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On December 22, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed legislation enacting amendments to the state’s residential mortgage lending act. HB 199, among other things, (i) updates certain definitions, such as modifying the definition of “nationwide mortgage licensing system and registry” to broadly include “persons providing non-depository financial services”; (ii) provides limits on the application of the current law to “unsecured loans and loans secured by other than residential real estate”; and (iii) updates requirements for applicants registering for mortgage loan originator licenses. The amended act takes effect March 23.
On December 19, Fannie Mae announced updates to its Selling Guide, including guidance related to underwriting a loan for borrowers who have frozen their credit files at one or more of the three national credit repositories. The Selling Guide now states that a credit report is acceptable for manual underwriting or “Desktop Underwriter” when a borrower’s credit information is frozen at only one of the credit repositories as long as credit data is available from two repositories, a credit score is obtained from at least one of those two repositories, and the lender requested a three in-file merged report. If the borrower’s credit file is frozen at two or more of the credit repositories, the loan will not be eligible for either form of underwriting. Other notable updates to the Selling Guide include, (i) adding requirements on premium pricing to the mortgage eligibility policy; (ii) relief from the enforcement of selling representations and warranties for mortgages that are subject to a disaster-related forbearance plan, where the disaster impacting the loan occurred on or after August 25, 2017 and other requirements are met; (iii) additional details about minimum requirements for internal audit and management controls for all seller/servicers; and (iv) consolidation in the Selling Guide of individual mortgage loan file records retention provisions from the Servicing Guide (as previously covered by InfoBytes here).
On December 14, Freddie Mac issued Guide Bulletin 2017-28, providing updates and reminders to sellers regarding income used for qualifying borrowers and other matters. The bulletin expands the options for sellers when qualifying a borrower with income that starts after the date of the mortgage note, including increasing the allowable gap from 60 days to 90 days between the note date and the commencement of income, allowing for a “no-cash-out” refinance as a potential transaction type, and permitting fully approved future salary increases from a current employer as income. It also relaxes certain requirements in the event the income commences prior to the delivery date. In addressing other topics, the bulletin allows for relief from the enforcement of selling representations and warranties for mortgages that are subject to a disaster-related forbearance plan. The relief extends through the later of the applicable payment history period end date or the date the mortgage transitions out of the disaster-related forbearance plan and is brought current. Among other issues, the updates and reminders cover the eligibility of Land Trust Mortgages and “Texas Equity Mortgages” for sale to Freddie Mac, and incorporation of the new 2018 FHFA base conforming and super conforming loan limits (previously covered by InfoBytes here).
On December 13, Freddie Mac issued Guide Bulletin 2017-27, providing updates and reminders to servicers regarding the imminent default evaluation requirements. The bulletin includes specifics on how servicers should process and report imminent default data using the “Workout Prospector” web-based application. According to the bulletin, servicers are must implement the new requirements by July 1, 2018. The bulletin also incorporates the additional non-discrimination guide language announced for sellers in Guide Bulletin 2017-26 (previously covered by InfoBytes here).
On December 13, Fannie Mae announced that it has updated its Servicing Guide. One such update includes the removal of requirements related to individual mortgage loan file records retention. Instead, the information will be available solely in Fannie Mae’s Selling Guide, which it expects to be updated on December 19. Another notable update is the Servicing Guide’s extension of the $30 maximum expense reimbursement “for each insured loss repair inspection required on a current or delinquent mortgage loan” to all mortgages, and not just those affected by disasters.
California Department of Business Reaches $1.1 Million Settlement With South Carolina-Based Mortgage Lender and Servicer
The California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) announced on December 11 that it had reached a $1.1 million settlement with a South Carolina-based mortgage lender and servicer to resolve allegations that the company (1) violated California’s statutory restriction on per diem interest and (2) serviced loans without a California license. This settlement marks the second time in five years that examiners discovered alleged per diem overcharges in the company’s loans. Under California law, lenders are prohibited from charging interest on mortgage loans prior to the last business day that immediately precedes the day the loan proceeds are disbursed. In addition, it is a violation of state law to service residential mortgage loans without obtaining proper licensure.
According to the terms of the settlement—which resolves violations identified during a 2016 supervisory examination—the company must: (i) refrain from loan servicing activities until licensed by the state; (ii) pay $1 million in penalties to DBO for past violations; (iii) pay $125 for each additional violation identified by an independent audit of its loan originations; and (iv) issue per diem interest refunds totaling more than $141,000 to at least 1,347 borrowers. The company has also agreed to revise its policies and procedures to prevent future violations of California law.
