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On June 17, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra announced in a blog post that the agency plans to move away from overly complicated and tailored rules. “Complexity creates unintended loopholes, but it also gives companies the ability to claim there is a loophole with creative lawyering,” Chopra said. The Bureau’s plan to implement simple, durable bright-line guidance and rules will better communicate the agency’s expectations and will provide numerous other benefits, he added.
With regards to traditional rulemaking, the Bureau outlined several priorities, which include focusing on implementing longstanding Congressional directives related to consumer access to financial records, increased transparency in the small business lending marketplace, and quality control standards for automated valuation models under Sections 1033, 1071, and 1473(q) of the Dodd-Frank Act. Additionally, the Bureau stated it will assess whether it should use Congressional authority to register certain nonbank financial companies to identify potential violators of federal consumer financial laws.
Chopra also announced that the Bureau is reviewing a “host of rules” that it inherited from other agencies such as the FTC and the Federal Reserve. “Many of these rules have now been tested in the marketplace for many years and are in need of a fresh look,” Chopra said. Specifically, the Bureau will (i) review rules originated by the Fed under the 2009 Credit CARD Act (including areas related to “enforcement immunity and inflation provisions when imposing penalties on customers”); (ii) review rules inherited from the FTC for implementing the FCRA to identify possible enhancements and changes in business practices; and (iii) review its own Qualified Mortgage Rules to assess aspects of the “seasoning provisions” (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) and explore ways “to spur streamlined modification and refinancing in the mortgage market.”
The Bureau noted that it also plans to increase its interpretation of existing laws through its Advisory Opinion program and will continue to issue Consumer Financial Protection Circulars to provide additional clarity and encourage consistent enforcement of consumer financial laws among government agencies (covered by InfoBytes here and here).
On February 23, the CFPB released a factsheet on the interest rate that is used for calculating prepaid interest under the price-based General Qualified Mortgage (QM) annual percentage rate (APR) calculation rule for certain adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and step-rate loans. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule in December 2020, which amended Regulation Z and revised the definition of a General QM by eliminating the General QM loan definition’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio limit and replacing it with bright-line price-based thresholds. The fact sheet, among other things, “describes the interest rate that is used for calculating prepaid interest for purposes of this special APR calculation rule.” Additionally, the fact sheet clarifies, by section, the interest rate used to calculate the APR under the General QM ARMs special rule and the interest rate used to calculate prepaid interest under the General QM ARMs special rule.
On December 22, the CFPB updated its Mortgage Origination Examination Procedures to reflect amendments to Regulation Z’s Qualified Mortgage (QM) provisions. The Mortgage Origination Examination Procedures address various elements of the mortgage origination process and provide guidance for examinations of mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last April the Bureau issued a final rule extending the mandatory compliance date of the General QM final rule to October 1, 2022. By extending the mandatory compliance date, lenders will now have the option of complying with either the revised General QM definition or the original DTI-based General QM definition on applications received on or after March 1, but prior to October 1, 2022.
Recently, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, FHFA, SEC, and HUD issued an interagency notice stating that no changes will be made to the definition of “qualified residential mortgage” (QRM) under the Credit Risk Retention Regulations. The agencies also left unchanged a community-focused residential mortgage exemption from TILA’s ability-to-pay requirement, after determining that the exemption serves the public interest by making “safe, sustainable loans” available to low-to-moderate-income communities. An exemption for qualifying three-to-four-unit residential mortgage loans was also left unchanged after the agencies determined that the underlying properties “are a source of affordable housing” and, given the number of mortgages collateralized by three-to-four-unit properties, the exemption “does not appear to be spurring any significant speculative activity in the securitization market.”
As part of the Credit Risk Retention Regulations, which were established under Dodd-Frank, federal banking agencies are required to periodically review the QRM definition “to assess developments in the residential mortgage market, including the results of the statutorily required five-year review by the [CFPB] of the ability-to-repay rules and the QM definition.” During their review of the QRM definition, the agencies confirmed that the current QRM definition was “predictive of a lower risk of default” and “did not appear to be a material factor in credit conditions during the review period.”
On October 27, newly sworn in CFPB Director Rohit Chopra appeared for the first time before the House Financial Services Committee to offer some of the first insights into his priorities at the Bureau. Chopra’s opening remarks focused on concerns regarding “Big Tech” and its control over the flow of money in the economy (these comments followed the issuance of information requests to six technology companies, covered by InfoBytes here). Chopra also focused on a need to ensure robust competition in financial markets and listen to local financial institutions and nascent players about obstacles they face when seeking to challenge dominant incumbents. Chopra also stressed the importance of holding “repeat offenders” accountable, highlighted an intent to coordinate efforts with federal and state regulators, and indicated a preference for scrutinizing larger market participants over smaller entities. He noted, however, potential leniency for companies that self-identify their own issues and violations. Additional highlights of the hearing include the following:
Enforcement. Chopra noted that “markets work well when rules are easy to follow and easy to enforce.” He also expressed his view that the CFPB should focus its resources on larger industry participants and “repeat offenders” rather than “strong-arming” small businesses into settlements to create law. Chopra also expressed a preference for setting regulatory guidelines through enforcement, indicating that “markets work well when rules are easy to follow, and easy to enforce.”
