August 10 Deadline Set for New York Virtual Currency Firms to Apply for BitLicense

On June 24, the New York State Register published the Department of Financial Services’ BitLicense framework, requiring companies and individuals who provide virtual currency services involving New York or a New York Resident to apply for a BitLicense by August 10, 2015. Virtual currency firms must submit the 31-page application providing information including, among other things, (i) written policies and procedures including, but not limited to BSA/AML, cybersecurity, privacy and information security, (ii) company information, (iii) biographical information on company directors and stockholders, and (iv) an explanation of the methodology used to calculate the value of virtual currency in fiat currency. In addition, the NYDFS released a set of FAQs to help clarify the BitLicense requirements.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

New York AG Announces Nearly $14 Million Agreement with Local Auto Dealers Over Deceptive Sales Practices, Plans to Sue an Additional 11 Auto Dealerships

On June 17, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an approximate $14 million agreement with three jointly-owned auto dealers in connection with the alleged unlawful sale of add-on products, such as credit repair and identity-theft prevention services. According to the AG, the auto dealers failed to disclose the costs and fees of many “after-sale” items to consumers, in some instances resulting in the addition of $2,000 to the purchase or leasing price of a vehicle. Furthermore, the AG contends that the dealers concealed that they were charging consumers for the add-on services, or misrepresented that the services were free of charge. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the auto dealers must, among other things, (i) pay more than $13.5 million in restitution to affected consumers and (ii) pay $325,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to New York State. In addition to the settlement announcement, AG Schneiderman made public that his office has served notices of intent to file suits against an additional eleven dealerships for allegedly engaging in similar practices.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Nevada Assembly Passes Legislation Relating to Mortgage Lending and Servicing Regulation, Licensing and Fees

On June 9, Governor Brian Sandoval (R-NV) signed into law AB 480, which revises existing law concerning the licensing and regulation of escrow agents and escrow agencies.  The law also authorizes a wholesale lender from outside the state to operate in Nevada as a mortgage broker or mortgage banker, and increase fees related to those roles.  Further, the bill requires the Commissioner of Mortgage Lending to prescribe by regulation the requirements for licensing, regulation and discipline of mortgage servicers.  Specific sections of the bill – 101.3, 101.7, and 103 – are effective immediately, while others become effective January 1, 2016.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Illinois AG Madigan Announces $1 Million Settlement Regarding Company’s Management of Foreclosed Properties

On June 3, Illinois AG Madigan announced a $1 million settlement with an Ohio-based company that mortgage lenders hire to manage properties throughout the foreclosure process and ensure that the properties retain their value. The settlement resolves a 2013 lawsuit by Madigan that alleged that the company wrongly deemed homes vacant, and instructed its contractors to shut off utilities, change the properties’ locks and illegally remove residents’ personal belongings even though they actively remained in their homes. Under the settlement, the company agreed to overhaul its business practices by using objective standards to ensure that homes are vacant, such as: (i) requiring its inspectors to support their inspections with photographs and an affidavit; (ii) posting notice to the occupant that the property has been deemed vacant; (iii) not misrepresenting the occupants’ rights to stay in their home, even if they are behind on their mortgage payments and in foreclosure; (iv) increasing its oversight and quality control of its subcontractors; (v) providing consumers with access to a 24-hour hotline for submitting complaints; and (vi) unless the company obtains a court order, not removing any personal property prior to foreclosure.

In addition to the $1 million agreement, which will be paid in restitution to consumers who filed complaints with respect to the company’s business practices, the company agreed to adhere to ongoing monitoring by Madigan’s office to ensure compliance with the settlement.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

South Carolina Passes Legislation to Create the Guaranteed Asset Protection Act, Effective Immediately

On June 1, Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) signed into law Senate Bill 441, enacting the Guaranteed Asset Protection Act and instituting a framework under which guaranteed asset protection (GAP) waivers may be offered in South Carolina.  As outlined in SB 441, a GAP waiver is “a contractual agreement in which a creditor agrees for a separate charge to cancel or waive all or part of amounts due on a borrower’s finance agreement in the event of a total physical damage loss or unrecovered theft of the motor vehicle.” Effective June 5, SB 441 prohibits the creditor from conditioning the terms of an extension of credit upon the borrower’s purchase of a GAP waiver and requires the creditor to disclose the terms of the GAP waiver “in easily understandable language,” including the purchase price, the procedures for obtaining GAP waiver benefits, and a statement that the purchase of a GAP waiver is optional.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

