Alston & Bird Consumer Finance Blog


Oh Snap! CFPB Sues Fintech Company under CFPA and TILA

A&B Abstract:

On July 19, 2023, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued a Utah-based fintech company and several of its affiliates (the Company) for allegedly deceiving consumers and obscuring the terms of its financing agreements in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and other federal regulations.

The Allegations

The Company provides lease-to-own financing, through which consumers finance purchases from merchants though the Company’s “Purchase Agreements,” and, in turn, make payments back to the Company.  The Company allegedly provides the merchants with advertisement materials and involves them heavily in the application and contracting process.

According to the CFPB, the Company’s advertising and servicing efforts were deceptive.  As part of its marketing efforts, the Company allegedly provided its merchant partners with display advertisements that featured the phrase “100 Day Cash Payoff” without further explanation of the terms of financing.  Consumers who received financing from the Company reasonably believed they had entered into a 100-day financing agreement, where their automatically scheduled payments would fulfill their payment obligations after 100 days.  But, in fact, consumers had to affirmatively exercise the 100-day early payment discount option, and if they missed the deadline pay significantly more than the “cash” price under the terms of their Purchase Agreements.  Additionally, as part of its servicing efforts, the Company allegedly threatened consumers with collection actions that it does not bring.

From the CFPB’s perspective, these efforts constituted deceptive acts or practices under the CFPA.  The marketing efforts were deceptive because the Company’s use of this featured phrase was a (1) representation or practice; (2) material to consumers’ decision to take out financing; and (3) was likely to mislead reasonable consumers as to the nature of the financing agreement, while the servicing efforts were deceptive because the Company threatened actions it does not take.

The CFPB also alleges that the Company’s application and contracting process was abusive.  The Company allegedly designed and implemented a Merchant Portal application and contracting process that frequently resulted in merchants signing and submitting Purchase Agreements on behalf of consumers without the consumer’s prior review of the agreement.  Further, the Company relied on merchants to explain the terms of the agreements but provided them with no written guidance for doing so.  And as part of the process, the Company required consumers to pay a processing fee before receiving a summary of the terms of their agreement and before seeing or signing their final agreement.

Altogether, the CFPB views these acts and practices as abusive under the CFPA because they “materially interfered” with consumers’ ability to understand the terms and conditions of the Purchase Agreements.

Lastly, the CFPB alleges that the Company’s Purchase Agreements did not meet TILA and its implementing Regulation Z’s disclosure requirements.  On this point, the CFPB is careful in alleging that the Purchase Agreements are not typical rent-to-own agreements to which TILA does not apply.  Rather, the CFPB alleges they are actually “credit sales” because the agreements permitted consumers to terminate only at the conclusion of an automatically renewing 60-day term, and only if consumers were current on their payment obligations through the end of that term.


This suit serves as a good reminder to every lending program to: (i) have counsel carefully vet all advertisements to ensure that they are not inadvertently deceptive or misleading to consumers; (ii) ensure that the mechanics of its application process facilitate rather than interfere with consumers’ ability to understand the terms and conditions; and (iii) consult with counsel regarding whether their agreements are subject to TILA and Regulation Z’s disclosure requirements.

Second Circuit Deepens Circuit Split over CFPB Funding Structure

A&B ABstract:

On March 23, 2023, the Second Circuit held the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) funding structure is constitutional.  This decision comes on the heels of the Supreme Court granting certiorari to review the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in Community Financial that reached the opposite conclusion.

The Second Circuit’s Ruling

The Second Circuit case, styled Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Law Offices of Crystal Moroney, looks at a challenge to a civil investigative demand (CID) for documents made to a law firm that principally advises and services clients seeking to collect debts.  On appeal, the law firm argued the CID could not be enforced because, for among other reasons, the funding structure of the CFPB violated the Appropriations Clause of Article I of the Constitution.