Section 1033 of Dodd-Frank. With respect to implementing this set of requirements, which deals with consumers’ rights to access information about their financial accounts, Chopra indicated a desire to “unlock more competition,” but warned that there also needs to be assurance that “banks and nonbanks are operating under the same set of rules” and that there is “not regulatory arbitrage.” While Chopra did not specify a timeline for promulgating the final rule implementing this section, he noted that the process is underway and that the Bureau is consulting with various experts. (Issuance of the ANPR was covered by InfoBytes here.)
Abusive acts and practices. Chopra said that he agreed with former acting Director Dave Uejio’s decision to rescind a policy statement on “abusive” conduct issued by former Director Kathy Kraninger. Chopra stated he has “huge aspirations to create durable jurisprudence” regarding the definition of “abusive” in Dodd-Frank. He noted that “it could be a mix” of judicial decisions and “how the CFPB may use rules and guidance to help articulate those standards.”
Cryptocurrency and stablecoins. Chopra expressed concerns about the potential for big payment platforms to process stablecoins—cryptocurrencies pegged to stable commodities or currencies like the dollar. However, Chopra clarified that it is not his intention to use his regulatory authority to ban or limit the use of cryptocurrency or blockchain technology. Regarding the CFPB’s role in cryptocurrency, Chopra claimed that depending on the laws implicated, there is a “fact-based determination as to any sort of law that cryptocurrencies or digital currencies have to comply with.” He further described that this is “something that the CFPB is working with the other regulators on,” and emphasized that “where digital payments [are] involved, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act is a key law with key consumer protections.”
QM Rule. When asked about the postponement of the mandatory compliance date of the General Qualified Mortgage final rule to October 2022 (covered by InfoBytes here), Chopra said he is eager “to hear of places where it needs to be changed” but emphasized that the postponement was before his time and that the rule has gone into effect. He also stated that “QM is a key part of the mortgage market and the mortgage regulatory guidelines.” Therefore, he wants to ensure that the CFPB is always looking at it to make sure the objectives that Congress laid forward in Dodd-Frank are being carried out. When asked about his support of the proposed change in the QM rule, Chopra said he did not know but wants “to make sure he understands the full basis of it.”
Chopra echoed such sentiments in his October 28 testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.
On October 25, the CFPB announced the annual dollar threshold adjustments that govern the application of Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act). The final rule revises the dollar amounts, where appropriate, for provisions implementing TILA and amendments to TILA, including under the CARD Act, the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA), and Dodd-Frank. Each year the thresholds must be readjusted based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which took effect June 1. Effective January 1, 2022, the threshold that triggers requirements to disclose minimum interest charges for open-end consumer credit plans under TILA will remain unchanged at $1.00. The adjusted dollar amount for a safe harbor for a first violation penalty fee will increase to $30 in 2022, and the adjusted dollar amount for a safe harbor for a subsequent violation penalty fee will increase to $41 for open-end consumer credit plans under the CARD Act amendments to TILA. With respect to HOEPA, the adjusted total loan amount threshold for high-cost mortgages in 2022 will be $22,969, whereas the adjusted points and fees dollar trigger for high-cost mortgages will be $1,148. The final rule also specifies 2022 pricing thresholds for the spread between a qualified mortgage’s annual percentage rate and the average prime offer rate, and identifies points and fees limits for all categories of qualified mortgages.
Additionally, the Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board finalized the annual dollar threshold adjustment that governs the application of the Consumer Leasing Act (Regulation M), as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. The exemption threshold for 2022, based on the annual percentage increase in the CPI-W, will increase from $58,300 to $61,000.
On August 20, the CFPB released new technical specifications regarding credit card agreement and data submission compliance requirements under TILA and the CARD Act (Regulation Z). Credit card issuers will utilize the Bureau’s website to submit: (i) Terms of Credit Card Plans (TCCP) Survey data (for the deadline of February 14, 2022); (ii) quarterly credit card agreement submissions (for the deadline of January 31, 2022); and (iii) annual reports connected to college credit card marketing agreements and data (for the deadline of March 31, 2022). According to the announcement, for the most recent TCCP Survey cycle that started on January 31, 83 percent of TCCP Survey submissions were made via the Bureau’s “Collect” website on a voluntary basis, which simplified the Survey submission process in a number of ways, including by minimizing confusing, irrelevant, or duplicative questions and providing an “audit trail” to track submissions. In addition, the Bureau understands Collect to be faster both for issuers and for Bureau processing, which “has led to the faster posting of the TCCP Survey results” and enhances the “public’s ability to use the data in a timely manner.” The Bureau believes that these benefits “would be increased if all TCCP Survey respondents used Collect, and that any additional burden on Survey respondents as a result of using Collect would be minimal.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB released the final rule revising the dollar amounts for provisions implementing the TILA and amendments to TILA, including CARD Act, the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994, and Dodd-Frank’s ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage provisions. The recently released rule took effect upon publication in the Federal Register.
On April 27, the CFPB issued a final rule formally extending the mandatory compliance date of the General Qualified Mortgage (QM) final rule to October 1, 2022. As previously covered by InfoBytes, and following a two-year rulemaking, last December the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule to amend Regulation Z and revise the definition of a “General QM” by eliminating the General QM loan definition’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio (DTI) limit and replacing it with bright-line price-based thresholds. The General QM Final Rule also eliminated QM status resulting solely from loans qualifying for sale to Fannie or Freddie Mac (GSEs), known as the “GSE Patch.” The General QM Final Rule took effect March 1, 2021, but compliance with the new rule is not mandatory until July 1, 2021; in the intervening period, the original and revised General QM Rule are concurrently effective.
On March 3, the Bureau proposed delaying the mandatory compliance date to provide “greater creditor flexibility and expanded availability of responsible, affordable credit options for some struggling consumers” by keeping both the old and new rule until October 1, 2022. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) By extending the mandatory compliance date, lenders will now have the option of complying with either the revised General QM definition or the original DTI-based General QM definition on applications received on or after March 1, but prior to October 1, 2022. “As the mortgage market navigates an uncertain and challenging time, extending the date by which lenders must comply with the CFPB’s new General QM definition will help provide options and flexibility for both lenders and borrowers,” acting CFPB Director Dave Uejio stated in announcing the official extension.
Delaying the General QM Final Rule’s mandatory compliance date will also provide lenders additional time to use the GSE Patch, the Bureau noted. However, as previously covered by InfoBytes, on April 8 the GSEs announced that—due to preferred stock purchase agreements (PSPA) with the U.S. Department of Treasury, which require that acquired loans meet the General QM Rule’s loan definition that became effective March 1—the GSEs will no longer, in accordance with the dates below, acquire GSE Patch loans that fail to meet the requirements of the revised General QM Rule, which functionally eliminates the utility of the GSE Patch. Specifically, to be eligible for purchase, Fannie Mae (see Lender Letter LL-2021-09) requires these loans to have application dates on or before June 30, 2021, and be purchased as whole loans on or before August 31, 2021, or be in MBS pools with an issue date on or before August 1, 2021. Freddie Mac issued similar requirements (see Bulletin 2021-13) for loans with application received dates on or after July 1, 2021, and all mortgages with settlement dates after August 31, 2021. As a result, unless the GSEs negotiate an additional amendment to their respective PSPA, this extension will have limited utility to the market.
On April 8, Fannie Mae issued Lender Letter LL-2021-09 announcing updates to eligibility for loans subject to the CFPB’s revised General Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule (covered by InfoBytes here). Among other things, Fannie notes that because its preferred stock purchase agreement (PSPA) with the U.S. Department of Treasury requires that acquired loans meet the General QM Rule’s loan definition that became effective March 1, it will no longer, in accordance with the dates below, acquire GSE Patch loans that fail to meet to the revised General QM Rule. Specifically, in order to be eligible for purchase by Fannie (certain exceptions are provided for government loans), such loans “must have application dates on or before June 30, 2021” and must “be purchased as whole loans on or before August. 31, 2021, or in MBS pools with an issue date on or before August 1, 2021.” Fannie further notes that it continues to assess the impact of the revised General QM Rule and PSPA on its policies and operations and anticipates further eligibility and underwriting requirement changes. The same day Freddie Mac also issued Bulletin 2021-13, which provides similar updates for loans with application received dates on or after July 1, 2021, and all mortgages with settlement dates after August 31, 2021.
On April 6, the CFPB announced a consent order against a California-based debt collector and its former owner for allegedly harassing consumers and threatening to take legal action if they did not pay their debts. According to the CFPB, the respondents violated the FDCPA and the CFPA’s prohibition against deceptive acts or practices by mailing letters to consumers printed with “Litigation Notice” that threatened recipients with legal action if they did not repay their debts. However, the Bureau stated that the respondents did not file lawsuits against the consumers, nor did they hire law firms or lawyers to obtain any judgments or collect on any such judgments. Under the terms of the consent order, the respondents are permanently banned from the debt collection industry and are ordered to pay $860,000 in redress to its victims, which has been suspended due to an inability to pay, as well as a $2,200 civil money penalty. This is the CFPB’s latest action taken against debt collectors that have used false threats to collect debts. As previously covered in InfoBytes, in 2019 the CFPB and New York attorney general announced proposed settlements with a network of New York-based debt collectors to resolve allegations that the defendants engaged in improper debt collection tactics in violation of the CFPA, the FDCPA, and various New York laws. Also, in 2018, the CFPB announced a settlement with a Kansas-based company and its former CEO and part-owner that allegedly engaged in improper debt collection tactics in violation of the CFPB’s prohibitions on engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (covered by InfoBytes here).
- Jedd R. Bellman to discuss “The CFPB’s crackdown on collection junk fees and the growing anti-CFPB rhetoric” at an Accounts Recovery webinar
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Latest on AML regulations and impact of economic sanctions” at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Fundamentals of financial crime compliance” at the Practicing Law Institute
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar