On October 17, following Washington Attorney General (AG) Bob Ferguson’s unsuccessful consumer protection action against thrift store chain, Savers Value Village Inc. (Savers), the Washington Superior Court of King County granted Savers’ motion for attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $4.3 million. This substantial award — which is allowable under the Washington Consumer Protection Act (WA CPA) — represents a substantial recoupment of Savers’ attorneys’ fees spent to defend the almost decade-long litigation.
On August 16, a coalition of seven state attorneys general (AG) announced a settlement with participants alleged to be involved in a “massive” robocall operation. The stipulated order, which names Scott Shapiro, Michael T. Smith, Jr., and Health Advisors of America (defendants), permanently bans Shapiro and Smith from initiating or facilitating robocalls; working in or with companies that make robocalls; and engaging in telemarketing. The settlement also requires the defendants to make monetary payments to the coalition, which is comprised of AGs from the states of Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, and Texas (the AGs).
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions announced a settlement in excess of $250,000 with Integrity Acceptance Corp., affiliated companies, and their owners to resolve allegations that they originated personal loans without the required license, contracted for charges in excess of the maximum allowable rate, misrepresented finance charges, and failed to disclose prepaid finance charges in violation of the Indiana Uniform Consumer Credit Code and Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. As part of the settlement, the entities will forgive $223,685 in loans, pay $33,991 in restitution, and pay $33,000 in civil penalties and costs to the state. The entities and their owners are also enjoined from engaging in similar conduct in the future.
As discussed here, on December 7, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) made a preliminary conclusion that a New York commercial financing law was not preempted by the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). The Bureau indicated it was also considering whether to make a preemption determination regarding similar state laws in California, Utah, and Virginia. On January 20, 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta submitted a letter to the CFPB agreeing with its preliminary determination that California’s Commercial Financing Disclosures Law (CFDL) is not preempted by TILA because the CFDL only applies to commercial financing and not to consumer credit transactions within the scope of TILA. Attorney General Bonta further urged the CFPB to “revisit the Federal Reserve Board’s (Board) vague and overbroad articulation of the TILA preemption standard. The CFPB should articulate a narrower standard that emphasizes that preemption should be limited to situations where it is impossible to comply with both TILA and the state law or where the state law stands as an obstacle to the full purposes TILA, which is to provide consumers with full and meaningful disclosure of credit terms in consumer credit transactions.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich released opinion No. 22-(R22-011), concluding earned wage access (EWA) products that are fully non-recourse and no-interest are not “consumer lender loans” under Arizona law. Thus, those who make, procure, or advertise EWA products are not required to be licensed as a “consumer lender” by Arizona’s Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions. The AG’s findings apply to EWA providers working with an employer as well as those working directly with an employee.
On January 4, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that his office had reached settlements with Bellco and Canvas credit unions which will provide $4 million in refunds of unearned guaranteed automobile protection (GAP) premiums to consumers that the credit unions failed to provide previously. In June 2022, we posted here about the five prior settlements reached by the state AG over GAP refunds. Based on the AG’s comments in the press release, we expect continued scrutiny in this area. “When hardworking Coloradans pay for GAP coverage, they deserve to receive what they are owed … My office will continue to hold accountable companies that violate the law and leave Coloradans without the money they were due.”
On December 27, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (the Division) entered a consent order with Yellowstone Capital LLC (Yellowstone) and several related companies to resolve allegations that, in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the company engaged in abusive lending practices in connection with Merchant Cash Advances to small business owners (MCAs). Pursuant to the settlement, Yellowstone must forgive all outstanding balances for customers who entered MCAs, which is estimated to be approximately $21.7 million, and pay more than $5.6 million to the Division for purposes that may include, restitution, attorneys’ fees, costs of investigation and litigation and costs of administering restitution, and penalties up to $250,000. The order also imposes additional requirements regarding Yellowstone’s agreements and collections activity discussed below.
As discussed here, on October 19, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Community Financial Services Association of America Ltd. (CFSA) v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) held that the CFPB’s funding mechanism violates the appropriations clause because the CFPB does not receive its funding from annual congressional appropriations like most executive agencies, but instead, receives funding directly from the Federal Reserve based on a request by the CFPB’s director. In response, on November 15, as discussed here, the CFPB filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, requesting not only that the Court hear the case, but also that it be decided on an expedited basis during the Court’s current term. On December 15, two groups of state attorneys general, with diametrically opposed positions, filed separate amicus briefs, urging the Court to grant the CFPB’s petition and intervene to stave off the “confusion and regulatory chaos” caused by the appellate court’s decision.