CFPB Seeks Comments on New Initiative Intended to Increase Transparency in Student Loan Servicing Market

On February 16, the CFPB announced a request for comments on an information collection plan titled “Student Loan Servicing Market Monitoring.” The proposed plan will collect student loan data from the largest student loan servicers in order to provide the Bureau “with a broader and deeper look into the student loan market, with a focus on key areas that might put consumers . . . at risk.” Key areas of examination will be: (i) the total size of the student loan market; (ii) borrowers who seek to repay their loans based on how much money they have (Income-Driven Repayment plans); (iii) borrowers who face the greatest risk of default; and (iv) borrowers with private student loans who experience financial distress. Comments must be submitted on or before April 17, 2017.

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FDIC Issues Guidance to Facilitate Recovery in Areas of Louisiana Affected by Severe Weather

On February 14, the FDIC issued guidance (FIL-9-2017) intended to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and to facilitate recovery in areas of Louisiana affected by recent severe storms, tornadoes, high winds, and flooding. A current list of designated areas—where damage assessments are currently underway—is available at www.fema.gov. Among other things, the guidance encourages banks to “work constructively with borrowers experiencing difficulties” due to weather-related damage by considering “[e]xtending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans, or easing terms for new loans.” Such flexibility, the FDIC instructs, can both “contribute to the welfare of the local community” and also “serve the long-term interests of the lending institution.” The FDIC is also considering “regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.”

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FTC Reports on 2016 Enforcement Activities to Counter Illegal Debt Collection Practices

On February 14, the FTC announced that it has provided the CFPB with a letter summary of the Commission’s efforts during the past year to combat unlawful debt collection practices, provide education and public outreach activities, and conduct research and policy initiatives in the debt collection area. The purpose of the letter, as explained by the Commission, is to “assist the CFPB in its annual report to Congress about its administration of the [Fair Debt Collection Practices Act]”—an act for which the Commission and the CFPB share enforcement responsibilities.

According to the summary, many of the Commission’s law enforcement actions focused on curbing illegal debt collection practices, including phantom debt collection. Specifically, during 2016, the Commission, among other things: (i) filed or resolved 12 cases against 61 defendants, and obtained nearly $70 million in judgments; (ii) permanently banned 44 companies and individuals that engaged in “serious and repeated violations of law” from working in the debt collection industry; and (iii) obtained summary judgment decisions in three litigated matters that resulted in court orders banning the pertinent defendants from the debt collection industry. The summary notes further that, during 2016, two federal appellate courts adopted interpretations of the FDCPA that it considered “favorable” to consumers in cases in which the Commission and CFPB filed joint amicus briefs.

Moreover, with respect to educational initiatives, the summary highlights the Commission’s continued efforts to educate consumers and businesses during the past year about their rights and responsibilities under the FDCPA and the FTC Act. Among other things, the Commission reported: (i) reaching consumers through approximately 16,000 community-based organizations and national groups; (ii) distributing 15.5 million print publications to libraries, police departments, schools, non-profit organizations, banks, credit unions, and other businesses and government agencies; (iii) logging more than “43 million views” on its pertinent website pages; and (iv) reaching consumers through its videos, which were viewed more than 600,000 times. The Commission also noted that it continues to monitor and evaluate the debt collection industry and its practices through public workshops, and by providing input to the CFPB regarding related “rulemaking and guidance initiatives.”

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NCUA Publishes Proposed Rule Offering Alternate Capital Proposal for Credit Unions

On February 8, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) published a notice of proposed rulemaking to expand the types of investment capital that federally insured credit unions could use to meet certain regulatory requirements. NCUA is considering whether to allow credit unions to use investment capital (that would be uninsured capital subordinate to all other claims) to satisfy the risk-based net worth ratio requirement. Currently, only low-income designated credit unions are allowed to use secondary capital to satisfy two regulatory requirements: the net worth ratio and the risk-based net-worth ratio. Although any changes to the definition of net worth would require an act of Congress, the NCUA asserted in the proposal that it has broad authority to adjust the risk-based net worth ratio requirement and therefore may choose to allow credit unions that are not “low-income designated” to use alternative capital to meet this requirement.

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OCC Proposes Final Revisions to Stress Test Information Collection

On February 2, the OCC requested comment on proposed revisions to an existing information collection entitled “Company-Run Annual Stress Test Reporting Template and Documentation for Covered Institutions with Total Consolidated Assets of $50 Billion or More Under the [Dodd-Frank Act].” The agency is also giving notice that it has sent the collection to the OMB for review. This information collection is related to the conduct of annual stress tests that the Dodd-Frank Act requires of certain financial companies, including national banks and federal savings associations. Comments on the current notice must be received by March 6, 2017.

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