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Steven Kaplan is a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington DC office and a member of the Consumer Financial Services group. He concentrates his practice on matters related to consumer financial products and represents clients in federal and state supervisory matters, investigations and enforcement proceedings. He also advises clients on compliance with federal and state laws governing licensing and practices of financial institutions, mortgage lenders, consumer finance companies, loan servicers, prepaid card issuers, payment system providers and secondary market participants. Steven acts as regulatory counsel in connection with investments or acquisitions related to consumer loans and other consumer financial products and performing regulatory compliance due diligence. Additionally, Steven assists with structuring operations and developing compliance management systems and due diligence programs and with litigation involving regulatory compliance matters.

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Congress amended the Truth in Lending Act in May 2018 by directing the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to prescribe ability-to-repay regulations with respect to Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) financing. PACE financing helps homeowners cover the costs of home improvements, which financing results in a tax assessment on the consumer’s property. Ability-to-repay regulations, which TILA and the CFPB currently impose in connection with most closed-end residential mortgage loans, would generally require a creditor to consider specific factors about a consumer’s finances, including income, assets, and debt obligations, and to verify the income and assets with reliable third-party documentation, prior to extending the financing.

On March 4, 2019, the CFPB issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) seeking information regarding, and responses to specific questions related to, PACE financing.

Read more in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

Oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) by the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to become more aggressive when the 116th Congress convenes in January 2019. On December 11, 2018, members of the new Democratic House majority nominated Representative Maxine Waters to chair the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the Bureau. During Rep. Waters’ time as ranking member on the Committee, she heavily criticized many of the changes Acting Director Mick Mulvaney made at the Bureau. Mayer Brown summarized those changes in a recent Legal Update.

As chair, Rep. Waters will set the Committee agenda, enabling her to turn her criticism into more direct pressure on the Bureau and its new Director Kathleen Kraninger. Proposed legislation sponsored by the incoming chair may hold some clues to the actions the Committee may take.

In September 2018, Rep. Waters introduced the Consumers First Act. The bill is largely designed to restore the Bureau to how it looked and functioned before Acting Director Mulvaney’s tenure. Some of its major topics include the following: Continue Reading House Oversight of CFPB Expected to Become More Aggressive Under Chair Waters

New California legislation will impose disclosure requirements, similar to those under the federal Truth in Lending Act, on commercial-purpose loans of $500,000 or less, including arrangements such as factoring, merchant cash advances, and certain assignments of accounts and receivables. The disclosures will generally include the total cost of the financing, expressed both as a dollar amount and an annualized rate, with variations applicable to different types of transactions. While the requirements will not apply to depository institutions, they will apply to certain bank partner arrangements, such as a non-depository institution that enters into a written agreement with a depository institution to arrange for commercial financing via an online lending platform. The requirements will not, however, apply to transactions secured by real property, among other exemptions. The law becomes effective January 1, 2019, but providers are not required to comply with the disclosure requirements until final regulations become effective.

Read about the new California requirements in Mayer Brown’s latest Legal Update.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Lusnak v. Bank of America, N.A.—holding that the National Bank Act did not preempt a California law requiring banks to pay interest on certain funds held in escrow accounts for mortgage borrowers—has received considerable attention in the consumer finance industry. Bank of America’s bid for rehearing en banc was significantly strengthened on Monday, when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) took the unusual step of filing an amicus curiae brief in support of the petition for rehearing.

Mayer Brown’s Legal Update summarizes how, according to the OCC, the court got the preemption issue in Lusnak wrong.

On June 22, 2017, the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman put out its annual report on student loans, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. The report analyzes complaints submitted by consumers about student loan servicers between March 2016 and February 2017. Many of the complaints relate to practices, such as payment processing, customer service and borrower communication, and income-based repayment plan enrollment, that the CFPB has frequently scrutinized in the past through supervision and enforcement activities.

However, the majority of the report focuses on complaints from consumers related to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which allows those who enter careers in public service to have their student loans forgiven after a decade. The CFPB’s report criticizes servicers’ alleged failures to actively advise borrowers on how to qualify for PSLF, track their progress toward PSLF completion, and inform them about the requirements of the PSLF program. In conjunction with the report, the CFPB updated its education loan examination procedures to include additional questions about the PSLF program. Continue Reading CFPB Issues Report on Student Loan Servicing and Updated Examination Procedures

Flood insurance reform continues to generate interest from Congress, particularly in the context of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization debate. (The program will expire September 30, 2017, absent reauthorization or a continuing resolution.)

In December we discussed a proposed rule to implement the statutory definition of “private flood insurance.” That proposal was related to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act’s requirement that the agencies issue a rule directing lending institutions to accept such insurance, with the goal of stimulating the private flood insurance market.  In March, Senators Heller (R-NV) and Tester (D-MT), and Reps. Ross (R-FL) and Castor (D-FL),** reintroduced legislation to further define “private flood insurance,” seeking to clarify the issue, and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs recently held hearings on the Senate version of that legislation. Continue Reading Redefining Private Flood Insurance*

Last week was busy for the financial technology industry (Fintechs) and non-bank regulators.

New York joined the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) in filing a lawsuit against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and announced plans to adopt a uniform licensing system for Fintechs. CSBS issued its support of the lawsuit, announced Vision 2020 for Fintechs, and invited industry to participate in developing the uniform licensing system (the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System, or NMLS) chosen by most state regulatory agencies as the universal platform for licensing and supervising the Fintech business sector.

Learn more about Vision 2020 and NMLS 2.0 in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

On May 15, the Supreme Court held that a debt collector does not violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) by knowingly attempting to collect a debt in bankruptcy proceedings after the statute of limitations for collecting that debt has expired. As explained in Mayer Brown’s Decision Alerts, the FDCPA generally prohibits a debt collector from using false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means in collecting debts. In the opinion for the Court, Justice Breyer looked to state law to determine whether the creditor had a right to payment. Under Alabama law, a creditor has the right to payment of a debt even after the limitations period has expired. Accordingly, a creditor may legitimately claim the existence of a debt even if the debt is no longer enforceable in a collection action. Likewise, the streamlined rules of bankruptcy proceedings mean that it is not obviously “unfair” for a creditor to inject an additional claim into the proceedings, even if it would be unfair for a creditor to file a standalone civil action to collect a time-barred debt.

In addition, the Court also held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts any state law that discriminates against arbitration on its face, and any rule that disfavors contracts with features of an arbitration agreement. Mayer Brown, which represented the petitioner before the Court, explained the case in its Decision Alerts.  The FAA requires courts to place arbitration provisions on an equal footing with other contract terms. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court had refused to enforce two arbitration provisions executed by individuals holding powers of attorney, because the power-of-attorney documents did not specifically mention arbitration or the ability to waive the principals’ right to trial by jury. The Supreme Court held that Kentucky’s rule violates the FAA by singling out arbitration agreements for disfavored treatment, explaining that “the waiver of the right to go to court and receive a jury trial” is a “primary characteristic of an arbitration agreement.” The Court explained that the FAA “cares not only about the ‘enforce[ment]’ of arbitration agreements, but also about their initial ‘valid[ity]’—that is, about what it takes to enter into them.”  The Court also pointed out that a contrary interpretation would make it “trivially easy” for courts hostile to arbitration to undermine the FAA—“indeed, to wholly defeat it.”

For more docket reports and decision alerts, go to Mayer Brown’s appellate.net.

A complaint filed March 23 by the bankruptcy trustee for Lam Cloud Management, LLC in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey challenges two small business financing models: (i) merchant cash advances (“MCAs”); and (ii) small business loans originated under bank partnerships.  While disposition of the complaint will take time, and all that is available for now are bare allegations, the complaint is another recent challenge involving usury and bank partner programs and warrants attention from entities involved in small business financing and lending. Continue Reading NJ Bankruptcy Case Takes Aim at Small Business Financing — Merchant Cash Advances and Bank Partnerships

A federal district court in California handed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) a big win on Wednesday, August 31, 2016, granting the agency summary judgment on liability in its lawsuit against CashCall, Inc., its affiliated entities and its owner. In a 16-page decision and order, the US District Court for the Central District of California ruled that CashCall engaged in deceptive practices by servicing and collecting on loans in certain states where the interest rate on the loans exceeded the state usury limit and/or where CashCall was not a licensed lender. The decision represents an additional judicial touchpoint on the important question of who is a “true lender” in a transaction and validates, at least for now, the CFPB’s theory that collecting on loans that state law renders void and/or uncollectable constitutes a violation of federal law. Read more about the decision in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update, available here.