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Save the date, Oklahoma City!

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Join us for a field hearing in Oklahoma City, OK on medical debt collection. The hearing will take place on Thursday, December 11 at 11 a.m. CST. More information about the event will follow.

The hearing will feature remarks from Director Richard Cordray, as well as testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public.

This event is open to the public and requires an RSVP. Send us an email to RSVP. A livestream will also be available here on our blog.

If you need an accommodation to participate, you can make a request.

See you there!

Food for thought at your Thanksgiving table

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It’s almost Thanksgiving, and like most Americans, I’m looking forward to eating all my favorite holiday dishes and spending some quality time with my family. This year I’ve got it easy. I’ll be spending my holiday going to see the latest blockbuster movie with my kids while my sister-in-law worries about whether the turkey is done. My teenaged nieces will help me set up some social media accounts and will probably laugh at my clueless questions, all while my son regales us with tales from his latest job.

Thanksgiving will also be a time for family conversations about serious matters. Thanksgiving is a great time to touch base with your family and make sure that everyone is doing well, physically, mentally, and financially.

Everyone at the dinner table will have a story

  • A dear friend’s husband wired thousands of dollars when a caller claimed that his daughter was in jail and needed bail money.
  • An older relative, who just turned 97, can no longer manage his finances. Now that his wife is gone, my husband is handling the older man’s money and property.
  • Another relative recently fell for a lottery scam, and we need to help her avoid frauds and scams in the future.

Fortunately, I’ll have lots of tips and tools to share with everyone, because I work at the only office in the federal government specifically dedicated to the financial health of older Americans, the Office for Older Americans at CFPB.

Managing someone else’s money

First, I’ll give my husband the Managing Someone Else’s Money guides. Like millions of Americans, he’s managing money and property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. This can be very overwhelming. But, it’s also a great opportunity to help someone you care about, and protect them from scams and fraud. There are four guides for four types of fiduciaries (people with legal authority to handle someone else’s money)—agents under a power of attorney; court-appointed guardians of property; trustees; and government fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries).

My husband can read the guide for agents under a power of attorney. It covers:

  • An overview of his four duties, providing concrete examples and tips
  • Information on how to spot financial exploitation and scams, and who to contact if you do
  • Resources to find additional help

Protecting against scams and fraud

My relative is embarrassed that she fell for a lottery scam when a nice young man called her repeatedly and acted like her new best friend. She’s not alone, and she should speak out to her peers so they don’t become victims. Our Money Smart for Older Adults resource guide will teach her about a variety of scams and frauds that are out in the community right now and help her to be financially prepared for disasters. The CFPB is currently training leaders across the country to deliver this curriculum to older adults, their caregivers and other service providers in their communities.

Assisting living and nursing facilities

Another family member is a geriatric social worker who makes house calls at assisted living facilities. I’ll encourage her to give the staff at the facilities she visits CFPB’s new manual for assisted living and nursing facilities on how to protect residents from financial exploitation. These residents are especially vulnerable to scams and exploitation because many have Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments.

So, as you prepare to enjoy your turkey, your pumpkin pie, and all of your traditions, consider using this Thanksgiving gathering to share some food for thought as well! You can order single or bulk copies of these guides for free.

The 2014 annual report from the CFPB Ombudsman’s Office

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Today, I want to share with you the CFPB Ombudsman’s third annual report, which I delivered to Director Cordray. For those people not familiar with our role, we are an independent, impartial, and confidential resource that assists consumers and companies in informally resolving issues with the CFPB.

We have a new section in our report called the Ombudsman in practice. It describes some of the ways in which we can assist, highlights issues we heard this year from consumer groups, trade groups, and from individual inquiries, and shares examples that demonstrate how we work in practice.

You’ll also find our discussion and any accompanying recommendations on two topics: CFPB information sharing on public actions and redress, and how the CFPB learns about industry developments.

In addition, new this year we have a quick reference sheet with information about our office, including when we can assist and how we can be reached.

