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On October 13, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard announced that the Fed has joined the Central Bank Network for Indigenous Inclusion to foster continuing dialogue, research, and education and increase awareness of economic and financial issues and opportunities for Indigenous economies. The same day, Brainard spoke at Fed Listens: Roundtable with Oklahoma Tribal Leaders in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to discuss how the economic disparities experienced by tribal nations were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. She noted that in an effort to overcome such disparities, it will be important to identify and address barriers to financial inclusion. In addition, Brainard discussed how the Fed has a role to play in supporting economic growth and financial inclusion in Native communities, and that the Fed is collaborating with the other banking agencies to propose Community Reinvestment Act reforms that would increase financial inclusion and the availability of community development financing in underserved communities.
On October 12, Rohit Chopra was sworn in as Director of the CFPB. Chopra issued a message to Bureau staff, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC Board of Directors, and members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, applauding former acting Director Dave Uejio’s service and stressing the importance of safeguarding household financial stability. Chopra explained that promoting competition, shifting market power toward consumers and law-abiding businesses, and anticipating emerging risks remain critically important to the CFPB’s mission. Noting that this is an “extremely fragile moment for our economy and our country,” Chopra explained that the Covid-19 pandemic has “put into clearer focus the longstanding systemic and structural barriers we must overcome to build a more inclusive economy.” He added that he intends to “build on” the work Uejio has already started to address racial equality and the pandemic, and said Uejio will remain at the Bureau until he is confirmed as assistant secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity.
The CFPB also announced several leadership changes within the Bureau. Newly appointed Deputy Director Zixta Q. Martinez, whose roles at the Bureau previously included senior advisor for Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending, will oversee the Bureau’s Operations Division. Karen Andre, who most recently served as special assistant to the president for Economic Agency Personnel within the Executive Office of the President will serve as associate director for Consumer Education and External Affairs. Returning to the CFPB are Jan Singelmann who will serve as chief of staff. Singelmann previously served as senior litigation counsel in the Bureau’s Office of Enforcement and most recently served as counsel for Senator Sherrod Brown, whose work covers consumer finance and data privacy issues. Erie Meyer, who returns to serve as chief technologist, was previously on the implementation team that launched the Bureau and was a founding team member of the Bureau’s Office of Technology and Innovation.
On October 8, the CFPB issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. The report, which is required by Dodd-Frank, addresses, among other things, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer credit, significant rules and orders adopted by the Bureau, consumer complaints, and various supervisory and enforcement actions taken by the Bureau. In his opening letter, Director Dave Uejio discusses the Bureau’s efforts to increase racial equity in the marketplace and to mitigate the financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumers, including measures such as reinstituted regular public reporting, developing Prioritized Assessments to protect consumers from elevated risks of harm related to the pandemic, and numerous enforcement actions with claims or findings of various violations. Uejio also notes that communities of color, particularly Black and Hispanic communities, have disproportionately experienced the health and economic effects of the pandemic, and states that the Bureau is utilizing “all [of its] tools to ensure that all communities, of all races and economic backgrounds, can participate in and benefit from the nation’s economic recovery.”
Among other topics, the report highlights two publications by the Bureau: one focusing on the TRID Integrated Disclosure Rule (covered by InfoBytes here), and another focusing on credit record trends for young enlisted servicemembers during the first year after separation (covered by InfoBytes here). The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer credit are also discussed, as are the results from the Bureau’s Making Ends Meet Survey. In addition to these areas of focus, the report notes the issuance of several significant notices of proposed rulemaking related to remittance transfers, debt collection practices, the transition from LIBOR, and qualified mortgage definitions under TILA. Multiple final rules were also issued concerning Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z); remittance transfers; and payday, vehicle, title, and certain high-cost installment loans. Several other rules and initiatives undertaken during the reporting period are also highlighted.
