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  • Virginia Publishes Electronic Notarization Standard

    Fintech

    On January 21, the Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth released the Virginia Electronic Notarization Assurance Standard. Citing challenges faced by notaries to “preserve and strengthen the role of the notary in the rapidly emerging digital economy and to ensure reliability and cross-border recognition of notarized electronic documents in a global economy,” the standards are intended to support transition of notaries in Virginia to performing electronic notarizations that have the same legal effect as traditional notarizations. They set forth registration and performance requirements, electronic signature and seal requirements, online notarization procedures, and notarized electronic document requirements. According to the Secretary, the Virginia standards (i) reflect the National Association of Secretaries of State Electronic Notarization Standard for Document Security; (ii) incorporate aspects of standards previously adopted by seven other states; and (iii) are consistent with the federal ESIGN Act, the UETA, and the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act.

    ESIGN Electronic Signatures UETA Notary

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  • CFPB Addresses Use of Electronic Periodic Statements for Residential Mortgage Loans

    Lending

    The CFPB’s recent rule amending Regulation Z (TILA), issued on January 17, included, among other changes, the requirement that mortgage servicers provide consumers with periodic billing statements. As required by the Dodd-Frank Act, the rule explicitly allows electronic distribution of the statements. However, the Bureau restricted the use of electronic statements only to instances where “the consumer agrees.” In describing the process through which this agreement must be obtained, the rule departs from the formal requirements of the federal ESIGN Act’s consumer consent process, authorizing instead a “simpler process” which requires only the consumer’s “affirmative consent.” The CFPB staff, in the accompanying Official Interpretations, indicates that consent may be presumed for consumers who are currently receiving electronic account disclosures from their servicer for any type of account, mortgage or otherwise. In light of concerns about information security, the Official Interpretations also indicate that mortgage servicers may make electronic periodic statements available on a secure website and notify the consumer that the statement is available, rather than delivering the statement directly to the consumer. Recognizing that some consumers may not desire regular notification emails, the Official Interpretations also allow a consumer who has demonstrated the ability to access statements online to opt out of receiving such notifications. Neither the rule nor the Official Interpretations address how the rule relates to other laws that may affect when an electronic communication is delivered, such as the sending or receipt requirements of state UETA statutes.

    CFPB Mortgage Servicing ESIGN Electronic Records

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  • NCUA Eases Regulatory Requirements for Certain Small Credit Unions; Finalizes Rule Regarding Troubled State Credit Unions

    Consumer Finance

    On January 18, the NCUA published a final rule to amend the definition of “small entities” from those with less than $10 million in assets to those with less than $50 million in assets. The change will allow more credit unions to be considered for relief from NCUA rules. The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires federal agencies to consider the impact of their rules on small entities and allows federal agencies to determine what constitutes a small entity. The NCUA proposed a $30 million threshold, which it adjusted upward following review of comments received on the proposal. The NCUA declined to adopt the $175 million threshold sought by some commenters and used by the Small Business Association and the CFPB. In addition to requiring the NCUA to assess the impact of future proposed and final rules on more small credit unions, the new threshold has the immediate effect of excluding more credit unions from certain requirements under NCUA’s Prompt Corrective Action rule and the requirement to implement interest rate risk policies. The rule requires the NCUA to review the threshold in two years, and every three years thereafter. The new threshold takes effect on February 19, 2013.

    On the same day, the NCUA published a final rule to allow the agency to determine whether a state-chartered credit union is in “troubled condition.” Under current law, only a state supervisory authority is permitted to declare a federally insured, state-chartered credit union to be in troubled condition. The NCUA believes that the change will help protect the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund by leveraging the federal regulator’s resources to increase the likelihood that problems at covered credit unions are addressed. The rule goes into effect on February 19, 2013.

    NCUA Community Banks

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  • Chicago Requires Debt Collector Licensing, Sets Zoning Requirements for Small Dollar Lenders

    Consumer Finance

    On January 17, the City of Chicago passed ordinances related to debt collection, small dollar lending, and license enforcement. With the adoption of an ordinance requiring that debt collectors collecting debts from Chicagoans obtain from the City a Regulated Business License, Chicago becomes only the third municipality to require local debt collector licensing. By requiring a license, the ordinance requires that debt collectors follow all state and federal debt collection rules, including for example, providing debt verification. For debt collectors that have their licenses revoked, the ordinance requires a four-year wait period before a new license can be issued. A second ordinance sets new zoning rules for payday and title-secured lending stores. Finally, the City passed an ordinance that, effective June 1, 2013, will allow the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to initiate license revocation proceedings and refuse to issue or reissue the license of specific business locations convicted within the last five years of violating the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA) and the federal FDCPA. The passing of the ordinances follows a recent announcement by the City and the CFPB to enter a first-of-its-kind partnership to share information on consumer financial protection issues.

    CFPB Payday Lending Debt Collection

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  • California Appeals Court Holds No Actual Damages Necessary to Sustain Claims Against Dealer, Finance Company Under State Auto Finance Act

    Consumer Finance

    On January 15, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District held that an auto buyer need not plead actual damages to sustain a claim under the state’s auto finance act, and that there is no statutory protection from contract rescission afforded a dealer or its assignee for substantial compliance with the act. Rojas v. Platinum Auto Group, Inc. No. B235956, 2013 WL 156561 (Cal. App. Ct. Jan. 15, 2013). The plaintiff bought and financed a car with a dealer, agreeing to a deferred down payment schedule, which he claims the dealer failed to properly reflect on the retail installment sales contract. The dealer and the finance company to which it had assigned the loan, succeeded on demurrers in the trial court, obtaining dismissal of the buyer’s claims that the dealer’s mischaracterization of the down payment violated the state’s Rees-Levering Act, which requires a detailed and truthful itemization of a buyer’s down payment, and allegations that the mischaracterization violated the state Consumer Legal Remedies Act and constituted an unfair business practice. On appeal, the court held that “the purpose and history of Rees-Levering establish that [buyer] need not have suffered actual damage from [the dealer’s] violation of the statute’s disclosure requirements,” and that a common law substantial compliance rule has been statutorily removed. As such, the buyer could state a claim for relief under the act even for apparently “trivial” misstatements. The court also held that while the buyer’s allegations of injury are vague and do not support the assertions made regarding violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and unfair business practices, the buyer should have the right to amend his claims. The court reversed the district court and remanded for further proceedings.

    Auto Finance

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  • California Supreme Court Overturns Long-standing Rule Limiting Fraud Exception to Parol Evidence Rule

    Consumer Finance

    On January 14, the California Supreme Court overturned a long-standing state limitation on the fraud exception to the parol evidence rule. Riverisland Cold Storage, Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Prod. Credit Assoc., No. S190581, 2013 WL 141731 (Cal. Jan. 14, 2013). Generally, the parol evidence rule limits the use of evidence outside a contract itself to contradict or add to the terms of the contract. The exception allows a party to present extrinsic evidence to support a claim of fraud. In California, the Supreme Court in 1935 established a rule in Bank of Am. etc. Assn. v. Pendergrass, 4 Cal. 2d 258 (1935) to limit the fraud exception to evidence that establishes an independent fact or representation, a fraud in the procurement of the instrument, or a breach of confidence concerning its use. That Pendergrass limitation excluded evidence of a promise at odds with the written contract. The instant case involved two borrowers who entered into a restructured debt agreement with a credit association after falling behind on their payments. After the credit association sought to foreclose on the borrowers for failing to perform under the agreement, the borrowers sued the association, claiming that its vice president had promised terms different from those reflected in the written contract. The Supreme Court affirmed the intermediate appellate court’s holding in favor of the borrowers that evidence of an alleged oral misrepresentation of the written terms is not barred by the Pendergrass rule; concluding that Pendergrass was “an aberration,” it overturned the rule. The court determined that the Pendergrass rule was out of step with established state law at the time it was adopted and was improperly supported in the court’s 1935 decision, and reaffirmed that the parol evidence rule was never intended to be used as a shield to prevent proof of fraud. The court did not address whether, in this case, the borrowers had presented evidence of reasonable reliance on the promised terms, particularly given that the borrowers admit to having not reviewed the contract. That issue will need to be first addressed by the trial court on remand.

