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On October 8, the CFPB issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. The report, which is required by Dodd-Frank, addresses, among other things, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer credit, significant rules and orders adopted by the Bureau, consumer complaints, and various supervisory and enforcement actions taken by the Bureau. In his opening letter, Director Dave Uejio discusses the Bureau’s efforts to increase racial equity in the marketplace and to mitigate the financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumers, including measures such as reinstituted regular public reporting, developing Prioritized Assessments to protect consumers from elevated risks of harm related to the pandemic, and numerous enforcement actions with claims or findings of various violations. Uejio also notes that communities of color, particularly Black and Hispanic communities, have disproportionately experienced the health and economic effects of the pandemic, and states that the Bureau is utilizing “all [of its] tools to ensure that all communities, of all races and economic backgrounds, can participate in and benefit from the nation’s economic recovery.”
Among other topics, the report highlights two publications by the Bureau: one focusing on the TRID Integrated Disclosure Rule (covered by InfoBytes here), and another focusing on credit record trends for young enlisted servicemembers during the first year after separation (covered by InfoBytes here). The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer credit are also discussed, as are the results from the Bureau’s Making Ends Meet Survey. In addition to these areas of focus, the report notes the issuance of several significant notices of proposed rulemaking related to remittance transfers, debt collection practices, the transition from LIBOR, and qualified mortgage definitions under TILA. Multiple final rules were also issued concerning Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z); remittance transfers; and payday, vehicle, title, and certain high-cost installment loans. Several other rules and initiatives undertaken during the reporting period are also highlighted.
On October 5, HUD issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking comments regarding the transition from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) to alternate indices on adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). According to the ANPRM, most ARMs insured by FHA are based on LIBOR, which is likely to become uncertain after December 31 and to no longer be published after June 30, 2023. Due to the uncertainty, HUD has begun to transition away from LIBOR and has approved the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) index in some circumstances. In recognizing that there may be certain difficulties for mortgagees transitioning to a new index, HUD “is considering a rule that would address a Secretary-approved replacement index for existing loans and provide for a transition date consistent with the cessation of the LIBOR index.” Furthermore, HUD “is also considering replacing the LIBOR index with the SOFR interest rate index, with a compatible spread adjustment to minimize the impact of the replacement index for legacy ARMs.” Comments on the ANPRM are due by December 6.
The same day, Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles spoke at the Structured Finance Association Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, reminding participants that they should cease utilizing LIBOR by the end of the year, “no matter how unhappy they may be with their options to replace it,” and further warned that the Fed will supervise firms accordingly. Quarles emphasized that, “[g]iven the availability of SOFR, including term SOFR, there will be no reason for a bank to use [LIBOR] after 2021 while trying to find a rate it likes better.”
On September 20, SEC Chair Gary Gensler issued remarks before the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) regarding the transition from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) to a “preferable” Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR). Gensler expressed his concerns for the Bloomberg Short-Term Bank Yield Index (BSBY), citing that BSBY's flaws are similar to those of LIBOR, including that “[b]oth benchmarks are based upon unsecured, term, bank-to-bank lending.” He also pointed out that the BSBY term is “underpinned primarily by trades of commercial paper and certificates of deposit issued by 34 banks,” and “the median trading volume behind three-month BSBY is less than $10 billion per day.” In expressing his support for SOFR, Gensler stated that SOFR is based on an approximate trillion-dollar market.
On September 15, Michael Held, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of the Legal Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issued remarks at the ISDA Benchmark Strategies Forum regarding issues relating to the transition from U.S. LIBOR to other rates. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee announced its recommendation of CME Group’s forward-looking Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) term rates, following the completion of key changes in trading conventions on July 26 under the SOFR First initiative. Held noted that the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, among others, warned of the “considerable operational, technological, accounting, tax, and legal challenges” that may impact the LIBOR transition speed and that slow progress is also a concern for the derivates market. The second transition issue Held noted is the importance of comparing rates, stating that “alternative rates should be appropriate for the bank’s funding model and customer needs.” Lastly, Held discussed that fallbacks are essential for all alternative options, and it is important for firms that are using credit-sensitive rates to have a complete understanding of their chosen rates.
