By Jon Hill – Law360
Law360 (February 12, 2021, 9:42 PM EST) — Synchrony Financial is telling investors that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has backed down from a potential enforcement action against the company after the agency investigated its promotional credit offers.
In a Thursday regulatory filing, Synchrony said it received official word from the CFPB last month that the agency’s enforcement office “currently does not intend to recommend” pursuing a case related to the company’s marketing and servicing of deferred-interest promotions.
The disclosure comes after Synchrony, which is one of the nation’s top private-label credit card issuers, said last fall that the CFPB had advised it was mulling “legal action” on the matter, which the agency had begun investigating in 2017 toward the end of its first Director Richard Cordray’s tenure.
Under Cordray, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, the CFPB told credit card companies more than once that it had concerns about how promotional interest rate offers were being pitched to consumers, stressing a need for transparent disclosures to minimize the risk of surprise charges.
Asked Friday for further details about the nature of the Synchrony investigation and the enforcement office’s decision, a CFPB spokesperson did not immediately respond. A Synchrony spokesperson also did not immediately return a request for comment.
In its Thursday filing, the Connecticut-based Synchrony said that it was notified of CFPB enforcement’s decision on Jan. 15, just days before the agency’s former Director Kathleen Kraninger, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, resigned at the request of the incoming Biden administration.
President Joe Biden has announced Federal Trade Commission member Rohit Chopra as his nominee to succeed Kraninger on a permanent basis and has tapped Dave Uejio, formerly chief strategy officer at the CFPB, to lead the agency in the interim.
CFPB enforcement previously declined to go after Synchrony in 2018 following a multi-year investigation into the company’s credit reporting practices around sold-off accounts. The agency was led at the time by acting Director Mick Mulvaney, another Trump official.
But Synchrony hasn’t always been spared. In 2014, Synchrony agreed to pay nearly $230 million in penalties and consumer relief to settle coordinated actions brought by the CFPB and U.S. Department of Justice over alleged deceptive add-on marketing and discriminatory credit practices from its time as GE Capital, a former banking arm of General Electric.