The issue presented in this case is whether an assignment of certain unearned insurance premiums created a "security interest" that should have been disclosed pursuant to the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 82 Stat. 146, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 1601 et seq.
In September 1977, respondents purchased an automobile from petitioner Anderson Bros. Ford. They signed the dealer's standard automobile retail installment contract. This contract was assigned for value to petitioner Ford Motor Credit Co. A provision on the face of the contract disclosed that the seller retained a security interest in the automobile.
In October 1977, before making any payments on the installment contract or on the insurance policy, respondents returned the automobile to Anderson Bros. Ford. They subsequently brought this action in federal court,
This disclosure requirement is essentially repeated in § 226.8 (b) (5) of Regulation Z, a Federal Reserve Board regulation promulgated pursuant to the Board's authority under § 105 of the TILA.
Respondents sought statutory damages, attorney's fees, and costs.
The Court of Appeals concluded that the assignment of unearned insurance premiums created an "interest in property which secure[d] payment or performance of an obligation" within the meaning of Regulation Z, and thus created a "security interest" that must be disclosed under § 128 (a) (10). The Court of Appeals accordingly affirmed the judgment below.
Although the Court of Appeals' construction of the Act and of Regulation Z is shared by three of the four other Courts of Appeals that have ruled on the question,
Second, in September 1980, the Board, the agency that issued Regulation Z, published for comment Official Staff Interpretation FC-0173, regarding security interest disclosures in closed-end consumer credit transactions. 45 Fed. Reg. 63295. Although the staff recognized that several courts held a contrary view, its clearly expressed position was that neither § 226.2 (gg) nor § 226.8 (b) (5) requires a creditor to disclose as a security interest its right to receive insurance proceeds or unearned premiums from a property insurance policy:
This construction of Regulation Z, the staff concluded, "better serves the purpose of the statute and the regulation to convey in a meaningful way information that can be used by consumers in shopping for credit." Ibid.
We are aware that after we granted certiorari in this case, the Board deferred final action on FC-0173; but we cannot agree that the staff's views expressed in the proposed ruling are wholly without significance. The comment period on the proposed interpretation expired on October 24, 1980, the proposal has not been withdrawn or revised, and it appears from the Board's public statement that final action was deferred only because it was "inappropriate" to do otherwise in the light of our intervening grant of certiorari. Id., at 84074.
We need not, however, rest on FC-0173 for the Board's construction of the statute or of Regulation Z with respect to the scope of the security interest disclosure requirement. On March 31, 1980, the President approved the Truth in Lending Simplification and Reform Act (1980 Act) as Title VI of the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980. 94 Stat. 168. The 1980 Act, which will be fully effective on April 1, 1982, will amend the TILA in many respects but will leave substantial portions of the TILA unchanged. It will amend § 128 (a) (10) of the TILA to require a creditor to make the following disclosure with respect to any "security interest" acquired by the creditor in a closedend consumer credit transaction:
The 1980 Act provides that all implementing regulations must be promulgated at least one year prior to the effective date of the Act and that any creditor may comply with the revised regulations prior to the effective date of the Act. § 625, 94 Stat. 185-186. The Board accordingly revised Regulation Z, effective April 1, 1981, but with compliance being optional until April 1, 1982. 46 Fed. Reg. 20848 (1981). Section 226.18 (m) of revised Regulation Z requires the creditor to disclose in connection with closed-end consumer credit transactions.
Section 226.2 (a) (25) defines the term "security interest" as follows:
Although the new regulation changes the Board's prior definition of a "security interest" in some respects,
Under the TILA and the 1980 Act, the Board is authorized to prescribe regulations, which "may contain such classifications, differentiations, or other provisions, and may provide for such adjustments and exceptions for any class of transactions, as in the judgment of the Board are necessary or proper" to carry out the purposes of the statute.
Furthermore, on the floor of the Senate a member of the responsible Committee observed:
With one exception, not pertinent here, the Committee Chairman, Senator Proxmire, who was the sponsor of the TILA, agreed with these remarks. Id., at 9159, 9972. In light of these indications from the 1980 Act's history, it is unlikely that the courts would invalidate as contrary to the 1980 Act or the TILA either the security interest disclosure provisions with respect to unearned insurance premiums in revised Regulation Z or the interpretation of the unrevised regulation contained in FC-0173.
Of course, neither the legislative history of the 1980 Act nor the Board's construction of the term "security interest" under either the TILA or the 1980 Act conclusively establishes the meaning of these words in the TILA. But as we so plainly recognized in Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Milhollin, 444 U.S. 555 (1980), absent some obvious repugnance to the statute, the Board's regulation implementing this legislation should be accepted by the courts, as should the Board's interpretation of its own regulation. We discern no such repugnance with any provision in the TILA.