The DOJ announced a $11.6 million settlement on December 8 with a Louisiana-based direct endorsement mortgage lender and certain affiliates to resolve allegations that the lender violated the False Claims Act by falsely certifying compliance with federal requirements in order to obtain insurance on mortgage loans from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). According to the DOJ’s press release, between January 2005 and December 2014, the lender (i) certified loans that failed to meet HUD’s underwriting and origination requirements for FHA insurance; (ii) paid incentives to underwriters in violation of the “underwriter commission prohibition,” and continued to make incentive payments even after HUD notified the lender of commission prohibition noncompliance in 2010; and (iii) failed to, in a timely manner, “self-report material violations of HUD requirements” or perform quality reviews. The settlement also fully resolves a False Claims Act qui tam lawsuit that had been pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
On December 1, the FTC announced a proposed order to settle with a Dallas, Texas auto dealership for alleged deceptive advertisements containing loan and lease terms in Spanish-language newspapers. According to the FTC, the dealership violated the FTC Act by prominently displaying advantageous loan and lease terms in Spanish and qualifying those terms in smaller-print English at the bottom of the page. The FTC alleges the dealership misrepresented (i) the total cost of purchasing or leasing; (ii) the underwriting restrictions for the advertised loan or lease; and (iii) the availability of the inventory advertised. Additionally, the FTC alleged that the dealership violated Truth in Lending Act and the Consumer Leasing Act by failing to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose credit and lease terms. The proposal requires the dealership to cease the allegedly deceptive conduct and comply with all applicable advertisement regulations in the future. The proposal is published in the Federal Register and is open for public comment until January 2, 2018.
On November 21, the CFPB announced it had entered into a consent order with a large national bank over allegations that the bank engaged in unfair and deceptive practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFPA) related to its student loan servicing activities. The order, which the bank consented to without admitting or denying the findings, asserts that for the student loan accounts it was servicing, the bank (i) misrepresented information to borrowers about tax benefits; (ii) failed to refund interest and fees inaccurately charged; (iii) misstated minimum monthly payment amounts in bills; and (iv) failed to provide required information when denying co-signer release requests. In addition to imposing a civil money penalty, the CFPB’s order requires the bank to pay restitution to certain consumers and implement certain policies.
Freddie Mac Announces Guide Bulletin 2017-26 Covering Changes to Eligibility for Certain Mortgage Products
On November 15, Freddie Mac announced the issuance of Guide Bulletin 2017-26 (Bulletin), which, among other things, expands borrower options for mortgage financing, eases certain underwriting requirements, and adds non-discrimination language. Specifically, the Bulletin announces the availability of 5-year ARMs as a newly eligible product under “Home Possible,” “Freddie Mac Relief Refinance,” and “Financed Permanent Buydown” mortgage programs. Freddie Mac is also removing the requirement that all income reported on Home Possible Mortgage applications must be verified. Additionally, effective March 15, 2018, consistent with the FHFA Minority and Women Inclusion Amendments Final Rule, all covered sellers “must not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, disability, veteran status, genetic information (including family medical history), pregnancy, parental status, familial status, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics protected by law.”
DOJ Announces $5.4 Million in Additional Relief for Servicemembers Impacted by Bank’s Alleged SCRA Violations
On November 14, the DOJ announced it had secured an additional $5.4 million from a major U.S. bank related to a September 2016 settlement (previously covered by InfoBytes) resolving allegations that between January 2008 and July 2015 the bank repossessed vehicles owned by active duty servicemembers without required court orders in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The original consent order with the DOJ required the bank to pay $10,000, plus lost equity, to each of the 413 affected servicemembers whose cars were found to be unlawfully seized and further stipulated the bank could be required to compensate additional servicemembers. Since entering into the 2016 settlement with the DOJ, the bank announced it had uncovered another 450 qualifying servicemembers, bringing the combined affected total to 863, with compensatory payouts of more than $10 million.
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss “Hot topics outside of CA” at the California Mortgage Bankers Association Conference
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss “LIBOR Transition: How will the pieces come together in time?” at the American Bar Association In the Know-Live webinar
- Buckley Webcast: Dissecting the annual federal agency fair lending summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek