GOP Senators Introduce Bill to Create Five-member Board of Directors at CFPB

Last week, Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced a bill (S. 105) that would amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to replace the CFPB’s current single director with a bipartisan, five-member board. The proposed leadership structure would be similar to that of other financial regulators, including the FDIC, SEC and CFTC.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Federal Issues

House GOP Report Claims CFPB Violated APA

On January 18, GOP members of the House Financial Services Committee released “The CFPB’s Vitiated Legal Case Against Auto-Lenders”, an investigative report prepared by GOP members who are of the belief that the CFPB likely has and continues to violate the Administrative Procedure Act. Relying mostly on internal CFPB documents obtained by the committee, the report focuses on the Bureau’s 2015 rule authorizing it to supervise larger participants in the auto lending market. In an accompanying press release, Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling noted that the CFPB likely violated federal law when CFPB Director Richard Cordray failed to “heed CFPB attorneys who advised him to publish a list of institutions the Bureau believed would be subject to the proposed [auto-lending] rule” and/or “re-open the public comment period after it had closed.”

The report was released amid uncertainty over the fate of Director Cordray as the new administration assumes office. As previously covered in InfoBytes, a group of Democratic senators sent a letter Jan. 10 to President-elect Trump urging him not to dismiss Cordray, and noting that an attempt by Trump to fire him would be hard-pressed to withstand a legal challenge. This latest investigative report was the third released by GOP members on the panel over the last 14 months concerning CFPB efforts to regulate auto lenders—which Rep. Hensarling describes as “dangerously out-of-control,” and “unconstitutional.”

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CFPB Releases Updated Student Loan Payback Playbook Prototype

According to a January 17 blog post by CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman, the CFPB has released an updated student loan Payback Playbook prototype, incorporating changes that the Bureau implemented after reviewing thousands of public comments submitted by student loan borrowers, consumer advocates, and other industry members. According to Mr. Frotman, the Bureau worked together with the Departments of Education and Treasury to develop “prototype disclosures” that “outline[] a path to affordable payments for struggling borrowers who are trying to avoid student debt distress.” The CFPB reports that it has shared the Payback Playbook prototype and the underlying consumer feedback data with the Department of Education. The joint efforts are part of a broader Department of Education initiative branded “A New Vision for Serving Student Loan Borrowers.

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John Doe Lawsuit Says CFPB Action Unlawful After PHH

On January 10, a California-chartered finance company with its principal place of business in Manila, Philippines filed an action to enjoin the CFPB from, among other things, disclosing the existence of an investigation of the plaintiff and taking any action against the plaintiff unless and until the CFPB is constitutionally structured. John Doe Co. v. CFPB, D.D.C., No. 17-cv-00049 (D.D.C. Jan. 10, 2017). The action was prompted, in part, by the recent PHH v. CFPB decision in which the court held that the CFPB’s single director leadership structure is unconstitutional and, thus, that the agency must operate as an executive agency supervised by the President. Here, the John Doe plaintiff argues that because the CFPB has requested review of the PHH decision, the court’s remedy in regarding the CFPB’s structure has not taken effect and thus agency is operating in violation of the Constitution. Therefore, plaintiff asserts, the CFPB can take no further action against it—including publication of the CFPB’s investigation of plaintiff or initiation of enforcement action against plaintiff.

We note, that on the same day the plaintiff filed its complaint, the court issued an order reflecting its decision that the plaintiff be able to proceed in its action against the CFPB under a pseudonym. In so doing, the court noted that where a company has filed an action to protect against the government’s disclosure of its identity, it would be “counterintuitive that a court should require that same company to disclose its identity in the parallel court proceedings.” Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has given the CFPB until Jan. 25 to respond to the company’s complaint and motion to proceed under a pseudonym.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Courts

CFPB Files Suit Against Nation’s Largest Student Loan Company

On January 18, the CFPB initiated an enforcement action against the nation’s largest student loan servicer based upon alleged violations of the CPA, FCRA, and FDCPA. In a complaint filed with the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the Bureau charged that the student lender “systemically and illegally” created “obstacles to repayment” and “cheated” many borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments, causing them to pay much more than they had to for their loans. The CFPB “seeks to obtain permanent injunctive relief, restitution, refunds, damages, civil money penalties, and other relief.”

Later that day, the lender issued a statement categorically rejecting the CFPB’s charges, explaining: “[T]he suit improperly seeks to impose penalties [] based on new servicing standards applied retroactively and applied only against one servicer. The regulator-asserted standards are inconsistent with Department of Education regulations, and will harm student loan borrowers, including through higher defaults.” The company also noted that “the timing of this lawsuit—midnight action filed on the eve of a new administration—reflects their political motivations.”

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