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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Agencies propose new standards for AVMs

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues CFPB FDIC Federal Reserve NCUA FHFA OCC AVMs Mortgages Consumer Finance

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

On June 1, the CFPB joined the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA in issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to implement quality control standards mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act concerning automated valuation models (AVMs) used by mortgage originators and secondary market issuers. Specifically, institutions that engage in certain credit decisions or make securitization determinations would be required to adopt quality control standards to ensure a high level of confidence that estimates produced by an AVM are fair and nondiscriminatory. Other requirements would necessitate institutions to protect against data manipulation and avoid conflicts of interest. Institutions would also be required to conduct random sample testing and reviews and comply with applicable nondiscrimination laws. The agencies acknowledged that while advances in AVM technology and data availability may contribute to lower costs and reduce loan cycle times, institutions’ reliance on AMV technology must not be used as an excuse to evade the law.

CFPB Director Rohit Chopra explained that, while AVMs rely on mathematical formulas and number crunching to produce estimates (and are often used to “check” human appraisers or used in place of an appraisal), they can still embed the human biases they are meant to correct. This is due in part to the data fed into the AVMs, the algorithms used within the machines, and biases and blind spots attributed to the individuals who develop the models, Chopra warned, commenting that AVMs can actually “make bias harder to eradicate in home valuations because the algorithms used cloak the biased inputs and design in a false mantle of objectivity.”

Chopra went on to explain that inaccurate or biased algorithms can lead to serious harms to consumers, neighborhoods, and the housing market, and may also impact the tax base. A focus common to all the agencies, Chopra said, is ensuring that automated systems and artificial intelligence modeling technologies are developed and used in accordance with federal laws to avert discriminatory outcomes and prevent negative impacts on consumer financial stability.

Comments on the NPRM are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.