A little more than a month after rescinding its prior Policy Statement on abusive acts or practices, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has brought its first post-rescission abusiveness claim. In a complaint against a debt settlement company, the CFPB alleged that the company’s alleged practice of prioritizing the settlement of debts owed to affiliated lenders constituted an abusive act or practice. The complaint against the company quotes its website as stating that the company’s “‘skilled negotiators work to get your creditors to agree to discounted lump sum payoff amounts’” and quotes its sales scripts as saying that the company is “‘not owned or operated by any of your creditors.’” In reality, according to the complaint, the company’s owner was also the owner of one of the prioritized creditors and the owner of the other prioritized creditor was a former employee of the company’s owner. Taking these facts together, the CFPB alleged that the company violated the prong of the abusiveness prohibition that prohibits acts or practices that take unreasonable advantage of a consumer’s reasonable reliance on a company to act in the interests of the consumer.
Continue Reading Abusiveness: Muddying the Waters

In January, we wrote about the CFPB’s latest lawsuit predicating an alleged federal UDAAP violation on the violation of a state law. The case involves claims against a mortgage lender who allegedly employed individuals working as loan originators, but who were not licensed as loan originators as required by state law. We noted that the

One of the great ironies of the Supreme Court’s decision in Seila Law v. CFPB, in which the Supreme Court held that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) structure was unconstitutional, is that it effectively provided no relief to Seila Law, the party that took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. On remand, the Ninth Circuit held that the CFPB’s case against Seila Law could continue. Now, for the first time, a court has held that a pending CFPB enforcement action must be dismissed because of that constitutional infirmity. On March 26, 2021, a federal district court dismissed the CFPB’s action against the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, a series of fifteen special purpose Delaware statutory trusts that own $15 billion of private student loans (the NCSLTs or Trusts), finding that the agency lacked the authority to bring suit when it did; that its attempt to ratify its prior action came too late; and that based on its conduct, the CFPB could not benefit from equitable tolling. In doing so, the court avoided ruling on a more substantial question with greater long-term implications for the CFPB and the securitization industry—whether statutory securitization trusts are proper defendants in a CFPB action.
Continue Reading CFPB Suffers First Loss After Seila Law

On March 11, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) rescinded its January 24, 2020 Statement of Policy Regarding Prohibition on Abusive Acts or Practices (“Policy Statement”). The Acting Director of the CFPB, David Uejio, has been working quickly to reverse Kraninger-era policies, and the Policy Statement is the latest victim. Under the original Policy Statement, the CFPB said that it would: (1) generally rely on the abusiveness standard to address conduct only where the harm to consumers outweighs the benefit, (2) avoid making abusiveness claims where the claims rely on the same facts that the Bureau alleges are unfair or deceptive, and (3) not seek certain types of monetary relief against a covered person who made a good-faith effort to comply with a reasonable interpretation of the abusiveness standard.

In rescinding the Policy Statement, the CFPB highlighted the Policy Statement failed to (1) provide clarity to regulated entities on the abusiveness standard and (2) prevent consumer harm. In reality, the rescinded guidance is unlikely to have a major impact on the Bureau’s supervisory and enforcement efforts. Below, we highlight key takeaways from the announcement.
Continue Reading CFPB Rescinds Policy Statement on Abusiveness

On February 22, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed its first lawsuit since the election and the resignation of former Director Kathy Kraninger. The lawsuit alleges that the defendant engaged in deceptive and abusive practices by charging detained immigrants large upfront and monthly fees to arrange for payment of immigration bonds securing the immigrants’ release. The complaint lays out a rather damning set of facts alleging that the defendant misrepresented the nature of its services to consumers, many of whom do not speak English, and then engaged in aggressive collection actions. As the CFPB’s first lawsuit of the Biden administration, it offers some clues as to the direction of CFPB enforcement.
Continue Reading Four Takeaways from the CFPB’s First Lawsuit in the Post-Kraninger Era

With President Joe Biden’s inauguration as the Nation’s 46th President, change is coming to Washington. And that change will be felt quickly and acutely at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). At President Biden’s request, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger submitted her resignation on Wednesday, clearing the way for the President to appoint current FTC Commissioner and former CFPB official Rohit Chopra as the next Director of the agency. Given the CFPB’s single Director structure, the new Director will have significant opportunities to shape the direction of the CFPB over the next four years. Below we address what we can expect to see from CFPB under the new administration.
Continue Reading A New Day Dawns at the CFPB

Consumer financial services providers likely think of state licensing requirements as a state law compliance issue. But the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) views these issues as federal matters as well. In a consent order issued December 8, 2020, the CFPB asserted that an unlicensed debt collector’s threat of suit and actual suit to collect on a debt violated the federal prohibition against deceptive practices. The consent order represents the CFPB’s latest action that essentially federalizes state law violations.
Continue Reading State Licensing and Federal UDAAP – What’s the Connection?

We recently received a response to several FOIA requests we had made  to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) regarding various enforcement statistics and processes. Because the CFPB does not make these materials generally available to the public, we share them here. The materials include the Enforcement Policy and Procedures Manual and Consent Order template, and data regarding the number enforcement investigations, opened, closed and pending each fiscal year, and the number of matters referred from supervision to enforcement. 
Continue Reading CFPB: Enforcement Manual and Stats

News broke last week of a major reorganization at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau), with headlines focusing on how the shakeup will hamper investigations and limit the Office of Enforcement’s autonomy. To better understand what happened, it’s helpful to have a little bit of perspective on the CFPB’s authorities and organization. While it’s too soon to know how the reorganization will impact the agency’s enforcement docket, it is not at all clear that it will have the limiting impact that some expect.

The CFPB was created as a somewhat unique regulator, combining the traditional tools of prudential regulators like the Federal Reserve or Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (supervision and examination) and those of law enforcement agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (investigation and litigation). While the prudential regulators also have enforcement authority, that authority is generally limited to entities over which the agency has supervisory authority (and related individuals and service providers). And that enforcement authority is exercised only after an examination by supervisory personnel; that is, it is the culmination of the supervisory process, not an independent process. By contrast, the CFPB’s enforcement jurisdiction is much broader than the defined set of covered persons over whom it has supervisory jurisdiction, extending to any company or individual that is subject to one of eighteen different statutes or who offers or provides a consumer financial product or service. While some CFPB enforcement actions arise out of examinations, the vast majority to date have been outgrowths of organic enforcement investigations that were not tied to examinations.

At bottom, these two tools—supervision and enforcement—are just different legal authorities by which the agency can gather information from institutions subject to its jurisdiction to determine if legal violations occurred. For a brand new agency, that raises a difficult question – which of these tools do you use in any given circumstance to determine if a particular institution is violating the law? Do you send in examiners or enforcement attorneys?

That question wasn’t answered immediately at the agency’s creation. Instead, the offices of Supervision and Enforcement each focused on hiring staff and building out processes for the exercise of their respective functions.
Continue Reading Unpacking the Enforcement Shakeup at the CFPB – A (Former) Insider’s View

On September 29, 2020, the CFPB, FTC, and state and federal law enforcement agencies announced a new initiative, called Operation Corrupt Collector, to address certain abusive and threatening debt collection practices, including “phantom” debt collection. If the partnership sounds familiar, it is. Operation Corrupt Collector was essentially announced almost exactly five years after the FTC announced Operation Collection Protection. Though the programs have different names, the goals appear to be the same: bring cases against debt collectors who engage in abusive debt collection practices.

Continue Reading New Name, Same Initiative? Federal and State Regulators Partner (again) to Limit Abusive Debt Collection Practices