On October 5, the CFPB posted on its blog six FAQs to assist borrowers in understanding the TRID rule and how the new process attempts to make the mortgage process easier. The post comes in light of the TRID rule becoming effective on October 3 and addresses the new required federal disclosures for most mortgages, along with lenders’ requirement to provide a Closing Disclosure at least three business days before consummation. The FAQs also clarify instances where a second three-day review period is required once a Closing Disclosure is received.
CFPB Considering Proposals to Limit Pre-Dispute Arbitration Agreements for Consumer Financial Products and Services, Convenes Small Business Review Panel Seeking Feedback
On October 7, the CFPB issued proposals to limit the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements, which it contends are often used to evade class action litigation. Under the proposals, the Bureau would seek to prohibit the use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in consumer financial contracts, unless the agreements explicitly state that the agreements are not applicable to cases filed as class actions, class certification is denied by a court, or class claims are dismissed by a court. While not prohibiting pre-dispute arbitration agreements in their entirety, for companies that elect to use arbitration agreements in consumer financial contracts, the proposals would require that companies submit to the CFPB arbitration claims filed by consumers and any monetary awards issued therefrom. Furthermore, the CFPB is considering publishing the information submitted by companies on its website.
The Bureau also stated that it will convene a Small Business Review Panel, representing the initial step of a potential rulemaking. The Panel is expected to provide feedback on the impact of the proposals set forth by the Bureau and offer possible alternatives to address arbitration agreements in consumer financial contracts.
On October 1, CFPB Director Richard Cordray, on behalf of the FFIEC, responded to correspondence from the American Bankers Association and other trade associations seeking guidance as to their compliance with the Bureau’s Know Before You Owe TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule, which will become effective on October 3, 2015. Per Director Cordray’s letter, the FFIEC’s member agencies’ examiners “will expect supervised entities to make good faith efforts to comply with the Rule’s requirements in a timely manner.” Moreover, examiners will take a number of factors into consideration in determining compliance with the Rule, including (i) an institution’s implementation plan; (ii) an institution’s training of its staff; and (iii) how an institution handles any early technical problems or other implementation challenges.
On October 1, the CFPB ordered an indirect auto lender and its auto title lending subsidiary to pay more than $48 million in restitution and consumer relief over allegations that both companies engaged in unlawful debt collection practices. The CFPB alleged that the companies used a variety of “deceptive” tactics to coerce borrowers into making payments on their remaining loan amounts. The CFPB further asserted that the companies provided inaccurate information in their advertisements to borrowers regarding monthly interest rates, and misled borrowers about the effect of changing payment due dates or the ramifications of extending loan terms, which resulted in additional accrued interest owed over the life of the loan. Under terms of the consent order, the companies agreed to, among other things, provide $44.1 million in restitution and loan balance reductions to affected borrowers and pay a $4.25 million civil money penalty.
U.S. House Financial Services Committee Pass Several Financial Regulatory Bills Seeking Regulatory Relief and Stronger Consumer Protection
On September 30, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee approved five pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening consumer protection, providing regulatory relief to publicly traded companies, and seeking expanded oversight of the CFPB. Approved in an overwhelming 56-3 vote, H.R. 957, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection-Inspector General Reform Act of 2015, creates an independent Inspector General for the CFPB to be nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The committee also passed H.R. 2769 in a 50-9 vote. The Risk-Based Capital Study Act of 2015 mandates the National Credit Union Administration to conduct a study of appropriate capital requirements for federal and state credit unions prior to new rules becoming effective.
BuckleySandler Webinar Recap: Strategies for Meeting the CFPB’s Expectations for Consumer Complaint Management
On September 29, BuckleySandler hosted a webinar, “Meeting the CFPB’s Expectations for Consumer Complaint Management,” presented by partner Jonice Gray Tucker, counsel Lori Sommerfield, and counsel Kari Hall. This recap covers highlights from their discussion, which included a discussion of the CFPB’s expectations and practical advice for managing consumer complaints in the evolving regulatory environment.
The webinar began with a brief background on the CFPB’s approach to consumer complaints. In particular, the presenters touched upon how the CFPB has used complaints as a driving force in determining priorities in guiding supervisory work, identifying leads for enforcement, and in informing rulemaking efforts. The presenters also discussed how the Bureau may deal with deficiencies in consumer complaint management in examinations and ways in which the outgrowth of such deficiencies may lead to enforcement actions. In addition, the presenters highlighted key elements of effective complaint management programs. Read more…
On September 29, the CFPB issued a report examining public comments and providing policy recommendations to address issues in the student loan servicing market. The report follows a May 2015 Request for Information notice where the CFPB, together with the Department of Treasury and the Department of Education (collectively, the Agencies), sought feedback on ways to improve student loan servicing practices.
In a parallel announcement, the Agencies released an interagency Joint Statement of Principles on Student Loan Servicing, which is expected to serve as a regulatory framework in the reformation of current student loan servicing practices, and establish minimum federal compliance requirements.
On September 24, the CFPB and DOJ announced a joint enforcement action against a federally-chartered savings association, alleging that the lender excluded predominantly minority neighborhoods from its mortgage lending business. The consent order, subject to court approval, would require the lender to, among other things, (i) pay $25 million in various subsidies to assist minority borrowers; (ii) provide a total of $2.25 million, over a five-year period, to local initiatives providing assistance and consumer education to residents in the excluded neighborhoods; and (iii) pay a $5.5 million civil money penalty.
