CFPB & State Attorneys General Fine Retailer and Debt Collectors for Alleged Illegal Debt Collection Practices Against Military Servicemembers

On December 18, the CFPB and the Attorneys General of North Carolina and Virginia announced an enforcement action against three affiliated companies offering credit and financing services to military servicemembers. The complaint filed in the Eastern District of Virginia alleges that the companies used illegal tactics to collect debts in violation of Dodd-Frank, including by (i) filing illegal lawsuits; (ii) debiting consumers’ accounts without authorization; and (iii) contacting servicemembers’ commanding officers. The complaint also charges that one of the companies violated the EFTA by failing to properly disclose the terms of preauthorized transfers, while another company violated TILA by failing to properly disclose terms and interest rates on the loans it offered to servicemembers. The CFPB and the Attorneys General filed a consent order in the district court to require the companies and their owners and chief officers to provide over $2.5 million in consumer redress, pay a $100,000 civil penalty, and undergo ongoing compliance monitoring for a period of five years.

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CFPB Announces Enforcement Action Against Telecommunications Company for Alleged Unauthorized Third-Party Charges

On December 17, the CFPB filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against a telephone company for allegedly charging its customers tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized third-party charges. According to the CFPB’s press release, for roughly a decade the company “crammed” consumers’ wireless bills with illegal charges by outsourcing payment processing for digital purchases – such as apps, games, and movies – to vendors known as “billing aggregators.” The CFPB alleges that the company failed to properly monitor the aggregators’ billing of customers as a payment processor for the third parties, and violated Dodd-Frank and the CFPA by (i) allowing third party vendors to attach illegitimate charges to consumers’ bills; (ii) billing customers for the unauthorized charges without their consent; (iii) failing to heed red flags showing that the system “was a breeding ground for unauthorized charges”; and (iv) failing to respond to consumer complaints. The complaint seeks refunds for consumers and penalties.

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CFPB Files Suit Against Texas Company for Alleged Deceptive Practices Targeting Union Workers

On December 17, the CFPB announced it filed suit against a Texas-based company for allegedly deceiving consumers into paying fees to sign up for a “sham” credit card. According to the complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas, the CFPB alleges that the company falsely advertised a general-use credit card that, in actuality, could only be used to buy products from the company. The CFPB further alleges that the company deceptively implied an affiliation with unions by, among other things, using pictures of nurses, firefighters, and other public servants in its advertising. The complaint seeks compensation for consumers, a civil penalty, and an injunction against the company.

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CFPB Addresses Medical Debt Collection, Requires Consumer Reporting Agencies To Provide Accuracy Reports

On December 11, the CFPB held a field hearing on medical debt collection and how it affects consumer credit reports. In his prepared remarks, Director Cordray announced the release of a white paper focused on the specific issue of medical debt collection. According to Cordray, medical debt collection presents unique challenges as compared to other industries due to inconsistent debt collection practices by medical service providers, insurance companies, and collection agencies. More broadly, Cordray addressed issues within the consumer reporting system and announced that major consumer reporting agencies will now be required to submit “regular, standardized accuracy reports” as part of its ongoing examinations efforts. Specifically, consumer reporting agencies will have to (i) identify furnishers with the most disputes; (ii) identify industries with the most disputes, and (iii) provide peer group ranking of furnishers consumer disputes relative to their industry.

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Unofficial Transcript of CFPB’s November 18 Webinar on Completing the Closing Disclosure Form

On November 18, the CFPB presented Part 4 in its series of webinars (hosted by the Federal Reserve) addressing frequently asked questions regarding the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (“TRID”) rule. In this session, the CFPB addressed questions on completing the Closing Disclosure form.  As with past CFPB webinars on the TRID rule, BuckleySandler has prepared a transcript of the webinar that incorporates the CFPB’s slides. The transcript is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal opinions, interpretations, or advice by BuckleySandler. The transcript was prepared from the audio recording arranged by the Federal Reserve and may have minor inaccuracies due to sound quality. In addition, the transcripts have not been reviewed by the CFPB or the Federal Reserve for accuracy or completeness.

Questions regarding the matters discussed in the webinar or the rules themselves may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.  In addition, please visit our TRID Resource Center for additional information about the TRID rule and related materials.

 

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Mortgages

CFPB Fines Debt-Settlement Firm

On December 4, the CFPB fined a New Jersey-based debt-settlement service provider $69,075 in civil monetary penalties for alleged violations of the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). The CFPB alleged that the firm charged upfront fees to consumers which are prohibited for debt-settlement services. Further, the CFPB charged that the firm failed to provide debt-settlement services to consumers which harmed their credit history. In addition to the civil money penalty, the consent order requires the firm submit a compliance plan that includes (i) written policies and procedures designed to prevent violations of the TSR; (ii) training programs addressing the TSR and Federal consumer financial laws; (iii) written compliance monitoring processes; (iv) consumer complaint monitoring process; and (v) specific deadlines for when the compliance plan will be completed.

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CFPB Proposes Amendments to Mortgage Servicing Rules

On November 20, the CFPB announced the issuance of a proposed rule to amend RESPA (Reg. X) and TILA (Reg.Z). The proposed rule changes primarily focus on clarifying, revising or amending (i) Regulation X’s servicing provisions regarding force-placed insurance, early intervention, and loss mitigation requirements; and (ii) periodic statement requirements under Regulation Z’s servicing provisions. In addition, the proposed amendments also revise certain servicing requirements that apply when a consumer is a potential or confirmed successor in interest, is in bankruptcy, or sends a cease communication request under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Further, the proposed rule makes technical corrections to several provisions of Regulations X and Z. The public comment period will be open for 90 days upon publication in the Federal Register.

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CFPB Issues Guidance to Help Lenders Avoid Fair Lending Risk

On November 19, the CFPB issued a press release highlighting the publication of its compliance bulletin, “Social Security Disability Income Verification.” The compliance bulletin reminds lenders that requiring consumers receiving social security disability income to provide burdensome or unnecessary documentation may raise fair lending issues. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits lenders from discrimination against “an applicant because some or all of the applicant’s income is from a public assistance program, which includes Social Security disability income,” and the Bureau’s bulletin highlights standards and guidelines intended to help lenders comply with the requirements of ECOA and its implementing regulation, Regulation B.

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DOJ Announces Arrests and Charges Against Debt Collection Company

On November 19, the DOJ issued a press release announcing charges against six employees of a Georgia-based debt collection company for allegedly running a $4.1 million dollar debt collection scam. According to the press release, from approximately 2009 to May 2014, the accused employees allegedly falsely represented themselves as affiliated with various law enforcement agencies, and made a variety of false statements to consumers in an attempt to coerce them into making payments to the debt collection company. The action appears to be the first case in which multiple federal agencies – U.S. Attorneys’ Office, CFPB, FBI, and the FTC – have taken a coordinated action against a debt collector. The complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York.

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FDIC Announces Video Series to Help Banks Comply with CFPB Mortgage Rules

On November 19, the FDIC announced its first in a series of three videos developed to assist bank employees in ensuring their mortgage lending practices comply with the Bureau Mortgage Rules. As noted in its press release, the first video covers the ATR/QM Rule. Additional videos regarding CFPB mortgage rules are expected to be released at a later time. Those videos will cover mortgage servicing and loan originator compensation. Also available from FDIC as part of its Technical Assistance Video Program are videos addressing (i) issues for new bank directors and (ii) specific technical subjects to help train bankers.

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POSTED IN: Federal Issues, Mortgages

Special Alert: CFPB Takes Enforcement Action Against “Buy-Here, Pay-Here” Auto Dealer for Alleged Unfair Collection and Credit Reporting Tactics

On November 19, the CFPB announced an enforcement action against a ‘buy-here, pay-here’ auto dealer alleging unfair debt collection practices and the furnishing of inaccurate information about customers to credit reporting agencies. ‘Buy-here, pay-here’ auto dealers typically do not assign their retail installment sale contracts (RISCs) to unaffiliated finance companies or banks, and therefore are subject to the CFPB’s enforcement authority. Consistent with the position it staked out in CFPB Bulletin 2013-07, in this enforcement action the CFPB appears to have applied specific requirements of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to the dealer in its capacity as a creditor based on the CFPB’s broader authority over unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts practices.

Alleged Violations

The CFPB charges that the auto dealer violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 5531, 5536, which prohibits unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, by (i) repeatedly calling customers at work, despite being asked to stop; (ii) repeatedly calling the references of customers, despite being asked to stop; and (iii) making excessive, repeated calls to wrong numbers in efforts to reach customers who fell behind on their auto loan payments. Specifically, the CFPB alleges that the auto dealer used a third-party database to “skip trace” for new phone numbers of its customers. As a result, numerous wrong parties were contacted who asked to stop receiving calls. Despite their requests, the auto dealer allegedly failed to prevent calls to these wrong parties or did not remove their contact information from its system.

