Gov’t Enforcement Actions Against CFS Industry Heating Up

As Fall brings a chill to early morning weather, a string of federal agency enforcement actions are supplying a lot of unwanted heat for the consumer financial services industry.

Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has entered into a Consent Order with Equifax Information Services LLC, over charges that it had allegedly improperly sold lists of consumers who were late on their mortgage payments. The Consent Order requires Equifax to pay nearly $393,000 to the FTC.

In a separate action, an Equifax customer will pay the FTC civil penalties of $1.2 million under a Consent Order concerning its alleged use of the same lists without a “permissible purpose,” which allegedly violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681b(c)).

These consent orders follow on the heels of a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Attorneys Office of the Southern District of New York on Tuesday against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. In a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the United States alleges Wells had violated the federal False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”) over a 10-year period through its participation in the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) Direct Endorsement Lender Program.

On Oct. 1, the Consumer Financial Services Bureau (“CFPB”) announced that American Express entities will refund $85 million under a Consent Order to settle charges that its subsidiaries had allegedly violated the federal Credit CARD Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Section 5 of the FTC Act (and the FTC was not even part of this enforcement action) and sections 1031  and 1036 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB also reported that the Amex entities will pay civil penalties to the CFPB, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency totaling $27.5 million.

It looks look it’s going to be a hot winter for some.

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Donald Maurice provides counsel to the financial services industry, successfully litigating matters in the state and federal courts in individual and class actions. He has successfully argued before the Third, Fourth and Eighth Circuit U.S. Courts of Appeals, and has represented the financial services industry before several courts including as counsel for amicus curiae before the United States Supreme Court. He counsels clients in regulatory actions before the CFPB, and other federal and state regulators and in the development and testing of debt collection compliance systems. Don is peer-rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell, the worldwide guide to lawyers. In addition to being a frequent speaker and author on consumer financial services law, he serves as legal counsel to DBA International and as chair of the ABA's Bankruptcy and Debt Collection Subcommittee. He serves on the governing Board of Regents of the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers and on the Governing Committee of the Conference on Consumer Finance Law .