The CFPB’s Fall 2018 rulemaking agenda has been published by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) as part of its Fall 2018 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.  (OIRA is part of the Office of Management and Budget.)  It represents the CFPB’s second rulemaking agenda under the Trump Administration and Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s leadership.  The agenda’s preamble indicates that the information in the agenda is current as of August 30, 2018 and identifies the regulatory matters that the Bureau “reasonably anticipates having under consideration during the period from October 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019.”

As signaled by Mr. Mulvaney in comments made earlier this week, the preamble indicates that the Bureau is considering “whether rulemaking or other activities may be helpful to further clarify the meaning of ‘abusiveness’ under section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act.”  Such rulemaking is included on the CFPB’s list of “long-term actions” that is part of the unified agenda.

The preamble further states that the future activity being considered by the Bureau includes “reexamining the requirements of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) in light of recent Supreme Court case law and the Congressional disapproval of a prior Bureau bulletin concerning indirect auto lender compliance with ECOA and its implementing regulations.”  The preamble references the CFPB’s May 2018 statement that was issued following such Congressional disapproval in which the CFPB announced that it was reexamining the ECOA requirements.  However, unlike the “abusiveness” rulemaking, the ECOA rulemaking is not included on the CFPB’s list of long-term actions or otherwise listed in its rulemaking agenda.

With regard to the CFPB’s rulemaking to reconsider its final payday/auto title/high-rate installment loan rule (Payday Rule), the Fall 2018 agenda estimates the issuance of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in January 2019.  (The Spring 2018 rulemaking agenda had estimated issuance of a NPRM in February 2019.)  The Payday Rule’s compliance date is August 19, 2019.  In the preamble, the CFPB states that it expects to issue a NRPM “by no later than early 2019 that will address reconsideration of the rule on the merits as well as address changes to its compliance date.”

In addition to reconsidering the Payday Rule, the other key rulemaking initiatives listed on the Spring 2018 agenda are:

  • Debt Collection. The agenda states that the Bureau “expects to issue [a NPRM] addressing such issues as communication practices and consumer disclosures by spring 2019.”  It estimates the issuance of a NPRM in March 2019.
  • Business Lending Data.  Dodd-Frank Section 1071 amended the ECOA to require financial institutions to collect and maintain certain data in connection with credit applications made by women- or minority-owned businesses and small businesses.  Such data includes the race, sex, and ethnicity of the principal owners of the business.  In May 2017, the CFPB issued a RFI and a white paper on small business lending in conjunction with a field hearing on small business lending.  In the Spring 2018 agenda, the Section 1071 rulemaking was included in the list of current rulemakings, with an estimated March 2019 date for prerule activities. The Fall 2018 agenda reclassifies the Section 1071 rulemaking as a long-term action item.  In the preamble, the CFPB attributes the rulemaking’s new status to the Bureau’s “need to focus additional resources on various HMDA initiatives.”
  • HMDA/Regulation C.  The CFPB states that it expects to issue final guidance in late 2018 to govern the disclosure of loan-level HMDA data in 2019.  However, to address HMDA data disclosure in future years, the CFPB states that it has decided to add a new notice-and-comment rulemaking to its agenda and estimates a May 2019 date for issuance of a NRPM.  The agenda estimates a March 2019 date for the CFPB’s issuance of a NRPM “to address some or all” of the issues related to various HMDA projects under consideration, such as revisiting the Bureau’s 2015 HMDA rule and its August 2018 interpretive rule regarding amendments made to HMDA by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.

In addition to DFA Section 1071 rulemaking, the key long-term actions items listed in the Fall 2018 agenda are:

  • Inherited Regulations.  These are the existing regulations that the CFPB inherited from other agencies through the transfer of authorities under the Dodd-Frank Act.  The CFPB indicates that it expects to focus its initial review on the subparts of Regulation Z  that implement TILA with respect to open-end credit and credit cards in particular. By way of example, the CFPB states that it expects to consider adjusting rules concerning the database of credit card agreements it is required to maintain by the CARD Act “to reduce burden on issuers that submit credit card agreements to the Bureau and make the database more useful for consumers and the general public.” The CFPB states it may launch additional projects after reviewing the responses it received to its RFIs on the inherited regulations and rules issued by the CFPB.
  • Consumer reporting.  The Fall 2018 agenda indicates that the Bureau will evaluate potential additional rules or amendments to existing regulations governing consumer reporting, with possible topics for consideration to include the accuracy of credit reports, including the processes for resolving consumer disputes, identity theft, or other issues.
  • Consumer Access to Financial Records.  In November 2016, the CFPB issued a RFI about market practices related to consumer access to financial information.  The Fall 2018 agenda states that the Bureau will continue to monitor market developments and evaluate possible policy responses to issues identified, including potential rulemaking.  Possible topics the Bureau might consider include specific acts or practices and consumer disclosures. In addition, the Bureau plans to consider “whether clarifications or adjustments are necessary with respect to existing regulatory structures that may be implicated by current and potential developments in this area.”
  • Regulation E Modernization.  The Fall 2018 agenda states that the Bureau “will evaluate possible updates to the regulation, including but not limited to how providers of new and innovative products and services comply with regulatory requirements” and that “potential topics for consideration might include disclosure provisions, error resolution provisions, or other issues.”

