The U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (“FHFA”) draft strategic plan, which we discussed in an earlier post, sets forth FHFA’s goals and objectives for the next four years. Unsurprisingly, FHFA’s recent focus on fair lending issues is reflected in the plan. Over the course of the past year, FHFA has made numerous strides in

In an extraordinary announcement yesterday, the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) unveiled a broad expansion of its supervisory procedures to include examining supervised entities for discriminatory conduct that the agency alleges could constitute unfair practices in violation of the Dodd-Frank Act. Going forward, it appears that every exam for unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices (UDAAP) is likely to include an assessment of a company’s antidiscrimination programs as applied to all aspects of all consumer financial products or services, regardless of whether that company extends any credit or would otherwise be subject to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). In recent months, the Bureau has been laser focused on issues of fair lending and racial equity in the consumer credit market, including redlining, pricing and algorithmic bias, among others. With this change, the CFPB will be broadening its racial equity focus to cover every aspect of the consumer financial services sector.
Continue Reading CFPB Announces It Will Seek to Extend ECOA-Like Antidiscrimination Provisions Broadly to All Consumer Finance Activities

Earlier this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released the Fall 2021 edition of its Supervisory Highlights (“Supervisory Highlights” or “Report”). This marks the first edition issued under Director Rohit Chopra, President Biden’s pick to head the agency. The press release accompanying this edition of Supervisory Highlights cites “wide-ranging violations of law” and asserts that “irresponsible or mismanaged firms harmed Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic,” statements that signal that the Chopra-led Bureau is taking an aggressive approach to supervision and is scrutinizing supervised entities closely.

Supervisory Observations

This edition of Supervisory Highlights covers examinations completed between January 2021 and June 2021 and identifies violations in eight areas: credit card account management, debt collection, deposits, fair lending, mortgage servicing, payday lending, prepaid accounts, and remittance transfers. As is the Bureau’s common practice, the Report refers to institutions in the plural even if the related findings pertain to only a single institution.

  • Credit Card Account Management. The Report details several findings related to credit cards, including violations of Regulation Z and the prohibition against unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices (“UDAAPs”). With respect to Regulation Z, Bureau examiners determined that creditors failed to comply with requirements related to billing errors. Specifically, the Bureau details alleged failures concerning the timing of resolving notices of billing errors (within two complete billing cycles), reimbursing late fees when payment had not been credited to an account, and conducting reasonable investigations based on consumer allegations of missing payments and unauthorized transactions. The Report indicates that creditors are working to identify and remediate affected customers and develop training on Regulation Z’s billing error resolution requirements for employees.

The Bureau also alleged deceptive practices relating to the marketing of credit card bonus offers in two separate instances. First, examiners determined that credit card issuers engaged in deceptive acts by failing to provide advertised bonuses to existing customers who satisfied the bonus program requirements of opening a new account and meeting the spending requirements. Moreover, the Bureau noted that issuers failed to ensure employees followed procedures to enroll existing consumers correctly. Second, the examiners determined that issuers also engaged in deceptive acts when their advertising to consumers failed to disclose or adequately disclose material information about qualifying for the bonus. In this situation, the bonus was tied to applying for the card online, so consumers who otherwise satisfied advertised requirements, but applied through a different channel, did not receive the bonus. In response to these findings, issuers are modifying applicable advertisements and undertaking remedial and corrective actions.

  • Debt Collection. According to the Report, examiners found that larger participant debt collectors were at risk of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) as it relates to using false representations or deceptive means to collect a debt. The Report explained that debt collectors, in the context of discussing the consumer restarting a payment plan, represented that making the final payment of the plan would improve the consumer’s creditworthiness. The Bureau, however, indicated that this could lead the least sophisticated consumer to assume that deleting derogatory information would result in improved creditworthiness, when in fact numerous factors influence a consumer’s creditworthiness and making a final payment may not necessarily improve a person’s credit score. As a result of the findings, the debt collectors revised their FDCPA policies and procedures and enhanced their training and monitoring systems.


Continue Reading First CFPB Supervisory Highlights Issued Under Director Chopra Cites “Wide-Ranging Violations of Law”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) published guidance on the Fair Housing Act’s treatment of Special Purpose Credit Programs (SPCPs). An SPCP is a tool that lenders can use to target underserved communities without violating the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and its implementing

On Monday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to expand the state’s community reinvestment law to cover nonbank mortgage lenders who are licensed in the state of New York. Effective November 2022, the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) will begin considering nonbank lenders’ performance in meeting community credit needs. The new law

Three federal agencies announced a coordinated settlement today with a Mississippi-headquartered bank for allegedly redlining predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Memphis, Tennessee area. The action was the result of the OCC’s examination of the bank’s lending activities from 2014 to 2016. The OCC found that the bank had engaged in a “pattern or

Today the Bureau finally released its long-awaited proposed rulemaking on small business lending data collection. Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act mandated that the CFPB collect data about small business lending to facilitate enforcement of fair lending laws.

After ten years of fits and starts on this topic, the Bureau ultimately was pressured by a lawsuit filed against it to make forward progress on a proposal. As we previously reported, a court settlement last year mandated a timeline for the CFPB to take certain steps to initiate a Section 1071 small business lending data collection rulemaking. Among other steps, the settlement required the CFPB to convene a Small Business Advocacy Review panel (“Panel”) by October 15, 2020. The Panel met and provided feedback on the CFPB’s proposals under consideration and released its report in December.

The 918-page proposed rule issued today is the culmination of years of research and CFPB engagement with stakeholders.
Continue Reading CFPB Issues Proposed Small Business Lending Rule

On August 10, 2021, the CFPB’s Office of Supervision Policy published a report titled Mortgage Servicing COVID-19 Pandemic Response Metrics: Observations from Data Reported by Sixteen Servicers (“Servicing Metrics Report”).  Although the Servicing Metrics Report doesn’t allege any compliance deficiencies in the servicers’ performance, the topics addressed in the report and the CFPB’s accompanying press release indicate areas of focus for the CFPB, and servicers should take note.

Continue Reading CFPB Report on Servicers’ COVID-19 Response Signals Enforcement Priorities

On January 4, 2021, Representative Al Green of Texas, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Financial Services Committee, re-introduced H.R. 166, titled the Fair Lending for All Act, a bill he previously introduced in 2019. The proposed bill would significantly revise the application and enforcement of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and would further expand lenders’ collection and reporting obligations under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA).
Continue Reading Re-introduced Fair Lending for All Act Proposes Stiffer ECOA Penalties and CFPB Testing Office