Betsy Devoss

NACBA’s Washington Update, October 27th

Go into the weekend informed about significant and relevant activity on the part of Congress, regulatory agencies and interest groups/think tanks. Check out what’s happening in Washington, DC.

ON THE HILL On October 24th during the late hours, a slim majority of Republicans in the Senate voted to pass Senate Joint Resolution 47, which repeals a rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that made it easier for Americans to sue their banks and credit card companies. Vice President Mike Pence issued the deciding vote to repeal CFPB’s arbitration rule and block consumers from suing financial giants like Equifax and Wells Fargo. Republican Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voted against the measure.

The Senate passed S. 1107, The Bankruptcy Judgeship Act of 2017, on October 24th introduced by U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Trump in the next 10 days. Coons’ bill extends Delaware’s five temporary bankruptcy judgeships for five years. The bill also adds two temporary bankruptcy judgeships for Delaware. The bill also provides extensions for 14 temporary judgeships and creates four new bankruptcy judgeships total across the country.

On October 20th, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and seven other senators to call on the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to use its discretion to help college students and student loan borrowers displaced or otherwise unable to continue their education in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Their joint letter called upon the ED to exercise discretion to enroll borrowers impacted by Hurricane Maria “in interest-free administrative forbearance for a minimum period of six months, or until Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are no longer considered to be in a disaster zone”.

House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is praising Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for refusing to cooperate with the CFPB and says he hopes it sets an example for other federal agencies. In the letter issued on October 16th, Chairman Hensarling made it clear he would like other agencies to follow Education’s lead. He argues that the Education Department’s action to “curb the CFPB’s overreach are most welcome, and hopefully will serve as an example to other federal agencies to re-evaluate their relationship with the CFPB.”

IN THE AGENCIES On October 17th, 18 states led by Maryland and Pennsylvania sued the Department of Education for illegally delaying and refusing to enforce the gainful employment rule. Their complaint is based on the Department’s numerous violations of the Administrative Procedure Act. The gainful employment rule implements the Higher Education Act requirement that career education programs prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. Finalized in 2014 and in effect since 2015, the gainful employment regulation requires schools to give prospective students key information about costs and outcomes of career education programs at for-profit, public, and nonprofit colleges, ends federal funding for programs that consistently leave students with debts they cannot repay, and allows colleges to appeal if they believe program graduates earn more than federal data indicate.

Prior to the repeal of CFPB’s arbitration rule being brought to a vote, in a rare move, the Treasury Department sided with Wall Street attacking the rule issued by CFPB. The rule “fails to account for significant costs of class action litigation and benefits of arbitration in a meaningful way,” the Treasury Department said in an 18-page report. And it “would upend a century of federal policy favoring freedom of contract to provide for low-cost dispute resolution.”

FROM THE INTEREST GROUPS The American Legion and National Consumer Law Center published an op-ed in Politico’s Morning Consult on the taxation of death and disability on student loan discharges. In it they argue, when a borrower dies or becomes permanently disabled before paying off student loans, the loans can be discharged, relieving the disabled borrower or surviving family members of the burden of paying off a loan they often cannot afford. However, The Internal Revenue Service may treat the amount of the forgiven loan as taxable income. Although some will be able to exempt this income because they are insolvent, not all will qualify. As a result, a family that was relieved to have a student loan forgiven may then end up struggling to pay a big tax bill — all while dealing with the death of a child.

OTHER On October 14th PBS News Hour has a featured episode titled, “More older Americans than ever are struggling with student debt”. Watch it online now.

Feedback should be directed to Krista.DAmelio@NACBA.com

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Find out What’s Happening in DC in NACBA’s Washington Update -July 14th

Krista D’Amelio keeps NACBA members informed about significant and relevant activity on the part of Congress, regulatory agencies and interest groups/think tanks in our Washington Update.

On The Hill On Wednesday, July 12, 2017, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing titled: “Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy”. The witness list included the Honorable Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. In her testimony, Yellen described an economy that appears generally strong, with continued job gains and low unemployment, but that is affected by stubbornly low inflation. During the hearing, House members pressed Yellen on how the Federal Reserve would roll back its balance sheet, the central bank’s role in ensuring full employment and her views on bank supervision. One point of interest came during Full Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s (R-TX) round of questioning. He asked whether the Federal Reserve would ever buy student loans, to which Yellen answered she was unsure about student debts, but can confirm the purchase of Treasury and Agency Securities. Hensarling continued to probe on whether the Federal Reserve has any plans to buy student loans because if the reserve did, it could conceivably forgive student loans of current graduates.