Three items no longer mentioned in the CFPB’S agenda are overdrafts, “larger participant” rules, and student loan servicing.  The CFPB designated these items as “inactive” when it issued its Spring 2018 agenda.

The New York Attorney General, on October 12, 2018, filed a notice of an appeal to the Second Circuit from Judge Preska’s dismissal on September 12, 2018 of all of the NYAG’s federal and state law claims, and her subsequent September 18 order amending the September 12 order to provide that the NYAG’s claims under Dodd-Frank Section 1042 were dismissed “with prejudice.”  (Section 1042 authorizes state attorneys general to initiate lawsuits based on UDAAP violations.)

On September 14, the CFPB filed an appeal with the Second Circuit from Judge Preska’s June 21, 2018 decision, as amended by her September 12 order, in which she ruled that the CFPB’s single-director-removable-only-for-cause structure is unconstitutional, struck the CFPA (Title X of Dodd-Frank) in its entirety, and dismissed the CFPB from the case.  That was followed on September 25 by RD Legal Funding’s filing of a cross-appeal with the Second Circuit from Judge Preska’s June 21 decision, as subsequently amended, in which Judge Preska had ruled that the NYAG had stated federal and state law claims against RD Legal Funding.  (Although Judge Preska’s various orders resulted in the dismissal of all of the CFPB’s and NYAG’s claims, RD Legal Funding may have filed the cross-appeal to preserve its ability to challenge Judge Preska’s June 21 ruling that the NYAG had stated claims against RD Legal Funding should the Second Circuit conclude that the CFPB’s structure is constitutional or that the structure is unconstitutional but that the proper remedy is to sever the Dodd-Frank for-cause removal provision rather than strike all of Title X.)

The Bureau’s constitutionality is now before two circuits, the Second and Fifth Circuits.  In April 2018, the Fifth Circuit agreed to hear All American Check Cashing’s interlocutory appeal from the district court’s ruling upholding the CFPB’s constitutionality.  Also, a petition for certiorari was recently filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by State National Bank of Big Spring which, together with two D.C. area non-profit organizations that also joined in the petition, had brought one of the first lawsuits challenging the CFPB’s constitutionality.

 

 

The CFPB’s proposed revisions to its “Policy to Encourage Trial Disclosure Programs” (TDP Policy) have been strongly criticized by consumer and public interest groups who, in addition to other objections, assert that the proposal exceeds the Bureau’s authority under Section 1032(e) of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Section 1032(e)(1) provides:

The Bureau may permit a covered person to conduct a trial program that is limited in time and scope, subject to specified standards and procedures, for the purpose of providing trial disclosures to consumers that are designed to improve upon any model form issued [by the CFPB pursuant to its authority to prescribe disclosure rules under Section 1032 and issue related model forms], or any other model form issued to implement an enumerated statute, as applicable.

A comment letter submitted by the National Consumer Law Center joined by 10 other consumer and public interest groups raises the following principal objections to the CFPB’s proposal:

