Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Earlier this week, the Bureau released the Winter 2019 edition of Supervisory Highlights.  This marks the first edition issued under the CFPB’s new Director, Kathy Kraninger, who was confirmed to a five-year term in December.  The report describes observations from examinations that were generally completed between June and November 2018 and summarizes recent publicly-released enforcement actions and guidance.

Like the sole edition of Supervisory Highlights issued under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s tenure, this edition emphasizes that “it is important to keep in mind that institutions are subject only to the requirements of relevant laws and regulations,” and that the purpose of disseminating Supervisory Highlights is to “help institutions better understand” how the Bureau examines them for compliance—statements that signal a shift in how the Bureau approaches its supervisory role. Continue Reading First Supervisory Highlights Under Director Kraninger Reflects Focus on Corrective Action and Prevention of Harm

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.

CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger has filed her first contested lawsuit as CFPB Director.  Somewhat surprisingly, the lawsuit seeks to enforce a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) issued by the CFPB in June 2017—under former Director Richard Cordray—to a debt collection law firm.  The petition to enforce the CID makes clear that the respondent law firm made a “final, partial, redacted production” in response to the CID in September 2017.  Clearly, therefore, this matter was pending at the CFPB throughout the year-long tenure of Mick Mulvaney, during which the agency took no action to enforce the CID. It is dangerous to read too much into this action, but it does suggest that Kraninger may take a more aggressive enforcement posture than Mulvaney, who was criticized for the sharp drop in the number of enforcement actions under his watch.

The CID at issue is a typically broad CFPB CID from that era. It contains 21 interrogatories with dozens of sub-parts, seven requests for written reports, 15 requests for documents, and, unusually, four request for “tangible things,” in this case phone recordings and associated metadata. Read as a whole, the CID seeks information regarding virtually every aspect of the respondent’s debt collection business over a period of three-and-a-half years. The CID’s Notification of Purpose is equally broad and limitless, Continue Reading Kraninger’s First Lawsuit

On February 6, 2019, the CFPB issued a proposal to reconsider the mandatory underwriting provisions of its pending 2017 rule governing payday, vehicle title, and certain high-cost installment loans (the Payday/Small Dollar Lending Rule, or the Rule).

The CFPB proposed and finalized its 2017 Payday/Small Dollar Lending Rule under former Director Richard Cordray. Compliance with that Rule was set to become mandatory in August 2019. However, in October 2018, the CFPB (under its new leadership of former Acting Director Mick Mulvaney) announced that it planned to revisit the Rule’s underwriting provisions (known as the ability-to-repay provisions), and it expected to issue proposed rules addressing those provisions in January 2019. The Rule also became subject to a legal challenge, and in November 2018 a federal court issued an order staying that August 2019 compliance date pending further order.

The 2017 Rule had identified two practices as unfair and abusive: (1) making a covered short-term loan or longer-term balloon payment loan without determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan; and (2) absent express consumer authorization, making attempts to withdraw payments from a consumer’s account after two consecutive payments have failed. Under that 2017 Rule, creditors would have been required to underwrite payday, vehicle title, and certain high-cost installment loans (i.e., determine borrowers’ ability to repay). The Rule also would have required creditors to furnish information regarding covered short-term loans and covered longer-term balloon loans to “registered information systems.” See our previous coverage of the Rule here and here. Continue Reading CFPB Announces Proposal to Revoke (Most of) the Payday/Small Dollar Lending Rule

While most of the federal government remained shuttered in mid-January, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or the Bureau) was on the job, thinking about the Military Lending Act (MLA or the Act). On January 17, 2019, the Bureau’s Director, Kathleen Kraninger, issued a statement asking Congress to “explicitly grant the Bureau authority to conduct examinations specifically intended to review compliance with the MLA.” Director Kraninger’s predecessor, Mick Mulvaney, reportedly halted MLA-related examinations last year, citing the lack of statutory authority . It appears from the Director’s request that the CFPB may not conduct MLA compliance examinations without new legislation.

The MLA—enacted in 2006 and implemented by the Department of Defense—provides enhanced protection to active duty service members, their spouses, and their dependents when they obtain certain types of loan products. One of the main protections prevents creditors from imposing more than a 36% Military Annual Percentage Rate (an annualized rate including interest and other fees) on a covered individual for certain products. The Act also prohibits certain loan terms, such as mandatory arbitration clauses or prepayment penalties.

Congress granted the Bureau enforcement authority for the MLA’s requirements in 2013. At the time, the Bureau interpreted the scope of that new authority to include supervision—the authority to proactively examine covered institutions for violations of the Act. In its Supervisory Highlights for Winter 2013, the Bureau stated that it would ensure adherence to the MLA through both enforcement and supervision activity, and noted that it had updated its short-term, small-dollar loan examination procedures with guidance on how to identify MLA violations. The Bureau then issued a set of standalone examination procedures for MLA compliance in 2016. The Bureau has taken one enforcement action based on MLA violations—a consent order issued in 2013.

The Bureau has not issued any formal guidance regarding MLA-related supervisory activity since 2016. However, in August 2018, it was widely reported that then-Acting Director Mulvaney planned to suspend MLA-related examinations. The basis for the suspension was reportedly that, although the MLA legislation granted the Bureau enforcement authority, the Act did not grant supervisory authority. In other words, the Bureau planned to continue to exercise its enforcement authority as violations of the MLA came to its attention, but CFPB examiners would not proactively monitor covered institutions for violations.

Subsequent to those reports, Democratic members of the House Committee on Financial Services (HCFS)—including current HCFS Chair Maxine Waters—sent a letter to Director Kraninger requesting that she commit to resuming MLA-related supervisory activity. The Director responded by issuing the above-mentioned request for legislation explicitly granting the Bureau supervisory authority over the MLA. Based on the wording of Director Kraninger’s request, it appears that the Bureau may not conduct “examinations specifically intended to review compliance with the MLA” until it receives explicit legislative authority from Congress.

In conjunction with her request, Director Kraninger submitted to lawmakers proposed legislation that would grant the Bureau supervisory authority for the MLA’s requirements. A week prior to the Director’s request, Representative Andy Barr introduced House Resolution 442, which would also grant the requested authority. The prospects for either proposal are unclear in a divided Congress.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued final policy guidance on December 21, 2018, explaining how it will make available to the public data submitted by financial institutions under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). The CFPB comprehensively revised HMDA reporting requirements in 2015, and extensive new data collection requirements became effective this year, with a reporting deadline of March 2019. With three months to go before that deadline, the CFPB could not have waited much longer to announce how it will publicly disclose the HMDA data while still protecting sensitive information.

Under the new HMDA requirements, reporting financial institutions must notify the public that the institutions’ data may be obtained on the CFPB’s website. The CFPB is then responsible for protecting applicant and borrower privacy, even as privacy risks evolve. The industry has expressed concern about the breadth of the data the CFPB will be collecting under the new HMDA reporting requirements, and about the increased reidentification risks that could arise upon making the data public (that is, the risk that someone could link an identified individual to his or her HMDA data). Commenters emphasized that if borrowers or applicants could be identified from the HMDA data, predators could target consumers for identity theft, fraudulently pose as the borrower’s lender, or otherwise misuse the data.

However, the CFPB declined to follow the commenters’ requests to exclude from the public all the new data required to be reported under the 2015 HMDA final rule. The CFPB recognized the inherent reidentification risk, but determined that the benefits of certain data disclosure outweigh that risk. The CFPB determined that most of the HMDA data is not sensitive and does not substantially facilitate reidentification or create a risk of harm. The CFPB reportedly employed a balancing test, requiring that HMDA data be excluded from public disclosure or modified when the release of the unmodified data would create risks to applicant and borrower privacy interests that are not justified by the benefits to the public of that release.

Accordingly, at least for 2018 data, the CFPB will modify the HMDA loan-level data to exclude the following fields: Continue Reading CFPB Issues Final Guidance on Public Disclosure of HMDA Data

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

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently proposed amendments to its earlier policy for issuing no-action letters, and proposed a process for participating in a so-called regulatory “sandbox,” which would provide certainty in or exemptions from complying with certain federal consumer protection laws. Comments on the proposals are due by February 19, 2019.

