Social Security

Stay Informed With NACBA’s Latest Washington Update

NACBA’s Krista D’Amelio keeps you updated and informed about significant and relevant activity on the part of Congress, regulatory agencies and interest groups/think tanks.  Take a look at what’s happening in DC in the latest Washington Update.

ON THE HILL On October 11th Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the bipartisan Student Loan Refinancing and Recalculating Act, H.R. 4001, to address the ballooning student loan debt crisis in America that cripples over 40 million Americans and their families. This legislation would allow students to refinance their student loan interest rates, lower future student loan interest rates, eliminate origination fees on student loans, delay student loan interest rate accrual for low-income and middle-class borrowers while they are pursuing their education, and allow for borrowers in medical or dental residencies to defer payments until the completion of their program.

Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the Vice Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee introduced H.R. 4028, the Promoting Responsible Oversight of Transactions and Examinations of Credit Technology Act of 2017, or the PROTECT Act, on October 12th. Following the data breach at Equifax that exposed the personal data of over 140 million Americans, this bill would require the federal government to create uniform cybersecurity standards for credit bureaus and submit them to onsite examinations. The bill would also create a national framework for credit freezes so that victims of identity theft, active military personnel, people over 65 years of age, and children are protected. Finally, the bill would stop the credit bureaus from using Americans’ Social Security Numbers as a basis for identification by 2020.

IN THE AGENCIES The U.S. Department of Education recently released data on the national student loan FY 2014 cohort default rate. The rate increased slightly from 11.3 percent to 11.5 percent for students who entered repayment between fiscal years 2013 and 2014. During the tracking period for the FY 2014 borrower cohort (Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2016), more than five million borrowers entered repayment, and 580,671 of them—or 11.5 percent—defaulted on their loans. Those borrowers attended 6,173 postsecondary institutions across the nation.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized a rule that is aimed at stopping payday debt traps by requiring lenders to determine upfront whether people can afford to repay their loans on October 5th. These strong protections cover loans that require consumers to repay all or most of the debt at once, including payday loans, auto title loans, deposit advance products, and longer-term loans with balloon payments. The Bureau found that many people who take out these loans end up repeatedly paying expensive charges to roll over or refinance the same debt. The rule also curtails lenders’ repeated attempts to debit payments from a borrower’s bank account, a practice that racks up fees and can lead to account closure.

FROM THE INTEREST GROUPS On September 27, 2017 following the U.S. Trustee Program’s (USTP) recently issued guidelines for natural disasters, NACBA and NCLC wrote a joint letter urging for approval of a waiver of credit counseling requirements in the areas of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. NACBA and NCLC received a response on October 4th from the USTP. Specifically, the response letter calls to light the action of acting US Trustee Guy Gebhardt issuing a temporary waiver of credit counseling and debtor education requirements for the areas in Puerto Rico and US Virgin islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

NCLC released findings on October 11th that reveals discretionary pricing and racial disparities in auto add-on products sold by car dealers. Their report:  Auto Add-Ons Add Up: How Dealer Discretion Drives Excessive, Arbitrary, and Discriminatory Pricing, is an analysis of a national data set of three million add-on products sold from September 2009 through June 2015. Key findings include: add-ons lead to unreasonably high and inconsistent pricing, and Hispanics pay higher prices than non-Hispanic customers for the same product.

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

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NACBA’s Washington Update IX

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This is the latest update from Washington, designed to keep NACBA members informed about significant and relevant activity on the part of Congress, regulatory agencies and interest groups/think tanks.  Feedback should be directed to mthompson@hastingsgroup.com.

Obviously, the big news out of Washington continues to be the election results.  NACBA members who joined us for the November 18 webinar, “The 2016 Election: What Now?,” heard NACBA leaders and our representatives in Washington answer the questions about what to expect in 2017 from the Administration, Congress and the courts.  We are planning to issue a special report in the next few weeks, after we learn more about the Cabinet and priorities of the Trump Administration and Congress.  Our report will focus not only on what to expect from the White House come January, but also the key agencies of interest to NACBA — Department of Justice, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Department of Education — as well as the leadership and key committees in Congress.

Continue reading for non-election news out of Washington this week.

ON THE HILL The 114th Congress has unofficially come to a close, but our elected officials are still at work.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are broadening their investigation of the Wells Fargo scandal to examine whether Prudential Financial insurance products were also charged to the bank’s customers without their knowledge.  In a December 13, 2016 letter to Prudential’s CEO, the two Democrats asked for documents related to the bank’s sales of Prudential insurance. They requested the information and a briefing by January 13, 2017.

The action came after three former Prudential (PRU) employees alleged that Wells Fargo employees signed up customers for a low-cost Prudential life insurance policy without their knowledge or permission.  The three former PRU employees filed a Dodd-Frank whistleblower complaint with the SEC alleging they were retaliated against after uncovering the misconduct.

IN THE AGENCIES Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced a program to aid homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments.  The Flex Modification loan program will begin in January 2017 and replaces the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), a foreclosure-prevention policy that’s set to expire at the end of this year. Loan servicers have until October 2017 to implement the program.

