Federal Government Wants Your Thoughts About Online Lending

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The Treasury Department Wants Your InputWhether you’re a funder, lender, broker, or platform, the U.S. Treasury Department deserves to hear your input.

Only July 16th, the Treasury announced that it was seeking public comment on various business models and products offered by online marketplace lenders to small businesses and consumers. One stated purpose of this is to study “how the financial regulatory framework should evolve to support the safe growth of the industry.”

The comment period is only open for six weeks.

Over the last year, many funders and brokers have voiced their opinions on best practices, ethics, and standards. Some want regulation to curb what they believe to be immoral behavior and others just want clarity where the laws are obscure, illogical, or even in conflict with themselves.

In at least one recent case, a merchant cash advance company CEO wrote about the complexity of dealing with an endless amount of state laws. In Lift the Fog, Give us Regulation, Merchant Cash and Capital CEO Stephen Sheinbaum wrote, “It is also better, at least for the financial services industry, if the central government is the one to craft the regulation instead of getting one rule from each of the 50 state governments.”

Meanwhile the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will eventually start to enforce the amendments to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which technically already became the law under Section 1071 of the Dodd Frank Act. As part of that, underwriters of business loans and merchant cash advance alike may no longer be allowed to meet applicants, speak with them on the phone, examine their driver’s licenses, review their social media profiles, or even ask what their business model is or how they market themselves.

One has to look at any opportunity afforded by a government agency to share input before future regulations are implemented then as a duty. It might not matter, but you should do it anyway, just like voting.

Below are the questions, the Treasury wants you to answer (or Click to view on Treasury.gov):

1. There are many different models for online marketplace lending including platform lenders (also referred to as “peer-to-peer”), balance sheet lenders, and bank-affiliated lenders. In what ways should policymakers be thinking about market segmentation; and in what ways do different models raise different policy or regulatory concerns?

2. What role are electronic data sources playing in enabling marketplace lending? For instance, how do they affect traditionally manual processes or evaluation of identity, fraud, and credit risk for lenders? Are there new opportunities or risks arising from these data-based processes relative to those used in traditional lending?

3. How are online marketplace lenders designing their business models and products for different borrower segments, such as:
• Small business and consumer borrowers;
• Subprime borrowers;
• Borrowers who are “unscoreable” or have no or thin files;

Depending on borrower needs (e.g., new small businesses, mature small businesses, consumers seeking to consolidate existing debt, consumers seeking to take out new credit) and other segmentations?

4. Is marketplace lending expanding access to credit to historically underserved market segments?

5. Describe the customer acquisition process for online marketplace lenders. What kinds of marketing channels are used to reach new customers? What kinds of partnerships do online marketplace lenders have with traditional financial institutions, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), or other types of businesses to reach new customers?

6. How are borrowers assessed for their creditworthiness and repayment ability? How accurate are these models in predicting credit risk? How does the assessment of small 10 business borrowers differ from consumer borrowers? Does the borrower’s stated use of proceeds affect underwriting for the loan?

7. Describe whether and how marketplace lending relies on services or relationships provided by traditional lending institutions or insured depository institutions. What steps have been taken toward regulatory compliance with the new lending model by the various industry participants throughout the lending process? What issues are raised with online marketplace lending across state lines?

8. Describe how marketplace lenders manage operational practices such as loan servicing, fraud detection, credit reporting, and collections. How are these practices handled differently than by traditional lending institutions? What, if anything, do marketplace lenders outsource to third party service providers? Are there provisions for back-up services?

9. What roles, if any, can the federal government play to facilitate positive innovation in lending, such as making it easier for borrowers to share their own government-held data with lenders? What are the competitive advantages and, if any, disadvantages for nonbanks and banks to participate in and grow in this market segment? How can policymakers address any disadvantages for each? How might changes in the credit environment affect online marketplace lenders?

10. Under the different models of marketplace lending, to what extent, if any, should platform or “peer-to-peer” lenders be required to have “skin in the game” for the loans they originate or underwrite in order to align interests with investors who have acquired debt of the marketplace lenders through the platforms? Under the different models, is there pooling of loans that raise issues of alignment with investors in the lenders’ debt obligations? How would the concept of risk retention apply in a non securitization context for the different entities in the distribution chain, including those in which there is no pooling of loans? Should this concept of “risk retention” be the same for other types of syndicated or participated loans?

11. Marketplace lending potentially offers significant benefits and value to borrowers, but what harms might online marketplace lending also present to consumers and small businesses? What privacy considerations, cybersecurity threats, consumer protection concerns, and other related risks might arise out of online marketplace lending? Do existing statutory and regulatory regimes adequately address these issues in the context of online marketplace lending?

12. What factors do investors consider when: (i) investing in notes funding loans being made through online marketplace lenders, (ii) doing business with particular entities, or (iii) determining the characteristics of the notes investors are willing to purchase? What are the operational arrangements? What are the various methods through which investors may finance online platform assets, including purchase of securities, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of using them? Who are the end investors? How prevalent is the use of financial leverage for investors? How is leverage typically obtained and deployed?

13. What is the current availability of secondary liquidity for loan assets originated in this manner? What are the advantages and disadvantages of an active secondary market? Describe the efforts to develop such a market, including any hurdles (regulatory or otherwise). Is this market likely to grow and what advantages and disadvantages might a larger securitization market, including derivatives and benchmarks, present?

14. What are other key trends and issues that policymakers should be monitoring as this market continues to develop?

The Treasury asks that you include your name, company name, address, job title, email address, and phone #. You can submit your responses on http://www.regulations.gov/. Just click on the tab that says “Are you new to the site?”

You can also submit by mail:
To: Laura Temel,
Attention: Marketplace Lending RFI,
U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500
Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Room 1325
Washington, DC 20220

If you have questions, email marketplace_lending@treasury.gov or call 202-622-1083.

Last modified: July 19, 2015
Sean Murray

Category: Business Lending, p2p lending

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