Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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.

Continue Reading BCFP’s Fall 2018 Regulatory Agenda

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. Continue Reading BCFP’s Focus on Innovation Continues with Revival of the Disclosure Sandbox; Comments are Due October 10, 2018

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. Continue Reading BCFP’s Latest Supervisory Highlights

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. Continue Reading Another One Bites the Dust: BCFP Loses CID Appeal

Nearly seven months into Mick Mulvaney’s tenure as Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau), the agency issued just its second enforcement action under his leadership on June 13, 2018. You may have missed it, as the press release was not pushed out through the Bureau’s email notifications and the cursory press release may have flown under your radar. The settlement is with a parent company and its subsidiaries that originated, provided, purchased, serviced, and collected on high-cost, short-term secured and unsecured consumer loans. The consent order contains allegations of violations of the prohibition on unfair practices under the Consumer Financial Protection Act and of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and requires the respondents to pay a $5 million civil money penalty. Notably, the consent order does not require any consumer redress, despite Mr. Mulvaney’s stated intent to only pursue cases with “quantifiable and unavoidable” harm to consumers.

Debt Collection Practices

The Bureau alleges that respondents engaged in unfair in-person debt collection practices, including discussing debts in public, leaving the respondents’ “field cards” (presumably identifying the respondents) with third parties (including the consumers’ children and neighbors), and visiting consumers’ places of employment. The Bureau alleges that these practices were unfair because they caused substantial injury such as humiliation, inconvenience, and reputational damage; consumers could not reasonably avoid the harm because consumers were not informed of whether and when such visits would occur and could not stop respondents from engaging in the visits; and any potential benefit in the form of recoveries were outweighed by the substantial injury to consumers. The consent order notes that respondent attempted 12 million in-person visits to more than 1.3 million consumers over a five-year period, and requires respondents to cease in-person collection visits at consumers’ homes, places of employment, and public places. Continue Reading Mulvaney’s Bureau Issues Second Enforcement Action: Debt Collectors Beware?

Last week, we wrote about how the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“Bureau”) under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney had surprisingly doubled down on claims of unfair, deceptive and abusive practices (“UDAAP”) brought under former Director Richard Cordray in a case against a lead aggregator (back when the Bureau referred to itself as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). As if to prove the point that the Bureau is not backing off aggressive UDAAP claims, the very next day the Bureau filed a brief  in another case similarly supporting novel UDAAP claims brought under Cordray. The Bureau’s brief was filed in opposition to a motion to dismiss by defendants Think Finance, LLC and related entities. The case involves Bureau claims that Think Finance engaged in unfair, deceptive and abusive conduct when it attempted to collect on loans that were, according to the Bureau, void under state law. Continue Reading UDAAP Strikes Again: The New BCFP Seems a Lot Like the Old CFPB

Much has been written about Mick Mulvaney’s statements about how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will no longer “push the envelope” when it comes to enforcement and no longer engage in “regulation by enforcement.” But a little-noticed filing by the CFPB in the Ninth Circuit last month suggests that the CFPB is not necessarily scaling back its enforcement efforts with respect to novel claims under its authority to prevent unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices (UDAAP). Continue Reading Meet the New Boss; Same as the Old Boss? The CFPB’s Take on UDAAP Might Surprise You

On February 7, 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) released the third installment of its call for comments on the Bureau’s functions. The latest request for information (“RFI”) on the CFPB’s enforcement processes should spark the interest of previously investigated and yet-to-be investigated entities alike. Comment letters should include specific suggestions on how the Bureau can change the enforcement process and identify specific aspects of the CFPB’s existing enforcement process that should be modified. In addition to considering the regulations governing CFPB investigations, 12 C.F.R. part 1080, commentators should consider reviewing the CFPB Office of Enforcement’s Policies and Procedures Manual, which governs the enforcement process. According to the RFI, commentators should include supporting data or information on impacts and costs, where available.

