The CFPB is aggressively litigating overdraft issues, which means lenders should proactively review their overdraft policies to avoid the specter of costly litigation with the CFPB. For example, in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. TCF National Bank, No. 17-166 (D. Minn. September 8, 2017), a Minnesota district court allowed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to proceed to discovery on its claims against TCF National Bank for deceptive and abusive trade practices relating to overdraft fee “opt-in” programs. The district court concluded that TCF’s practice of enticing new and existing customers to opt-in to its overdraft services program (which subjected them to overdraft fees) could constitute an “unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice” under the Consumer Financial Protection Act.
What to do now about the new CFPB rule on arbitration? (1) begin planning now and (2) begin actual preparation after the 60 days runs.
Congress has 60 days after publication of the new CFPB rule to take action to stop the application of this rule. Publication occurred on Wednesday (July 19th). It is impossible to predict what Congress will do. However, we can be virtually certain that absent such Congressional action, this new rule will apply 180 days after those 60 days expire. While there are other possible hurdles for this rule (for instance, an expected lawsuit challenging the rule; a possible new CFPB Director in the future; a challenge to the CFPB’s structure, etc.), these other impacts are unlikely to prevent the rule from beginning to have application.
We suggest you use the next 60 days to plan but wait to make any substantial expenditures until it is certain what Congress will do. Here are some key questions which financial institutions should consider during those 60 days:
The Dodd Frank Act expressly provided that any CFPB rule on arbitration would not apply to existing contracts. 12 U.S.C. § 5518(d). Therefore, the CFPB rule released last week will only bar class action waivers for contracts “entered into after” the applicable date for the regulation (60 days after publication of the rule in the Federal Register and then 180 days after that date).
However, the CFPB has taken an aggressive position on what is an existing contract. Therefore, for existing customers, lenders and other “covered persons” will need to examine every change in any product or services they offer that is subject to the arbitration rule. If any “new product or service” is given to an existing customer, the new regulation applies to that product or service even if it is covered by the terms of an existing contract (assuming that the new product or service is within the scope of the rule). In such a case, the lender would need to amend the previous agreement or provide a new agreement for the new product and could not rely on the arbitration clause to avoid a class action.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently finalized various updates to its mortgage disclosure rule, often referred to as “Know Before You Owe” or the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID). The updates were proposed approximately one year ago. They include technical corrections, formal guidance, and a few substantive changes. Some of the changes include:
- Adding tolerance provisions for total payments that track existing TILA requirements regarding finance charges
- Expanding the scope of certain exemptions for housing assistance loans
- Applying TRID to all cooperative units, regardless of whether the cooperative units are classified as real property under state law
- Providing guidance on sharing information with third parties
The new rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but compliance is not mandatory until October 1, 2018. A copy of the final rule is available here.
Notably absent from the final rule is guidance on the “black hole”—the period of time between issuing the Closing Disclosure and the actual closing date when, in certain instances, lenders may be prevented from resetting tolerances (and passing on closing cost increases to the borrower). The amendments as originally proposed included a potential fix for this problem. However, the CFPB decided not to adopt the fix based on conflicting comments that it received. Instead, the CFPB issued a new proposed rule (with a new comment period) to address the “black hole” issue. A copy of the proposed rule is available here.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a rule on Monday prohibiting class action waivers in arbitration provisions of certain consumer contracts. The rule—to be codified at 12 C.F.R. § 1040—also requires covered businesses to submit records to the CFPB regarding any arbitration filed by or against their customers regarding covered products and services. The provided records will be made public and hosted by the CFPB on a searchable database. The likely impact of this rule (should it be allowed to go into effect) will be significant for financial institutions and dramatically alter their relationships with their customers.
With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) now employing mystery shoppers, financial institutions must ensure that their branches are actually putting non-decimation policies into practice. As we reported here on July 1, BancorpSouth, a Mississippi-based bank, recently entered into a $10.6M settlement with the CFPB regarding alleged redlining in the Memphis market. That investigation was the CFPB’s first use of testing, also called “mystery shopping,” as an investigative tool. This practice, which has long been in use by the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, involves sending both white and African American individuals into branch offices to determine whether white customers are treated more favorably than African American customers.
More information about the CFPB’s use of mystery shopper’s as well as the redlining settlement can be located here.
In a case that demonstrates the scope of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB’s”) reach, the CFPB and Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have entered into a settlement with BancorpSouth totaling almost $10,600,000 over alleged redlining. Redlining is the practice of denying services or raising prices to residents of certain geographic areas based upon their racial or ethnic makeup. The term was coined from the practice by lenders of marking in red areas on maps of cities that were not desirable for mortgage loans.
According to the CFPB and DOJ, when BancorpSouth expanded into the Memphis market, it did not build any branches in neighborhoods with large minority populations. Further, nearly all of its loans allegedly originated outside minority neighborhoods. The fine was announced as part of a settlement between BancorpSouth and the government under which, if approved by the court, Bancorp South will provide $4,000,000 in direct loan subsidies in minority neighborhoods, spend at least $800,000 on community programs and minority outreach, pay $2,780,000 to African American customers who were overcharged or denied credit, and pay a $3,000,000 penalty. Although it settled with the government, BancorpSouth did not admit guilt.
The CFPB is showing that its enforcement actions are not limited to larger companies and that it will file actions in federal courts across the country. On May 11, 2016, it filed an enforcement action against Mississippi payday lender All American Check Cashing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. In its complaint, the CFPB alleged that all American took steps to hide its fee from customers, going so far as to train its employees to “NEVER TELL THE CUSTOMER THE FEE.” Further, the CFPB alleges that All American took steps to prevent customers who had changed their minds from cancelling transactions. According to the CFPB, these actions would constitute “unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts” under 12 U.S.C.A. ss 5531 and 5536, portions of the Consumer Financial Protection Act.
Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued a proposed rule which would prohibit mandatory arbitration provisions in millions of banking contracts, including contracts with consumers for credit cards and bank accounts. While financial institutions would still be allowed to offer arbitration as an option to customers individually, they would no longer be able to require it be done individually for claims brought as class actions. The intended, and drastic, result of the rule is that consumers would be free to join together in class action suits against their financial institutions for grievances which they had previously only been able to negotiate individually.
One of the biggest risk trends for banks to watch in coming years will be risks arising from the outsourcing of information technology. Banking supervisors as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission have all brought enforcement actions related to vendor management. When relationships with IT vendors are not properly managed, costly litigation with the vendors themselves can also result.
Recently, the FDIC released a 45-minute video designed to assist community bank directors and senior management in developing a vendor management program when outsourcing technology services. Among the topics covered in the video are:
- Risk assessment
- Due diligence
- Negotiating the written contract
Particularly important for managing enforcement action and private litigation risk are the provisions that should be included in the written contract with the vendor. Key provisions sometimes overlooked are requirements related to government regulation (including CFPB regulations), such as requirements for specific internal controls, audits, and for adherence to all regulatory guidance applicable to banks, even if not directly applicable to the vendor.
Focusing directly on litigation risks, the FDIC video also notes that banks should negotiate provisions on termination, indemnification, and dispute resolution. Banks are also required to notify their primary federal regulator of the outsourcing relationship within: (a) 30 days of entering into the contract, or (b) performance of the service, whichever occurs earlier.
The FDIC’s video can be viewed below.