On May 20, the CFPB launched its Financial Coaching Initiative, an educational program designed to help “recently-transitioned veterans and economically vulnerable consumers.” The program places 60 certified financial coaches – all of whom will be accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education – at diverse, non-profit partner organizations around the country. With over 49 million people living below the poverty line, and at least 68 million financially underserved, the goal of the CFPB’s new educational service is to “help these consumers make good financial decisions and reach their financial goals.” The program is being paid for by the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.
On May 19, the CFPB announced a stipulated final judgment against a California-based worldwide payment system company. According to the CFPB’s complaint, filed the same day, the defendant (i) failed to honor advertised promotional benefits; (ii) charged consumers deferred-interest fees; (iii) enrolled consumers in a credit product without their knowledge or consent; (iv) failed to remove late fees and interest charges that consumers accrued because of website failures; and (v) mishandled consumers’ billing disputes. Under the terms of the final judgment, the company will improve its disclosures regarding enrollment options and payment allocation, pay $15 million to reimburse consumers who were the victims of its practices, and pay $10 million to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.
On May 14, the CFPB published a Request For Information (RFI) seeking public comment on student loan servicing practices. In particular, the Bureau is requesting comments on six areas: (i) industry practices that cause repayment challenges; (ii) challenges faced by distressed borrowers; (iii) financial incentives that affect the quality of service; (iv) application of consumer protections in other markets to the loan servicing market; and (v) the availability of information about the student loan market. According to the Bureau, the comments received concerning the aforementioned areas will be used to assist student loan servicers and policymakers identify potential options to improve service, reduce defaults, develop industry best practices, examine consumer protection, and spur innovation. Along with the RFI, the CFPB released a factsheet on student debt stress, highlighting statistics that could lead to significant challenges for the industry. In prepared remarks for a field hearing concerning the issue, CFPB Director Richard Cordray alluded to the growing concerns within the student loan market, mentioning that two-thirds of graduates finishing their bachelor’s degrees graduate with debt averaging almost $30,000.
On May 26, The CFPB and the Federal Reserve will host a 60-minute webinar to answer questions with respect to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule under the TILA and RESPA, also known as TRID. “This fifth and final in the planned series of webinars will address specific questions related to rule interpretation and implementation challenges that have been raised to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by creditors, mortgage brokers, settlement agents, software developers, and other stakeholders,” according to the Federal Reserve. For those interested in attending, registration is required and can be accessed here.
On May 12, CFPB Director Richard Cordray addressed the National Association of Realtors regarding the 2008-2009 economic crash and the gradual recovery of the American housing market. In an effort to restore consumers’ confidence in the mortgage market, the Bureau implemented rules, such as the Ability-to-Repay rule and the Qualified Mortgage rule, to ensure that lenders were offering consumers mortgages they could afford. Effective August 1, the Bureau’s “Know Before You Owe” rule will replace the current separate disclosures required by TILA and RESPA with combined TILA-RESPA disclosures (“TRID”); the new forms are “consumer-tested to be more user-friendly, which will ease the process and improve the consumer experience.”. In his remarks, Cordray did not signal that the TRID effective date or enforcement of the same would by delayed by the Bureau.
On May 11, the CFPB issued Bulletin 2015-02, reminding creditors to include income from the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Homeownership Program when underwriting mortgage loans. Within the Bulletin, the Bureau noted that it “has become aware of one or more institutions excluding or refusing to consider income derived from the Section 8 HCV Homeownership Program during mortgage loan application and underwriting processes,” further mentioning that “some institutions have restricted the use of Section 8 HCV Homeownership Program vouchers to only certain home mortgage loan products or delivery channels.” The Bulletin warns that disparate treatment prohibited under ECOA and Reg. B may exist when a creditor does not consider Section 8 as a source of income and provides guidance on how lenders can mitigate their fair lending risk. In conjunction with the guidance, the CFPB also published a blog post, providing an overview of the Section 8 HCV Program and detailed how consumers can submit complaints if they believe they have been discriminated against.
On May 21, the FDIC’s Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection is scheduled to host a teleconference that will focus on the implementation of the new mortgage rules issued by the CFPB in 2013. According to the FDIC, officials from the banking regulator will discuss findings and highlight best practices that its examiners have noted during initial examinations in the first year since the rules became effective in 2014. Registration is required, and will begin at 2:00 p.m. EST.
CFPB Updates Mortgage Origination Examination Procedures to Include Requirements of TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule
On May 4, the CFPB updated its Supervision and Examination Manual’s Mortgage Origination examination procedures to include guidance on how its compliance examiners will examine loan disclosures and terms of closed-end residential mortgage loans that are subject to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule. The TRID examination procedures updates are reflected in module 4 of the Manual’s 8 modules, and instruct compliance examiners to review a sample of complete loan files to determine a company’s compliance. Further, if consumer complaints exist concerning the mortgage origination and closing disclosure requirements, then compliance examiners are permitted to interview the consumers included in the sample and inquire about each subject area listed in the module. The TRID rule is scheduled to go into effect August 1, 2015.
