Earlier today, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection released a Public Statement Regarding Payday Rule Reconsideration and Delay of Compliance Date. Echoing rumors that have been circulating in the industry for several weeks (which we had agreed not to address in our blog), the Statement reads in full as follows:

The Bureau expects to issue proposed rules in January 2019 that will reconsider the Bureau’s rule regarding Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans and address the rule’s compliance date. The Bureau will make final decisions regarding the scope of the proposal closer to the issuance of the proposed rules. However, the Bureau is currently planning to propose revisiting only the ability-to-repay provisions and not the payments provisions, in significant part because the ability-to-repay provisions have much greater consequences for both consumers and industry than the payment provisions. The proposals will be published as quickly as practicable consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act and other applicable law.

Of course, the Bureau is correct in observing that the ability-to-repay (ATR) provisions of the Rule “have much greater consequences for both consumers and industry than the payment provisions.”  That is because the ATR provisions, if allowed to go into effect, would largely kill the industry and thus deprive millions of consumers of a source of credit they deem essential.  Nevertheless, the draconian potential consequences of the ATR provisions do not justify leaving the payment provisions intact. These provisions are unduly complicated. They require hard-to-reach consumers to affirmatively reauthorize lender-initiated payment attempts after two consecutive unsuccessful attempts rather than relying on a simpler and more straightforward notice and opt-out regimen.

Also, while the payment provisions are supposedly designed to prevent excessive NSF fees, as we have pointed out in a comment letter to the Bureau and elsewhere, they treat attempts to initiate payments by debit card, where there is no chance of any NSF fee, the same as other forms of payment that can give rise to NSF fees. This treatment of card payments can only be ascribed to the hostility to high-rate lending characteristic of the former leadership of the Bureau. If the Bureau does nothing else with the Rule’s payment provisions, it should certainly correct this wholly indefensible aspect of the Rule.

We note that the Bureau requested an extension until Monday, October 29, to respond to the preliminary injunction motion by the Community Financial Services Association and Consumer Service Alliance of Texas. If the Bureau files its response Monday, we will likely have more to report.

On September 19, 2018, the Georgia based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (the “Fellowship”) filed a motion to intervene as a defendant in a case filed by the Community Financial Services Association of America Ltd. and the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas challenging the CFPB’s Payday Rule. The lawsuit was filed in April 2018 claiming, among other things, that the CFPB did not follow proper procedure in issuing the Payday Rule; that the CFPB improperly deemed certain lending practices unfair and abusive; that the CFPB’s authority to address unfair and abusive practices is unconstitutional; and that the CFPB’s structure is unconstitutional. The motion to intervene came on the heels of the trade group plaintiffs’ request to lift the stay and motion for a preliminary injunction.  The stay was entered in June.

The Fellowship claims that it has standing to intervene because of its previous efforts to get the Payday Rule written and, once the Rule is implemented, it would be able to redirect the resources it currently devotes to combating payday and vehicle title loans. The Fellowship further argued that it would vigorously defend the lawsuit, while the CFPB might not – citing the CFPB’s plans to reconsider the Rule as well as its willingness to stay the Rule’s compliance date.

In their opposition to the intervention motion, the trade group plaintiffs argued that the Fellowship’s interest in the lawsuit was too tenuous to support intervention, likening the Fellowship’s plea to the interest of any lobbying group seeking to join a lawsuit. They also argued that the Fellowship had not met its burden of overcoming the presumption that the CFPB would not adequately defend this case.  They further noted that the Fellowship could make legal arguments through an amicus brief without intervening.

The CFPB has not yet filed an opposition to the intervention motion and it is unclear whether it will do so.

A scheduling conference is being held by the Court on October 4, 2018.

The Payday Rule is currently set to be implemented by August 19, 2019.

On this week’s podcast, Ballard Spahr attorneys Bo Ranney, Chris Willis, and Reid Herlihy discuss the significant takeaways from the CFPB’s new report—the first edition of Supervisory Highlights issued under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney. Mr. Ranney, former Examiner-in-Charge at the CFPB, and Mr. Willis, who chairs Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Financial Services Litigation Group, discuss the CFPB’s findings regarding debt collection, payday loans, automobile servicing, and small business lending. They also identify potential areas where the CFPB might focus in future examinations and offer recommendations for addressing the operational concerns raised by the report. Mr. Herlihy, a partner in Ballard Spahr’s Mortgage Banking Group, discusses the high-priority, mortgage-related topics identified in the Bureau’s report, lessons the mortgage industry can learn from the Bureau’s findings, and how the CFPB’s approach in this new report differs from its approach under prior leadership.

To listen and subscribe to the podcast, click here.

In what seems to be a response to the Government Accountability Office’s (“GAO”) determination that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s indirect auto finance bulletin (the “Bulletin”) was a rule subject to the Congressional Review Act (“CRA”) and a rebuke to the Bureau’s prior approach of “rulemaking by enforcement,” the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Bureau (collectively, the “agencies”) this week issued an Interagency Statement Clarifying the Role of Supervisory Guidance (the “Interagency Statement”). The Interagency Statement’s stated purpose is to “explain the role of supervisory guidance and to describe the agencies’ approach to supervisory guidance.”

The Interagency Statement begins by clarifying the agencies’ position as to the difference between supervisory guidance and laws or regulations and provides: “Unlike a law or regulation, supervisory guidance does not have the force and effect of law, and the agencies do not take enforcement actions based on supervisory guidance.” As set forth in its 2017 letter to Senator Patrick Toomey, a significant factor in the GAO’s determination that the Bulletin was a “rule” subject to the CRA was the Bureau’s use of the Bulletin to advise the public prospectively of the manner in which the Bureau proposed to exercise its discretionary enforcement power. The Interagency Statement clarifies that supervisory guidance is meant to outline supervisory expectations or priorities and articulate a general view regarding appropriate practices but should not serve as the basis for enforcement actions. And, while the agencies indicate that they may continue to seek public comment on supervisory guidance in order to improve their understanding of a given issue, any such guidance is not intended to be a regulation or have the force and effect of law.

The agencies state that they will aim to reduce the issuance of multiple supervisory guidance documents on the same topic and will seek to limit the use of numerical thresholds or other “bright-line” tests (numerical thresholds will generally be used as exemplars only). Finally, the Interagency Statement also provides that the agencies will limit examination and supervisory citations to violations of law, regulation or compliance with enforcement orders or other enforceable conditions and that their examiners will not criticize supervised financial institutions for a “violation” of supervisory guidance. Supervisory guidance may, however, be referenced as an example of safe and sound conduct in an examination finding.

What does this mean going forward? The Interagency Statement suggests that instead of issuing supervisory guidance to set forth expectations to be used as a “sword” if not followed by supervised entities, the agencies intend to use supervisory guidance to identify compliant practices. As a result, supervised entities may be better able to rely on supervisory guidance as a potential “safe-harbor” or “shield” from agency criticism when structuring their compliance programs. Additionally, existing supervisory guidance issued by the agencies such as supervision manuals and supervisory highlights and including the Bureau’s newly-released Summer 2018 edition of Supervisory Highlights should be viewed as helpful guidance, without precedential effect, in light of the Interagency Statement. Finally, Congress’ override of the Bulletin following the GAO’s determination that the Bulletin was a “rule” subject to the CRA may serve as a deterrent to any attempt by an agency to use its supervisory guidance in a way that is inconsistent with the Interagency Statement.

Webinar. On October 10, 2018, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET, Ballard Spahr attorneys will hold a webinar, “Key Takeaways from the CFPB’s Summer 2018 Supervisory Highlights” where the Interagency Statement will also be addressed. The webinar registration form is available here.

The CFPB recently released an interpretive and procedural rule to implement and clarify the partial exemption from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) adopted in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (also known as S.2155).

As we reported previously, the Act amended HMDA to create an exemption applicable to the new data categories added by Dodd-Frank and the HMDA rule adopted by the CFPB for insured depository institutions and insured credit unions that originate mortgage loans below certain thresholds.  Additionally, depository institutions must meet certain Community Reinvestment Act rating criteria.

For closed-end mortgage loans, the partial exemption will apply if the institution or credit union originated fewer than 500 such loans in each of the preceding two calendar years.  For home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), the partial exemption will apply if the institution or credit union originated fewer than 500 HELOCs in each of the preceding two calendar years.  The HELOC change will not initially affect reporting because, for 2018 and 2019, the threshold to report HELOCs is 500 transactions in each of the preceding two calendar years under a temporary CFPB rule.

Even if a depository institution originates loans or HELOCS below the applicable threshold, the Act’s partial exemption from reporting the new HMDA data categories does not apply if the institution received a rating of “needs to improve record of meeting community credit needs” during each of its two most recent CRA examinations, or “substantial noncompliance in meeting community credit needs” on its most recent CRA examination.

In July 2018 the CFPB advised that the partial exemption will not affect the format of 2018 Loan Application Registers (LARs) and that:

  • LARs will be formatted according to the previously-released 2018 Filing Instructions Guide for HMDA Data Collected in 2018 (2018 FIG).
  • If an institution does not report information for a certain data field due to the partial exemption, the institution will enter an exemption code for the field specified in a revised 2018 FIG that the CFPB expects to release later this summer.
  • All LARs will be submitted to the same HMDA Platform.

The CFPB also advised that it expected later in the summer to provide further guidance on the applicability of the partial exemption to HMDA data collected in 2018.  The interpretive and procedural rule contains the further guidance.  As previously indicated, the CFPB also issued a revised FIG for 2018 data to account for the partial exemption.

The interpretive and procedural rule:

  • Clarifies the HMDA data points that are covered by the partial exemption.  A table in the rule reflects that 26 data points are covered by the partial exemption, and that 22 data points still must be reported by institutions or credit unions that qualify for the partial exemption.
  • Provides that institutions and credit unions that qualify for the partial exemption may elect to report the exempted data, provided that they report all data fields within any exempt data point for which they report data.  For example, if an institution or credit union elects to report a data field that is part of the property address, it must report all other data fields that are part of the property address data point.
  • Clarifies that only closed-end loans and open-end lines of credit that are otherwise reportable under HMDA count toward the 500 loan and 500 line of credit thresholds.
  • Provides that if an institution or credit union elects not to report a universal loan identifier for an application or loan, it must report a non-universal loan identifier that meets specified requirements and must be unique within the institution or credit union.
  • Clarifies the exception to the partial exemption for negative CRA history must be assessed as of December 31 of the preceding calendar year.

The interpretative and procedural rule will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register.  The CFPB advises that it expects to initiate a notice-and-comment rulemaking to incorporate the interpretations and procedures contained in the rule into Regulation C and to further implement the Act.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a statement regarding the partial exemption from Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) reporting requirements for certain lower mortgage volume depository institution lenders that was adopted in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (Act).

As we reported previously, the Act exempts depository institutions and credit unions from the new reporting categories added by Dodd-Frank and the HMDA rule adopted by the CFPB with regard to (1) closed-end loans, if the institution or credit union originated fewer than 500 such loans in each of the preceding two calendar years, and (2) home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), if the institution or credit union originated fewer than 500 HELOCs in each of the preceding two calendar years. The HELOC change will not initially affect reporting because, for 2018 and 2019, the threshold to report HELOCs is 500 transactions in each of the preceding two calendar years under a temporary CFPB rule.

The Act’s partial exemption from reporting the new HMDA data does not apply if the institution received a rating of “needs to improve record of meeting community credit needs” during each of its two most recent Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) examinations, or “substantial noncompliance in meeting community credit needs” on its most recent CRA examination.

The CFPB advises in its recent statement that it expects later this summer to provide further guidance on the applicability of the partial exemption to HMDA data collected in 2018. The CFPB also advises that the partial exemption will not affect the format of 2018 Loan Application Registers (LARs) and that:

  • LARs will be formatted according to the previously-released 2018 Filing Instructions Guide for HMDA Data Collected in 2018 (2018 FIG).
  • If an institution does not report information for a certain data field due to the partial exemption, the institution will enter an exemption code for the field specified in a revised 2018 FIG that the CFPB expects to release later this summer.
  • All LARs will be submitted to the same HMDA Platform.

The CFPB also notes that a beta version of the HMDA Platform for submission of data collected in 2018 will be available later this year for filers to test.

In Financial Institution Letter FIL-36-2018 and in OCC Bulletin 2018-19 the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, respectively, issued similar guidance to institutions.

The CFPB recently issued revised TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule guides to reflect the adoption of an amendment to the rule to fix the so-called “black hole” issue.  As we reported previously, the amendment will permit the use of an initial or revised Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances without regard to the timing of when before consummation the creditor learns of a change that causes one or more fees to increase.  The amendment will apply to transactions in process as of June 1, 2018 regardless of when the loan application was received, but the amendment may not be applied retroactively.

The CFPB updated both versions of the Small Entity Compliance Guide and the Guide to Forms.  The reason there are two versions of each guide is to account for the TRID rule amendments adopted last summer that became effective on October 10, 2017, but have a mandatory compliance date of October 1, 2018.  While both versions of each guide now reflect the 2018 TRID rule amendment, one version of each guide does not reflect the 2017 amendments and one version of each guide reflects the 2017 amendments.

As we reported previously, the CFPB recently adopted a long-awaited amendment to the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule that fixes the so-called black hole issue.

The amendment was published in the May 2, 2018 Federal Register and will become effective on June 1, 2018.  The CFPB notes in the supplementary information to the amendment that “[o]nce the final rule becomes effective, the ability to reset tolerances prior to consummation for a given transaction will not be limited by when the application was received.”  Thus, as of June 1, 2018 the flexibility created by the amendment regarding the use of a Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances will be available for both loan applications that are in process at the time, as well as loan applications made on and after such date.  However, the CFPB also made clear that the amendment may not be applied retroactively.

The CFPB, which is now referring to itself as the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection,” published the long-awaited final rule to address the so-called “black hole” issue under the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule.  The CFPB also issued an Executive Summary of the final rule.  The final rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Under the TRID rule, a Loan Estimate is the disclosure primarily used to reset tolerances. Because the final revised Loan Estimate must be received by the consumer no later than four business days before consummation, the Commentary to the TRID rule includes a provision under which a creditor may use a Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances if “there are less than four business days between the time” a revised Loan Estimate would need to be provided and consummation.  Because of the four-business-day timing element, in various cases when a creditor learns of a change, the creditor is not able to use a Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances.  This situation is what the industry termed the “black hole.”  The industry repeatedly asked the CFPB to address the black hole issue.  As previously reported in our Mortgage Banking Update, when the CFPB finalized various amendments to the TRID rule last summer, it punted on a prior proposal to address the black hole issue and proposed another rule to address the issue.  The CFPB has now finalized the second proposal.

In the final rule the CFPB removes the four business day timing element, and makes clear that either an initial or a revised Closing Disclosure can be used to reset tolerances.  Consistent with the requirements for the Loan Estimate, when the TRID rule permits a creditor to use a Closing Disclosure to revise expenses, the creditor must provide the Closing Disclosure within three business days of receiving information sufficient to establish that a changed circumstance or other event triggering a change has occurred.

When proposing the amendment last summer, the CFPB requested comments on whether it should impose additional limits on the ability of a creditor to reset tolerances with a Closing Disclosure, such as allowing a reset of tolerances only in certain of the circumstances currently permitted by the TRID rule.  The CFPB decided not to impose additional limits.

A recent bill introduced in the US House of Representatives would require the CFPB to issue guidance on federal consumer financial laws, and also provide a framework for civil money penalties.  H.R. 5534 would create the Give Useful Information to Define Effective Compliance Act or GUIDE Compliance Act.  The bill was introduced by Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI) and is co-sponsored by Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO).

The Act would require the CFPB Director to “issue guidance that is necessary or appropriate to enable the Bureau to carry out Federal consumer financial law, including facilitating compliance with such law.”  For purposes of the Act, “guidance” is defined as “any written interpretive or legislative rule, interim final rule, bulletin, statement of policy, letter, examination manual, frequently asked question, or other document issued by the Bureau regarding compliance with a Federal consumer financial law that is exempt from notice and comment rulemaking requirements under section 553(b) of [the Administrative Procedure Act,] title 5, United States Code.”  The Act does not provide any parameters on specific laws or issues that the CFPB should address, or the nature of the guidance provided.  The Act would require that a proposed rule be published within one year of the date that the Act becomes law, with a final rule being published within 18 months of that date.  The Act also would provide that no person could be held liable for any act done or omitted in good faith in conformity with CFPB guidance.

At least some of the guidance that the Act would require would trigger the ability of Congress to consider the guidance under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).  We previously addressed the ability of Congress under the CRA to address not only federal agency actions structured as rules, but also guidance issued by such agencies that rises to the level of a rule within the purview of the CRA.

The Act also would require the CFPB to publish within 18 months of the date the Act becomes law a proposed rule establishing guidelines for determining the size of any civil money penalties issued by the CFPB “based on the severity of the actionable conduct in violation of a Federal consumer financial law and the level of culpability.”  The final rule would need, “to the fullest extent possible, align with any chart, matrix, rule, or guideline published by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.”

The Act would address calls from various industry members that the CFPB issue authoritative guidance on rules, and provide a framework for the imposition of civil money penalties.  While the Act would require that the framework for civil money penalties conform with the framework of the federal banking agencies, as noted above there are no parameters set forth for any guidance on consumer financial laws that is issued by the CFPB.  To some this evokes the adage, be careful what you wish for, you may get.