In The Agencies On Monday, July 10, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a new rule to ban companies from using mandatory arbitration clauses to deny groups of people their day in court. Many consumer financial products like credit cards and bank accounts have arbitration clauses in their contracts that prevent consumers from joining together to sue their bank or financial company for wrongdoing. The CFPB’s rule restores consumers’ right to file or join group lawsuits. By so doing, the rule also deters companies from violating the law. Under the rule, companies can still include arbitration clauses in their contracts, but companies subject to the rule may not use arbitration clauses to stop consumers from being part of a group action. The rule also makes the individual arbitration process more transparent by requiring companies to submit to the CFPB certain records, including initial claims and counterclaims, answers to these claims and counterclaims, and awards issued in arbitration.

OTHER On Wednesday, July 12, 2017, NACBA along with 55 other coalition groups led by The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos strongly opposing the delay, dismantling, or weakening of the gainful employment regulations finalized in October 2014 and the “borrower defense to repayment” and college accountability regulations finalized in November 2016. In the letter, it was argued that the existence of a new rulemaking process provides no basis for the Department to refuse to implement and enforce the current regulations in the interim. If the Department wishes to alter current regulations, it must do so through negotiated rulemaking, not unilaterally outside the processes established by Congress. Please email Krista D’Amelio to obtain a final copy of the letter.

Feedback should be directed to Krista.DAmelio@NACBA.com

NACBA’s Washington Update

Krista D’Amelio, NACBA’s Director of Government Affairs & Communication gives you the lastest and  most significant and relevant activity on the part of Congress, regulatory agencies and interest groups/think tanks in this week’s Washington Update.

On The Hill On June 8 the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing titled “A Time to Reform: Oversight of the Activities of the Justice Department’s Civil, Tax and Environment and Natural Resources Divisions and the U.S. Trustee Program”. The hearing hear testimony from two witness panels. The first witness panel included: Clifford White III, Director of the U.S. Trustee Program, David Hubbert, Acting Assistant Attorney General Tax Division, Jeffrey Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Chad Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General Civil Division. The second witness panel included President of Public Citizen Robert Weissman, Esq., Partner of Baker & Hostetler LLP Andrew Grossman, Esq., Partner of Foley and Lardner LLP Cleta Mitchell, Esq., and Manager of Election Law Reform Initiative, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation Hans von Spakovsky, Esq. In his testimony, Director Clifford White provided the Subcommittee an update on the facts and observations of the Trustee Program and highlighted matters of special importance to the bankruptcy system. Members of NACBA’s Legislative Committee submitted questions to the Subcommittee at the request of the House Judiciary Committee.

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced the Military Consumer Enforcement Act, S. 1389, on June 21st. The bill would allow the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to provide greater protection to servicemembers.The bill’s other co-sponsors include: Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL.), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Al Franken (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV).

IN THE AGENCIES On Tuesday, June 20th U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appointed A. Wayne Johnson, a former executive in the financial-services industry, to run the $1.3 trillion federal student loan portfolio. The position of chief operating officer of federal student aid has been vacant since May when James W. Runcie resigned, saying he couldn’t in “good conscience” lead the agency while it was facing rising scrutiny from the Trump administration about its management of the lending programs. Dr. Johnson worked in senior management at Visa and Deloitte before starting his own company, which captures credit-card transactions in real time and alerts card holders to better manage their accounts.

FROM THE INTEREST GROUPS Americans for Financial Reform and National Consumer Law Center issued separate statements on June 14th that condemns the decision of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to abandon the victims of predatory colleges by delaying the update to the Borrower Defense rule, and creating two new negotiated rulemakings to re-do and likely dismantle both the Borrower Defense and Gainful Employment rules.

OTHER A recent Consumer Report analysis found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be a major reason for the decline in personal bankruptcy filings. The report reveals that since 2010, personal bankruptcy filings have dropped by about 50%. Experts say some of that is due to an improved economy and laws passed in 2005 that make it harder to declare bankruptcy. CR’s reporting found that the ACA’s provisions for mandatory coverage of pre-existing conditions and against annual and lifetime payout caps has helped consumers —especially Americans with serious medical issues— avoid bankruptcy.

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