The April 2021 DFPI Bulletin focuses on COVID-19 relief, PACE solicitor sanctions and financial education grants.

Editor’s note — The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI, formerly the Department of Business Oversight), supervises, licenses and regulates a variety of financial institutions, including some real estate mortgage loan originators (MLOs) holding a Nationwide Multistate (or Mortgage) Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) license. Alongside the California Department of Real Estate (DRE), the DFPI shares the responsibility for overseeing MLOs depending on their license use.

Licensees, stay in the know on April 2021’s MLO news and events below.

Consumer, Homeowner and Renter Relief during COVID-19

Under the new California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL), the DFPI has begun collecting data on and enthusiastically regulating the larger groups of financial services that now fall under their umbrella of authority. These range from credit repair and credit reporting agencies to debt collection and debt relief agencies.

Thus, the DFPI has recently sanctioned an unlawful solicitor of the troubled Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, as well as issuing cease-and-desist order against a debt relief operation. In line with this, the DFPI has increased measures to monitor and discover scams as they emerge, such as:

  • stepping up response to growing consumer inquiries and complaints;
  • ensuring compliance with both state and federal laws to protect homeowners from foreclosure; and
  • making resources available and known to struggling consumers.

This is only the latest of the department’s regulatory flexing. Other notable campaigns resulted in annual, regulatory examinations for DFPI servicers now containing questions on COVID-19 compliance on both federal and state laws, such as the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act (Assembly Bill 3088) and extensions to the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights. Also, at a time when consumers are in a dire need of credit availability, the DFPI has launched an investigation into lender attempts to evade the state’s new, tightened interest rate caps.

The DFPI reports a 40% increase in consumer calls, complaints and inquiries since the onset of COVID-19, especially concerning mortgages, personal loans, questionable investments and potentially fraudulent schemes. Among those fraudulent schemes, some involve federal stimulus payments and fake default notices, of which the DFPI has posted and circulated consumer alert warnings.

Former PACE solicitor sanctioned

James Jacob Berry and any company he owns or controls were barred by the DFPI from future PACE solicitor or PACE solicitor’s agent enrollment after he and his companies were found guilty of misleading consumers by marketing their product as a “no-cost” government-funded program. By using an unenrolled company to advertise and solicit customers for PACE financing, Berry and his companies further evaded PACE laws.

These companies were previously outside of DFPI regulatory oversight until the recent passing of the CCFPL. The DFPI further ordered Berry and his companies to discontinue offering PACE financing and the use of “PACE” in their business, websites, marketing materials and communications.

This action is a single point in a string of solicitor transgressions that has plagued the PACE program since its inception. Some local governments have opted to cut the program entirely.

Related article:

PACE changes attempt to salvage energy program

Second round of DFPI Grants

The DFPI began a second round of applications for the CalMoneySmart grants that support financial empowerment and education programs for unbanked California consumers. The grants of up to $100,000 ($1 million per year) to nonprofit organizations that help provide lower-cost financial services, establish and improve credit, increase savings or reduce debt for unbanked California consumers.

Additional information on the grant program can be found on the DFPI website or CalMoneySmart’s Facebook page.

Questions, comments may be submitted at

Public Comment Period for Proposed Financial Regulations

The DFPI proposed revisions to Senate Bill (SB) 1235 and seeks public comment on the changes by April 26, 2021. SB 1235 requires clearer and more consistent disclosures to small business owners by lenders and other commercial financing companies.

Questions or comments may be emailed to

That’s a wrap on April’s DFPI Bulletin. Find out more about the topics mentioned here by reading the full bulletin on the DFPI website.