On April 17, the CFPB issued a guide to completing the disclosure forms required by its November 2013 TILA-RESPA integrated disclosures rule, which generally applies to transactions for which a creditor or broker receives an application on or after August 1, 2015. The guide provides instructions for completing the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure and highlights common situations that may arise when completing the forms. The CFPB states in addition to serving as a resource to creditors, the guide also may assist settlement service providers, software providers, and other service providers. The disclosure forms guide follows the release last month of a small entity compliance guide, which summarizes the rule and highlights issues that small creditors, and their partners or service providers, might find helpful to consider when implementing the rule.
On April 23, in conjunction with its “Know Before You Owe” initiative, the CFPB hosted a mortgage closing process forum, which featured remarks from Richard Cordray, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, consumer advocates, and industry representatives, including BuckleySandler’s David Whitaker. The Bureau published a report summarizing the results of its Request for Information about the challenges consumers face when closing on a home. The Bureau identified several “pain points” consumers regularly experience during the closing process. Consumers reported being frustrated by:
- The short amount of time they have to review a large number of closing documents, even when they did not understand the terms;
- The lack of resources capable of providing explanations about closing documents, which are often full of legalese and technical jargon; and
- Minor errors in paperwork resulting in long delays affecting multiple parties.
The CFPB’s Know Before You Owe rule, which combines the current TILA and RESPA mortgage disclosures, seeks to address several of these concerns by requiring that the new closing disclosure be provided at least three business days prior to closing. The new rule will be effective August 1, 2015.
At the forum, the CFPB expressed the view that more comprehensive use of electronic records and signatures in residential mortgage closings, or “eClosings”, also have the potential to significantly ameliorate these “pain points.” To that end, the Bureau released guidelines for an upcoming eClosing pilot project to study how eClosings can benefit consumers and address some of the challenges borrowers face at closing. Because eClosings offer both benefits and risks, the CFPB’s pilot project will evaluate whether they can increase efficiency and consumer understanding while minimize surprises and delays at the closing table. The guidelines list the minimum functional requirements of an eClosing platform including capabilities related to data security, workflow, and electronic signature collection. The Bureau is also interested in testing advanced functionality that will empower consumers to better understand and engage in the closing process, enable and reward early document review, and facilitate the detection and correction of errors in closing documents. Potential pilot participants must submit proposals as a partnership between a technology vendor providing an eClosing platform and a lender that has contracted to close loans utilizing that platform.
The CFPB was joined at the forum by representatives by the VA, FHA, FHFA, USDA, Ginnie Mae, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, all of whom voiced support for expanding the use of electronic records and signatures in mortgage closings. All of the agencies and GSEs expressed their willingness to collaborate with industry and the CFPB on the eClosing pilot project.
An audio and video recording of the forum will be available at consumerfinance.gov shortly.
For more information on the pilot program and eClosings, call Margo Tank at 202-349-8050, or David Whitaker at 202-349-8059. For more information about the TILA-RESPA integrated disclosures rule, please see BuckleySandler’s Special Alert.
FTC Settles Suit Against Tribe-Affiliated Lenders; Dispute Over CFPB Investigation Of Tribe-Affiliated Lenders Moves To Federal Court
On April 11, the FTC announced that a tribe-affiliated payday lending operation and its owner agreed to pay nearly $1 million to resolve allegations that they engaged in unfair and deceptive acts or practices and violated the Credit Practices Rule in the collection of payday loans. The FTC alleged that the lenders illegally tried to garnish borrowers’ wages and sought to force borrowers to travel to South Dakota to appear before a tribal court, and that the loan contracts issued by the lenders illegally stated that they are subject solely to the jurisdiction of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The announced settlement payment includes a $550,000 civil penalty and a court order to disgorge $417,740. The companies and their owner also are prohibited from further unfair and deceptive practices and are barred from suing any consumer in the course of collecting a debt, except for bringing a counter suit to defend against a suit brought by a consumer.
Also on April 11, in a separate matter related to federal authority over tribe-affiliated lending, a group of tribe-affiliated lenders responded in opposition to a recent CFPB petition to enforce civil investigative demands (CIDs) the Bureau issued to the lenders. In September 2013, the CFPB denied the lenders’ joint petition to set aside the CIDs, rejecting the lenders’ primary argument that the CFPB lacks authority over businesses chartered under the sovereign authority of federally recognized Indian Tribes. The lenders subsequently refused to respond to the CIDs, which the CFPB now asks the court to enforce. The CFPB argues that the lenders fall within the CFPB’s investigative authority under the terms of the Consumer Financial Protection Act, which the CFPB argues is a law of general applicability, including with regard to Indian Tribes and their property interests. The lenders continue to assert that they are sovereign entities operating beyond the CFPB’s reach.
On April 15, the CFPB issued a proposed rule and request for comment to extend a temporary exception to Regulation E’s requirement that remittance transfer providers disclose certain fees and exchange rates to consumers. Pursuant to Regulation E, as amended to implement section 1073 of the Dodd-Frank Act, insured depository institutions are permitted to estimate certain third-party fees and exchange rates in connection with a remittance transfer until July 21, 2015, provided the transfer is sent from the sender’s account with the institution, and the institution is unable to determine the exact amount of the fees and rates due to circumstances outside of the institution’s control. The CFPB is proposing to exercise its statutory authority to extend this exception for an additional five years, until July 21, 2020. The agency explained that, based on its outreach to insured institutions and consumer groups, allowing the initial temporary exception to lapse would negatively affect the ability of insured institutions to send remittance transfers. Comments on the proposed rule are due within 30 days of its publication in the Federal Register. Read more…
On April 8 the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that a debt settlement company and its owner pled guilty to fraud charges, resolving the first criminal case referred to the DOJ by the CFPB. The DOJ alleged that from 2009 through May 2013, the company systematically exploited and defrauded over 1,200 customers with credit card debt by charging them for debt settlement services the company never provided. The DOJ claimed that the company (i) lied about and/or concealed its fees, and falsely assured customers that fees would be substantially less than those the company eventually charged; (ii) deceived customers by fraudulently and falsely promising that the company could significantly lower borrower debts when, for the majority of its customers, the company allegedly did little or no work and failed to achieve any reduction in debt; and (iii) sent prospective customers solicitation letters falsely suggesting that the agency was acting on behalf of or in connection with a federal governmental program. The company’s owner pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The company pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and faces a fine of up to twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense, and up to five years’ probation. The defendants also entered into a stipulation of settlement of a civil forfeiture action and consented to the entry of a permanent injunction barring them from providing, directly or indirectly, any debt relief or mortgage relief services in the future. The CFPB subsequently dismissed its parallel civil suit.
The CFPB announced today that it will hold a forum on the mortgage closing process. The event will take place at the CFPB’s headquarters in Washington, DC at 1:30 p.m. on April 23, 2014. It will be open to members of the public who RSVP and also will be available through a live stream on the CFPB’s website. Consistent with its past practice, the CFPB has not provided advance details about the specific topics to be addressed or the participants. The event is likely to review the feedback the CFPB received in response to a January 2014 request for information about consumer “pain points” associated with the mortgage closing process, an initiative the CFPB first revealed in November 2013 in conjunction with the release of the final rule combining mortgage disclosures under TILA and RESPA. We plan to attend the event and will provide an update later this month.
On March 31 the CFPB published its Consumer Response Annual Report, providing a review of the CFPB’s complaint process and a description of complaints received during January 1 through December 31, 2013. According to the report the Bureau received approximately 163,700 complaints in 2013. Mortgage complaints outpaced all others (37%), followed by complaints regarding debt collection (19%), bank accounts (12%), and credit cards (10%). Complaints related to consumer loans, student loans, payday loans, money transfers, and “other” each comprised 3% or less of the total. The report also breaks down the types of complaints for each category and summarizes companies’ responses. The majority of closed complaints for all categories were resolved with an explanation by the company, i.e. without monetary or other relief, and companies responded to complaints in a timely fashion 99% of the time, or better. The report also stated that the CFPB “continues to evaluate, among other things, the release of consumer narratives, the potential for normalization of the data to make comparisons easier, and the expansion of functionality to improve user experience.”
On April 1, the Federal Reserve Board’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which also is responsible for auditing the CFPB, issued a report that is critical of the CFPB’s supervisory activities and recommends that the CFPB take specific actions to strengthen its supervision program. The report shares concerns raised by entities having been through the examination process.
