[COVID-19] California Finance Lenders: How to Remain in Compliance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 30, 2020 by Olivia Durnell, Esq.

We understand that during this uniquely challenging time, California Lenders are focused on ways to keep their businesses afloat despite fluctuations in the market.

This may lead to changes in location, control persons, directors, trustees, members, managers, branch managers, or qualifying individuals. It is important to know that any of these changes will require an amendment to your California Finance Lender’s license or branch office license.

Any changes to control persons, directors, trustees, members, managers, branch managers, or qualifying individuals must be disclosed to the Department of Business (DBO) within thirty days of the change. If your business decides to relocate, any change in address must be reported to the DBO ten days prior to the move. If lending activities are now taking place at locations not listed on the application for licensure, branch office applications must be submitted. Failing to disclose any of these changes with the required time period could lead to fines and a loss of licensure.  

On March 22, 2020, the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency released guidelines for California Lenders operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. These guidelines stated that, during the California state of emergency, Lenders and their employees may work from home without obtaining a branch license, but this is subject to strict requirements. These requirements include: not keeping physical business records at home, not meeting with customers at home, creating procedures to supervise employees, ensuring all computers and devices are encrypted and access to the licensee’s network is done via a virtual private network (VPN) that is encrypted, and the licensee and employee taking all other necessary measures to protect consumer data privacy.

The Agency also made some recommendations to licensees. The Commissioner recommended that Lenders offer payment accommodations and ease terms for new loans to affected borrowers. The Department of Business Oversight has indicated that it will not subject modifications of the terms of any existing loans to scrutiny if it is prudently done in order to mitigate losses caused by the pandemic. The Commissioner also recommended that all licensees comply with shelter in place orders and report to the Department any disruption of services provided to consumers.

As you continue to operate your lending businesses during these challenging times, please be sure to keep this guidance in mind. If you are considering making any of the above changes which require disclosure or you need advice on how to comply with the new guidance released by the department, please feel free to reach out to Geraci LLP and we would be happy to work with you on this issue.

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