100 Days Until the MLA: Compliance Challenges and Open Questions Before the New MLA’s Rule Implementation

Sasha-LeonhardtWith only 100 days until the new Military Lending Act (MLA) rule takes effect on October 3, 2016, many financial institutions have begun enacting procedures to ensure they are compliant with the new regulation by the effective date. With the implementation of this new rule, financial institutions continue to work towards full compliance with the requirements imposed by the Department of Defense (DoD), but there are growing pains. As this deadline draws near, there are several important compliance concerns that financial institutions must keep in mind and a number of issues where the industry is concerned about unclear language.

What types of credit are covered by the new MLA rule?

The 2007 MLA rule was limited to three specific types of products: payday loans, vehicle title loans, and refund anticipation loans. However, under the new rule, the MLA will cover a far broader range of products. The DoD sought to match the definition of credit under the Truth in Lending Act’s (TILA) implementing regulation—Regulation Z—so the new MLA rule will cover any credit that is (i) primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and (ii) either subject to a finance charge under Regulation Z or payable by written agreement in more than four installments.

However, the new MLA rule excludes four specific types of transactions: Read more…

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CFPB Amends Annual Dollar Thresholds in TILA Regulations

On June 17, the CFPB announced that it adjusted dollar threshold amounts for provisions in Regulation Z, which implements TILA, under the CARD Act, HOEPA, and the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB is required to make adjustments based on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index effective June 1, 2016. For 2017, the minimum interest charge will remain $27 for the first late payment and the subsequent violation penalty safe harbor fee for 2016 was amended to $38 for the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017. The CFPB is increasing the combined points and fees trigger-threshold for compliance with HOEPA to $1,029, and the amount threshold for high-cost mortgages in 2017 will be $20,579. To satisfy the underwriting requirements under the ATR/QM rule, a covered transaction will not be considered a QM unless the combined points and fees do not exceed 3% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $102,894; $3,087 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $61,737 but less than $102,894; 5% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $20,579 but less than $61,737; $1,029 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $12,862 but less than $20,579; and 8% of the total loan amount for a loan amount less than $12,862. The final rule is effective January 1, 2017, except that the amendment to the subsequent violation penalty safe harbor fee amount of $38 for the remainder of 2016 takes effect upon Federal Register publication.

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FTC Bans Debt Collector from Debt Collection Business

On June 16, the FTC announced that it obtained a court order against a debt collector and one of its officers for allegedly deceiving consumers with text messages, emails, and phone calls that falsely threatened arrest or lawsuits if they failed to make debt collection payments. In May 2015, the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia issued an ex parte Temporary Restraining Order that “froze a number of Defendants’ assets, provided the FTC with immediate access to Defendants’ business premises, and granted expedited discovery to determine the existence and location of assets and documents pertinent to the allegations of the Complaint.” The recently issued final order prohibits the defendants from, among other things: (i) engaging in debt collection activities; (ii) misrepresenting material facts regarding financial-related products or services; and (iii) disclosing, using, or benefiting from consumers’ personal information, and failing to properly destroy such information when appropriate. Finally, the final order imposes a $980,000 judgment to be used as equitable monetary relief, including, but not limited to, consumer redress.

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North Carolina AG Announces $9 Million Settlement with Online Lenders

On June 21, North Carolina AG Roy Cooper, together with Commissioner of Banks Ray Grace, announced a $9,375,000 settlement with two online lenders to resolve allegations that they violated state usury laws. According to the complaint, the lenders offered North Carolina consumers personal loans of $850 to $10,000 and charged annual interest rates of approximately 89 to 342 percent, significantly exceeding the rates allowed under state law. In 2015, Special Superior Court Judge Gregory P. McGuire issued a preliminary injunction to ban the companies from making or collecting loans in North Carolina. In addition to permanently barring the companies from collecting on loans made to North Carolina borrowers, the consent judgment requires the companies to (i) cancel all loans owed by North Carolina consumers; (ii) have the credit bureaus remove negative information on consumers’ credit reports related to the loans; (iii) pay $9,025,000 in refunds to North Carolina consumers, with the remaining $350,000 of the settlement allocated to covering the costs of the investigation, lawsuit, and administering the settlement; and (iv) cease unlicensed lending in North Carolina. The settlement represents North Carolina’s first successful action to ban an online payday-type lender that used affiliation with an Indian tribe in an effort to evade state usury laws.

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New York AG Settles with Auto Dealership over Alleged Deceptive Practices

On June 21, New York AG Eric Schneiderman settled with a New York-based auto dealership to resolve allegations of deceptive sales and advertising practices. Specifically, AG Schneiderman alleged that the company charged consumers up to $5,000 for warranties and service contracts without their authorization and convinced consumers to purchase and finance vehicles on terms they could not afford, falsely promising to refinance the loans on more favorable terms in the subsequent months. In addition, the AG’s office received a number of consumer complaints alleging that the company (i) engaged in various bait and switch tactics, including crediting consumers for less than previously agreed on vehicle trade-ins; (ii) charged consumers a greater price for a vehicle than promised; (iii) charged consumers a higher interest rate on the auto loan than promised; (iv) falsely promised lower yearly mileage limits for lease contracts; and (v) forged consumer signatures on contracts. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the company must pay restitution ranging from $198 for alleged illegal fee charges to more than $4,000 for unauthorized warranties and services contracts, for a total of more than $101,000 to 119 consumers. The settlement further requires that the company “pay restitution to other consumers who come forward within the next three months and who were subjected to the deceptive and illegal practices uncovered by the investigation, with a cap of $50,000.”

AG’s Schneiderman’s settlement comes after the New York State Police completed a raid and seizure of the company’s business records in May 2012. The company’s finance manager was subsequently arrested for second-degree Scheme to Defraud and third-degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument.

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