The RFI requests comments on the following topics:

Continue Reading Change is Coming: The CFPB Requests Comments on Its Enforcement Process

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (the “court”) has issued its long-awaited en banc decision in PHH v. CFPB. In a January 31, 2018 opinion, the court rejected the three-judge panel’s conclusion that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is unconstitutional.  But the en banc court reinstated the panel’s decisions that the CFPB’s interpretation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) is unlawful and may not stand and that the CFPB is subject to a three-year statute of limitations even when bringing RESPA claims administratively.

As is well known, on October 11, 2016, a three-judge panel of the court had overturned a $109 million disgorgement order that the CFPB had imposed on PHH Corporation (“PHH”) for its involvement in an allegedly unlawful mortgage reinsurance arrangement. Pursuant to that arrangement, PHH did business with mortgage insurance companies that purchased reinsurance from a wholly-owned subsidiary of PHH. The court held, by a 2-1 vote, that the CFPB’s single-director structure allowing the President to remove the Director during his/her five-year term only for cause violates the Constitution’s separation-of-powers principles.  The court severed the for-cause limitation, thereby effectively allowing the President to remove the Director at will at any time.

The three-judge panel also unanimously rejected the CFPB’s interpretation of Section 8 of RESPA, concluding that, contrary to the CFPB’s determination, Section 8(c)(2) of the statute provides an actual exemption to the anti-kickback provision in Section 8(a). On February 16, 2017, the court granted the CFPB’s petition for rehearing en banc, vacating the panel decision and setting up review by the full D.C. Circuit. Nearly a year later, the court ruled on these matters.

In a 7-3 majority ruling, the court held that the CFPB is not unconstitutionally structured and that the for-cause limitation on the President’s removal authority is a permissible exercise of congressional authority. This part of the decision, however, seems less momentous in the wake of former CFPB Director Richard Cordray’s resignation in November 2017 and President Trump’s appointment of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as the CFPB’s Acting Director.

Of more immediate significance to the settlement service industry is the court’s decision to reinstate the three-judge panel decision respecting RESPA. The panel had found that Section 8(c)(2) was indeed an exemption to the Act’s Section 8(a) anti-kickback provisions, provided that reasonable payments are made in return for services actually performed or goods actually furnished.  As a result of the court’s reinstatement, real estate brokers, lenders and title companies that were waiting on the sidelines for this decision may take another look at advertising agreements, desk rentals, and other services agreements.

The panel opinion also had rejected the CFPB’s contention that no statute of limitations applies to administrative enforcement of RESPA. That aspect of the reinstated opinion is likely to be helpful to respondents facing administrative claims under other federal consumer financial laws as well.

Finally, despite the 7-3 ruling on the constitutional issues and differences of opinion regarding the proper interpretation of RESPA, one thing all of the judges seem to agree on is that an agency cannot seek penalties for past conduct that violates a novel legal interpretation first advanced in an enforcement case.  That is, “regulation by enforcement” is permissible as a way to announce new legal principles, but, for due process reasons, it cannot be a basis to penalize past conduct.

It remains to be seen if PHH will seek Supreme Court review of the constitutional holding or will instead try its luck on remand in front of the Mulvaney-led CFPB.

On January 24, 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) announced that it is seeking public comment on all aspects of its civil investigative demand (“CID”) process. This Request for Information (“RFI”) is the first in a series of RFIs in which the Bureau plans to seek comment on its enforcement, supervision, rulemaking, market monitoring, and education activities.

The RFI comes on the heels of Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s announcement that the CFPB will no longer “push the envelope” when it comes to enforcement.  Consistent with that sentiment, the RFI explains that the CFPB is “especially interested in better understanding how its processes related to CIDs may be updated, streamlined, or revised to better achieve the Bureau’s statutory and regulatory objectives, while minimizing burdens.” Because responding to the CFPB’s CIDs has often proved to be an arduous and costly endeavor, this RFI is likely to be a welcome opportunity for many regulated entities. Continue Reading CFPB Requests Comments on Civil Investigative Demand Process