Posts filed under ‘Compliance’

SC to Consumers: When It Comes To Suing in Federal Court – No Harm, No Foul

A decision by the Supreme Court last week, TransUnion, LLC v. Ramirez, has some very practical implications for credit unions large enough to be on the radar of class action attorneys anxious to sue in federal court over alleged violations of federal law.  In a nutshell, the Supreme Court made it more difficult for plaintiffs to sue your credit union in federal court.

In order to understand just how important this case may be, it’s important to understand just how bad a job TransUnion did complying with the FCRA. A majority of the court held that notwithstanding all these mistakes, only individuals that could show they were harmed by these mistakes in a concrete way had the right to sue the company in federal court. 

In the aftermath of 9/11, TransUnion offered financial institutions a feature which allowed them to more easily spot individuals subject to OFAC sanctions. Specifically, the service informed creditors when a person’s first and last name was the same as an individual on an OFAC list.  Needless to say, this service generated a lot of false positives. One of its victims was Sergio Ramirez.  When he and his wife went to buy a Nissan Maxima, he thought the deal was done only to be informed by the car dealership that it would not sell the car to him because when they ran a TransUnion credit report it indicated that his name was a match for an individual who was on the OFAC sanctions list (incidentally, in the finest tradition of car salesmen everywhere, the dealership closed the deal with the alleged terrorist’s wife).

Things got even worse in the weeks ahead. Mr. Ramirez called TransUnion and requested a copy of his credit file. In response he received the statutory summary of his rights which he is entitled to under the FCRA, but the file he received did not include the OFAC notice.

Mr. Ramirez brought a class action lawsuit on behalf of individuals whose credit reports wrongly identified them as OFAC miscreants. The “class” contained 8,185 members but only 1,853 of these individuals had their credit reports disseminated to potential creditors during the relevant period. He successfully won at trial since there was more than enough evidence to prove that TransUnion violated several key provisions of the FCRA by failing to follow reasonable procedures to insure the accuracy of its credit reports and failed to provide consumers with accurate credit files upon request. In addition, the FCRA explicitly gives individuals the right to sue for violations of its provisions.

As I talked about in this blog before, an individual seeking to sue in federal court has to show not only that they were subject to a violation of the law but that they were subject to an actual concrete harm. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that even when Congress writes a statute such as the FCRA and gives a person the right to receive damages for violations of that act, plaintiffs must still show that they suffered injury “in fact” in order to access the federal courts. In this case, a majority of the court agreed that the 1,800 individuals whose credit report was disseminated to potential creditors suffered an injury in fact by effectively being defamed. But what makes this decision so potentially significant is that the court did not believe that an inaccurate credit report by itself injured individuals enough to give them access to the federal courts. As judge Cavanaugh pithily explained “no concrete harm, no standing.”

Why does this matter so much? First, because its rationale could easily be applied not only to cases involving violations of the FCRA but to other violations of federal consumer laws such as the Truth In Lending Act which allowed consumers to sue lenders simply because a statute has been violated irrespective of whether or not anyone was harmed by this violation. To be clear, states such as NY and California are free to have their own standards for determining when someone can sue in state court. The long term impact of this decision may simply be to empower state courts to exercise greater influence over the way consumer laws are interpreted. But in the short term, expect more disputes over whether or not creditors can be sued in federal court.

June 29, 2021 at 8:49 am 1 comment

What The End of New York’s State of Emergency Means For Your Credit Union

When you specialize in compliance, even good news can keep you up at night. So it goes with Governor Cuomo’s announcement that he was ending the state of emergency he imposed on March 7th 2020 in response to this thing called COVID-19.

On the one hand, this is of course great news; on the other hand almost immediately, the Association started receiving phone calls about what effect this would have on existing policy and procedures put in place during the pandemic. With the caveat that this is not intended as a definitive list, here is what we know so far:

The executive orders authorized notaries to notarize documents over the internet. This authority has ended. The Department of State issued this memo informing us that effective June 24th, this authority came to an end. Clearly this prohibition is intended to apply prospectively but for those of you who do mortgages don’t be surprised if title insurers raise questions about the validity of your notarizations. They are a nervous a lot. The good news is that the legislature passed a bill to permanently authorize remote notarization.  Perhaps this will spur quicker action on that bill.

