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On November 21, FHA published a final rule in the Federal Register to allow homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages to obtain flood insurance policies that meet FHA requirements from private insurance providers. Specifically, the Acceptance of Private Flood Insurance for FHA-Insured Mortgages final rule updates agency regulations to give borrowers the option to purchase a comparable private insurance policy that conforms to FHA requirements in lieu of a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy for FHA-insured mortgages secured by properties located in FEMA-designated special flood hazard areas (SFHAs). Previously, only flood insurance obtained through the NFIP was accepted. The final rule applies to all FHA-insured single family Title II mortgages, including home equity conversion mortgages, and loans insured under FHA Title I programs. Lenders should refer to Mortgagee Letter 2022-18 for guidance on implementing the final rule’s requirements, which are effective December 21.
Concurrently, HUD issued a press release stating that beginning December 21, “FHA will require lenders to provide detailed flood insurance coverage information when electronically submitting mortgages for FHA insurance on properties in SFHAs.” According to HUD, “[t]his data collection is an objective included in HUD’s Climate Action Plan and will allow FHA to capture and analyze flood insurance information on mortgages in its portfolio at a more granular level than has been possible previously.”
On May 11, the FDIC, OCC, Federal Reserve Board, NCUA, and the Farm Credit Administration (the agencies) jointly issued revised, reorganized, and expanded interagency questions and answers (Q&As) regarding federal flood insurance laws. The revised Q&As supersede versions published in 2009 and 2011, and consolidate Q&As proposed by the agencies in 2020 and 2021 (covered by InfoBytes here). Reflecting significant changes to flood insurance requirements made by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, as well as regulations issued by the agencies to implement these laws, the revised Q&As consist of 144 Q&As (including 24 private flood insurance Q&As) covering a range of topics, including the escrow of flood insurance premiums, the detached structure exemption to the mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement, force placement procedures, and the acceptance of flood insurance policies issued by private insurers. The agencies also made non-substantive revisions to certain Q&As to provide more direct responses to questions asked, additional clarity, or make technical corrections. In response to concerns raised by several commenters, the agencies confirmed that they are providing the interagency Q&As “as guidance only,” and clarified that “all the Q&As apply to all policies, whether [National Flood Insurance Program] or a flood insurance policy issued by a private insurance company, unless otherwise noted in the Q&A.” Additionally, the agencies noted “that they are working individually and on an interagency basis to address financial risks associated with climate change consistent with the [a]gencies’ regulatory and supervisory authorities,” and therefore “decline to make changes to any of the Q&As in response to climate risk change.
The same day, the agencies issued Loans in Areas Having Special Flood Hazards; Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Flood Insurance. The interagency questions and answers replace the 2009 and 2011 publications and consolidate Q&As proposed by the agencies in July 2020 and in March 2021. This bulletin rescinds: (i) OCC Bulletin 2009-26, Flood Disaster Protection Act: Revised Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Flood Insurance; (ii) OCC Bulletin 2011-42, Flood Disaster Protection Act: Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Flood Insurance’ (iii) OCC Bulletin 2020-69, Flood Disaster Protection Act: Proposed Revisions to Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Flood Insurance; (iv) OCC Bulletin 2020-78, Flood Disaster Protection Act: Agencies Extend Comment Period on Proposed Revisions to Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Flood Insurance; and (v) OCC Bulletin 2021-13, Flood Disaster Protection Act: Proposed Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Private Flood Insurance.
NYDFS requires flood insurance and diversity and inclusion training for insurance producers and public adjusters
On October 13, NYDFS announced that property/casualty insurance producers are required to take continuing education in flood insurance and diversity and inclusion. NYDFS is the first state regulator to mandate such requirements, which have been added to the state’s insurance regulations. “Requiring education on flood insurance and diversity and inclusion is not only timely, it is in the best interest of consumers,” acting Superintendent Adrienne A. Harris said. In addition, property/casualty insurance producers who sell flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will be required to comply with the continuing education requirement, which according to the NYDFS announcement, is intended to ensure consumers receive accurate NFIP quotes and are not accidentally underinsured for flood damage. The requirement will assist “producers and adjusters to better service a diverse population of consumers and be culturally sensitive and aware when interacting with consumers and members of the public,” NYDFS stated.
