On September 21, the CFPB announced that it had filed five separate administrative actions against online auto title lenders formed in and operating out of Arizona. In the Notice of Charges to each company, the CFPB alleges that the lender violated the Truth in Lending Act by advertising periodic interest rates on their websites without including a corresponding annual percentage rate (APR). In one case, the lender had provided a monthly rate, and instructed consumers to multiply it by 12, but failed to inform consumers that the sum would be the APR. The CFPB is seeking monetary penalties and administrative orders to correct the alleged practices.
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 September 14, the OCC released its bank supervision operating plan for fiscal year 2017. The plan identifies the OCC’s priority objectives, which include: (i) commercial and retail loan underwriting; (ii) business model sustainability and viability; (iii) operational resiliency; (iv) BSA/AML compliance; and (v) processes to address regulatory changes. Moreover, the plan affirms that the OCC will look at each individual bank’s key risks, and will continue the process of stress testing, both for large banks and for midsize and community banks.
On September 19, the SEC announced that it had reached an agreement with a big four accounting firm regarding employee relationships with its auditing clients that violated rules designed to ensure objectivity and impartiality. The accounting firm agreed to pay approximately $4.8 million and $3.3 million in disgorgement, along with civil penalties of $1.2 million and $1 million respectively. In addition, the individual partners involved paid civil penalties of $45,000 and $25,000. Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, indicated that these actions are the SEC’s first to address “auditor independence failures due to close personal relationships between auditors and client personnel.”
On September 21, the DOJ and FTC entered into an agreement with the former vice president of a Texas-based debt collection company, to resolve allegations that that he violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and Section 807 of the FDCPA. The stipulated order enters a civil penalty of $496,000, but suspends the majority of the judgment based on certain conditions, including cooperation in the ongoing lawsuit against his former company.