Tag Archive | "CFPB"

CFPB Official Who Sued Trump Resigns, Drops Suit


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leandra English, who former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray’s picked to succeed him as acting director, is ending her court battle to unseat Mick Mulvaney as acting head of the bureau and her employment with the embattled regulator.

On Friday, English’s attorney, Deepak Gupta, posted a statement on Twitter that English is stepping down from her role as deputy director and that she plans to file court papers today to bring her litigation over the leadership of the CFPB to a close following President Trump’s nomination of Kathy Kraniger as permanent director of the agency.

“I will be stepping down from my position at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau early next week, having made this decision in light of the recent nomination of a new director,” the statement, attributed to English, reads. “I want to thank all of the CFPB’s dedicated career civil servants for your important work on behalf of consumers. It has been an honor to work alongside you.”

On Monday, Mulvaney announced that Brian Johnson, who currently serves as the bureau’s principal policy director, will assume the bureau’s second leadership post as acting director. Prior to his appointment to the CFPB, Johnson served as senior counsel to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) at the House Financial Services Committee.

Mulvaney described Johnson as an “indispensable advisor,” noting that he was the first person he hired at the bureau. “Brian knows the bureau like the back of his hand. He approaches his role as a public servant with humility and unsurpassed dedication,” Mulvaney said in a statement released late Monday. “His steady character, work ethic, and commitment to free markets and consumer choice make him exactly what our country needs at this agency.”

When Cordray resigned on Nov. 24, 2017, he elevated English, his former chief of staff, to deputy director — a move that established her as acting director until the Senate confirms Trump’s permanent appointee.

Hours after Cordray’s announcement, Trump appointed Mulvaney as acting director, citing his authority under the Federal Vacancies Act (FVRA) of 1988. English filed suit two days later (Nov. 26) to block the appointment, arguing that she was the rightful acting director due to a successor statute in the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.

English’s attorneys also questioned whether allowing Mulvaney, who once characterized the bureau as a “sick joke,” to continue serving as a White House official would compromise the bureau’s independence. The argument was backed by the former lawmakers who championed the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.

“That was our intent, to strip this away from the politics of the moment, to give consumers the sense of confidence that there was one place here — when it came to their financial services — [where] there would be people watching out for them, regardless of political party or partisanship,” said former Sen. Chris Dodd during media call this past November.

On Nov. 29, three days after filing suit, English’s request for a restraining order to block Mulvaney’s appointment was denied by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly. English’s attorneys then filed an amended complaint on Dec. 6, 2017, requesting a preliminary injection to remove Mulvaney as acting head of the agency. That request was also denied by Kelly, a ruling set the stage for English’s appeal.

“The Court finds that English is not likely to succeed on the merits of her claims, nor is she likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the injunctive relief sought,” Judge Kelly wrote in his 46-page decision. “Moreover, the balance of the equities and the public interest also weigh against granting the relief. Therefore, English has not met the exacting standard to obtain a preliminary injunction.”

Kelly’s ruling set the stage for English’s appeal, on which a three-judge federal appeal panel in Washington, D.C., has yet to issue a ruling.

On June 19, Trump nominated Kraninger, a White House budget official who works under Mulvaney and served as an aide to several Republican senators, to serve as the next director of the bureau. The announcement came a week before Mulvaney’s interim term was set to end.

“I have never worked with a more qualified individual than Kathy. Her commitment to the law, to protecting consumers and to defending what works in our vibrant financial services sector, all while respecting hard-working taxpayers who pay their bills and play by the rules ensures that the bureau will be in good hands throughout her term,” Mulvaney said in a statement issued the same day Kraninger’s nomination was announced. “Vigorous independence, sharp-as-a-tack intelligence, and simple, old-fashioned, Midwestern humility make her the ultimate public servant. I know that my efforts to rein in the bureaucracy at the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to make it more accountable, effective and efficient will be continued under her able stewardship.”

Critics like Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, however, have questioned Kraninger’s qualifications for the job because of her lack of experience in financial regulation or consumer protection.

email hidden; JavaScript is required Warren, who considered the architect of the CFPB, tweeted the day Kraninger’s appointment was announced. “That’s bad news for seniors, servicemembers, students — and anyone else who doesn’t want to get cheated. And it gets even worse.”

As for English’s Friday announcement, Warren said the following in a statement: “From the earliest days of the CFPB, Leandra has directed her passion and formidable skills to building a strong, professional agency that stands up for consumers. I’m grateful for her service and wish her the best in her future endeavors.

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House Approves Resolution to Repeal CFPB’s Dealer Participation Guidance


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S House approved on Tuesday its version of the resolution of disapproval of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s dealer participation guidance. The resolution now heads to President Trump’s desk, where it is expected to be signed.

The 234-175 vote was cast largely along party lines, although 11 Democrats crossed the aisle to approve the resolution. One Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, voted against the resolution, which, when signed by President Trump, will bring an end to the automotive retail and finance industry’s five-year effort to get the bureau’s controversial March 2013 guidance rescinded.

“This vote indicates that American consumers have spoken to their elected representatives to say they want competitive pricing on vehicle loans,” said Chris Stinebert, president and CEO of the American Financial Services Association, in a statement issued by the lender trade group. “We are an industry that competes for consumers’ trust as well as their business while helping them acquire vehicles that support their transportation needs.”

The vote comes less than a month after the U.S. Senate voted 51-47 to approve its version of the resolution and five months after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Congress has the power under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the bureau’s dealer participation guidance.

Under the CRA, both houses must approve resolutions of disapproval by a simple majority and receive the president’s signature to kill a regulation. When the latter happens to S.J. Res. 57, which was introduced in March by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), it’ll mark the first time the CRA has been used on a rule that has been in effect for several years. And once repealed, the CRA prohibits the reissuance of a rule in substantially the same form unless authorized by Congress.

The CFPB alleged in its five-page fair lending guidance that bank policies which allow auto dealers to mark up interest rates on retail installment sale transactions as compensation for services rendered create a significant risk of unintentional, disparate impact discrimination. It also warned lenders active in the indirect auto finance channel that they would be held liable for unlawful, discriminatory markups.

The bulletin goes on to state that lenders operating in the indirect auto finance channel “should take steps to ensure that they are operating in compliance with the [Equal Credit Opportunity Act] and Regulation B as applied to dealer markup and compensation policies.” It then listed a variety of steps and tools they could employ to address the bureau’s stated fair lending risks, including “eliminating dealer discretion to markup buy rates and fairly compensate dealers using another mechanism, such as a flat fee per transaction, that does not result in discrimination.”

Auto industry trade groups have argued that the bureau used its guidance to indirectly regulate the activities of dealers, which are mostly exempt from the bureau’s oversight under the Dodd-Frank Act. They also claimed the bureau was aware its methodology for determining disparate impact and potential harm to protected classes was flawed and prone to overestimation, yet pushed forward with claims of discrimination that resulted in enforcement actions that imposed millions of dollars in fines on auto finance sources, including Ally Financial.

The guidance also caused several finance sources, including BB&T and BMO Harris, to switch to a flat-fee compensation model. BB&T switched back to a dealer spread compensation plan earlier this year, while BMO switched to a three-tiered flat-rate model last summer.

The guidance was also behind consent orders the CFPB entered into with Fifth Third Bank, Toyota Motor Credit Corp., and American Honda Finance Corp regarding their dealer markup policies. As a result of those orders, the bank and two captives agreed to lower their markup caps to 1.25% and 1%. Fifth Third’s consent order, however, is set to expire this September, while Toyota Motor Credit’s and Honda Finance’s consent orders are set to expire in February 2019 and July 2020, respectively. The three finance sources yet to say whether they’ll return to a dealer participation model when they do.

“There’s no question that this is a rule masquerading as guidance. The CFPB never submitted the guidance to the GAO. They could have done so. Had they done so the 60-day clock would have run, we wouldn’t be here,” David Regan, executive vice president of legislative affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), said last week during a press briefing. “They chose not to submit that to Congress because they did not want the additional exposure to public notice and comment. Within just a few weeks of the guidance being issued in March of 2013, the congressional inquiries started pouring in asking very specific questions about the methodology that we now know was flawed. And yet, the agency repeatedly refused to respond to these questions.”

Congress has attempted to kill the bureau’s guidance through the legislative route. In November 2015, the House of Representatives approved the Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Finance Guidance Act by a 332-96 vote. The bill, however, was not acted upon by the Senate before the end of the 114th Congress.

