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On July 18, FHFA announced the establishment of the Office of Financial Technology to help address emerging fintech risks and priorities. The new office will support the agency in: (i) developing strategies for FHFA-regulated entities to advance safe, responsible, and equitable fintech innovation; (ii) sharing best practices related to fintech in housing finance; (iii) establishing outreach through regulated entities to promote awareness and understanding of fintech innovation; (iv) facilitating interagency collaboration and partnerships with other regulators; and (v) providing resources on innovation, general trends, and emerging risks in housing finance. The new office will also help develop strategies for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks to advance fintech in a responsible manner.
The agency also issued a request for information (RFI) on the role of financial technology in housing finance and the risks and opportunities presented by technology throughout the mortgage lifecycle. Among other things, the RFI seeks feedback on ways the agency can “constructively interact with other stakeholders to facilitate responsible innovation, including the identification of any barriers to or challenges in implementing fintech in the housing finance ecosystem, while also focusing on supporting equity in the housing finance landscape for both homeowners and renters.” FHFA stated it also has an interest in understanding ways technology might automate and increase the effectiveness of compliance and regulatory processes (broadly referred to as “regtech”), commenting that “[r]egtech provides an opportunity to enhance transparency, consistency, and standardization of those processes, while reducing compliance costs.” Comments are due by October 16.
Recently, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s spring 2022 rulemaking agenda. According to the preamble, the information in the agenda is current as of April 1, 2022 and identifies regulatory matters that the Bureau “reasonably anticipates having under consideration during the period from June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023.”
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Consumer Access to Financial Records. The Bureau notes that it is considering rulemaking to implement section 1033 of the Dodd-Frank Act to address the development and use of standardized formats for information made available to consumers. The Bureau will release materials in advance of convening a panel under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget and the Small Business Administration’s Chief Counsel for Advocacy.
- Amendments to FIRREA Concerning Automated Valuation Models. The Bureau is participating in interagency rulemaking with the Fed, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA to develop regulations to implement the amendments made by the Dodd-Frank Act to FIRREA concerning appraisal automated valuation models (AVMs). The FIRREA amendments require implementing regulations for quality control standards for AVMs. The Bureau released a SBREFA outline in February 2022 and estimates in the agenda that the agencies will issue an NPRM in December 2022 (covered by InfoBytes here).
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing. The Bureau issued an ANPR in March 2019 to extend TILA’s ability-to-repay requirements to PACE transactions (covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau is working to develop a proposed rule to implement Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act section 307 in May 2023.
- Small Business Lending Data Collection Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act amended ECOA to require financial institutions to report information concerning credit applications made by women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses, and directed the Bureau to promulgate rules for this reporting. The Bureau issued an NPRM in August 2021, and the comment period ended January 6 (covered by InfoBytes here). The agenda indicates that the Bureau estimates issuance of a final rule in March 2023.
- Adverse Information in Cases of Human Trafficking Under the Debt Bondage Repair Act. The National Defense Authorization Act amended the FCRA to prohibit consumer reporting agencies from providing reports containing any adverse items of information resulting from human trafficking. In June 2022, the CFPB issued a final rule implementing amendments to the FCRA intended to assist victims of human trafficking (covered by InfoBytes here).
On June 8, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) released their Equitable Housing Finance Plans for 2022-2024 (available here and here), affirming their commitment to addressing racial and ethnic disparities in homeownership and wealth. The plans were developed following FHFA’s September 2021 request for public input, which invited comments to help the GSEs prepare their first plans and to aid FHFA in overseeing the plans (covered by InfoBytes here). Among other things, the plans (which will be updated annually) include activities to (i) address future consumer education initiatives for renters and homeowners; (ii) help tenants build credit profiles and enable better access to financial services; (iii) expand counseling services to support housing stability; (iv) launch technology to increase access to sustainable credit and fair home appraisals; and (v) deploy Special Purpose Credit Programs to address barriers to sustainable homeownership, focusing particularly on consumers living in formerly redlined and underserved areas with majority Black populations. FHFA’s press release also announced the establishment of a new pilot transparency framework for the GSEs, which will require Fannie and Freddie to publish and maintain a list of pilot programs and “test-and-learn activities” on their public websites to help FHFA determine whether such activities address disparities identified in the plans.
Earlier in the week, FHFA released its inaugural Mission Report describing housing finance activities taken in 2021 by the GSEs and Federal Home Loan Banks related to targeted economic development and affordable, equitable, and sustainable housing. The report highlighted, among other things, that the gap between mortgage acceptance rates for minority and white borrowers “remains persistent,” with Black and Latino borrowers representing 6.3 percent and 14.2 percent of all mortgages purchased by the GSEs, respectively, in the fourth quarter of 2021. The report also discussed fair lending geographical trends as well as data on multifamily and single-family loan acquisitions.
On June 1, the FHFA announced a final rule requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) to submit annual capital plans and provide prior notice for certain capital actions “consistent with the regulatory framework for capital planning for large bank holding companies.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in December 2021, FHFA issued the noticed of proposed rulemaking. These capital plans must include several mandatory elements, including (i) “[a]n assessment of the expected sources and uses of capital over the planning horizon that reflects the [GSE]’s size, complexity, risk profile and scope of operations, assuming both expected and stressful conditions”; (ii) “[e]stimates of projected revenues, expenses, losses, reserves and pro forma capital levels,” along with any additional capital measures the GSEs deem relevant; (iii) “[a] description of all planned capital actions over the planning horizon”; (iv) a discussion of stress test results and how the capital plans will account for these results; and (v) a discussion of any anticipated changes to a GSE’s business plan that may likely have a material impact on the GSE’s capital adequacy or liquidity. The final rule noted that the FHFA intends to review the capital plans for comprehensiveness, reasonableness, and relevant supervisory information, and plans to review the GSE’s regulatory and financial reports, as well as the results of any conducted stress tests and any other information required by FHFA or related to the GSE’s capital adequacy. Should the GSEs determine that there has been or will be a material change to their risk profile, financial condition, or corporate structure since the submission of the last plan (or if directed by FHFA), they must resubmit their capital plans within 30 days. The final rule also incorporates the determination of the stress capital buffer into the capital planning process, which will be provided to the GSEs by August 15 of each year, along with an explanation of the results of the supervisory stress test. The final rule is effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Under the final rule, each GSE will submit its first capital plan by May 20, 2023.
On May 26, FHFA announced a final rule that amends the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework by introducing new public disclosure requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). The final rule adds new quarterly quantitative and annual qualitative disclosures related to risk management, corporate governance, capital structure and capital requirements and buffers under the standardized approach. The final rule also aligns the GSEs’ disclosure requirements with many of the public disclosure requirements for large banking organizations under the regulatory capital framework adopted by banking regulators, and is intended to ensure the GSEs operate in a safe and sound manner “in particular during periods of financial stress.” “By allowing market participants to assess key information about the [GSEs] risk profiles and associated levels of capital, this final rule will promote transparency and encourage sound risk management practices at the [GSEs],” acting Director Sandra L. Thompson said.
On May 25, the U.S. Senate voted along party lines to confirm Sandra L. Thompson as Director of the FHFA. Thompson has served as acting Director since June following the U.S. Supreme Court’s split decision in Collins v. Yellen, which held that it was unconstitutional for FHFA’s leadership structure to allow the President to fire the FHFA director only for cause. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) According to President Biden’s nomination announcement, Thompson brings “over four decades of government experience in financial regulation, risk management, and consumer protection,” including previously serving as Deputy Director of FHFA’s Division of Housing Mission and Goals where she oversaw the agency’s housing and regulatory policy, capital policy, financial analysis, and fair lending space, as well as all mission activities for the GSEs and the Federal Home Loan Banks. Thompson also worked for more than 23 years at the FDIC where she served in a variety of leadership positions. Her most recent position at the FDIC was Director of the Division of Risk Management Supervision. Thompson also led the FDIC’s “examination and enforcement program for risk management and consumer protection at the height of the financial crisis” and “the FDIC’s outreach initiatives in response to a crisis of consumer confidence in the banking system.”
On May 11, FHFA announced its membership in the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System, affirming its “commitment to making tangible progress toward addressing the impact of climate change on the nation's housing finance system.” Recognizing the increased risks to property presented from climate change, FHFA acting Director Sandra L. Thompson advised FHFA-regulated entities last year to designate climate change as a priority concern and actively consider its effects in decision-making processes. NGFS is an international group comprised of central banks and financial supervisors working to enhance the role of the financial system in managing risks and mobilizing capital for green and low-carbon investments in the context of environmentally sustainable development. The Federal Reserve Board, OCC, and FDIC, and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office have already joined NGFS.
On May 3, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) are requiring lenders to use the Supplemental Consumer Information Form (SCIF) as part of the application process for loans that will be sold to the GSEs. According to the announcement, the SCIF is intended to collect information on the borrower’s language preference, and on any homebuyer education or housing counseling that the borrower received, so that lenders can increase their understanding of borrowers’ needs throughout the home buying process. The changes will require lenders to present the SCIF questions to borrowers and to report any data collected from the SCIF to the GSEs purchasing the loan. Lenders will be required to adopt these changes and reporting requirements for loans with application dates on or after March 1, 2023. The announcement also noted that response by borrowers on the preferred language question in the SCIF will be voluntary. The SCIF will be available via Mortgage Translations later this summer.
On April 11, the Biden administration released a Fact Sheet regarding an initiative to decrease “malicious” and “predatory” billing and collection practices related to medical debts, including holding medical providers and debt collectors “accountable for harmful practices.” According to the Fact Sheet, the administration has ordered several agencies to take actions intended to “lessen the burden of medical debt and increase consumer protection.” The Fact Sheet provides “guidance to all agencies to eliminate medical debt as a factor for underwriting in credit programs,” and states, among other things, that the: (i) FHFA is reviewing the credit models that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac use; (ii) USDA is discontinuing “the inclusion of any recurring medical debts into borrower repayment calculations”; and (iii) VA is reviewing its underwriting guidelines to ensure it minimizes or eliminates medical debt reporting as a proxy for creditworthiness. Additionally, the Fact Sheet noted that the Department of Health and Human Services is requesting data from over 2,000 providers on medical bill collection practices, lawsuits against patients, financial assistance, financial product offerings, and third party contracting or debt buying practices. The Fact Sheet also noted that the CFPB “will investigate credit reporting companies and debt collectors” in regard to “patients’ and families’ rights,” which includes targeting “coercive credit reporting” and determining whether medical debts should be included in consumer credit reports.
On April 6, FHFA announced that servicers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are required to suspend foreclosure activities for up to 60 days if the servicer is notified that a borrower has applied for mortgage assistance under the Treasury Department’s Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the HAF was created to provide direct assistance for mortgage payments, property insurance, utilities, and other housing-related costs to help prevent delinquencies, defaults, and foreclosures after January 21, 2020.