On September 22, via blog post, the CFPB announced that it will host its second field hearing addressing pre-dispute arbitration agreements in various consumer financial contracts. Scheduled for October 7, 2015, the hearing will take place in Denver, Colorado and feature remarks from CFPB Director Richard Cordray, testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public. Previous InfoBytes coverage on arbitration can be seen here.
On September 22, the CFPB published the third volume of its monthly consumer complaints report, examining mortgage complaints received through its complaint database. In its latest snapshot report, the CFPB revealed that it has received more than 190,000 mortgage complaints as of September 1, 2015, making mortgage the most-complained-about financial product. Specifically, the report finds that ongoing questions persist with respect to (i) how consumers can prevent foreclosure; (ii) how and when to make payments when mortgage loans are transferred to a different servicer; and (iii) how to ensure accurate payment on mortgage loans. According to the CFPB, as of September 1, 2015, over 700,000 complaints have been handled since the consumer complaint database’s inception.
On September 21, the CFPB issued a final rule amending certain dollar thresholds for provisions implementing amendments in Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), under the CARD Act, HOEPA, and ATR/QM. The CFPB is required to adjust based on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index in effect on June 1, 2015. For 2016, the minimum interest charge disclosure threshold will remain unchanged. Permissible penalty amounts will remain $27 for the first late payment; however, for each subsequent violation within the following six months, the allowed penalty amount will decrease from $38 to $37. Similarly, the CFPB is adjusting the combined points and fees trigger-threshold for compliance with HOEPA to $1,017. Lastly, to satisfy the underwriting requirements under the ATR/QM rule, a covered transaction will not be considered a QM unless the combined points and fees do not exceed 3 percent of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $101,749; $3,052 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $61,050 but less than $101,749; 5 percent of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $20,350 but less than $61,050; $1,017 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $12,719 but less than $20,350; and 8 percent of the total loan amount for a loan amount less than $12,719.
The rule becomes effective on January 1, 2016.
On September 21, the CFPB issued a final rule, amending certain mortgage rules and comments relating to lending activities by small creditors in rural and underserved areas. Initially proposed in January 2015, the final rule, among other things (i) increases the loan origination limit for determining eligibility for small-creditor status from 500 loans to 2,000 non-portfolio loans; (ii) includes the assets of the creditor’s affiliates, which regularly make covered transactions, in calculation of the creditor’s assets to determine whether the creditor is within the $2 billion threshold for small-creditor status; (iii) restores the one-year look back period in place of the three-year look back period for the time period that determines whether a creditor is operating predominantly in rural or underserved areas; (iv) revises escrow exemptions to prevent creditors from losing eligibility for the escrow exemptions as a result of escrow accounts before the effective date of the rule; (v) broadens the definition of “rural” to include (a) counties that meet the current definition of rural county, and (b) census blocks that are not in an urban area (as defined by the Census Bureau); (vi) adds safe harbor provisions to facilitate the determination of “rural” by permitting automated address search tools provided by the CFPB and the Census Bureau; and (vii) extends the temporary two-year transition period, which permits certain small creditors to make balloon-payment qualified mortgages and balloon-payment high-cost mortgages (whether or not they operate predominantly in rural or underserved areas), to include applications received by April 1, 2016.
The final rule will take effect on January 1, 2016.
On September 15, BuckleySandler hosted a webinar, “TRID for Investors” presented by BuckleySandler partner Benjamin Olson and associate Brandy Hood. The webinar addressed what purchasers of mortgage loans need to know about the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule (TRID rule) that goes live on October 3, 2015. Specifically, Mr.Olson and Ms. Hood addressed evolving assignee liability, identifying risks, correcting errors, and identifying apparent errors. They also discussed ambiguous liabilities and common misconceptions, and focused on information that will help investors develop instructions and procedures that reduce litigation risk without unnecessarily limiting the pool of loans meeting those standards. For additional information and resources on the TRID rule, please visit our TRID Resource Center.
On September 15, the CFPB announced a preliminary injunction obtained against World Law Group and its senior leaders for allegedly running a debt-relief scheme that charged consumers costly and illegal upfront fees. According to the CFPB, “the debt-relief scheme falsely promised consumers a team of attorneys to help negotiate debt settlements with creditors, failed to provide legal representation, and rarely settled consumers’ debts.” Specifically, the complaint alleges that defendants charged consumers upfront fees before providing debt-relief services in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The complaint also alleges that World Law Group falsely promised legal representation to consumers who did not receive the promised legal representation. The underlying lawsuit remains pending following the granting of the preliminary injunction.
On September 9, the CFPB ordered the two largest U.S. debt buyers and collectors to pay a combined total of nearly $80 million in civil penalties and consumer restitution related to their debt collection practices. The CFPB alleged that both companies, among other things, engaged in robo-signing, sued (or threatened to sue) on stale debt, made inaccurate statements to consumers, and engaged in other illegal collection practices. In particular, the CFPB criticized the practice of purchasing debts without obtaining important documentation or information about the debt, or verifying to ensure the debts were accurate and enforceable before commencing collection activities. Under the consent orders, one company agreed to provide up to $42 million in consumer refunds, pay a $10 million civil money penalty, and cease collecting on a portfolio of consumer debt with a face value of over $125 million. The other company agreed to provide $19 million in restitution, pay an $8 million civil money penalty, and cease collecting on a consumer debt portfolio with a face value of over $3 million. In addition, both companies are also generally prohibited from reselling consumer debt. In prepared remarks announcing the enforcement action, CFPB Director Richard Cordray noted, “the terms of the orders will help reform and improve the tactics and approaches” within the debt collection market. The CFPB’s action comes as the industry anticipates the CFPB’s issuance of new debt collection rules.