On November 2, the CFPB, in partnership with the New York Attorney General, filed a lawsuit in a federal district court against the leaders of a debt collection operation based out of Buffalo. The lawsuit alleges that defendants operate a network of companies that harass and/or deceive consumers into paying inflated debts or amounts they may not owe. The Bureau is seeking to shut down the operation and to obtain compensation for victims and a civil penalty against the companies and partners.
CFPB Monthly Complaint Snapshot Spotlights Debt Settlement, Check Cashing, and Other Financial Services Complaints
On November 29, the CFPB released Volume 17 of its monthly complaint snapshot reports on consumer complaints stemming from financial services that fall outside of the Bureau’s major complaint categories. The “other financial services” covered in the report include debt settlement, check cashing, money orders, and credit repair. To date, the CFPB has handled approximately 1,035,200 complaints nationally across all products. As reported in the current snapshot: (i) Debt collection was the most-complained-about financial product or service in October; (ii) Student loan complaints showed the greatest increase—108 percent—of any product or service over the three-month period of August to October; and (iii) Alaska, New Mexico, and Missouri experienced the greatest year-to-year complaint volume increases from August to October 2016 period versus the same time period 12 months before. The current report also highlighted a trend in complaints coming from Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City metro area.
On October 31, the CFPB released the 13th Edition of its Supervisory Highlights Report, covering the period May through August of this year. The report shares recent supervisory observations in the areas of automobile loan origination, automobile loan servicing, debt collection, mortgage origination, mortgage servicing, student loan servicing, and fair lending. The report found that the CFPB’s recent supervisory actions returned more than $11 million to approximately 225,000 consumers. The Bureau also set forth new examination procedures for reverse mortgage servicing, student loan servicing, and the Military Lending Act.
On October 19, the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Kozinski, held that merely enforcing a security interest is not “debt collection” under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Ho v. ReconTrust Co., Case: 10-56884 (Oct. 20, 2016). In so holding, the Ninth Circuit disagreed with earlier decisions by the Fourth and Sixth Circuits, creating a split that might eventually be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. See e.g. Piper v. Portnoff Law Associates Ltd., 396 F.3d 227, 235-36 (3d Cir. 2005); Wilson v. Draper & Goldberg PLLC, 443 F.3d 373, 378-79 (4th Cir. 2006); Glazer v. Chase Home Finance LLC, 704 F.3d 453, 461 (6th Cir. 2013).
In Ho, a borrower sued several foreclosure firms after she defaulted on her mortgage loan, alleging that the defendant-companies had violated the FDCPA by sending her default notices stating the amounts owed. The district court dismissed that claim, finding the trustee was not a debt collector engaged in debt collection under the FDCPA. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The Court observed that a notice of default and a notice of sale may state the amounts due, but they do not in fact demand payment. Moreover, in California, deficiency judgments are not permitted after a non-judicial foreclosure sale, so no money can be collected from the homeowner. Notably, the notices complained of in Ho are required by California law prior to exercising the right to non-judicial foreclosure.
On October 17, the CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman (Ombudsman) released a report on student loan complaints related to debt collection and servicing issues submitted to the CFPB between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016. During the period covered in the report, the CFPB received approximately 5,500 private student loan – and 2,300 debt collection – related complaints. Following an August 18 CFPB report that focused primarily on student loan complaints regarding income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, the Ombudsman’s recently issued report emphasizes alleged breakdowns in the “rehabilitation” process: “The majority of borrowers who cure a default and seek to enroll in IDR do so by first rehabilitating their defaulted debt. Read more…