Last March, Sen. Toomey asked the GAO whether the CFPB’s guidance on dealer participation falls under the CRA. The agency delivered its answer this past December, writing in a letter to Toomey that it did.

When it initially issued its guidance, the bureau argued that because it had no legal effect on regulated entities, the CRA does not apply. The GAO, however, stated in its response to Toomey’s request that the bulletin “fits squarely within the Supreme Court’s definition of a statement of policy,” because it provides information on the manner in which the bureau planned to exercise its discretionary enforcement power.

And according to the GAO, the CRA “establishes special expedited procedures under which Congress may pass a joint resolution of disapproval that, if enacted into law, overturns the rule.” In a statement posted on its website just after the GAO delivered its answer, Sen. Toomey said he intended “to do everything in my power” to repeal the bureau’s guidance under the CRA.

“The joint resolution is a measured response to the CFPB’s attempt to avoid congressional scrutiny by issuing ‘guidance’ that imposed a new policy without necessary procedural safeguards,” said Peter Welch, president and CEO of the NADA, in a statement issued following the House vote. “Enactment of S.J.Res. 57 will help ensure every consumer’s right to get a discounted loan in the showroom.

“Every customer deserves to be treated honestly and fairly when purchasing or financing a car or truck, and there is no room for discrimination of any kind, period,” he continued. “We continue to encourage all local dealerships to take up NADA’s voluntary fair credit compliance program, which is based on a U.S. Department of Justice model. It helps eliminate fair credit risk in auto lending while ensuring a competitive marketplace.”

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Judge Again Rules in Favor of Trump in Battle for Control of CFPB


WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge once again sided with the White House in the battle for control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, denying last Wednesday a request by CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English for a preliminary injunction to remove President Donald Trump’s appointee as acting head of the agency.

The ruling comes less than 50 days after U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly denied English’s request for a restraining order to block President Trump’s appointment of White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as acting director. It now sets the stage for an appeal by English, who has said she is the rightful acting director.

“The Court finds that English is not likely to succeed on the merits of her claims, nor is she likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the injunctive relief sought,” Judge Kelly wrote in his 46-page decision. “Moreover, the balance of the equities and the public interest also weigh against granting the relief. Therefore, English has not met the exacting standard to obtain a preliminary injunction.”

Judge Kelly originally denied English’s request for a temporary restraining order to block Mulvaney’s appointment on Nov. 28. The ruling, however, pertained to the restraining order and not the merits of the case, with English’s attorney Deepak Gupta hinting that Kelly’s ruling “would not be the final answer.”

Gupta then filed an amendment complaint on behalf of English on Dec. 6 requesting a preliminary injunction. Unlike the temporary restraining order, the injunction can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit if not granted.  Gupta gave no indication that Wednesday’s ruling would be appealed, although he expressed disappointment in Kelly’s decision in a Twitter post.

“The law is clear: President Trump may not circumvent the Senate confirmation process by installing his White House budget director to run the CFPB part time,” Gupta wrote. “Mr. Mulvaney’s appointment undermines the bureau’s independence and threatens its mission to protect American consumers.”

When Cordray formally resigned as CFPB director on Nov. 24, he elevated English, his former chief of staff, to deputy director. The move established her as acting director until the Senate confirms Trump’s permanent appointee.

Hours after Cordray’s announcement, Trump appointed Mulvaney as acting director, citing his authority through the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). English filed suit two days later to block the appointment, arguing that she was the rightful acting director due to a successor statute in the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.

English’s attorneys also questioned whether allowing Mulvaney, who once characterized the bureau as a “sick joke,” to continue serving as a White House official would compromise the bureau’s independence. The argument was backed by the former lawmakers who championed the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.

“That was our intent, to strip this away from the politics of the moment, to give consumers the sense of confidence that there was one place here — when it came to their financial services — [where] there would be people watching out for them, regardless of political party or partisanship,” said former Sen. Chris Dodd during media call on Nov. 30.

Dodd joined former Rep. Barney Frank and more than 30 current and former members of Congress in writing one of five separate amicus briefs in support of English’s position. In Wednesday’s ruling, however, Judge Kelly said that argument is completely without support in the text of the Dodd-Frank, adding that the court “declines to create such a restriction out of whole cloth.”

“Simply put, Dodd-Frank does not prohibit the director of the OMB from also serving as the acting director of the CFPB,” Kelly wrote in his ruling.

“The President has designated Mulvaney the CFPB’s acting director, the CFPB has recognized him as the acting director, and it is operating with him as acting director,” Kelly continued. “Granting English an injunction would not bring about more clarity; it would only serve to muddy the waters.”

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EFG Predicts Tighter Credit, Continued Focus on Compliance for F&I in 2017


DALLAS – EFG Companies, the innovator behind the award-winning Hyundai Assurance program, announced its 2017 predictions and recommendations for the automotive and powersports F&I market today. These insights, formed through thousands of conversations with the nation’s leading dealership principals and lenders, reflect an air of cautiousness for 2017. However, there are many options for retail automotive/powersport dealers, lenders, and F&I agents to successfully navigate an uncertain business climate for a prosperous 2017. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/EFGIntel

“Even though the election is over, we continue to see a murky forecast for the F&I market moving forward,” said John Pappanastos, President and CEO, EFG Companies. “Consumers clearly want a new – and at least partially online-buying process. This trend has significant impact for the F&I industry across retail and lending channels. We also expect to see credit tightening on the consumer side and a foreshadowing of reduced auto manufacturer incentives for dealers, which will impact their margins. Finally, we don’t believe federal regulatory oversight will diminish to the level that is being hyped. So, we strongly believe compliance will continue to challenge dealers and lenders. All that being said, we believe that the changes transforming the auto industry will create unique opportunities for dealers and lenders to leverage as they look to expand their business.”

Utilizing its 40-year history in the F&I industry, EFG Companies offers the following predictions for 2017:

Flat Volumes, Compliance, and Customer Retention for Retail Automotive

While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) authority may be up in the air, dealers will need to stay the course on compliance for 2017. Remember, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has jurisdiction over dealers and its operations are not impacted by any potential changes within the CFPB. Analysts are predicting flat unit sales volumes, pushing dealers to maximize their investment by squeezing more profitability out of their F&I operations. Customer retention efforts will increase, prompting dealers to shore up their service drive and fixed operations to deliver the “luxury car” level of service. In addition, an influx of off-lease vehicles will increase used car inventory while putting pressure on pricing. Whether purchasing new or used, the customer will be king in 2017. John Stephens, Executive Vice President, Dealer Services

Return on Investment and Shorter Transaction Times Key for F&I Agents

With retail automotive dealerships feeling increased pressure, F&I agents will also experience a trickle-down effect to clearly demonstrate a return on investment for the F&I products they place at a dealership. Agents will also feel pressure to help dealers shorten transaction time and pivot their operations to support online transactions. Agents will closely monitor their own businesses to keep production levels high and begin focusing more on acquiring new dealership business. Adam Ouart, Vice President, Agency Services

Rising Interest Rates and Portfolio Evaluations Will Challenge Lenders  

Regardless of what happens with the CFPB, lenders will also need to stay the course. You don’t stop treating customers right on the off chance that the government might not see your good behavior. Increasing interest rates will pressure lenders to tighten lending standards and evaluate other options to protect their loan portfolio outside of APR and loan terms. The same can be said for credit unions and other lenders that offer auto loans directly to consumers. I expect more lenders to evaluate how consumer protection products can benefit them from the standpoint of differentiating their institutions from the competition, protecting their loan portfolio, increasing loan volume, and controlling compliance. In addition, dealers will re-evaluate their lender roster, confirming a broad spectrum of partners that specialize in different credit tiers, and help dealers meet their profitability goals. This will put pressure on lenders to evaluate their service model for dealerships and make adjustments to tackle mutual dealer and lender challenges.
Brien Joyce, Vice President, Specialty Services

Growth and Lender Challenges Continue for Powersports Dealers

Although unit sales fell in the second half of 2016, we anticipate volume will pick up in February when early income tax refunds arrive. There will be a slight growth in the powersports market overall in 2017, with dealers putting greater emphasis on increasing aftermarket income through the sale of F&I products. Lenders that remain in the powersports market will want to insulate their loans and may look to offering their own complimentary F&I products. As powersports dealers continue to be starved for lenders, up-to-date technology resources, and committed employees, they will pressure their vendors and product administrators to provide outside the box solutions for these obstacles, such as digital F&I services. Glenice Wilder, Vice President, Powersports

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CFPB Orders TransUnion and Equifax to Pay $23.1 Million for Deceptive Practices


WASINGTON, D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) this week took action against Equifax and TransUnion, ordering the two credit reporting agencies and their subsidiaries to pay more than $17.6 million in restitution for deceiving consumers about the usefulness and actual cost of credit scores they sold to consumers. The two firms were also ordered to pay $5.5 million in fines to the regulator.

