On March 9, 2021, the Second Circuit heard oral arguments in connection with the New York Department of Financial Services’ (“DFS”) challenge to block the Office of Comptroller of the Currency’s (“OCC”) special purpose national bank charter (“fintech charter”). The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York in September of 2018, shortly after the OCC made available its special purpose bank charter.

The fintech charter would allow certain non-depository fintech companies to operate as “special purpose national banks” under the National Bank Act (“NBA”), which is overseen by the OCC without the burden of state-by-state regulation and licensing. The OCC views deposit-taking as just one of the activities undertaken by banks in the “business of banking” under the NBA. However, critics, including the DFS, argue deposit-taking is essential to the “business of banking,” which should preclude non-depository fintech companies from obtaining national bank protections.

Continue Reading Oral Arguments Held in Challenge to OCC’s Fintech Charter

On March 3, the Securities and Exchange Commission released its examination priorities for 2021. While most of the list echoes priorities from previous years, this year’s version includes a greater concentration on climate-related risk and environmental, social and governance matters.

Read our complete commentary on McGuireWoods’ Subject to Inquiry Blog for highlights from the 2021 examination priorities, which also address Regulation Best Interest compliance, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and a continued focus on complex products.

It was only just over a month ago that President Biden selected David Uejio, a long-time senior leader at the CFPB with a low public profile, to lead the agency temporarily as Acting Director.  But already, Mr. Uejio has made very significant changes at the agency, implementing what he calls a “change of direction” with sweeping announcements on a weekly basis.  Even as the Senate prepares to consider President Biden’s nominee, current FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, to lead the CFPB for a full term at a March 2 hearing, it is time to assess where the agency stands after the Biden Administration’s first month and the likely changes still to come.

Continue Reading The CFPB’s “Change of Direction” After 1 Month: New Goals, More Attorneys

Last week, we reported that on December 30, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) issued compliance assistance sandbox (“CAS”) approval to Payactiv, Inc. (“Payactiv”) regarding specific aspects of its earned wage access (“EWA”) product.

Payactiv’s Chief Legal Officer, David Reidy, expressed Payactiv’s reaction to the Approval Order this way – “We are grateful for the hard work and commitment the Bureau showed through this whole process. Everyone involved believes in EWA as an important and innovative benefit for workers. I couldn’t be more proud that Payactiv is the first and only EWA provider to be granted this approval.”

Continue Reading A Detailed Look At The CFPB’s Historic Approval of Payactiv’s Earned Wage Access (EWA) Program under Regulatory Sandbox Policy

New York, California and six other States filed a widely expected lawsuit on January 5 seeking to invalidate the “True Lender” Rule recently issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”).  As we previously reported, the OCC’s True Lender Rule — finalized in October and effective since December 29 —provides bright-line tests for determining, in the context of a lending partnership between a national bank (or federal thrift) and a third-party (often a FinTech or other non-bank firm), which entity actually “made” the loan, i.e., which entity was the “true lender.”

Continue Reading States Sue to Set Aside OCC’s True Lender Rule

On December 30, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) granted approval to Payactiv, Inc. (“Payactiv”) to offer its earned wage access (“EWA”) program under the CFPB’s Policy on the Compliance Assistance Sandbox, among the first approvals under the CFPB’s regulatory sandbox.

In its approval order, the CFPB granted approval to various aspects of Payactiv’s EWA program and grants Payactiv a safe harbor from liability under the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) and Regulation Z.

Continue Reading CFPB Grants Historic Approval to Payactiv, Approving Payactiv’s Earned Wage Access (EWA) Program under Regulatory Sandbox Policy

In an earlier article, we provided an overview of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB”) earned wage access (“EWA”) advisory opinion.  In the opinion, the CFPB identified seven requirements for a “Covered EWA Program,” i.e., an EWA program that would “not involve the offering or extension of ‘credit’” under the Truth In Lending Act (“TILA”) and its Regulation Z.

Continue Reading CFPB’s Fee-Free Model Requirement Set Forth In Its Wage Access Advisory Opinion Raises More Questions

On December 3, 2020, the SEC announced that FinHub (the Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology) was being upgraded to an independent office. Acknowledging the importance of the all things fintech (emerging technologies and innovation in financial services), the SEC stated that creating a stand-alone office:

“[S]trengthens the SEC’s ability to continue fostering innovation in emerging technologies in our markets consistent with investor protection. The office will continue to lead the agency’s work to identify and analyze emerging financial technologies affecting the future of the securities industry, and engage with market participants, as technologies develop.”

Continue Reading SEC Takes Another Step to Prioritize Fintech Innovation

As we previously explained, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB”) recently finalized Advisory Opinion Policy allows any person or entity to request an advisory opinion from the agency.  When the CFPB finalized that Policy on November 30, 2020, it concurrently issued its first two advisory opinions: one addressing earned wage access (“EWA”) programs, and one concerning private education loan products.  This article specifically comments on the important EWA advisory opinion.

EWA programs generally allow employees to access wages they have already worked for and accrued, but have not yet been paid.  In its EWA advisory opinion, the CFPB stated that EWA programs incorporating several specific features do “not involve the offering or extension of ‘credit,’” and thus, do not fall under the purview of Regulation Z, which implements the Truth In Lending Act (“TILA”).

Continue Reading CFPB Unveils In First Advisory Opinion That TILA Does Not Apply to Certain Earned Wage Access Products

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) announced in March 2020 that it would develop a new advisory opinion program under which it would publish in the Federal Register responses to questions seeking clarification of ambiguities in federal consumer financial law.  On November 30, 2020, the CFPB issued a final Advisory Opinion Policy (“AO Policy”) setting forth specific procedures for its Advisory Opinion Program.

Opinions issued under the AO Policy will be interpretive rules under the Administrative Procedure Act that respond to a specific need for clarity on a statutory or regulatory interpretive question.  See 5 U.S.C. § 553(b).  Each advisory opinion will include a summary of the material facts or covered products, and the CFPB’s legal analysis of the issue.  The CFPB expects that its advisory opinions will apply not only to the requestor, but also “to similarly situated parties to the extent that their situations conform to the summary of material facts or coverage in the advisory opinion.”

Continue Reading CFPB Finalizes Advisory Opinion Program Opening Door for Those Seeking Clarity on Ambiguous Statutory or Regulatory Questions