The purpose of the TILA is to promote the "informed use of credit" by consumers. 15 U. S. C. § 1601. See Ford
The TILA was enacted in May 1968. As originally drafted, the House and Senate truth-in-lending bills focused primarily on the cost of credit.
This provision became § 128 (a) (10) of the TILA.
Unaided by an administrative construction of the TILA and Regulation Z, a court could easily conclude, based on the language of the statute and of Regulation Z, that the interest in unearned insurance premiums acquired by the creditor in this case should be characterized as a "security interest" that must be disclosed. But, in light of the proposed official staff interpretation of Regulation Z, the revised regulation defining a "security interest," and the Board's commentary on the difference between an "incidental interest" in unearned insurance premiums and a "security interest," it is evident that the Board does not consider the creditor's interest in unearned insurance premiums in a transaction such as this one to be a "security interest" that must be disclosed under the TILA. The Board's position is supported by the legislative history of both the TILA and the 1980 Act, and we hold that it is a permissible interpretation of the term "security interest" as used in the TILA.
Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
JUSTICE STEWART, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE BRENNAN, and JUSTICE MARSHALL join, dissenting.
The Court correctly states that the respondents in this case maintain "that the plain language of the statute and the
In my opinion, the statutory language at issue here unequivocally supports the decision of the Court of Appeals, and should itself dispose of this case. See United States v. Wiltberger, 5 Wheat. 76, 95-96 (Marshall, C. J.). But even were the Court justified in leaping over the language of Congress in search of a conflicting indication of congressional intent, the secondary authority on which the Court relies does not withstand examination. As a result, the Court does damage to settled principles of administrative law and statutory construction—damage that could extend to issues of far greater moment than the very narrow question under the Truth in Lending Act at issue here.
The word "any" can only mean exactly what it says, and so the sole question is whether the credit company's right to the consumer's unearned insurance premium is a "security interest." The credit contract requires the consumer to buy physical damage insurance "protecting the interests of Buyer and Seller," and grants to the seller any unearned insurance premiums, to be "applied toward replacement of the Property or payment of the indebtedness hereunder in the sole discretion of Seller." If unaided common sense cannot identify the seller's rights under this clause as a "security interest," the language of the applicable Federal Reserve Board definition of "security interest" under the TILA quickly and unmistakably does so:
Ford's assignment clause clearly meets the Federal Reserve Board definition. First, the assignment clause plainly creates an interest in property. In this case, the annual premium for physical damage insurance was $215, and in other instances it could be considerably higher. The amount of the unearned insurance premium acquired by the creditor will depend on the timing of the cancellation which triggers the creditor's rights under the assignment clause. But except in the rare case in which the repossession of the car precisely coincides with the end of the insurance term, the creditor will be able to recover a refund of some sort, and since repossession might occur right after a new term of insurance begins, the contract essentially represents an interest equal to the value of the premium itself.
Second, the assignment clause clearly "secure[s] payment or performance of an obligation." The contract expressly
Virtually ignoring the Federal Reserve Board definition of "security interest" in § 226.2 (gg) of Regulation Z—the applicable administrative pronouncement which effectively settles the issue in favor of the respondents—the Court relies instead on an unofficial staff interpretation which, by its own
The Board went on to tell creditors in a November 1980 mailing that "[t]his proposed interpretation may not be relied upon until final action is taken." As the Court correctly notes, the Board has never taken any final action. On December 16, 1980, it deferred further consideration indefinitely.
To compound the error, the Court goes on to examine the legislative history of the 1980 Simplification Act. There is no suggestion that the new statute applies retroactively, and there could not be. Rather, the Court states that the legislative history of the 1980 Act "fully supports the Board's revised regulation . . . and its proposed interpretation of the unrevised regulation." Ante, at 218 (emphasis added). Since the new regulation, issued to implement a new nonretroactive statute, cannot apply to the case at hand, I cannot understand how it is at all relevant in this case that the new regulation is consistent with the new statute.
The legislative history of the 1980 Act cited by the Court, ante, at 218-219, proves the perfectly reasonable—and irrelevant— proposition that the new Regulation Z properly construes the intent of the 1980 Act in excluding liens on unearned insurance premiums as security interests. But nothing in the Report of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs suggests any intent to construe the old law applicable to this case. "If the legislative history. . . indicates anything, it is that Congress thought that it was changing the law by changing the language of the Act." United States v. Plesha, 352 U.S. 202, 208. Doubtless Congress thought the TILA deficient, but that is why it wrote a new law.
The Court also cites a statement by Senator Garn purportedly attributing to the TILA a meaning contrary to its
The Court believes that requiring disclosure of an assignment of unearned insurance premiums on the face of the credit contract would be a gratuitous "informational overload" of no significant benefit to the consumer. Ante, at 223. But when the statute and regulation governing the transaction speak unambiguously to the contrary, any independent judgment about the psychology and economics of consumer credit is not for the Court to make.
I respectfully dissent.
"Security Interest: Seller shall have a security interest under the Uniform Commercial Code in the Property (described above) and in the proceeds thereof to secure the payment in cash of the Total of Payments and all other amounts due or to become due hereunder."
The "Property" was defined as the automobile.
"Each creditor shall disclose clearly and conspicuously, in accordance with the regulations of the Board, to each person to whom consumer credit is extended, the information required under this part or part D of this subchapter." 15 U. S. C. § 1631 (a).
However, the applicable Federal Reserve Board regulations provide:
"All of the [required] disclosures shall be made together on either:
"(1) The note or other instrument evidencing the obligation on the same side of the page and above the place for the customer's signature; or
"(2) One side of a separate statement which identifies the transaction." 12 CFR § 226.8 (a) (1980).
See also 12 CFR § 226.8 (b) (5) (1980). Petitioners do not challenge the validity or applicability of this regulation.
"The Board shall prescribe regulations to carry out the purposes of this subchapter. These regulations may contain such classifications, differentiations, or other provisions, and may provide for such adjustments and exceptions for any class of transactions, as in the judgment of the Board are necessary or proper to effectuate the purposes of this subchapter, to prevent circumvention or evasion thereof, or to facilitate compliance therewith."
Judge Cudahy stated in his concurring opinion:
"I do not read [the opinion for the panel] as seriously suggesting that the result we reach furthers the underlying purposes of the Truth in Lending Act. Among these meritorious purposes are the disclosure to buyers of the costs of credit and the alerting of customers to the possibility that their property may be reached to satisfy the obligation which they have incurred.
"Here we require the prominent disclosure of a rather esoteric right to unearned premiums for physical damage insurance (protecting both the seller's and the buyer's interest in the property), which may be used to provide replacement insurance coverage or applied against the buyer's debt in the event of cancellation of the insurance. This `security interest' is normal in the circumstances but is entirely incidental to the principal consumer credit transaction. . . .
"To disclose this `security interest' on the face of the contract (which is the point here) is merely to add virtually inconsequential information— lengthening, complicating and trivializing the disclosure for no apparent benefit." 617 F. 2d, at 1293.
The Board's analysis demonstrates that the staff's proposed official interpretation of Regulation Z does not conflict with FRB Public Information Letter No. 377, cited by respondents. FRB Public Information Letter No. 377 is an informal staff interpretation of Regulation Z that was issued in 1970. The interpretation was requested by a loan company whose customers purchased single premium lifetime accidental death and dismemberment policies with the proceeds of their loans. The loan company was designated as the owner of the policy and retained the right to cancel the policy and apply any premium refund to the unpaid balance of the loan if the customer defaulted on the loan. The staff responded: "Under the circumstances, we think it would be appropriate to disclose the loan company's ownership of the policy as a type of `security interest'. . . ." CCH [1969-1974 Transfer Binder] Cons. Cred. Guide ¶ 30,555. Petitioners contend that the loan company's interest in the policy differs from petitioners' interest in the unearned insurance premiums in this case. The loan company's interest "was not merely incidental or subordinate to some far more significant interest securing payment of the loan." Reply Brief for Petitioners 9, n. 12. We agree with petitioners that the situation described in the letter is distinguishable from this case.
One other informal staff interpretation of Regulation Z referred to disclosure of unearned insurance premiums. In FRB Public Information Letter No. 1263, the staff responded to an inquiry regarding how an interest in unearned insurance premiums should be identified. The letter pointed out that "a more fundamental matter [is] whether a security interest exists at all" and then suggested that the creditor determine whether as a matter of state law he had acquired an interest in property securing payment of the debt. CCH [1974-1977 Transfer Binder] Cons. Cred. Guide ¶ 31,736. "[A]ssuming this is a security interest for purposes of Regulation Z, the determination of what type of security interest it is should be made in accordance with State law." Ibid. This informal interpretation did not resolve whether disclosure of a creditor's interest in unearned insurance premiums is required under the TILA. Although this letter focused on state law, revised Regulation Z defines a "security interest" as an "interest in property that secures performance of a consumer credit obligation and that is recognized by state or federal law." 46 Fed. Reg. 20894 (1981).
