Vendor Management in 2015 and Beyond

Jon-Langlois caption ASValerie-Hletko caption 2With evolving regulatory expectations and increased enforcement exposure, financial institutions are under more scrutiny than ever. Nowhere is this more evident than in the management and oversight of service providers. When service providers are part of an institution’s business practice, understanding the expectations of regulators, investors, and counterparties for compliance with consumer financial laws is critical.

Jeff-Naimon caption AS Chris-Witeck caption ASCFPB Guidance

In 2012, the CFPB issued Bulletin 2012-03, which outlines the CFPB’s expectations regarding supervised institutions’ use of third party service providers. Banks and nonbanks alike are expected to maintain effective processes for managing the risks presented by service providers, including taking the following steps:

  • Conducting thorough due diligence of the service provider to ensure that the service provider understands and is capable of complying with federal consumer financial law
  • Reviewing the service provider’s policies, procedures, internal controls, and training materials
  • Including clear expectations in written contracts
  • Establishing internal controls and on-going monitoring procedures
  • Taking immediate action to address compliance issues

Implementing consistent risk-based procedures for monitoring third party service provider relationships is an extremely important aspect of meeting the CFPB’s expectations and mitigating risk to the institution. Read more…

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Credit Cards 2016: Consumer Protection in Focus

Manley-Williams captionValerie-Hletko caption 2The past year has seen heightened CFPB interest in the following areas: (i) deferred interest and rewards, (ii) limited English proficiency consumers, and (iii) the recent revisions to the Military Lending Act (MLA). Pursuing simplicity in the design of product features and closely following limited English proficiency issues will help credit issuers mitigate their regulatory risk. Also on the horizon in 2016 is the effective date of the MLA revisions, which were announced in July 2015.

Deferred Interest and Rewards

The Bureau has been focused on the marketing and design of deferred interest products and issued a strong admonition in September 2014 relating to the potential for consumer surprise.  However, there has been relatively little enforcement activity in this regard.  Instead, enforcement generally has focused on technical violations of law.  For example, an August 2015 consent order arose out of point-of-sale disclosures as opposed to the product features themselves. Some deferred interest issues, such as “old fashioned mistakes,” (e.g., “if paid in full” is dropped from the marketing copy) may represent low-hanging fruit for the CFPB and should be addressed to mitigate enforcement risk.  The Bureau has also expressed concern about technical issues that may complicate deferred interest for consumers, such as expiration of the promotional period prior to the payment due date.

The Bureau has suggested that consumers base their choice of credit card more on the nature and richness of the rewards than on the interest rate.  Accordingly, the Bureau has expressed concern about various aspects of rewards programs, including the expiration of points and complexity surrounding how they are earned and redeemed.  While simplicity may reduce regulatory risk, it undoubtedly makes rewards programs more expensive for issuers, and makes it more difficult for consumers to distinguish among them. Read more…

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Debt Collection and Beyond in 2015

Aaron-Mahler Walt-Zalenski John Redding captionIn 2015, the CFPB further expanded its reach into debt collection through a number of enforcement actions. The CFPB also continues to conduct research on a potential rulemaking regarding debt collection activities, which may address information accuracy concerns involving debt sales and other collection activity, as well as many other issues regarding how creditors collect their own debts and oversee collectors working on their behalf. In addition to CFPB activity, this year’s Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC decision has important implications beyond the debt collection industry. Finally, developments regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and collections will likely be of interest to regulatory agencies in the new year.

Debt Sale Consent Orders and Regulatory Guidance

Among the CFPB enforcement actions relevant to debt collection in 2015 were two consent orders with large debt buyers. These orders resolved allegations that the debt buyers, among other things, engaged in robo-signing, sued (or threatened to sue) on stale debt, made inaccurate statements to consumers, and engaged in other allegedly illegal collection practices. In particular, the CFPB criticized the practice of purchasing debts without obtaining supporting documentation or information, or taking sufficient steps to verify the accuracy of the amounts claimed due before commencing collection activities. Under the consent orders, one company agreed to provide up to $42 million in consumer refunds, pay a $10 million civil money penalty, and cease collecting on a portfolio of consumer debt with a face value of over $125 million. The second company agreed to provide $19 million in restitution, pay an $8 million civil money penalty, and cease collecting on a consumer debt portfolio with a face value of more than $3 million. In addition, both companies agreed to refrain from reselling consumer debt more generally. Read more…

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Year in Review: Auto Finance and the CFPB in 2015

Amanda Raines Lawrence caption John Redding captionThe auto finance industry gained a new regulator in 2015 with the publication of the CFPB’s larger participant rule, which, for the first time, allows the Bureau to supervise larger non-bank auto finance companies. In this new compliance environment, larger participants would be prudent to examine past bulletins and consent orders executed by the CFPB to proactively prepare for examinations and enforcements in the coming year.

