An August 31 memorandum issued by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), an arm of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Executive Branch, could dramatically change the way agencies handle civil and administrative enforcement proceedings. The memorandum directs covered agencies to provide greater due process to individuals and companies under investigation and reemphasizes the principle that the burden of proof of a violation rests solely with the government. The memorandum was issued to implement the directives contained in Section 6 of Executive Order 13924, Executive Order on Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery (issued May 19, 2020). In relevant part, the executive order directed agency heads to revise agency procedures and practices in light of “the principles of fairness in administrative enforcement and adjudication.”
California’s governor is expected to sign into law soon a bill creating a state consumer financial protection agency, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI), which some have called California’s “mini-CFPB.” We reported previously on the importance of this law in January and March.
In a series of recent interviews (including with the American Bankers Association and a podcast with the ABA Banking Journal), Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks discussed the Office of the Comptroller’s (OCC’s) plans to soon roll out another special purpose national bank (SPNB) charter specifically geared toward payments companies. This “payments charter” could be especially appealing for those companies looking for a national licensing platform for their payments business because it would provide federal preemption of state money transmitter licensing and related laws, which would eliminate the need to obtain a license to operate in each state.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a final rule on May 29 clarifying that when a national bank or national savings association sells, assigns, or otherwise transfers a loan, interest permissible before the transfer (the maximum rate permitted in the bank’s home state) continues to be permissible after the transfer. This marks one of the first acts of Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian P. Brooks, who assumed office that same day.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settled action on April 22 with Canadian company RevenueWire (the Company) and its CEO to resolve allegations that the Company assisted and facilitated two tech-support scams that the FTC had previously targeted. Under the alleged scheme, consumers were marketed tech support services to “fix” nonexistent computer problems, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars of consumer injury. The FTC’s complaint and consent judgment maintain that, in addition to serving as a lead generator for the alleged fraudsters, the Company processed consumer credit card charges on their behalf.
A recent legal conference in Washington, DC, highlighted newly proposed and ongoing regulatory changes in California concerning consumer and commercial lending. In short, one of the conference’s messages was that lending enforcement is increasing and the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) is becoming much more aggressive in its enforcement posture (including with respect to treating retail installment sales contracts and merchant cash-advance products as loans).
The DBO Commissioner, Manuel Alvarez, was installed last spring and is a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforcement attorney. He has already made some noticeable changes in the DBO’s enforcement posture, and we expect to see more enforcement actions brought in the months and years to come under his leadership.
California Governor Gavin Newsom submitted his $222 billion budget proposal for the 2020-2021 fiscal year on January 10. Among other priorities identified, the budget earmarks tens of millions of dollars for the creation and administration of the California Consumer Protection Law (CCPL). The governor’s budget proposal specifically notes the need for this expanded consumer protection law as arising from “[t]he federal government’s rollback of the CFPB [which] leaves Californians vulnerable to predatory businesses and leaves companies without the clarity they need to innovate.” Under the proposal, California’s Department of Business Oversight (DBO) would dramatically expand its consumer protection role to define the contours of, and to administer, the CCPL. The stated aim of this move is to enhance consumer protection in California and “foster the responsible development of new financial products.”
Should California’s lawmakers adopt this proposal, the DBO would be renamed the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI). In an expansion of the DBO’s current role, which includes consumer protection in financial transactions and oversight of state-licensed financial institutions, the renamed agency would gain greater authority to “pursue unlicensed financial service providers not currently subject to regulatory oversight such as debt collectors, credit reporting agencies, and financial technology (fintech) companies, among others.”
In a recent post, we discussed the increasing focus by state attorneys general on the use of their enforcement authority against payment processing applications platforms that were not licensed under state money transmitter laws. As we pointed out, one of the challenges raised by these state laws is the fact that they are not uniform in either their language or how they are interpreted or applied.
In the spirit of looking at the glass-half-full aspects of these developments, it is worth pointing out that the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) is undertaking an initiative to develop model payments legislation with the goal of increasing uniformity of state legislation in this area. The multistate licensing initiative is part of Vision 2020, a set of initiatives that CSBS and state regulators are implementing to harmonize the multistate licensing and supervisory experience for nonbank financial services providers, including fintechs. One primary area of focus for the CSBS is state money transmitter legislation. To this end, a committee of state financial institution supervisors, under the auspices of the CSBS, has developed model language for money services businesses, and recently published this model language for public comment. The model language focuses on areas such as core definitions of money transmission–related activities, money transmitter exemptions, control and changes in control of money transmission businesses, financial condition issues, and interstate parity and coordination activities.
In addition to releasing a finalized No-Action Letter (NAL) Policy, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also issued a revised Trial Disclosure Policy and Compliance Assistance Sandbox Policy on September 10.
Trial Disclosure Policy
Through its revised Trial Disclosure Policy, the CFPB has created the CFPB Disclosure Sandbox. Now, entities seeking to improve consumer disclosures may conduct in-market testing of alternative disclosures for a limited time upon permission by the CFPB. The Dodd-Frank Act gives the CFPB the authority to provide certain legal protections for entities to conduct trial disclosure programs. The new policy largely streamlines the application and review process, provides greater protection from liability (which also extends to agents of the waiver recipient), and allows for a time-limited extension for successful disclosure tests.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized its revised No-Action Letter (NAL) Policy and issued its first NAL under the revised policy on September 10, in response to a request by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on behalf of more than 1,600 housing counseling agencies (HCAs) that participate in HUD’s housing counseling program.