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  • Senate Judiciary Tech Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Data Breach; New Credit Reporting Agency CEO Speaks Out

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On September 27, interim CEO, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., spoke out for the first time since a major credit reporting agency (agency) appointed him to the role the previous day. In addition to issuing an apology, Barros stated that the agency is extending the deadline to sign up for their credit monitoring services and free credit freezes through the end of January 2018. He also made the commitment that by January 31, the agency will offer a new service for consumers to control access to their personal credit data. As previously reported in InfoBytes, the agency is still in the process of responding to the data breach that impacted approximately 143 million U.S. consumers.

    On October 4, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law will hold a hearing on the agency’s data breach to continue to monitor data-broker cybersecurity. The hearing is scheduled for 2:30 pm in the Dirksen Senate Office Building 226.

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Credit Reporting Agency Data Breach Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Consumer Finance

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  • HUD IG Blames Ginnie Mae for Inadequate Supervision; HUD IG Concludes HUD Did Not Follow Requirements When Forgiving Debts

    Federal Issues

    On September 21, the HUD Inspector General (IG) released an audit report of Ginnie Mae’s oversight of nonbanks in the mortgage servicing industry. The report found that Ginnie Mae did not adequately respond to the growth in its nonbank issuer base; a base, the report notes, that tends to have more complex financial and operating structures than banking institutions. The IG found, among other things, that Ginnie Mae may not be prepared to identify problems with nonbank issuers prior to default, requiring additional funds from the U.S. Treasury to pay back investors in the event of a large default.

    On the same day, the IG also announced a report which found that HUD did not always follow applicable requirements when forgiving debts and terminating debt collections. The report determined that HUD’s review process for evaluating debt forgiveness or collection termination was not thorough enough to ensure that statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements associated with this process were met—such as ensuring DOJ approval was obtained when required.

    Federal Issues HUD OIG DOJ Ginnie Mae Mortgage Servicing Mortgages Debt Cancellation Nonbank Supervision Department of Treasury

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  • CFPB Issues Consent Order for Steering to Real Estate Settlement Services Provider

    Consumer Finance

    On September 27, the CFPB issued a consent order against a real estate settlement services provider for allegedly steering consumers to a title insurer owned in part by three of its executives without disclosing its affiliated business interests, as required by RESPA. According to the consent order, the company received money “beyond the commission it would normally have been entitled to collect” due to an agreement or understanding that it would refer its business to the title insurer, but it did not make the disclosures of the affiliate relationships required by RESPA to over 7,000 consumers. The CFPB’s order requires the company to pay up to $1.25 million in redress to affected consumers and to implement policies and procedures to ensure proper disclosure of applicable referrals to consumers in the future.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Enforcement RESPA Mortgage Origination

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  • DOJ Obtains Auto Repossession Settlement for Servicemembers

    Consumer Finance

    On September 27, the DOJ announced a settlement with a California-based indirect auto financing company and its subsidiary responsible for extending auto title loans (defendants) resolving allegations that the defendants violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by illegally repossessing at least 70 SCRA-protected servicemembers’ vehicles. The DOJ filed its complaint against the defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California the same day the settlement agreement was reached. This is the second DOJ settlement reached this month over alleged SCRA violations concerning auto repossessions. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) According to the complaint, the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs alerted the DOJ in 2016 to the alleged unlawful vehicle repossessions. The DOJ’s investigation concluded that the defendants repossessed the vehicles between 2011 and 2016, without confirming whether the servicemembers were SCRA-protected or obtaining court orders. The defendants’ practice of violating the SCRA, the DOJ contends, was “intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of servicemembers.”

    Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the defendants must comply with the following: (i) obtain a court order or “valid SCRA waiver” in compliance with the outlined terms of the agreement before repossessing servicemember vehicles; (ii) develop a set of SCRA policies and procedures that outline repossession compliance measures and another set of policies and procedures to provide SCRA relief; (iii) appoint SCRA-specialized employees; and (iv) provide SCRA compliance training. The defendants must also compensate affected servicemembers $700,000, in addition to “lost equity,” accrued interest, credit repair relief, and an auto loan interest rate cap for eligible servicemembers. Further, the defendants must pay a civil penalty of $60,788 to the Treasury, and provide a list of repossessions between October 2016 and the effective date of the settlement to be reviewed by the DOJ for additional SCRA-violations.

    Consumer Finance DOJ Enforcement Settlement SCRA CFPB Servicemembers Compliance

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  • OFAC Imposes Additional North Korean Sanctions; Senate Banking Committee Hearing Discusses Multi-Department Efforts

    Financial Crimes

    On September 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on an additional eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals connected to North Korean financial networks across the globe. The individuals sanctioned are North Korean nationals who represent North Korean banks operating in China, Russia, Libya, and the UAE, and have been designated “in response to North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction and continued violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.” OFAC’s action complements the United Nations Security Council’s resolution UNSCR 2375, adopted September 11, 2017. As a result, property or interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdictions are blocked.

    These actions closely follow President Trump’s recent issuance of sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Committee) held an open session hearing on September 28 entitled “Evaluating Sanction Enforcement and Policy Options on North Korea: Administration Perspectives.” Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the hearing to stress that “[m]any Members of Congress, including on this committee, have a keen interest in knowing more about how and when enforcement of these new measures will occur, wondering if last week’s executive order and earlier UN sanctions will be sufficient to achieve U.S. policy goals.” Sen. Crapo also mentioned the Committee’s legislative efforts to “maximize pressure against North Korea.”

    The September 28 hearing—a video of which can be accessed here—included testimony from the following witnesses concerning North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and the need to curtail the country’s access to revenue, trade, and financial systems.

    • The Honorable Sigal Madelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of the Treasury (testimony)
    • Ms. Susan A. Thornton, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State (testimony)

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Department of Treasury Senate Banking Committee Department of State

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  • Eleventh Circuit Holds a Debt Collector’s Voicemail Qualifies as a “Communication” Under FDCPA

    Courts

    On September 22, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, while affirming in part, a lower court’s decision concerning whether a voicemail left by a debt collector constitutes a “communication” and how “meaningful disclosure” should be interpreted under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The panel answered the first issue by noting that the FDCPA’s definition of “communication” includes “the conveying of information regarding a debt [either] directly or indirectly to any person through any medium.” Therefore, the panel opined, under the statutory language, the only requirement for the voicemail to qualify as a communication was that it convey to the consumer that the call concerned a debt—which it did. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the claim under section 1692e of the FDCPA and remanded for further proceedings consistent with their findings.

    However, the panel agreed with the lower court’s interpretation of “meaningful disclosure” under section 1692d of the FDCPA—which protects consumers from “harassment and abuse” by prohibiting debt collectors from “placing telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.” Specifically, the panel held that a debt collector need only provide the name of the company and the nature of its debt collection business on the call. The statute does not require disclosure of the individual employee’s name as this additional information would not be useful to a consumer. Consequently, the appellate court upheld the district court’s decision to dismiss the claim under section 1692d.

    Courts FDCPA Appellate Eleventh Circuit Debt Collection Litigation

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  • CFTC Director of Enforcement Offers Incentives to Regulated Companies for Self-Reporting and Cooperation

    Securities

    On September 25, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Director of the Division of Enforcement James McDonald spoke before the New York University Institute for Corporate Governance & Finance to address the Division’s priorities and outline its self-reporting and cooperation program. Director McDonald described the Division’s enforcement actions as part of a “broader mission to facilitate healthy, robust, and resilient markets,” with the goal of deterring misconduct. “Optimal deterrence,” he stressed, requires receiving buy-in from regulated companies and financial institutions, which is the premise of the Division’s cooperation and self-reporting program. The Division’s program requires companies to comply with three specific criteria: (i) voluntarily report wrongdoing to the Division in a timely and fully disclosed manner prior to the announcement of a government investigation; (ii) proactively cooperate with the Division throughout the investigation; and (iii) engage in timely and appropriate remedial measures to prevent future misconduct, and implement fixes to internal compliance and control programs. Should a company follow these steps, Director McDonald stated, the Division “will recommend a substantial reduction in the penalty,” and in “extraordinary circumstances . . . may recommend declining to prosecute a case.”

