After weeks of speculation, the U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday night to join the House of Representatives in passing a Congressional Review Act (“CRA”) resolution to nullify the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB”) recent arbitration agreements rule. The Senate vote split 50-50, with two Republican senators—Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and John Kennedy (LA)—voting against the resolution. The split vote set the stage for Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the resolution, which is now headed to President Trump’s desk for signature. In the hours after the vote, the President released a statement indicating his support for the resolution.
More than two months after its promulgation, the fate of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) arbitration agreements rule remains uncertain. The Senate may ultimately join the House and invoke the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to nullify the CFPB rule. But several financial services trade groups are not waiting to find out and have commenced their own legal challenge to the rule. On Friday, September 29, 2017, over a dozen such groups—led by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America—filed suit against the CFPB, and its director Richard Cordray, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. See Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, et al., No. 3:17-cv-02670-D (N.D. Tex. Sept. 29, 2017).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) recently issued its first letter pursuant to a no-action letter policy launched in February 2016. The CFPB developed the policy to encourage innovation in the fintech marketplace by creating a testing ground for new technologies and consumer lending methods, particularly where the applicability or impact of existing regulations is uncertain. To take advantage of the policy, a company must submit an application describing the product, method, or service at issue and identify the specific rules and regulations for which the company seeks guidance. If the application is approved, a no-action letter is issued indicating that the CFPB “has no present intention to recommend initiation of an enforcement or supervisory action” against the applicant with respect to the specific product, method, or service and regulatory concerns covered by the company’s application.
Nearly two years after the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (“TRID”) rule went into effect (on October 3, 2015) and one year after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) closed a comment period on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to adjust and clarify the rule, the CFPB’s modified TRID rule was published in the Federal Register on August 11, 2017 (the “2017 TRID Rule” or “2017 Rule”). An accompanying Detailed Summary of Changes and Clarifications was released on August 30, 2017.
Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) promulgated its final arbitration agreement rule. The rule comes more than 11,000 comments, 13 months, and one change in presidential administration after the CFPB issued its proposed rule in May 2016. (K&L Gates previously reported on the issuance of the proposed rule here.) Yet despite its long history, Congress began taking steps to repeal the rule almost immediately.
In a win for real estate settlement service providers, another federal court has rebuffed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB”) aggressive interpretation and enforcement of Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2617 (“RESPA”). Specifically, in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Borders & Borders, PLC, the District Court for the Western District of Kentucky recently granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion and dismissed the CFPB’s RESPA Section 8(a) claims. See 2017 WL 2989183 (W.D. Ky. July 13, 2017).
In prepared remarks delivered to the Consumer Advisory Board on Thursday, June 8, 2017, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray explained that the CFPB is moving forward with its long-anticipated debt collection rules. K&L Gates previously chronicled the CFPB’s efforts to promulgate debt collection rules here, here, and here.
The Director emphasized his view that new debt collection rules are necessary because of the age of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act—enacted in 1977—and the statute’s inability to fit modern methods of communication. According to the Director, the forthcoming rules would benefit consumers and industry participants by clarifying what constitutes unfair collection practices. Substantively, the Director focused on the portion of the CFPB’s July 2016 outline aimed at ensuring that debt collectors possess correct information about debts they are seeking to collect and consumers who owe those debts. In a notable shift, the Director indicated that the CFPB is prepared to issue a single set of debt collection rules relating to the gathering of information by and transfer of information between first-party creditors and third-party debt collectors. Acknowledging that the shift will require the CFPB to take some additional time to iron out “intertwined issues,” the Director suggested that the CFPB will try to fast-track other aspects of its proposed rulemaking, including the information third-party debt collectors must disclose to consumers and the manner in which third-party debt collectors interact with consumers.
K&L Gates will continue to monitor and report on further developments.
On May 4, the House Financial Services Committee (“HFSC”) concluded its three-day markup of H.R.10, the Financial Choice Act (“FCA”), a bill to reform the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”). The HFSC reported the bill favorably to the full House by a vote of 34-26. All 19 Democratic amendments were rejected on party-line votes. Republicans did not offer any amendments but focused their efforts on raising concerns about the extent to which Dodd-Frank has stifled economic growth and put taxpayer money at risk. Committee members debated a number of the more controversial provisions of the FCA, including Title VII to restructure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and remove its unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (“UDAAP”) authority; Section 841 to repeal the Department of Labor’s conflict of interest-fiduciary duty rule; Section 111 to repeal the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (“FDIC”) Orderly Liquidation Authority; Title IX to repeal the Volcker Rule; and numerous reforms to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) shareholder proxy voting rules.
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) recently released a report detailing the results of a first-of-its-kind survey on consumer experiences with debt and debt collection. The CFPB conducted the survey in connection with its ongoing effort to promulgate the first-ever federal debt collection regulations. The agency sent the survey to nearly 11,000 consumers, of whom only a little over 2,000 (just less than 20%, roughly) responded. The CFPB explained that “[t]o ensure that the survey included a sufficient number of responses from consumers who had experienced debt collection,” it targeted consumers with recent debt collection experiences at a higher rate than other consumers. Of the approximately 20% of consumers who responded to the survey, 30% were consumers with long-term debt whereas only 15% were respondents with more recent debt. The survey was comprised of 67 questions ranging from the consumers’ general financial experiences and preferences for the ways in which collectors could contact them to questions about specific debt collection attempts in the year preceding the survey (which was conducted between December 2014 and March 2015). The latter category inquired about the types of debt in collection, the manner and frequency of contacts, whether there were any erroneous attempts to collect a debt, and whether the consumer paid the debt after being contacted. Notably, the CFPB did not release the results for all 67 questions.
Since its inception, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) has been a lightning rod, and there is little dispute that recent events threaten, at a minimum, the current operational structure of the CFPB and possibly its future existence. Specifically, the constitutionality of the CFPB has been under direct judicial attack and President-elect Trump’s incoming administration, and legislative reform that may follow, threatens to make good on Mr. Trump’s plan to “dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act,” which created the CFPB, “and replace it with new policies to encourage economic growth and job creation.” In the aftermath of these developments, there has been no shortage of predictions on the CFPB’s future and some predictions allude to a near certain doomsday for the agency. But many may have rushed to judgment. While the continued existence of the CFPB is certainly an open question, it is more likely that the CFPB will receive a makeover, not a shutdown.
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