CFPB Spotlights Credit Reporting Industry in Latest Complaints Report

On August 25, the CFPB released the second of its monthly complaint reports, highlighting complaints received from consumers regarding the credit reporting industry. In its latest snapshot report, the CFPB revealed a 56 percent increase in the number of credit reporting complaints submitted by consumers between June 2015 and July 2015, and a 45 percent increase in credit reporting complaints from last year. The report also stated that 77 percent of credit reporting complaints involved inaccurate information on consumers’ credit reports. Despite the large volume of data used to prepare the report, the Bureau cautioned that the data is not normalized and that company-specific information should be considered in context of a company’s size.

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CFPB & NYDFS File Suit Against Two Pension Advance Lenders Over Misleading Consumers Related to Costs, Risks Associated to Advance Payments

On August 20, the CFPB, along with the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), filed a joint complaint in federal court against two pension advance lenders and three of their managers for allegedly misleading consumers regarding the costs and risks associated with the companies’ pension advance loans. The CFPB and NYDFS contend that both companies coerced consumers into borrowing against their pensions by marketing the product as a sale rather than a loan, and misrepresented or failed to disclose interest rates and fees on lump-sum cash advances offered for agreeing to redirect the full or partial amount of the consumer’s pension payments over an extended period. In separate allegations, the NYDFS contends that both companies violated New York state specific laws related to usury and deception, and unlawfully transmitted money without a proper license. The complaint follows guidance issued earlier this year highlighting three business practices consumers should avoid when conducting business with pension advance lenders.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Federal Issues

United States District Court: Mortgagor Lacks Standing to Bring RESPA Claim

On August 11, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire rejected the addition of a potential RESPA claim to plaintiff’s complaint due to lack of standing, and the court dismissed the remaining counts for failure to state a claim. Sharp v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, As Trustee For Morgan Stanley ABS Capital Inc. Trust 2006-HE3, No. 14-cv-369 (D.N.H. Aug. 11, 2015). Although plaintiff and his father were both mortgagors on the mortgage document, the promissory note identified plaintiff’s father as the sole borrower for the loan. After plaintiff’s father died and plaintiff defaulted on the mortgage, plaintiff sought to enjoin the bank’s subsequent foreclosure proceedings. Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint to add a RESPA claim based on the bank’s allegedly inadequate responses to his requests for information pursuant to 12 C.F.R. § 1024.35 and 12 C.F.R. § 1024.36. The court determined that plaintiff lacked standing to assert his RESPA claim because the RESPA provisions at issue only applied to borrowers, not mortgagors like plaintiff. The court also rejected plaintiff’s argument that his status as the successor-in-interest to his father under 12 C.F.R. § 1024.38 established standing to bring the RESPA claim. The court confirmed that plaintiff was protected by 12 C.F.R. § 1024.38, but the court relied on the CFPB’s official interpretation of 12 C.F.R. § 1024.38 to determine that no private right of action existed to enforce the rule.  Read more…

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Courts, Mortgages

CFPB Orders Subsidiary of Peer-to Peer Lending Company to Provide $700,000 in Restitution over Practices Related to its Health Care Loan Product

On August 19, the CFPB announced a consent order against a subsidiary of an online lending company, ordering the subsidiary to provide $700,000 in monetary relief to affected consumers. According to the CFPB, the subsidiary marketed two loan products at dental offices as part of its health-care services financing program – an installment loan and a deferred-interest loan – to assist consumers in paying for dental services. The CFPB contended that consumers were provided inaccurate information related to the terms and conditions of the deferred-interest loan product, finding that, in certain instances, the loan product was marketed as a “no-interest” loan. However, the dental service providers who marketed the loan product failed to note that the 22.98 percent interest rate would be added to the principal if consumers failed to pay the loan in full before the end of the promotional period.