Rejecting this argument, the Second Circuit held that the Appropriations Clause provides “simply that no money can be paid out of the Treasury unless it has been appropriated by an act of Congress.”  That is, if a payment of money from the Treasury is “authorized by statute,” then it does not run afoul of the Appropriations Clause.  And “[t]here can be no dispute that the CFPB’s funding structure was authorized by the CFPBA – a statute passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.”

In reaching this conclusion, the Second Circuit declined to follow the Fifth Circuit’s rationale in Community Financial.  There, the Fifth Circuit reasoned that the CFPB’s funding structure violated the separation of powers embodied in the Appropriations Clause because it was “doubly” insulated from Congressional control.  Specifically, the Fifth Circuit posited that Congress had first ceded control directly over the CFPB’s budget by insulating it from review during the annual appropriations process and second conceded control indirectly by providing that the CFPB’s funding be drawn from a source that was itself outside the appropriations process.

In response to this, the Second Circuit explained that, in its view, the design of the Constitution in the Appropriations Clause was to ensure that the purpose, limit, and fund of every expenditure be ascertained by a previous law.  Thus, as long as the CFPB’s budget had an articulated purpose (as set forth in the CFPA), came from an articulated fund (the earnings of the Federal Reserve System), and had articulable limits (a 12% cap set by Congress in the CFPA), then it was constitutional.  In short, Congress specified the purpose, limit, and fund of its appropriation for the CFPB’s budget in the CFPA, which was all that the Constitution required.


Whether the CFPB’s funding structure is constitutional poses a possibly existential threat to the CFPB’s operations.  The Second Circuit’s decision deepens the split on the issue, which the Supreme Court has already begun undertaking to resolve.  Stay tuned for further updates on how the Supreme Court resolves this split.

CFPB Issues Special Edition of Supervisory Highlights Focusing on Junk Fees

A&B ABstract:

In the 29nd edition of its Supervisory Highlights, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) focused on the impact of so-called “junk” fees in the mortgage servicing, auto servicing, and student loan servicing industries, among others.

CFPB Issues New Edition of Supervisory Highlights:

On March 8, the CFPB published a special edition of its Supervisory Highlights, addressing supervisory observations with respect to the imposition of junk fees in the mortgage servicing and auto servicing markets – as well as for deposits, payday and small-dollar lending, and student loan servicing.  The observations cover examinations of participants in these industries that the CFPB conducted between July 1, 2022 and February 1, 2023.

Auto Servicing

With respect to auto servicing, the CFPB noted three principal categories of findings the Bureau claims constitute acts or practices prohibited by the Consumer Financial Protection Act (“CFPA”).

First, examiners asserted that auto servicers engaged in unfair acts or practices by assessing late fees: (a) that exceeded the maximum amount stated in consumers’ contracts; or (b) after consumers’ vehicles had been repossessed and the full balances were due.  With respect to the latter, the acceleration of the contract balance upon repossession extinguished not only the customers’ contractual obligation to make further periodic payments, but also the servicers’ contractual right to charge late fees on such periodic payments. The report notes that in response to the findings, the servicers ceased their assessment practices, and provided refunds to affected consumers.

Second, examiners alleged that auto servicers engaged in unfair acts or practices by charging estimated repossession fees that were significantly higher than the average repossession cost.  Although servicers returned excess amounts to consumers after being invoiced for the actual costs, the CFPB found that the assessment of the materially higher estimated fees caused or was likely to cause concrete monetary harm – and, thus, “substantial injury” as identified in unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices (“UDAAP”) supervisory guidance – to consumers.  Further, consumers could have suffered injury in the form of loss of their vehicles to the extent that they did not want – or could not afford – to pay the higher estimated repossession fees if they sought to reinstate or redeem the vehicle.  Examiners found that such injuries: (a) were not reasonably avoidable by consumers, who could not control the servicers’ fee practices; and (b) were not outweighed by a countervailing benefit to consumers or competition.  The report notes that in response to the findings, the servicers ceased the practice of charging estimated repossession fees that were significantly higher than average actual costs, and also provided refunds to consumers affected by the practice.

Third, examiners claimed that auto servicers engaged in unfair and abusive acts or practices by assessing payment processing fees that exceeded the servicers’ actual costs for processing payments.  CFPB examiners noted that servicers offered consumers two free methods of payment: (a) pre-authorized recurring ACH debits; and (b) mailed checks.  Only consumers with bank accounts can utilize those methods; all those without a bank account, or who chose to use a different payment method, incurred a processing fee.  The CFPB reported that as a result of “pay-to-pay” fees, servicers received millions of dollars in incentive payments totaling approximately half of the total amount of payment processing fees collected by the third party payment processors.

Mortgage Servicing

In examining mortgage servicers, CFPB examiners noted five principal categories of findings that related to the assessment of junk fees, which were alleged to constitute UDAAPs and/or violate Regulation Z.

First, CFPB examiners found that servicers assessed borrowers late fees in excess of the amounts permitted by loan agreements, often by neglecting to input the maximum fee permitted by agreement into their operating systems.   The examiners found that by instead charging the maximum late fees permitted under state laws, servicers engaged in unfair acts or practices.  Further, servicers violated Regulation Z by issuing periodic statements that reflected the charging of fees in excess of those permitted by borrowers’ loan agreements. In response to these findings, servicers took corrective action including: (a) waiving or refunding late fees that were in excess of those permitted under borrowers’ loan agreements; and (b) corrected borrower’s periodic statements to reflect correct late fee amounts.

Second, CFPB examiners found that servicers engaged in unfair acts and practices by repeatedly charged consumers for unnecessary property inspections (such as repeat property preservation visits to known bad addresses). In response to the finding, servicers revised their policies to preclude multiple charges to a known bad address, and waived or refunded the fees that had been assessed to borrowers.

Third, CFPB examiners noted two sets of findings related to private mortgage insurance (“PMI”).  When a loan is originated with lender-paid PMI, PMI premiums should not be billed directly to consumers.  In certain cases, the CFPB found that servicers engaged in deceptive acts or practices by mispresenting to consumers – including on periodic statements and escrow disclosures – that they owed PMI premiums, when in fact the borrowers’ loans had lender-paid PMI.  These misrepresentations led to borrowers’ overpayments reflecting the PMI premiums; in response to the findings, servicers refunded any such overpayments. Similarly, CFPB examiners found that servicers violated the Homeowners Protection Act by failing to terminate PMI on the date that the principal balance of a current loan was scheduled to read a 78 percent LTV ratio, and continuing to accept borrowers’ payments for PMI after that date.  In response to these findings, servicers both issued refunds of excess PMI payments and implemented compliance controls to enhance their PMI handling.

Fourth, CFPB examiners found that servicers engaged in unfair acts or practices by failing to waive charges (including late fees and penalties) accrued outside of forbearance periods for federally backed mortgages subject to the protections of the CARES Act.  The CARES Act generally prohibits the accrual of fees, penalties, or additional interest beyond scheduled monthly payment amounts during a forbearance period; however, the law does not address fees and charges accrued during periods when loans are not in forbearance.  Under certain circumstances, HUD required servicers of FHA-insured mortgages to waive fees and penalties accrued outside of forbearance periods for borrowers exiting forbearances and  entering permanent loss mitigation options.  CFPB examiners found that servicers sometimes failed to complete the required fee waivers, constituting an unfair act or practice under the CFA.

Finally, CFPB examiners found that servicers engaged in deceptive acts and practices by sending consumers in their last month of forbearance periodic statements that incorrectly listed a $0 late fee for the next month’s payment, when a full late fee would be charged if such payment were late.  In response to the finding, servicers updated their periodic statements and either waived or refunded late fees incurred in the referenced payments.


The CFPB determined that two overdraft-related practices constitute unfair acts or practices: (i) authorizing transactions when a deposit’s balance was positive but settled negative (APSN fees); and (ii) assessing multiple non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees when merchants present a payment against a customer’s account multiple times despite the lack of sufficient funds in the account.  The CFPB has criticized both fees before in Consumer Financial Protection Circular 2022-06, Unanticipated Overdraft Fee Assessment Practices.

According to the report, tens of millions of dollars in related customer injury are attributable to APSN fee practices, and redress is already underway to more than 170,000 customers.  Many financial institutions have abandoned the practice, but the CFPB noted that even some such institutions had not ceased the practice and were accordingly issued matters requiring attention to correct the problems.  As for NSF fees, the CFPB found millions of dollars of consumer harm to tens of thousands of customers.  It also determined that “virtually all” institutions interacting with the CFPB on the issue have abandoned the practice.

Student Loan Servicing

Turning to student loan servicing, the CFPB found that servicers engaged in unfair acts or practices prohibited by the CFPA where: (a) customer service representative errors delayed consumers from making valid payments on their accounts, and (b) those delays led to consumers owing additional late fees and interest associated with the delinquency.  Contrary to servicers’ state policies against the acceptance of credit cards, customer service representatives accepted and processed credit card payments from consumers over the phone.  The servicers initially processed the credit card payments, but then reversed those payments when the error in payment method was identified.

Payday and Small Dollar Lending

The CFPB determined that lenders, in connection with payday, installment, title, and line-of-credit loans, engaged in a number of unfair acts or practices.  The first conclusion they made was that lenders simultaneously or near-simultaneously re-presented split payments from customers’ accounts without obtaining proper authorization, resulting in multiple overdraft fees, indirect follow-on fees, unauthorized loss of funds, and inability to prioritize payment decisions. The second such conclusion concerned charges to borrowers to retrieve personal property from repossessed vehicles, servicer charges, and withholding subject personal property and vehicles until fees were paid.  The third such determination related to stopping vehicle repossessions before title loan payments were due as previously agreed, and then withholding the vehicles until consumers paid repossession-related fees and refinanced their debts.


The CFPB’s focus on “junk” fees is not new – it follows on an announcement last January that the agency would be focused on the fairness of fees that various industries impose on consumers.  (We have previously discussed how the CFPB’s actions could impact mortgage servicing fee structures.)  Similarly, the Federal Trade Commission has previously considered the issue of “junk fees” in connection with auto finance transactions.

By focusing specifically on the issue in a special edition of the Supervisory Highlights, the CFPB is drawing special attention to the issue of these fees in the servicing context.  Mortgage, auto, and student loan servicers might use this as an opportunity to review their current practices and see how they stack up against the CFPB’s findings.

CFPB Issues Proposed Rule to Establish Public Registry of Supervised Nonbank Form Contract Provisions that Waive or Limit Consumers’ Legal Protections

A&B ABstract:

On January 11, 2023, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB” or “Bureau”) announced a proposed rule to establish a public registry and require  nonbanks supervised by the agency to register their use of certain terms and conditions contained in “take it or leave it” form contracts for consumer financial products or services that “attempt to waive consumers’ legal protections,” “limit how consumers enforce their rights,” or “restrict consumers’ ability to file complaints or post reviews” (the “Proposed Rule”).  The purpose of Proposed Rule’s registration system is to allow the CFPB to prioritize oversight of nonbanks that use the covered terms and conditions based on the agency’s perception these provisions pose risks for consumers.

The CFPB seeks public comment on the practical utility of collecting and publishing this information as well as ways to minimize the burden of the information collection on respondents. The comment period closes on April 3, 2023.