NY DFS Reveals Final BitLicense Requirements for Digital Currency Firms

On June 3, New York’s departing superintendent of financial services, Benjamin Lawsky, revealed that the agency has adopted final regulations of the BitLicense, the regulatory framework in which digital currency firms operate within the state. In prepared remarks delivered at the BITS Emerging Payments Forum in Washington, D.C., Lawsky announced that the final BitLicense – which has undergone two previous updates – contains key consumer protection, AML compliance, and cybersecurity requirements. Moreover, Lawsky advised of the latest changes, and provided guidance clarifying that (i) firms that wish to obtain both a BitLicense and a money transmitter license will not have to submit separate applications, if they can satisfy the requirements for both; (ii) firms filing suspicious activity reports (SARS) with federal regulators, such as FinCEN, will not have to file a duplicate set of SARS with the state; (iii) firms must obtain prior approval for changes to their products or business models; (iv) firms will not require prior approval from the regulator for each round of venture capital funding, unless the investor seeks to oversee the company’s management and policies. Lawsky also clarified that the DFS intends to regulate only financial intermediaries who hold customer funds, rather than software developers who specifically focus on developing software, and do not hold customer funds.

 

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Nevada Enacts Payday Lender Best Practices Act

On May 27, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law S.B. 242, enacting the Payday Lender Best Practices Act. The legislation requires payday and similar lenders to use various specified best practices – advocated by the Community Financial Services Association of America – to strengthen consumer protections and promote responsible lending. The Act applies to any lender licensed within the state who operates a deferred deposit loan service, high-interest loan service, or title loan service. In addition to requiring lenders to fully comply with federal TILA disclosure requirements, the Act mandates lenders must also, among other things, (i) disclose to and provide borrowers with the option to enter into a repayment plan if the borrower is unable to pay; (ii) include a notice on marketing materials and advertisements advising borrowers that the loan should be used for short-term financial needs, and that borrowers with credit impairments should seek credit counseling; and (iii) report violations of Nevada’s short-term loan law to the state’s Financial Institutions Division.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

NY Issues Proposed Rules to Manage How Employers Pay Workers Using Debit Cards

On May 27, the Governor of New York State announced that the state Department of Labor published new proposed rules intended to better regulate employers who pay their employees using debit cards.  The proposed regulations detail the responsibilities of employers that use debit cards to pay employees, and prohibit employers from profiting from or passing along costs to employees. In addition, the proposed rules prohibit employers from imposing fees (such as those for customer service, account maintenance, overdraft, and inactivity), and require employers to (i) obtain advance consent, which must be documented and kept on record for six years; (ii) make known to employees the local locations where their wages can be accessed for free; and (iii) provide unlimited free ATM withdrawals within a local network, including a method to withdraw the full amount of wages each pay period without penalty. The regulations will take effect following a 45-day notice and comment period.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

NYDFS Superintendent Lawsky Delivers Remarks on Reforming New York Foreclosure Process

On May 19, NYDFS Superintendent Lawsky delivered remarks at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Secondary Market Conference & Expo regarding New York’s “broken judicial foreclosure process.” Noting that the state’s average of over 900 days from the date of filing to sale is more than a year longer than the national average, Lawsky stated that the “current system hurts virtually everyone involved in the foreclosure process,” including municipalities, lenders and mortgage investors, the courts and, most importantly, homeowners and their families. In a report issued the same day, NYDFS details the causes of the problems. In response, Lawsky proposed a number of legislative reforms intended to facilitate the “twin goals of protecting homeowners from foreclosure abuses and encouraging the efficient return of foreclosed properties to the market.” Lawsky emphasized that, “contrary to popular belief, these goals are not mutually exclusive. The key to achieving both is having a sound and timely judicial foreclosure process that is fair to both homeowners and the mortgage industry.” The specific reforms include proposals to modify the mandatory settlement conferences that cause much delay early in the litigation process, to improve disclosures to homeowners regarding their rights and obligations, and to expedite the foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned “zombie homes.”

