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  • OCC Files Motion to Dismiss CSBS Suit Over Fintech National Bank Charter

    FinTech

    On July 28, the OCC filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) challenging the OCC’s fintech charter. See Conf. of State Bank Supervisors v. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Case 1:17-cv-00763-JEB (D.D.C. Jul. 28, 2017). In a memorandum supporting its motion to dismiss, the OCC argued that CSBS does not have standing to bring the case because the OCC has not yet come to a decision on whether it will make special purpose national bank charters available to fintech companies and other nonbank firms, and therefore, “[n]o tangible effect on CSBS or CSBS's members could even arguably occur until a 5.20(e)(1) Charter has been issued to a specific applicant.” For similar reasons, the OCC argued that the case was not ripe for judicial review.

    Addressing the merits, the OCC cited Independent Community Bankers Ass’n of South Dakota, Inc. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 820 F.2d 428 (D.C. Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1004 (1988), arguing that the ruling confirms its authority to issue special purpose bank charters and “illustrates that the legal concept of a special purpose national bank power is not novel or unprecedented, but rather follows a decades-old OCC practice.” The OCC further argued that under the National Bank Act, the OCC’s interpretation of “the business of banking”—in which a special purpose bank “must conduct at least one of the following three core banking functions: receiving deposits; paying checks; or lending month”—deserves Chevron deference.

    As previously discussed in a Special Alert, CSBS claimed the fintech charter violates the National Bank Act, Administrative Procedure Act, and the U.S. Constitution, and that the OCC has acted beyond the legal limits of its authority. Furthermore, CSBS asserts that providing special purpose national bank charters to fintech companies “exposes taxpayers to the risk of inevitable [fintech] failures.”

    However, shortly after the OCC’s motion was filed, a federal judge ordered that the OCC’s motion to dismiss be stricken based on excessive footnoting. The judge, in a minute order on the docket, cited that the excessive number of footnotes “appear[] to be an effort to circumvent page limitations.” On August 2, the OCC filed a renewed motion to dismiss.

    Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CSBS Courts OCC Litigation Licensing

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  • FTC to Host Joint Conference on Protecting Military Consumers

    Consumer Finance

    On July 27, the FTC announced it is partnering with state and local authorities to host the Protecting Military Consumers: A Common Ground Conference on September 7 in Los Angeles to provide training on consumer fraud and other issues affecting servicemembers and their families. The conference is geared towards military attorneys, law enforcement personnel, and consumer protection officials, and will include the following topics:

    • student loans and for-profit colleges;
    • identity theft and imposter scams;
    • debt collections;
    • mortgage disputes; and
    • real estate fraud.

    Additionally, the conference will discuss several federal, state, and local consumer protection laws, including the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the Military Lending Act, and FTC and CFPB rules and regulations.

    Earlier in July, the FTC held a Military Consumer Financial Workshop to educate consumers on financial issues and scams they may face. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Consumer Finance Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FTC Servicemembers SCRA Military Lending Act CFPB Student Lending Mortgages Debt Collection Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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

    Federal Issues

    On July 28, the FDIC released its list of 23 orders in administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in June. Civil money penalties were assessed against two banks, including one citing violations of the National Flood Insurance Act for (i) failing to obtain flood insurance before loan origination, and (ii) failing to follow force placed flood insurance procedures.

    Also on the list are 13 Section 19 orders allowing applicants to participate in the affairs of an insured depository institution and four orders for removal and prohibition for bank employees breaching fiduciary duties and participating in “unsafe or unsound banking practices” leading to financial losses.

    There are no administrative hearings scheduled for August 2017.

    Federal Issues FDIC Enforcement Banking National Flood Insurance Program

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  • Massachusetts AG Announces Settlement with Law Firm Over Debt Collection Practices

    State Issues

    On June 27, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a $1 million settlement with the largest debt collection law firm in the state to resolve allegations that the firm engaged in unfair and unlawful debt collection practices. According to a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s office in 2015, the firm began filing tens of thousands of debt collection lawsuits each year beginning in 2011, at times targeting the wrong consumers or filing claims based on unsubstantiated debts. The firm also allegedly demanded payment from consumers who relied on social security or other exempt income, despite being provided evidence that the income was exempt from court-ordered collection. Under the terms of the settlement, the company is required to reform its debt collection practices by adhering to guidelines including the following:

    • The firm is required to obtain and review “original account-level documentation” prior to initiating a collection to determine whether a consumer is obligated to pay the debt such as, among others, (i) an authenticated bill of sale reflecting the transferred ownership of debt; (ii) original documents reflecting the charge-off balance; (iii) contractual terms and conditions; and (iv) original consumer signed documents showing proof the account was opened;
    • The firm is prohibited from engaging in threatening actions to collect on a debt initiated on behalf of a collector or debt buyer, and is further restrained from commencing a collection suit without possessing a final judgment or execution against the consumer, or acceptable account-level documentation;
    • The firm cannot initiate a collection suit against a consumer until an attorney listed on the company in the collection suit has reviewed the pertinent information and made the determination that the debt owed is not subject to bankruptcy proceedings and certifies in writing that the collection suit is in compliance.

    The settlement terms also stipulate that the firm must comply with collection terms and restrictions concerning exempt and protected income, must adhere to time-barred debt collection restrictions, is enjoined from using false and misleading affidavits to collect debts, and must submit enhanced compliance reporting to AG Healey for review. Additionally, the firm previously paid $1 million to the state to be used in one or more of the following ways: (i) as payments to consumers; (ii) to assist with final judgment facilitation; (iii) to be added to the state’s general fund and/or the Local Consumer Aid Fund; and (iv) to fund programs that “address the negative effect of unfair and deceptive practices related to debt collection.”

    State Issues State AG Debt Collection UDAAP Litigation Settlement

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  • HUD-OIG Report: Single-Family Note Sales Program Failed to Follow Rulemaking Requirements

    Lending

    On July 14, the HUD Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) published a report on HUD’s rulemaking process for its single-family note sales program, now referred to as the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP), under which HUD has sold more than 108,000 notes with over $18 billion in unpaid principal balances. According to the report, HUD-OIG conducted an audit to determine whether HUD adhered to open public rulemaking requirements when it implemented the program. The report concluded that while HUD issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in 2006, it did not finalize the comment process or prepare the program for a final rule. The report further stated that there was a lack of formal guidance and procedures for the program, stating that “[s]ince its inception, HUD has issued 31 enhancements, or changes, to its single-family note sales program . . . [but does not have] a handbook or guidebook that establishe[s] its formal requirements or policies for the administration of the program.”

    As a result, HUD-OIG recommended that HUD (i) “[c]omplete the rulemaking process for [its] single-family note sales program,” and (ii) “[d]evelop and implement formal procedures and guidance for the note sales program.”

    Lending HUD Mortgages OIG Federal Register

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  • Class Action Complaint Filed Against National Bank Related to Auto Insurance Coverage

    Courts

    On July 30, consumers accused a national bank of requiring them to pay for unnecessary auto insurance in a class action complaint filed in the Northern District of California. See Hancock v. Wells Fargo & Co., Case No. 17-cv-04324 (N.D. Cal. Jul. 30, 2017). The consumers allege that they paid for protection against vehicle loss or damage while making monthly loan payments, even though many drivers allege that they already had their own policies. According to the complaint, the bank allegedly received kickbacks from an auto insurance company through shared commissions on policies for more than 800,000 auto loans, which resulted in nearly 250,000 loans becoming delinquent and nearly 25,000 “unlawful vehicle repossessions.” The consumers allege that when they took out auto loans, both the bank and the insurance company failed to check whether the consumer already had coverage or ignored the information, and then created Collateral Protection Insurance (CPI) policies which were “secretly” added to the auto loan bills and the costs automatically deducted from consumer bank accounts.

    In addition to the costs incurred for the unlawful forced-placed insurance policies, consumers also claim to have experienced financial harm in the form of (i) inflated premiums and interest rates; (ii) delinquency charges and late fees; and (iii) repossession costs and damage to credit reports. Consumers seek restitution, disgorgement of revenues and/or profits, and compensatory damages.