The Proposed Rule

The Proposed Rule would require annual registration by most nonbanks subject to the CFPB’s jurisdiction, with limited exceptions. “Specifically, a “supervised nonbank” would be defined to mean a nonbank covered person that is subject to supervision and examination by the Bureau, except to the extent that such person engages in conduct or functions that are excluded from the Bureau’s supervisory authority pursuant to 12 U.S.C. 5517 or 5519.  A “supervised nonbank” would include any nonbank covered person that (1) offers or provides a residential mortgage-related product or service, any private educational consumer loan, or any consumer payday loan, (2) is a larger participant engaged in consumer reporting, consumer debt collection, student loan servicing, international money transfers, and auto financing, or (3) is subject to a CFPB order issued pursuant to 12 U.S.C. 5514(a)(1)(C).

Those excluded from the scope of the Proposed Rule would include, among others, persons subject to CFPB supervision and examination solely in the capacity of a service provider; natural persons; persons with less than $1 million in annual receipts resulting from offering or providing all consumer financial products and services as relevant to the activities noted in (1) through (3) above.  Also exempt from the rule would be a person that has not, together with its affiliates, engaged in more than de minimis use of covered terms and conditions (i.e., fewer than 1,000 times in the previous calendar year) and a person that used covered terms or conditions in covered form contracts in the previous calendar year solely by entering into contracts for residential mortgages on a form made publicly available on the Internet required for insurance or guarantee by a Federal agency or purchase by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae.

Under the Proposed Rule, a “covered term or condition” would be subject to the rule’s reporting requirements. A “covered term or condition” would be defined as “any clause, term, or condition that expressly purports to establish a covered limitation on consumer legal protections applicable to the offering or provision of any consumer financial product or service.” In turn, “covered limitation on consumer legal protections” would be defined to mean any covered term or condition in a covered form contract:

  • Precluding the consumer from bringing a legal action after a certain period of time;
  • Specifying a forum or venue where a consumer must bring a legal action in court;
  • Limiting the ability of the consumer to file a legal action seeking relief for other consumers or to seek to participate in a legal action filed by others;
  • Limiting liability to the consumer in a legal action including by capping the amount of recovery or type of remedy;
  • Waiving a cause of legal action by the consumer, including by stating a person is not responsible to the consumer for a harm or violation of law;
  • Limiting the ability of the consumer to make any written, oral, or pictorial review, assessment, complaint, or other similar analysis or statement concerning the offering or provision of consumer financial products or services by the supervised registrant;
  • Waiving, whether by extinguishing or causing the consumer to relinquish or agree not to assert, any other identified consumer legal protection, including any specified right, defense, or protection afforded to the consumer under Constitutional law, a statute or regulation, or common law; or
  • Requiring that a consumer bring any type of legal action in arbitration.

In the Proposed Rule, the CFPB acknowledges that there may be overlap in the types of covered terms and conditions, so some contract provisions may fall into more than one category.  The Proposed Rule currently proposes to limit the collection of terms and conditions that expressly attempt to establish the covered limitation.  Any contract containing a covered term would be considered a “form contract” provided it was (1) included in the original contract draft presented to the consumer, (2) was not negotiated between the parties, (3) is intended for repeated use in transactions between the company and consumers and contains a covered term or condition.

Supervised nonbanks covered by the Proposed Rule would be required to collect and submit this information through the CFPB’s registration system.  Under the Proposed Rule, the registry of terms and conditions would be publicly available, rather than limited to government regulators or CFPB staff.  The CFPB supports the public availably of this data on the grounds that it will lead to more informed consumers and provide other regulators the opportunity to identify covered terms and conditions that are explicitly prohibited by the laws they enforce or supervise.  The proposed format for the registry is similar to another recent CFPB proposed rule which proposes to establish a public registry of regulatory actions involving certain nonbanks subject to CFPB supervision. We previously discussed this proposed rule in another blog post.

CFPB’s Request for Comment on the Proposed Rule

The CFPB is seeking comment on a range of issues related to the Proposed Rule, including:

  • The prevalence of the covered terms and conditions;
  • Potential impacts of collecting and publishing this information;
  • Reasons why the information should not be publicly disclosed;
  • The burden of collecting and filing these provisions;
  • The use of form contracts purchased from third parties; and
  • Other entities that may be affected by the proposed rule.

