer considered “community development.” The Agencies anticipate that the proposed rule will become effective on January 1, 2018, when most of the changes to the HMDA rules go into effect.

    Home Mortgage Loan. Under the 2015 HMDA Rule changes, “most consumer-purpose transactions, including closed-end mortgage loans, closed-end home equity loans, home-equity lines of credit, and reverse mortgages will be reported under HMDA if they are secured by a dwelling.” To conform to the Regulation C amendments, effective January 1, 2018, for purposes of CRA regulations, a “home mortgage loan” will now mean a “closed-end mortgage loan” or an “open-end line of credit,” both of which will now apply only to loans that are secured by a dwelling. Financial institutions will now have the option to decide whether they want home improvement loans that are not secured by a dwelling, which will no longer be HMDA, considered for CRA purposes, although the Agencies note that they may choose to still evaluate some of these loans in certain circumstances “where the consumer lending is so significant a portion of an institution’s lending by activity and dollar volume of loans that the lending test evaluation would not meaningfully reflect lending performance if consumer loans were excluded.”

    Consumer Loan. The proposed rulemaking would no longer include “home equity loans” in the list of “consumer loan” categories for CRA purposes, as it will now be included within the proposed revised definition of a “home mortgage loan.”  

    Comments on the proposal will be accepted for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Lending Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Federal Reserve FDIC CFPB CRA HMDA Mortgages

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