We welcome you to connect with us on topics that we have shared in our report at CFPBOmbudsman@cfpb.gov.

Wendy Kamenshine is the Ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Fall 2014 rulemaking agenda

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Today, we’re posting a semi-annual update of our rulemaking agenda in conjunction with a broader initiative led by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to publish a Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions across the federal government. Portions of the Unified Agenda will be published in the Federal Register, and the full set of materials is now available online.

Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, federal agencies are required to publish regulatory agendas twice a year. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now by voluntarily participating in the Unified Agenda. Our regulatory agenda includes rulemaking actions in the following stages: pre-rule, proposed rule, final rule, long term actions, and completed actions.

Mortgages

Our agenda includes certain mortgage rulemakings mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. For example, in July 2014 we released a proposal to amend Regulation C, which implements the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) in accordance with the Dodd-Frank Act’s amendments to HMDA, and to help align the law with existing industry standards for collecting data on mortgage loans and applications. Additionally, the proposal would revise Regulation C to improve the effectiveness of HMDA, including changes to institutional and transactional coverage, modifications of reporting requirements, and clarifications of existing regulatory provisions.

We’re also focused intensely on supporting the implementation process for our recent rulemaking (TRID Final Rule) to implement a Dodd-Frank Act directive to consolidate and streamline federal mortgage disclosures required under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. For example, in October 2014 we released a proposal to provide for technical corrections to the rule text and commentary in the TRID Final Rule; allow for the placement of certain language related to new construction loans to be added to the Loan Estimate form; and relax the timing requirement that creditors provide revised disclosures on the same day that a consumer’s rate is locked. We’re also continuing work with stakeholders to address questions that have arisen with regard to the 2013 mortgage rules, including issuing additional clarifications and amendments as warranted. For example, we just released a proposal this week that would amend various aspects of the 2013 mortgage servicing rules, including disclosures, early intervention, and loss mitigation. The proposal also addresses proper compliance with the rules when a consumer is a potential or confirmed successor in interest, is in bankruptcy, or sends a cease communication request under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Prepaid cards

We released a proposal last week to create comprehensive consumer protections for prepaid financial products such as general purpose reloadable prepaid cards (GPR cards) and certain digital and mobile wallets. Under the proposal, consumers acquiring such products would receive a number of Regulation E protections, such as getting disclosures about fees before they acquire a prepaid cards and error resolution rights. Their liability would also be capped for unauthorized use of their prepaid card under certain conditions.

Additionally, prepaid products that access overdraft services or credit features for a fee would generally be credit cards subject to TILA and Regulation Z, including Regulation Z’s credit card rules. These rules include ability-to-repay requirements and fee limits during the first year of account opening. Consumers that choose to access overdraft services or credit features would be given at least 21 days to repay the debt incurred in connection with using such services or features. Incoming funds would not automatically be debited to pay the debt whenever the funds are loaded.

Payday loans

The Bureau is considering what rules may be appropriate for addressing the sustained use of short-term, high-cost credit products. We published research on payday lending and so-called deposit advance products in an April 2013 white paper and a March 2014 data point. In addition to conducting additional research, we are evaluating what types of rules would be appropriate and warranted under CFPB authorities. Rulemaking might include disclosures or address acts or practices in connection with these products.

Defining larger participants

We’re continuing rulemakings to implement our supervisory program for certain nonbank entities by defining “larger participants” in various markets for consumer financial products and services. For example, we released a proposal to identify “larger participants” in the market for auto lending and defining certain automobile leasing activity as a financial product or service. We also finalized a rule defining larger participants in the international money transfer market. So far, we’ve defined larger participants in the consumer debt collection, credit reporting, and student loan servicing markets.

Debt collection

We received more than 23,000 comments earlier this year in response to our advanced notice of proposed rulemaking released in November 2013. We are considering whether rules governing the collection of debts are warranted under the FDCPA or other CFPB authorities, and, if so, what types of rules would be appropriate. Rulemaking might include disclosures or address acts or practices in connection with debt collection activities. We are developing a survey to obtain information from consumers about their experiences with debt collectors and are engaged in qualitative testing to determine what information would be useful for consumers to have about debt collection and how that information should be provided to them.