The report covers the CFPB’s supervisory activities from July 2011 through July 2013, including 82 completed examinations (excluding baseline reviews), which yielded 35 reports of examination and 47 supervisory letters. Of those 82 completed examinations, 63 were of depository institutions, and 19 were of nondepository institutions.
Among the findings, the OIG concludes that: Read more…
On March 25, the CFPB released a report and held a field hearing on payday loans. Through both, the CFPB sought to expand the record on which it will formulate new rules to address its concerns about the payday lending market. Director Cordray indicated in his remarks at the field hearing that the CFPB is on the verge of initiating the public phase of a rulemaking.
The report—the first such “Data Point” report from the CFPB’s Office of Research—focuses on “loan sequences,” what the CFPB describes as “a series of loans taken out within 14 days of repayment of a prior loan.” The analysis was performed using the same data obtained from storefront payday lenders through the supervisory process and used by the CFPB in its prior analysis and report. Like the prior analysis, this latest analysis did not include online payday lending data. The CFPB acknowledges certain limitations of the data used, including that data collected from different lenders contain different levels of detail and that some lender data did not include default-related information. (Note that the CFSA challenged, under the Information Quality Act, the CFPB’s prior report and the data on which it relied. The CFPB rejected that challenge.)
The CFPB reports that over 80% of payday loans are rolled over or followed by another loan within 14 days. In addition, the CFPB’s report offers the following findings: Read more…
On March 24, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, the FDIC, the CFPB, the FHFA, and the NCUA proposed a rule to implement the Dodd-Frank Act’s minimum requirements for registration and supervision of Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs). While current federal regulations mandate that appraisals conducted for federally related transactions must comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), this rule would represent the first affirmative federal obligations relating to the registration, supervision, and conduct of AMCs.
Generally, the proposed rule would establish a framework for the registration and supervision of AMCs by individual states that choose to participate, and for state reporting to the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC). Although state participation is optional, AMCs would be prohibited from providing appraisal management services for federally related transactions in states that do not establish such a program.
Comments on the proposal will be due 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Read more…
On March 20, the CFPB released its third annual report summarizing its activities in 2013 to implement and enforce the FDCPA. The report describes the CFPB’s and the FTC’s shared FDCPA enforcement authority, incorporates the FTC’s annual FDCPA update, and reiterates the intention of both the FTC and the CFPB to exercise their authority to take action—both independently and in concert—against those in violation of the FDCPA.
The report highlights the debt collection-related complaints the Bureau has received—over 30,000 since the CFPB began accepting and compiling consumer complaints in July 2013, making the third-party debt collection market the largest source of consumer complaints submitted to the CFPB. The report states that the majority of the complaints the CFPB has received involve attempts to collect debts not owed and allegedly illegal communication tactics. The report also identifies several changes within the debt collection industry over the past year that will remain points of emphasis for the CFPB, including the expansion of the debt buying market, the growth of medical debt and student loan debt in collection, and the use of expanded technologies to communicate with debtors.
On March 18, the CFPB announced that it has begun testing two potential model prepaid card disclosures. After holding field tests last month in Baltimore and this week in Los Angeles, the CFPB plans a final field test next month at a location to be determined. The model forms would provide a standard format for disclosing certain fees, including, among others, monthly, reload, per purchase, ATM withdrawal, and inactivity fees. The two models primarily differ in design—the fees included on the two test models are identical, but for a “decline” fee, which appears only on one of the models.
The field testing follows the CFPB’s May 2012 advance notice of proposed rulemaking soliciting comments to evaluate prepaid cards. The CFPB received hundreds of comments in response to that initial inquiry, and since that time, advocacy groups and members of Congress have continued to pressure the CFPB to take action on prepaid cards. For example, in the last several months, Senate Democrats introduced two prepaid card bills that would establish certain disclosure requirements, and the PEW Charitable Trusts released a paper outlining its latest position and model disclosures.
Finally, in addition to the field testing, the CFPB is seeking comments on the model disclosures through its blog, Twitter, Facebook, or email “from anyone who is interested in making prepaid card disclosures better.” Following completion of the testing, the CFPB expects to propose a rule “later this spring.” That timeline matches one laid out in the CFPB’s most recent rulemaking agenda, in which the Bureau anticipated a proposed rule in May 2014.
This afternoon, the CFPB announced that it will hold a field hearing on payday loans on March 25, in Nashville, TN. The event is open to members of the public who RSVP, and will feature remarks from consumer advocates, industry representatives, and CFPB officials, including Director Richard Cordray. The CFPB often announces policy initiatives in connection with its field hearings, and in its most recent rulemaking agenda the CFPB anticipated additional “prerule activities” related to payday loans and deposit advance products this month.
Payday lending was the topic of the CFPB’s first ever field hearing in January 2012, at which the Bureau released examination procedures for short-term, small-dollar lending. Since then, the CFPB has, among other things, (i) launched a payday loan complaint portal; (ii) announced its first enforcement action against a payday lender; (iii) participated in an ongoing, multi-agency effort to revise the Military Lending Act regulations; and (iv) published a white paper on payday loans and deposit advance products.
On March 12, the CFPB announced several new senior officials, as described below. We also have learned that Peter Carroll, the CFPB’s Assistant Director for Mortgage Markets, will be leaving the Bureau later this month.
- Jeffrey Langer has joined the CFPB as the Assistant Director of Installment and Liquidity Lending Markets in the Bureau’s Research, Markets, and Regulations Division. Mr. Langer most recently served as senior counsel at Macy’s, Inc., prior to which he was a lawyer in private practice. Mr. Langer is a founding fellow and treasurer of the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers and is a former chair of the Consumer Financial Services Committee of the American Bar Association Business Law Section.
Mr. Langer will fill a position vacated by Rick Hackett last year. At the time of Mr. Hackett’s departure, Corey Stone, Assistant Director, Credit Information, Collections, and Deposit Markets, took over smaller dollar loan markets on a permanent basis. Rohit Chopra, the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman, took responsibility for auto and student loans on an acting basis. Although Mr. Stone will continue to oversee smaller dollar loan markets, including payday and auto title loans, the addition of Mr. Langer allows Mr. Chopra to focus only on his Ombudsman duties.
- Christopher D. Carroll has joined the CFPB as the Assistant Director and Chief Economist for the Office of Research in the Bureau’s Research, Markets, and Regulations Division, as the CFPB announced last year. Dr. Carroll is a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University, from which he has taken a leave of absence to serve at the Bureau. He also is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the co-chair of the NBER Research Group on Consumption. Dr. Carroll has served as a senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisors on two separate occasions, and as an economist for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Ron Borzekowski, who joined the CFPB at its inception from the Federal Reserve Board, has been serving as the acting head of the Office of Research.
- Daniel Dodd-Ramirez has joined the CFPB as the Assistant Director of Financial Empowerment in the Bureau’s Consumer Education and Engagement Division. Mr. Dodd-Ramirez previously served as the executive director of Step Up Savannah Inc. in Savannah, Ga., from 2005 to 2014. Prior to Step Up, he served as education project director and community organizer for People Acting for Community Together (PACT) in Miami, Florida, and before that was the human resources director for Families First, a social services agency in southern Vermont.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) sent a letter today to CFPB Director Richard Cordray once again pressing the CFPB for information about its March 2013 auto finance guidance and its actions since that time to pursue allegedly discriminatory practices by auto finance companies. That guidance, which the CFPB has characterized as a restatement of existing law, sought to establish publicly the CFPB’s grounds for asserting violations of ECOA against bank and nonbank auto finance companies for the alleged effects of facially neutral pricing policies.
The letter recounts numerous exchanges between members of Congress—including both Democratic and Republican members of the Committee—and the CFPB on this issue to demonstrate what the Chairman characterizes as “a pattern of obfuscation” by the Bureau. Mr. Hensarling explains that through a series of written requests—see, e.g. here, here, and here—as well as in-person exchanges, lawmakers have sought detailed information about the CFPB’s application of the so-called disparate impact theory of discrimination to impose liability on auto finance companies. The letter states that the CFPB has repeatedly refused to provide certain key information used in applying that theory through compliance examinations and enforcement actions, including information about regression analyses, analytical controls, and numerical thresholds employed by the Bureau. Read more…