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  • Illinois Appellate Court rules generic card agreement cannot compel arbitration

    Courts

    On January 4, the Illinois Appellate Court (Fifth District) handed down an opinion affirming a circuit court’s decision to deny a debt collection company’s motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. In 2015, the company filed complaints against defendants-counterplaintiffs for failing to make payments on their accounts and entering into default. In class action counterclaims, the defendants-counterplaintiffs challenged the debt collection company’s alleged practice of suing to collect debt purchased from others without “sufficient proof of ownership of the debt,” and sought damages for purported violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, among others. The debt collection company argued that because the class action counterclaims fell within the scope of a binding card agreement—which included an arbitration clause and a class action waiver provision—the class claims should be barred and dismissed. The circuit court considered whether the agreements entered into between the company and the defendants-counterplaintiffs were subject to arbitration, and determined that the company failed to demonstrate that the card agreement containing the arbitration clause was received by, agreed to, or otherwise applied to the consumers within the agreements governing the accounts in question. The appellate court affirmed and concluded that, upon review, the company’s appeal failed to “demonstrate when or how the generic [c]ard [a]greement containing the arbitration provision pertained to [defendants-counterplaintiffs] or that it was communicated . . . prior to subsequent credit card use.”

    Courts Arbitration Debt Collection State Issues FDCPA

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  • Ninth Circuit Denies Arbitration, Lacks Jurisdiction to Review Anti-SLAPP Motion

    Courts

    On December 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion affirming the district court’s decision to deny the defendants’ request to compel arbitration against plaintiffs who elected to participate in the defendants’ administration of California’s “Bad Check Diversion Program” (BCD Program). The order is the result of two consolidated appeals from separate district court orders related to a putative class action lawsuit claiming that the defendants violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and California Unfair Competition Law in their administration of the BCD Program. The BCD Program, administered by private entities in agreement with a local district attorney, provides consumers accused of writing bad checks the opportunity for deferred prosecution. Under the BCD Program, the defendants sent notices on official district attorney letterhead offering the plaintiffs the chance to avoid criminal prosecution under California’s bad check statute if they participated in the BCD Program and paid specified fees. The notices also included an arbitration clause. In the class action lawsuit, plaintiffs alleged that defendants violated the law by misleading plaintiffs into thinking law enforcement sent the letters and by allegedly including false threats in the letters that implied that failure to pay would result in arrest or imprisonment.

    In response to the lawsuit, defendants filed a motion under California’s Anti-SLAPP law, which protects defendants from strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), to strike the plaintiffs’ state law claims as well as a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration clause in the notices. With respect to the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, the panel opined that the BCD Program is not subject to Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) provisions because it is “an agreement between a criminal suspect and the local authorities about how to resolve a potential state-law criminal violation” rather than a “private or commercial contract.” In response to the defendants’ Anti-SLAPP motion, the appellate panel concluded that it “lacked jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial of defendants’ Anti-SLAPP motion because, under the terms of the state statute, such a denial in a case deemed [by the lower court] to be filed in the public interest is not immediately appealable.”

    The panel remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

    Courts Ninth Circuit Arbitration FDCPA

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  • Trump Signs Legislation to End Arbitration Rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 1, President Trump signed a resolution repealing the CFPB’s embattled arbitration rule (Rule). The resolution, which passed the Senate two weeks ago, was issued under the Congressional Review Act (previously covered by InfoBytes here). Trump’s signature came two days after Richard Cordray, the Director of the CFPB, wrote to the President requesting he veto the resolution. In his letter, Cordray sought to appeal to the President’s business experience in an attempt to explain the necessity of going to court when “treated unfairly.” With Trump’s signing of the resolution, the Rule is now unenforceable. The Rule has previously come under scrutiny from federal regulators (see previous InfoBytes coverage here and here), as well as from industry trade groups (see previous InfoBytes coverage here). After the President’s signing, Keith A. Noreika, Acting Comptroller of the OCC, praised Congress and the President for vacating the rule, touting it as a “victory for consumers” because upholding the Rule would have “significantly increased the cost of credit.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Consumer Finance CFPB Arbitration OCC Congressional Review Act

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  • Senate Nullifies CFPB Arbitration Rule

    Federal Issues

    On October 24, the Senate cleared a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the CFPB’s recently adopted final arbitration rule, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote to break the 50-50 tie. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the House passed H.J. Res. 111 earlier in July to invalidate the rule, which prohibits the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in certain contracts for consumer financial products and services. The resolution now heads to President Trump.

    Both CFPB Director Richard Cordray and Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith A. Noreika issued statements following the vote. Noreika stated: “The elected representatives acted to stop a rule from going into effect that would have likely increased the cost of credit for hardworking Americans and made it more difficult for small community banks to resolve differences with their customers without achieving the rule’s goal of deterring future financial abuse.” Noreika labeled the action by Congress as a “victory for consumers and small banks across the country.”

    However, according to many media outlets, Director Cordray condemned the Senate’s action. Cordray explained: “Tonight's vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country. Wall Street won and ordinary people lost. This vote means the courtroom doors will remain closed for groups of people seeking justice and relief when they are wronged by a company.”

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Arbitration CFPB U.S. Senate Congress Congressional Review Act

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  • Treasury Releases Report Criticizing CFPB Arbitration Rule

    Federal Issues

    On October 23, the Treasury Department released a report criticizing the CFPB’s arbitration rule (Rule)—finding the Rule did not satisfy the statutory prerequisites under the Dodd-Frank Act for banning arbitration agreements. Specifically, the report concludes that “the Bureau has not made a reasoned showing that increased consumer class action litigation will result in a net benefit to consumers or the public as a whole.” Like the OCC’s findings (as covered by InfoBytes previously), the Treasury Department found that the Rule will result in increased costs to consumers as affected businesses are unlikely to absorb the new financial costs associated with increased class action litigation. Moreover, the report notes that (i) the CFPB’s data shows that the majority of class action lawsuits deliver no relief to consumers; (ii) that despite the rule’s high costs, the CFPB did not demonstrate the Rule would help increase compliance with federal consumer laws; and (iii) the CFPB failed to consider less burdensome alternatives to the rule.

    In addition to the Treasury Department, the Rule is also under scrutiny by Congress and the subject of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other financial industry groups (previously discussed in InfoBytes here and here, respectively).

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Department of Treasury CFPB Arbitration

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  • OCC Acting Comptroller Shares Thoughts on Opportunities to Reduce Regulatory Burdens

    Federal Issues

    On October 5, OCC Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika spoke before the 2017 Midsize Bank Coalition of America Chief Risk Officer Meeting to discuss opportunities for regulatory reform.

    According to Noreika, one area of concern relates to the adverse effect arbitrary asset thresholds pose to the annual stress test requirements required under the Dodd-Frank Act because the burden “is not commensurate with the systemic risks presented by an institution.” Given the amount of diversity in the business models of banks who have around $10 billion in assets, “regulators need the ability and authority to tailor their supervision to the unique risks presented by individual banks.” Noreika suggested an approach that would give federal banking agencies the authority to tailor statutory stress testing requirements without an asset threshold, thus reducing the risk of banks growing beyond the threshold to offset increased costs or staying below the threshold to avoid unwelcome scrutiny.

    Noreika also urged for interagency harmonization of guidance and policies to avoid conflicting regulatory guidance when addressing cybersecurity issues.

    Additionally, Noreika addressed the CFPB’s arbitration rule as an example of the need to work “to ensure regulation is balanced and appropriate by speaking up when we see proposed rules that may adversely affect the business of banking, have systemic effects, or result in perverse unintended consequences.” Noreika stated that prior to the publication of the final arbitration rule, the OCC requested access to the data the CFPB used to develop and support the rule in order to conduct an independent review. However, it was not until after the rule was published that the CFPB made the data available. According to OCC findings, the rule will adversely impact consumers by increasing costs. Community banks, Noreika noted, will also bear the burden of increased legal costs from defending lawsuits.

    Finally, Noreika commented that banks continue to face challenges when trying to implement Bank Secrecy Act compliance programs and adapt to new requirements under TRID, HMDA, and the Military Lending Act.

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Bank Compliance Dodd-Frank Stress Test Arbitration CFPB Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • California Bans Use of Arbitration Clauses in Fraudulently Created Financial Contracts

    State Issues

    On October 4, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law amendments to the state’s code of civil procedure that essentially eliminates the use of forced arbitration in cases of fraudulently created accounts. SB 33 prevents state or federally chartered depository institutions from enforcing arbitration agreements in existing consumer contracts to compel California customers to arbitrate disputes regarding other contracts created “fraudulently without the consumer’s consent or by unlawfully using the consumer’s personal identifying information.”

    The law comes at a time when, as previously discussed in InfoBytes, several financial industry groups issued a joint lawsuit challenging the Bureau’s arbitration rule, which prohibits the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in certain contracts for consumer financial products and services. The amendments take effect January 1, 2018.

    State Issues State Legislation Arbitration Fraud CFPB

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  • Financial Industry Groups Sue the CFPB Over Arbitration Rule

    Courts

    On September 29, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) and other financial industry groups joined together to file a lawsuit in a Texas District Court against the CFPB over the constitutionality and legality of the Bureau’s arbitration rule (rule). The complaint alleges four reasons why the rule is invalid and should be set aside:

    • the rule is a product of the unconstitutional structure of the CFPBas covered in a previous InfoBytes, a similar argument is being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in the case brought by PHH;
    • the CFPB failed to follow procedures in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) in adopting the conclusions of a flawed arbitration study. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the study improperly limited public participation, applied flawed methodologies, misunderstood relevant data, and did not address key considerations;
    • the rule is a model of arbitrary and capricious agency action because it fails to take into account important aspects of the problem it is attempting to address and runs counter to the record before the Bureau; and
    • the rule is a violation of the Dodd Frank Act because it fails to advance the public interest or consumer welfare.

    Currently, the rule is also under scrutiny by Congress. As previously discussed in InfoBytes, the House passed a disapproval resolution, under the Congressional Review Act, to repeal the rule. A similar measure is set for discussion in the Senate.

    Buckley Sandler will follow up with a more detailed summary of the lawsuit.

    Courts CFPB Litigation Arbitration Consumer Finance

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  • Eleventh Circuit Enforces Binding Arbitration Agreement

    Courts

    On September 26, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a customer is bound to a mandatory arbitration clause in his deposit account agreement with a national bank. In doing so, the appellate court reversed the Florida district court’s decision, which denied the national bank’s motion to compel arbitration. In 2010, the customer filed a putative class action over the charging of overdraft fees associated with a bank account he held jointly with his wife. The case concerns an account agreement signed by the customer when he transferred an existing account into the joint account in 2001. The appellate court reasoned that the customer “was on notice that signing the 2001 signature card represented the start of a new contractual relationship” and therefore, subject to the updated arbitration clause.

    The CFPB’s new arbitration rule, which went into effect September 18, does not allow companies subject to the rule to use arbitration clauses to stop consumers from being part of a class action. However, as previously discussed in InfoBytes, the House passed a disapproval resolution under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule. A similar measure is expected to be considered by the Senate within the next week.

    Courts Litigation Eleventh Circuit Appellate Class Action Arbitration CFPB CRA

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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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