On November 24, Republicans on the House Committee on Financial Services issued a report regarding the CFPB’s approach for determining discrimination in the auto lending industry. The report questions the CFPB’s proxy methodology and its authority to bring claims against banks involved in indirect auto lending under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act’s (ECOA) disparate impact theory. According to the report, disparate impact “is a controversial legal theory of liability in discrimination cases.” The report further states that, even if it assumes that the ECOA permits disparate impact claims, the CFPB is nonetheless required to identify the following to establish a prima facie case: (i) a specific policy or practice adopted by the creditor; (ii) disparate impact on a prohibited basis; and (iii) a causal relationship between the challenged practice and the alleged disparate impact. Read more…
On December 15, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled the omnibus spending bill, which includes the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 – legislation that would affect how businesses share information with each other and the government, and establish an information system for the government to share “cyber threat indicators and defensive measures in real time consistent with the protection of classified information” with federal and non-federal entities. The cybersecurity text included in the omnibus bill is a combination of three cybersecurity bills that were under legislative consideration this year, as follows: S. 754 – Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015; H.R. 1731 – National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015; and H.R. 1560 – Protecting Cyber Networks Act. Designating the Department of Homeland Security as the government’s proxy, the revised legislation provides entities with liability protections to voluntarily share with the government cybersecurity threat information. Specifically, regarding the sharing or receipt of cyber threat indicators, the legislation reads, “[n]o cause of action shall lie or be maintained in any court against any private entity, and such action shall be promptly dismissed, for the sharing or receipt of a cyber threat indicator or defensive measure under section 104(c).” Read more…
On November 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote H.R. 1210 and H.R. 1737, both of which will affect CFPB policies governing the mortgage and auto lending industries. The “Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act” – H.R. 1210 – would amend the Truth in Lending Act to create a safe harbor from certain requirements for depository institutions making residential mortgage loans held in portfolios. Specifically, the bill permits loans that appear on a depository institution’s balance sheet to be treated as a Qualified Mortgage subject to certain limitations, thus permitting such loans to fall under the Ability-to-Repay Rule’s safe harbor provisions. The “Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Finance Guidance Act” – H.R. 1737 – would invalidate CFPB Bulletin 2013-02, which provides guidance to indirect auto lenders regarding compliance with federal fair lending laws.
U.S. House of Representatives Passes Several Financial Regulatory Relief Bills, Including TRID Safe Harbor
On October 7, the U.S. House of Representatives (U.S. House) passed several pieces of bipartisan legislation aimed at providing regulatory relief to lenders and strengthening consumer protection. This legislation included H.R. 3192, the Homebuyers Assistance Act, which was approved by a 303-121 vote, which seeks to provide a formal four-month safe harbor for lenders who in “good faith” work to comply with the CFPB’s new TRID Rule, which went into effect on October 3. The U.S. House also unanimously approved H.R. 1553, the Small Bank Exam Cycle Reform Act, and H.R. 1839, the Reforming Access for Investments in Startup Enterprises (RAISE) Act. The Small Bank Exam Cycle Reform Act would allow well-managed banks with assets under $1 billion to qualify for an 18-month examination cycle, rather than the current 12-month cycle. The RAISE Act is intended to promote a liquid secondary market for shareholders seeking to sell private securities and encourage startups and private companies to raise capital to grow their businesses. This legislation will now go to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
U.S. House Financial Services Committee Pass Several Financial Regulatory Bills Seeking Regulatory Relief and Stronger Consumer Protection
On September 30, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee approved five pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening consumer protection, providing regulatory relief to publicly traded companies, and seeking expanded oversight of the CFPB. Approved in an overwhelming 56-3 vote, H.R. 957, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection-Inspector General Reform Act of 2015, creates an independent Inspector General for the CFPB to be nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The committee also passed H.R. 2769 in a 50-9 vote. The Risk-Based Capital Study Act of 2015 mandates the National Credit Union Administration to conduct a study of appropriate capital requirements for federal and state credit unions prior to new rules becoming effective.
