On September 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit revived an individual’s private action under FCRA against a bank, alleging that the bank failed to adequately investigate and respond to notices it received from several consumer reporting agencies regarding disputed car loan. Boggio v. USAA Fed. Savings Bank, No 11-4040, slip op. (6th Cir. Sep. 27, 2012). After experiencing credit problems caused by his ex-wife’s failure to make payments on a car she purchased during their marriage by signing both of their names to a check, the plaintiff wrote to several consumer reporting agencies to dispute his responsibility for the loan in light of the forgery, as well as the parties’ separation and divorce agreements that stated the ex-wife would be responsible for the car payments. The plaintiff alleges that the reporting agencies notified the bank of the dispute, which the bank refused to investigate without a police report or fraud affidavit from the plaintiff, as required by the bank’s fraud policy. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the bank, holding that the bank reasonably investigated the notices it received from credit reporting agencies, and that the plaintiff had ratified the debt. On appeal, the circuit court reversed and remanded the district court’s decision, holding that there is a genuine dispute of material fact with regard to the sufficiency of the bank’s investigation. The court added that the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the bank’s fraud policy does not alter its finding of a genuine dispute of material fact, holding that FCRA does not permit the bank to require independent confirmation of the reporting agencies’ notices before conducting an investigation. The court also held that the dispute over ratification requires resolution by a trier of fact given the ambiguity of the separation agreement, among other issues.
On September 24, the CFPB announced that it resolved an investigation initiated by the FDIC and subsequently joined by the CFPB into telephone sales of certain ancillary or “add on” products marketed and sold by a major credit card issuer. The products related to (i) payment protection, (ii) credit monitoring, (iii) identity theft protection, and (iv) protection in the event of wallet loss. Pursuant to the Joint Consent Order released by the CFPB, the bank will pay a $14 million penalty and provide approximately $200 million in restitution to eligible consumers who purchased one or more ancillary products over a period of approximately four years. The order also calls for certain changes to the bank’s marketing and sales practices in connection with the products. During a press call to announce the consent order, CFPB Director Richard Cordray explained that the CFPB “expect[s] that more such actions will follow.” The CFPB is publishing the orders from its various actions on its administrative adjudication docket. Mr. Cordray also stated that “[i]n the meantime, [the CFPB is] signaling as clearly as [it] can that other financial institutions should review their marketing practices to ensure that they are not deceiving or misleading consumers into purchasing financial products or services.” In July, the CFPB issued Bulletin 2012-06, which outlines the CFPB’s expectations for the institutions it supervises, and their vendors, with regard to offering ancillary products in compliance with federal consumer financial laws. BuckleySandler represented the bank in this joint CFPB-FDIC investigation and enforcement action.
On September 26, the FHFA Inspector General (IG) reported that neither Freddie Mac nor the FHFA purposefully limited refinancing opportunities to influence the yields of Freddie Mac inverse floating-rate bonds (inverse floaters). Inverse floaters are a by-product of other variable rate bonds carved out of Freddie Mac’s securitized mortgages to capitalize on increasing investor demand. Because the value of inverse floaters decreases when the underlying mortgages are refinanced, U.S. lawmakers and others argued that inverse floaters created a conflict of interest for Freddie Mac’s investment and refinancing policies because Freddie Mac could intentionally limit refinances to protect the value of its retained inverse floaters. The FHFA IG reviewed the practice and Freddie Mac’s portfolio and determined that (i) inverse floaters represent a small portion of Freddie Mac’s capital markets portfolio, (ii) inverse floaters pose no greater conflict than do any other mortgages held by Freddie Mac, and (iii) Freddie Mac employs an “information wall” to prevent the use of nonpublic information—including information about refinancing activity—from being used in investment decisions.
On September 25, the CFPB released a draft strategic plan for 2013-2018. The draft plan outlines the CFPB’s four strategic goals and desired outcomes, as well as its broad strategies for achieving those objectives. The CFPB states that it will strive to (i) “prevent financial harm to consumers while promoting good practices that benefit them,” (ii) “empower consumers to live better financial lives,” (iii) inform the public and policymaking with “data-driven analysis,” and (iv) advance the CFPB’s performance “by maximizing resource productivity and enhancing impact.” For each goal, the plan identifies metrics the CFPB will use to measure its performance. For example, to assess its progress in preventing financial harm to consumers and promoting good practices, the CFPB will consider, among other indicators, the number of fair lending supervision activities opened during the fiscal year and the percentage of fair lending cases filed that were “successfully resolved” through litigation, settlement, or default judgment. The CFPB has asked for comments by October 25, 2012.
On September 25, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the three outstanding bills proposed as part of the state’s Homeowner Bill of Rights. First, under Assembly Bill 2610, purchasers of foreclosed properties must provide ninety days’ written notice to quit before removing the tenant or subtenant from the property. Except in limited circumstances, tenants or subtenants holding possession of a rental housing unit under a fixed-term residential lease entered into before the purchase at foreclosure is permitted would have the right to possession until the end of the lease term. Second, Senate Bill 1474 allows the state attorney general to use a statewide grand jury to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple counties. Finally, Assembly Bill 1950 extends the statute of limitations for prosecuting mortgage related crimes from one year to three years.