On Tuesday, a federal district court in the Southern District of New York issued an order dismissing a lawsuit brought by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) regarding a proposal of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to issue federal charters to certain fintech firms. In dismissing the case, U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald held the NYDFS did not have standing to sue because the OCC had not yet officially decided to issue charters to fintech companies. Judge Buchwald explained that because the OCC had not made “a final determination” that it will issue such charters, the injuries alleged by the NYDFS are “too future-oriented and speculative” to support the lawsuit.

By way of background, in December 2016, the OCC announced plans to study whether it could issue special purpose charters to fintech firms. In March 2017, OCC Comptroller Thomas J. Curry announced the OCC would be issuing charters to fintech companies. In the same month, the OCC released a document describing how fintech companies could apply for a charter. In May 2017, Mr. Curry stepped down from his position, and President Trump named Keith Noreika Acting OCC Comptroller.

The NYDFS then sued the OCC regarding the proposal to grant charters to fintech companies. According to the NYDFS, the OCC did not have authority to issue a charter to fintech companies and should not allow such companies to operate in New York without complying with the state’s usury law and other consumer financial regulations. In the following months, Acting Comptroller Noreika stated several times that the OCC had not reached a final decision about whether to issue charters to fintech companies. Joseph Otting was then nominated by President Trump as permanent Comptroller of the Currency and was confirmed in November 2017. In Judge Buchwald’s decision, she noted that she was not aware of any statement by Mr. Otting indicating his position on fintech charters.

The Conference of State Bank Supervisors filed a similar lawsuit against the OCC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The OCC filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit as premature, which motion is currently pending before the court.

On May 15, the Supreme Court held that a debt collector does not violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) by knowingly attempting to collect a debt in bankruptcy proceedings after the statute of limitations for collecting that debt has expired. As explained in Mayer Brown’s Decision Alerts, the FDCPA generally prohibits a debt collector from using false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means in collecting debts. In the opinion for the Court, Justice Breyer looked to state law to determine whether the creditor had a right to payment. Under Alabama law, a creditor has the right to payment of a debt even after the limitations period has expired. Accordingly, a creditor may legitimately claim the existence of a debt even if the debt is no longer enforceable in a collection action. Likewise, the streamlined rules of bankruptcy proceedings mean that it is not obviously “unfair” for a creditor to inject an additional claim into the proceedings, even if it would be unfair for a creditor to file a standalone civil action to collect a time-barred debt.

In addition, the Court also held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts any state law that discriminates against arbitration on its face, and any rule that disfavors contracts with features of an arbitration agreement. Mayer Brown, which represented the petitioner before the Court, explained the case in its Decision Alerts.  The FAA requires courts to place arbitration provisions on an equal footing with other contract terms. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court had refused to enforce two arbitration provisions executed by individuals holding powers of attorney, because the power-of-attorney documents did not specifically mention arbitration or the ability to waive the principals’ right to trial by jury. The Supreme Court held that Kentucky’s rule violates the FAA by singling out arbitration agreements for disfavored treatment, explaining that “the waiver of the right to go to court and receive a jury trial” is a “primary characteristic of an arbitration agreement.” The Court explained that the FAA “cares not only about the ‘enforce[ment]’ of arbitration agreements, but also about their initial ‘valid[ity]’—that is, about what it takes to enter into them.”  The Court also pointed out that a contrary interpretation would make it “trivially easy” for courts hostile to arbitration to undermine the FAA—“indeed, to wholly defeat it.”

For more docket reports and decision alerts, go to Mayer Brown’s appellate.net.

A complaint filed March 23 by the bankruptcy trustee for Lam Cloud Management, LLC in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey challenges two small business financing models: (i) merchant cash advances (“MCAs”); and (ii) small business loans originated under bank partnerships.  While disposition of the complaint will take time, and all that is available for now are bare allegations, the complaint is another recent challenge involving usury and bank partner programs and warrants attention from entities involved in small business financing and lending. Continue Reading NJ Bankruptcy Case Takes Aim at Small Business Financing — Merchant Cash Advances and Bank Partnerships

The controversial decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, was “incorrect” and “reflects an unduly crabbed conception of [National Bank Act] preemption,” said the Solicitor General and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) in the amicus brief filed with the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday.  Still, the Solicitor General and the OCC advised the Court not to review the decision of the Second Circuit in Madden.  They concluded that this just isn’t the right case for the Court to resolve the important questions of whether and under what circumstances the National Bank Act preempts state usury laws for assignees of loans made by national banks. Continue Reading Madden Update: Solicitor General Says the Second Circuit Got it Wrong—But that the Decision Should Still Stand for Now