State Attorneys General Issue Letter in Support of CFPB’s Proposed Arbitration Rule

On August 12, Massachusetts AG Healey, alongside 17 other state attorneys general, sent a letter to CFPB Director Cordray in support of the agency’s proposed rule seeking to impose restrictions on the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses by covered providers of certain consumer financial products and services. Although the letter supports the CFPB’s proposed rule, it encourages the CFPB to consider regulations that would prohibit such clauses outright. According to the letter, class action litigation would provide consumers with “real and meaningful benefits,” such as monetary and injunctive relief through settlements, and may further spur industry-wide reforms as well as regulatory and legislative action. The letter further supports the CFPB’s “effort to increase transparency in the arbitration process by requiring covered entities to submit initial claim filings and written awards in arbitration proceedings to the Bureau,” and encourages the agency to (i) publish the information publicly on its website; (ii) enforce timing obligations for reporting the information; and (iii) establish strict penalties, including fines and loss of arbitration privileges, against entities that do not comply with the reporting requirements.

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Department of Education Proposes Rule to Protect Student Borrowers from Alleged Predatory Practices by Postsecondary Institutions

On June 16, the Department of Education’s (Education) proposed rule to amend the regulations governing the Direct Loan program was published in the Federal Register. The proposal seeks to clarify and expand upon existing regulations intended to protect student borrowers from alleged predatory practices by postsecondary institutions. Specifically, Education proposes to amend existing regulations by, among other things, (i) establishing a more accessible and consistent borrower defense standard and streamlining the borrower defense process to ensure protection from institutions’ alleged predatory actions and omissions resulting in loan discharges; (ii) requiring certain institutions provide Education-issued plain language warnings to prospective borrowers and enrolled students on its Web sites and in all promotional materials and advertisements; (iii) prohibiting the requirement to use arbitration to resolve claims brought by a borrower against the school or waivers of his/her right to initiate or participate in a class action lawsuit regarding such claims; and (iv) prohibiting the requirement for students to engage in internal institutional complaints or grievances before contacting accrediting or government agencies with authority over the school regarding such claims. Comments on the proposed rule must be received by Education on or before August 1, 2016.

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Update Regarding CFPB Proposed Rule on Arbitration Agreements

As previously announced, the CFPB published its proposed rule on arbitration agreements in the Federal Register on May 24. To clarify prior summaries, the proposed rule seeks to impose two restrictions on the use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements by covered providers of certain consumer financial products and services. First, the proposed rule would prohibit covered providers from using pre-dispute arbitration agreements to bar consumer class actions in court and would require providers to include a provision in their pre-dispute arbitration agreements reflecting this limitation. Second, the proposed rule would require covered providers to submit certain records related to arbitral proceedings to the CFPB if the covered provider uses pre-dispute arbitration agreements. Comments to the proposed rule must be received by the CFPB on or before August 22, 2016.

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CFPB Issues Spring 2016 Rulemaking Agenda

On May 18, the CFPB released an overview of its Spring 2016 Rulemaking Agenda, which outlines the CFPB’s current initiatives. In addition to summarizing the CFPB’s recently released proposed rule to ban pre-dispute arbitration clauses in future consumer agreements, the agenda states that the CFPB expects to release this Summer (i) a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding small dollar loan products, including payday loans and auto title loan; (ii) a rule to finalize its November 2014 proposed rule on prepaid products; (iii) a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to provide clarity concerning its TRID Know Before You Owe mortgage rule; and (iv) a final rule to amend its 2014 proposed rule revising certain provisions of mortgage servicing requirements under RESPA and TILA. The agenda further comments on the CFPB’s oversight of (i) overdraft services on checking accounts, noting that the agency “is engaged in pre-rule making activities to consider potential regulation” of such services;  (ii) debt collection practices, observing that the agency is in the process of developing proposed rules to further regulate the industry; (iii) nonbank institutions, emphasizing the CFPB’s rulemaking efforts to further define larger participants of certain markets for consumer financial products and services; and (iv) mortgage markets, highlighting CFPB efforts to implement “critical consumer protections under the Dodd-Frank Act.” Finally, the agenda comments that the CFPB is in the “very early stages starting work to implement section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which amends the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to require financial institutions to report information concerning credit applications made by women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses.”

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CFPB Issues Proposed Rule Seeking to Prohibit Mandatory Arbitration Clauses

On May 5, the CFPB released a highly anticipated proposed rule that would ban covered providers of most financial consumer products and services from including mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in future consumer agreements. In addition, the proposed rule would require a covered provider involved in arbitration pursuant to a pre-dispute arbitration agreement to submit specified arbitral records to the CFPB. Following its March 2015 Arbitration Study, the CFPB asserts that the proposed rule would (i) protect consumers’ right to seek justice and relief in court; (ii) deter companies from violating the law, claiming “attention on the practices of one company can affect or influence their business practices and the business practices of other companies more broadly”; and (iii) increase transparency by requiring companies that use arbitration clauses to submit to the CFPB any claims filed or awards issued in arbitration.  Read more…

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