FTC Resolves Claims Against Auto Dealers Based on Alleged Deceptive Advertising

On June 29, the FTC filed two administrative complaints and issued proposed orders against two Las Vegas auto dealers to resolve allegations that they engaged in misleading advertising practices that misrepresented the purchase price or leasing offers of their vehicles, as well as the amount actually due at signing. In addition, the FTC also contends that the auto dealers failed to disclose other key information in its advertisements, such as the need for a security deposit, whether a down payment was required, and the terms of repayment. Under the proposed consent orders, the FTC will require both dealerships to refrain from misrepresenting the actual cost to purchase or lease a vehicle, and to comply with requirements of the Consumer Leasing Act and the Truth in Lending Act. No monetary judgment is proposed for either auto dealership.

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District Court Rejects Lender’s Motion to Dismiss in Ongoing Litigation with CFPB

On June 12, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California denied Castle & Cooke Mortgage’s motion to dismiss in a putative class action brought by affected borrowers stemming from Castle and Cooke’s 2013 settlement with the CFPB. The underlying complaint is based on the allegation that the “loan officer who sold plaintiff his mortgage loan was paid a bonus that was based, at least in part, on the fact that plaintiff received a more expensive and/or less favorable loan than he otherwise would have received.”  The complaint seeks various remedies, including actual and statutory damages under the Truth in Lending Act. The complaint contains four separate causes of action: (i) violations of TILA, (ii) violations of the Utah Residential Mortgage Practices and Licensing Act, (iii) unjust enrichment under Utah law, and (iv) violations of the California Unfair Competition Law.  Castle & Cooke only moved to dismiss the final two claims. In denying Castle & Cooke’s motion to dismiss, the court found that both challenged claims could be pursued, rejecting Castle & Cooke’s arguments that the claims were inappropriate given the remedies available under TILA. With this denial, the plaintiffs will be able to continue pursuing all four causes of action as the litigation continues.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Courts

FTC Provides Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report to CFPB and Federal Reserve

On June 9, the FTC announced that it has provided to the CFPB its 2014 Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report. The report highlights the FTC’s enforcement, research, rulemaking, and policy development activities with respect to the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z), the Consumer Leasing Act (Regulation M), and the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (Regulation E). Areas detailed within the report include enforcement actions related to non-mortgage credit, including auto finance and payday lending, mortgage loan advertising, and forensic audit scams; and consumer and business outreach related to truth in lending requirements.  The report, submitted on May 29, will be used to prepare the CFPB’s Annual Report to Congress. The FTC also submitted a copy of the report to the Federal Reserve Board.

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CFPB Orders Mortgage Lender to Pay $250,000 Penalty for Deceptive Advertising

On April 9, the CFPB announced a consent order with a California-based mortgage lender, requiring the lender to pay a $250,000 civil money penalty for advertising that allegedly led customers to believe the company was affiliated with the U.S. government.  According to the consent order, the advertisements used the names and logos of the VA and FHA, described loan products as part of a “distinctive program offered by the U.S. government,” and instructed consumers to call the “VA Interest Rate Reduction Department” at a phone number belonging to the mortgage lender, thus implying that the mailings were sent by government agencies. The CFPB further alleged that the advertisements misrepresented interest rates and estimated monthly payments, including whether the interest rate was fixed or variable, and that consumers who called the company were sometimes told that the lender was endorsed by the VA or FHA. The CFPB determined that the advertisements were deceptive and misleading in violation of the CFPA and the Mortgage Acts and Practices Rule (MAP Rule or Regulation N). The CFPB also alleged violations of TILA and Regulation Z for failing to include certain disclosures in the advertisements. In addition to the civil money penalty, the consent order requires the lender to submit a compliance plan to the CFPB and comply with additional record keeping, reporting, and compliance monitoring requirements.