On October 7, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) released a report showing significant changes in consumer lending activity, likely attributable to a number of factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, state and federal financial assistance, student loan payment moratoriums, favorable interest rates, and increased reporting of alternative financing products. The 2020 annual report examined unaudited data gathered from finance lenders, brokers, and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) administrators licensed under the California Financing Law, as well as new data from the “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) industry. Findings showed, among other things, a sharp decrease in certain types of consumer loans with BNPL products (often interest-free), decreasing overall by 41 percent in 2019. However, the report found that consumer loans, excluding BNPL, increased 94.8 percent during the same period—a result likely caused by an increase in originations of consumer loans secured by real estate. Finance lenders, including BNPL, originated nearly 12 million consumer loans in 2020 (a 530 percent increase over the prior year), with the top six BNPL lenders accounting for 91 percent of the total consumer loans originated in 2020. DFPI noted that a surge in BNPL unsecured consumer loans reported to the regulator shows that BNPL payment options are becoming increasingly popular. DFPI also discussed recent BNPL enforcement actions, which required companies to consider a consumer’s ability to repay a loan and subjected the companies to rate and fee caps.
The report also examined PACE financing data. According to findings, there was an 18 percent decline in the total number of PACE assessment contracts funded and originated in 2020, and a 30 percent decrease in gross income for PACE program administrators since 2019.
On September 30, the CFPB issued an analysis of recent rules that ensure mortgage servicers provide options to potentially vulnerable borrowers exiting forbearance. The analysis points out that there are approximately 1.6 million borrowers exiting mortgage forbearance programs and that many may be vulnerable to a greater risk of harm due to a variety of circumstances, which may have been exacerbated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the Bureau issued a final rule earlier this year, which took effect August 31, obligating servicers to continue specifying, with substantial detail, any loss mitigation options that may help borrowers resolve their delinquencies. In April, the CFPB also urged mortgage servicers “to take all necessary steps now to prevent a wave of avoidable foreclosures this fall.” Citing the millions of homeowners in forbearance due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bureau’s April compliance bulletin warned servicers that consumers would need assistance when pandemic-related federal emergency mortgage protections expire (covered by InfoBytes here). In addition, in August the Bureau released an overview report of Covid-19 pandemic responses from 16 large mortgage servicers, finding that, among other things: (i) most servicers reported abandonment rates of less than 5 percent during the reporting period, while others’ rates exceeded 20 percent, with one servicer as high as 34 percent; (ii) most servicers saw increased rates of borrowers who were delinquent upon exiting pandemic hardship forbearance programs in March and April 2021 compared to previous months; and (iii) delinquency rates ranged from about 1 percent to 26 percent for federally-backed and private loans (covered by InfoBytes here). According to the September analysis, the Bureau “encourages servicers to enhance their communication capabilities and outreach efforts to educate and assist all borrowers in resolving delinquency and enrolling in widely available assistance and loss mitigation options.” The Bureau further encourages servicers to ensure that their compliance management systems include robust measures and warns against one-size-fits-all practices that may harm vulnerable consumers.
On September 29, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued circulars providing updates for servicers on assisting borrowers who continue to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Circular 26-21-19, servicers may continue to offer loan deferments as a home retention option to borrowers exiting a Covid-19 forbearance period. Servicers who select this option will defer repayment of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance “to the loan maturity date or until the borrower refinances the loan, transfers the property, or otherwise pays off the loan (whichever occurs first) and with no added costs, fees, or interest to the borrower, and with no penalty for early payment of the deferred amount.” The VA’s Covid-19 Home Retention Waterfall and Covid-19 Refund Modification guidance, issued in July (covered by InfoBytes here), provides that the loan deferment option may be used in situations where a borrower indicates that he or she can resume normal monthly guaranteed loan payments but cannot repay the arrearages. Additionally, the VA notes that in order “to relieve undue prejudice to a debtor, holder, or other person,” it is “temporarily waiving the requirement that the final installment on any loan shall not be in excess of two times the average of the preceding installments.” This waiver, the agency notes, is applicable only to VA’s Covid-19 Home Retention Waterfall cases. The Circular is rescinded July 1, 2023.
The same day, the VA also issued Circular 26-21-20 to clarify timeline expectations for forbearance requests submitted by affected borrowers. “For borrowers who have not received a COVID-related forbearance as of the date of this Circular, servicers should approve requests from such borrowers provided that the borrower makes the request during the National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.” The VA states that it expects all Covid-19 related forbearances to end no later than September 30, 2022.
