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On September 28, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, Banking Division, extended previous guidance (previously covered here and here) issued to mortgage loan originators, lenders, loan brokers, and exempt company registrants. The guidance permits working from home, even if the home is located outside of Rhode Island or is not a licensed branch, so long as specified data security provisions are met. The department extended this guidance until December 31, 2020.
On September 21, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed six class actions alleging that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and its implementing regulations entitle accountants who assist borrowers in securing PPP loans to a portion of the fees banks receive from the Small Business Administration (SBA).The six class actions were brought by a collection of accountants and accounting firms alleging that the banks did not pay agent fees reportedly due under the PPP, even though they had not entered into agreements with the banks to receive the fees. The district court, following a similar decision by a Florida federal district court (covered by InfoBytes here), dismissed the class actions, concluding that absent an agreement to do so, banks are not required to pay agent fees under the CARES Act—which created the PPP—and its implementing regulations. Specifically, the court noted that although the law and implementing regulations impose limits on agents fees, those limits “do not entitle agents to fees but simply regulate how such fees would be paid when they are to be paid.” The court also rejected a variety of state law and common law claims, which were “largely premised on the same theory,” and dismissed all six class actions in their entirety.
On August 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision to partially dismiss an action brought by the City of Oakland, alleging a national bank violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and California Fair Employment and Housing Act. As previously covered by InfoBytes, Oakland alleged that the national bank violated the FHA and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act by providing minority borrowers mortgage loans with less favorable terms than similarly situated non-minority borrowers, leading to disproportionate defaults and foreclosures causing (i) decreased property tax revenue; (ii) increases in the city’s expenditures; and (iii) reduced spending in Oakland’s fair-housing programs. The district court dismissed the City’s municipal expenditure claims, but allowed claims based on decreased property tax revenue to continue. The district court also held that the City could pursue its claims for injunctive and declaratory relief.
On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed the court’s denial of the bank’s motion to dismiss as to Oakland’s claims for decreased property tax revenue and the court’s dismissal of Oakland’s claims for increased city expenditures. Specifically, with respect to claims for reduced tax revenue, the appellate court concluded that the “FHA’s proximate-cause requirement is sufficiently broad and inclusive to encompass aggregate, city-wide injuries.” Based on allegations that the City could use statistical regression analysis “to precisely calculate the loss in property values in Oakland’s minority neighborhoods that is attributable to foreclosures caused by [the bank’s] predatory loans,” the 9th Circuit found that Oakland’s claim for decreased property tax revenues “has some direct and continuous relation to [the bank]’s discriminatory lending practices.” Regarding the City’s alleged municipal expenditure injuries, the appellate court agreed with the district court that Oakland’s complaint failed to account for independent variables that may have contributed or caused such injuries and that those alleged injuries therefore did not satisfy the FHA’s proximate-cause requirement. Finally, the appellate court held that the City’s claims for injunctive and declaratory relief were also subject to the FHA’s proximate-cause requirement, and that on remand, the district court must determine whether Oakland’s allegations satisfied this requirement.
On August 27, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) released updated recommended fallback language for market participants to use for new originations of LIBOR-referenced bilateral business loans. The proposed language is intended to align with revisions made to the recommended fallback language for syndicated loans (covered by InfoBytes here). The updated fallback language amends the previously proposed “hardwired” and the “hedged loan” approaches. ARRC emphasizes that “cash markets will benefit by adopting a more consistent, transparent and resilient approach to contractual fallback arrangements for new LIBOR products,” and reminds financial market participants that it does not recommend waiting “until a forward-looking term [Secured Overnight Financing Rate] SOFR exists to begin using SOFR in cash products.”
On August 20, the Texas Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner issued updated guidance, previously covered here, for regulated lenders navigating the Covid-19 crisis. The guidance: (1) encourages lenders to work with consumers, including by working out modifications to assist with payments, waiving fees and charges, suspending charged-off accounts, and suspending repossessions of collateral or foreclosure of real property, among other things; (2) reminds lenders of legal requirements for using electronic signatures; and (3) permits lenders to conduct regulated lending activity from unlicensed locations, subject to certain conditions. The guidance is in effect through September 30, 2020, unless withdrawn or revised.
On August 17, the Kansas governor issued Executive Order No. 20-61, which imposes restrictions on foreclosures and evictions. Banks and lending entities are prohibited from foreclosing on residential properties in Kansas where all defaults or violations of the mortgage are substantially caused by a financial hardship resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, subject to certain exemptions. Landlords are similarly prohibited from evicting a residential tenant when all defaults or violations of the rental agreement are substantially caused by a financial hardship resulting from the pandemic. Banks, financial lending entities, or landlords initiating judicial foreclosure or eviction proceedings after August 17, 2020, bear the burden of pleading and proving that the foreclosure or eviction is not solely based on defaults or violations resulting from financial hardships resulting from the pandemic. The order does not apply to foreclosures initiated by the U.S. government.
On August 17, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida dismissed an action alleging an accounting firm is entitled to a portion of the fees paid by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to lenders making loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). According to the order, an accounting firm filed an action against a lender alleging the lender did not pay “agent fees” reportedly due to it under the PPP. The accounting firm argued that the PPP and its implementing regulation require lenders to pay agent fees “irrespective of whether there is an agreement between the agent or borrower and the lender to do so.” Moreover, the accounting firm asserted the fees were required based on “equitable principles  under state common law,” because the lender was “aware of and benefitted from the work [the accounting firm] did on the borrowers’ PPP loan applications.”
The district court dismissed the action, concluding that the CARES Act—which created the PPP—and its implementing regulation do not “require lenders to pay the agent’s fees absent an agreement to do so.” According to the court, the CARES Act establishes a ceiling on fees an agent may collect in preparing an application for a borrower and the applicable interim final regulation (IFR) “simply explains that, if an agent is to be paid a fee, the fee must be paid by the lender from the fee it receives from the SBA.” The court noted that the SBA’s existing Section 7(a) lending requirements establish that fees charged by an agent require a “compensation agreement” to be provided to the SBA, and because these existing Section 7(a) program requirements “do not conflict with the IFR, they apply to agents who assist borrowers in obtaining loans under the PPP.” Because there was no contractual agreement between the parties, the court concluded that the financial institution had no legal obligation to pay the accounting firm agent fees. Lastly, the court rejected the state common law claims, concluding that the accounting firm did not establish that it directly conferred a benefit on the financial institution, noting that the SBA fees were “merely an incidental benefit of [the accounting firm]’s work for the borrowers.”
Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions extends emergency declarations to non-depository entities
On July 24, the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions extended emergency declarations for residential mortgage lenders, check cashers, bond for deed escrow agents and repossession agents, brokers and lenders licensed under the Louisiana Consumer Credit Law and Deferred Presentment and Small Loan Act, and pawnbrokers. The orders were previously covered here. Such entities are granted the authority to temporarily close licensed locations within Louisiana or to temporarily close and/or relocate to another location within the state. Mortgage loan originators are permitted to work from home, whether located in Louisiana or another state, even if the home is not registered with the LOFI. The declarations also provide instructions for notifying the LOFI of a temporary location change. The declarations will remain in effect as long as there is a public health emergency relating to Covid-19, or until rescinded or replaced.
Small Business Administration issues notice regarding forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program loans
On July 23, the Small Business Administration issued a procedural notice providing information for Paycheck Protection Program lenders on submitting decisions on PPP borrower loan forgiveness applications to the SBA, requesting payment of the forgiveness amount, SBA loan forgiveness reviews, and payment of loan forgiveness amounts. For example, the notice provides instructions regarding documentation and data that the lender must submit when it issues a decision on loan forgiveness. The notice also indicates that the SBA intends to issue an interim final rule addressing how a borrower may appeal the SBA’s determination that it is ineligible for a PPP loan or ineligible for the loan amount or the loan forgiveness amount claimed by the borrower.
The Texas Department of Banking issued guidance explaining the application of lending limits imposed on state chartered banks to loans issued under the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Main Street Lending Program (“MSLP”). The guidance explains that if the bank funds a MSLP loan prior to seeking to sell a participation in the loan to the Department of the Treasury, the entire amount of the loan will count towards eligible lending limits. After the participation is sold, the portion of the loan sold need not be treated as a loan for purposes of lending limits. If the bank enters into a MSLP loan agreement, the funding of which is contingent on a binding commitment from the Treasury to purchase a participation in the loan, the bank need only include the portion of the loan to be retained when calculating lending limits.
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The federal fraud sentencing guidelines: It's time to stop the madness" at a New York Criminal Bar Association webinar
- Daniel P Stipano to moderate "Digital identity: The next gen of CIP" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference