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. Please click here to visit this new interactive tool: https://covid19.troutman.com/trackers-ef.php.
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 November 20, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin regarding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which assigns the treasury secretary sole authority to make certain investments in Federal Reserve emergency lending facilities. For more information, click here.
- On November 20, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Office of Comptroller of the Currency announced an interim final rule updating regulations and reporting requirements to provide temporary relief for certain community banking organizations. For more information, click here.
- On November 19, Governor Michelle Bowman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, delivered a speech at the 2020 Financial Stability Conference hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the Office of Financial Research. Governor Bowman discussed COVID-19’s profound effect on the economy and addressed the role of nonbank financial institutions in mortgage markets and federal policy responses to the pandemic. For more information, click here.
- The U.S. Department of Justice’s Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, the Small Business Administration, and other U.S. federal agencies commenced preliminary investigations into potential misconduct committed by various lenders when distributing $525 billion in pandemic aid under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These preliminary investigations indicate that some lenders could face civil and/or criminal charges relating to the PPP. For more information, click here.
- On November 24, Representative Lauren Underwood introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would extend the payment pause and interest waiver for government-held federal student loans. Currently, the payment pause and interest waiver expires on December 31. For more information, click here.
- On November 23, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf implemented new targeted mitigation measures to help stop the rise of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. Effective November 23, all businesses may reopen. All in-person businesses may operate at 75% occupancy. However, the order states “telework is mandatory unless impossible,” without further clarification of the meaning of the term “impossible” or the import of the shift in language from “not possible” on July 15 to “impossible” in this new order. For more information, click here.
- On November 21, the California Department of Public Health’s limited stay at home order went into effect. The order prohibits any gatherings other than for activities “associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure or required by law” between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. PST. For more information, click here.
- On November 19, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health adopted temporary emergency standards on COVID-19 prevention in the workforce, effective November 30. The emergency standards are expected to be approved by the California Office of Administrative Law. These temporary standards will require employers to implement written COVID-19 prevention programs that satisfy certain criteria, comply with training and testing requirements, and provide paid leave to those with work-related COVID-19 exposure. For more information, click here.
Privacy and Cybersecurity Activities:
- On November 25, The Wall Street Journal reported that a Harris Poll survey found that “55% of American adults are worried that government agencies are tracking them through location data generated from their cellphones and other digital devices.” The poll’s findings arrive on the heels of another recent report that found significant differences in how much data contact-tracing applications expect individuals to give up. Trust is vital. For developers interested in learning more about privacy guidelines for COVID-19-related apps, read our primer on Law360.
- On November 24, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned all consumers to be on alert for potential holiday shopping scams and cyber threats. As the pandemic continues, “[h]ackers, scammers and thieves will take advantage of [pandemic and holiday] changes and the generosity of the public during the holiday to target online shoppers[.]” CISA recommends that consumers should:
- Check recently purchased internet-connected devices for any privacy and security settings to ensure they’re not unnecessarily sharing information with third parties.
- Shop through trusted retailers before making a purchase and when providing any personal or financial information.
- Use safe methods when making purchases, such as using credit cards instead of debit cards.
To read the full announcement, click here.
On November 23, Wired reported that Microsoft and IBM each expressed hope the presidential nominee would consider drafting federal privacy rules, such as those regulating facial recognition technology. Over the past few years, lawmakers across the spectrum and a range of committees have offered their federal privacy proposals and bills, seeking to pass an expansive privacy federal law; none have gained significant traction or seen a vote. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the public’s dependence on technology, and the public appears to be noticing the privacy implications. To read Wired’s full report, click here.