    Consumer Lending

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  • Federal Agencies Announces Numerous Appointments

    Securities

    SEC Names Office of Market Intelligence Chief. On January 22, the SEC announced that Vincente Martinez will serve as the head of the Office of Market Intelligence, a unit of the Enforcement Division that collects and evaluates tips, complaints and referrals. Mr. Martinez rejoins the SEC from the CFTC where he served as the first director of that agency’s whistleblower office. He previously spent eight years in the SEC’s Enforcement Division, most recently helping to develop Enforcement Division and SEC-wide policies and procedures for handling tips, complaints, and referrals. Lori Walsh, who is currently serving as the Acting Chief of the Office of Market Intelligence, will serve as Deputy Chief of the office.

    FHFA Announces Deputy Director for Housing Mission and Goals. On January 15, the FHFA announced that beginning in March Sandra Thompson will serve as Deputy Director of the Division of Housing Mission and Goals with responsibility for overseeing the FHFA’s housing and regulatory policy, financial analysis, and policy research and analysis of housing finance and financial markets. Ms. Thompson will leave her current position as Director of the Division of Risk Management Supervision at the FDIC where she led the agency’s examination and enforcement program for risk management and consumer protection. The FHFA also promoted Nina Nichols to serve as Deputy Director of the Division of Supervision Policy and Support.

    OCC Announces Chief Counsel. Last week, the OCC announced Amy Friend as the agency’s Chief Counsel beginning in February, replacing Julie Williams who retired last fall. Ms. Friend is a former assistant chief counsel at the OCC and served as chief counsel to the Senate Banking Committee during the development of the Dodd-Frank Act.

    FDIC OCC SEC FHFA

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  • Special Alert: Detailed Analysis of CFPB's High-Cost Mortgage Rule

    Lending

    On January 10, the CCFPB issued a final rule that amends Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) to implement changes to the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) made by the Dodd-Frank Act. As detailed in BuckleySandler's Special Alert, the rule expands the types of loans subject to HOEPA, revises the tests for whether a loan is "high-cost" and therefore subject to HOEPA, imposes new restrictions on high-cost loans, and requires new disclosures. Because of the special requirements for loans that meet HOEPA's high-cost tests, the HOEPA threshold has acted as a de facto usury ceiling for the vast majority of mortgage originators. With the rule's extension of HOEPA to more types of loans, and the lowering of the HOEPA thresholds, this ceiling will now affect a broader segment of consumers seeking mortgage loans than before. The rule also implements two additional Dodd-Frank Act provisions that are not amendments to HOEPA related to homeownership counseling. Click here to download BuckleySandler's detailed analysis of the final high-cost mortgage rule.

    CFPB Dodd-Frank HOEPA

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  • Special Alert: Detailed Analysis of CFPB's Final Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule

    Lending

    As promised in our earlier flash Alert on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's highly anticipated final "Ability-to-Repay" rule governing residential mortgage lending under Regulation Z, we are providing in this Special Alert a detailed summary and analysis of the Rule, which becomes effective on January 10, 2014.  We also assess the Bureau's concurrently issued proposal, which seeks comments by February 25, 2013 on potential amendments to the Rule.  For ease of reference, the Alert contains a detailed, hyper-linked Table of Contents.

    CFPB TILA Dodd-Frank Qualified Mortgage

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  • CFPB Issues Mortgage Servicing Standards

    Lending

    On January 17, the CFPB issued final rules amending Regulation Z (TILA) and Regulation X (RESPA) to implement certain mortgage servicing standards set forth by the Dodd-Frank Act and to address other issues identified by the CFPB. The rule amending Regulation Z includes changes to (i) periodic billing statement requirements, (ii) notices about adjustable rate mortgage interest rate adjustments, and (iii) rules on payment crediting and payoff statements. The rule amending Regulation X addresses (i) force-placed insurance requirements, (ii) error resolution and information request procedures, (iii) information management policies and procedures, (iv) standards for early intervention with delinquent borrowers, (v) rules for contact with delinquent borrowers, and (vi) enhanced loss mitigation procedures. While many of the rules implement changes required by the Dodd-Frank Act, other proposed requirements incorporate requirements similar to those placed on servicers as part of the national mortgage servicing settlement earlier this year, or corrective actions taken in 2011 by the prudential regulators. The new standards go into effect on January 10, 2014. The rule provides certain exemptions for servicers that service 5,000 or fewer mortgage loans and service only mortgage loans that they or an affiliate originated or own. BuckleySandler will provide additional analysis of key issues in the rules once we complete our review of them.

    CFPB TILA Mortgage Servicing RESPA

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