In addition, the CFPB alleges that the auto dealer violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by (i) providing inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies; (ii) improperly handling consumer disputes regarding furnished information; and (iii) not establishing and implementing “reasonable written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of the information relating to [customers] that it furnishes to a consumer reporting agency.” Specifically, the CFPB alleges that, since 2010, the auto dealer did not review or update its written furnishing policies, despite knowing that conversion to its third-party servicing platform had led to widespread inaccuracies in furnished information. Also, the consent order alleges that the auto dealer received more than 22,000 credit disputes per year, including disputes regarding the timing of repossessions and dates of first delinquency for charged-off accounts, but nevertheless furnished inaccurate information. Read more…

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CFPB Holds Field Hearing On Prepaid Products, Proposes New Rule

On November 13, the CFPB held a field hearing in Delaware to discuss its proposed rule regarding prepaid products. The proposal, which would amend Regulation E and Regulation Z, requires prepaid companies to provide certain protections under federal law.

In his opening remarks, Director Cordray noted that the many prepaid card consumers are some of the most economically vulnerable among us and that such cards have few, if any, protections under federal consumer financial law. Cordray outlined the reasons the Bureau’s proposed rule would “fill key gaps” for consumers. First, the proposed rule would provide consumers free and easy access to account information. Second, the proposed rule would mandate that financial institutions work with consumers to investigate any errors on registered cards. Third, the proposed rule would protect consumers against fraud and theft. Fourth, the rule includes “Know Before You Owe” prepaid disclosures, which would highlight key costs associated with the cards. Fifth, where prepaid card providers also extend credit to consumers such offers would be treated the same as credit cards under the law.

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CFPB Fines Mortgage Lender for Violating Loan Originator Compensation Rule

On November 13, the CFPB ordered a residential mortgage lender to pay $730,000 for violating the Loan Originator Compensation Rule. According to the complaint filed by the CFPB, from June 2011 to October 2013, the mortgage lender paid quarterly bonus payments totaling $730,000 to 32 loan officers based in part on the interest rates of the originated loan. The rule, which has been enforced by the CFPB since July 2011, prohibits mortgage lenders from paying loan officers based on loan terms such as interest rates. As part of the consent order, the mortgage lender agreed to end its current compensation practice and pay $730,000 to affected consumers. The CFPB did not seek a civil penalty.

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CFPB Releases Report Highlighting Debt Collection Complaints Among Older Americans

On November 5, the CFPB announced the release of a report highlighting debt collection issues among older Americans. The report analyzed nearly 8,700 complaints made by older consumers from July 2013 to September 2014. The most common debt collection complaints noted in the report relate to medical debt, debts of deceased family members, and threats to garnish older American’s federal benefits. Notably, of the complaints submitted, 17 percent were related to credit cards and 5 percent to payday loans.

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Webinar Recap: Discussing “The New CFPB Mortgage Origination Rules Deskbook”

On October 28, 2014, BuckleySandler presented the webinar “Discussing The New CFPB Mortgage Origination Rules Deskbook.” Author Joe Reilly and contributors Joseph Kolar and Ben Olson discussed the need for the book and highlighted information from specific chapters. The webinar was moderated by Jeffrey Naimon. This webinar recap covers the highlights from their discussion. For more information about the CFPB Deskbook, including information on obtaining hard copies, email [email protected].

The purpose of the CFPB Deskbook is simple – consolidate in a clear, organized format, material from all of the many sources of regulatory guidance on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) mortgage origination rules. Reilly described the CFPB rulemaking, done in such a short period of time, as “herculean.” However, this short time frame created a major need for clarifications, leading to the development of numerous non-rule sources.

“The number of sources [actual rules, preamble language, CFPB webinars, CFPB Small Entity Compliance Guides and more] cried out for a one-stop shop and that’s what I tried to create,” said Reilly.

Olson, former Deputy Assistant Director for the Office of Regulations at the CFPB, helped write many of the rules discussed in the CFPB Deskbook and finds a great deal of valuable in the book.

“You always wish after you publish a rule that you had said more,” said Olson. “The Bureau has tried to answer some of those questions, but answers can be hard to find. If the Bureau says something about it, it’s in the Deskbook.” Read more…

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