CFPB’s UDAAP claims to proceed against mortgage lender
On March 31, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia mostly denied motions to dismiss filed by a mortgage lender and four executives (collectively, “defendants”) sued by the CFPB for allegedly engaging in unlawful mortgage lending practices. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau filed a complaint last year against the defendants alleging violations of several federal laws, including TILA and the CFPA. According to the Bureau, (i) unlicensed employees allegedly offered and negotiated mortgage terms; (ii) company policy regularly required consumers to submit documents for verification before receiving a loan estimate; (iii) employees denied consumers credit without issuing an adverse action notice; and (iv) defendants regularly made misrepresentations about, among other things, the availability and cost savings of FHA streamlined refinance loans.
The mortgage lender had argued in its motion to dismiss that neither TILA nor the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act) required the lender to ensure that its individual employees were licensed under state law. In denying the motions to dismiss, the court disagreed with the lender’s position stating that in order for a mortgage originator to comply with TILA, it must also comply with Bureau requirements set out in Regulation Z, including a requirement that “obligates loan originator organizations to ensure that individual loan originators working for them are licensed or registered as required by state and federal laws.”
The court also concluded that the individual defendants must face claims for allegedly engaging in unfair or deceptive practices. The Bureau contended that the company’s chief compliance officer had warned the individual defendants that certain unlicensed employees were engaging in activities requiring licensure, and that the company’s owners approved the business model that permitted the underlying practices. According to the court, an individual “engages” in a UDAAP violation if the individual “participated directly in the practices or acts or had authority to control them” and “‘had or should have had knowledge or awareness’ of the misconduct.” The court rejected defendants’ arguments that it was improper to adopt this standard, and stated that “the fact that a separate theory of liability exists for substantially assisting a corporate defendant’s UDAAP violations has no bearing on how courts evaluate whether an individual defendant himself engaged in a UDAAP violation.”
While the court allowed the count to continue to the extent that it was based on allegations of unlicensed employees performing duties that would require licensure, it found that the complaint did not support an inference that the individual defendants knew that the employees were engaging in activities to make it appear that they were licensed. The court provided the Bureau an opportunity to replead the count to provide a stronger basis for such an inference.