The new loan modification guidelines are expected to expand the population of homeowners eligible for lower monthly payments, short sales and other alternatives to foreclosure, according to Fannie Mae.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report documenting the consequences that the Department of the Treasury’s practice of garnishing Americans’ social security payments has on student loan borrowers in default. The number of older Americans defaulting on education loans has steadily increased in recent decades, as many have returned to college or co-signed loans for family members. Unpaid debt has resulted in the government garnishing the benefits of 114,000 people age 50 and older in the past year, more than half of whom were receiving Social Security disability rather than retirement income.  The report found that for more than two-thirds of borrowers whose monthly benefit was below the poverty line, the money deducted from their Social Security benefits was enough only to pay fees and interest, so the amount of the debt was not even reduced. The report also found that of older student loan borrowers with a Social Security offset, 43% had held their loans for 20 years or more and 80% had held their loans for 10 years or more.  Although there are rules designed to protect a portion of the recipient’s benefits, the dollar amount protected has not changed since 1996, and leaves a borrower with only $750/month ($9,000/year) to live on.

MORE FROM CFPB  The Bureau released a report raising new concerns about costly fees and risky features that can be attached to certain college-sponsored accounts. The report comes after analysis of roughly 500 marketing deals between the schools and large banks found that many deals allow for risky features that can lead students to rack up hundreds of dollars in fees per year. The report also examines trends in the school-sponsored credit card market. The CFPB also issued a bulletin today reminding colleges and universities they are required to publicly disclose marketing agreements with credit card companies.  The campus banking report is available at here.

Both the Director of the CFPB and the head of the FHFA have expressed their intent to finish out their terms at their respective agencies.  Richard Cordray “has no plans” to leave the top job at the CFPB, the agency said. “Director Cordray was confirmed by a bipartisan group of 66 senators to serve a term until July 2018 and has no plans to step down,” CFPB Communications Director Jen Howard said in an email.  Mel Watt, the FHFA head overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will serve out the remaining two years of his term after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.  Watt made his intent clear during a recent meeting with agency staff, according to people familiar with that gathering who confirmed the remarks Friday. His term expires in January 2019.

FROM THE INTEREST GROUPS U.S.PIRG has released a report titled “Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees” that concludes that “overdraft fees are a major source of consumer pain, since they are borne disproportionately by Americans with few financial resources” but, that the CFPB is working to protect consumers from unfair overdraft fees.” A copy of the report is available here.

The private student loan industry is making a push to expand its role in the Department of Education’s growing $1.3 trillion portfolio of federal student loans.  A main lobbying group for the industry, the National Council of Higher Education Resources, wrote a letter this week to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, making a series of proposals that included a bold plan to auction off some of the existing portfolio of federal loans to private investors. You can read a copy of the letter here.

Bankruptcy News Briefs 9/17

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Read the Most Updated Headlines in Bankruptcy News…

U.S. Census Bureau: Income, Poverty Rates Remain Stable, Uninsured Rate Declines

Inspector General Calls for Improvements to CFPB Consumer Complaint Database

Phantom Payday Loan Debt Operation Banned

Foreclosure Activity Wanes to End Run of Annual Gains

Debt Settlement Provides Economic Benefits to Consumers: Report

CFPB Wins Temporary Injunction Against Debt Settlement Company

OIG Report on CFPB Consumer Response Highlights Deficiencies, But Exposes Irony

GAO Report Finds IRS Management of Collection Process Still Not Living Up to Expectations

Is My Social Security Safe From Debt Collectors?

Chief Judge quashes 21,000 arrest orders, ends debt-collection policy

Department of Education Tips Hand on Student Loan Defense

NACBA Events Educate

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San Francisco has never looked better with the 24th Annual NACBA Convention coming to town on May 19-22, 2016! We are gearing up for a great convention that you absolutely won’t want to miss! Mark your calendars and we’ll see you soon!

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Get Connected with NACBA’s Listserv

Do you want to connect with your peers? Pose bankruptcy questions and get real time responses ? As a NACBA member you have access to one of the most popular features of NACBA membership the NACBA Listserv. Participants enjoy the unparalleled ability to post both the easy and hard questions to some of the best consumer bankruptcy attorneys in the nation.

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Bankruptcy News Briefs 7/8

Loan Servicing Lacking for Military Borrowers: Report

Bankruptcy Filings Down 12% Through June

Can the Credit Bureaus Finally Be Tamed?

Prepaid Card Use Increases Among Consumers, Many of Whom Have Bank Accounts

J.P. Morgan to Settle Credit-Card Probes for $125 Million

Greece Given Until Sunday to Settle Debt Crisis or Face Disaster

Senate Bill Proposes to Make Robocalls a Federal Crime

Social Security Administration Spends Three Times More Than it Collects Trying to Recover Overpayments

FTC Bans Fraudulent Debt Collectors Who Targeted Spanish-Speaking Consumers

Register for the Security Clearances & Bankruptcy Webinar on July 21st 

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