On May 5, the CFPB released the results of its latest analysis of the credit reporting industry, finding that more than 26 million consumers are categorized as “credit invisible” (i.e., consumers without credit histories with a nationwide consumer reporting agency). The report also found that an additional 19 million consumers’ credit records (roughly 8 percent of the adult population) are unscored because of insufficient credit history or information not recently reported. Other notable findings of the study include: (i) almost 15 percent of Black and Hispanic consumers are more likely to be “credit invisible” compared to 9 percent of White consumers; and (ii) consumers in low-income neighborhoods are much more likely to be credit invisible or to have an unscored credit record. During a conference call to announce the results of the study, Kenneth Brevoort, Section Chief within the CFPB’s Office of Research, alluded to what the Bureau’s next steps may be in the area, stating that the Bureau wants “to have a better understanding of exactly what interventions are possible in the regulatory space or perhaps, industry initiatives that may improve the functioning of these markets for the consumers’ well-being.”
Federal Register Publishes CFPB Notice to Renew the Approval for the Existing Collection, “Consumer Leasing Act (Regulation M)”
On May 4, the Federal Register published the CFPB’s notice and request for comment, “Consumer Leasing Act (Regulation M) 12 CFR 1013.” The CFPB is requesting to renew the approval of Regulation M without change. Consumers depend on Regulation M to shop for and compare leases, and, under Regulation M’s recordkeeping requirement, federal and state enforcement agencies are able to determine whether consumers receive accurate and complete disclosures of loan costs. Comments regarding the renewal of Regulation M are due on or before July 6, 2015.
Two regulatory enforcement matters announced in April offer a view into the current mindset of regulators in the ever-evolving world of vendor management. First, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a $25 million settlement with a telecommunications carrier related to the unauthorized release of personal information of more than a quarter-million customers. The identified cause of the data breach were employees of the carrier’s service providers based in Mexico, Columbia, and the Philippines, who confessed to selling customer information to unauthorized third parties. In holding the carrier responsible, the FCC issued its largest data security enforcement action to date. Although severe in its punishment, the FCC action did not break new ground, as regulators have shown an increasing willingness in recent years to assess monetary penalties against supervised institutions for legal violations committed by vendors.
“This approach is entirely consistent with the FCC’s past enforcement actions related to data security breaches, as well as those of other regulatory bodies where consumer harm has resulted,” advises Elizabeth McGinn, Partner in the D.C. office of BuckleySandler. “In the current environment, virtually every regulator has made accountability a fundamental axiom of its vendor management guidance.” Read more…
On April 29, the CFPB and the Maryland Attorney General announced a joint enforcement action against a Maryland title company and six individuals for participation in a mortgage-kickback scheme in violation of RESPA and state law. According to the complaint, between 2009 and 2014, the title company allegedly provided kickbacks and marketing services to loan officers in exchange for referrals of business. Under a proposed consent order, the title company will be prohibited from committing further violations of RESPA. In addition, five of the six individuals will be banned from the mortgage industry and ordered to pay a total of $662,500 in redress and penalties, while the regulators are proceeding in litigation against the sixth individual. The enforcement action follows a January enforcement action, where the CFPB and the Maryland Attorney General announced a joint enforcement action against two banks for their participation in this particular mortgage-kickback scheme.
On April 28, the CFPB published its third annual report to Congress on its fair lending activities. Among other developments, the report highlights the following key supervision and enforcement priorities taken by the Bureau in the past year: (i) A continued focus on discrimination in the mortgage lending industry, including redlining and underwriting disparities; (ii) Emphasis on the auto lending industry, which has resulted in guidance given to lenders on complying with Federal consumer financial laws, and action taken when lenders do not abide by those laws; (iii) Attention to the credit card market, including an enforcement action against a company for its alleged failure to provide certain consumers with debt relief offers because of national origin; and (iv) Assistance to consumers who receive disability income by issuing Bulletin 2014-03 to lenders, which outlines the rights of a consumer whose income is derived, in part or in whole, from a public assistance program. According to the report, the Bureau’s efforts in 2014 to protect consumers from credit discrimination lead to financial institutions providing approximately $224 million in monetary relief to over 300,000 consumers.
On April 27, the CFPB published a report regarding the trend of recent complaints submitted to the Bureau by Servicemembers entitled, A Snapshot of Complaints Received from Servicemembers, Veterans, and their Families. According to the report, between July 21, 2011 and December 31, 2014, the areas servicemembers reported to have the most problems with were debt collection, mortgage, and credit reporting. With debt collection making up 39% of the complaints, it is the most common type of complaint the Bureau receives from servicemembers: “[S]ervicemembers assert that the calculation of debt is inaccurate or unfair… [They] complain about telephone collections that are too frequent and that come at inconvenient times. They also complain about debt collectors calling their place of employment or third parties.” In addition to debt collection, mortgage, and credit reporting complaints, the report reveals the following products as problem areas for servicemembers: credit cards, bank accounts, consumer loans, and student loans. The Bureau’s report is an overview of the approximated 29,500 complaints the Bureau received from servicemembers since July 2011.
On April 29, the CFPB revealed via blog post that it will host a field hearing focusing on issues related to student debt. The hearing will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is scheduled to occur on Thursday, May 14. The hearing will feature remarks from CFPB Director, Richard Cordray, in addition to testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public.