On September 25, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement announcing that he will resign both his Speakership and congressional seat on October 30. No announcement has been made addressing who will replace Boehner as Speaker of the House.
NAAG Urging Congress to Refrain From Passing Federal Data Breach Legislation Preempting State Authority
On July 7, as Congress considers proposed legislation on data breach notification and security, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter to leaders of both houses of Congress urging them to refrain from passing federal data breach and identity theft laws that would preempt states’ authority to enforce their own legislation, or pass legislation that exceeds federal standards. The 47 state attorneys general argued that “preempting state law would make consumers less protected than they are right now” because (i) states are closer to people affected consumers and can better respond to their concerns; (ii) states are “better equipped to quickly adjust to the challenges presented by a data-driven economy”; (iii) although helpful for a national data breach, a single federal agency would be unable to “respond effectively” to the large number of smaller data breaches that “have a large impact in a particular state or region”; and (iv) “with the increasing speed rate of technological developments,” states need the ability to surpass minimal and continually obsolete federal requirements. Accordingly, the state attorneys general asserted it was “crucial” that they “maintain their enforcement authority under their states’ laws, and that any legislation be tailored to ensure complementary enforcement authority.”
On June 17, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that would require the CFPB to conduct a peer-reviewed cost-benefit analysis of the use of arbitration agreements prior to issuing a final rule. The amendment is tied to a fiscal year 2016 financial services spending bill, which would bring the Bureau under the congressional appropriations process. U.S. House Representatives Steve Womack (R-AR) and Tom Graves (R-GA) brought forth the amendment, which was adopted by the Committee on a voice vote.
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.
On June 3, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to H.R. 2578, the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act. The amendment, passed in a 232-196 vote, would prohibit the DOJ from using funds to prosecute and obtain legal settlements from lenders, landlords, and insurers in discrimination suits based on the disparate impact legal theory. This legislative development comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule later this summer in Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project, which challenges the disparate impact theory in mortgage lending under the Fair Housing Act
On May 4, Indiana Governor Michael Pence signed H.B. 1456 into law, amending the state’s civil relief act to include protections for servicemembers under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The legislation also requires the Indiana National Guard provide both active and reserve members a list that details the rights a servicemember or a dependent of a servicemember are entitled to under the state and federal SCRA. The law will take effect on July 1, 2015.
On March 4, U.S. House Representative Randy Neugebauer introduced H.R. 1266, a bill to reform the CFPB’s leadership structure to replace its single director with a five-member commission appointed by the President. Representative Neugebauer serves at the Chairman of the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee.
On February 12, Congressmen Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Tim Walz (D-MN) re-introduced the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection-Inspector General Act of 2015, legislation that would create an independent IG position at the CFPB. The IG position would be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Currently, the CFPB and the Federal Reserve share an IG. The proposed legislation is intended to increase congressional oversight over the CFPB, which has been given “broad authority” to fulfill its mission to protect consumers.
On February 12, seven industry trade associations co-authored a letter to Congress regarding anticipated data breach legislation. The letter urges Congress to protect its constituents from the impact of identity theft and financial fraud resulting from data breaches by (i) considering a national data security and breach standard; (ii) recognizing the existing fraud protection standards (e.g., HIPAA and GLBA) and having them serve as a model for sectors where there are none; and (iii) encouraging shared responsibility between entities, including costs. The letter is the latest effort among the industry to lobby Congress in passing legislation to combat increasing data breaches and fraud.
On December 18, after passing unanimously in both houses of Congress, President Obama signed into law S.3008, the Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act of 2014. Previously, the SCRA’s protection for servicemembers against foreclosure for one year after the end of active duty was set to expire at the end of 2014. The Act extends this protection until the end of 2015, at which point the foreclosure protection is scheduled to revert to the period of active duty plus 90 days that was in effect in 2008.