Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

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.

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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

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.


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Last week the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“BCFP” or “Bureau”) issued guidance on the operations of financial institutions and other supervised entities in the wake of major disasters and emergencies. The guidance explains that supervised entities have flexibility under the existing regulatory framework to take action that could benefit affected consumers.

This is not the first time the Bureau has issued guidance on this topic. Last year, the Bureau released a statement on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and another on Hurricane Maria. Unlike the prior guidance, the statement released last week does not address a particular emergency or disaster but applies to emergencies in general.

The new guidance echoes prior guidance by providing examples in which regulations allow flexibility. For instance:

  • Although RESPA’s Regulation X generally prohibits residential mortgage servicers from offering a loss mitigation option to borrowers based on an evaluation of an incomplete application, the guidance notes servicers may nonetheless offer short-term loss mitigation options. Because it could be difficult for consumers impacted by a disaster to obtain and submit the necessary documents to complete a timely application, this exception may allow servicers to better assist those borrowers.
  • Although ECOA’s Regulation B generally requires creditors to provide first-lien loan applicants with copies of appraisals or other written valuations promptly upon completion, or three business days prior to consummation or account opening, whichever is earlier, the guidance notes that the applicant generally may waive that timing requirement and agree to receive the copy at or before consummation or account opening (except where otherwise prohibited by law). That exception may allow supervised entities to give consumers impacted by a disaster quicker access to credit.

Unlike prior guidance that expressly “encouraged” supervised entities to take these steps, this latest guidance only states that supervised entities are permitted to use the flexibility.
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As the Mortgage Bankers Association gathers for its Regulatory Compliance conference next week in Washington, DC, Mayer Brown’s Consumer Financial Services group will be addressing all the hot topics.

Melanie Brody will be talking about the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) on a panel called “Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity Laws” on Sunday, September 16.

The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“BCFP” or the “Bureau”) wants your input on its proposed changes to the Trial Disclosure Programs Policy (“TDP Policy”). Under Dodd-Frank, the BCFP can permit covered persons to conduct trial disclosure programs and to provide a safe harbor (or waiver) from the corresponding applicable regulatory requirements. 12 U.S.C. § 5532(e). These trials can include modifications or replacements to existing disclosures or forms, changed delivery mechanisms, or the elimination of certain disclosure requirements. The BCFP previously published the TDP Policy in October 2013. However, as the Bureau noted, the prior version of the policy “failed to effectively encourage trial disclosure programs: The Bureau did not permit a single such program in the nearly five years since the Policy was issued.”

The proposed TDP Policy looks quite similar to the 2013 version, with a few differences that reflect the BCFP’s renewed focus on innovation and a desire to lessen the burden of approving trial programs.
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Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) recently introduced Senate Bill 3401 to facilitate access to residential mortgage loans for consumers who are self-employed or otherwise receive income from nontraditional sources. The lawmakers indicated that lenders have shied away from loans to those consumers due to overly strict or ambiguous federal requirements for documenting the consumers’ income. The bill would, if enacted, provide mortgage lenders greater flexibility in documenting income during the underwriting process. They call the bill the Self-Employed Mortgage Access Act.

Federal regulations require that for most closed-end, dwelling-secured loans, a lender must make a reasonable and good faith determination that the consumer will have a reasonable ability to repay the loan, based on (among other factors) the consumer’s verified income. To take advantage of a presumption of compliance with that requirement, most lenders follow the regulations’ Qualified Mortgage (QM) guardrails, described in part in Appendix Q of the regulations. Appendix Q generally dictates the type of income documentation a lender must obtain.

For example, for a self-employed individual (any consumer with a 25 percent or greater ownership interest in a business), Appendix Q requires that a lender seeking to make a QM must get the consumer’s signed, dated individual tax returns, with all applicable tax schedules, for the most recent two years. For a corporation, “S” corporation, or partnership, the lender must get signed copies of the federal business income tax returns, with all applicable tax schedules, for the last two years. Finally, the lender must get a year-to-date profit-and-loss statement and a balance sheet. Appendix Q does not expressly provide for any flexibility in those documentation requirements.
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The Summer 2018 edition of Supervisory Highlights –the first one the BCFP has issued under Mick Mulvaney’s leadership – is much the same as previous editions. In it, the Bureau describes recent supervisory observations in various industries, and summarizes recent public enforcement actions as well as supervision program developments.

One aspect of the report that is notably different, however, is the introductory language. In prior regular editions of Supervisory Highlights, the report’s introduction would emphasize the corrective action that the Bureau had required of supervised institutions. It would highlight the amount of total restitution to consumers and the number of consumers affected by supervisory activities, and would note the millions of dollars imposed in civil money penalties.

This new version eliminates all of that discussion from the introduction. Instead, the Bureau has added language emphasizing that “institutions are subject only to the requirements of relevant laws and regulations” and that the purpose of disseminating these Supervisory Highlights is to “help institutions better understand how the Bureau examines institutions” to help industry limit risks to consumers.

The first sentence of the report, which in previous iterations used to say that the Bureau is “committed to a consumer financial marketplace that is fair, transparent, and competitive, and that works for all consumers” now says the Bureau is committed to a marketplace that is “free, innovative, competitive, and transparent, where the rights of all parties are protected by the rule of law, and where consumers are free to choose the products and services that best fit their individual needs.”

Ultimately, time will tell whether this is simply rhetoric or if the Bureau’s supervisory and enforcement posture will be dramatically different from that under Mulvaney’s predecessor.
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The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (the “Bureau”) has struck out again in trying to enforce a Civil Investigative Demand (“CID”) that contains broad and generic language about the nature of the agency’s investigation. For the second time, a US Court of Appeals has ruled that a CID issued by the Bureau was invalid because the agency failed to meet the statutory requirement that the CID identify the conduct constituting the alleged violation under investigation and the provision of law applicable to such violation, as required by 12 U.S.C. § 5562(c)(2). As we previously discussed, last year the DC Circuit ruled that a CID that the Bureau issued to a college accrediting agency failed to meet the statutory threshold when it merely identified “unlawful acts and practices in connection with accrediting for profit colleges” as the conduct under investigation. CFPB v. ACICS, 854 F.3d 683 (D.C. Cir. 2017).

Now, a unanimous panel of the Fifth Circuit has followed suit and held that a CID issued to the Source for Public Data, “a company that provides public records to the public through an Internet-based search engine,” is invalid because it uses similarly broad language that does not comply with the statute.
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On September 5, 2018, a coalition of 14 state attorneys general, led by North Carolina’s attorney general, Josh Stein, wrote to Acting BCFP Director Mick Mulvaney to express “grave concerns” that the BCFP may seek to abandon the federal government’s longstanding position that ECOA provides for disparate impact liability. A copy of the letter can