On September 28, the Colorado attorney general announced that a Pennsylvania-based student loan servicer responsible for handling the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program has agreed to comply with a state law requiring consumer protection oversight. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the AG sued the servicer in May for allegedly failing to comply with state law when asked to provide certain documentation related to the servicer’s handling of the PSLF program during the Covid-19 pandemic. The servicer allegedly refused to produce the requested materials and only provided certain limited documents regarding non-government owned loans related to its business line. Under the terms of the assurance of discontinuance, the servicer (while denying any liability) has agreed to produce the requested records in compliance with the Colorado Student Loan Equity Act.
On September 28, the OCC reported that 95 percent of first-lien mortgages were current and performing at the end of the second quarter of 2021—an increase from 91.1 percent at the end of the second quarter of 2020 (the first full quarter of the Covid-19 pandemic). According to the report, seriously delinquent mortgages declined from 4.6 percent in the prior quarter (6.8 percent a year ago) to 3.8 percent. During the second quarter of 2021, servicers initiated 592 new foreclosures—a 28.9 percent decrease from the prior quarter but a 137.8 percent increase from a year ago. The OCC noted that events related to the pandemic, such as foreclosure moratoriums, “significantly affected these metrics.” Additionally, mortgage modifications decreased 17.1 percent from the prior quarter. Of the reported 39,599 mortgage modifications, 53.3 percent reduced borrowers’ pre-modification monthly payments, while 97.2 percent were “combination modifications” that “included multiple actions affecting affordability and sustainability of the loan, such as an interest rate reduction and a term extension.”
On September 27, HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2021-24, which extends and adds Covid-19 relief options for borrowers who are struggling with mortgage payments due to the pandemic and for senior homeowners with Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) who require assistance to stay in their homes. According to HUD, these actions are in response to the impact of the pandemic and “are part of FHA’s continuing evolution of its COVID-19 policies so that the right tools are in place to help borrowers.” FHA is now providing: (i) “up to six months of COVID-19 Forbearance for borrowers requesting an initial COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension from their mortgage servicer between October 1, 2021, and the end of the COVID-19 National Emergency, and an additional six months if the COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension is exhausted and expires before the end of the COVID-19 National Emergency”; and (ii) “up to six months of additional forbearance for borrowers who requested or will request an initial COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension from their mortgage servicer between July 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021, allowing these borrowers up to a maximum of 12 months of COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension.”
On September 25, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities adopted provisions regarding mortgage servicing regulations. Among other things, the regulations clarify the definition of a “COVID-19 related hardship,” establish general disclosure requirements, and provide early intervention and loss mitigation procedures and options. Specifically, the regulations establish that until October 22, 2022, a servicer must, after establishing live contact for borrowers not in forbearance programs, inform them that forbearance programs are available for those experiencing a “COVID-19-related hardship” and must list and describe these forbearance programs and the actions the borrower must take to be evaluated for the programs, among other things. Additionally, for borrowers in forbearance programs at the time of live contact, servicers, until October 22, 2022, must provide the end date of the borrower’s current forbearance program, a list and description of the types of forbearance extensions, and a way that the borrower can find contact information for homeownership counseling services, among other things. The regulations also establish loss mitigation procedures in that a servicer may offer a borrower a loss mitigation option based upon evaluation of an incomplete application, provided that certain criteria are met. In addition, the regulations create certain Covid-19-related loan modification options, such as a loan modification can be made available to borrowers experiencing a Covid-19-related hardship. The regulations are effective immediately.
- Daniel R. Alonso to moderate an interactive roundtable at the Latin Lawyer and GIR Connect: Anti-Corruption & Investigations Conference
- APPROVED Checkpoint Webcast: You have license renewal questions, we have answers
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending” at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss anti-money-laundering at FELABAN Spanish-language webinar “Perspective for banks: LAFT, FINCEN, OFAC, Cryptocurrency”
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "What’s new in BSA/AML compliance?" at the Institute of International Bankers Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Regulatory update: What you need to know under the new boss; It won’t be the same as the old boss" at the IMN Residential Mortgage Service Rights Forum (East)
- Benjamin B. Klubes to discuss “Creating a Fantastic Workplace Culture”
- John R. Coleman and Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek