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On September 21, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services filed permanent administrative order FSR 3-2022 with the Secretary of State to allow licensed loan originators and employees to work from home. Under the order, Oregon licensed mortgage loan originators “may originate loans from a location other than from a licensed branch office if the location is the licensed mortgage loan originator’s home; the licensed mortgage loan originator is an employee of a mortgage banker or mortgage broker; and the mortgage banker or the mortgage broker complies with OAR 441-860- 0040, as applicable.” Mortgage bankers or brokers must have in place appropriate policies and procedures to supervise licensees working from home, including data security measures to protect consumers’ personal data. Additionally, licensees working from home “are prohibited from engaging in person with consumers for loan origination purposes at the home of the loan originator or employee, unless the home is licensed as a branch.” Licensees may, however, “engage with consumers for loan origination purposes at the home of the loan originator or employee by means of conference telephone or similar communications equipment that allows all persons participating in the visitation to hear each other, provided that participation is controlled and limited to those entitled to attend, and the identity of participants is determinable and reasonably verifiable.” Licensees who work from home are also prohibited from keeping any physical business records at any location other than a licensed location, and must also ensure that all origination records are available at a licensed location.
On September 21, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra discussed Bureau efforts to ensure markets for consumer financial products and services are “fair, transparent, and competitive.” Speaking during the Exchequer Club Fireside Chat, Chopra explained that the agency’s authorizing statute specifically directs the Bureau to promote competition by consistently enforcing the law regardless of whether an entity takes deposits. He clarified that there should not be different standards for assessing when a firm violates the law, and highlighted several ways that the Bureau is working to fulfill its mandate to ensure competitive markets. One example Chopra provided relates to reshaping the Bureau’s approach to promoting new products and offerings, especially as they relate to refinancing options. He pointed to Bureau efforts to ensure both banks and nonbanks could launch products to save private student loan borrowers money as an example of making sure all potential market entrants could benefit. Chopra stated that the Bureau is also requesting feedback from investors, lenders, and the public on topics related to improving mortgage refinancing options (covered by InfoBytes here), and is working on ways to stimulate more credit card and auto loan refinancing. Additionally, Chopra touched on other areas of focus, including consumer finance offerings that rely on emerging technologies such as banking in augmented reality and the metaverse, nonbank supervision and oversight, bright-line regulatory approaches, competitive pricing and back-end fees, regulatory arbitrage, and personal financial data rights.
On September 22, the CFPB issued a request for information (RFI) regarding ways to improve mortgage refinances for homeowners and how to support automatic short-term and long-term loss mitigation assistance for homeowners who experience financial disruptions. According to the Bureau, refinancing volume has decreased almost 70 percent from last year as interest rates have risen. Additionally, periods of economic turmoil, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, can pose significant challenges for mortgage borrowers, the Bureau noted. Throughout the pandemic, 8.2 million borrowers entered a forbearance program, and as of July 2022, 93 percent have exited. Of those who have exited forbearance, five percent are delinquent or in active foreclosure. The Bureau is interested in the features of pandemic-related forbearance programs that should be made more generally available to borrowers. Specifically, the RFI requests information regarding, among other things: (i) targeted and streamlined refinance programs; (ii) innovative refinancing products; and (iii) automatic forbearance and long-term loss mitigation assistance. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On September 15, the CFPB released a Data Point report titled 2021 Mortgage Market Activity and Trends, which analyzes residential mortgage lending activity and trends for 2021. The 2021 HMDA data encompasses the fourth year of data that incorporates amendments to HMDA by Dodd-Frank. The changes include new data points, revisions to some existing data points, and authorizes the CFPB to require new data points. As covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the CFPB issued a final rule that implemented significant changes that reflected the needs of homeowners and the evolution in the mortgage market.
The Bureau previously reported a 66.8 percent increase in originations from 2019 to 2020, largely driven by refinances. However, most of the increase from 2020 to 2021 was a result of jumbo home purchase loans. Other highlighted trends in mortgage applications and originations found in the 2021 HMDA data point include, among other things:
- 4,332 financial institutions reported at least one closed-end record in 2021, down by 3.1 percent from 4,472 financial institutions who reported in 2020;
- At least one closed-end mortgage loan had been reported by 4,332 financial institutions, down by 3.1 percent from 4,472 financial institutions in 2020;
- Black borrowers’ share of home purchase loans increased from 7.3 percent in 2020 to 7.9 percent in 2021; and
- “The refinance boom, especially in non-cash-out refinance that dominated mortgage market activities in 2019 and 2020, peaked in March 2021.”
On September 19, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a change to Circular 26-21-20 extending the rescission date to align with the end of Covid-19 pandemic, including conforming changes to VA’s expectation as to the completion of a forbearance period. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the VA issued Circular 26-21-20 in September 2021 to clarify timeline expectations for forbearance requests submitted by affected borrowers. The September 2021 Circular stated thar “[f]or 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,” and that all Covid-19 related forbearances would end by September 30, 2022. However, Change 1 stated that “September 30, 2022” should be replaced with “six months after the end of the National Emergency Concerning the Novel COVID-19 Pandemic.” The circular is rescinded March 1, 2023.
On September 19, the FTC and the California Department of Financial Protection (DFPI) announced a lawsuit against several companies and owners for allegedly operating an illegal mortgage relief operation. (See also DFPI’s announcement here.) The filing marks the agencies’ first joint action, which alleges the defendants’ conduct violated the California Consumer Financial Protection Law, the FTC Act, the FTC’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule (the MARS Rule or Regulation O), the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Covid-19 Consumer Protection Act. The agencies claimed that the defendants preyed on distressed consumers with false promises of mortgage assistance relief. According to the complaint, the defendants made misleading claims during telemarketing calls to consumers, including those with numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, as well as through text messages and in online ads. In certain cases, defendants represented they were affiliated with government agencies or were part of a Covid-19 pandemic assistance program. Among other things, defendants falsely claimed they were able to lower consumers’ interest rates or payments, and instructed consumers not to pay their mortgages, leading to late fees and significantly lower credit score. Defendants also allegedly told consumers not to communicate directly with their lenders, which caused consumers to miss default notices and face foreclosure. Additionally, defendants charged consumers illegal up-front fees ranging from $500 to $2,900 a month, and told consumers they were negotiating loan modifications that in most cases never happened.
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted a restraining order temporarily shutting down the defendants’ operations. In freezing the defendants’ assets and ordering them to submit financial statements, the court noted that the agencies established a likelihood of success in showing that the defendants “have falsely, deceptively, and illegally marketed, advertised, and sold mortgage relief assistance services.”
On September 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that New York’s interest-on-escrow law impermissibly interferes with the incidentals of national bank lending and is preempted by the National Bank Act (NBA). Plaintiffs in two putative class actions obtained loans from a national bank, one before and the other after certain Dodd-Frank provisions took effect. The loan agreements—governed by New York law—required plaintiffs to deposit money into escrow accounts. After the bank failed to pay interest on the escrowed amounts, plaintiffs sued for breach of contract, alleging, among other things, that under New York General Obligations Law (GOL) § 5-601 (which sets a minimum 2 percent interest rate on mortgage escrow accounts) they were entitled to interest. The bank moved to dismiss both actions, contending that GOL § 5-601 did not apply to federally chartered banks because it is preempted by the NBA. The district court disagreed and denied the bank’s motion, ruling first that RESPA (which regulates the amount of money in an escrow account but not the accruing interest rate) “shares a ‘unity of purpose’ with GOL § 5-601.” This is relevant, the district court said, “because Congress ‘intended mortgage escrow accounts, even those administered by national banks, to be subject to some measure of consumer protection regulation.’” Second, the district court reasoned that even though TILA § 1639d does not specifically govern the loans at issue, it is significant because it “evinces a clear congressional purpose to subject all mortgage lenders to state escrow interest laws.” Finally, with respect to the NBA, the district court determined that “the ‘degree of interference’ of GOL § 5-601 was ‘minimal’ and was not a ‘practical abrogation of the banking power at issue,’” and concluded that Dodd-Frank’s amendment to TILA substantiated a policy judgment showing “there is little incompatibility between requiring mortgage lenders to maintain escrow accounts and requiring them to pay a reasonable rate of interest on sums thereby received.” As such, GOL § 5-601 was not preempted by the NBA, the district court said.
On appeal, the 2nd Circuit concluded that the district court erred in its preemption analysis. According to the appellate court, the important question “is not how much a state law impacts a national bank, but rather whether it purports to ‘control’ the exercise of its powers.” In reversing the ruling and holding that that GOL § 5-601 was preempted by the NBA, the appellate court wrote that the “minimum-interest requirement would exert control over a banking power granted by the federal government, so it would impermissibly interfere with national banks’ exercise of that power.” Notably, the 2nd Circuit’s decision differs from the 9th Circuit’s 2018 holding in Lusnak v. Bank of America, which addressed a California mortgage escrow interest law analogous to New York’s and held that a national bank must comply with the California law requiring mortgage lenders to pay interest on mortgage escrow accounts (covered by InfoBytes here). Among other things, the 2nd Circuit determined that both the district court and the 9th Circuit improperly “concluded that the TILA amendments somehow reflected Congress’s judgment that all escrow accounts, before and after Dodd-Frank, must be subject to such state laws.”
