Federal Court Approves Lender Settlement Of TILA, UDAP Claims Based On HELOC Reductions


On March 15, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California approved a lender’s settlement with a class of borrowers who claimed that the bank suspended or reduced borrower home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) in violation of the Truth in Lending Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law. In Re Citibank HELOC Reduction Litig., No. 09-350 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 31, 2012). The borrowers claimed that the bank improperly utilized computerized automated valuation models (AVMs) as the basis for suspending or decreasing customer HELOCs because of the decline in the value of the underlying property. The complaint also charged that customers were injured because (i) the annual fee to maintain the HELOC was not adjusted to account for the decreased limit, and (ii) the borrowers’ credit ratings were damaged as a result of the reduced credit limit. The named plaintiff also alleged injury because he was forced to obtain a replacement home equity line, which resulted in payment of an early termination fee on the old HELOC and additional costs related to the new HELOC. Under the agreement, class members will have a right to request reinstatement of their HELOC accounts, the bank will expand the information contained in credit-line reduction notices based on collateral deterioration, and customers who incurred an early closure release fee when closing the account subsequent to the suspension or reduction may make a claim for the cash payment of $120. The court reduced the incentive payments owed to the six named plaintiffs by $1,000 each, but approved the proposed $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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