Read more in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection now has the third Director in its history. On December 6, the Senate confirmed Kathleen (“Kathy”) Kraninger on a 50-49 party-line vote to a five-year term as Director, ending Mick Mulvaney’s year-long tenure as Acting Director. Mulvaney’s tenure was marked by elements of both change and continuity from the agency’s first Director, Richard Cordray, as we discuss here. The most marked departures from the Cordray era relate to the number of enforcement actions brought by the agency and the retreat from the payday lending rule that the agency had finalized at the end of Cordray’s tenure.

The independence of the Director, which Democrats have tenaciously fought for, may now come back to haunt them, as Kraninger’s term runs to December 2023—nearly three years into the next presidential administration. As then-Judge Kavanaugh pointed out at the oral argument in the PHH case before the D.C. Circuit (in a line that drew laughter from the audience for its not-so-veiled reference to Elizabeth Warren), “the new President, might be a different party, might have run on a platform of consumer protection, might be the person who created the Consumer Protection Agency, and will not have the authority to do anything about that for three years.” Of course, there are still pending challenges to the constitutionality of the agency, and maybe the result of those challenges—or other political realities—will lead to the creation of a Commission to run the agency. But for now, Director Kraninger is in charge. As has been the case throughout the Bureau’s history, the political spotlight will continue to shine on it.

On October 17, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“BCFP” or “Bureau”) issued its Fall  2018 regulatory agenda.  Notable highlights include:

  • Payday Lending Rule Amendments. In January 2018, the Bureau announced that it would engage in rulemaking to reconsider its Payday Lending Rule released in October 2017.  According to the Bureau’s Fall 2018 agenda, the Bureau expects to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking by January 2019 that will address both the merits and the compliance date (currently August 2019) of the rule.
  • Debt Collection Rule Coming. The Bureau expects to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking addressing debt collection-related communication practices and consumer disclosures by March 2019.  The Bureau explained that debt collection remains a top source of the complaints it receives and both industry and consumer groups have encouraged the Bureau to modernize Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) requirements through rulemaking.  The Bureau did not specify whether its proposed rulemaking would be limited to third-party collectors subject to the FDCPA, but its reference to FDCPA-requirements suggests that is likely to be the case.
  • Small Business Lending Data Collection Rule Delayed. The Dodd-Frank Act amended the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) to require financial institutions to submit certain information relating to credit applications made by women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses to the Bureau and gave the Bureau the authority to require financial institutions to submit additional data.  In May 2017, the Bureau issued a Request for Information seeking comment on small business lending data collection.  While the BCFP’s Spring 2018 agenda listed this item as in the pre-rule stage, the Bureau has now delayed its work on the rule and reclassified it as a long-term action.  The Bureau noted that it “intends to continue certain market monitoring and research activities to facilitate resumption of the rulemaking.”
  • HMDA Data Disclosure Rule. The Bureau expects to issue guidance later this year to govern public disclosure of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) data for 2018.  The Bureau also announced that it has decided to engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking to govern public disclosure of HMDA data in future years.
  • Assessment of Prior Rules – Remittances, Mortgage Servicing, QM; TRID up next. The Dodd-Frank Act requires the Bureau to conduct an assessment of each significant rule adopted by the Bureau under Federal consumer financial law within five years after the effective date of the rule.  In accordance with this requirement, the Bureau announced that it expects to complete its assessments of the Remittance Rule, the 2013 RESPA Mortgage Servicing Rule, and the Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule by January 2019.  At that time, it will begin its assessment of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID).
  • Abusiveness Rule? Consistent with recent statements by Acting Director Mick Mulvaney that while unfairness and deception are well-established in the law, abusiveness is not, the Bureau stated that it is considering whether to clarify the meaning of abusiveness through rulemaking.  The Bureau under former Director Richard Cordray rejected defining abusiveness through rulemaking (although the payday rule relied, in part, on the Bureau’s abusiveness authority), preferring instead to bring abusiveness claims in enforcement proceedings to establish the contours of the prohibition.  Time will tell if the Bureau will follow through on this.

Continue Reading BCFP’s Fall 2018 Regulatory Agenda