    Notably, before the class action complaint was filed, the bank issued a press release on July 27, announcing plans to remediate approximately 570,000 consumers who may have been financially harmed—less than the 800,000 cited in the complaint. The bank stated that it had conducted a review of CPI policies placed between 2012 and 2017 and stated, ““We take full responsibility for our failure to appropriately manage the CPI program and are extremely sorry for any harm this caused our customers, who expect and deserve better from us. . . . Upon our discovery, we acted swiftly to discontinue the program and immediately develop a plan to make impacted customers whole.”

    Courts Consumer Finance Force-placed Insurance Auto Finance UDAAP Class Action Litigation

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  • Massachusetts AG Leads AG Coalition Urging Senate to Oppose Joint Resolution to Set Aside CFPB Arbitration Rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On July 28, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, along with 20 other state attorneys general, issued a letter to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, urging Senate leaders to oppose S.J.Res. 47—a joint resolution that would set aside the CFPB’s arbitration rule. As previously discussed in InfoBytes, on July 25, the House exercised its authority under the Congressional Review Act to pass a measure to strike down the rule. The coalition of state attorneys general support the CFPB’s proposed rule, which prohibits the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in certain contracts for consumer financial products and services. The letter asserts that most customers lack the time and resources to enter into arbitration and that “[t]he CFPB’s Arbitration Rule would deliver essential relief to consumers, hold financial services companies accountable for their misconduct, and provide ordinary consumers with meaningful access to the civil justice system.”

    In 2016, AG Healey led a group of 17 state attorneys general who offered support to the CFPB in favor of the Bureau’s proposed rule and asserted a need for regulations that would prohibit such clauses outright. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance State AG CFPB Consumer Finance Arbitration CRA U.S. Senate U.S. House

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  • North Carolina Amends Collection Agency Definition

    State Issues

    On July 20, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed into law Senate Bill 415 (S.L. 149), which amends the state’s collection agency law to exclude persons engaged in routine billing services from the definition of a “collection agency.” Specifically, a “collection agency” does not include “corporations or associations engaged in accounting, bookkeeping, or data processing services where a primary component of such services is the rendering of statements of accounts and bookkeeping services for creditors.” The law went into effect July 20, 2017.

    State Issues Debt Collection State Legislation

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  • Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Testifies Before House Financial Services Committee, Provides Overview of Tailored Regulatory Approach

    Federal Issues

    On July 27, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled “The Annual Testimony of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of the International Financial System.” Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tx.) opened the full committee hearing asserting that “the unaccountable Washington bureaucracy must finally be held accountable, [and we] must address the regulatory cost of doing business in the U.S. under Dodd-Frank.” Rep. Hensarling commended President Trump’s Executive Order establishing the core principles for regulating the U.S. financial system and called it “vitally important to us all.”

    Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin was the only witness at the June 27 hearing, offering testimony and answering questions concerning, among other things, (i) praise for the Committee’s passage of the Financial CHOICE act; (ii) tailoring capital requirements for small, mid-sized, and region banks; (iii) identifying a “single, lead regulator” to reduce regulatory overlap; (iv) remedying the Volcker Rule; (v) making the CFPB more accountable through statutory changes; (vi) reforming housing finance, noting that the current system, “in which the GSEs remain in perpetual Federal Housing Finance Agency conservatorship . . .  is not sustainable and leaves taxpayers at risk”; and (vii) addressing tax reform.

    Federal Issues Treasury Department House Financial Services Committee Dodd-Frank Financial CHOICE Act

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  • OFAC Imposes Sanctions on Venezuelan President Maduro

    Financial Crimes

    On July 31, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was imposing sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, pursuant to Executive Order 13692, for undermining the country’s democracy and rule of law after recent elections and committing widespread human rights abuses. The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with President Maduro and freezes all assets belonging to him subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin explained that the July 30 “illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people. By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.”

    The July 31 sanctions follow an announcement on July 26 in which OFAC announced it was imposing sanctions against 13 current or former Venezuelan government officials associated with election corruption and human rights violations. As a result, all assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with any of the individuals on the list.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Treasury Department

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