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.
On August 18, the CFPB published a report to provide a midyear update on student loan complaints, focusing on “problems for borrowers who submit an application to enroll in or recertify income and family size under an income-driven-repayment (IDR) plan.” The report analyzes student borrower complaints related to IDR plans and offers recommendations to “address the challenges identified in [those] complaints.” The report analyzes complaints submitted from October 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016 and finds that “borrowers encounter obstacles when submitting applications for IDR plans, including poor customer service, unexpected delays, lost paperwork, and inconsistent or inaccurate application processing.” The CFPB recommends that student loan servicers take “immediate action,” to address challenges with IDR processing, highlighting the policy guidance recently issued by the Department of Education as a “roadmap to strengthen practices related to the handling of IDR applications” and releasing an IDR Application Fix It Form (Fix It Form). Developed by the CFPB, the Fix It Form is a prototype that can be adopted by servicers seeking to adopt the recommendations in the report and is designed to “document any deficiencies with borrowers’ IDR applications and communicates to borrowers about how to address the deficiencies and get their applications back on track.”
GAO Report Finds CFPB Meets Requirements for Conducting SBREFA Panels; Panelists Say There’s Room for Improvement
On August 10, the GAO released a report titled “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Observations from Small Business Review Panels.” The report summarizes the findings from the GAO’s review of the four Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panels that resulted in final rulemakings as of April 2016. Specifically, GAO conducted a performance audit from October 2015 through August 2016 to examine the “extent to which CFPB solicited, considered, and incorporated small entity inputs into its rulemakings.” GAO interviewed 57 of the 69 small entity representatives who participated in the SBREFA panels. Although the report concludes that the CFPB completed the statutory requirements for conducting SBREFA panels, it also identifies certain areas where panelists voiced needs for improvement. While panelists voiced a panoply of concerns, including concerns that they did not have adequate time to prepare responses to CFPB information requests, a majority of representatives felt like their views were at least partially considered in the rulemaking process. However, according to the report, only seven of the 57 expressed satisfaction with the CFPB’s final rules.
On Thursday, the CFPB issued its long-awaited final amendments to the mortgage servicing provisions of Regulations X and Z. The Bureau had sought comment on the proposed rule in December 2014, more than 18 months ago. Spanning 900 pages, the final rule makes significant changes that will impact servicers even as it clarifies several points of confusion with the existing regulations. Most significantly, the amendments extend existing protections to successors in interest and borrowers who have previously been evaluated for loss mitigation under the rules, brought their loans current, and then experienced new delinquencies. The amendments also require servicers to provide modified periodic statements to borrowers in bankruptcy. In coordination with the final amendments, the Bureau published an interpretive rule under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) to address industry concerns about conflicts with the servicing rules.
A summary of the key amendments is provided below. Unless otherwise stated below, the amendments take effect 12 months from the date of publication of the rule in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred. If recent experience is any guide, we anticipate that publication in the Federal Register may be delayed for as long as a month, given the length of the final rule, commentary, and preamble.
Please join BuckleySandler attorneys Ben Olson, Michelle Rogers and Kitty Ryan for a webinar on September 7 to further discuss the amended rules and their compliance, examination and enforcement implications. Invitation and registration information to follow.
* * *
Questions regarding the matters discussed in this Alert may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.
- Melissa Klimkiewicz, (202) 349-8098
- Benjamin B. Klubes, (202) 349-8002
- John P. Kromer, (202) 349-8040
- Jon David D. Langlois, (202) 349-8045
- Jeffrey P. Naimon, (202) 349-8030
- Benjamin K. Olson, (202) 349-7924
- Matthew P. Previn, (212) 600-2310
- Joseph J. Reilly, (202) 349-7965
- Clinton R. Rockwell, (310) 424-3901
- Michelle L. Rogers, (202) 349-8013
- Kathleen C. Ryan, (202) 349-8055
- Kathryn L. Ryan, (202) 349-8008
- Jonice Gray Tucker, (202) 349-8005
- Christopher M. Witeck, (202) 349-8051
On August 1, the CFPB published a Notice and Request for Comment on its new information collection, “Consumer Response Company Response Survey” in the Federal Register. According to the Federal Register notice, the “purpose of [the] information collection is to incorporate a short survey into the complaint closing process.” The survey would replace the current “dispute” option, and is designed to give consumers an opportunity to provide feedback on how a company responded to and handled their complaints. Consumers would have the opportunity to rate the company on a scale of one to five, and provide a narrative description in support of the rating. The CFPB has released a survey mock up, which includes an opt-in option for consumers to consent to the CFPB publishing their feedback on the agency website. The CFPB intends to share survey results with the companies. Written responses to the CFPB’s Request for Comment are due by September 30, 2016.