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POSTED IN: Federal Issues, Mortgages

CFPB Releases New Mortgage Toolkit in Anticipation of New Mortgage Disclosure Rule

On March 31, the CFPB announced a new toolkit as part of its “Know Before You Owe” mortgage initiative. Designed to “help customers understand the nature and costs of real estate settlement services,” the step-by-step guide includes worksheets, checklists, and research tips for consumers. The new toolkit replaces an existing HUD booklet that creditors provide to mortgage applicants. The release of the toolkit precedes the August 1 effective date for the TILA/RESPA integrated disclosure rule, giving the industry “time to order and receive or print the new toolkit and integrate electronic versions into their mortgage origination systems.”

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Trade Association Urges HUD to Delay Effective Date on Single-Family Housing Policy HandBook

On March 26, 2015, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) sent a letter to HUD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Zadareky seeking clarification, guidance, and answers to outstanding questions raised by HUD’s early drafts of its new comprehensive Federal Housing Administration Single-Family Housing Policy Handbook. The MBA raises five particular concerns and requests a possible delay for the scheduled implementation date of June 15, 2015 for the following reasons in order to give the industry time to adapt including (i) some of the policy changes in the Handbook are expected to mean changes for the TOTAL Scorecard, and lenders will need access to a revised Developers Guide in order to align their systems with HUD’s systems; (ii) lenders are adapting to a large number of new legal and regulatory requirements.  The TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule alone constitutes a major shift for lenders; (iii) it is currently not clear where a lender would go to find out if a borrower’s federal debt has been referred to the US Treasury for collection in order to comply with the Handbook’s requirement that delinquent Federal debt be resolved in accordance with the Debt Collection Improvement Act; (iv) the new required treatment of excluded parties puts an impossible burden on lenders because the lender must now guarantee that an employee of another company with which the lender is working does not have an employee who has been suspended or debarred by HUD; and (iv) the Handbook’s new definition of satisfactory credit is unclear and conflicts with payment history requirements in other sections of the Handbook.

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POSTED IN: Miscellany, Mortgages

FTC Announces Results of “Operation Ruse Control” on Auto Industry

On March 26, the FTC announced the results of Operation Ruse Control, “a nationwide and cross-border crackdown” on the auto industry with the intent to protect consumers who are purchasing or leasing a car. Efforts taken jointly by the FTC and its law enforcement partners resulted in over 250 enforcement actions, including the six most recent cases that involved (i) fraudulent add-ons; (ii) deceptive advertising; and (iii) auto loan modification. According to the press release, the FTC recently took its first actions against two auto dealers for its add-on practices, which allegedly violate the FTC Act by failing to disclose the significant fees associated with offered programs or services and misrepresenting to consumers that they would save money. Three auto dealers recently “agreed to settle charges that they ran deceptive ads that violated the FTC Act, and also violated the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and/or Consumer Leasing Act (CLA).” Finally, at the FTC’s request, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida temporarily put an end to the practices of a company that charged consumers an upfront fee to “negotiate an auto loan modification on their behalf, but then often provided nothing in return.” The FTC’s recent actions are indicative of its ongoing efforts to prevent alleged fraud within the industry.

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CFPB Finalizes TILA-RESPA Integrated Mortgage Disclosure (TRID) Amendments

As previously reported in our Special Alert on January 20, the CFPB finalized certain amendments to its TRID rule, which combines the mortgage disclosures consumers receive under the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.  Significant amendments include: (i) allowing three business days for providing a revised Loan Estimate after an interest rate is locked (instead of the current same day requirement and the original proposal’s one business day requirement); and (ii) permitting the inclusion of certain information about construction loans on the Loan Estimate. The final rule, as amended, takes effect August 1.  For more information, please visit our TRID Resource Center.

