Consumer Bankruptcy Journal Fall 2016 - Page 8

WASHINGTON UPDATE FROM THE INTEREST GROUPS A number of consumer groups have sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee, expressing support for their interest in improving consumer protections against unwanted robocalls, but also expressing concerns regarding some of their proposals. You can read the letter here. In another disturbing look at the savings habits/abilities of Americans, a study from financial services website GoBankingRates found that “Close to half of those who earn from $100,000 to $149,999 a year have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. Some 18 percent of them have socked away absolutely nothing.” While the study concluded that at all income levels, people have trouble spending less than they make, it will come as no surprise that those who had the hardest time saving are low-income workers. A coalition of community banks and civil rights groups urged Congress to avoid making big changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the omnibus appropriations debate. The group, which includes the Community Mortgage Lenders of America and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, expressed “strong opposition” to “piecemeal” language attached to must-pass, year-end legislation. They voiced particular concern about any effort to spin off the companies’ system for bundling and selling mortgages. You can read their letter to the leaders of the House Financial Services and Appropriations committees. October 2, 2016 Issue three of our weekly update, designed to keep NACBA members abreast of any significant and relevant activity on the part of Congress, regulatory agencies and interest groups/think tanks during the week. 5204, The Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act, sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), which protects families from being hit with a large tax bill when federal student loans are forgiven due to death or disability. ON THE HILL After weeks of “talks,’ Congress approved a short-term funding bill to avoid a government shutdown at the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. The bill, which was signed into law by President Obama, funds the federal government through Dec. 9 and, in addition to funding government programs, also provides funds to combat the Zika virus and sends $500 million to Louisiana and other states facing natural disasters. The weeks-long funding fight was resolved after a bipartisan deal was worked out by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to ensure that Flint, Michigan’s water crisis is addressed in the lame duck session. Both chambers have adjourned and plan to be back in session in mid-November. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation to help Americans burdened by the costs of illness or injury. The Medical Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2016 (S. 3385) would make the bankruptcy process more forgiving for those driven to insolvency by health care-related debt or loss of income. But before they left, the House Ways and Means Committee last week approved the bipartisan H.R. 8 CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY JOURNAL Wells Fargo remains in the “hot seat” after a grilling last week in the Senate Banking Committee. In the wake of that hearing, Senate Banking Committee Democrats this week submitted additional questions to the bank. Among other things, lawmakers are requesting basic information on the precise dates of when Stumpf, Wells Fargo’s board of directors, and Carrie Tolstedt, who led the firm’s community banking unit, learned that thousands of the bank’s employees were defrauding customers nationwide, as well as Fall 2016 questions on state-by-state data for affected customers, steps that the bank is taking to repair damage to credit scores, and timelines of interactions with regulators. Yesterday, it was the House Financial Services Committee’s turn to question Mr. Stumpf. He faced blistering questions from both sides of the aisle for over four hours. Wells Fargo faced additional scrutiny late last week when leading Democratic Senators, including Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (DOH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (DCT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), sent a letter to Wells Fargo, urging the bank to end its use of forced arbitration in consumer contracts. And finally, 104 House Democrats sent a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) encouraging the agency to strengthen their payday lending rules. IN THE AGENCIES The CFPB filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the credit repair company Prime Marketing Holdings, LLC, which allegedly charged consumers National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys