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CFPB Wants ‘Clear Authority’ to Oversee Military Lending Act

ABI Bankruptcy Brief

January 31, 2019

ABI Bankruptcy Brief

CFPB Wants ‘Clear Authority’ to Oversee Military Lending Act

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is seeking to legislatively expand its purview and better police financial products targeted to military personnel, Compliance Week reported. CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger has asked Congress to grant the Bureau “clear authority to supervise for compliance” with the Military Lending Act (MLA). “The Bureau is committed to the financial well-being of America’s service members. This commitment includes ensuring that lenders subject to our jurisdiction comply with the Military Lending Act so our service members and their families are provided with the protections of that law,” she said in a statement last week. “That’s why I have asked Congress to explicitly grant the Bureau authority to conduct examinations specifically intended to review compliance with the MLA. The requested authority would complement the work the Bureau currently does to enforce the MLA.” Kraninger said she was pleased to see legislation proposed recently in the House of Representatives (H.R. 442) that is intended to grant the Bureau such authority. To bolster that effort, the CFPB recently delivered a similar legislative proposal to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Pence in his capacity as president of the U.S. Senate.

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Commentary: IRS Private Debt Collectors Make Deals that Don’t Always Pan Out

The four private companies retained by the Internal Revenue Service to go after longtime tax delinquents have shown progress in gaining taxpayer trust, but are not always accurate in figuring penalties or successful in policing payment follow-up, according to a commentary in Government Executive. That’s according to the latest statutorily required assessment of the controversial private debt collection program Congress mandated in 2015 — released quietly at the end of December during the partial government shutdown. As of last September, the IRS had assigned more than 700,000 taxpayer accounts to private collectors, who had brought in some $88.8 million, or 2 percent of the balance owed, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The firms also negotiated more than 21,000 payment arrangements, “but taxpayers later failed to make payments on more than half of them,” the audit noted. All four of the companies “performed well” under measures such as “procedural accuracy and professionalism,” the report said, noting customer satisfaction rates above 90 percent.

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Sen. Warren Questions Lampert’s Commitment to Employees in Sears Rescue Bid

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned the “commitment to the company’s employees given your history of slashing jobs” in a letter to ESL Investments, a hedge fund run by Sears Chairman Edward Lampert, Bloomberg News reported. “The inherent conflicts of interest and the decisions you made while running the company have short-changed Sears workers, leaving a company with a long, proud history in American retail on its last legs,” Warren wrote. “Our going-concern bid for the assets of Sears Holdings in a transparent, court-supervised auction reflects our belief in the potential to create a successful company that can benefit from the changes in today’s retail environment,” ESL said. “It offers Sears the only long-term opportunity to save and create jobs, honor the extended warranties that were purchased by so many customers, generate new value and grow.”

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NYC's Health Care for All Collides with Hospital Woes

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says that he’s turning the city into a model for how the nation can provide health care to all, including the poor, the uninsured and undocumented immigrants. In doing so, he boasts he’s saved the city’s public hospitals from bankruptcy and can provide universal care for just $100 million by steering New Yorkers away from emergency rooms and into managed-care clinics. Yet he may have promised more than he can deliver, Bloomberg News reported. The system of 11 hospitals — which already provide free care to the uninsured — costs taxpayers more than $2 billion a year, while scheduled federal Medicaid cuts threaten another $1 billion or more in the next year. Those pressures may far outstrip the savings he expects to reap from his proposal, according to private and government analysts familiar with the agency known as NYC Health + Hospitals. “It may show a positive cash flow compared with last year, but it certainly doesn’t have surplus,” said Stephen Berger, a private-equity investor who supervised New York’s budget during its 1970s fiscal crisis and in 2006 led a state health care commission. “Its underused hospitals should be shut down, but that’s not going to happen. Whether it can achieve financial stability remains to be seen.” De Blasio and other administration officials have declined to discuss the hospital system’s finances ahead of his fiscal 2020 budget proposal next month. Since 2013, when de Blasio took office, the city’s total funding for the hospital system has grown to about $2.1 billion from $1.3 billion, and is projected to reach $2.2 billion by 2020. Its finances could also be worsened by an economic downturn reducing New York’s tax revenue, said Charles Brecher, research director at the Citizens Budget Commission, a business-supported fiscal watchdog. “Society has a stake in this not just because we are humane, but because this safety net is crucial to our public health,” he said. Read more.

Miss ABI's Health Care Distress program? Watch the addresses by former White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Vermont Governor and DNC Chair Howard Dean covered on C-SPAN:

- McGahn

- Dean

Canadian Supreme Court: Bankrupt Oil Firms Must Clean Up Inactive Wells

Canada’s Supreme Court ruled today that bankrupt oil companies must clean up inactive wells, overturning lower court decisions that prioritized paying creditors and potentially raising the risks of investment in the industry, Reuters reported. The 5-2 ruling means that the Alberta Energy Regulator, which had appealed the earlier court decisions, can order the cleanup of inactive wells even when their owners have filed for bankruptcy protection. “Bankruptcy is not a license to ignore rules,” the court said in a written decision. Alberta had 3,127 wells requiring cleanup that had no financially responsible owner — sites that are called orphan wells — as of late January, according to the Orphan Well Association, which is funded by levies paid by Canadian oil producers. The ruling reduces the cleanup burden on the association, which is overseen by the regulator, but may raise the perceived risk of investing in the Canadian oil industry. 

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New on ABI’s Bankruptcy Blog Exchange: Can AI Help Banks Thwart Elder Abuse?

Banks use anti-money-laundering-and-fraud systems to try to catch scams that prey on senior citizens. A few, including Wells Fargo, are working on artificial intelligence that could spot them even earlier, according to a recent blog post.

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