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
COMMENTS: Comments Off
TAGS: ,
POSTED IN: Mortgages, State Issues

NYDFS Superintendent Lawsky Announces Departure

On May 20, the NYDFS released a statement announcing that Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky will depart in late June. Lawsky, who became the newly created agency’s first superintendent in May 2011, stated: “I am deeply proud of the work our team has done building this new agency and helping strengthen oversight of the financial markets. We have assembled a great team at NYDFS and I have full confidence that the critical work of this agency will continue seamlessly moving forward.”

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
COMMENTS: Comments Off
TAGS:
POSTED IN: State Issues

CA Department of Business Oversight Files Suit Against Loan Payment Company

On May 15, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) announced that it filed a complaint against a debt payment company for allegedly operating in California without having the proper license and for charging fees in excess of statutory limits. According to the complaint, the company contracts with borrowers to make their mortgage, credit card, or other loan payments for them, and then debits their account every two weeks in an amount equal to one-half of the required monthly payment on the loan. This payment schedule results in 26 debits per year, equating to an extra month’s worth of payments. The company claims that the extra debits are used to pay down the principal on the loan. The lawsuit alleges, however, that the California Financial Code requires companies providing debt payment services to be licensed as “proraters” by the DBO, and the company has never had such a license. The complaint also alleges that the company’s “set up fee” of one-half of the monthly loan payment amount often far exceeded the $50 limit on origination fees imposed by state law, and that the company’s advertising misrepresented how much its customers would pay for services and how much they would save on interest. Since 2009, the company has collected more than $300 million from its 10,000-25,000 customers for distribution to creditors and earned more than $10 million in fees.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

FTC Lobbies Michigan Legislature to Repeal Ban On Direct-to-Consumer Sale of Motor Vehicles by Auto Manufacturers

On May 11, the FTC released a statement regarding the agency staff’s May 7 letter to Michigan Senator Booher, which concerns pending SB 268 – an act to regulate the sale and servicing of automobiles. The proposed legislation seeks to create an “exception to current law that prohibits automobile manufacturers from selling new vehicles directly to consumers.” While the letter states that the bill likely will encourage competition and benefit consumers, the staff’s view is that the legislation’s scope is too narrow and “would largely perpetuate the current law’s protectionism for independent franchised dealers, to the detriment of Michigan car buyers.” The focal point of the FTC staff’s letter is that, “absent some legitimate public purpose, consumers would be better served if the choice of distribution method were left to motor vehicle manufacturers and the consumers to whom they sell their products.”

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

NYDFS Releases New Title Insurance Rates for Refinancings; Consumers Save Up to 65 Percent

On May 12, the NYDFS announced newly approved title insurance industry rates for mortgage refinancing transactions, which is just one of the steps the NYDFS is planning to take to reform and lower title insurance rates. The new rates vary depending on the term, size, and duration of the loan, and they are anticipated to provide significant savings to New York homeowners.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Oklahoma Enacts Law Establishing Penalty Amount for Liens on Auto Vehicles

On May 1, Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK) signed into law SB 465, which amends a current law imposing a $100 penalty on a secured party if it does not furnish a release of a lien after seven days. Under the new law, a $100 penalty will be imposed each day following the first seven days – the penalty can reach $1,500 or the value of the vehicle, whichever is less. The law is effective November 1, 2015.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Maryland Law to Require Notice to Purchaser of Vehicle Prior to Dealer-Arranged Financing Approval

On May 12, Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) signed HB 313, which will require auto dealers to provide notice to the purchaser/lessee before the dealer-arranged third-party financing is approved. The law requires the dealer to “notify a buyer in writing if the terms of a certain financing or lease agreement are not approved by a third-party finance source within a certain period of time.” Specifically, the dealer has four days from the delivery of the vehicle to notify the purchase/lessee of the third-party rejection. If the sale of the vehicle is canceled, the purchaser/lessee must return the vehicle to the dealer within two days of receiving the written notice. The new law is effective October 1, 2015.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share