In its commentary accompanying the revised regulations, 46 Fed. Reg. 20853 (1981), the Board noted that its definition of "security interest" was considerably narrower than § 226.2 (gg) of the unrevised regulation, in that it excluded a number of interests that would have been considered security interests under the unrevised regulation. Some of these interests were identified. The Board went on to observe that "there is a difference between an incidental interest and an interest that is the essence of the transaction." Ibid. Only the latter must be disclosed as a "security interest." We do not understand the Board's commentary to indicate in any way that the revised regulation altered the meaning of Regulation Z with respect to whether a creditor must disclose an interest in unearned insurance premiums in a transaction such as is involved in this case.
"Congressman CAHILL, of New Jersey, has offered an important amendment to the truth-in-lending bill which tightens up on the second mortgage racket. First, it would require a 3-day waiting period before a second mortgage transaction can be completed. Second, it would require a disclosure of the fact that credit is being secured by a mortgage on the homeowner's property. Third, the amendment increases the legal rights of consumers with respect to those who purchase mortgages from the original home improvement contractor." 114 Cong. Rec. 5024 (1968).
In presenting the Conference Report on the TILA to the House, Representative Sullivan explained that the House conferees had succeeded in retaining the protections created by the Cahill amendments. She described those amendments as "a series of amendments in the House, to strike at home improvement racketeers who trick homeowners, particularly the poor, into signing contracts at exorbitant rates, which turn out to be liens on the family residences. Any credit transaction which involves a security interest in property must be clearly explained to the consumer as involving a mortgage or lien; any such transaction involving the consumer's residence—other than in a purchase-money first mortgage for the acquisition of the home—carries a 3-day cancellation right." Id., at 14388.
Similarly, Senator Proxmire, presenting the Conference Report on the truth-in-lending bill to the Senate, described the Cahill amendments as providing "additional safeguards in the second mortgage area" and explained that the security interest disclosure provisions would require creditors to "describe any security interest in real property—such as a second mortgage—arising from the credit transaction." Id., at 14488.
"Meaningful disclosure does not mean more disclosure. Rather, it describes a balance between `competing considerations of complete disclosure . . . and the need to avoid . . . [informational overload].'" Id., at 568, quoting S. Rep. No. 96-73, p. 3 (1979) (accompanying the 1980 Act).
"[a] description or identification of the type of any security interest held or to be retained or acquired by the creditor in connection with the extension of credit, and a clear identification of the property to which the security interest relates. . . ." 12 CFR § 226.8 (b) (5) (1980) (emphasis added).
The Court quotes, apparently with approval, the concurring opinion of Judge Cudahy of the Court of Appeals in this case, which laments that disclosure of the "virtually inconsequential information" about the assignment of the insurance premiums trivializes the disclosure "for no apparent benefit." Ante, at 211, n. 8. Even were Judge Cudahy right about the value of the disclosure at issue here, he, unlike today's Court, did not allow his own appraisal of the question to obscure unequivocal statutory language.
Moreover, in Milhollin, the Court inferred a congressional preference for resolving interpretive issues by "uniform administrative decision." Id., at 568 (emphasis added). But FC-1073 hardly represents a uniform Board view of the statute. As quoted by the Court, the proposal concedes that a "technical reading of the security interest definition might cover a creditor's interest in insurance proceeds and unearned insurance premiums," but concludes that "it is our opinion that such incidental interests are not the type of interests meant to be covered by § 226.8 (b) (5)." Ante, at 212-213 (emphasis added).
What FC-1073 calls a "technical reading" of the Board definition of "security interest" in § 226.2 (gg) of Regulation Z is in fact the only permissible reading of that definition. The proposal letter effectively concedes that it is in conflict with the applicable official Board regulation, and nothing in Regulation Z supports the view in the proposal that 15 U. S. C. § 1638 (a) (10), which speaks of "any" security interest, was intended to exclude "incidental" interests. FC-1073 thus directly contravenes the higher administrative authority of an official regulation. The proposal, indeed, also conflicts with at least one other informal staff interpretation by the Board. In FRB Public Information Letter No. 377, CCH [1969-1974 Transfer Binder] Cons. Cred. Guide ¶ 30,555, the Board expressly told an inquiring creditor that he should disclose to the debtor that in the event of default the credit company could cancel the life insurance policy the debtor was to buy with the loan money, and could apply any premium refund to the balance of the loan. Contrary to the Court's suggestion, ante, at 215-216, n. 12, Letter No. 377 does not rely on the notion that in that instance, as opposed to the present case, the credit was extended expressly to enable the consumer to buy insurance.