In a concurring opinion, one of the judges stressed that while the panel concluded that the specific state law at issue is preempted, the opinion left “ample room for state regulation of national banks.” The judge noted that the opinion relies on a narrow standard of preempting only those “state laws that directly conflict with enumerated or incidental national bank powers conferred by Congress,” and stressed that the appellate court declined to reach a determination as to whether Congress subjected national banks to state escrow interest laws in cases (unlike the plaintiffs’ actions) where Dodd-Frank’s TILA amendments would apply.
On September 15, the FDIC issued FIL-41-2022 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (Arizona) affected by severe storms from July 17-18. The FDIC acknowledged the unusual circumstances faced by institutions affected by the storms and suggested that institutions work with impacted borrowers to, among other things: (i) extend repayment terms; (ii) restructure existing loans; or (iii) ease terms for new loans to those affected by the severe weather, provided the measures are done “in a manner consistent with sound banking practices.” Additionally, the FDIC noted that institutions “may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery.” The FDIC will also consider regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.
On September 15, the OCC released a report on the performance of first-lien mortgages in the federal banking system during the second quarter of 2022, providing information on mortgage performance through June 30. According to the OCC, 97 percent of mortgages were current and performing at the end of the quarter, compared to 95 percent a year earlier. The percentage of seriously delinquent mortgages was 1.5 percent in the second quarter of 2022, compared to 1.8 percent in the prior quarter and 3.8 percent a year ago. The report also found that servicers completed 28,109 modifications in the second quarter of 2022—a decrease of 33.7 percent from the previous quarter. Additionally, of the 28,109 mortgage modifications, 78.2 percent reduced borrowers’ monthly payments and 95.6 percent were “combination modifications,” which are modifications that include multiple actions affecting the affordability and sustainability of the loan, such as an interest rate reduction and a term extension.
On September 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a district court’s decision to deny insurance coverage to a Florida title company under its Cyber Protection Insurance Policy after it was allegedly “fraudulently induced—by an unknown actor impersonating a mortgage lender—to wire funds to an incorrect account.” The insurance company denied coverage on the basis that the title company did not meet the policy’s requirements. The title company submitted a claim under the cybercrime endorsement of its insurance policy, which includes a deceptive transfer fraud insurance clause that grants coverage provided certain criteria are met, including that the loss resulted from intentionally misleading actions, was done by a person purporting to be an employee, customer, client or vendor, and the authenticity of the wire transfer instructions was verified according to the title company’s internal procedures. The insurance company denied coverage, claiming that: (i) the mortgage lender to whom the funds were intended was not an employee, customer, client or vendor of the title company; and (ii) that the title company failed to verify the transfer request according to its procedures. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company, agreeing that coverage did not exist under the plain language of the policy.
On appeal, the 11th Circuit determined that the mortgage lender was not listed as an entity under the plain language of the policy. It further disagreed with the title company’s position that under Florida law, insurance coverage clauses must “be construed as broadly as possible to provide the greatest amount of coverage,” and that the deceptive transfer fraud clause should also include “persons and entities involved in the real estate transaction.” The appellate court noted that “[a]s attractive as that proposition may be, it is simply not what the clause provides,” adding that because the clause “limits coverage to misleading communications ‘sent by a person purporting to be an employee, customer, client or vendor’” it must interpret these terms according to their plain meaning and may not “alter the terms bargained to by parties to a contract.”
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar
- James C. Chou to discuss ransomware at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA seminar
- Jedd R. Bellman to provide an “Attorney exemption/medical debt update” at the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association annual conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss “What should crypto regulation look like: Legislation, regulation and consumer issues” at WCL's First Annual Virtual Currency Law Institute
- Elizabeth E. McGinn to discuss “How to mitigate and manage third-party risks: Leveraging tools and best practices” at The Knowledge Group’s webcast
- Elizabeth E. McGinn, Benjamin W. Hutten, and James C. Chou to discuss “The evolving regulatory landscape: Third-party and cyber risk management” at the 2022 mWISE Conference
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss “For your eyes only: Privacy updates for 2022-2023” at CCFL’s Annual Consumer Financial Services Conference
- James T. Parkinson to present a “Global anti-corruption update” at IBA’s annual conference