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Caleb is counsel in the firm’s Consumer Financial Services Practice Group. He focuses his practice on helping federal and state-chartered banks, fintech companies, finance companies, and licensed lenders navigate regulatory risks posed by state and federal laws aimed at protecting consumers and small businesses in the credit and alternative finance products industry.

Late last month, Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie introduced B 25-0609, entitled the Protecting Affordable Loans Amendment Act of 2023, that proposes to opt the District of Columbia out of sections 521-523 of the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (DIDMCA). Sections 521-523 of DIDMCA empower state banks, insured state and federal savings associations, and state credit unions to charge the interest allowed by the state where they are located, regardless of where the borrower is located and regardless of conflicting state law (i.e., “export” their home state’s interest-rate authority). But another section of DIDMCA (section 525), permits states to opt out of sections 521-523 via legislation. If the bill passes, the District will join Colorado, discussed here, Iowa and Puerto Rico as the only jurisdictions currently opting out.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) released its 14th annual report to Congress in fulfillment of its requirements under the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. For the report, the CFPB reviewed information available on college websites on the financial products offered directly to students or jointly marketed to students with third-party providers. According to the CFPB, its research showed that college-sponsored financial products have higher fees and less favorable terms and conditions compared to typical market products.

On December 4, a federal district court for the Central District of California granted summary judgment in favor of the Commissioner of the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) finding that regulations adopted last year under California’s Commercial Financing Disclosures Law (CFDL) do not violate the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights and are not preempted by the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). Under the CFDL, providers are required to give certain disclosures similar to consumer transactions, such as the amount of funding the small business will receive, the APR, a payment amount (if applicable), the term, details related to prepayment policies, and (for products without a monthly payment) an average monthly cost.

Yesterday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued guidance to banks on managing the risks associated with “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) lending. Specifically, the bulletin addresses BNPL loans that are payable in four or fewer installments and carry no finance charges. The stated aim of the OCC’s guidance is to ensure that these loans are offered in a manner that is safe, sound, and compliant with applicable laws and regulations.

In March 2023, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) proposed new regulations under the California Financing Law that would update the definition of loan to include what it dubs as “income-based advances” also known as earned wage access (EWA) products, except for those offered by employers. After considering written comments to the proposed regulations, on November 6, the DFPI issued modifications to the proposed regulations and announced comments on the modifications would be accepted until November 27. Under the modifications, direct-to-consumer (i.e., non-employer offered) EWA products would still be defined as loans.

On November 30, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell announced proposed regulations that would require businesses to clearly disclose the total price of a product at the time it is presented to consumers, provide clear and accessible information on whether fees are optional or required, and simplify the process for cancelling trial offers and recurring charges. The proposed regulations are issued pursuant to the Attorney General’s rule-making power under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. The stated purpose of the proposed regulations is to close gaps within the state’s consumer protection laws and to combat unfair and deceptive business practices related to fees charged across various industries.

On October 9, a Florida state senator introduced SB 146, which would add a new section to the Florida Consumer Finance Act (CFA), attempting to curb evasion of the CFA. SB 146 would treat all payments incident to the loan as interest, even if voluntary, and would adopt both predominant economic interest and totality of the circumstance tests for true lender purposes. SB 146 follows other states’ attempts to address true lender issues, including legislation passed in Minnesota, discussed here, and Connecticut, discussed here.

On November 13, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) announced increased dollar thresholds used to determine whether certain consumer credit and lease transactions in 2024 are exempt from Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) and Regulation M (Consumer Leasing).

On October 24, the Biden-Harris administration announced amendments to the regulations implementing title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). According to the fact sheet, the amendments are intended to allow the Department of Education (ED) to better protect students from the negative effects of sudden college closures, restrict colleges from withholding course credits paid for with federal money from students’ transcripts, require colleges to clearly communicate how much financial aid students will receive, and provide a more streamlined process for states to approve postsecondary opportunities for students without a high school diploma or its equivalent. The amended regulations will take effect on July 1, 2024.

In a major victory for small business lenders, yesterday the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted motions filed by three groups of trade association intervenors to extend the court’s existing injunction against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB or Bureau) enforcement of its final rule under § 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Final Rule) to cover all small business lenders nationwide. A discussion of the preliminary injunction issued by that Texas federal court on July 31 can be found here. The injunction in Texas Bankers Association v. CFPB will dissolve if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the Fifth Circuit in Community Financial Services Association v CFPB (CFSA case), which found the CFPB’s funding structure unconstitutional.