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Banks and Marketplace Lenders Absorb a Blow

In a blow to banks and the marketplace lending industry, on June 27, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition by Midland Funding to hear the case Midland Funding, LLC v. Madden (No. 15-610).  That case involves a debt-collection firm that bought charged-off credit card debt from a national bank.  The borrower’s legal team argued that a buyer of the debt was subject to New York interest rate caps even though the seller of the debt, a national bank, was exempt from those state law rate caps due to preemption under Section 85 the National Bank Act.  The borrower won on this startling argument and the debt collector appealed to the Supreme Court.  The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the regulator for national banks), the U.S. Solicitor General and various stakeholders in the banking and lending industries vigorously argued that the 2nd Circuit’s decision contravened established law.  The fear was that, if preemption strips loans of their usury-exempt status when the loans are sold, then banks’ ability to sell consumer loans, including the common practice of banks originating and quickly selling those loans to investors and marketplace lenders, would be significantly limited, if not curtailed.

The Supreme Court denied the debt collector’s appeal without explanation, which means the 2nd Circuit’s ruling is binding law in that Circuit, which includes New York, Connecticut and Vermont.  However, the 2nd Circuit’s ruling is not the law outside of the 2nd Circuit.

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Gift Card Issuers Beware: CFPB Finds Limited Preemption of Unclaimed Property Laws

CFPB Finds Limited Preemption; Gift Card Issuers Must Honor Cards
Even After Funds Have Escheated to the State

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) recently published a final determination regarding whether the unclaimed property laws of Maine and Tennessee relating to unredeemed gift cards (“Applicable State Law”) are inconsistent with and preempted by the gift card provisions of the  Electronic Fund Transfer Act and Regulation E (“Federal Law”).  The applicable laws of Maine and Tennessee are quite similar for the issues at hand.  In its ruling, the CFPB determined that Maine’s unclaimed property law as applied to gift cards is not inconsistent with Federal Law, and therefore no preemption was found.  However, with respect to Tennessee’s unclaimed property law, the CFPB ruled in favor of preemption but only with respect to the provision permitting issuers to choose whether to honor an unclaimed gift card after the underlying funds have been escheated to the state.  (A Print Version of this Alert is available.)


The specific issue involves Federal Law vis à vis the abandoned property laws of Maine and Tennessee.  Federal Law prohibits a gift card from containing an expiration date that is less than five years from the date of issuance or date of last load, whichever is later; Applicable State Law, however, generally requires escheatment of unused balances on certain types of gift cards after two years of card inactivity.

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OCC Opines that Federal Preemption Still Exists, Despite Dodd-Frank

The OCC recently sent a letter to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Dela.) in response to his request for the OCC to clarify how it would interpret particular aspects of the preemption provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.  Among other things, the letter states that federal preemption of state consumer protection laws would continue even under Dodd-Frank, in accordance with the “Barnett” standard. Of particular interest, the OCC letter noted that Dodd-Frank did not overrule or reverse any pre-existing judicial decisions that were based on the Barnett standard and which found that the state law conflicted with bank powers.

The Dodd-Frank Act restricts the ability of national banks and federal savings associations to assert preemption from state consumer protection laws.  For example, the ability to assert “field preemption” over an entire body of law (even if there is no conflict) no longer exists. However, contrary to some assertions, preemption is not “dead.”  One way preemption would apply is when the state consumer financial law prevents or significantly interferes with the exercise by the national bank of its powers, as established by the Supreme Court in the Barnett case.

In its letter, the OCC declares that this preemption standard as statutorily referenced in the Dodd-Frank Act is a “directive to apply the conflict preemption standard articulated in the Barnett decision.”  However, the letter further adds that the OCC “recognizes that going forward, after the transfer date, the Dodd-Frank Act imposes new procedures and consultation requirements with respect to how [the OCC] may reach future preemption determinations, including the case-by-case requirement…” and specifically mentions that the OCC will be required to first consult with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau prior to making its determination.

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