The period for public comment ends on April 3, 2023.

Is the establishment of a Public Registry likely?

 The CFPB currently has thirty-seven (37) rules that have been proposed but not implemented, of which only five of were proposed since the start of the Biden Administration.  Most notably, neither the CFPB’s proposed rule for small business lending data collection from September 1, 2021 or its proposed rule for credit card late fees and late payments from June 22, 2022 have been finalized.  Since the substance of this rule is limited to the collection and publication of contract terms, rather than the prohibition of any behavior, enactment might be more likely.  The recent Fifth Circuit decision in Community Financial Services found the CFPB’s funding structure unconstitutional and vacated the agency’s Payday Lending Rule on those grounds.  Accordingly, any rule promulgated by the CFPB would likely be susceptible to legal challenges.


The Bureau’s focus on seeking public disclosure of covered terms and conditions reflects a continued focus on the content of form contracts used in connection with consumer finance products and services of nonbanks.  The public nature of the registry could lead to increased scrutiny of contract provisions from the Bureau, other regulators, and the public, increasing reputational risk to covered entities as well as the likelihood of heightened enforcement activity by Federal and State regulators. Accordingly, entities that would be subject to the Proposed Rule’s requirements should carefully review the Proposed Rule and consider commenting thereon.

CFPB Proposes Nonbank Registry to Focus on Compliance “Recidivism”

A&B ABstract:

On December 12, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a proposed rule to require certain non-banks to register with the agency when they become subject to a public written order or judgment imposing obligations based on violations of certain consumer protection laws. The CFPB also proposes to maintain a public online registry of those nonbanks subject to agency or court orders, to “limit the harms from repeat offenders.” We provide below a description of the CFPB’s proposed rule, along with the potential implications for the financial services industry.

Background on Proposed Rule

Earlier this year, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra presented remarks at the University of Pennsylvania, where he asserted that “[c]orporate recidivism has become normalized and calculated as the cost of doing business; the result is a rinse-repeat cycle that dilutes legal standards and undermines the promise of the financial sector and the entire market system.” To address this problem, Director Chopra suggested establishing “dedicated units in our supervision and enforcement divisions to enhance the detection of repeat offenses and corporate recidivists and to better hold them accountable.” With respect to accountability for “serial offenders of federal law,” Director Chopra warned that the CFPB would be focusing on “remedies that are more structural in nature,” including “limits on the activities or functions” of the entity.

Subsequently, in November 2022, and leading up to the proposed rule, the CFPB announced, as part of its Supervisory Highlights, that it would be establishing a Repeat Offender Unit as part of its supervision program. The Repeat Offender Unit would be focused on: reviewing and monitoring the activities of “repeat offenders;” identifying the root cause of recurring violations; pursuing and recommending solutions and remedies that hold entities accountable for failing to consistently comply with Federal consumer financial law; and designing a model for order review and monitoring that reduces the occurrences of repeat offenders. The Bureau asserts that its authority for these efforts, along with any proposed rulemaking, is derived from the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s mandate that the Bureau “monitor for risks to consumers in the offering or provision of consumer financial products or services” and “gather information from time to time regarding the organization, business conduct, markets, and activities of covered persons and service providers.” See 12 U.S.C. § 5512(c)(1), (4).

Proposed Requirements

The CFPB’s proposed rule would require certain nonbanks covered person entities (with exclusions for insured depository institutions, insured credit unions, related persons, States, certain other entities, and natural persons) to register with the Bureau upon becoming subject to a public written order or judgment imposing obligations based on violations of certain consumer protections laws. Such entities would be required to register in a system established by the Bureau, provide basic identifying information about the company and the order (including a copy of the order), and periodically update the registry for accuracy and completeness. For purposes of the proposed rule, “covered person” would have the same meaning as in 12 U.S.C. § 5481(6). Further, “service providers” would be deemed covered persons to the extent that they engage in the offering or provision of their own consumer financial product or services or where they act as service providers to covered person affiliates.