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CFPB’s Office of Older Americans Releases Virginia Guides Designed for Financial Caregivers

On August 17, the CFPB released Virginia state-specific Managing Someone Else’s Money guides, which are designed to make it easier for financial caregivers to follow the state’s unique fiduciary laws and procedures. According to Director Cordray’s remarks, the four guides – (i) Agents under powers of attorney; (ii) Court-appointed guardians; (iii) Trustees; and (iv) Government fiduciaries – will provide fiduciaries with “tips and answers to everyday questions people may have about managing someone else’s bank account, applying for federal benefits, and sharing information with family members.” Additionally, the guides are intended to alert caregivers to potential scams and financial exploitation, while also providing ways to respond if a beneficiary is the victim of either. The CFPB plans to release similar guides for Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Oregon. Following the nationally-applicable 2013 Managing Someone Else’s Money guide, the release of these state-specific guides represents the second phase of the Bureau’s Office of Older Americans’ initiative to assist financial caregivers.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, State Issues

CFPB, FDIC, and OCC Order Large Financial Institution and Subsidiaries to Pay Nearly $40 Million for Deposit Discrepancies

On August 12, in coordinated enforcement actions, the CFPB, FDIC, and OCC ordered a large financial institution and two of its banking subsidiaries to pay nearly $40 million in fines and restitution for failing to credit consumers the full amounts of their deposited funds. The regulators allege that, from 2008 through 2013, the bank entities (i) failed to credit consumers the full amount of their deposits when the amount scanned on the deposit slip was less than the amount of the checks and cash deposited; and (ii) falsely claimed that they would verify the deposits. The CFPB consent order requires the bank entities to pay approximately $11 million in restitution and a $7.5 million civil money penalty. The FDIC order requires one of the banking subsidiaries to pay nearly $5.8 million in restitution and a $3 million civil money penalty, while the OCC consent order assessed a $10 million civil money penalty on the other banking subsidiary.

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POSTED IN: Banking, Federal Issues

CFPB Issues Guidance Reminding Servicers of Requirements for Cancellation and Termination of Private Mortgage Insurance

On August 4, the CFPB issued Compliance Bulletin 2015-03 to provide guidance to mortgage servicers on their compliance obligations related to the private mortgage insurance (PMI) cancellation and termination provisions under the Homeowners Protection Act (HPA). The bulletin summarizes HPA requirements regarding annual disclosures, PMI refunds, borrower-requested cancellation, automatic termination, and final termination of PMI. The bulletin also cautions servicers to implement investor guidelines in a manner that does not violate the HPA. In a statement released by the Bureau, CFPB Director Richard Cordray advised, “We will continue to supervise mortgage servicers to ensure they are treating borrowers fairly, and [the Bureau’s] guidance should help servicers come into compliance with the [HPA].”

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Digital Insights & Trends: Regulating Faster Electronic Payments – More Complexity or Improved Consistency?

David-Whitaker-webIn January of this year, the Federal Reserve System issued a white paper titled “Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payments System.”  The white paper notes that current technological developments (including the widespread availability of high-speed data networks, the ubiquity of mobile devices, and the increasing use of real-time commercial transaction processing) are outpacing the functional ability of the payments system to handle electronic payment authorization and processing.  In an effort to develop strategies for addressing this growing gap, the Federal Reserve has established a Faster Payments Task Force (“FPTF”).  The FPTF, which had its first meeting in June, seeks to engage a wide range of stakeholders to “identify and evaluate alternative approaches for implementing safe, ubiquitous, faster payments capabilities in the United States.”

A key question raised by such an initiative is this:  what should the legal and compliance requirements for a modern electronic payments system include, especially in connection with consumer transactions?  Current U.S. regulations for electronic fund transfers form a cumbersome patchwork — the rights and obligations of the parties to the transaction vary by the payment method used, and in some cases may change during the course of the transaction as the payment method is converted from one form to another (for example, the time frames within which a consumer may identify and reverse unauthorized or erroneous payments are often very different, depending on the form of payment).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), which is participating in the FPTF, has just issued a position paper on “Consumer Protection Principles” for faster electronic payments.  The CFPB has identified the following as key elements of the legal and compliance framework: Read more…

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Update Regarding Marketing Services Agreements (“MSAs”)

On Thursday, June 30, 2015, a CFPB spokesman issued a statement to HousingWire in response to the announcement by a large lender that it was terminating its MSAs:

[This] decision to exit all marketing services agreements is an important step for the mortgage industry towards ensuring compliance with [the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”)] and freeing up more choices for consumers.  We are concerned that such agreements can carry significant legal risk for companies and undermine transparency for consumers.  Companies should take note of today’s action and consider carefully whether their own business practices comply with the consumer protections provided under the law, which bars kickbacks for customer referrals.

These announcements come in the wake of the CFPB’s September 2014 consent order against Lighthouse Title, Inc. and CFPB Director Cordray’s June 2015 ruling against PHH Corporation and its affiliates. Both matters involved alleged violation of Section 8 of RESPA, which states that “[n]o person shall give and no person shall accept any fee, kickback, or thing of value pursuant to any agreement or understanding, oral or otherwise, that business incident to or part of a real estate settlement service involving a federally related mortgage loan shall be referred to any person.” 12 U.S.C. § 2607(a). However, Section 8 also states that “[n]othing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting … the payment to any person of a bona fide salary or compensation or other payment for goods or facilities actually furnished or for services actually performed.” 12 U.S.C. § 2607(c)(2).  Read more…

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CFPB Orders Mortgage Servicer to Pay $1.6 Million over Servicing Practices

On July 30, the CFPB ordered a Texas-based mortgage servicer to pay $1.5 million in restitution and $100,000 in civil money penalties for allegedly engaging in faulty servicing practices, according to a settlement announced by the CFPB. The CFPB alleged that, beginning in 2009, the mortgage servicing firm failed to honor “in-process” modifications—trial modifications that were pending when a loan was transferred to the company—until it determined that the prior servicer should have agreed to the trial modification. In addition, the CFPB alleged that the servicing firm provided inaccurate account statements to borrowers related to their loan balance, interest rates, payment due dates, and the amount available in escrow accounts. The CFPB further contends that, in certain instances, the servicing firm coerced consumers into waiving certain legal protections as a condition to being allowed to pay off delinquent payments in installments. Under the terms of the consent order, the servicing firm agreed to, among other things, (i) provide $1.5 million in restitution to consumers whose loan modifications were not acknowledged; (ii) pay a $100,000 civil money penalty; (iii) mitigate the impact of its allegedly unlawful practices by, for example, converting “in-process” loan modifications to permanent modifications and stopping foreclosure processes for certain borrowers; and (iv) honor loss-mitigation agreements entered into by prior servicers and “in-process” loan modifications and engage in outreach to contact borrowers and offer them loss-mitigation options.

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CFPB Settles with Payment Processor and Mortgage Servicer over Deceptive Mortgage Advertisement Allegations

On July 28, the CFPB announced that a Colorado-based payment processor, along with a Virginia-based mortgage servicer, agreed to pay a total of $38.5 million to resolve allegations that both entities used misleading advertisements related to a mortgage payment program. The CFPB alleged that both entities advertised the “Equity Accelerator Program” as a program that would help consumers save on interest payments by making mortgage payments biweekly rather than monthly. However, according to the CFPB, the program failed to make the biweekly payments, and no more than a “tiny” percentage of consumers enrolled in the program benefitted from the promised savings. Under the terms of the consent orders, the payment processor agreed to provide $33.4 million in restitution to affected consumers and pay a $5 million civil money penalty. The mortgage servicer will pay a $100,000 civil money penalty. Both entities also agreed to ensure that any advertisements concerning the mortgage program’s benefits complied with federal law.

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CFPB Files Complaint Against Student Financial Aid Consulting Company for Allegedly Illegal Sales and Billing Practices

On July 23, the CFPB announced that it had entered into a proposed consent order with a Sacramento-based company that provides fee-based student financial aid counseling and preparation services. The CFPB’s simultaneously filed complaint alleges that the company violated the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act by engaging in deceptive sales tactics through its websites and call center representatives. The complaint claims that from at least July 21, 2011 to present (recognizing that the company no longer operates one of the websites effective July 13, 2015), the company offered consumers certain services “as an upgrade from its ‘standard’ service level at ‘no additional cost.’” However, consumers were allegedly charged future annual fees of $67 to $85 for such upgrades. The Bureau also alleges that the company violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act by enrolling consumers in automatic, recurring payments without their knowledge or consent: “The Company did not provide consumers a copy of the consumers’ authorization for electronic fund transfers in which the terms of the preauthorized transfers – including automatic, recurring charges going forward – were clear and readily understandable.” The proposed consent order would require the company to pay $5.2 million in consumer relief and cancel all automatic and recurring charges currently in place. Due to the company’s limited financial resources, the proposed order seeks a civil money penalty of $1.00.

