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.
On January 23, the Attorneys General of 16 states and the District of Columbia (the State Attorneys General) filed a motion requesting the permission of the D.C. Circuit to intervene in the CFPB’s petition for en banc reconsideration in PHH Corp. v. CFPB. In the motion, the State Attorneys General argue that they have a vital interest in the matter because the October 2016 panel decision subjecting the CFPB Director to “at will” removal by the President “threatens to undermine the ability of the State Attorneys General [to work with the CFPB] to bring effective civil enforcement and coordinated regulatory actions free from political influence and interference.”
Noting the possibility that President Trump may seek to remove CFPB Director Cordray before the petition for rehearing is resolved or refuse to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court if the panel decision stands, the State Attorneys General raise the concern that “[t]he incoming administration … may not continue an effective defense of the statutory for-cause protection of the CFPB director.” Therefore, because “[a] significant probability exists that the pending petition for rehearing will be withdrawn, or the case otherwise rendered moot,” the State Attorneys General argue that the D.C. Circuit should allow them to intervene to protect their interests.
In addition to the District of Columbia, the motion was filed on behalf of the Attorneys General for the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The filing of the motion was announced by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, whose office prepared the initial draft.
On November 3, the CFPB filed a lawsuit in federal district court against a Virginia pawnbroker for deceiving consumers about the actual annual cost of its loans. In its Complaint, the CFPB alleges both TILA violations and unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices under Dodd-Frank and the CPA. The complaint seeks monetary relief, injunctive relief, and penalties. The CFPB coordinated its investigation with the Virginia Attorney General’s office – which filed its own lawsuit against the same pawnbrokers back in July 2015 for violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
State AGs Urge the CFPB to Ensure that States Maintain the Right to Set Usury Caps on High Cost Loans
In October, New York AG Eric T. Schneiderman, along with seven other state AGs (Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont and the District of Columbia), submitted a letter to the CFPB in response to the agency’s proposed rule addressing payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain high-cost installment loans. While commending the CFPB for introducing additional consumer protections, the letter urges the CFPB to integrate the following language from the preamble of the proposed rule into the body of the final rule: “The protections imposed by this proposal would operate as a floor across the country, while leaving State and local jurisdictions to adopt additional regulatory requirements (whether a usury limit or another form of protection) above that floor as they judge appropriate to protect consumers in their respective jurisdictions.” The letter explains that because the CFPB does not have the authority to set interest rates – or usury caps – for loans, it is “crucial” that states maintain their right to do so.