Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

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

UPDATE June 8:
The House of Representative approved the Financial CHOICE Act, with a vote largely on party lines of 233 to 186.  While the Senate Banking Committee is and has been considering financial reform proposals, it is unlikely that the Financial CHOICE Act as passed by the House will progress in the Senate.

UPDATE June 7:
As expected, House Rules Committee approved a rule on June 6 allowing 90 minutes of general debate that will permit the Republicans to offer 6 amends. Floor consideration expected to start this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning.

The House Rules Committee has scheduled a meeting on the CHOICE Act for 5:00 PM Tuesday, June 6, to consider the amendments that have been submitted as well as a rule for floor consideration. It is expected that the Committee will issue a rule to bring the bill to the House floor on Wednesday, and that rule is likely to provide for debate and floor consideration of amendments.

There is some speculation that Democratic members may withdraw their amendments in a show of opposition to the bill, similar to their decision last Congress not to participate in the Committee mark-up.  We understand that the Majority Whip, Rep. McCarthy (R-CA), has placed the bill on the calendar for Wednesday, June 7th, subject to the Rules Committee completing its work. Depending on the final number of amendments to be considered (if any), and the time provided for debate, it is possible that the bill could pass as early as Wednesday evening.

*John Mirvish is not admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia.

The long awaited en banc oral argument in the PHH v. CFPB appeal was heard this morning.  Based upon the questions asked by the judges, and with the caveat that such questioning is not always an indicator of how a court will rule, it seems likely that the D.C. Circuit will not find the CFPB to be unconstitutionally structured.  While Judge Kavanaugh, author of the roughly 100-page 3-judge panel decision last October, tried mightily to defend his position that a single director removable only for cause thwarts the President’s Article II authority, most of the judges did not seem to share his views.  Some judges, like Judge Griffith, implied that the Court was bound by the Supreme Court’s decision in Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, which upheld the constitutionality of removal-for-cause provisions as pertains to the multi-member Federal Trade Commission.  Other judges appeared to believe there was sufficient accountability for the CFPB Director because he or she can be removed for cause.  Judge Pillard defended the independence of financial regulatory agencies such as the CFPB.  On the whole, fewer judges seemed inclined to declare the for-cause provisions unconstitutional than to keep the status quo.

Notably, only about 60 seconds of the 90 minute oral argument addressed RESPA concerns, in particular Section 8(c)(2).  The judges’ RESPA-related questions concerned whether the industry had notice that RESPA prohibited the conduct in question (which had been blessed by a 1997 Letter from HUD permitting captive reinsurance if the Section 8(c)(2) safe harbor provisions were met) and whether the CFPB was bound by RESPA’s 3-year statute of limitations.  Questions about both issues were directed to CFPB counsel.  He stated that the statute itself provided ample notice of its prohibitions in Sections 8(a) and 8(c)(2). He also said the Bureau was bound by the generally-applicable 5-year statute of limitations at least insofar as penalties are concerned, but he did not concede the Bureau was otherwise bound by RESPA’s limitations period in an administrative proceeding.  That said, given how little attention was directed to the RESPA questions, it is likely that the full 11-member panel will affirm the 3-judge panel’s views on RESPA expressed last October.

It would appear that Director Cordray will remain at his desk until his term expires in July 2018.  He may, however, need to revise his interpretation of Section 8(c)(2).

 

One week before the en banc D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear oral argument regarding the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) structure in CFPB v. PHH, the Ninth Circuit has taken up the issue as well. In an order issued May 17, 2017, the Ninth Circuit granted permission for interlocutory appeal to address the question of whether the CFPB’s structure is unconstitutional and, if it is, what the proper remedy is.  Continue Reading CFPB Constitutionality Question Headed to 9th Circuit

Once again, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is providing compliance tips through its Supervisory Highlights for lenders making non-Qualified Mortgages (“non-QMs”). In its latest set of Highlights, the CFPB addresses how a lender must consider a borrower’s assets in underwriting those loans, and clarifies that a borrower’s down payment cannot be treated as an asset for that purpose, apparently even if that policy has been shown to be predictive of strong loan performance.

The Dodd-Frank Act and the CFPB’s Ability to Repay Rule generally require a lender making a closed-end residential mortgage loan to determine that the borrower will be able to repay the loan according to its terms. A lender may choose to follow the Rule’s safe harbor by making loans within the QM parameters. Alternatively, a lender may opt for more underwriting flexibility (and somewhat less compliance certainty). When making a non-QM, a lender must consider eight mandated underwriting factors and verify the borrower’s income or assets on which it relies using reasonably reliable third-party records. As one of those eight factors, the lender must base its determination on current or reasonably expected income from employment or other sources, assets other than the dwelling that secures the covered transaction, or both. Continue Reading CFPB Prohibits Considering Down Payments for Non-QMs

Dealing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) another setback, on April 21, 2017, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals refused to enforce a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) issued by the CFPB. The decision is likely to have broad implications for how the CFPB identifies the nature and scope of its investigations in its CIDs, which to date have provided investigation subjects with little information about the nature of the CFPB’s concerns. More precisely defined investigations could provide significant benefits to CID recipients, as well as establish a basis to challenge the requests set forth in CIDs. To learn more about the ruling and its implications, read our Legal Update.

 

In March 2017, the CFPB issued a special edition of its Supervisory Highlights addressing consumer reporting from the perspective of consumer reporting companies (“CRCs”) (commonly referred to as credit bureaus or consumer reporting agencies) and furnishers. This follows the CFPB’s February 2017 Monthly Complaint Report, which focused on complaints related to credit reporting. These publications, along with recent statements by Director Robert Cordray, suggest that the CFPB will be placing additional supervisory focus on credit reporting for both CRCs and furnishers of consumer information. Continue Reading Time for Some Spring (Credit Reporting) Cleaning

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) announced a Request for Information (“RFI”) about alternative data on February 16, 2017, seeking insights into the benefits and risks of using unconventional financial data in assessing a consumer’s creditworthiness. On the same day, the CFPB held a hearing in Charleston, West Virginia, inviting consumer groups, industry representatives, and others to comment on the use of alternative data.

The CFPB estimates that 45 million Americans have difficulty getting a loan under traditional underwriting criteria, because they do not have a sufficient credit history. According to the CFPB, the use of alternative data may support those Americans’ creditworthiness and allow them better access to financing at more affordable rates. Alternative data includes sources such as timely payment of rent, utilities, or medical bills, as well as bank deposit records, and even internet searches or social media information—data that credit bureaus do not traditionally consider. However, a consumer who lacks a credit history but who makes timely rent and utility payments may be as likely to repay a loan as another consumer with a higher credit score. Continue Reading CFPB Calls for Comment on Alternative Data

Two-for-one is harder than it sounds. President Trump’s recently-issued executive order on reducing regulations, requiring the repeal of two regulations for each new one issued, provided agencies with precious little guidance. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the executive order applies only to “significant regulatory actions” of executive agencies (not independent agencies like the CFPB, SEC, FHFA, or the federal banking agencies). It requires an analysis of cost savings, but appears to exempt regulations “required by law.” A lawsuit has already been filed, claiming that the order is unconstitutional and contrary to the will of Congress. To learn more, applicable agencies are instructed to call OMB. However, you can learn more about the two-for-one executive order in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

On January 31, 2017, the CFPB released its Prepaid Rule Small Entity Compliance Guide to facilitate comprehension of and the implementation of the new prepaid rule on October 1, 2017. As described in our prior Legal Update, the CFPB issued the final prepaid rule in October 2016 which amends Regulation E to cover prepaid accounts including payroll card accounts, government benefit accounts, and other types of prepaid products.  The Compliance Guide details requirements of the new rule and provides examples to help illustrate key aspects including what constitutes a prepaid account, the entities subject to the new rule, disclosure obligations, and error resolution procedures, among others.

Just one day after the CFPB’s release of the Guide, Senator David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a joint resolution of disapproval aimed at wiping the prepaid rule off the books pursuant to the Congressional Review Act.  Under the CRA, Congress may overturn new federal agency regulations by reviewing them within a certain time period, passing a joint resolution of disapproval in each chamber, and obtaining the president’s signature.  On February 3, Representative Tom Graves (R-GA) followed suit, introducing a similar joint resolution in the House of Representatives.  Stay tuned for updates on whether the prepaid rule’s future may truly be in jeopardy.