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CFPB Settles with Bank and its Two Affiliates for $18.5 Million over Alleged Faulty Student Loan Servicing Practices

On July 22, the CFPB announced that a major bank and its two affiliates agreed to pay $18.5 million to resolve allegations that the entities engaged in inadequate private student loan servicing practices. According to the consent order, the CFPB alleged that the bank and its affiliates (i) failed to provide clear information regarding the student-loan interest consumers paid; (ii) overstated the minimum amount due in student-loan billing statements; (iii) initiated collection phone calls to student loan borrowers that were non-compliant with certain provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; and (iv) failed to provide students with defaulted student loans with information about the amount and source of the debt and the consumers’ right to contest the debt’s validity, as required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Under terms of the settlement, the bank agreed to provide $16 million in restitution to affected borrowers, improve its student loan servicing and collections practices, and pay a $2.5 million civil money penalty. The announcement comes as the CFPB, along with the Department of Education and Department of Treasury, concluded its comment period for public feedback on ways to improve borrower service, reduce defaults, develop best practices, implement consumer protections, and spur innovation in the student loan servicing market.

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CFPB Reaches $700 Million Settlement to Resolve Credit Card Ancillary Products Investigation

On July 21, the CFPB announced a nearly $700 million settlement against a leading financial institution and its subsidiaries.  According to the consent order, the Bureau alleges that the entities engaged in deceptive marketing, billing, and collection practices related to various credit card ancillary products, including debt protection and credit monitoring services. Specifically, the Bureau alleges that the institution or its vendors marketing practices, consisting of telemarketing calls, online enrollment, point-of-sale application, and direct enrollment at retailers, mislead consumers into enrolling for certain ancillary products. The Bureau further alleges that, in some instances, telemarketers failed to accurately disclose the cost and fees associated with the ancillary products. With respect to the unfair billing allegations, the Bureau contends that the institution or its vendors improperly charged consumers, without authorization, for services that were not rendered, and failed to provide full product benefits of the services marketed to consumers. In addition, the Bureau alleges that the institution misrepresented payment fee information to consumers by failing to disclose the actual purpose of the fee associated with making payments by phone on delinquent credit card accounts. Under terms of the settlement, the institution and its subsidiaries agreed to (i) provide $479 million in consumer relief related to its marketing practices; (ii) pay roughly $220 million in restitution related to its payments collection practices and for consumers not receiving the full benefits of services promised; and (iii) pay a $35 million civil money penalty.

In a parallel enforcement action, the OCC imposed a separate $35 million civil money penalty against the institution for engaging in similar practices, and requires the institution to strengthen its oversight of third-party vendors and develop a comprehensive risk management program for ancillary products marketed or sold by the bank.

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Special Alert: CFPB Officially Delays TRID Rule Until October 3

The CFPB finalized a rule today that delays the effective date of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (“TRID”) rule, including all amendments, from August 1 to October 3, 2015. This is consistent with the proposed rule issued last month, which we wrote about here.

The CFPB considered implementing a “dual compliance period” that would have permitted creditors to voluntarily comply with the TRID rule early, but it ultimately declined to do so, citing concerns that “dual compliance could be confusing to consumers and complicated for industry, including vendors, the secondary market, and institutions who act both as correspondent lenders and originators.”

In addition, although the CFPB declined to create a “hold harmless” or “safe harbor” period following the effective date, it stated that it “continues to believe that the approach expressed in Director Cordray’s letter to members of Congress on June 3, 2015,” which we wrote about here, remains fitting:

[O]ur oversight of the implementation of the Rule will be sensitive to the progress made by those entities that have squarely focused on making good-faith efforts to come into compliance with the Rule on time. My statement . . . is consistent with the approach we took to implementation of the Title XIV mortgage rules in the early months after the effective dates in January 2014, which has worked out well. Read more…

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POSTED IN: Mortgages, Special Alerts