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Treasury and SBA release additional details on Paycheck Protection Program, including Affiliation Rules
On April 2, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released an Interim Final Rule (13 CFR Part 121). This Interim Final Rule supplements the Initial Rule with additional guidance regarding the application of certain affiliate rules applicable to SBA’s implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Comments on the Interim Final Rule must be received 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The Treasury Department also issued Affiliation Rules Applicable to U.S. Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program, which states that “[f]or purposes of determining the number of employees of an applicant to the Paycheck Protection Program, the applicant is considered together with its affiliates.” This guidance details the affiliation tests applied to affiliated companies.
Additionally, the SBA, in consultation with Treasury, issued Paycheck Protection Program Frequently Asked Questions that will be updated on a regular basis. The first question discusses whether lenders must replicate borrowers’ calculations of the dollar amount of average monthly payroll costs.
On April 3, Freddie Mac issued guidance reminding seller/servicers to maintain a business continuity plan in accordance with the requirements of the Freddie Mac Single Family Seller/Servicer Guide. Sellers and servicers are expected to maintain the business continuity plan and to follow the plan during the Covid-19 pandemic. The guidance noted that Freddie Mac communicated with document custodians at four banks to confirm their business continuity plans are in place, and urged sellers using other document custodians to inquire with those custodians about their business continuity plans. Finally, the guidance summarized the relief that servicers should provide to borrowers impacted by Covid-19, including mortgage forbearance, waiving penalties and fees, halting foreclosure sales and evictions, suspending credit bureau reporting for delinquency related to forbearance, and offering loan modifications after the forbearance period.
On March 24, the CFTC approved final interpretive guidance concerning the term “actual delivery” in the context of retail virtual currency transactions. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFTC reaffirmed its belief that virtual currencies are commodities, and thus certain transactions involving these types of currencies are subject to CFTC oversight. In order to demonstrate the “actual delivery” of virtual currency in connection with retail commodity transactions, the final interpretive guidance sets forth two primary factors that market participants must demonstrate:
- A customer has (i) the ability to secure “possession and control of the entire quantity of the commodity, whether it was purchased on margin, by using leverage, or any other financing arrangement”; and (ii) “the ability to use the entire quantity of the commodity freely in commerce (away from any particular execution venue) no later than 28 days from the date of the transaction and at all times thereafter”; and
- “The offeror and counterparty seller (including any of their respective affiliates or other persons acting in concert with the offeror or counterparty seller on a similar basis) do not retain any interest in, legal right, or control over any of the commodity purchased on margin, leverage, or other financing arrangement at the expiration of 28 days from the date of the transaction.”
CFTC Chairman Heath P. Tarbert stated that he anticipates a 90-day period before the CFTC begins initiating enforcement actions related to the final interpretive guidance that may not have been plainly evident in prior guidance, enforcement actions, and case law.
On April 1, the Federal Reserve (Fed) released an interim final rule, which provides a short-term change to the calculation of the supplementary leverage ratio for holding companies (banks). This change temporarily allows banks to exclude their Treasury securities and Federal Reserve Bank deposits from the computation of the banks’ total assets, thus reducing the amount of capital the banks must maintain. The Fed suggested that the move will reduce the banks’ tier 1 capital requirements by around two percent, allowing them to take on more debt, resulting in an increase in available credit to households and businesses. The Fed stressed that it made this change to allow the banks to increase the flow of credit, and not to increase the banks’ capital distributions. The temporary change is effective immediately and will automatically revert on March 31, 2021. Comments on the rule must be submitted within 45 days of the announcement.
On April 1, HUD issued guidance detailing mortgage relief options for single-family homeowners with FHA mortgages impacted by Covid-19. HUD explains that the CARES Act requires mortgage servicers to provide mortgage relief to borrowers with options for payment deferral or payment forbearance “for up to six months, and must provide an additional six months of forbearance if requested by the borrower.” In addition, Mortgagee Letter 2020-06 states that borrowers with forbearance plans will have all late charges, fees, and penalties waived as long as the plans are in effect. Although servicers are required to comply with the FCRA, the Mortgagee Letter instructs servicers not to report a borrower as delinquent if the borrower is in a Covid-19 forbearance plan and “performing as agreed,” and further suggests that servicers should “consider the impacts” of Covid-19 “on Borrowers’ financial situations and any flexibilities a Servicer may have under the FCRA.” The Mortgagee Letter also provides a mortgage relief option for “seniors with Home Equity Conversion Mortgages” who can request an extension of up to six months initially, which may be extended up to an additional six months. This mortgage relief option also requires that all late fees, charges, and penalties be waived during the extension period. Borrowers with owner-occupied properties who are granted forbearance plans must also be evaluated for a “C[ovid]-19 National Emergency Standalone Partial Claim” prior to the end of the plan. This option will allow borrowers to reinstate their loans after the plan ends. Consumers can find FHA Q&As here.