  • The Bureau’s trial disclosure program authority is limited by Section 1032(e)(1) to the improvement of model forms. The commenters reject the CFPB’s claim that under Section 1032(e)(2), it has the authority to waive a requirement of a rule or enumerated consumer law. (Section 1032(e)(2) provides that “a covered person conducting a trial disclosure program shall be deemed to be in compliance with, or may be exempted from, a requirement of a rule or an enumerated consumer law.”)  According to the commenters, Section 1032 “does not authorize the Bureau to allow trial disclosure programs that change or eliminate the substantive information required to be disclosed, or to deviate from any other substantive requirements of the statute.”  They contend that the CFPB only has authority to revise substantive disclosure requirements to the extent provided in the enumerated consumer laws themselves and that such authority would require the CFPB to use APA notice and comment procedures. According to the commenters, “if the Bureau wishes to experiment with more substantive changes to disclosure requirements before proposing a rule amendment, it may do so through consumer testing or focus groups that do not involve real consumers risking real money.” Notably, the commenters challenge the Bureau’s “mistaken and illegal characterization of a trial disclosure program as one that is used to allow a ‘participant’ to obtain access to market in exchange for ‘reduced regulatory barriers.’”  They state: “It is not the purpose of [the trial disclosure program] to ease access by new players in the consumer financial product marketplace. The purpose of the statute is to protect consumers and improve existing model forms to promote consumer understanding.” (emphasis included).
  • The CFPB’s authority to allow a “covered person” to conduct a trial disclosure program does not allow it to grant waivers sought by trade associations pursuant to a blanket application for its members.
  • The proposal does not comply with the requirement in Section 1032(e)(1) that a trial program be “limited in time” because it would allow an unlimited number of two-year extensions beyond the initial two-year period of a waiver and, if the Bureau was engaged in rulemaking, could allow longer extensions of unlimited duration. The commenters also criticize the Bureau for relying on companies to notify it of material changes that should be investigated and not including any requirements for Bureau monitoring.
  • The proposal does not comply with the requirement in Section 1032(e)(1) that a trial program also be “limited in…scope” because it “imposes no limits in the number of consumers who may be exposed to the trial or the range of products and services.”

The public interest groups submitting the comment letter were also among a much larger group of signatories to a letter sent to the CFPB by “consumer, civil rights, legal services, labor and community groups writ[ing] in strong opposition to [the CFPB’s] policy to encourage trial disclosure programs.”  The groups’ objections set forth in the letter track those set forth in the comment letter.

For a discussion of the CFPB’s amendments to its trial disclosure program policy, click here to listen to our recent podcast.

 

 

 

Addressing the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) 2018 Annual Convention in Washington, DC on October 15, 2018, BCFP Acting Director Mick Mulvaney advised that regulation by enforcement is dead, and that he does not care much for regulation by guidance either. He noted to the members that they have a right to know what the law is.

Acting Director Mulvaney advised that if a party is doing something that is against the law, the BCFP will take action against them. However, he advised the difference between the BCFP now from its approach under the prior Director is that if someone is doing something that complies with the law and the BCFP doesn’t like it, the BCFP will not take action.

With regard to UDAAP, Acting Director Mulvaney stated that he believes the concepts of “unfair” and “deceptive” are well established in the law, but that is not so with regard to the concept of “abusive”. He noted he asked his staff to provide examples of what is abusive that is not also either unfair or deceptive. And he signaled that the BCFP will look to engage in rulemaking on abusive.

As we have reported the MBA and other trade groups recently sent a letter to the BCFB seeking reforms in connection with the BCFP’s loan originator compensation rule. When asked by MBA President and CEO Robert Broeksmit about the letter, Acting Director Mulvaney advised that he knew the letter was received and that it is being reviewed by staff, but that he had not actually seen the letter. Mr. Broeksmit then handed Mr. Mulvaney a copy of the letter, drawing laughs from the audience.

With regard to payday lending, Acting Director Mulvaney advised that it can be really dangerous for people given the high interest rates, but that people want it so it exists. He noted he has told payday lenders they exist because bank regulators forced banks out of the business. But he stated that the OCC has signaled it will allow banks back in, and that the way to fix payday lending is through competition.

 

New York has enacted legislation that requires creditors to provide new disclosures when using devices to remotely disable vehicles, commonly referred to as “kill switches.”  The new law took effect immediately upon its signing by Governor Cuomo on October 2, 2018.

First, the law amended New York’s Uniform Commercial Code to add a definition for a “payment assurance device.”  The term is defined as “any device installed in a vehicle that can be used to remotely disable the vehicle.”

Second, the law amended the provisions of New York’s General Business Law dealing with debt collection procedures.  The law amends the list of prohibited practices to add that “no principal creditor” or its agent shall remotely disable a vehicle using a “payment assurance device” to repossess a vehicle “without first having given written notice of the possible remote disabling of a vehicle in the method and timetable agreed upon by the consumer and the creditor in the initial contract for services.”  A “principal creditor” is defined as “any person, firm, corporation or organization to whom a consumer claim is owed, due or asserted to be due or owed, or any assignee for value of said person, firm, corporation or organization.”

The written notice required to be sent before using a “payment assurance device” must:

  • Be mailed by registered or certified mail “to the address at which the debtor will be residing on the expected date of the remote disabling of the vehicle”
  • Be postmarked no later than 10 days “prior to the date on which the principal creditor or his agent obtains the right to remotely disable the vehicle”

Violations of the debt collection prohibitions in New York’s General Business Law are deemed a misdemeanor and the NY Attorney General or the district attorney  of  any county can bring an action to enjoin violations.

