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Volume 25 - Number 15

July 21, 2014

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At Three-Year Mark, Supporters See CFPB as a Brave, Noble Defender…

Few federal regulatory agencies are the objects of such scorn – and simultaneously such devotion – as the CFPB, reflecting the bitter partisan environment in which the bureau was created in the wake of the financial crisis. To its opponents, July 21, 2011, may as well be another “date which will live in infamy,” whereas to its supporters, the modern financial era might as well be divided into pre-CFPB time and post-CFPB time. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, the author of the concept that evolved into what is now the CFPB and the person tasked with getting the agency up and running, urged supporters of the bureau to keep up the fight. “It feels like yesterday that we were fighting for a strong ...

…But Critics See an Uncontrolled Imperialistic Bureaucratic Regime

When it comes to the CFPB, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While supporters remain ardently behind the mission of the primary agency dedicated to consumer protection, as far as critics are concerned, it’s the bureau itself that poses too much risk and is in need of reform. “The CFPB is exactly what everybody knew it would be: a very expansive, heavy-handed, imperially-minded bureaucracy, building their own luxurious palace,” said Alex Pollock, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former president and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, during a Dodd-Frank Act-related conference call with the news media last week. “One of the important effects of the CFPB has been to ensure the ...

CFPB ‘Mini-Corr’ Guidance Leaves Some Big Questions Unanswered

The CFPB recently issued new guidance that warns mortgage brokers to avoid acting as mini-correspondents in an attempt to side-step consumer protection laws and disclose how much money they make on a transaction. The bureau is concerned that some mortgage brokers may be setting up arrangements with investors in which the broker claims to be a “mini-correspondent lender,” when in fact the broker is still essentially just facilitating a transaction between a borrower and a lender. In its new guidance, the agency sets out some of the questions the CFPB may consider in evaluating mortgage transactions involving mini-correspondent lenders in order to understand their true nature. This evaluation involves examining how the mini-correspondent lender is structured and operating. Among the ...

Bureau Files Lawsuit Against Debt-Collection Firm, Principals

The CFPB filed a lawsuit in a federal district court last week against Frederick J. Hanna & Associates, based in Marietta, GA, and its three principal partners – Frederick J. Hanna, Joseph Cooling, and Robert Winter – accusing them of operating a debt-collection lawsuit mill that used illegal tactics to intimidate consumers into paying debts they may not owe. “The CFPB alleges that the firm operates like a factory, producing hundreds of thousands of debt- collection lawsuits against consumers on behalf of its clients, which mainly include banks, debt buyers and major credit card issuers,” the bureau said. Between 2009 and 2013, the firm filed more than 350,000 debt-collection lawsuits in Georgia alone, according to the CFPB. The bureau further alleged the ...

Bureau Fines Big Payday Lender $10 Million for ‘Abusive’ Practices

The CFPB recently ordered ACE Cash Express of Irving, TX, one of the largest payday lenders in the United States, to pay a $10 million fine for allegedly using illegal debt-collection tactics – including harassment and false threats of lawsuits or criminal prosecution – to pressure consumers into debt traps they couldn’t afford and couldn’t get out of. The bureau said it found that ACE used these illegal debt-collection tactics to create a false sense of urgency to lure overdue borrowers into payday debt traps. “ACE would encourage overdue borrowers to temporarily pay off their loans and then quickly re- borrow from ACE,” the CFPB said. Even after consumers explained to ACE that they could not afford to repay the loan, the ...

Mortgage Complaints to CFPB Plunge Across the Board

A new analysis by Inside the CFPB found that consumer complaints to the bureau about their mortgages fell sharply in the second quarter, which likely reflects a continued stabilization in the housing and mortgage markets. In 15 out of 16 metrics tracked, customer gripes declined by double digits, with the remaining metric showing only a modest rise year-over-year. And in terms of the sole metric that showed a slight rise – a 3.6 percent increase in criticisms about mortgage servicing year over year – even there the data show a double-digit improvement (20.6 percent) from the first quarter of 2014 to the second. However, upon closer examination, the data also reveal that the double-digit rates of decline in consumer complaints slowed during ...

Bureau Still Eyeballing Expansion Of Consumer Complaint Database

The CFPB is now collecting consumer complaints about seven different segments of the financial services sector, and its latest cumulative report on the subject indicates the Dodd-Frank Act’s cop on the beat is only going to continue to expand its dragnet. So far, the CFPB is accepting complaints about credit cards (as of July 21, 2011), mortgages (Dec. 1, 2011), bank accounts and services (March 1, 2012), credit reporting (Oct. 22, 2012), money transfers (April 4, 2013), debt collection (July 10, 2013), and payday loans (Nov. 6, 2013). “The CFPB continues to work toward expanding its complaint handling to include other products and services under its authority, such as prepaid cards. Consumers may also contact the CFPB about other products ...

CFPB Proposes Adding Customer Narratives to Complaint Database

The CFPB is proposing to allow consumers to publicly disclose their complaint narratives – unvetted – when making a submission to the bureau’s consumer complaint database. “In many ways, the narratives are the most insightful part of a complaint,” the bureau said. “They provide a first-hand account of the consumer’s experience and the problem they would like resolved.” Further, “By giving consumers an option to publicly share their stories, the CFPB would greatly enhance the utility of the database, a platform designed to provide consumers with valuable information needed to make better financial choices for themselves and their families.” According to the bureau, the benefits of sharing the narratives include providing context to the complaint, spotlighting specific trends, helping consumers make informed ...

Industry Reps Suggest Alternative To Bureau for Privacy Notices

The CFPB’s proposal to simplify the annual privacy notice requirement under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act would fail to accomplish its goal, a handful of industry trade groups said. They suggested an alternative approach that would eliminate the annual mailed notice requirement for institutions that have not changed their privacy practices and do not share information under the GLBA in a way that gives customers a right to opt out. This approach is compatible with some pending legislation in Congress, S. 635 and H.R. 749. “The key distinction between the legislative solutions pending in Congress and the CFPB approach is that the congressional solutions would only require that information sharing be limited to the current statutory exceptions, that the information disclosed in ...

Small Lenders Support Expanding CFPB Small Creditor Exemption

Small financial institutions are in favor of the CFPB expanding its small creditor exemptions in its final rules having to do with establishing a borrower’s ability to repay and escrow requirements for higher-priced mortgage loans. The Independent Community Bankers of America and a coalition of 45 state and regional banking associations urged the bureau to expand the exceptions for small creditors to ensure community banks can continue to meet their communities’ mortgage needs. In a joint letter, the organizations called on the CFPB to allow community bank loans held in portfolio for the life of the loan to automatically receive qualified mortgage safe harbor status and an exemption from the escrow requirements for higher-priced mortgage loans. The trade groups noted ...

Dodd-Frank at Four: $21 Billion in Compliance Costs – and Counting

As of July 21, 2014, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is now four years old and the CFPB three, after imposing more than $21 billion in costs and 60.7 million paperwork burden hours, according to a new study by American Action Forum, which identifies itself as a center-right policy institute. “As time passes, the law becomes more expensive as regulatory agencies like the CFPB and the Federal Housing Finance Agency grow with the mission to implement burdensome rules,” the report said. “Meanwhile, small financial services firms continue to struggle as the law restricts the availability of financial products. With about one-quarter of the law still left to implement, one can only expect the costs to continue ...

Worth Noting/Looking Ahead/Vendor Update

Bureau Moves to Ensure Equal Treatment for Same-Sex Marrieds. The CFPB is synchronizing its internal policies with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, striking down as unconstitutional Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which holds that the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman. According to a staff memorandum from CFPB Director Richard Cordray, the CFPB will regard a person who is married under the laws of any jurisdiction to be married nationwide for purposes of the federal statutes and regulations under the bureau’s jurisdiction regardless of the person’s place of residency. However, consistent with other federal regulatory agencies, the bureau will not regard persons who are joined ...

Poll

Home-equity lending is beginning to show new life. My company (pick one):

Plans to enter this market over the next 12 months.
Is already making home equity loans and hopes to increase the offerings.
Is in the market but don’t expect much growth.
Is not making second liens and has no plans to do so.

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