TransUnion will provide more than $13.9 million in restition to affected consumers, while Equifax will pay nearly $3.9 million in restition. The bureau is also ordering the companies to now truthfully represent the usefulness of their credit scores, provide the true cost of obtaining those credit scores and other services, obtain the express informed consent of consumers for services, and provide an easy way to cancel products and services.

“TransUnion and Equifax deceived consumers about the usefulness of the credit scores they marketed, and lured consumers into expensive recurring payments with false promises,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Credit scores are central to a consumer’s financial life and people deserve honest and accurate information about them.”

Chicago-based TransUnion and Atlanta-based Equifax are two of the nation’s three largest credit reporting agencies. The companies collect information like the borrower’s payment history, debt load, maximum credit limits, names and addresses of current creditors to generate credit reports and scores that are provided to businesses. Through their subsidiaries — TransUnion Interactive and Equifax Consumer Services — the companies also market, sell or provide credit-related products like credit scores, credit reports and credit monitoring directly to consumers.

Many lenders and other commercial users rely, in part, on these scores when deciding whether to extend credit to consumers, the bureau stated. Where the problem lies, however, is that TransUnion’s scores are based on a model from VantageScore Solutions LLC and Equifax’s scores are based on its own proprietary model — neither of which are typically used by lenders to make credit decisions.

The CFPB claims in its consent order that since at least July 2011, Equifax and TransUnion have been violating the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act by deceiving consumers about the value of the credit scores they sold and deceiving consumers into enrolling in subscription programs.

The bureau also charged Equifax with violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires a credit reporting agency to provide a free credit report once every 12 months. And until January 2014, according to the bureau, consumers who got their report through Equifax first had to view Equifax advertisements. This, the bureau stated, is a violation of the FCRA, which prohibits such advertising until after the consumer receives their free report.

“Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB is authorized to take action against institutions engaged in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, or that otherwise violate federal consumer financial laws,” the statement from the CFPB read.

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Four Trade Groups Ask Lawmakers to Instate Five-Person Board to Lead CFPB


WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Four associations representing 12,000 banks and credit unions submitted a letter to Senate leaders urging them to consider replacing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s single-director structure with a five-person bipartisan commission next year.

The associations listed in the letter, which was sent on Wednesday to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader-elect Chuck Schumer (D-NY),  include the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA), the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU).

“The CFPB is an independent regulatory agency that provides the sole director unprecedented authority over financial institutions, with minimal oversight,” read the letter, which was sent to Senate leaders on Wednesday. “As the sole decisionmaker, the director can promulgate regulations and levy enforcement actions that have sweeping and long-lasting effects on credit availability for consumers. The current single-director structure leads to regulatory uncertainty for consumers, industry, and the economy.”

The associations cited the recent federal appellate court decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB D.C. Circuit Court Case as further evidence of the need to replace the bureau’s structure. In that case, the appellate court ruled the in favor of the mortgage company, deeming the the bureau’s single-director structure unconstitutional. The court also gave the president the power to remove the CFPB’s director at will, as well as direct the regulator’s activities.

“This result makes it even more apparent what a whipsaw effect the single-director model presents, inhibiting the ability for financial institutions to plan for the future, which in turn limits economic growth and hurts consumers,” the associations stated in their letter.

A five-person bipartisan board or commission would be more in line with other financial regulators and would provide a balanced and deliberative approach to supervision, regulation, and enforcement over financial institutions, the associations stated. A five-person commission would also be better suited to handle the bureau’s authority over rules and regulations within the financial industry, the letter added.

“As we approach the beginning of a new administration, it is crucial we finally put in place a governing structure at the CFPB to ensure it does not become a political weapon, something we are certain Senate leaders McConnell and Schumer can appreciate,” said CBA President and CEO Richard Hunt. “In addition, the governing structure of the agency makes the potential for abuse of power and political influence not only possible, but inevitable.”

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