An executive order had extended the expiration date of licenses. I know credit unions have relied on this authority when opening up new accounts for members. This authority also came to an end on June 24th 2021. You may want to put a note in your files so that future employees and examiners reviewing account documentation understand that appropriate procedures were used.

Lending was of course another area where the executive orders had a big impact. But many of those early executive orders issued by the Department of Financial Services have been superseded by laws passed by the Legislature. Most importantly § 9-X of the Banking Law which mandates loan forbearance periods for individuals impacted by COVID-19 applies between March 7th 2020 and the latter of December 31st 2021, or the end of the emergency orders. In addition, pursuant to law, New York’s foreclosure moratorium remains in effect until August 31st 2021.

Then there are of course the HR issues. You still have an obligation under both New York law and general OSHA standards to protect your employees against the spread of COVID. This means that you still have to address issues such as mask mandates and vaccination requirements.

All this means that, as my man Winston Churchill would say, “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

On that note, enjoy your day.

June 28, 2021 at 10:14 am Leave a comment

Juneteenth Creates Compliance Glitch For Mortgage Lenders

The passage of legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday resulted in a compliance glitch which the CFPB could, and hopefully will, fix as early as today.

This issue sent me back to the preamble to the 2013 final TRID regulations. As the CFPB explained, neither RESPA nor TILA defines the term “business day.” As a result, for reasons that have never been clear to me, Regulation X which implements RESPA and Regulation Z which implements TILA contain separate definitions of a business day.

Most importantly, Regulation Z applies a definition of business days which includes calendar days except Sunday and legal public holidays specified in § 5 USC 6103. This is the section of law amended by Congress last week. As a result, from a strict compliance standpoint, June 19th was a national holiday and not a business day for disclosure purposes. This means that your credit union runs the risk of making loans that are out of compliance with federal regulations.

Yours truly is hopeful that common sense will prevail. Hopefully the CFPB will issue guidance clarifying that for purposes of complying with federal regulations. Lenders will not be deemed to be out of compliance for counting Juneteenth as a business day in 2021.

NY to Release Diversity and Inclusion Document to State Regulated Institutions

The Department of Financial Services will shortly release a memorandum to state chartered institutions explaining the department’s expectations as it relates to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This publication is similar to one issued last October related to climate change initiatives. Its purpose is not to impose specific mandates at this time but to begin a discussion about the requirements that should be imposed on banks, credit unions, and mortgage lenders. When it comes to the efforts they are making to bring more diversity to middle and upper management. Stay tuned.

June 21, 2021 at 9:33 am Leave a comment

Updated COVID Guidance To Which Your Credit Unions Should Pay Attention

On June 10th, OSHA published updated guidance called for by the Biden administration intended as general workplace recommendations for employers and industries not subject to specific OSHA mandates.

The most important line in the document is that “Unless otherwise required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure. This guidance focuses only on protecting unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces (or well-defined portions of workplaces).” In other words, you have a continuing obligation to protect individuals who are not vaccinated.

For many of us the last year has been a crash course in OSHA regulations. Federal law requires all employers to provide workers with a safe and healthy workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”  The pandemic falls into this category. Some industries, such as healthcare, are subject to specific health and safety regulations implemented by OSHA. The guidance to which I am referring is a generic guidance issued for the benefit of all industries not subject to those more specific requirements.

For example, it stresses that “employers should take steps to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at risk workers in their workplaces from the continuing risk posed by COVID. Such steps may include but are not limited to measures we are all very familiar with at this point such as granting paid time off for vaccinations, which is a legal requirement in NYS, and implementing physical distancing for unvaccinated workers in all communal work areas.

The issuance of this regulation raises further questions as to the need for a new law passed in New York which requires employers to adopt workplace health and safety standards for protections against airborne infectious diseases. Employers will have the option of adopting sample policies to be provided by NYS. It’s not clear to me how these policies will be much different than the suggested OSHA guidelines. Then again, New York’s law has a lower standard for imposing legal liability against employers who violate these policies and requires that employers with 10 or more employees give their employees the option of creating workplace safety committees.

On that note, enjoy your weekend. If you’re looking for something to do this morning I will be hosting a webinar looking back at some of the key legislation passed in the recently concluded legislative session.

June 18, 2021 at 9:18 am Leave a comment

NY’s POA Changes Have Taken Effect: Now What?