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Special Alert: CFPB Finalizes Amendments to TILA-RESPA Integrated Mortgage Disclosures

On January 20, 2015, the CFPB finalized amendments to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (“TRID”) rule that make a number of amendments, clarifications, and corrections, including:

  • Relaxing the redisclosure requirements after a rate lock.  The final rule permits creditors to provide a revised Loan Estimate within three business days after an interest rate is locked, instead of the current requirement to provide the revised Loan Estimate on the date the rate is locked (and instead of the proposed rule that would have allowed only one business day)
  • Creating room on the Loan Estimate for the disclosure that must be provided on the initial Loan Estimate as a condition of issuing a revised estimate for construction loans where the creditor reasonably expects settlement to occur more than 60 days after the initial estimate is provided
  • Adding the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure to the list of loan documents that must disclose the name and NMLSR ID number of the loan originator organization and individual loan originator under 12 C.F.R. § 1026.36(g)
  • Providing additional guidance related to the disclosure of escrow accounts, such as when an escrow account is established but escrow payments are not required with a particular periodic payment or range of payments
  • Clarifying that, consistent with the requirement for the Loan Estimate, the addresses for all properties securing the loan must be provided on the Closing Disclosure, although an addendum may be used for this purpose

Read more…

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POSTED IN: Mortgages, Special Alerts

Supreme Court Holds That Notice of Rescission Is Sufficient For Borrowers to Exercise TILA’s Extended Right to Rescind

As previously reported in our January 15 Special Alert, the Supreme Court held in Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. that a borrower seeking to rescind a loan pursuant to the Truth In Lending Act’s (“TILA’s”) extended right of rescission need only submit notice to the creditor within three years to comply with the three-year limitation on the rescission right. TILA gives certain borrowers a right to rescind their mortgage loans. Although that right typically lasts only for three days from the time the loan is made, 15 U.S.C. § 1635(a), it can extend to three years if the creditor fails to make certain disclosures required by TILA, 15 U.S.C. § 1635(f). Petitioners in the case had mailed a notice of rescission to Respondents exactly three years after the loan was made and Respondents responded shortly thereafter by denying that Petitioners’ had a right to rescind. A year after submitting their notice of rescission—four years after the loan was made—Petitioners filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration of rescission and damages. In his opinion for the unanimous Court, Justice Scalia stated that the statutory language “leaves no doubt that rescission is effected when the borrower notifies the creditor of his intention to rescind. It follows that, so long as the borrower notifies within three years after the transaction is consummated, his rescission is timely.” BuckleySandler submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case on behalf of industry groups, arguing that notice alone is insufficient to effectuate rescission under Section 1635(f).

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POSTED IN: Courts, Mortgages

Special Alert: Supreme Court Holds That Notice of Rescission is Sufficient For Borrowers to Exercise TILA’s Extended Right to Rescind

The Supreme Court on January 13, 2015 held in Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. that a borrower seeking to rescind a loan pursuant to the Truth In Lending Act’s (“TILA’s”) extended right of rescission need only submit notice to the creditor within three years to comply with the three-year limitation on the rescission right. TILA gives certain borrowers a right to rescind their mortgage loans. Although that right typically lasts only for three days from the time the loan is made, 15 U.S.C. § 1635(a), it can extend to three years if the creditor fails to make certain disclosures required by TILA, 15 U.S.C. § 1635(f). Petitioners in the case had mailed a notice of rescission to Respondents exactly three years after the loan was made and Respondents responded shortly thereafter by denying that Petitioners’ had a right to rescind. A year after submitting their notice of rescission—four years after the loan was made—Petitioners filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration of rescission and damages.

The Court’s opinion resolved a circuit split over whether borrowers exercising their right to rescind certain loans pursuant to Section 1635(f) must file a lawsuit to rescind their loans within the three-year period set forth in that section or can satisfy the timing requirements by merely submitting notice of rescission to the creditor. In his opinion for the unanimous Court, Justice Scalia stated that the statutory language “leaves no doubt that rescission is effected when the borrower notifies the creditor of his intention to rescind. It follows that, so long as the borrower notifies within three years after the transaction is consummated, his rescission is timely.” The Court rejected Respondents’ argument that a court must be involved in a rescission under Section 1635(f). Read more…

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CFPB Increases Asset-Size Thresholds Under HMDA and TILA

On December 29, the CFPB published final rules adjusting the asset-size thresholds under HMDA (Regulation C) and TILA (Regulation Z). Both rules take effect on January 1, 2015.