 

In August 2018, we reported about significant changes to Connecticut’s licensing laws for consumer financial services providers that were to take effect on October 1, 2018.  In our blog post, we highlighted a new requirement (which appeared to be unprecedented), for sales finance companies to acquire and maintain information about the ethnicity, race, and sex of applicants for motor vehicle retail installment contracts.  A licensee is required to submit the demographic records collected between October 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 to the Connecticut Banking Department by July 1, 2019.

We observed that the new requirement presented an apparent conflict with the Regulation B proscription against a non-mortgage creditor inquiring about the race, ethnicity or gender of an applicant.  See 12 C.F.R. § 1002.5(b) (“A creditor shall not inquire about the race, color, religion, national origin, or sex of an applicant or any other person in connection with a credit transaction, except as provided in paragraphs (b)(1) [relating to self-testing that complies with Sections 1002.15 of Regulation B] and (b)(2) of this section [authorizing only an optional request to designate a title on an application form such as Ms., Miss, Mr. or Mrs.])

On September 28, the Connecticut Department of Banking issued a memo stating that it has formally asked the CFPB for an official interpretation as to whether the state’s new requirement is consistent with Regulation B.  The Department also indicated that until it receives additional guidance from the CFPB, it “takes a no-action position as the enforcement of the new requirement.”  The Department also stated that it considers the no-action position necessary to provide it with “additional time to undertake a review of the appropriate manner and form for which [the records required to be kept by sales finance companies] shall be acquired, maintained and reported to this Department.”

The CFPB is proposing to issue a final rule on annual adjustments to the civil penalties within its jurisdiction.  Comments on the proposal must be received by November 13, 2018.

In November 2016, the CFPB published an interim final rule (IFR) to create 12 C.F.R. Part 1083 which sets forth the penalty amounts as adjusted annually.  The adjustments are required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 which, pursuant to a 2015 amendment (2015 Amendment), required federal agencies to adjust the civil penalties within their jurisdiction by July 1, 2016 and then to adjust them by January 15 every year thereafter.  The civil penalties adjusted annually by the CFPB are the Tier 1-3 penalties set forth in Section 1055 of Dodd-Frank, as well as the civil penalties in the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, SAFE Act, and Truth in Lending Act.  The IFR provides that the adjusted penalty amounts “shall apply to civil penalties assessed after July 14, 2016, regardless of when the violation for which the penalty assessed occurred.”  (July 14, 2016 was the IFR’s effective date.)

The CFPB adjusted its civil penalty amounts through rules issued in 2017 and 2018 that amended the maximum civil penalty amounts set forth in the IFR.  In the supplementary information accompanying the proposal, the CFPB states that in 2017, the OMB issued guidance which provided that “[f]or the 2018 annual adjustment, the new penalty amounts should apply to penalties assessed after the effective date of the annual 2018 adjustment—which shall be no later than January 15, 2018—including, if consistent with agency policy, assessments whose associated violations occurred on, or after, November 2, 2015.”  (November 2, 2015 was the date the 2015 Amendment was signed into law.)

Consistent with the OMB guidance, the Bureau is proposing to finalize the IFR to add language specifying that adjusted penalties will apply only to violations that occurred on or after November 2, 2015.  The Bureau is also proposing that the final rule would have an effective date no sooner than January 15, 2019 to coincide with, or occur after, the effective date of a 2019 annual adjustments by the Bureau.  The new language would provide that the 2019 adjustments “shall apply to civil penalties assessed after January 15, 2019, whose associated violations occurred on or after November 2, 2015.”

Earlier this week, Judge Randolph D. Moss of the D.C. federal district court heard oral argument on the renewed motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools (CAPPS) seeking to preliminary enjoin the arbitration ban and class action waiver provisions in the “borrower defense” final rule (Final Rule) issued by the Dept. of Education in November 2016 pending the resolution of the lawsuit filed by CAPPS against the ED and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to overturn the Final Rule.

Shortly before the Final Rule’s initial July 1, 2017 effective date, CAPPS filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to which the ED responded by issuing a stay of the Final Rule under Section 705 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  The Section 705 stay was followed by the ED’s issuance of an interim final rule delaying the effective date until July 1, 2018 and the promulgation of a final rule further delaying the effective date until July 1, 2019 (Final Rule Delay).

On September 12, 2018, Judge Moss issued an opinion and order in Bauer v. DeVos, another case challenging the Final Rule in which he ruled that the ED’s rationale for issuing the Section 705 stay was arbitrary and capricious and that in issuing the Final Rule Delay, the ED had improperly invoked the good cause exception to the Higher Education Act’s negotiated rulemaking requirement.  The case consolidated two separate lawsuits filed after the ED’s issuance of the Section 705 stay, with one filed by two individual plaintiffs and the other by a coalition of nineteen states and the District of Columbia.  Both lawsuits were subsequently amended to challenge not only the Section 705 stay but also the other actions taken by the ED to delay the Final Rule’s effective date.  While Judge Moss vacated the Section 705 stay, he stayed the vacatur until 5 p.m. on October 12, 2018.

After the ED filed a notice with the court in June 2017 regarding its initial delay of the Final Rule’s effective date until July 1, 2018, CAPPS withdrew its motion for preliminary injunction.  Following the court’s decision in Bauer, CAPPS filed its renewed motion for a preliminary injunction.  Oral argument on the renewed motion was held on October 9, 2018.  According to a Politico report, Judge Moss, who was appointed by President Obama under whose administration the Final Rule was promulgated, was skeptical about arguments made by CAPPs that its member colleges would be irreparably harmed if the Final Rule took effect, questioning whether some potential harm to the schools was too speculative or premature for him to address.

The Final Rule broadly addresses the ability of a student to assert a school’s misconduct as a defense to repayment of a federal student loan.  It includes a ban on all pre-dispute arbitration agreements for borrower defense claims by schools receiving Title IV assistance under the Higher Education Act (HEA) and a new federal standard for evaluating borrower defenses to repayment of Direct Loans (i.e. federal student loans made by the ED).  Both mandatory and voluntary pre-dispute arbitration agreements are prohibited by the rule, whether or not they contain opt-out clauses, and schools are prohibited from relying on any pre-dispute arbitration or other agreement to block a borrower from asserting a borrower defense claim in a class action lawsuit until the court has denied class certification and the time for any interlocutory review has elapsed or the review has been resolved.  The prohibition applies retroactively to pre-dispute arbitration or other agreements addressing class actions entered into before July 1, 2017.

On August 31, 2018, following negotiated rulemaking, the ED published a notice of proposed rulemaking that would rescind the Final Rule and replace it with the “Institutional Accountability regulations” contained in the proposal.  Among the major changes to the Final Rule that would be made by the proposal is the removal of the Final Rule’s ban on the use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements and class action waivers.

As of now, Judge Moss’s ruling in Bauer creates the possibility that the Final Rule could become effective as soon as 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.  It seems likely that there will be further developments in the CAPPS litigation before that time.

 

In this week’s podcast, Ballard Spahr partners Alan Kaplinsky and Chris Willis examine how the CFPB has changed under the leadership of Acting Director Mick Mulvaney and their expectations for future developments.

Alan and Chris discuss the practical impact of Mr. Mulvaney’s leadership on the CFPB’s day-to-day operations in the areas of supervision and enforcement, particularly with regard to how the CFPB’s public statements line up with its actual practices.  With regard to supervision and examinations, they highlight the Bureau’s current approach to UDAAP violations and military lending.

In the area of enforcement, Alan and Chris discuss the volume and nature of the Bureau’s current enforcement activity.  They also report on the status of the Bureau’s rulemaking initiatives and share their expectations for rulemaking under new leadership, including with regard to the Bureau’s payday lending rule and a debt collection rule.  They conclude the podcast by sharing their observations on the current compliance environment and its impact on decision-making by consumer financial services providers.

To listen and subscribe to the podcast, click here.

While most websites of businesses, including banks and financial services providers, should be accessible to individuals with disabilities, questions exist as to how this requirement is enforced.  On September 25, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a letter to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in which it took the position that “noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA.”  The DOJ’s position, significantly, does not require conformance with the voluntary Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to comply with the ADA in all instances.  The DOJ expressly allows for flexibility in how individuals with disabilities are provided access to digital and online content, but does not provide guidance in the implementation of such flexibility.

The DOJ’s letter responds to a June 2018 inquiry from House members of both parties that asked the DOJ to “state publicly that private legal action under the ADA with respect to websites is unfair and violates basic due process principles” absent clear guidance from the DOJ on website accessibility.  In its response, the DOJ noted that for more than 20 years, the DOJ has interpreted the ADA to apply to websites of places of public accommodation.  The DOJ’s response also clarified that the absence of a specific regulation does not mean that websites are not subject to the ADA’s accessibility requirements.  The DOJ indicated in its letter a willingness to work with Congress on legislative action to address the increased website accessibility litigation risk faced by businesses.

The flexible approach to website accessibility expressed by the DOJ may provide businesses with the ability to take the position that the ADA does not necessarily require conformance with the WCAG and that businesses may have the flexibility to provide substantially equivalent access to online information through means other than meeting the WCAG criteria.