The changes to New York’s Power Of Attorney laws officially took effect on June 13th marking one of the most important operational changes that NY credit unions have seen in a number of years. In my previous blogs on the subject I have emphasized the fact that the changes are designed to encourage acceptance of POAs. This goal is accomplished by mandating that institutions accept POAs that “substantially conform” to New York State Law and allowing courts to award attorney fees to individuals who have to go to court to prove that a POA is valid. In this blog yours truly wants to point out that there are still steps you can take to protect both the credit union and your members.

Under the old Power Of Attorney, certain banking transactions could only be carried out by an agent if a POA was accompanied by a Statutory Gift Rider. Remember that this rule still applies to POAs created before June 13th. The amendments eliminate the requirement that POAs contain a separate SGR form. But, when it comes to making changes to existing accounts such as changing the title on the account or adding a new joint tenant, the authority to makes these changes has to be included in the modifications section of the new form. In other words, the modification requirements are being used in much the same way as the SGR requirement previously was (NY general obligation law section 5-1502D).

Let’s say a relative of one of your members comes in with a POA they pulled off the internet. Under the new law a person that is asked to accept an acknowledged Power Of Attorney may request “an opinion of counsel as to any matter of law concerning the power of attorney if the person making the request provides in a writing or other record the reason for the request.”

And remember, even with these changes there are still grounds for denying a POA. A list of examples in New York State Law where such reasonable grounds would exist includes the refusal to provide the credit union with an original Power Of Attorney document or certified document and a good faith referral of the principal and the agent to the local adult protective services unit [New York general obligation law 5-1504(2)].

The bottom line is that your credit union still has the ability to assure itself that a POA is a valid document. That being said, given the changes to the law and the increased risk of noncompliance, decisions on whether or not to accept POAs should not be made by frontline staff.  They should instead reflect a uniform application of your updated Policies and Procedures.

June 15, 2021 at 9:18 am Leave a comment

Are You Prepared for the New POA requirements?

This is not the most exciting question in the world but the sense I get is that for many of you the answer to this question is at best “not quite” and at worst “what changes?” This is concerning because big changes are coming.  For purposes of this blog, I am assuming that your credit union is being presented with a POA where there are no issues regarding potential financial elder abuse.

On a daily basis every credit union in NYS has to decide whether or not to accept and act on a power of attorney document. In today’s blog I am going to discuss the most basic consequences for your credit unions when confronted with a Power Of Attorney starting June 13th. In subsequent blogs, I will discuss other aspects of these changes. If I panic you into taking further action the Association has a webinar on the subject and you can always give our trusty compliance gurus a call on our compliance hotline.

What exactly am I talking about? Late last year the legislature passed and the governor signed into law legislation and a chapter amendment championed by the bar association designed to make it easier to draft POAs. For our purposes it’s important to remember that one of the primary reasons for these changes was frustration on the part of lawyers that banks and credit unions often refused to accept POAs because of what they contend were immaterial drafting defects.    

Specifically, under existing law to be valid a POA must contain “the exact wording” contained in the general obligation law. This gave credit unions and banks a tremendous amount of flexibility in determining whether or not to accept POAs and over the years many went so far as to mandate their own forms.

Starting on June 13th this standard is changing. Specifically, POAs are now valid provided they “substantially conform” to New York law. In other words minor discrepancies between the exact language of NY law and the POA your front line staff is reviewing no longer provides a basis for refusing to honor the POA. 

Furthermore, there are now financial consequences if your credit union refuses to honor a valid POA. Under existing law, all an attorney can do is commence a summary proceeding to order your credit union to honor the POA. When this new law kicks in, if a judge finds that your credit union refused to honor a valid POA, it could be on the hook for damages and attorney costs.

There are also important changes made to the actual form.  Most importantly, Statutory Gift Riders are no longer required and instead certain powers must be noted in a modification section on the POA itself.

Here’s where it gets a little complicated.  For POAs drafted before June 13th to be valid they still must comply with the exact wording standard as well as the existing Gift Rider requirements. But, starting June 13th, you can still face litigation for refusing to honor valid POAs drafted before June 13th.

The bottom line is that your credit union should be updating its procedures to make sure that frontline staff is aware of these new changes and has clear guidance, such as a checklist, detailing the circumstances under which it will and will not accept a POA.