Our 2014 Report on the FDCPA reported that we received more than 30,000 consumer complaints in this area from July 2013 through December 2013. Since January 2014 to now, we have received more than 79,000 consumer complaints.

Overdraft

We’re continuing to research overdraft services and considering whether rules governing overdraft and related services are warranted and what such rules may be. A possible rulemaking might include disclosures or address specific acts or practices. In July 2014, we released a report, based on data from sources we used in our June 2013 white paper of our initial analysis of overdraft practices. The July 2014 report provided additional information about the outcomes of consumers who do and do not opt in to overdraft coverage for ATM and one-time debit card transactions. The report also explored the transactions that overdraw consumer accounts.

Privacy disclosures

In the Spring 2014 Unified Agenda, we stated that we expected to issue a proposal regarding the notices that consumers receive each year from their financial institutions to explain the companies’ information sharing practices, as part of our regulatory streamlining efforts. We released the final rule in October 2014. It provides that financial institutions that restrict their information sharing practices and meet other requirements may post their annual privacy notices to customers under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act online, rather than delivering them individually.

We’re continuing research, analysis, and outreach on a number of other consumer financial services markets, and will update our next semi-annual agenda to reflect the results of further prioritization and planning.

Proposed changes to our Mortgage Servicing Rules: New protections for surviving family members and other homeowners

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Today, we’re proposing changes to our Mortgage Servicing Rules, which took effect on January 10, 2014. These rules provide important protections for consumers with mortgages, including:

  • Requiring mortgage servicers (people who manage your mortgage loan account) to provide you with periodic mortgage statements or coupon books that give you important information about your mortgage.
  • Requiring servicers to respond quickly to written inquiries seeking information or requesting that they resolve potential errors about your mortgage.
  • Requiring servicers to reach out to you and send written information describing how to avoid foreclosure if you fall behind on your mortgage payments.
  • Requiring servicers to respond quickly to help you complete your application for loss mitigation options to avoid foreclosure. (Here’s more information about loss mitigation options.)

Since the Mortgage Servicing Rules went into effect, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to consumer advocacy groups, housing counselors, mortgage servicers, and trade associations, to better understand how the rules are working and whether we should make any changes to them. As a result, we’re now proposing some changes to the Mortgage Servicing Rules. The changes are intended to smooth the path for companies to better protect consumers and comply with the CFPB’s rules.

Expanded Protections for Surviving Family Members and Other Homeowners

Some of the most significant proposed changes would expand protections for people who inherit or otherwise receive property from a spouse, parent, or other relative when the mortgage has not been paid off. These homeowners include people who get the property after a loved one dies or in a divorce. They are often called “successors in interest.”

Our proposals regarding these homeowners would:

  • Provide a process for these homeowners to have their interest in the property reviewed and confirmed by the servicer; and
  • Give them the same rights to get information and correct mistakes about the mortgage loan and apply for loss mitigation options as other borrowers have under our rules, once the servicer reviews and confirms their interest in the property.

Loss mitigation applications

We’re proposing several changes to how servicers handle loss mitigation applications (that is, applications for loss mitigation options), including making your mortgage servicer tell you in writing when your loss mitigation application is complete, requiring servicers to gather information from third parties promptly to avoid delays, and clarifying protections for borrowers during servicing transfers and in the face of a foreclosure sale. We are also proposing that servicers would have to give you another opportunity to apply for a loan modification if, for example, you get a loan modification and bring the loan current, but then you fall behind again.

Get involved

Check out the proposed rule and send us your comments. We’ll update this post soon with a link to submit formal comments.

The CFPB blog aims to facilitate conversations about our work. We want your comments to drive this conversation. Please be courteous, constructive, and on-topic. To help make the conversation productive, we encourage you to read our comment policy before posting. Comments on any post remain open for seven days from the date it was posted.