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On June 11, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s spring 2021 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau announcement, the information released represents regulatory matters the Bureau is “currently pursuing under interim leadership pending the appointment and confirmation of a permanent Director.” Any changes made by the new permanent director will be reflected in the fall 2021 rulemaking agenda. Additionally, the Bureau indicates that it plans to continue to focus resources on actions addressing the adverse impacts to consumers due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and highlighted an interim final rule issued in April that addresses certain debt collector conduct associated with the CDC’s temporary eviction moratorium order (covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau will also continue to take concrete steps toward furthering the agency’s “commitment to promoting racial and economic equity.”
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Small Business Rulemaking. Last September, the Bureau released a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) outline of proposals under consideration, convened an SBREFA panel last October, and released the panel’s final report last December (covered by InfoBytes here and here). The Bureau reports that it anticipates releasing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the Section 1071 regulations this September to “facilitate enforcement of fair lending laws as well as enable communities, governmental entities, and creditors to identify business and community development needs and opportunities of women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses.”
- Consumer Access to Financial Records. The Bureau notes that it is considering rulemaking to implement section 1033 of Dodd-Frank in order to address the availability of electronic consumer financial account data. The Bureau is currently reviewing comments received in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) issued last fall regarding consumer data access (covered by InfoBytes here).
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau published an ANPR in March 2019 seeking feedback on the unique features of PACE financing and the general implications of regulating PACE financing under TILA. The Bureau notes that it continues “to engage with stakeholders and collect information for the rulemaking, including by pursuing quantitative data on the effect of PACE on consumers’ financial outcomes.”
- Automated Valuation Models (AVM). Interagency rulemaking is currently being pursued by the Bureau, Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA to develop regulations for AVM quality control standards as required by Dodd-Frank amendments to FIRREA. The standards are designed to, among other things, “ensure a high level of confidence in the estimates produced by the valuation models, protect against the manipulation of data, [ ] avoid conflicts of interest, require random sample testing and reviews,” and account for any other appropriate factors. An NPRM is anticipated for December.
- Amendments to Regulation Z to Facilitate LIBOR Transition. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued an NPRM in June 2020 to amend Regulation Z to address the sunset of LIBOR, and to facilitate creditors’ transition away from using LIBOR as an index for variable-rate consumer products. A final rule is expected in January 2022.
- Reviewing Existing Regulations. The Bureau notes in its announcement that while it will conduct an assessment of a rule implementing HMDA (most of which took effect January 2018), it will no longer pursue two HMDA proposed rulemakings previously listed in earlier agendas related to the reporting of HMDA data points and public disclosure of HMDA data. Additionally, the Bureau states that it finished a review of Regulation Z rules implementing the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 and plans to publish any resulting changes in the fall 2021 agenda.
The Bureau’s announcement also highlights several completed rulemaking items, including (i) a final rule that formally extended the mandatory compliance date of the General Qualified Mortgage final rule to October 1, 2022 (covered by InfoBytes here); (ii) proposed amendments to the mortgage servicing early intervention and loss mitigation-related provisions under RESPA/Regulation X (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) (the Bureau anticipates issuing a final rule before June 30, when the federal foreclosure moratoria are set to expire); and (iii) a proposed rule (covered by InfoBytes here), which would extend the effective date of two final debt collection rules to allow affected parties additional time to comply due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic (the Bureau plans to issue a final rule in June on whether, and for how long, it will extend the effective date once it reviews comments).
On May 27, the CFPB released a report providing insights into manufactured housing financing, which is a source of lending for millions of manufactured housing homeowners. The report utilizes new information about manufactured housing that was added in 2018 to the list of HMDA data. The report also examines the differences between mortgage loans for site-built homes, mortgage loans for manufactured homes, and chattel loans for manufactured homes. The report found, among other things: (i) about 42 percent of manufactured home purchase loans are “chattel” loans, which are secured by the home but not the land; (ii) about 70 percent of the time, homeowners seeking a loan on a site-built home are approved, but about 30 percent of manufactured home loan applications are approved; (iii) the top five lenders account for over 40 percent of manufactured housing purchase loans and nearly 75 percent of chattel lending; and (iv) Hispanic, Black and African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, and elderly borrowers “are more likely than other consumers to take out chattel loans, even after controlling for land ownership.” The report also pointed out that “compared to mortgages for site-built homes, manufactured homes mortgages tend to have smaller loan amounts, higher interest rates, fewer refinances, and less of a secondary market, patterns that are even more acute for chattel loans.”