On May 29, the FDIC released a list of administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in April. The FDIC issued 23 orders and 2 notices of changes, which “consisted of 12 Section 19 orders, 3 orders of prohibition, 1 order to pay, 3 consent orders, 1 order to cease and desist, 4 orders terminating consent orders, and 1 order terminating an order of restitution.” Among the actions is a cease and desist order and civil money penalty issued against a Louisiana-based bank for allegedly violating the Bank Secrecy Act, EFTA, RESPA, TILA, the National Flood Insurance Program, and HMDA. The order follows the issuance of a 2019 recommended decision on remand by an FDIC administrative law judge (ALJ), who also found that the bank failed to comply with a majority of the provisions outlined in a 2011 memorandum of understanding entered into with the FDIC two years prior to the filing of this action. Specifically, the recommended decision found that the bank, among other things, “violated the independence requirement of the FDIC’s rules and regulations pertaining to appraisals by allowing a lending officer originating loans to appraise the collateral underlying the loan,” and “allow[ing] a high ranking officer to repeatedly overdraw his bank account without being charged overdraft fees” in violation of Regulation O of the Federal Reserve Board. Other violations included that the bank failed to: (i) conduct independent property evaluations and appraisals; (ii) disclose unauthorized fees or investigate reports of erroneous charges; (iii) assess flood insurance needs or inform borrowers of force-placed flood insurance rules; (iv) file suspicious activity reports and currency transaction reports; (v) implement a “meaningful compliance program” to ensure the bank did not engage in foreign financial transactions with prohibited persons identified by the Office of Foreign Assets Control; and (v) “conduct proper compliance training or maintain an effective audit program for consumer compliance matters.” The FDIC’s order affirmed the ALJ’s recommended decision to subject the bank to an order to cease and desist and pay a $500,000 civil money penalty.
Additionally, the FDIC entered a consent order against an Illinois-based bank relating to alleged weaknesses in its Bank Secrecy Act compliance program.
On April 15, the OCC released a statement addressing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) extension to the grace period for renewing flood insurance policies from 30 days to 120 days due to the Covid-19 pandemic. FEMA’s guidance in Bulletin W-20002 relates to National Flood Insurance Program policies with expiration dates from February 13, 2020 to June 15, 2020, and states that coverage will not lapse if the policy premium is paid prior to the end of the extended grace period. FEMA’s bulletin indicates that the payment grace period was extended “to allow additional time for policyholders who may be struggling financially during this unprecedented time to pay insurance premiums by ensuring that their policies are not canceled for nonpayment of premium due to circumstances beyond their control.” Likewise, the OCC statement “recognizes the serious impact the COVID-19 emergency may have on consumers” and conveys that it will not take enforcement or supervisory action against banks for “reasonable delays in complying with” the OCC’s force placement of flood insurance regulations. The OCC reminds banks that if flood insurance is force placed during the extended grace period, the banks must refund the cost of the overlapping coverage to the borrower.
On January 21, the OCC assessed a nearly $18 million civil money penalty against a national bank lender for alleged violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act (FDPA). According to the OCC, the bank allegedly maintained FDPA policies and procedures which allowed the bank’s third-party servicer to extend the 45-day period after notification to the borrower that the flood insurance did not adequately cover the collateral. The OCC alleged that this resulted in the “untimely force placement of flood insurance” on loans secured by buildings or mobile homes located in special flood hazard areas. The bank agreed to pay the penalty without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.
White House releases 2020 budget proposal; key areas include appropriations and efforts to combat terrorist financing
On March 11, the White House released its fiscal 2020 budget request, A Budget for a Better America. The budget was accompanied by texts entitled Major Savings and Reforms (MSR), which “contains detailed information on major savings and reform proposals”; Analytical Perspectives, which “contains analyses that are designed to highlight specified subject areas or provide other significant presentations of budget data that place the budget in perspective”; and an Appendix containing detailed supporting information. Funding through appropriations and efforts to combat terrorist financing remain key highlights carried over from last year. Notable takeaways of the 2020 budget proposal are as follows:
CFPB. In the MSR’s “Restructure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” section, the budget revives a call to restructure the Bureau, and proposes legislative action to implement a two-year restructuring period, subject the CFPB to the congressional appropriations process starting in 2021, and “bring accountability” to the Bureau. Among other things, the proposed budget would cap the Federal Reserve’s transfers to the Bureau at $485 million in 2020.
Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). The 2020 budget proposal requests that Congress establish funding levels through annual appropriations bills for FSOC (which is comprised of the heads of the financial regulatory agencies and monitors risk to the U.S. financial system) and its independent research arm, the Office of Financial Research (OFR). Currently FSOC and OFR set their own budgets.
Flood Insurance. The Credit and Insurance chapter of the budget’s Analytical Perspectives section discusses FEMA initiatives such as modifying the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to become a simpler, more customer-focused program, and “doubling the number of properties covered by flood insurance (either the NFIP or private insurance) by 2022.” Separately, the budget proposal emphasizes that the administration believes that “flood insurance rates should reflect the risk homeowners face by living in flood zones.”
Government Sponsored Enterprises. Noted within the MSR, the budget proposes doubling the guarantee fee charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loan originators from 0.10 to 0.20 percentage points from 2020 through 2021. The proposal is designed to help “level the playing field for private lenders seeking to compete with the GSEs” and would generate an additional $32 billion over the 10-year budget window.