Regulation by Bulletins and Consent Orders

CPFB Bulletin 2013-02, which set forth the CFPB’s initial views regarding the risk under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act associated with “allowing” dealers the discretion to “mark up” the rates of customers’ retail installment sale contracts, provided a basis for two 2015 consent orders. Broadly speaking, the Bulletin noted two possible ways auto finance creditors could mitigate their risk – eliminating dealer discretion or monitoring for disparities in dealer discretion and then providing customer remediation for such disparities. Read more…

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The CFPB’s Mortgage Originations Agenda in 2016

John Kromer captionMichelle Rogers captionBen-Olson-captionNow more than ever, financial services firms need to proactively focus on issues of concern identified by the CFPB and ensure that they are engaged in industry best practices that are clearly identified and carefully monitored. In the mortgage originations sphere, the new TRID/ KBYO rule, MSAs, LO compensation, UDAAP, and fair lending are all issues for companies to focus on in the coming year.

TRID/KBYO

Compliance with the new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure/Know Before You Owe (TRID/KBYO) rule will likely be an area of Bureau concern in 2016. The rule took effect on October 3, 2015 and does not include a “hold harmless” period for errors as lenders implement the new disclosure requirements, although letters from the OCC, FDIC, and CFPB have clarified that regulators will focus in the beginning on institutions’ implementation plans, training, and handling of early technical problems. It is likely that the CFPB will require remediation back to the rule’s compliance date when it identifies tangible consumer harm, but it is unlikely that the Bureau will bring enforcement actions initially based on technical issues where there is no tangible consumer harm.

GSEs have also issued letters stating they will not perform TRID/KBYO compliance file reviews at the beginning of the implementation period. The GSEs further stated that it will not exercise its repurchase and other remedies unless (1) a required form is not used or (2) a practice would impair its enforcement of its rights against borrowers.  In contrast, the FHA has stated that it expects lenders to comply with “all federal, state, and local laws, rules, and requirements applicable to the mortgage transaction as outlined in [the] FHA Handbook….” Read more…

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Spotlight on the Military Lending Act, Part 3: Falling in Line with MLA Compliance

Sasha-LeonhardtWith recent changes in the regulations implementing the Military Lending Act (“MLA”), creditors are now reevaluating their compliance plans to ensure they are prepared for the new regulations.  Although there is no formal guidance on what federal regulators will look for in reviewing MLA compliance, the commentary that accompanied both the proposed and final rule gives some insight as to where regulators will focus examination and enforcement resources.  Below, we discuss some of these likely areas of focus, and offer suggestions for how institutions can prepare for regulatory scrutiny.

Determining military service and MLA safe harbor provisions

The MLA only applies to a “covered borrower,” which is either a servicemember (as defined under the MLA) or a servicemember’s dependent.  The MLA provides two safe harbors to determine if a consumer is a covered borrower:  (1) a set of results from the DoD’s MLA database, or (2) a military status indicator in a consumer report.

Although both of these approaches are optional—and a creditor may use a different method to determine if an individual is eligible for MLA protection—they provide several benefits.  They are both determinative, so even if the borrower is in fact a servicemember a safe harbor check that shows otherwise will govern.  Both checks can also be done without
inconveniencing the consumer or requiring them to attest to their military status.

However, these safe harbor approaches are only effective if the results are actually retained by the creditor.  Since military status checks must be performed at origination, we recommend that the results of these checks be retained with the origination documents.  Not only does the outcome of the military status check determine the substantive terms of the actual credit obligation, but by keeping all of these documents together, a creditor can ensure that they have all of the governing origination documents are in a single, secure location. Read more…

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Spotlight on the Military Lending Act, Part 2: Planning for Compliance

Andrew-Grant-captionManley-Williams-caption Ben-Olson-captionCompliance with the revised Department of Defense (“DoD”) regulations under the Military Lending Act (“MLA”) is not mandatory until October 3, 2016 or, for most credit cards, until October 3, 2017.  However, as the recent implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act mortgage regulations shows, a year or even two can pass quickly.  Therefore, institutions should begin planning now.  The following are answers to three key questions that can help you start the planning process.

  1. Which products will be covered by the revised MLA regulations?

The revised MLA regulations apply far beyond the narrow range of small dollar loan products covered today.  Instead, reflecting the DoD’s desire to match to the definition of consumer credit under the Truth in Lending Act’s Regulation Z, the MLA regulations will apply to credit offered or extended to a covered borrower that is:

  • Primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; and
  • Either subject to a finance charge or payable by a written agreement in more than four installments.

