Washington Amends Provisions Impacting Non-Depository Institutions

Recently, the state of Washington enacted SB 6134, which amends numerous provisions related to the supervision of non-depository institutions. The bill clarifies the statute of limitations applicable to certain violations by non-depository institutions by providing that enforcement actions for violations of the Escrow Act, the Mortgage Broker Practices Act, the Uniform Money Services Act (UMSA), the Consumer Loan Act, and the Check Cashers and Check Sellers Act (CCSA) are subject to a five-year statute of limitations. In addition, the bill provides that licensees under the CCSA and the UMSA that conduct business in multiple states and register through the NMLS must submit call reports to the Department of Financial Institutions. The changes take effect June 12, 2014.

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UK FCA Describes Approach To Consumer Credit Markets, Launches Review Of Credit Card Market

On April 3, Martin Wheatley, Chief Executive of the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which took over responsibility for overseeing consumer credit markets in the UK on April 1, 2014, identified the FCA’s most “immediate priority” as ensuring “providers of credit, as well as satellite services like credit broking, debt management and debt advice, have sustainable and well-controlled business models, supported by a culture that is based on ‘doing the right thing’ for customers.” He explained that the FCA wants to expand financial service providers’ focus on compliance with specific rules to include “wider FCA expectations of good conduct.” Referencing a paper the FCA published on April 1, the day it began overseeing consumer credit markets, Mr. Wheatley stated that consumer credit providers need to consider how they engage with consumers in vulnerable circumstances. On this issue, the FCA also announced a “competition review” of the UK credit card market to determine, among other things, “how the industry worked with those people who were in difficult financial situations already.”

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California Proposes Rule To Clarify Scope Of Licensing Exemption

Earlier this month, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) issued a notice and request for comment on a proposed amendment to regulations that implement the California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) and the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (CRMLA). The proposed amendment would clarify  that non-depository operating subsidiaries, affiliates, and agents of federal banks and other financial institutions do not fall within the licensure exemption for a bank or savings association under the CFLL and the CRMLA. The DBO views the proposed amendment as required in light of the Dodd-Frank Act’s elimination of federal preemption over such entities by the OCC. Comments on the proposal are due by May 7, 2014.

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California Eliminates Passive Investor Self-Certification From Finance Lenders Law License Application

Recently, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) made a number of changes to the application for a California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) license that is completed by persons engaged in non-residential lending or brokering.  The changes were made following a 45-day notice and comment period.  (Presumably, these changes also apply, where applicable, to persons engaged in residential lending or brokering and who are thus required to submit applications via the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System.)

One of the most significant changes to the application relates to which individuals associated with the owners of an applicant are required to submit a Statement of Identity and Questionnaire and fingerprints to the DBO for investigative purposes.  Since 2007, the application specified as follows: Read more…

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Illinois AG Sues To Enforce Dodd-Frank “Abusive” Prohibition

On March 19, Illinois Attorney General (AG) Lisa Madigan announced a suit against a lender for allegedly offering a short-term credit product designed to evade the state’s usury cap. The AG claims the lender offers a revolving line of credit with advertised interest rates of 18 to 24%, and then adds on “account protection fees.” The AG characterizes those fees as interest substantially in excess of the state’s 36% usury cap. According to the AG, after a borrower takes out the short-term loan, the lender allegedly provides a payment schedule and instructs the borrower to make minimum payments, which consumers who filed complaints with the AG’s office believed was a timeline to pay off the full debt. The complaint is the AG’s first under the Dodd-Frank Act and claims that the lender’s practices take unreasonable advantage of consumers and constitute abusive practices. The complaint also alleges violations of the state Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Businesses Practice Act and seeks restitution, civil penalties, disgorgement, and an order nullifying all existing contracts with Illinois consumers and prohibiting the company from selling lines of credit and revolving credit in Illinois.

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Maine Seeks To Halt Unlicensed Consumer Lending

On March 16, Maine enacted legislation that makes it a violation of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act for a lender not organized and supervised under the laws of any state or the United States to solicit or make, either directly or through an agent, a loan to a Maine consumer unless licensed under state law. The law also establishes as an unfair or deceptive act or practice for entities other than supervised financial institutions to process a check, draft, other form of negotiable instrument or an electronic funds transfer from a consumer’s financial account in connection with a loan solicited from or made by an unlicensed lender who is not exempt from the licensure requirement. The statute similarly establishes as an unfair or deceptive act or practice for any person or lender to provide substantial assistance to a lender or processor when the person or lender or the person’s or lender’s authorized agent either knows or consciously avoids knowing that the lender or processor is unlicensed and not otherwise exempt from licensure or is engaging in an unfair or deceptive act or practice. The Maine UTPA provides a private right of action and allows the state attorney general to seek injunctive relief and civil penalties for violations of an injunction.

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South Dakota Clarifies Revolving Credit Account Requirements

On March 3, South Dakota enacted HB 1131, which amends state banking laws to make clear that banks can offer revolving lines of credit not tied to the issuance of a credit card.

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UK FCA Finalizes New Consumer Credit Rules

On February 28, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced final rules for consumer credit providers, including new protections for consumers in credit transactions. The FCA states that the most drastic changes relate to payday lending and debt management. For example, with regard to “high-cost short-term credit,” the new rules will (i) limit to two the number of loan roll-overs; (ii) restrict to two the number of times a firm can seek repayment using a continuous payment authority; and (iii) require creditors to provide a risk warning. Among other things, the new rules also establish prudential standards and conduct protocols for debt management companies, peer-to-peer lending platforms, and debt advice companies. The policy statement also describes the FCA’s risk-based and proactive supervisory approach, which the FCA states will subject firms engaged in “higher risk business” that “pose a potentially greater risk to consumers” to an “intense and hands on supervisory experience” and will allow the FCA to levy “swift penalties” on violators. The new rules take effect April 1, 2014. The FCA plans next to propose a cap on the cost of high-cost, short-term credit.

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DOJ Alleges Community Bank’s Unsecured Loan Pricing Violated ECOA

Last month, the DOJ announced a settlement with a three-branch, $78 million Texas bank to resolve allegations that the bank engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of national origin in the pricing of unsecured consumer loans. Based on its own investigation and an examination conducted by the FDIC, the DOJ alleged that the bank violated ECOA by allowing employees “broad subjective discretion” in setting interest rates for unsecured loans, which allegedly resulted in Hispanic borrowers being charged rates that, after accounting for relevant loan and borrower credit factors, were on average 100-228 basis points higher than rates charged to similarly situated non-Hispanic borrowers. The DOJ claimed that “[a]lthough information as to each applicant’s national origin was not solicited or noted in loan applications, such information was known to the Bank’s loan officers, who personally handled each loan transaction.”

The consent order requires the bank to establish a $159,000 fund to compensate borrowers who may have suffered harm as a result of the alleged ECOA violations. Prior to the settlement, the bank implemented uniform pricing policies that substantially reduced loan officer discretion to vary a loan’s interest rate. The agreement requires the bank to continue implementing the uniform pricing policy and to (i) create a compliance monitoring program, (ii) provide borrower notices of non-discrimination, (iii) conduct employee training, and (iv) establish a complaint resolution program to address consumer complaints alleging discrimination regarding loans originated by the bank. The requirements apply not only to unsecured consumer loans, but also to mortgage loans, automobile financing, and home improvement loans.

The action is similar to another fair lending matter referred by the FDIC and settled by the DOJ earlier in 2013, which also involved a Texas community bank that allegedly discriminated on the basis of national origin in its pricing of unsecured loans.

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Missouri Increases Allowable Short-Term Loan Fees

On September 11, the Missouri General Assembly voted to override the governor’s veto and enact HB 329, which, among other things, increases the allowable fees on short-term loans. The bill increases the maximum fee that a creditor can charge on a loan for 30 days or longer, other than open-end credit, from 5% to 10% of the principal amount of the loan, up to $75. Similarly, for open-end credit contracts tied to a transaction account in a depository institution with a contract that provides for loans of 31 days or longer, the bill increased maximum credit advance fee from the lesser of $25 or 5% of the credit advanced to the lesser of $75 or 10% of the credit advanced. The bill also (i) requires the Division of Finance and the Division of Credit Unions to report annually certain information about state financial institutions in each county or city with a population of more than 250,000, including the number and type of violations, a statement of enforcement actions taken, the names of institutions found to be in violation, the number and nature of complaints received, and the action taken on each complaint, and (ii) allows the division directors to conduct consumer hearings if the director has reason to believe that a violation has occurred, removing the requirement that the director’s decision be based on an examination, an investigation of a complaint that has not been resolved by negotiation, a report by the financial institution, or any public document or information. Governor Jay Nixon sought to halt the legislation in July, citing concerns of the substantial increased cost to consumers.

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Missouri Increases Credit Advance Fees

On July 12, Missouri enacted SB 254, which increases credit advance fees for open-end credit loans of 31 days or longer. Under current Missouri law, lenders may charge a credit advance fees of up to the lesser of $25 or 5% of the credit advanced from the line of credit. Effective August 28, 2013, lenders may charge a credit advance fee of up to the lesser of $75 or 10%of the credit advanced from the line of credit.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Federal Issues

DOD Seeks Input on Military Lending Act Regulations; State AGs Seek Expansion of Covered Loans

Last week, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to solicit input on potential changes to the definition of “consumer credit” in the regulations that implement the Military Lending Act (MLA). Currently, the MLA regulations cover certain payday, car title, and refund anticipation loans to servicemembers and their dependents. The DOD notice seeks (i) comment on whether the definition of “consumer credit” should be revised to cover other small dollar loans and (ii) examples of alternative programs designed to assist servicemembers who need small dollar loans. Responses to the DOD notice are due by August 1, 2013. On June 24, a bipartisan group of 13 state attorneys general submitted a comment letter urging the DOD to amend the MLA regulations to close loopholes in the definitions of covered loans and to cover any other type of consumer credit loan presenting similar dangers, such as overdraft loans.

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Texas Adds Flexibility to Increase Fees and Charges on Consumer Loans, Cash Advances

On June 14, Texas enacted SB 1251, which grants the state Finance Commission authority to set maximum amounts for (i) administrative fees charged on consumer loans and (ii) acquisition charges on cash advances. Those maximum amounts have not been updated in the state in more than 10 years and 20 years, respectively. The bill makes certain other changes related to the computation of interest charges on cash advances and the application of an alternate interest charge computation methodology to a borrower’s account. The bill takes effect on September 1, 2013.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, State Issues

North Carolina Increases Maximum Installment Loan Rates, Adds Servicemember Protections

On June 20, North Carolina enacted SB 489 to increase from $10,000 to $15,000 the maximum installment loan amount, and to increase the maximum allowable interest rates on installment loans. Under the new tiered rate structure, effective July 1, 2013, lenders may charge 30 percent on loans up to $4,000, 24 percent on loans $4,000 to $8,000, and 18 percent on loans $8,000 to $15,000. The bill also (i) extends the allowable terms of such loans to 96 months, (ii) allows lenders to charge late and deferral fees, and (iii) adds new protections for military servicemembers.

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Florida Adjusts Consumer Loan Allowable Interest Rate Tiers

On June 10, Florida enacted SB 282, which amends the Florida Consumer Finance Act to increase by $1,000 the tiered principal amounts subject to maximum allowable interest rates. For loans entered after July 1, 2013, lenders can charge for certain consumer loans up to 30 percent interest on the first $3,000, up to 24 percent on $3,001 to $4,000, and up to 18 percent over $4,000. The bill also increases from $10 to $15 the maximum amount that lenders can charge for payments at least 10 days delinquent.

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POSTED IN: Criminal Enforcement, State Issues