Skip to main content
Menu Icon Menu Icon
Close

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations
Section Content

Upcoming Events

Filter

Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter for news affecting the financial services industry.

  • Judge Issues Ruling that Federal Safe Harbor Provision Applies in RESPA Case

    Courts

    On July 13, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky issued an opinion holding that a safe harbor provision for affiliated business arrangements under Section 8(c)(4) of RESPA protects a Louisville law firm's relationship with a string of now-closed title insurance agencies. (See CFPB v. Borders and Borders, Plc, No. 3:13-cv-01047-CRS-DW (W.D. Ky. July 13, 2017)). In 2013, the CFPB alleged the firm violated RESPA by paying kickbacks for real estate settlement referrals through a network of joint ventures with the principals of nine title insurance companies. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) The judge granted the firm’s motion for summary judgment on only one safe harbor question, stating that the firm’s agreements with the title insurance agencies qualified as “affiliated business arrangements” because it “disclosed the relationship…, the customers could reject the referral, and the Bureau failed to show that the [title insurance companies] received anything of value beyond their ownership interests.”

    The judge rejected the firm's claim that the CFPB cannot seek disgorgement as a remedy and further declined to address the firm’s ultra vires argument that the CFPB is an unconstitutional agency and therefore lacks legal authority to bring suit, stating that the en banc decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB has not yet been issued.

    Notably, however, the judge appeared to suggest that case could be appealed because the firm’s other arguments fail to qualify for RESPA safe harbors under Sections 8(c)(1) and 8(c)(2).

    Courts CFPB RESPA Mortgages Litigation Disgorgement Safe Harbor

    Share page with AddThis
  • Enforcement Actions Announced by CFTC for Fraud, Registration Violations in Florida

    Courts

    On July 11, the CFTC announced that the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida entered an order for final judgment by default against two individuals and their company for fraudulently soliciting investors in a commodity pool, misappropriating pool participants’ funds, and committing futures fraud, among other things. According to the CFTC complaint filed on January 26 of 2017, the defendants fraudulently marketed their company to prospective participants, materially misrepresented their past trading success using fabricated high rates of return, provided account statements to investors showing fictitious increases in value, and failed to disclose defendant’s previous permanent injunction on trading.

    In addition to imposing a permanent injunction on trading and registration, the Court ordered defendants to pay civil monetary penalties of almost $1.85 million as well as restitution of $459,613. An appointed monitor will oversee the defendants’ payment of restitution. The Court also required one of the defendants to affirmatively disclose his violations in any future marketing materials, presentations, speeches or websites. The required disclosure names his violations, the amount of restitution and civil penalties he must pay, along with the case numbers of his CFTC actions.

    Both of the defendants recently pleaded guilty to related criminal charges. One defendant was sentenced to one year and one day in prison in connection with her guilty plea to one count of obstruction of justice, and the other defendant is awaiting sentencing in connection with his guilty plea to one count of wire fraud.

    Courts Federal Issues CFTC Securities Enforcement Fraud Litigation

    Share page with AddThis
  • District Court Order Dismissing TCPA Claim Reversed on Appeal

    Courts

    On July 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a single telemarketing call to a consumer established a concrete injury sufficient to support a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) suit against a New Jersey-based fitness company. The appellate court reversed the District Court’s dismissal of the suit “because the TCPA provides [the consumer] with a cause of action, and her alleged injury is concrete.”

    The appellate court considered two questions in the appeal: (i) was the alleged robocall a violation of the TCPA? If so, (ii) is the alleged injury concrete enough to provide Article III standing to sue under the United States Constitution? The court answered the first question by noting that the TCPA prohibits robocalls and prerecorded messages to cellular phones and that it “does not limit—either expressly or by implication—the statute's application to cell phone calls.” In answering the second question, the court determined that the alleged injury is exactly the kind of injury the TCPA was created to prevent: a nuisance or invasion of privacy.

    The Third Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with their findings.

    Courts Appellate Third Circuit TCPA Federal Issues Litigation

    Share page with AddThis
  • Debt Collector Liable for Violating FDCPA and TCPA

    Courts

    On July 3, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed that a debt collector violated the Telephone Consumer Practices Act (TCPA) when it called a consumer’s cell phone without the consumer’s consent, resulting in a damages award of $34,500. Additionally, the appellate court reversed the district court’s decision regarding a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claim for sending a collection letter to the consumer without taking proper precautions to ensure the consumer’s account number would remain private. The debt collector put forth the defense of bona fide error regarding its alleged violations of the FDCPA. The appellate court, citing Supreme Court precedent, rejected the defense, holding that bona fide error could be claimed only in the case of a clerical or factual error, but a “mistaken interpretation of the law is inexcusable under the FDCPA’s bona fide error defense.” The Third Circuit remanded the FDCPA claim to the district court to enter judgment for the consumer and calculate the damages the debt collector must pay.

    Courts Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Third Circuit Debt Collection TCPA FDCPA Appellate

    Share page with AddThis
  • Second Circuit Affirms No Actual Harm in FACTA Suit

    Courts

    On June 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that, without concrete evidence of actual harm, a consumer lacks standing under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) to sue a merchant for printing credit card expiration dates on receipts. The consumer alleged that printing the expiration date on her credit card receipt led to a material risk of identity theft, and therefore constituted an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing. The court disagreed, noting that Congress’s amendments to FACTA belie that expiration dates on credit card receipts increase the risk of identity theft. Moreover, the court held that the consumer failed to allege actual harm from the merchant’s practice.

    The court’s decision in Cruper-Wienmann comes approximately one month after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 194 L. Ed. 2d 635 (2016), as revised (May 24, 2016), which held that “bare procedural violation[s], divorced from any concrete harm” are not enough to establish standing.

    Courts Second Circuit Litigation FACTA

    Share page with AddThis
  • Credit Reporting Agency Assessed Damages of $60 Million for FCRA Violations

    Courts

    On June 20, a federal jury found that a major international credit reporting agency had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), awarding damages of $60 million. When performing credit checks, the agency allegedly had failed to distinguish law-abiding citizens from drug traffickers, terrorists, and other criminals with similar names found on the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control database, sometimes confusing plaintiffs with individuals on the watch list. The jury determined that the company (i) “willfully fail[ed] to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the OFAC information it associated with members of the class’’; (ii) “willfully failed to clearly and accurately disclose OFAC information in the written disclosures it sent to members of the class”; and (iii) “failed to provide class members a summary of their FCRA rights with each written disclosure made to them.” The class members were awarded just under the maximum for statutory damages, in addition to punitive damages of more than six times the statutory amount.

    Courts Fair Credit Reporting Act Treasury Department OFAC

    Share page with AddThis
  • Second Circuit Affirms No Unilateral Revocation Under TCPA

    Courts

    On June 22, the Second Circuit held in Reyes v. Lincoln Automotive Financial Services, No. 16-2014-cv, 2017 WL 2675363 (2nd Cir. June 22, 2017), that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) does not permit a consumer to unilaterally revoke his or her consent to be contacted by telephone when that consent was given as a “bargained-for consideration in a bilateral contract.” The defendant had leased an automobile from the plaintiff. As a condition of that lease agreement, the plaintiff consented to receive automated or manual telephone calls from the defendant. After the plaintiff defaulted, the defendant regularly called the plaintiff and continued to do so even after the plaintiff allegedly revoked his consent. To support his argument that the TCPA permits him to revoke his consent, the plaintiff relied on prior case law and a recent ruling from the FCC that stated that under the TCPA, “prior express consent” can be revoked. The Second Circuit, however, distinguished this case from those relied on by the plaintiff on the grounds that the prior cases and the FCC’s ruling support the proposition that consent not given in exchange for consideration, and which is not part of a binding legal agreement, can be revoked. The Court further stated that where the consent is not provided gratuitously but is instead an express provision of a contract, the TCPA does not allow such consent to be unilaterally revoked.

    Courts Litigation TCPA FCC Federal Issues Second Circuit

    Share page with AddThis
  • Judge Issues Ruling Ordering Unused Consumer Redress Funds to be Deposited in the Treasury

    Courts

    On June 20, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered that leftover funds from a $50 million settlement must be transferred to the Treasury, ultimately ruling against a memorandum filed by the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, and Vermont (State AGs) that sought to redirect the remaining $15 million to be used to “train, support and improve the coordination of the state consumer protection attorneys charged with enforcement of the laws prohibiting the type of unfair and deceptive practices alleged by the CFPB in this [a]ction.” (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) Notably, the judge stated, “the State AGs’ proposal does not reflect the [settling] parties' true intent . . . Nowhere in the Final Judgment or the Redress Plan is there any language supporting the State AGs’ view that leftover funds should broadly aid consumers.” The judge opines further that “[c]ondoning an unintended use of the settlement funds—in the absence of any other equitable relief reasonably related to the allegations of the Complaint—would be tantamount to misappropriating funds that otherwise should be in the public fisc.” The judge further noted that had the State AGs’ memorandum been granted, it would “permit State actors . . . to hijack a significant portion of the settlement funds under the guise of ‘consumer protection,’ all for the purpose of underwriting a project that principally benefits the States.”

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB DOJ State AG Litigation Treasury Department

    Share page with AddThis
  • PHH v. CFPB Update: PHH Counters CFPB’s Statute of Limitations Interpretation

    Courts

    On June 13, PHH Corporation sent a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit responding to a June 7 letter from the CFPB that stated RESPA’s three-year statute of limitations is not applicable in its enforcement action against the company. In its letter, the CFPB cited a decision in Kokesh v. SEC where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a five-year limit applies to civil penalties, and that, furthermore, “[d]isgorgement in the securities-enforcement context is a ‘penalty’ within the meaning of §2462, and so disgorgement actions must be commenced within five years of the date the claim accrues.” The Bureau further supported its argument for a five-year limit by claiming that RESPA’s three-year statute of limitations provision applies only to “actions” brought in a “United States district court or any other court of competent jurisdiction,” and its administrative proceeding against the company for alleged mortgage kickbacks was not an “action” under RESPA.

    In response, PHH countered that Section 2462 contains a “catch-all limitations period ‘[e]xcept as otherwise provided’ by Congress.” Thus, the D.C. Circuit panel was correct when it held that Congress “otherwise provided” a three-year statute of limitations under RESPA that applies to enforcement proceedings because in the “second part of Section 2614, the term ‘actions’ is not limited to actions brought in court.” PHH further asserts that Dodd-Frank “repeatedly uses the term ‘action’ to encompass court actions and administrative proceedings.”

    As previously covered in InfoBytes, on May 24, the D.C. Circuit, sitting en banc, heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the CFPB. It did not indicate that it was inclined to revisit the panel’s determination that the Bureau misinterpreted RESPA when applying it to PHH’s practices.

    Courts Litigation Mortgages CFPB PHH v. CFPB RESPA

    Share page with AddThis
  • Pennsylvania-Based Bank Settles Overdraft Class Action for $1M

    Courts

    On June 12, a Pennsylvania-based bank resolved a class action lawsuit over claims the bank charged its customers improper overdraft fees by agreeing to a proposed $975,000 settlement. According to plaintiff’s unopposed motion for approval of the settlement, the bank had a “practice of assessing overdraft fees even when a customer has sufficient funds in their account to cover all merchant requests for payment.” The plaintiff further alleged that the bank incorrectly charged the fees “to maximize its overdraft fee revenue.” Transactions triggering an overdraft fee using the available balance, but which would not trigger an overdraft fee using the ledger balance, are included in the settlement. The proceeds of the proposed settlement will be distributed to eligible class members within 20 days of the effective date of the settlement.

    A preliminary issue in this case was the bank’s belief that the suit was subject to arbitration. The bank claimed the dispute was governed by an agreement to arbitrate contained in plaintiff’s 2008 account agreement, and not, as plaintiff contended, by plaintiff’s 2010 account agreement, which did not contain an arbitration agreement. The trial court disagreed with the bank. In fact, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision that there was no agreement to arbitrate the action, after which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the bank’s petition to appeal that decision.

    Courts Consumer Finance Banking Overdraft Litigation Class Action

    Share page with AddThis

Pages