HUD. The budget proposes to eliminate funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, stating that “[s]tate and local governments are better equipped to address local community and economic development needs.” The proposal would continue to preserve access to homeownership opportunities for creditworthy borrowers through FHA and Ginnie Mae credit guarantees. The budget also requests $20 million above last year’s estimated level to help modernize FHA’s information technology systems and includes legislative proposals to “align FHA authorities with the needs of its lender enforcement program and limit FHA’s exposure to down-payment assistance practices.”
SEC. As stated in both the budget proposal and the MSR, the budget again proposes to eliminate the SEC’s mandatory reserve fund and would require the SEC to request additional funds through the congressional appropriations process starting in 2021. According to the Appendix, the reserve fund is currently funded by collected registration fees and is not subject to appropriation or apportionment. Under the proposed budget, the registration fees would be deposited in the Treasury’s general fund.
SIGTARP. As proposed in the MSR, the budget revives a plan that would reduce funding for the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) “commensurate with the wind-down of TARP programs.” According to the MSR, “Congress aligned the sunset of SIGTARP with the length of time that TARP funds or commitments are outstanding,” which, Treasury estimates, will be through 2023. The reduction reflects, among other things, that less than one percent of TARP investments remain outstanding. This will mark the final time payments are expected to be made under the Home Affordable Modification Program.
Student Loan Reform. As with the 2019 budget proposal, the 2020 proposed budget seeks to establish a single income-driven repayment plan that caps monthly payments at 12.5 percent of discretionary income. Furthermore, balances would be forgiven after a specific number of repayment years—15 for undergraduate debt, 30 for graduate. In doing so, the proposal would eliminate subsidized loans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, auto-enroll “severely delinquent borrowers,” and create a process for borrowers to share income data for multiple years. With certain exceptions, these proposals will only apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2020.
Treasury Department. The budget states that combating terrorist financing, proliferation financing, and other types of illicit financing are a top priority for the administration, and $167 million has been requested for Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence to “continue its work safeguarding the financial system from abuse and combating other national security threats using economic tools.” The proposed budget also requests $125 million for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to administer the Bank Secrecy Act and its work to prevent the financing of terrorism, money laundering, and other financial crimes. An additional $18 million was proposed for strengthening and protecting Treasury’s IT systems.
On February 12, the Federal Reserve Board, Farm Credit Administration, FDIC, National Credit Union Administration, and the OCC issued a joint final rule amending regulations governing loans secured by properties in special flood hazard areas to implement the provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 concerning private flood insurance. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the provisions, among other things, require regulated lending institutions to accept policies that meet the statutory definition of “private flood insurance,” and clarify that lending institutions may choose to accept private policies that do not meet the statutory criteria for “private flood insurance,” provided the policies meet certain criteria and the lending institutions document that the policies offer “sufficient protection for a designated loan, consistent with general safety and soundness principles.” The final rule takes effect July 1.
Final rule subject to approval will require federally regulated lending institutions to accept private flood insurance
Recently, the FDIC and OCC approved a joint final rule governing the acceptance of private flood insurance policies. (The final rule must also be approved by—and is still under review with—the other agencies jointly issuing the rule: the Federal Reserve Board, Farm Credit Administration, and National Credit Union Association.) The final rule amends regulations governing loans secured by properties in special flood hazard areas to implement the provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (Biggert Waters) concerning private flood insurance (see previous InfoBytes coverage of the proposed rule here). The National Flood Insurance Act and the Flood Disaster Protection Act require flood insurance on improved property that secures a loan made, increased, extended, or renewed by a federally regulated lending institution (lending institution) if the property is in a special flood hazard area for which flood insurance is available under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Biggert Waters required the Agencies to adopt regulations directing lending institutions to accept insurance that meets the definition of “private flood insurance” in lieu of NFIP flood insurance.
The final rule, once approved by all five regulators, will institute the following provisions to take effect July 1:
- Lending institutions must accept private flood insurance policies meeting the definition of “private flood insurance.”
- Lending institutions may rely on a “streamlined compliance aid provision” to determine, without further review, that a policy meet the definition of “private flood insurance” if the policy (or an endorsement to the policy) contains the following language: “This policy meets the definition of private flood insurance contained in 42 U.S.C. 4012a(b)(7) and the corresponding regulation.”
- Lending institutions may choose to accept private policies that do not meet the statutory criteria for “private flood insurance” as long as the policies meet certain criteria and the lending institutions document that the policies offer “sufficient protection for a designated loan, consistent with general safety and soundness principles.”
- Lending institutions may exercise discretion when accepting non-traditional flood coverage issued by “mutual aid societies,” subject to certain conditions including that the lending institutions’ primary federal supervisory agency has determined that the plans qualify as flood insurance. However, the final rule does not require lending institutions to accept coverage issued by mutual aid societies.
On July 31, President Trump signed the “National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Extension Act of 2018” into law (see Public Law 115-225/S. 1182). The NFIP was set to expire that day. The short-term extension, which the Senate passed earlier that day, reauthorizes the NFIP through November 30, and provides Congress additional time to establish a long-term financial solution.
Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage on the NFIP.