On March 31, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) rescinded a range of policy statements issued under the leadership of former Director Kathleen L. Kraninger. These rescissions concerned one policy statement governing communications between institutions subject to CFPB supervision and their examiners, and seven policy statements issued during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide regulatory
Lucy Bartholomew defends banks, consumer reporting agencies, and other financial services providers and their officers and directors in connection with civil and regulatory enforcement matters and internal investigations. Lucy represents clients throughout all stages of enforcement matters, including civil investigative demand negotiations, document collection, response preparation, civil investigational hearings, the NORA/15-day letter process, and resolution. She regularly appears in front of the CFPB, FTC, federal banking agencies, and other federal and state regulators.
Lucy also maintains an active financial services regulatory practice and specializes in UDAAP, credit reporting, fair lending, fees, error resolution, consumer credit, and advertising.
CFPB Rescinds Abusiveness Policy Statement
On March 11, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB” or “Bureau”) announced it was rescinding its “Statement of Policy Regarding Prohibition on Abusive Acts or Practices” (the “2020 Policy Statement”). The rescission is the latest in a series of actions under Acting Director David Uejio that demonstrate a recalibration in the Bureau’s regulatory…
CFPB Issues Interpretive Rule Clarifying that ECOA’s Prohibition of Discrimination Based on Sex Extends to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
On March 9, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) issued an interpretive rule clarifying that the Equal Opportunity Credit Act (“ECOA”) and its implementing regulation, Regulation B, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The CFPB made clear that this prohibition also extends to “actual or perceived nonconformity with traditional sex- or gender-based stereotypes, and discrimination based on an applicant’s social or other association.” Specifically, the Bureau found that, under ECOA and Regulation B:
- (1) “sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity discrimination necessarily involve consideration of sex”;
- (2) “an applicant’s sex must be a ‘but for’ cause of the injury, but need not be the only cause”; and
- (3) “discrimination against individuals, and not merely against groups, is covered.”…
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CFPB Releases Guidance on FCRA and Regulation V Compliance During COVID-19
On April 1, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) released a statement on “Supervisory and Enforcement Practices Regarding the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Regulation V in Light of the CARES Act.” This statement provides guidance outlining the CFPB’s expectations of furnishers and consumer reporting agencies (“CRAs”) during the COVID-19 pandemic, and signals that the CFPB will take a flexible supervisory and enforcement approach to compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) and its implementing regulation, Regulation V.
The key points of the CFPB’s guidance are discussed below.
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FTC and CFPB Host Workshop on Accuracy in Consumer Reporting
On December 10, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) held a joint workshop on accuracy in consumer reporting. The workshop included remarks from FTC Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips, CFPB Assistant Director for Supervision Policy Peggy Twohig, CFPB Deputy Director Brian Johnson, and FTC Deputy Director for the Bureau of Economics Andrew Stivers. The workshop included four panels:
- Panel 1: Furnisher Practices and Compliance with Accuracy Requirements
- Panel 2: Current Accuracy Topics for Traditional Credit Reporting
- Panel 3: Accuracy Considerations for Background Screening
- Panel 4: Navigating the Dispute Process
Panelists included a range of stakeholders in the consumer reporting ecosystem, including representatives from consumer reporting agencies (“CRAs”), trade associations, furnishers, and consumer advocacy organizations.
In her closing remarks, Maneesha Mithal, Associate Director in the FTC’s Division of Privacy & Identity Protection, discussed three key takeaways and themes from the workshop:
- (1) Alternative Data: Mithal noted that the issue of alternative data came up on almost every panel, and that there appeared to be a consensus that using some types of alternative data may benefit consumers and the industry. Mithal noted that a number of panelists expressed caution about using “fringe data,” including social media data.In a panel discussion, Michael Turner, founder and President of the Policy and Economic Research Council (“PERC”), drew a distinction between “proven payment data,” including payments for utilities, media, and rent, and unproven “fringe data” or “unstructured data,” including information from social media. Turner, along with a number of other panelists, believed that reporting proven payment data would be beneficial for consumers. Francis Creighton, President and CEO of the Consumer Data Industry Association (“CDIA”), noted that consumers are currently experiencing the “downside” impacts of the reporting of negative information about the non-payment or late payment of obligations for utilities, media, and rental housing, but are not receiving the “upside” benefits of reporting on the positive payment histories on those recurring obligations. Consumer advocates, such as Ed Mierzwinski of U.S. Public Interest Research Group (“PIRG”), expressed skepticism regarding the use of certain alternative data, such as utility payment data, and the ability of the industry to ensure the accuracy of such data.
- (2) Role of Technology: Mithal also noted that there was some consensus that technology, including Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and pattern recognition, may improve the quality and accuracy of consumer report information. Mithal stated that there appeared to be less consensus regarding the use of technology in data matching, with some panelists expressing the view that manual review is still necessary to ensure maximum possible accuracy. Mithal also noted that some panelists expressed the view that the CFPB should exercise its supervisory authority to examine CRAs and furnishers’ use of technology in consumer reporting.
- In general, industry panelists spoke favorably about the prospects for AI and other technologies. For example, Eric Ellman, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Legal Affairs at CDIA, discussed the use of technology in dispute intake, including filtering credit repair disputes from legitimate consumer disputes. Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center expressed skepticism about relying on AI and other technologies for data matching and dispute investigations.
- (3) Accuracy: Mithal concluded by discussing the accuracy of consumer reporting more generally, and stated that some panelists believe that the regulators should issue specific guidance in this area. Mithal also noted that panelists discussed both the importance of data accuracy with respect to consumer reports and furnished data, including ways in which CRAs may oversee furnishers.
- In general, industry panelists pointed to substantial improvements made in recent years with regard to the accuracy of consumer reports, with repeated emphasis on improvements brought about by the National Consumer Assistance Plan (“NCAP”), an outgrowth of a multi-state attorney general settlement with the three nationwide CRAs in May 2015. Turner discussed improvements between the early and more recent studies of data accuracy. Consumer advocates stressed continuing problems with data accuracy, including the reappearance of derogatory information on consumer reports.
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Governor Newsom Signs California’s Public Banking Act Into Law
On October 2, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed California’s Public Banking Act, AB 857, into law. California previously prohibited cities and counties from extending credit to any person or corporation, and required that local agencies deposit all funds to state or national banks. AB 857 now permits cities and counties to establish a “public…
CFPB Director Kraninger Declares For-Cause Removal Provision of the CFPA Unconstitutional
On September 17, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) Director Kathleen Kraninger sent letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stating that the CFPB “has determined that the for-cause removal provision of the Consumer Financial Protection Act . . . is unconstitutional.” The Bureau now affirms that the for-cause removal provision…
CFPB Fall Preview
As we turn the page on the summer, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is poised to be active – and actively overseen – in the months ahead. Here’s an overview of some of the issues and events ahead.
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Federal Reserve Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regarding Confidential Supervisory Information and FOIA Procedures
On June 14, 2019, the Federal Reserve Board (“Federal Reserve”) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPR”) requesting public comment on updates to its regulations governing the disclosure of confidential supervisory information (“CSI”) and its Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) procedures. Although the Federal Reserve classified many of the proposed revisions as “clarifications” or “technical updates,” the NPR includes several important changes to this rule. Comments must be received by August 16, 2019. …
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FDIC Releases First Edition of Consumer Compliance Supervisory Highlights
On June 13, 2019, the FDIC released its first edition of Consumer Compliance Supervisory Highlights, the purpose of which is to increase transparency regarding the FDIC’s consumer compliance supervisory activities. The publication provides a high-level overview of the consumer compliance issues identified through approximately 1,200 consumer compliance examinations conducted in 2018 for non-member state-chartered banks and thrifts.
In describing these supervisory highlights, the FDIC noted that 98% of all FDIC-supervised institutions were rated satisfactory or better for consumer compliance. However, the FDIC brought 21 consumer compliance-related formal enforcement actions that included civil money penalties totaling approximately $3.5 million. The institutions subject to these formal enforcement actions paid approximately $18.1 million in required restitution and $4 million in voluntary restitution. The most frequently cited violations in 2018 included the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z), the Truth in Savings Act (Regulation DD), Electronic Funds Transfer (Regulation E), the Flood Disaster Protection Act, and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act/Regulation B.
In the publication, the FDIC discusses a number of areas in which it has found violations, including overdraft programs (unfair and deceptive acts or practices), mortgage loan referral payments to third parties (RESPA), electronic fund transfers (Regulation E), skip-a-payment loan programs (unfair or deceptive acts or practices), and finance charges and annual percentage rate (“APR”) calculations (Regulation Z). These findings are described below. In addition, the publication includes summaries of actions taken to mitigate the risks of violations.
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