    Securities Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFTC Enforcement Financial Institutions Compliance

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  • OIG Report: Potential for Improvement Within CFPB Examiner Commissioning and On-the-Job Training Programs

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 20, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the CFPB issued findings in a report entitled The CFPB Can Enhance the Effectiveness of Its Examiner Commissioning Program and On-the-Job Training Program (the Report) stemming from an evaluation to assess the Bureau’s effectiveness when designing, implementing, and executing these two programs.

    Examiner Commissioning Program (ECP). The Report found that, despite efforts to enhance the program since it began in 2014, the CFPB's Supervision Learning and Development Division (SL&D)—which is responsible for examiner training—presented several areas in need of improvement, including: (i) where examiners appeared to pursue commissioning before being fully prepared or required multiple attempts to pass commissioning components, which in turn affected the number of examiners available for examinations; (ii) where examiners commenced components of the ECP, despite inadequate training, developmental opportunities, or exposure to certain internal processes; (iii) findings that SL&D lacked a formal method for evaluating and updating the ECP, thus reducing opportunities to identify potential areas for improvement; (iv) inconsistent delivery of ECP requirements to prospective employees; and (v) a lack of clarity on when the start of the five-year time requirement begins for examiners trying to obtain their commissioning, which can create the risk of examiners moving through the ECP before being ready.

    On-the-Job Training Program (OJT). The OIG also identified areas for improvement in the CFPB’s implementation of the OJT program. Specifically, the OIG found that due to inconsistent implementation of the OJT program, examiners are unable to clearly understand the program’s requirements and expectations.

    Recommendations. The OIG presented the following recommendations: (i) issue guidance documenting an examiner’s readiness, including recommendations from regional management; (ii) update ECP guidance to better prepare examiners in understanding the program’s requirements, including the starting point of the five-year requirement; (iii) implement a formal method to evaluate the ECP program; (iv) develop guidelines for applicants of the ECP program; and (v) reassess the OJT program timeline for module development, communicate guidelines effectively at all regional offices, and develop guidelines for OJT program expectations.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OIG CFPB Examination

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  • AG Coalition Urges Department of Education to Reconsider Termination of MOUs With CFPB

    Lending

    On September 26, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, along with 18 other state attorneys general (state AGs) and the Executive Director of the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, issued a letter to U.S. Department of Education (Department) Secretary Betsy DeVos in reaction to the Department’s August 31 letter to the CFPB, which terminated two Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) that previously permitted the sharing of information in connection with the oversight of federal student loans. (See previous InfoBytes coverage regarding the MOUs here.) The letter to Secretary DeVos urges the Department to reconsider the termination of the MOUs and offers support for the work the CFPB has done—often in partnership with the Department and state AGs—to protect the millions of students and families that are repaying student loans. The State AGs contend the Department “falsely asserted it has exclusive jurisdiction over companies that service federal student loans when, in fact, student loan servicers are under the jurisdiction of the CFPB, [FTC], [DOJ], [state AGs] and other law enforcement agencies.” The state AGs further claim that the termination of the MOUs removes “critical protections” that were in place to “streamline the supervision of student loan servicers” and assist borrowers trying to resolve complaints related to their student loans. The letter cites several actions initiated by state AGs against the Department for allegedly abandoning its responsibility to protect student loan borrowers over the past seven months, including the Department’s decision to delay the Borrower Defense Rule and roll back the Borrower Defense and Gainful Employment Rules.

    Lending Student Lending State AG Department of Education CFPB

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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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