On May 14, the Federal Reserve’s Division of Consumer and Community Affairs issued a letter informing supervised financial institutions that HMDA quarterly reporting will resume beginning with institutions’ 2021 first quarter data, due on or before May 31, 2021, for all covered loans and applications with a final action taken date between January 1 and March 31, 2021. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last year the Fed eased quarterly HMDA reporting requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to provide supervised institutions with flexibility to reallocate resources to serving customers. The Fed’s newest letter, which supersedes previous guidance, notes that it “does not intend to cite in an examination or initiate an enforcement action against any entity that did not make the quarterly filing for data collected in 2020.”
On April 26, the CFPB announced presentations from the Bureau’s first two tech sprints—forums that gather “regulators, technologists, financial institutions, and subject matter experts from key stakeholders for several days to work together to develop innovative solutions to clearly-identified challenges”—as a means to encourage regulatory innovation and collaborate with stakeholders on solutions to regulatory compliance challenges. The first tech sprint, covering Adverse Action Notices, took place in October 2020, and focused on improving electronic distribution of these disclosures to assist consumers in making more informed financial choices. Participants were able to contribute in “developing innovations in the way lenders notify consumers of adverse credit actions.” The second tech sprint, covering the submission and publication of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, took place in March 2021 and challenged participants to work with the Bureau on ways to innovate on how the Bureau receives and processes HMDA data. The second forum also focused on how to improve accessibility to the data to increase market transparency and drive better decision making, especially around issues of equity and inclusion.
On April 14, the CFPB issued its annual fair lending report to Congress, which outlines the Bureau’s efforts in 2020 to fulfill its fair lending mandate, while protecting consumers against the resulting economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the report, the Bureau continued to focus on promoting fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory access to credit, highlighting several fair lending priorities that continued from years past such as mortgage origination, small business lending, and student loan origination. The report also discusses new policy areas and programs for fair lending examinations or investigations, including (i) the Fair Lending Help Desks; (ii) amendments concerning Regulation C, which will increase the permanent threshold for collecting, recording, and reporting data about open-end lines of credit from 100 to 200; and (iii) two HMDA data point articles. Additionally, the report discusses the Bureau’s efforts in expanding access to credit for underserved or underbanked populations, including: (i) hosting the first “Tech Sprint” (covered by InfoBytes here) to encourage regulatory innovation and stakeholder collaboration; (ii) continuing to examine and investigate institutions for compliance with HMDA and ECOA; (iii) engaging with stakeholders to discuss fair lending compliance, issues related to credit access, and policy decisions; and (iv) issuing Supervisory Recommendations relating to weak or nonexistent fair lending policies and procedures, risk assessments, and fair lending training. The report also provides information related to regulation, supervision, enforcement, and education efforts.
On March 31, the CFPB rescinded, effective April 1, the following policy statements, which provided temporary regulatory flexibility measures to help financial institutions work with consumers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic:
- A March 26, 2020, statement addressing the Bureau’s commitment to taking into account staffing and related resource challenges facing financial institutions related to supervision and enforcement activities.
- A March 26, 2020, statement postponing quarterly HMDA reporting requirements. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- A March 26, 2020, statement postponing annual data submission requirements related to credit card and prepaid accounts required under TILA, Regulation Z and Regulation E. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- An April 1, 2020, statement on credit reporting agencies and furnishers’ credit reporting obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Regulation V during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bureau notes that the rescission “leaves intact the section entitled “Furnishing Consumer Information Impacted by COVID-19” which articulates the CFPB’s support for furnishers’ voluntary efforts to provide payment relief and that the CFPB does not intend to cite in examinations or take enforcement actions against those who furnish information to consumer reporting agencies that accurately reflect the payment relief measures they are employing.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- An April 27, 2020, statement affirming that the Bureau would not take supervisory or enforcement action against land developers subject to the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act and Regulation J for delays in filing financial statements and annual reports of activity. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- A May 13, 2020, statement providing supervision and enforcement flexibility for creditors to resolve billing errors during the pandemic. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- A June 3, 2020, statement providing temporary flexibility for credit card issuers regarding electronic provision of certain disclosures during the Covid-19 pandemic in accordance with the E-Sign Act and Regulation Z. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
The rescission also withdraws the Bureau as a signatory to the April 7, 2020, Interagency Statement on Loan Modifications and Reporting for Financial Institutions Working with Customers Affected by the Coronavirus (covered by InfoBytes here), and the April 14, 2020, Interagency Statement on Appraisals and Evaluations for Real Estate Related Financial Transactions Affected by the Coronavirus (covered by InfoBytes here).
Additionally, the Bureau issued Bulletin 2021-01 announcing changes to how it communicates supervisory expectations to institutions. Bulletin 2021-01 replaces Bulletin 2018-01 (covered by InfoBytes here), which previously created two categories of findings conveying supervisory expectations: Matters Requiring Attention (MRAs) and Supervisory Recommendations (SRs). Under the revised Bulletin, the Bureau notes that examiners “will continue to rely on [MRAs] to convey supervisory expectations” but will no longer issue formal written SRs, as the agency believes that MRAs will more effectively convey its supervisory expectations. The Bulletin further states that “Bureau examiners may issue MRAs with or without a related supervisory finding that a supervised entity has violated a Federal consumer financial law.”
On March 31, the CFPB announced the release of the 2020 HMDA loan application register (LAR) data. The LAR data, available on the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s HMDA Platform, contains modified loan-level information on approximately 4,400 HMDA filers. The Bureau also announced plans to produce the 2020 HMDA data “in other forms to provide users insights into the data, including a nationwide loan-level dataset,” which “will provide all publicly available data from all HMDA reporters, aggregate and disclosure reports with summary information by geography and lender,” and allow users to create custom datasets and reports. The Bureau also stated that it will publish a Data Point article highlighting key trends in the annual data.
On March 30, the FDIC issued FIL-21-2021 announcing the Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council’s issuance of the 2021 edition of the “Guide to HMDA Reporting: Getting It Right!” The guide applies to HMDA data collected in 2021 that will be reported to supervisory agencies by March 1, 2022, and includes (i) a summary of responsibilities and requirements; (ii) directions for assembling the necessary tools; and (iii) instructions for reporting HMDA data. According to the announcement, the 2021 edition provides information to assist with HMDA compliance in the event of a merger or acquisition, as well as updates to the appendices that reflect amendments to Regulation C made by a CFPB final rule published last year (covered by InfoBytes here). The final rule increased the permanent threshold from 25 to 100 loans starting July 1, 2020, for both depository and nondepository institutions, and also increased the permanent threshold for collecting and reporting data about open-end lines of credit from 100 to 200. The latter change, however, will not take effect until January 1, 2022, when the current temporary threshold of 500 open-end lines of credit expires.
On February 24, the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled “How Invidious Discrimination Works and Hurts: An Examination of Lending Discrimination and Its Long-term Economic Impacts on Borrowers of Color.” The subcommittee’s memorandum regarding the hearing discussed the importance of exploring “available tools and potential legislative solutions to detect hidden discrimination and deter discrimination in lending and housing,” and addressed topics such as modern-day redlining, racial wealth gaps, and matched-pair testing (a method for detecting impermissible differences in treatment based on protected classes).
Subcommittee members also discussed recently introduced H.R. 166, the “Fair Lending for All Act,” which would, among other things: (i) direct the CFPB to establish an Office of Fair Lending Testing charged with testing creditors’ ECOA compliance, and permit the Bureau to refer ECOA violations to the attorney general for appropriate action; (ii) extend the protected classes under the law to sexual orientation, gender identity, and an applicant’s location based on zip code or census tract; (iii) establish criminal penalties under ECOA for knowing and willful violations of prohibited credit discrimination, including personal liability for executive officers and directors; (iv) require the Bureau to review loan applications for compliance with ECOA and other federal consumer laws; and (v) amend HMDA Section 304(b)(4) to add the new prohibited credit discrimination categories.
On December 22, the CFPB announced final rules adjusting the asset-size thresholds under HMDA (Regulation C) and TILA (Regulation Z). Both rules took effect January 1.
Under HMDA, institutions with assets below certain dollar thresholds are exempt from the collection and reporting requirements. The final rule increases the asset-size exemption threshold for banks, savings associations, and credit unions from $47 million to $48 million, thereby exempting institutions with assets of $48 million or less as of December 31, from collecting and reporting HMDA data in 2021.
TILA exempts certain entities from the requirement to establish escrow accounts when originating higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs), including entities with assets below the asset-size threshold established by the CFPB. The final rule increases this asset-size exemption threshold from $2.202 billion to $2.230 billion, thereby exempting creditors with assets of $2.230 billion or less as of December 31, from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for HPMLs in 2021.