On August 10, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued an interpretive rule clarifying its position that digital marketers providing consumer financial services companies with customer targeting and advertisement delivery services are subject to the Consumer Financial Protection Act as “service providers.” Critically, the rule takes the position that tech companies offering such marketing
Vindication for the CFPB But Lack of Guidance on True Lender Issues
In a ruling with important implications for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau or CFPB), the Ninth Circuit has revived the CFPB’s claims for substantial civil penalties and restitution in a lawsuit that was first filed some seven years ago. In a May 23, 2022 opinion, the court reversed and remanded a district court…
US CFPB Says Hiding Negative Reviews Violates UDAAP Rules
On March 22, 2022, the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a compliance bulletin on “Unfair and Deceptive Acts or Practices That Impede Consumer Reviews.” The bulletin announced that the CFPB would view practices that discourage or hide consumer reviews as unfair or deceptive practices under Sections 1031 and 1036 of the Consumer Financial…
CFPB Announces It Will Seek to Extend ECOA-Like Antidiscrimination Provisions Broadly to All Consumer Finance Activities
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
US FTC Succeeds in First Expanded Use of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Penalty Authority
Just into the new year, the FTC notched its first success in a creative theory to extend its monetary penalty authorities, which the Supreme Court trimmed back last year. In FTC v. RCG Advances, the FTC settled allegations that a small-business financing firm and its principals violated Section 521(a) of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Originally…
Court Dismisses Challenge to CFPB Payday Rule Repeal
A district court has dismissed a challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB”) repeal of the underwriting provisions of its 2017 payday rulemaking. The CFPB’s payday lending rule has a long and tortured history. First promulgated in 2017, the rule had two main prohibitions—a prohibition on making payday loans without assessing a borrower’s ability…
CFPB Wins Reversal of Dismissal – And Key Ruling on Securitization Trusts
Earlier this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) won an important court ruling in a long-running case against student loan securitization trusts. The case has a long (and for the CFPB, somewhat ignoble) history. The CFPB first filed suit against 15 Delaware statutory student loan securitization trusts (the “Trusts”) in September 2017. The complaint…
First CFPB Supervisory Highlights Issued Under Director Chopra Cites “Wide-Ranging Violations of Law”
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.
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”
Chopra Makes a Statement About Markets (Both Literally and Figuratively)
On October 19, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued its first enforcement action under newly-confirmed Director Rohit Chopra, taking aim at a company that the CFPB found to misuse its position of market dominance. The nature of the CFPB’s claims and the manner in which they were presented is telling of the CFPB’s likely approach to enforcement under Chopra. The agency issued a consent order against JPay, LLC, which the order describes as a company that contracts with federal, state and local departments of corrections (“DOCs”) around the country to provide various products and services, including debit cards provided to individuals upon their release from incarceration. The debit cards may contain the consumer’s own funds from commissary or other accounts and may also contain Gate Money—funds provided by the government to the individual to help ease the transition upon release from incarceration. The consent order focuses on the company’s practices related to such debit cards.
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CFPB Finds that Income Share Agreements are Credit Products
On September 7, 2021, the CFPB announced that it had entered into a consent order with an education finance nonprofit (“nonprofit”) in connection with the nonprofit’s offering of income share agreements (“ISAs”). In the consent order, the CFPB asserted that ISAs are extensions of credit covered by the Consumer Financial Protection Act and the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) as well as TILA’s requirements with respect to “private education loans.” Because the CFPB asserts in the consent order that it views the nonprofit’s ISAs as credit, the CFPB takes the position that they are also subject to numerous other federal consumer financial protection laws that impose requirements and restrictions on student loan products. This consent order has significant implications for those in the ISA market, as it indicates how the CFPB views re-characterization for ISAs and similar products.
Continue Reading CFPB Finds that Income Share Agreements are Credit Products