Compliance Blog

Consumer Lending Aug 29, 2016

U.S. Department of Defense Issues Interpretive Guidance on MLA – Share Secured Loans and Statutory Liens Revisited

Written by Benjamin M. Litchfield, Regulatory Compliance Counsel

Greetings to all of you out there in regulatory compliance land. Last Monday, Brandy blogged about issues surrounding offering share secured loans to covered borrowers and the ability of credit unions to enforce statutory liens on funds held on deposit to satisfy the obligations of active duty members of the Armed Forces and their dependents. Brandy highlighted that Section 232.8(e) of the Military Lending Act Rule (MLA Rule) contains some problematic language that, if interpreted broadly, could prohibit credit unions from exercising statutory liens and create workability issues for share secured products.

On August 26, 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a rule interpreting some provisions of the MLA Rule. Among other issues addressed in the interpretive rule, the Department clarifies that the prohibition in Section 232.8(e) neither prohibits credit unions from exercising statutory lien rights nor prohibits share secured loans. Instead, the guidance indicates that despite its broad language, Section 232.8(e) is intended to prevent creditors from creating remotely created checks or remotely created payment orders in order to collect payments from a covered borrower. This interpretation harmonizes this section of the regulation with the text of the Military Lending Act itself which merely prohibits creditors from using a check or other method of access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account maintained by the borrower, or the title of a vehicle as security for the obligation. 10 U.S.C. 987(e)(5).

The interpretive rule is presented in question and answer format with questions 16, 17, and 18 addressing various ambiguities in Section 232.8(e):

16.  Does the limitation in 232.8(e) on a creditor using a check or other method of access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account maintained by the covered borrower prohibit the borrower from repaying a credit transaction by check or electronic fund transfer?

Answer:  No. As a general proposition the prohibition of a creditor's use of a check or other method of access in 232.8(e) does not in any way imply that a creditor cannot be paid. In no case does paragraph (e) prevent covered borrowers from tendering a check or authorizing access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account to repay a creditor. Section 232.8(e) also does not prohibit a covered borrower from authorizing automatically recurring payments, provided that such recurring payments comply with other laws, such as the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and its implementing regulations, including 12 CFR 1005.10, as applicable.

In contrast, 232.8(e) prohibits a creditor from using the borrower's account information to create a remotely created check or remotely created payment order in order to collect payments on consumer credit from a covered borrower. Similarly, a creditor may not use a post-dated check provided at or around the time credit is extended that deprives the borrower of control over payment decisions, as is common in certain payday lending transactions.

Section 232.8(e)(1) and (2) further clarify that covered borrowers may tender checks and authorize electronic fund transfers by specifying permissible actions creditors may take to secure repayment by covered borrowers. The exceptions address cases where a creditor requires a covered borrower to provide repayment in a certain way. Specifically, under 232.8(e)(1), a creditor may require an electronic fund transfer to repay a consumer credit transaction, unless otherwise prohibited by law. The Department notes that 12 CFR 1005.10(e)(1) prohibits anyone from conditioning an extension of credit to a consumer on the consumer's repayment by preauthorized electronic fund transfers (except for credit extended under an overdraft credit plan or extended to maintain a specified minimum balance in the consumer's account). However, a preauthorized electronic fund transfer is defined under 12 CFR 1005.2(k) as an electronic fund transfer authorized in advance to recur at substantially regular intervals.

In addition, 232.8(e)(2) clarifies that a creditor is permitted to require direct deposit of the consumer's salary as a condition of eligibility for consumer credit, unless otherwise prohibited by law. While 232.8(g) prohibits a creditor from requiring as a condition for the extension of consumer credit that the covered borrower establish an allotment to repay an obligation, the regulation does not apply this restriction to a military welfare society or a service relief society as defined in 37 U.S.C. 1007(h)(4).

17.  Does the limitation in 232.8(e) on a creditor using a check or other method of access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account maintained by the covered borrower prohibit the borrower from granting a security interest to a creditor in the covered borrower's checking, savings or other financial account?

AnswerNo. The prohibition in 232.8(e) does not prohibit covered borrowers from granting a security interest to a creditor in the covered borrower's checking, savings, or other financial account, provided that it is not otherwise prohibited by applicable law and the creditor complies with the MLA regulation including the limitation on the MAPR to 36 percent. As discussed in Question and Answer #16 of these Interpretations, 232.8(e) prohibits a creditor from using the borrower's account information to create a remotely created check or remotely created payment order in order to collect payments on consumer credit from a covered borrower or using a post-dated check provided at or around the time credit is extended.

Section 232.8(e)(3) further clarifies that covered borrowers may convey security interests in checking, savings, or other financial accounts by describing a permissible security interest granted by covered borrowers. Thus, for example, a covered borrower may grant a security interest in funds deposited in a checking, savings, or other financial account after the extension of credit in an account established in connection with the consumer credit transaction.

18.  Does the limitation in 232.8(e) on a creditor using a check or other method of access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account maintained by the covered borrower prohibit a creditor from exercising a statutory right to take a security interest in funds deposited within a covered borrower's account?

Answer: No. Under certain circumstances federal or state statutes may grant creditors statutory liens on funds deposited within covered borrowers' asset accounts. For example, under 12 U.S.C. 1757(11) federal credit unions may enforce a lien upon the shares and dividends of any member, to the extent of any loan made to him and any dues or charges payable by him. As discussed in Question and Answer #16 of these Interpretations, 232.8(e) serves to prohibit a creditor from using the borrower's account information to create a remotely created check or remotely created payment order in order to collect payments on consumer credit from a covered borrower or using a post-dated check provided at or around the time credit is extended. Section 232.8(e)(3) describes a permissible activity under 232.8(e). However, the fact that 232.8(e)(3) specifies a particular time when a creditor may take a security interest in funds deposited in an account does not change the general effect of the prohibition in 232.8(e). Therefore, 232.8(e) does not impede a creditor from exercising a statutory right to take a security interest in funds deposited in an account at any time, provided that the security interest is not otherwise prohibited by applicable law and the creditor complies with the MLA regulation, including the limitation on the MAPR to 36 percent.

81 Fed. Reg. 58840, 58844-5 (Aug. 26, 2016) (emphasis added). Taken together, questions 16, 17, and 18 clarify that Section 232.8(e) largely addresses the use of a check or remotely created payment order as security for a covered loan rather than prohibiting share secured products or the exercise of a statutory lien. Furthermore, instead of only permitting share secured products secured by funds deposited after the extension of credit into an account established in connection with the covered loan, the guidance seems to indicate that Section 232.8(e)(3) merely provides an example of one type of permitted security interest rather than specifying a time when a credit union may take a security interest in funds held on deposit by the covered borrower.

NAFCU's Regulatory Compliance Team is continuing to review the guidance to understand its full impact on credit unions and will make necessary updates to our Military Lending Act Guide in the coming weeks. Currently available resources can be found here at our MLA Compliance landing page.

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