Financial Services/CFPB

Sitting en banc, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) structure is constitutional. By a vote of 7 to 3, the full panel of judges reversed an earlier panel decision that took issue with the independent agency’s single-director structure. The en banc decision left intact

In an internal email to CFPB staff, Director Cordray announced that he will be stepping down by the end of the month. Industry participants and observers have long speculated that Director Cordray might leave office prior to the expiration of his five-year term (July 2018) to run for governor of Ohio.

Upon his departure, Director

cash and credit cardsThe CFPB’s Arbitration Rule has been sent to the President’s desk to join 14 other federal agency regulations that have been repealed under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The disapproval resolution, which was passed by the House in July, was passed by the Senate late in the evening on October 24. The rule would have

Seal of the Federal Trade CommissionA change in administration inevitably raises questions regarding the priorities and direction of federal agencies. To help set the record straight, Lesley Fair, a Senior Attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC or Commission), Bureau of Consumer Protection, reminded us during last week’s NAD Annual Conference that the FTC has kept quite busy over the last year or so, with numerous enforcement cases arising out of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ms. Fair also shared her views regarding the FTC’s key enforcement priorities that affect advertisers and marketers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these priority areas generally relate to (i) advertising substantiation; (ii) use of social media, endorsements, and consumer reviews; (iii) matters involving privacy and data security; and (iv) allegations of financial deception. While such topics warrant serious consideration and attention for advertisers, one would be remiss in failing to mention that, in typical Ms. Fair fashion, she discussed these issues in a manner that not only kept the audience engaged, but largely entertained.

With respect to advertising substantiation, Ms. Fair took the opportunity to remind the audience that despite our obsession with smartphones—and our assumption that they can do almost anything except fold our laundry—the FTC will carefully scrutinize advertisers’ claims about their products, including health apps for smartphones, to ensure they are adequately substantiated. As an example, Ms. Fair mentioned the Commission’s January 2017 Settlement with Breathometer, Inc. and Charles Michael Yim in which the FTC alleged that marketers of two app-supported smartphone accessories, marketed to accurately measure consumers’ blood alcohol content (BAC), failed to adequately test the accuracy of the app and failed to notify customers that the app regularly understated BAC levels. In another smartphone settlement from December 2016, FTC v. Aura Labs, Inc. and Ryan Archdeacon, the FTC alleged that the marketer’s blood pressure app lacked reliable testing, and that the app’s readings were significantly less accurate than those taken with a traditional blood pressure cuff. In both of these cases, Ms. Fair suggested that FTC seemed particularly concerned due to potential safety issues arising from the lack of proper testing, especially where an intoxicated driver might get behind a wheel, or where a consumer may think his/her blood pressure does not present a health risk. These cases serve as a reminder that the FTC will evaluate substantiation with an especially critical eye where advertisers make health and safety-related claims.


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financial lawA federal district court judge in Atlanta has granted five defendants’ motions for terminating sanctions against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the agency’s conduct in connection with its Rule 30(b)(6) depositions. Venable attorneys represented one of those defendants, and were the principal authors of the briefs leading to the sanctions.

The court agreed with the defendants’ arguments that the claims pleaded against them must be dismissed because of the CFPB’s refusal to produce a knowledgeable and non-evasive Rule 30(b)(6) witness. The court described the refusal as a “pattern of conduct” that “demonstrate[d] a willful disregard of the Court’s instructions.” The court agreed with the defendants that the CFPB’s misconduct warranted striking all counts pleaded against them.


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financial crime

“Credit card laundering” or “factoring” refers to the practice of processing credit card transactions for one company through the merchant processing account of another company. In recent years, the FTC has sued several companies for engaging in this practice or assisting allegedly fraudulent merchants to launder card payments through multiple processing accounts. On July 28,

financial lawBack in February we blogged about Acting Chair Ohlhausen’s first keynote address in which she outlined her three consumer protection priorities. Consistent with those priorities, in April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its agenda to eliminate wasteful, unnecessary regulations and processes. Within the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the FTC’s goals included an effort to streamline demands for information in investigations and improve transparency in its investigations.

Last week, the FTC announced process reforms following up on the Ohlhausen agenda. In a press release, the FTC described Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) process reforms addressing the use of Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs)—which are administrative subpoenas used to collect information and documentation in investigations. These reforms, designed to minimize burden and increase transparency, include:


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GavelOn Monday, July 10, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued a final rule – the “Arbitration Agreements Rule” – regulating arbitration agreements in contracts for certain core consumer financial products and services. Venable has been monitoring the development of this rule, and our past coverage can be seen in a webinar and a blog post.

In prepared remarks, CFPB Director Richard Cordray explained the Bureau’s reasons for ultimately promulgating this regulation, and he stated that such clauses “force consumers either to give up or to go it alone – usually over relatively small amounts that may not be worth pursuing on one’s own. Including these clauses in contracts allows companies to sidestep the judicial system, avoid big refunds, and continue to pursue profitable practices that may violate the law and harm large numbers of consumers.”


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In this issue we discuss that under the cloud of speculation hanging over the CFPB they continue to launch supervisory examinations and enforcement investigations, and also held a public event on June 22 discussing the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Program.

Also in this issue is commentary around a top state regulator issued a reminder to

student loan debtLots of folks were wondering whether at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) it was “School’s Out” with a shortage of Commissioners and a new administration in the White House. A recent case involving the telemarketing of student loan debt relief services makes clear that, at least in certain areas, school is still in session. The case also highlights the growing regulatory scrutiny on the student loan space.

In obtaining a temporary restraining order shutting down a group of related companies, the FTC alleged that in “many instances,” the companies failed to deliver any of the promised services. Specifically, according to the FTC, the defendants collected upfront and monthly fees in exchange for enrolling consumers in student loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment programs and to improve consumers’ credit scores. The FTC found that many consumers received no services and many went into further debt.


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