Financial Services Regulatory

Cannabis companies nationwide are facing yet another statutory obstacle that can have serious (and potential ruinous) consequences for the emerging industry if not appropriately addressed—the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). There is a recent uptick in class-action lawsuits filed against cannabis companies across the country premised on alleged violations of the TCPA including lawsuits in Michigan and California. These complaints allege cannabis companies sent unsolicited marketing text messages or placed automated phone calls to individuals without their consent. Cannabis dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses should add TCPA compliance protocols to their checklist of regulatory requirements to be satisfied in this quickly emerging industry.

The TCPA

Enacted in 1991, the TCPA heavily regulates the ability to send phone, text, or facsimile messages through automatic telephone dialing systems. Non-compliance with the statute can be costly, as companies found to have violated the TCPA can be liable for $500 per call or text sent in violation of the Act, and up to $1,500 for willful or knowing violations. Damages are also not capped under the TCPA, so even a small number of texts or calls sent to a large number of recipients can lead to hefty damage awards. The ability to recover significant damages results in most TCPA claims being brought as class-actions. As a result, it is imperative that cannabis businesses that communicate with customers via text or by phone understand the rules governing the TCPA to avoid or at least minimize their liability exposure.
Continue Reading Why Cannabis Companies Need to Care About the TCPA

On June 22, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) launched its advisory opinion pilot program and its proposed final advisory opinion program. The pilot program is effective immediately, and the CFPB is accepting comments on the final program until August 21, 2020. Dykema is submitting comments on the proposed permanent advisory opinion program on behalf of clients.

Under both the pilot and permanent advisory opinion programs, institutions may request an advisory opinion from the CFPB in order to clarify compliance with regulations and address areas of uncertainty. These advisory opinions will be published in the Federal Register and will be considered binding interpretive rules upon which institutions may rely, offering a safe harbor from regulatory scrutiny.
Continue Reading Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Requests Comment on Imminent Advisory Opinion Program

In a closely monitored case, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the restriction on robocalls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) of 1991 but struck the Act’s government debt-collection exclusion. Many followed this case, anticipating it would result in a fatal blow to the TCPA. But today’s opinion extinguished these hopes.

In response to consumer complaints, Congress passed the TCPA to prohibit robocalls to cell phones, among other things. 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). In 2015, Congress amended the robocall restriction, carving out a new government-debt exception that allows robocalls made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States. 129 Stat. 588.

In 2016, the plaintiffs, political and nonprofit organizations, filed a declaratory judgment action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, claiming that the TCPA (§227(b)(1)(A)(iii)) violated the First Amendment. Plaintiffs sought the ability to make political robocalls to cell phones. Invoking the First Amendment, plaintiffs argued that the 2015 government-debt exception unconstitutionally favored debt-collection speech over political and other speech, and asked the Court to invalidate the TCPA’s entire restriction on robocalls. The District Court held that the government-debt carve-out was content-based but withstood strict scrutiny. The Fourth Circuit disagreed, invalidating the 2015 exception and holding that the content-based restriction did not survive strict scrutiny.
Continue Reading TCPA Protection Against Robocalls Upheld. Did the Supreme Court Sacrifice the Right of Free Speech For the Sake of Rescuing a Bad Statute?

From the inception of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), opponents have argued that its single-director structure is unconstitutional. The arguments focused on the executive power that the Constitution vests in the President, positing that limiting the President’s power to remove the CFPB director only for cause infringes upon the President’s executive power and therefore violates the Constitution’s separation of powers.

As Dykema previously blogged, the constitutionality of the CFPB has been litigated in the lower courts, with lower courts siding with CFPB opponents. Notably, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a D.C. Circuit Court judge at the time, delivered an opinion finding the CFPB unconstitutional, explaining “[t]he CFPB’s concentration of enormous executive power in a single, unaccountable, unchecked Director not only departs from settled historical practice, but also poses a far greater risk of arbitrary decision making and abuse of power, and a far greater threat to individual liberty, than does a multi-member independent agency.” Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court on October 6, 2018 and has proved favorable for those opposing the CFPB.
Continue Reading The Battle Over the Constitutionality of the CFPB Is Finally Settled… So What Now?

As all lenders know by now, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s (“CARES Act”) guaranteed Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans are the key piece of economic relief for small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, in the rush to get those loans flowing into the economy, the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) issued an interim regulation that raises substantial unanswered questions about participating lenders’ compliance policies. Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program (proposed Apr. 2, 2010) (to be codified at 13 C.F.R. pt. 120). Those questions are starkly different yet similarly important for banks and other traditional lending institutions accustomed to operating under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) and those nonbank lenders who have never been under the BSA’s purview.

