On June 7, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) released details of the Financial CHOICE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs) Act, a Republican proposal to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act. According to Chairman Hensarling’s remarks delivered to the Economic Club of New York, “Dodd-Frank has failed.” The goals of the proposed plan are: (i) to promote economic growth through competitive, transparent, and innovative capital markets; (ii) to provide the opportunity for every American to achieve financial independence; (iii) to protect consumers from fraud and deception as well as the loss of economic freedom; (iv) to end taxpayer bailouts of financial institutions and too big to fail institutions; (v) to manage systemic risk; (vi) to simplify in order to prevent powerful entities from taking advantage of complexity in the law; and (vii) to hold Wall Street and Washington accountable. Importantly, Section Three (“Empower Americans to achieve financial independence by fundamentally reforming the CFPB and protecting investors”) proposes, among other things, to replace the current single director structure of the CFPB with a five-member, bipartisan commission subject to congressional oversight and appropriations. Section Three further proposes to repeal indirect auto lending guidance. As part of its goal to end “too big to fail” institutions and bank bailouts, Section Two of the Act proposes to retroactively repeal FSOC’s authority to designate firms as systematically important financial institutions. Finally, in an effort to “unleash opportunities for small businesses, innovators, and job creators by facilitating capital formation,” Section Six of the Act proposes to repeal the Volcker Rule, along with other sections and titles of Dodd-Frank that limit capital formation.
On June 17, the CFPB announced that it adjusted dollar threshold amounts for provisions in Regulation Z, which implements TILA, under the CARD Act, HOEPA, and the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB is required to make adjustments based on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index effective June 1, 2016. For 2017, the minimum interest charge will remain $27 for the first late payment and the subsequent violation penalty safe harbor fee for 2016 was amended to $38 for the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017. The CFPB is increasing the combined points and fees trigger-threshold for compliance with HOEPA to $1,029, and the amount threshold for high-cost mortgages in 2017 will be $20,579. 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% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $102,894; $3,087 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $61,737 but less than $102,894; 5% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $20,579 but less than $61,737; $1,029 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $12,862 but less than $20,579; and 8% of the total loan amount for a loan amount less than $12,862. The final rule is effective January 1, 2017, except that the amendment to the subsequent violation penalty safe harbor fee amount of $38 for the remainder of 2016 takes effect upon Federal Register publication.
On May 18, the CFPB released an overview of its Spring 2016 Rulemaking Agenda, which outlines the CFPB’s current initiatives. In addition to summarizing the CFPB’s recently released proposed rule to ban pre-dispute arbitration clauses in future consumer agreements, the agenda states that the CFPB expects to release this Summer (i) a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding small dollar loan products, including payday loans and auto title loan; (ii) a rule to finalize its November 2014 proposed rule on prepaid products; (iii) a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to provide clarity concerning its TRID Know Before You Owe mortgage rule; and (iv) a final rule to amend its 2014 proposed rule revising certain provisions of mortgage servicing requirements under RESPA and TILA. The agenda further comments on the CFPB’s oversight of (i) overdraft services on checking accounts, noting that the agency “is engaged in pre-rule making activities to consider potential regulation” of such services; (ii) debt collection practices, observing that the agency is in the process of developing proposed rules to further regulate the industry; (iii) nonbank institutions, emphasizing the CFPB’s rulemaking efforts to further define larger participants of certain markets for consumer financial products and services; and (iv) mortgage markets, highlighting CFPB efforts to implement “critical consumer protections under the Dodd-Frank Act.” Finally, the agenda comments that the CFPB is in the “very early stages starting work to implement section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which amends the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to require financial institutions to report information concerning credit applications made by women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses.”
On April 25, the CFPB issued separate consent orders to a New Jersey-based law firm and two of the firm’s partners and a New Jersey-based debt buyer for alleged violations of the FDCPA and the Dodd-Frank Act. According to the CFPB, between 2009 and 2014, the law firm, which specializes in retail debt collection litigation, filed lawsuits on behalf of the debt buyer without having “sufficient documentation” to support “the original contracts underlying the alleged debts, documentation of the consumer’s alleged obligation, or the chain of title evidencing that the debt buyer actually owned the debt and thus had standing to sue the consumer.” The CFPB alleges that, among other things, (i) the law firm relied on an automated system and non-attorney staff to complete the initial review of data submitted by the debt buyer regarding consumers’ debt accounts; (ii) the debt buyer failed to require that the law firm complete an account-level review of the documents it submitted prior to filing suit; (iii) neither the debt buyer nor law firm obtained sufficient documentation evidencing the alleged debt and its transactional history; and (iv) the debt buyer and law firm collected debts and filed suits based on unreliable data. The CFPB further contends that the named partners had “managerial responsibility for the Firm and materially participated in the conduct of its debt-collection litigation practices.” In addition to the $1 million civil money penalty imposed on the law firm and the two partners and the $1.5 million civil money penalty imposed on the debt buyer, the consent orders prohibit the firm, the two named partners, and the debt buyer from filing suits or threatening to file suits without substantial evidence that the debt is accurate and enforceable and from using deceptive affidavits, including those that misrepresent the type of documentation reviewed and that the review was conducted by the actual person signing the affidavit.
On April 21, the CFPB filed two complaints against individual operators of an online lead aggregator for their alleged involvement in the company’s practice of reselling consumers’ sensitive personal data to lenders and debt collectors without assessing the sources of this data, a practice the CFPB claims exposed consumers to the possibility that their personal data could be used for illegal purposes. In December 2015, the CFPB filed a complaint against the California-based company for allegedly buying and selling personal information from payday and installment loan applications without “properly vetting buyers and sellers.” The CFPB’s December complaint further alleged that, among other things, the company (i) knew or should have known that the lead generators in its network used false or misleading statements to obtain consumer information; and (ii) connected consumers with lenders that offered less favorable loan terms than were otherwise available, did not comply with state usury limits or claimed they were exempt from state regulation and jurisdiction. The most recently filed complaints charge the two individual operators with, among other things, “knowingly or recklessly provid[ing] substantial assistance to [the company] in its unfair and abusive acts and practices, in violation of [the Dodd-Frank Act].” This assistance allegedly enabled the company’s lead generators “to attract consumers with misleading statements and [take] unreasonable advantage of consumers’ lack of understanding of the material risks, costs, or conditions of the loan products for which they [applied].” The CFPB’s complaints against the individual operators seek monetary and injunctive relief, as well as civil money penalties.