May 28, 2021 at 10:04 am Leave a comment

Gov Approves HERO’s Act

Good morning folks, with a special shout out to those of you who work in the great state of New York.

The Governor has approved the HERO Act, legislation which mandates that all businesses in NYS implement policies addressing a wide range of issues related to airborne illnesses, such as COVID. For those of you with ten or more employees, you also must give your employees the option of creating committees to address work place health related issues on an ongoing basis.

The bill is phased-in over a six month period with the first requirements taking effect in 30 days. Adopting an approach similar to what we saw when the state passed sexual harassment legislation, the state will be providing sample policies that your credit union can adopt.

One other piece of good news is a reminder that this law applies to both federal- and state-chartered credit unions.

Stay tuned, the Association will be hosting a webinar next Wednesday to take a first look at this important new mandate.

Remote Notarization Hearing Today

At 10 o’clock today, the Assembly will be holding a virtual hearing to analyze issues related to authorizing remote notarization on a permanent basis in New York. Remote notarization refers to the ability of a notary to verify the authenticity of a signature without the signer being physically present. Lisa Morris from Hudson Valley Credit Union will be testifying for the Association.

He’s Back!

The former Benign Dictator of Consumer Finance is back. Ricard Cordray has been given a high profile job at the U.S. Department of Education from which he will oversee issues related to the federal student loan program.  Not coincidentally, his portfolio gives him a high-level platform to address one of the key issues the Biden administration is being pressured to address — whether to forgive or not to forgive all of those student loans — while not being so high as to require Senate confirmation.

California Chimes In

California joined  Illinois’s  financial regulator in prohibiting lending platform Chime from implying in its advertisements and websites that it was a bank as opposed to a lending platform that passes through loans. The state’s actions come as federal and state regulators continue to grapple with the issue of when FinTechs should be classified as banks with the accompanying regulatory requirements that this classification would impose.

Earlier this week the Federal Reserve board issued proposed guidance for the Federal Reserve banks to consider when deciding whether or not FinTechs should be given access to the Federal Reserve System. Don’t underestimate this power: remember it was a Federal Reserve Bank which blocked Colorado from starting a state-level bank to provide marijuana banking services.

Captain obvious here: this is an issue that Congress needs to address sooner rather than later.

On that note, enjoy your weekend. If all goes according to plan, yours truly will be gathering with a group of vaccinated middle age men to play his first round of in-person poker in more than a year.

May 7, 2021 at 9:35 am 1 comment

CFBP Extends QM Compliance Deadline

The increasingly drawn out fate of regulations creating a new definition of what qualifies as a Qualified Mortgage took another turn this week when the CFPB announced that it was extending the deadline for compliance from July 1,, 2021 until October 1, 2022.  This is good news especially for those of you intending to sell mortgages to the secondary market.  As I explained in a recent blog, the GSE recently put its partners on notice that without a change to the deadline it would not accept for purchase mortgages which qualify under the existing QM patch with its higher debt-to-income parameters. 

The preamble to this announcement includes this graph demonstrating just how dependent the housing market remains on access to the GSEs even as private label securitization continues to recover.

Second Circuit Examines Standing In Data Breach Cases

I will be delving into this more extensively next week but I did not want this week to end without informing my faithful readers that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has decided an important case in which it explains the circumstances under which individuals whose data has been exposed to theft by unauthorized third parties can bring lawsuits in New York federal courts.  The case is McMorris v. Carlos Lopez & Assocs., LLC .

On that note, enjoy your weekend.  Yours truly will be paying for his first haircut and shave in about 16 months.

April 30, 2021 at 9:58 am Leave a comment

Untangling the Mortgage Mess

In the immortal words of William Shakespeare “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we try to mess up the regulatory agenda of the incoming administration”. 

Over the last few months yours truly has been hesitant to talk too much about changes to the Qualified Mortgage regulations since the rules are as likely to take effect as Joe Biden is to be endorsed by a coal miner union.  But, those of you who originate mortgages for sale to the GSEs are experiencing one of the most confusing periods of regulatory uncertainty in more than a decade.  It is beginning to have some real consequences.  Here is some background. 

