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On December 1, the U.S. Senate, by a 99-0 margin, passed a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) sending the measure to the White House and delaying any potentially tougher actions until next year. Originally approved in 1996, the extended bill passed onto the Senate in November with only one vote against it from the House. Congressional authority to enforce sanctions against Iran—which was due to expire on December 31 if not renewed—will be presented to President Barack Obama, who will decide whether to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
FCC Denies Petition by MBA to Exempt Certain Mortgage Servicing Calls from Prior Express Consent Requirement
In an order dated November 15, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau denied a petition by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) that sought an exemption from the FCC’s prior express consent requirement for non-telemarketing residential mortgage servicing auto-dialer calls to wireless numbers. In its order, the Bureau concluded that MBA had failed to show (1) that the calls in question would be free of charge to consumers; and (2) that the parties seeking relief should be able to send non-time-sensitive calls to consumers without their consent.
Among other things, the Order explained that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) “reflects Congress’ recognition of the potential costs and privacy risks imposed on wireless consumers from the use of auto-dialer equipment, which can generate large numbers of unwanted calls” and accordingly, the FCC has generally attempted to balance and accommodate the legitimate business interests of callers in addition to recognized consumer privacy interests.
PHH Response Due Date Pushed Back as Solicitor General Permitted to Respond to CFPB's Petition in PHH Corp. v. CFPB by December 22
As discussed previously, the D.C. Circuit ordered PHH to respond to the CFPB’s petition for en banc review of the October 2016 three-judge panel decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB. In an Unopposed Motion for Leave to file the United States' Response, filed December 1, the Office of the Solicitor General sought permission to file its own responsive briefing on or before December 22. In an Order issued December 1, the D.C. Circuit granted the Solicitor General’s request, but also moved back the due date for PHH’s responsive papers so that both responses are now due on December 22.
Earlier in the week, on November 30, two groups filed amicus briefs in support of the CFPB’s petition together along with motions requesting an invitation from the court. The first brief was submitted by a group of leading consumer protection organizations, while the second brief was filed by a group of 21 current and former members of Congress.
On September 20, the CEO of a major national bank faced questions from the House Financial Services Committee over consumer account practices uncovered during a recent enforcement action by the CFPB. The CEO will return to Capitol Hill on September 29 for additional testimony in front of the Committee. In addition, the Director of the CFPB and the Comptroller of the Currency faced scrutiny from the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs on their agencies awareness of, and failure to prohibit, the bank’s alleged actions for more than two years. In prepared testimony, Director Cordray indicated that the civil penalty levied against the bank was the “largest fine by far that the Consumer Bureau has imposed on any financial company to date” calling it a “dramatic amount as compared to the actual financial harm to consumers” but also “justified here by the outrageous and abusive nature of these fraudulent practices on such an enormous scale.” Director Cordray further stated that this enforcement action should help clarify how the CFPB will continue to analyze and enforce the prohibition on “abusive” practices under its mandate. Meanwhile Comptroller Curry explained how this enforcement action demonstrates the complimentary roles played by the OCC and the CFPB in supervising bank practices.
On August 17, CFPB Director Cordray responded to a request, from a 70 senator coalition spearheaded by Senators Donnelly (D-IN) and Sasse (R-NE), that the CFPB further tailor its regulations that may be “unduly burdensome” for community banks and credit unions. In Cordray’s response, he stated that the CFPB is committed to achieving well-tailored and effective regulations within the provisions of Dodd-Frank. Further, Cordray outlined already-in-place exemptions for small creditors, various actions taken to ensure the CFPB’s “commitment” to maintaining effective regulations, and highlighted the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act (SBREFA) panel as “just one part of the Bureau’s broader initiatives to address the unique issues facing small financial institutions.” Cordray did, however, note that one of the CFPB’s objectives is to “enforce Federal consumer financial law ‘consistently, without regard to the status of a person as a depository institution.’”
On May 11, the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Examining the Proposed FCC Privacy Rules.” Present at the hearing were witnesses FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, and FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen. The focal point of the hearing was the FCC’s proposed rule (which comes after its Open Internet Order released in February 2015, designed to preserve net neutrality) on broadband internet services, which is, according to proponents of the proposal, intended to ensure that consumers’ personal information is adequately protected when Internet Service Providers (ISP) collect information on consumers using their products. According to FCC Chairman Wheeler’s opening remarks, the FCC’s proposed rule governing the privacy and security of consumer data is built on “transparency, choice, and security.” Commission members Pai and O’Reilly oppose the proposal, with Commissioner Pai commenting at the hearing that the proposal imposes “stringent regulation” on ISPs, in spite of Commissioner Wheeler’s November 2015 statement before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology that the FCC “would ‘not be regulating the edge providers differently’ from ISPs.” In contrast to the FCC’s proposal, the FTC maintains a unified approach toward regulating ISPs and other online actors. Speaking to the FTC’s efforts to protect consumer information, Chairwoman Ramirez’s and Commissioner Ohlhausen’s joint testimony summarized the FTC’s enforcement, policy, and education work related to consumer privacy and highlighted recent FTC and FCC joint enforcement actions. According to Senator Leahy’s (D-VT) opening remarks, the FCC’s recent proposal raises the question as to whether FCC regulation of specialized broadband privacy issues is “unnecessary in light of the FTC’s general enforcement power.” Advocates of the FCC’s proposal, such as Senator Leahy, maintain that the FTC’s case-specific enforcement power cannot be a substitute for the FCC’s “expert rulemaking process”; while those in opposition, such as FCC Commissioner Pai, argue that the proposal “makes little, if any, sense.” Comments on the FCC’s proposal are due by May 27, 2016, with the reply comment period ending June 27, 2016.
On April 18, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting that it complete a study on the fintech industry. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the GAO is required to examine the regulatory structure of person-to-person (P2P) lending. While the letter recognizes that the GAO issued a report on P2P lending in 2011, the senators urged the GAO to recognize that the lending platforms of financial technology firms (often called fintech) “has changed dramatically and evolved beyond consumer lending,” and that “P2P lending, now generally called marketplace lending, is not the only form of fintech that has developed over the last several years.” The letter further cautions that, “gaps in understanding and regulation of emerging financial products may result in predatory lending, consumer abuse, or systemic issues.” Finally, Senators Brown, Merkley, and Shaheen urged the GAO to provide responses to questions relating to, among other things, (i) the size and structure of the loan portfolios maintained by privately owned fintech lenders; (ii) how fintech lenders’ relationships with financial institutions impact both the financial system at large and regulatory framework; (ii) whether the risks that may arise from the investor base shifting from individual investor to institutional investor have grown since this issue was first noted in the GAO’s 2011 report; and (iii) the anti-money laundering, data security, and privacy requirements fintech companies are subject to.
On March 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S.B. 2393, which extends through 2017 the provision of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act’s (SCRA) that protects servicemembers against foreclosure without a court order or waiver for one year following completion of their service. On January 1, 2016, the foreclosure protection provision reverted back to the period of active duty military service plus 90 days, rather than the period of active duty military service plus one year. Upon the President’s signature, the SCRA’s protection against foreclosure without a court order or waiver will return to the period of active duty military service plus one year through December 31, 2017.
On March 17, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sponsored the SCRA Enhancement and Improvement Act of 2016 (the Act). The Act focuses especially on student loan servicers, but encompasses all financial institutions covered by the SCRA. Although the text of the Act is not yet available, the recently issued press release on the Act describes its proposed changes to the SCRA. Among other changes, the Act would revise the SCRA by: (i) requiring automatic application of the SCRA’s interest rate cap; (ii) ensuring that student loan servicers have a dedicated SCRA representative; (iii) reducing the SCRA’s interest rate cap from 6% to 3%; (iv) protecting servicemembers when their loans are transferred or sold by requiring “sufficient notice”; (v) forgiving all federal and private student loan debt if a servicemember dies in the line of duty; (vi) expanding the interest rate cap to all debts, no matter when incurred; (vii) clarifying that servicemembers may bring a private right of action under the SCRA; (viii) doubling the fines for violations of the SCRA; and (ix) expanding certain protections on mortgages, leases, and cable and internet contracts.
On February 10, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, along with 23 other state attorneys general, wrote to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (Committee) urging it to pass legislation repealing a recent amendment to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that allows debt collection robocalls to consumers’ cellphones. According to the AGs’ letter, the TCPA currently “permits citizens to be bombarded by unwanted and previously illegal robocalls to their cell phones if the calls are made pursuant to the collection of debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The letter references the FCC’s efforts to slow the proliferation of robocalling and calls the recent amendment to the TCPA a “step backward in our law enforcement efforts” to protect consumers from “unwanted and unwelcome robocalls.”
- Valerie L. Hletko to discuss "Forecasting litigation and settlement trends in the mortgage servicing and fair lending context" at the American Conference Institute National Forum on Residential Mortgage Regulatory Enforcement & Litigation
- Michelle L. Rogers and Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Building a govt affairs program; Government investigations” at the TechGC National Summit
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Foundation Montgomery Summer Research Diversity Fellowship 30th Anniversary Celebration
- Douglas F. Gansler to discuss "Privacy, security and protection of your assets in contracts; Security exercises and tactical measures" at the TechGC National Summit
- H Joshua Kotin will discuss federal regulatory developments in mortgage lending and servicing at the Mortgage Bankers Association of Arkansas Fall Conference
- Kate Shrout to discuss "Conducting workplace investigations" at the TechGC National Summit
- Kathryn R. Goodman to discuss "HECM servicing policies and updates" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Fredrick S. Levin to discuss "Reverse mortgage litigation trends" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to speak at the "Digital marketing compliance roundtable" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The role of the media in white collar criminal investigations and the Mueller probe" at the American Bar Association White Collar Crime Town Hall
- John C. Redding to discuss "Regulatory compliance update" at PowerSports Finance
- Matthew P. Previn to discuss "Enforcement trends: Who is doing what and how?" at the Cambridge Forums Inc. Forum on Consumer Finance Litigation & Enforcement
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Protect yourself from a CFPB investigation" at the National Association of Settlement Purchasers Conference
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Association Professional Success Summit
- Andrea K. Mitchell to discuss "Developments in fair lending law" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Summit on Diversity and Inclusion
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "New CDD Rule: Pitfalls in compliance" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference