Like most industries today, Consumer Finance Services businesses are being significantly impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Troutman Pepper has developed a dedicated COVID-19 Resource Center to guide clients through this unprecedented global health challenge. We regularly update this site with COVID-19 news and developments, recommendations from leading health organizations, and tools that businesses can use free of charge.
Our bank and loan servicing clients also face novel challenges affecting their industry due to COVID-19, particularly the ever-changing rules and regulations concerning evictions and foreclosures. We are closely tracking these updates and have assembled an interactive tracker containing state orders and guidance documents regarding residential foreclosure and eviction moratoriums. You may access this interactive tool at https://covid19.troutman.com/.
To help you keep abreast of relevant activities, below find a breakdown of some of the biggest COVID-19 driven events at the federal and state levels to impact the Consumer Finance Services industry this past week:
- On January 22, in response to President Biden's COVID-19 Economic Relief Executive Order, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it would create an online tool to assist households in obtaining stimulus payments. For more information, click here.
- On January 20, the Biden administration issued a memorandum to federal agencies and executive departments that places a regulatory freeze on reviewing new or pending rules. One rule recently finalized and currently pending is the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's rule on access to banking services provided by national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign bank organizations. For more information, click here.
- On January 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) now former Director Kathleen Kraninger submitted her resignation letter after President Joe Biden asked her to step down. The president appointed David Ueijo, who previously acted as the CFPB's chief strategy officer, to serve as the acting director. The president is expected to nominate Rohit Chopra, currently a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, to serve as the next CFPB director. For more information, click here.
- On January 19, the CFPB announced that it will partner with community-based organizations to provide training, technical assistance, and other technical support to assist the organization in building and expanding its financial resiliency initiatives in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnerships are part of the bureau's Start Small Save Up initiative. For more information, click here.
- On January 19, the CFPB issued a final rule regarding the use of supervisory guidance for its supervised institutions. The rule codifies the statement (with amendments) that the CFPB and other federal financial regulatory agencies issued in September 2018, which clarified the differences between regulations and supervisory guidance. Unlike a law or regulation, supervisory guidance does not have the force and effect of law, and the bureau does not take enforcement actions or issue supervisory criticisms based on noncompliance with supervisory guidance. Rather, supervisory guidance outlines supervisory expectations and priorities, articulating views regarding appropriate practices for a given subject area. For more information, click here.
- On January 22, the Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation issued an emergency regulation that establishes procedures for remote work for employees of state-regulated entities, such as debt collectors, during the COVID-19 emergency. The regulation is scheduled to be published on January 29 and is valid for six months while the regulator begins the public comment process of a proposed final regulation. For more information, click here.
- On January 22, the American Financial Services Association, in collaboration with the Illinois Financial Services Association, the Independent Finance Association of Illinois, and the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, sent a letter to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker to raise concerns about Senate Bill 1792, which would create the Predatory Loan Prevention Act and institute a 36% rate cap based on the federal military annual percentage rate for all loans not exceeding $40,000. For more information, click here.
- On January 21, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed SB21-002 into law, which extends the moratorium on certain collection actions, such as garnishment, attachment, or levy, until June 1, 2021. Initially, the moratorium was set to expire on February 1. For more information, click here.
- On January 20, the Massachusetts Division of Banks held a webinar on the division's oversight of debt collectors and highlighted current examination trends in the consumer financial services space. The webinar discussed examinations of debt collectors during the pandemic and emphasized oversight of the quality and frequency of calls made to consumers. For more information, click here.
- On January 19, the Oklahoma City Utilities Department announced it will lift its temporary suspension of water disconnections for nonpayment in February 2021. Suspending water disconnection in March of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, nearly 16,000 of the city's 190,000 residential customers are behind on their utility bills, totaling about $9 million. The city used federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds starting in August 2020 for water bill assistance. For more information, click here.
- On January 7, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020, which includes a number of initiatives and programs aimed at incentivizing businesses to remain in the state by offering various tax credits. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority will administer the programs. For more information, click here.
Privacy and Cybersecurity Activities:
- On January 21, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) shared that it is starting a new campaign called the Reduce the Risk of Ransomware Campaign, which focuses on encouraging the public and private sector "to implement best practices, tools and resources that can help them mitigate  cybersecurity risk and threat[s]." Due to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, CISA will focus the campaign on supporting COVID-19 response organizations and K-12 schools. CISA also reminds the public it developed a ransomware center containing several resources, such as fact sheets, infographics, trainings, and webinars. To read more about CISA's campaign, click here.
- On January 21, President Biden signed an executive order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel. Among several changes implemented, this new executive order will require international travelers to "produce proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test prior to entry" into the United States. Several public and private organizations are currently developing digital tools to facilitate this type of proof and looking to expand their tools into verifying vaccination status. Readers interested in learning more about their privacy implications, stay tuned for an upcoming article by Troutman Pepper's Cybersecurity, Information Governance, and Privacy and the Employment practice groups. To read more about the executive order, click here.
- On January 19, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published its Fiscal Year 2020 Performance Report to document the commission's progress in the past year. The FTC's first strategic goal dealt with protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices in the marketplace, including consumer privacy issues. To achieve this goal, the FTC identified three target areas: "[i]dentify and take actions to address deceptive or unfair practices that harm consumers[;] [p]rovide consumers and businesses with knowledge and tools that provide guidance and prevent harm[;] and [c]ollaborate with domestic and international partners to enhance consumer protection." In consumer privacy, the FTC also provided policy advice and technical input to public and private organizations as they shifted their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To read the full annual report, click here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.