Dodd-Frank mandated that the CFPB promulgate regulations defining a Qualified Mortgage. As readers of this blog also know, Dodd-Frank also stipulated that mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would also qualify for Qualified Mortgage protections.  This exemption was only expected to last as long as Congress figured out what to do with the GSEs, or January 10, 2021.  The CFPB finalized regulations late last year eliminating the QM patch and amending the general QM regulations.  Under these new regulations qualified mortgage designation would be determined based on a mortgage’s APOR.  The Bureau issued a final rule to amend the General QM definition in December of 2020. This rule took effect on March 1, 2021 and has a mandatory compliance date of July 1, 2021. 

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the new leadership at the CFPB announced that it was considering making changes to the revised QM definition.  It has proposed extending the compliance deadline until 2022.  In the ensuing months it will undoubtedly be coming up with a new QM definition. 

But here is where the deal gets even more complicated.   Remember back in 2008 when the federal government had to bail out Fannie and Freddie for fear of triggering a Great Depression?  As part of that bailout, a conservatorship was created for the GSEs and since that time the Treasury has imposed contractual obligations on the GSEs in return for the hundreds of billions of dollars they received from the American tax payer.  (We don’t like using this term in America, but Fannie and Freddie have been nationalized.)  This agreement was recently amended.  Under this agreement, as things currently stand, the GSEs are obligated to begin implementing the new APOR standard on July 1st.  This means that even though the CFPB has already signaled its intention to reconsider the new QM definition, lenders that work with the GSEs have to start preparing new policies and procedures for the July 1st deadline.

Against this sordid backdrop, CUNA yesterday issued this letter urging the Treasury to promptly remedy this situation.  As CUNA noted, forcing the GSEs to implement these changes “would be unnecessary, wasteful, and ultimately harmful for consumers as the implementation cost may also increase the cost of credit.”

It is hard to underestimate the man hours involved in preparing for these types of major changes.   

Let’s hope this glitch gets resolved quickly before all of this confusion begins to have practical consequences. 

NCUA Meeting Recap

Here is NCUA’s recap of yesterday’s Board meeting.  Remember that the Board already approved the interim regulations giving credit unions greater PCA flexibility.

On that note, enjoy your weekend.  Let’s hope it gets warmer. 

April 23, 2021 at 10:28 am Leave a comment

Three Things You Need To Know To Start Your Credit Union Day

Good news!  I just heard that Ted Lasso is coming back for another season starting July 23rd.  Nothing at all to do with your credit union day but I’m passing this on as a public service to those of you with Apple+ who want to watch an above average show that’s almost family friendly. 

House Passes SAFE Act, Again.

Yesterday the House Of Representatives passed legislation, supported by CUNA and NYCUA, permitting financial institutions to legally provide banking services to cannabis businesses as a matter of federal law in states such as New York where the sale and possession of marijuana is legal.  Similar legislation was passed last year only to die in the Senate.  It would appear that with 50 Democrats in the senate odds for Senate passage this time around have improved but this is by no means a sure thing.  The legislation may get caught up in a larger debate about criminal justice reform… stay tuned.

It’s a Watershed Moment For CDFIs

 That is the gist of this American Banker article which points out that recent months have seen a dramatic increase in funding for CDFIs.  Once again your credit union should at least take a look at whether or not it qualifies for a CDFI designation and if it does it should consider the costs and benefits of getting and maintaining this designation.

CFPB Issues Emergency Rule To Block COVID Related Evictions

Yesterday the CFPB issued an interim regulation mandating that debt collectors provide tenants information about the CDC’s eviction moratorium which bans tenants from being evicted while COVID emergency orders remain in effect.  The CFPB is taking this step out of concern that “…consumers are not aware of their protections under the CDC Order’s eviction moratorium and that FDCPA-covered debt collectors may be engaging in eviction-related conduct that violates the FDCPA.” 

I’m sure a few of my Compliance hotshots are squirming right now because they know that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and its accompanying Regulation F does not apply to employees of creditors provided that they are collecting on a loan they originated or that was not delinquent at the time it was purchased (15 USCA § 1692a).  But I think you are well advised to track developments in this area particularly if your credit union provides credit to commercial landlords. 

Enjoy your day folks.

April 21, 2021 at 9:47 am Leave a comment

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., Senior Vice President, General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association. In addition, although Henry strives to give his readers useful and accurate information on a broad range of subjects, many of which involve legal disputes, his views are not a substitute for legal advise from retained counsel.

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