However, the following types of credit are excluded:

  • Residential mortgages: Transactions secured by an interest in a dwelling, including a transaction to finance the purchase or initial construction of the dwelling.
  • Secured motor vehicle purchase loans: Transactions that are expressly intended to finance the purchase of a motor vehicle and are secured by that vehicle.
  • Secured personal property purchase loans: Transactions that are expressly intended to finance the purchase of personal property and are secured by that property.
  • TILA-exempt transactions: Transactions that are exempt from Regulation Z (other than pursuant to a State exemption under 12 CFR § 1026.29) or otherwise not subject to disclosure requirements under Regulation Z.

Accordingly, the revised MLA regulations should not affect most mortgage, auto, or commercial lending.  The new regulations will, however, apply to most credit card accounts, overdraft or personal lines of credit, unsecured closed-end loans, and deposit advance products.  Therefore, institutions should focus on preparing the lines of business responsible for these products for compliance with the revised MLA regulations. Read more…

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Spotlight on the Military Lending Act: Did the Final Rule Improve on the Proposal?

Valerie-Hletko-captionBen-Olson-captionOn July 22, 2015, the Department of Defense (“Department”) released its final rule amending the regulations that implement the Military Lending Act (“MLA”), which means that a wider range of credit products—including open-end credit—offered or extended to active duty service members and their dependents (“covered borrowers”) will now be subject to the MLA and its “all-in” 36% military annual percentage rate (“MAPR”) cap.
Andrew-Grant-captionManley-Williams-captionSpecifically, the Department expanded the definition of “consumer credit” to be consistent with credit that is subject to the Truth-in-Lending Act (“TILA”)—credit offered or extended to a covered borrower primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and that is (i) subject to a finance charge or (ii) payable by a written agreement in more than four installments.

In response to the initial proposed rule, financial services industry stakeholders undertook a substantial effort to show how proposed modifications to the MLA regulations were overly broad and, in parts, inconsistent with the Department’s mandate under the MLA.  At a high level, industry comment letters fell into five categories: Read more…

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Spotlight on Vendor Management: Mortgage Industry Continues To Bear Brunt of CFPB Regulatory Burdens

Moorari-Shah-webElizabeth-McGinn-webMortgage industry players have had to adapt quickly in recent years to the evolving regulatory environment, and the latest scramble for mortgage lenders includes the various downstream effects of pending rule changes set to take effect on August 1, 2015, related to disclosures required under the implementing regulations of the Truth-in-Lending Act (“TILA”) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”). A critical factor to successful implementation of this historic set of rule changes, known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (“TRID”) rule, is coordinating with various vendors to address new timing and information requirements for Loan Estimates and Closing Disclosures, which are creating project management nightmares for mortgage professionals growing weary of the regulatory onslaught of revised regulations and enforcement actions.

“Despite the relative speed with which many companies have adapted to various rule changes since the CFPB came online, there seems to be a new rule change waiting in the wings at almost every turn,” observed Elizabeth McGinn, Partner in the D.C. office of BuckleySandler. “To make matters worse, managing service providers through the changes has undoubtedly tested the strength of deep industry relationships that have been in place for decades.”

Read more…

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Spotlight on Vendor Management: “Brother’s Keeper” Enforcement Pattern Becoming the Norm

Moorari-Shah-webElizabeth-McGinn-webTwo regulatory enforcement matters announced in April offer a view into the current mindset of regulators in the ever-evolving world of vendor management.  First, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a $25 million settlement with a telecommunications carrier related to the unauthorized release of personal information of more than a quarter-million customers.  The identified cause of the data breach were employees of the carrier’s service providers based in Mexico, Columbia, and the Philippines, who confessed to selling customer information to unauthorized third parties.  In holding the carrier responsible, the FCC issued its largest data security enforcement action to date.  Although severe in its punishment, the FCC action did not break new ground, as regulators have shown an increasing willingness in recent years to assess monetary penalties against supervised institutions for legal violations committed by vendors.

“This approach is entirely consistent with the FCC’s past enforcement actions related to data security breaches, as well as those of other regulatory bodies where consumer harm has resulted,” advises Elizabeth McGinn, Partner in the D.C. office of BuckleySandler.  “In the current environment, virtually every regulator has made accountability a fundamental axiom of its vendor management guidance.”    Read more…

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Spotlight on Electronic Discovery: Challenges Presented by the Internet of Things

Tihomir-Yankov-webElizabeth-McGinn-web E-discovery is poised to enter a new revolution as the Internet of Things (“IoT”) continues its seemingly exponential growth. IoT is the ecosystem of interconnected sensory devices that perform coordinated, pre-programmed – and even learned – tasks without the need for continuous human input. Consider your fitness tracker that logs your sleep and physical activity, or sensors in your vehicle that track your driving habits on behalf of your auto insurance provider– all of these objects log and upload data about your body and habits into the cloud for analysis and use in automated tasks. All this data, projected to impact nearly every facet of industrialized society, has presented numerous preservation, collections, and analytical challenges for litigators navigating e-discovery in the world of the IoT. But despite these challenges, litigators can use technological and legal tools to effectively manage IoT discovery.

  1. It is true that IoT was not designed with e-discovery in mind, but neither was email or social media.

IoT data is generated by machines and usually transferred to the cloud rather than being stored on devices. This data storage process, which is largely automated, presents numerous preservation conundrums for litigators.

“Although innovation in e-discovery necessarily lags behind the innovation of the underlying technology, technology has always solved the problem that it had created. There’s no reason to believe the IoT experience will be materially different. But until that day arrives, courts should avail litigants of protections against disproportionate e-discovery efforts,” said Elizabeth McGinn, Partner in the DC office of BuckleySandler LLP. Read more…

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Spotlight on Vendor Management: Interpreting CFPB Guidance and Enforcement Actions

Moorari-Shah-webElizabeth-McGinn-webIn April 2012, the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau issued Bulletin 2012-03, a guidance document setting forth the CFPB’s high-level expectations related to the engagement of third party service providers by supervised financial institutions. Since then, the Bureau has often referenced the Service Provider Bulletin in subsequent guidance and enforcement actions, but has not provided much in the way of detailed requirements for managing service providers. Despite the absence of strong guideposts, the CFPB has nonetheless sent unmistakable signals to highlight conduct which fails to meet the Bureau’s expectations on a variety of vendor relationship issues.

“The CFPB has voiced its dissatisfaction on a number of occasions with supervised entities that fail to perform adequate vendor oversight,” according to Elizabeth McGinn, Partner in the D.C. office of BuckleySandler. “In particular, nonbanks and service providers that are still coming up-to-speed on federal agency supervision and enforcement have to be alert and aware of important trends in recent enforcement actions that challenge outdated notions of vendor management.” Read more…

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Spotlight: Q&A with BuckleySandler’s Douglas F. Gansler, Former Attorney General of Maryland

Doug-Gansler-webOn January 20, 2015, Douglas F. Gansler, former Attorney General of Maryland, joined BuckleySandler LLP as a Partner in the firm’s Washington, DC, office upon completion of his second term as Maryland Attorney General. An accomplished trial lawyer and appellate advocate with a unanimous victory before the U.S. Supreme Court, Doug’s in-depth knowledge and understanding of complex civil, criminal and enforcement matters will be, as firm Chairman Andrew L. Sandler recently noted, “an invaluable asset for firm clients in navigating the government enforcement challenges they confront on a daily basis.”

As he makes the transition to private practice, Doug is optimistic about the opportunities in front of him and is looking forward to getting to know his new colleagues and meeting with firm clients. He shares some added professional and personal insights for InfoBytes Spotlight. Read more…

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Spotlight on Student Lending (Part 2 of 2): Lessons Learned from CFPB Reports

In 2012 and 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released several major reports and held field hearings focused on private student lending and servicing. In addition to recent CFPB activity, on June 25, 2013, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing regarding private student loans at which, among other witnesses, the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman Rohit Chopra testified.

The largest CFPB report, and the one most sweeping in scope, was the Bureau’s study of the private student loan market and characteristics of private student loans that was mandated by Dodd-Frank and issued in July 2012 (Private Student Loans Report). In addition, in October 2012, the Student Loan Ombudsman issued his Annual Report in which, among other things, he characterized the nature of the student loan complaints received through the CFPB’s student loan complaint portal up to that point (Annual Report of the Student Loan Ombudsman). Further, on May 8, 2013, the CFPB issued another report and held a field hearing focused on what it described as the “potential domino effect” of student loan debt on the broader economy and proposing several options to assist private student loan borrowers. Finally, testimony at the above-referenced Senate Banking Committee hearing focused largely on how to increase the low refinancing and modification activity in the private student loan (PSL) market.  Read more…

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Spotlight on Student Lending (Part 1 of 2): Facing Increased Regulatory Scrutiny, Student Loan Lenders Prepare for CFPB Examinations

Currently, total outstanding student debt (both federal loans and private loans) has risen to roughly $1.1 trillion dollars. That figure represents an over 50% increase since 2008 and makes student loans the largest source of unsecured consumer debt – surpassing credit cards. At the same time, at least with respect to federal student loans, delinquencies have risen sharply during the same time period and, with unemployment rates for recent graduates still high by historic standards, the risk of continued high delinquency rates remains significant. Complicating matters is that student loan servicers, and servicers of private student loans in particular, have limited ability vis-à-vis a mortgage lender to modify those loans for borrowers in default.

Not surprisingly, given this backdrop, borrowers have lodged complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) focused on their inability to obtain loan modifications, concerns about improper payment processing, and concerns about servicers’ debt collection practices. All of these factors have prompted the Bureau to draw comparisons to the recent mortgage servicing crisis and to increase focus and attention on the student lending and servicing industry in an effort to stave off a problem of those proportions. Read more…

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