Military/Service Members

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 California legislature was active in 2018, enacting several new requirements and provisions applicable to the financial services industry. Those requirements include an important and comprehensive privacy regime (the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, or CCPA), which establishes new protections for personal information that covered commercial enterprises collect. The CCPA becomes effective January 1, 2020, with implementing regulations due July 1, 2020.

However, many new California provisions become effective on January 1, 2019, including new foreclosure protections (and the reinstatement of certain protections from the California Homeowner Bill of Rights) and the exclusion of reverse mortgage loans from certain successor-in-interest protections. A new requirement to provide mortgage loan modification disclosures in the language in which they are negotiated (e.g., in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean) becomes effective for covered entities once the regulator develops those disclosures.

California also imposed new restrictions and requirements applicable to debt collectors and a new licensing obligation for servicers of student loans, and expanded certain financial protections for servicemembers.

Read more about California’s active legislature in Mayer Brown’s recent Legal Update.

Characterized as “protecting veterans from predatory lending,” S.2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, passed by the United States Senate on March 14, 2018. If enacted, the bill would impose material conditions on the eligibility of non-cash-out refinancings for government guaranty under the Veterans Affairs Loan Guaranty Program. While the legislation has received significant attention for the loosening of certain requirements under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act for banks and other depository institutions, this particular provision should be of significant interest to all lenders of government-insured or guaranteed residential mortgage loans.

Read More in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

Despite changes in leadership at numerous federal agencies, Washington D.C. continues to focus on lending to servicemembers. In December, Congress extended the time period for protections against foreclosure under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Otherwise, those protections would have expired at the end of 2017.

In addition, the Department of Defense recently amended its Military Lending Act interpretive rule. Among other topics, the amendments address loans to purchase a motor vehicle or other property, and the extent to which the Act’s requirements exempt loans that finance amounts in addition to the purchase price.

Read more in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

New regulations under the federal Military Lending Act (“MLA”) that become effective next week will prohibit consumer loans to covered US Service members if those loans have a “military annual percentage rate” (“MAPR”) greater than 36 percent. The Defense Department’s regulations will impose that MAPR limit on additional types of consumer credit transactions (beyond just payday, vehicle title, and tax refund anticipation loans) to active duty members of the armed forces and their spouses/dependents. The regulations will also change how a lender may determine whether applicants are “covered borrowers” and modify the disclosures required for those borrowers.

The MLA’s enforcement provisions include criminal and civil liability for noncompliance and provide for a private right of action.

Read more about the new regulations in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.