CFPB Announces Staff Changes

On July 20, the CFPB announced various senior leadership changes. Chris D’Angelo will now serve as Associate Director for Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending. D’Angelo joined the CFPB in June 2011 from the U.S. Treasury Department and has held a number of roles at the CFPB, the most recent of which was senior advisor to Director Cordray. Additional leadership changes include Richard Lepley serving as the CFPB’s Principal Deputy General Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel in the Legal Division, and Nellisha Ramdass serving as the Deputy Chief Operating Officer.

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CFPB Provides Five Year Overview of Consumer Complaints

On July 20, the CFPB published an overview of the consumer complaints it handled between July 2011 and July 2016. According to the overview, the CFPB has handled almost one million consumer complaints, the majority of which relate to either mortgages or debt collection. The CFPB has also handled a significant number of complaints related to the following: (i) bank accounts and services, most commonly about opening, closing, or managing bank accounts; (ii) credit cards, in particular billing disputes; and (iii) credit reporting, most often involving reporting errors in credit reports.

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CFPB to Host Field Hearing on Debt Collection

On July 28, the CFPB will host a field hearing on debt collection in Sacramento, California. CFPB Director Cordray will deliver remarks at the hearing, with consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public also providing testimony. It is highly anticipated that, at the hearing, the CFPB will release an outline of proposals for consideration by a Small Business Review Panel. Pursuant to the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), the CFPB must convene a Small Business Review Panel if a proposed rule may have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. A SBREFA outline may be a strong indicator of the approach the CFPB intends to take on a future proposed rule on debt collection.

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Department of Education Outlines New Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

On July 20, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell of the U.S. Department of Education sent a memo to the Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer containing policy directives intended to “strengthen student loan servicing.” Developed in consultation with the CFPB and the Department of the Treasury, the memo provides direction in the following five areas: (i) economic incentives, directing the FSA to use “incentives that encourage servicers to help borrowers stay on top of their loans and avoid default while avoiding fixed-fee structures that create a disincentive to help struggling borrowers”; (ii) accurate and actionable information about account features, borrower protections, and loan terms; (iii) consistency in communications; (iv) accountability, directing the FSA to “step up monitoring of servicing vendors and to integrate complaint resolution into the oversight of those vendors”; and (v) loan data transparency. Commenting on the policy directives outlined in the memo, CFPB Director Richard Cordray noted that the joint servicing standards are intended to increase consistency, transparency, actionability, and accountability in the student lending marketplace.

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Eleventh Circuit Reverses District Court Ruling in FCRA Case

On July 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded a decision from the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, concluding that the district court had erred in dismissing the plaintiff’s claims under Section 1681s-2(b) of the FCRA. Hinkle v. Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc. et al., No. 15-10398 (11th Cir. July 11, 2016). Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b), after receiving notice of a dispute, furnishers of information are required to either verify disputed information via investigation or to notify the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) that the disputed information cannot be verified. At issue in Hinkle was whether the debt buyer’s search of its internal records was a reasonable investigation to verify debt accounts when the plaintiff disputed their validity. The debt buyer argued that, “once it compared the information the CRAs possessed with its own internal records and confirmed a match, it was entitled to report the accounts as having been ‘verified.’” The plaintiff maintained that, without obtaining account-level information beyond its internal records, the debt buyer should have reported the results of its reinvestigation to the CRAs as “cannot be verified.” The court agreed with the plaintiff, determining that a reasonable jury could find that the debt buyer’s failure to attempt to consult account-level documentation to confirm that it was seeking to collect the debts from the right person, was an unreasonable investigation on the facts of this case.

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