On April 1, the CFPB announced a $1.3 million settlement with a Texas-based short-term lender to resolve allegations that the lender violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act, FCRA, and TILA. The Bureau alleged that while “marketing, servicing, and collecting on high-interest payday, auto-title, and unsecured consumer-installment loans,” the lender made deceptive representations through advertisements and telemarketing calls when promoting purported loan discounts. The Bureau also alleged that the lender engaged in unfair collection call practices by allegedly calling consumers who failed to make payments numerous times—some more than 15 or 20 times a day—even after being asked to stop. In addition, the lender allegedly repeatedly called consumers’ workplaces and references as a tactic to obtain payments and disclosed, or risked disclosing, to third parties the existence of the delinquent debts. According to the Bureau, the lender also violated FCRA by failing to maintain adequate consumer reporting policies and procedures to ensure the “accuracy and integrity” of the information furnished to consumer reporting agencies, and violated TILA by failing to provide telemarketers guidance on how to lawfully disclose a loan’s annual percentage rate as required by federal law when responding to consumers’ questions about interest and other loan costs.
Under the terms of the consent order, the lender is required to pay a $1.1 million civil money penalty, $286,675 in consumer redress, and is, among other things, (i) permanently restrained from certain collection practices; (ii) required to ensure employees do not misrepresent discount offers when marketing or selling consumer financial products or services; and (iii) tasked with ensuring employees correctly disclose the APR of loan products.
On March 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued guidance on valuation and appraisal practices during the Covid-19 crisis. Effective on March 27 and until modified or rescinded, VA home loan appraisers may utilize exterior-only appraisals and, in certain limited situations, desktop appraisals, for purchase and refinance transactions. When the appraiser does not inspect the interior of the property, additional sources may be used to inform the appraisal, including public records, MLS listing information, and other reliable third-party sources. The VA also issued Exhibit A to the valuation and appraisal practices circular. This document provides a statement of assumptions and limiting conditions and certifications for Desktop-only appraisals, in addition to instructions and a scope of work to be used by the appraiser.
On the same day, the FHA issued similar guidance in Mortgagee Letter 2020-05 regarding appraisals and employment reverifications. Modifications to FHA single-family employment reverifications requirements include allowing verbal employment reverifications. The modifications also remove employment reverification requirements in certain situations, such as when certain criteria are met in forward purchase transactions, including, among other things: (i) where the mortgagee is not aware of loss of employment by the borrower; (ii) the mortgagee has year-to-date paystubs or electronic income verification for the borrower; (iii) the mortgagee has the borrower’s bank statement from immediately prior to the note date showing a direct deposit from an employer; and (iv) the mortgagee has evidence that the borrower has the equivalent of at least two months of the new payment amount, inclusive of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Modifications to appraisal protocols allow for exterior or desktop-only appraisals, and appraisers may utilize additional reliable information. Also, the FHA will require appraisals to include a signed certification that no interior appraisal was performed. FHA model certification forms can be found here and here.
On April 1, the CFPB published a statement which assured that the Bureau will continue to perform examinations and other supervisory work during the Covid-19 pandemic, reinforcing the Bureau’s mission to protect consumers. The statement explains that the Bureau is taking advantage of technology to fulfill its examination duties and to stay in communication with supervised entities. Additionally, the statement suggests that the Bureau will consider individual circumstances and good faith efforts to comply when performing examination and supervisory work.
CFPB plans credit reporting supervisory flexibility during Covid-19 pandemic, contingent on accurate reporting
On April 1, the CFPB issued a policy statement directed at consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) and furnishers. Taking into consideration the Covid-19 pandemic, the statement explains that the Bureau will take a “flexible supervisory and enforcement approach during this pandemic regarding compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act [(FCRA)] and Regulation V.” The Bureau states that it will be flexible with CRAs and furnishers by refraining from taking enforcement actions and citing during exams in certain situations. Two examples of when the Bureau will be flexible include: (i) furnishers that continue to furnish accurate data to CRAs, including regarding payment relief arrangements (the Bureau notes that the CARES Act obliges furnishers to report consumer accounts as current when furnishers grant payment accommodations requested by consumers impacted by Covid-19); and (ii) CRAs and furnishers that make good faith efforts to investigate consumer disputes but take longer than the FCRA-prescribed 30 days. The statement notes that “the continued operation of the consumer reporting system…will enable consumers, as well as lenders, insurers, employers and other consumer report users, to maintain confidence in the consumer reporting system.”
On March 31, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued bulletins updating and clarifying their respective requirements for remote online notarizations as they seek to reduce in-person notarizations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote online notarization allows a notary to use electronic tools — typically video conferencing — to notarize documents while the signatory is physically located somewhere else. About half the states authorize the use of remote online notarizations, while several additional states have taken emergency actions to allow them in response to the pandemic.
Fannie and Freddie previously had electronic notarization guidance in their Selling Guide and Seller/Servicer Guide, respectively, that limited the use of RONs, as they are called. The March 31 updates ease those requirements and clarify the conditions under which Fannie and Freddie will accept RONs of loans sold to them. Among other things, the bulletins establish:
- Minimum requirements for authentication of signatories
- Security and document integrity requirements
- Restrictions on the physical location of the notary performing the notarial act
- Requirements to comply with certain aspects of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA)
- Specific representations and warranties of the lender
- A list of states (below) in which lenders may sell loans to the GSEs with remote online notarization
- Clarification that they will accept remotely notarized documents meeting the new requirements in any state that, subsequent to the publication of the bulletins, adopts a law that permits the use of RONs or accepts out-of-state RONs.
- Buckley Webcast: Where we are now: Exploring potential risks and rewards for lenders under CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "The international compliance situation and new challenges" at the World Compliance Association Covid Compliance Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Understanding OFAC sanctions" at a NAFCU webinar
- Garylene D. Javier to discuss "Navigating workplace culture in 2020" at the DC Bar Conference