HMDA requires certain lenders to collect and report data about mortgage application, origination, and purchase activity, and to make such data available to the public. Institutions with assets below certain dollar thresholds are exempt from the HMDA collection and reporting requirements. The final rule increases the asset-size exemption threshold for banks, savings associations, and credit unions from $43 million to $44 million, thereby exempting institutions with assets of $44 million or less as of December 31, 2014, from collecting and reporting HMDA data in 2015.

TILA, among other things, require creditors to establish escrow accounts when originating higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs). However, TILA exempts certain entities from this requirement, including entities with assets below the asset-size threshold established by the CFPB. The final rule increases this asset-size exemption threshold from $2.028 billion to $2.060 billion, thereby exempting creditors with assets of $2.060 billion or less as of December 31, 2014, from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for HPMLs in 2015.

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CFPB & State Attorneys General Fine Retailer and Debt Collectors for Alleged Illegal Debt Collection Practices Against Military Servicemembers

On December 18, the CFPB and the Attorneys General of North Carolina and Virginia announced an enforcement action against three affiliated companies offering credit and financing services to military servicemembers. The complaint filed in the Eastern District of Virginia alleges that the companies used illegal tactics to collect debts in violation of Dodd-Frank, including by (i) filing illegal lawsuits; (ii) debiting consumers’ accounts without authorization; and (iii) contacting servicemembers’ commanding officers. The complaint also charges that one of the companies violated the EFTA by failing to properly disclose the terms of preauthorized transfers, while another company violated TILA by failing to properly disclose terms and interest rates on the loans it offered to servicemembers. The CFPB and the Attorneys General filed a consent order in the district court to require the companies and their owners and chief officers to provide over $2.5 million in consumer redress, pay a $100,000 civil penalty, and undergo ongoing compliance monitoring for a period of five years.

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CFPB Proposes Amendments to Mortgage Servicing Rules

On November 20, the CFPB announced the issuance of a proposed rule to amend RESPA (Reg. X) and TILA (Reg.Z). The proposed rule changes primarily focus on clarifying, revising or amending (i) Regulation X’s servicing provisions regarding force-placed insurance, early intervention, and loss mitigation requirements; and (ii) periodic statement requirements under Regulation Z’s servicing provisions. In addition, the proposed amendments also revise certain servicing requirements that apply when a consumer is a potential or confirmed successor in interest, is in bankruptcy, or sends a cease communication request under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Further, the proposed rule makes technical corrections to several provisions of Regulations X and Z. The public comment period will be open for 90 days upon publication in the Federal Register.

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CFPB Holds Field Hearing On Prepaid Products, Proposes New Rule

On November 13, the CFPB held a field hearing in Delaware to discuss its proposed rule regarding prepaid products. The proposal, which would amend Regulation E and Regulation Z, requires prepaid companies to provide certain protections under federal law.

In his opening remarks, Director Cordray noted that the many prepaid card consumers are some of the most economically vulnerable among us and that such cards have few, if any, protections under federal consumer financial law. Cordray outlined the reasons the Bureau’s proposed rule would “fill key gaps” for consumers. First, the proposed rule would provide consumers free and easy access to account information. Second, the proposed rule would mandate that financial institutions work with consumers to investigate any errors on registered cards. Third, the proposed rule would protect consumers against fraud and theft. Fourth, the rule includes “Know Before You Owe” prepaid disclosures, which would highlight key costs associated with the cards. Fifth, where prepaid card providers also extend credit to consumers such offers would be treated the same as credit cards under the law.

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