Banks and other traditional lending institutions already have AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer) policies in place. For them, the SBA’s interim regulation seems, at first glance, like nothing earthshattering; it simply requires these lenders “to follow their existing BSA protocols.” In this crisis, though, nothing is as it always was. The urgency of getting these loans approved plus the importance of social distancing makes verifying the applicant’s information no easy task. Although the SBA’s regulation says that “PPP loans for existing customers will not require re-verification under applicable BSA requirements, unless otherwise indicated by the institution’s risk-based approach to BSA compliance,” the question arises whether a PPP loan application for an existing customer is considered a new account for FinCEN Customer Due Diligence (“CDD”) Rule purposes. Fortunately, the SBA and the Treasury Department issued revised FAQs addressing that question and explaining that, for PPP loans to existing customers, lenders do not have to re-verify information that had been previously provided and verified and do not even have to collect and verify missing information in the first instance “unless otherwise indicated by the lender’s risk-based approach to BSA compliance.” Paycheck Protection Program Loans Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (Apr. 8, 2010). We expect the final SBA regulation to be updated to reflect this important clarification.
Continue Reading Compliance for PPP Loans: Different Questions for Different Lenders

On Monday, November 18, 2019, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (“OCC”) announced that it is seeking public comment on a proposed rule to clarify the “valid when made” doctrine in the wake of a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Madden v. Midland Funding, that undermined and largely rejected it. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) can be found here. This rulemaking could restore certainty regarding the legality and enforceability of loans that comprise a significant component of lending activity.

The “valid when made” doctrine is a longstanding rule that a loan’s interest rate remains legal and enforceable as long as it was legal when the loan was made, regardless of whether a third party ultimately ends up holding the loan. In Madden, the Second Circuit undermined, and largely rejected, the doctrine and thus called into question the legality and enforceability of a large swath of the consumer debt. The loans challenged in Madden were originated by banks and subsequently sold, assigned, or otherwise transferred to non-bank entities. 
Continue Reading OCC Seeks Comment as Part of New Rulemaking to Clarify “Valid When Made” Doctrine

Recent interest-rate decreases have led to a resurgence in the mortgage market, with refinance activity up sharply from levels a year ago. But lenders have underwriting on their minds for reasons other than increased application volume.

The CFPB recently affirmed that it intends to allow the so-called GSE Patch to its Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule to expire in early 2021. This has home loans executives and their advisors assessing their underwriting obligations in a world without this heavily utilized compliance safe harbor. In advance of the elimination of the patch, the Bureau is requesting comments regarding potential changes to the Rule and the Qualified Mortgage definition.
Continue Reading Patchless–CFPB Seeks Comment on Ability to Repay and Qualified Mortgages After Expiration of the GSE Patch

Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”) has become highly technical, reflecting the complexity of modern secured transactions and the intricate relationships of debtors, secured parties and others who have or may have interests in a debtor’s assets.  Some of its rules, however, seem relatively easy to understand and apply.

One of those is the rule that protects buyers who buy goods in the ordinary course of business, allowing such buyers to make purchases free and clear of security interests created by their sellers. UCC 9-320.  This relatively simple concept is consistent with everyday buyers’ expectations.  When one purchases at a store and pays for goods, one expects the secured party to follow the sales proceeds rather than unfairly repossess the purchased goods. 
Continue Reading The Extraordinary Rights of Non-Ordinary Course Buyers

Justice Kavanaugh’s first authored opinion as a Supreme Court Justice in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc., No. 17-1272, 586 U.S. ____ (2019) further cements the Supreme Court’s stance on arbitration.

Over the years, the Supreme Court has consistently held in favor of arbitration and rejected attempts by parties and the lower courts to ignore binding arbitration clauses. For instance, in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (April 2011), the Supreme Court rejected state laws that attempted to prohibit arbitration for certain types of claims, holding “[w]hen state law prohibits outright the arbitration of a particular type of claim, the analysis is straightforward: The conflicting rule is displaced by the [Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.].” More recently, in Epic System Corp. v. Lewis, 138 S. Ct. 1612 (May 2018), the Supreme Court held that arbitration clauses prohibiting class actions in employment contracts were enforceable and were not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.—which guarantees basic rights of private sector employees to take collective action. The Supreme Court reasoned that the FAA and NLRA “have long enjoyed separate spheres of influence . . .” and the FAA is “a Congressional command requiring us to enforce, not override, the terms of the arbitration agreements….” 
Continue Reading The Supreme Court Remains Steadfast in Favor of Arbitration

One of the key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act rollback law signed by President Trump on May 24, 2018, hasn’t met its early promise for U.S. community banks. Recently proposed rules to implement simplified capital requirements have fallen short of the industry’s expectations when the bank deregulation law was enacted in May.

On November 21, 2018, the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency jointly announced a proposed rule to simplify capital requirements for qualifying community banking organizations that opt into the community bank leverage ratio framework. The agencies are seeking public comment on a proposal that would simplify regulatory capital requirements for qualifying community banking organizations, as required by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155 regulatory reform bill). 
Continue Reading Community Banks Disappointed with Federal Regulators’ Proposed Community Bank Leverage Ratio