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On May 9, HUD announced several proposed revisions to the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) lender certification requirements in an effort to provide lenders and servicers “greater certainty in how to satisfy the agency’s compliance requirements.” HUD stated that the revisions are in response to the White House’s March Memorandum on Federal Housing Finance Reform, which included a directive that FHA work to diversify the network of FHA-approved lenders. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The proposed changes include:
- Loan-Level Certifications. FHA released proposed changes to the Addendum to the Uniform Residential Loan Application (Form 92900-A), reorganizing the Form in a “logical, easy to read, and understandable format” and eliminating “duplicative information collected elsewhere.”
- Annual Lender Certification Statements. FHA released proposed changes to the Annual Lender Certification Statements, including a side-by-side comparison of the current and proposed changes. The changes are intended to “better align [the certifications] with National Housing Act standards while continuing to hold lenders accountable for compliance with HUD eligibility requirements.” The proposed changes include deleting redundancies and replacing handbook references with a general certification to compliance with the requirements of 24 CFR § 202.5.
- Defect Taxonomy. FHA released proposed changes to the Defect Taxonomy. The draft of the Defect Taxonomy Version 2 includes (i) changes to the Severity Tier definitions; (ii) potential remedies that align with each Severity Tier; (iii) revised sources and causes in certain defect areas; (iv) new defect areas for servicing loan reviews; and (v) HUD policy references.
All proposals are posted on the FHA’s Drafting Table for 30-day feedback through June 8.
On March 27, the White House released a Memorandum on Federal Housing Finance Reform, which directs the Secretary of the Treasury to develop a plan to end the conservatorships of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). Specifically, the memo states that the U.S. housing finance system is “in urgent need of reform,” as taxpayers are “potentially exposed to future bailouts” and programs at HUD have outdated operations and are “potentially overexposed to risk.” The President directs the Treasury and HUD to create specific plans addressing a number of reforms “as soon as practical.” Among other things, the directives include:
- Treasury to reform GSEs. With the ultimate goal of ending the conservatorships, the memo directs Treasury to develop proposals to, among other things, (i) preserve access to 30 year fix-rate mortgages for qualified homebuyers; (ii) establish appropriate capital and liquidity requirements for the GSEs; (iii) increase private sector participation in the mortgage market; (iv) evaluate the “QM Patch” with the HUD Secretary and CFPB Director; and (v) set conditions necessary to end conservatorships.
- HUD to reform programs. In addition to outlining specific objectives, the memo directs HUD to achieve three goals: (i) ensure that the FHA and the Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA) assume the primary responsibility for providing housing finance support for low income or underserved families; (ii) improve risk management, program, and product design to reduce taxpayer exposure; and (iii) modernize the operations of the FHA and GNMA.
Similarly, on March 26 and 27, the Senate Banking Committee held a two-part hearing (here and here) on housing finance reform. The hearing reviewed the legislative plan released by Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) in February. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the plan would, among other things, end the GSEs conservatorships, make the GSEs private guarantors, and allow other nonbank private guarantors to enter the market. Additionally, the plan would (i) restructure FHFA as a bipartisan board of directors, which would charter, regulate, and supervise all private guarantors; (ii) place a percentage cap on all outstanding mortgages for guarantors; and (iii) replace current housing goals and duty-to-serve requirements with a fund intended to address housing needs of underserved communities. In his opening statement at the hearing, Crapo said that, “approximately 70 percent of all mortgages originated in this country are in some way touched by the federal government” and “the status quo is not a viable option” for the housing finance market. Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) emphasized that “any changes we consider must strengthen, not weaken, our ability to address the housing challenges facing our nation and make the housing market work better for families.”
Over the two days, the Senators and witnesses discussed the positive objectives of Crapo’s plan while recognizing hurdles that exist in implementing housing finance reform. While many Senators and witnesses expressed support for a requirement that private guarantors serve a national market, others suggested that regionalized or specialized guarantors could have advantages, including reaching underserved markets. Many Democrats stressed the importance of keeping a catastrophic government guarantee in place, while Republicans emphasized the need for legislative reforms to be implemented as soon as possible. With respect to equal access for small lenders, Senators discussed the concern over credit unions being able to sell loans in a multiple guarantor market.
On March 14, the FHA announced updates to its manual underwriting requirements for single-family mortgages with credit scores under 620 and debt-to-income ratios greater than 43 percent. The updates to the Technology Open to Approved Lenders (TOTAL) Mortgage Scorecard will apply to mortgages with FHA case numbers assigned on or after March 18. This announcement reverses a decision made in August 2016 to remove a manual underwriting rule from the TOTAL Mortgage Scorecard, which the FHA claims has resulted in a “significant increase in higher-risk loans FHA endorses.” Lenders that submit higher-risk mortgages to the TOTAL Mortgage Scorecard through an automated underwriting system now may be informed that these mortgages must be manually underwritten. The FHA noted that “[t]he lender’s final underwriting review decision for those mortgages must be documented in accordance with existing FHA requirements for manually underwritten mortgages.”
On March 12, HUD released Mortgagee Letter 2019-05, which alters home warranty requirements for FHA single-family mortgage insurance by removing the policy guidance that required borrowers to purchase ten-year protection plans in order to qualify for certain mortgages on newly constructed single-family homes. The borrower is still required to obtain a one-year warranty, which should commence on the date that title is conveyed to the borrower, the date that construction is completed, or the date that the borrower occupies the house, whichever occurs first. The changes are effective on March 14.
On March 1, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut signed an order dismissing with prejudice a Fair Housing Act complaint filed by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center through its legal counsel, the National Consumer Law Center, against a Connecticut-based bank. The bank denied all allegations of wrongdoing and liability. Under the terms of the stipulation of dismissal, the bank agreed voluntarily to resolve the claims and, among other things, to (i) revise its fair lending policies and procedures and conduct fair lending training for all employees; (ii) open a loan production office in Hartford; (iii) spend $230,000 on targeted marketing and advertising to minority communities, and provide additional consumer financial education opportunities; (iv) invest $300,000 for subsidies to promote home ownership and enhance access to credit in identified communities; (v) identify a Community Development Officer within the bank; and (vi) expand its community development loan program by investing $5 million over the next three years.
On March 1, the CFPB released its latest Quarterly Consumer Credit Trends report titled, “Mortgages to First-time Homebuying Servicemembers,” which analyzes mortgages made to first-time homebuying active duty servicemembers and veterans (collectively defined as “servicemembers”). The report, using data from the Bureau’s Consumer Credit Panel (CCP) supplemented with data on military service, offers information on the mortgage choices and mortgage performance outcomes of servicemembers who bought homes between 2006 and 2016. Key findings include:
- The share of first-time homebuying servicemembers using the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) guaranteed home loan program significantly increased, from 30 percent before 2007 to 63 percent in 2009. By 2016, 78 percent of servicemembers relied on a VA mortgage for their first home loan.
- Conventional mortgages, which accounted for approximately 60 percent of loans among first-time homebuying servicemembers in 2006 and 2007, declined to 13 percent by 2016. During this period, the use of conventional mortgages among non-servicemembers also decreased, as the use of FHA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) increased.
- In 2016, the median servicemember first-time homebuyer VA loan amount was $212,000, increasing from $156,000 in 2006.
- Early delinquency rates for nonprime servicemember first-time VA-loan borrowers decreased from an average of 5 percent to 7 percent in 2006 and 2007 to slightly above 3 percent in 2016. Notably, early delinquency rates were lower for active duty VA-loan borrowers than for veteran VA-loan borrowers.
On February 15, HUD released Mortgagee Letter 2019-01, which provides guidance on the use of third-party verification (TPV) services for FHA-insured mortgages. Effective immediately, FHA now allows mortgagees to use TPV services for verification of a borrower’s employment, income, and asset information. The Letter provides specific requirements for each category of information but, in all circumstances, a borrower must authorize the mortgagee’s use of a TPV vendor for the verification (whether direct or electronic).
On February 13, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California announced a $3.67 million joint settlement with HUD and the Fair Housing Administration (FHA) to resolve allegations that a mortgage lender violated the False Claims Act by falsely certifying compliance with FHA mortgage insurance requirements. According to the settlement agreement, between 2007 and 2009, the mortgage lender, a participant in HUD’s Direct Endorsement Lender program, allegedly knowingly submitted false claims to the FHA loan insurance program by failing to ensure the loans qualified for FHA insurance when they were originated. The announcement notes that the settlement relates solely to allegations, and that there has been no determination of actual liability by the mortgage lender, which did not admit to liability in the settlement.
On January 25, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted final approval of a $30 million settlement resolving allegations that a national bank improperly collected post-payment interest on FHA-insured mortgages but did not use the FHA-approved form to provide the appropriate disclosures to consumers before doing so. The settlement covers a nationwide class of borrowers who, between June 1996 and January 2015, obtained an FHA-insured mortgage loan. Participating class members are expected to receive between $25 and $33 each. The court also approved a $7.5 million award for class counsel attorneys’ fees, of which $7,500 and $5,000 will be awarded to the named plaintiffs.
Regulators encourage financial institutions to work with borrowers impacted by government shutdown; FHA also issues shutdown guidance
On January 11, the Federal Reserve Board, CSBS, CFPB, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC (together, the “Agencies”) released a joint statement (see also FDIC FIL-1-2019) to encourage financial institutions to work with consumers impacted by the federal government shutdown. According to the Agencies, borrowers may face temporary hardships when making payments on mortgages, student loans, auto loans, business loans, or credit cards. FDIC FIL-1-2019 states that prudent workout arrangements, such as extending new credit, waiving fees, easing limits on credit cards, allowing deferred or skipped payments, modifying existing loan terms, and delaying delinquency notice submissions to credit bureaus, will not be subject to examiner criticism provided the efforts are “consistent with safe-and-sound lending practices.”
Separately, on January 8, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner Brian Montgomery issued a letter regarding the shutdown reminding FHA-approved lenders and mortgagees of their ongoing obligation to offer special forbearance to borrowers experiencing loss of income and to evaluate borrowers for available loss mitigation options to prevent foreclosures. In addition, FHA also encourages mortgagees and lenders to waive late fees and suspend credit reporting on affected borrowers.
- Buckley Webcast: The next consumer litigation frontier? Assessing the consumer privacy litigation and enforcement landscape in 2019 and beyond
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- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "What the flood? Don’t get washed away by a flood of changes" at the American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Mitigating the risks of banking high risk customers" at the American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano, Kari K. Hall, Brandy A. Hood, and H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Regulations that matter in a deregulatory environment" at the American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference Power Hour
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- Hank Asbill to discuss "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: Addressing prosecutions driven by hidden actors" at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers West Coast White Collar Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Keep off the grass: Mitigating the risks of banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Mid-year policy update" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Navigating the challenges of the latest data protection regulations and proven protocols for breach prevention and response" at the ACI National Forum on Consumer Finance Class Actions and Government Enforcement
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Douglas F. Gansler to discuss "Role of state AGs in consumer protection" at a George Mason University Law & Economics Center symposium