On November 14, the CFPB announced the release of its annual review of issues related to mortgage financing programs offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, entitled A Snapshot of Servicemember Complaints. According to the report, as of November 1, the CFPB has received over 12,500 mortgage complaints from servicemembers, veterans, and their dependents, with the CFPB identifying at least 14% (about 1,800) of those complaints relating to refinancing. The complaints concerned a wide range of issues, including aggressive solicitations, misleading advertisements, processing delays that resulted in less favorable terms than expected, a lack of clarity in loan documents, and poor communications during refinancing that resulted in customer confusion.
On November 18, the GAO announced the release of its report and recommendations following the watchdog agency’s review of application of the SCRA’s rate cap by student loan servicers. According to the report, entitled Student Loans: Oversight of Servicemembers’ Interest Rate Cap Could Be Strengthened, the number of servicemembers receiving the interest rate cap for their student loans has greatly increased since the Department of Education began requiring federal student loan servicers to automatically check the Department of Defense’s SCRA database to identify those who are eligible.
The report also identified several challenges commonly encountered by servicemembers seeking to take advantage of the rate cap, including: (i) inaccurate SCRA information from the database; (ii) lack of a requirement that private loan servicers use the automatic eligibility check to identify eligible servicemembers; and (iii) lack of routine oversight of SCRA compliance for nonbank private student loan lenders and servicers. The GAO recommended, among other things, that the DOJ require private loan servicers to use the automatic eligibility check to identify eligible borrowers. The report also highlighted an issue with the Department of Education’s new borrower complaint system, which lacks the ability to track SCRA complaints systematically.
On March 22, the CFPB released its fourth annual report highlighting complaints the agency received in 2015 from servicemembers, veterans, and their families. According to the report, debt collection complaints continue to be the most common. The report states that, between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015, the CFPB received more than 19,000 complaints from the military community, 46% of which related to the debt collection industry. Complaints related to mortgages and credit reporting follow at 15% and 11%, respectively. The report also summarizes four public enforcement actions in 2015, noting that the actions provided servicemembers with more than $5 million in refunds and other relief.
On March 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S.B. 2393, which extends through 2017 the provision of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act’s (SCRA) that protects servicemembers against foreclosure without a court order or waiver for one year following completion of their service. On January 1, 2016, the foreclosure protection provision reverted back to the period of active duty military service plus 90 days, rather than the period of active duty military service plus one year. Upon the President’s signature, the SCRA’s protection against foreclosure without a court order or waiver will return to the period of active duty military service plus one year through December 31, 2017.
On December 22, New York AG Schneiderman announced that more than 3,000 consumers received partial compensation from funds stemming from a global settlement negotiated by AG Schneiderman and the CFPB. In July 2014, the CFPB and 13 state AGs announced a consent order with a military consumer lender requiring it to provide $92 million in debt relief to approximately 17,000 U.S. servicemembers and other consumers affected by the company’s alleged predatory lending scheme. At the time of the order, the company was in Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the redress requirement was suspended until it complied with the debt-relief provisions of the consent order. The recent redress payment exceeds $3.7 million and was issued to 82 victims in New York.