In addition, certain larger participant nonbanks subject to the Bureau’s supervisory authority would be required to designate a senior executive, who is responsible for and knowledgeable of the nonbank’s efforts to comply with the orders identified in the registry, to attest regarding compliance with covered orders and submit an annual written statement attesting to the steps taken to oversee the activities subject to the applicable order for the preceding calendar year, and whether the executive knows of any violations of, or other instances of noncompliance with, the covered order.

Further, the CFPB is considering whether to release, via its publicly available website, the above registry information for non-banks.

Implications for Non-Banks

While the CFPB’s proposed enforcement order registry would provide greater transparency about a lender’s regulatory track record to the various federal and state regulators and the general public, it remains to be seen how the information maintained in this registry might be used against lenders. At a minimum, however, the proposed rule raises the following significant implications for non-banks:

  • Supervision and examination considerations. The CFPB intends to use the information in the registry to coordinate its “risk-based supervisory prioritization,” for those non-bank markets covered by the Bureau’s supervision and examination authority under CFPA section 1024(a). Thus, entities with a local, state, or federal prior enforcement order may be subject to more targeted supervision.
  • Investigation and enforcement presumptions. The CFPB intends to use the information in the registry in connection with its investigation and potential enforcement activities, which presents various risks, including:
    • Increased civil money penalties. Specifically, the CFPB believes that the information contained in the proposed registry can assist the agency in determining the civil penalties that may be assessed for a future violation of federal consumer financial law, given that federal law permits the CFPB to consider the entity’s “history of previous violations.” Indeed, it is possible that the CFPB may use evidence of prior enforcement against an entity, brought by itself or another agency, to establish that the entity acted knowingly or recklessly in violating federal consumer financial law, perhaps even where the prior enforcement order involved a different consumer-related issue.
    • Presumption of consumer harm. Further, the CFPB believes there is a “heightened likelihood” that entities that are subject to public orders relating to consumer financial products and services may pose risks to consumers in the markets for those products and services, since entities that have previously been subject to enforcement actions “present an increased risk of committing violations of laws.” Thus, there may be a presumption of consumer harm against an entity where a prior enforcement order exists. Yet this approach by the CFPB likely will overstate the actual harm to consumers, as most consent orders do not contain an admission by the entity of any liability or wrongdoing.
  • Increased reputational risk. Given that the CFPB maintains Memoranda of Understanding with federal parties (such as the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice), as well as with at least 20 state attorneys general offices, it appears that the information reported to the registry already would be available to such agencies. However, the registry will permit all agencies, as well as the general public, a readily accessible, one-stop shop to an entity’s entire enforcement track record, which may present significant reputational risk to that entity, as well as a potentially increased risk of class action lawsuits and other consumer claims.
  • Facilitating of private enforcement. The CFPB believes that the proposed registry may “facilitate private enforcement of the Federal consumer financial laws by consumers, to the extent those laws provide private rights of action, where consumers have been harmed by a registered nonbank.” In other words, the “information that would be published under the proposal might be useful in helping consumers understand the identity of a company that has offered or provided a particular consumer financial product or service, and in determining whether to file suit or otherwise make choices regarding how to assert their legal rights.”


Given the significant implications raised by the CFPB’s proposed rule, non-bank financial institutions should consider submitting comments, which are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. In particular, the CFPB seeks comment on “its preliminary conclusion that collecting and registering public agency and court orders imposing obligations based upon violations of consumer law would assist with monitoring for risks to consumers in the offering or provision of consumer financial products and services.” The CFPB also seeks comment on “whether the types of orders described in the proposal, and the types of information that would be collected about those orders and covered nonbanks under the proposal, would provide useful information to the Bureau,” as well as “any other risks that might be identified through collecting the information described in the proposal.” Finally, the Bureau seeks comment on whether it should consider collecting any other information in order to identify risks to consumers associated with orders.