On August 23, the U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board, SEC, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and CFTC released a letter responding to nonfinancial corporate stakeholders’ concerns as they prepare to transition from LIBOR to another reference rate. The agencies acknowledged that LIBOR’s cessation “presents considerable operational, technological, accounting, tax, and legal challenges for Main Street companies,” and recognized that “a smooth transition will be best supported if financial institutions offer alternatives to USD LIBOR that meet borrower needs and if this is done in a timely fashion.” The agencies further acknowledged challenges some stakeholders have faced when obtaining loan agreements based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR)—“even after they indicated that loan agreements based on SOFR would be their preferred choice”—and expressed concerns that nonfinancial corporations are not being offered such alternatives despite the short period of time before LIBOR’s cessation. Stressing the importance of using “reference rates built on deep, liquid markets that are not susceptible to manipulation” while also reiterating that “the official sector is not positioned to adjudicate the selection of reference rates between banks and their commercial customers,” the agencies stressed that “borrower preferences and needs clearly have a significant role to play in the selection of such rates.”
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
On July 29, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) announced its recommendation of CME Group’s forward-looking Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) term rates, following the completion of key changes in trading conventions on July 26 under the SOFR First initiative. As previously covered by InfoBytes, ARRC announced in March that it “will not be in a position to recommend a forward-looking [SOFR term rate] by mid-2021.” However, the success of the SOFR First convention change, “along with the continued growth in SOFR cash and derivatives markets, has allowed the ARRC to recommend SOFR Term Rates, consistent with the principles and indicators it established to do so.” Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles noted that “[a]ll firms should be moving quickly to meet our supervisory guidance advising them to end new use of LIBOR this year.”
In addition to the announcement, ARRC released a factsheet outlining past milestones, SOFR’s strengths, and anticipated milestones. ARRC noted that SOFR is “the best replacement” for USD LIBOR because it is (i) deep enough to “not dry up in times of market stress”; (ii) resilient against market evolution; and (iii) entirely transaction-based, and therefore cannot be easily manipulated.
On July 29, the FDIC, Federal Reserve Board, and OCC (see FDIC FIL-54-2021, Fed SR 21-12, and OCC Bulletin 2021-32) provided answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the impact on regulatory capital instruments under 12 CFR 324 when transitioning from LIBOR to another reference rate. Among other things, the agencies clarified that “such a transition would not change the capital treatment of the instrument, provided the alternative rate is economically equivalent with the LIBOR-based rate.” Specifically, the FAQs clarify that the agencies do “not consider the replacement or amendment of a capital instrument that solely replaces a reference rate linked to LIBOR with another reference rate or rate structure to constitute an issuance of a new capital instrument for purposes of the capital rule.” Additionally, such a replacement or amendment would not create an incentive to redeem, provided “there are no substantial differences from the original instrument from an economic perspective.” Supervised financial institutions should conduct an appropriate analysis demonstrating that the replacement or amended instrument is not substantially different from the original instrument from an economic perspective and may be asked to provide the analysis to the agencies. “Considerations for determining that a replacement or amended capital instrument is not substantially different from the original instrument from an economic perspective could include, but are not limited to, whether the replacement or amended instrument has amended terms beyond those relevant to implementing the new reference rate or rate structure,” the FAQs state.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
On July 1, FHFA issued a supervisory letter providing guidance to the Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) regarding Division of Bank Regulation expectations on the use of alternative reference rates to ensure ongoing “safe and sound FHLBank operations.” According to the letter, FHLBanks should consider, among other things, whether the reference rate: (i) is based on actual daily market transactions; (ii) accurately correlates with the bank’s funding costs; and (iii) is considered the most robust or reflective option of market activity available. In addition, the letter advises FHLBanks to consider whether they have the “necessary information about the underlying transactions and methodology supporting a candidate reference rate to monitor its representativeness over time.” The letter advises that FHLBanks should avoid “rates that contain shortcomings that exist in LIBOR and other recently discontinued or soon to be discontinued reference rates.” FHFA also instructs FHLBanks to provide advance notice to their Examiners-in-Charge if they intend to use an alternative reference rate not already in use.
On June 11, the Treasury Department, OCC, SEC, and the FDIC released separate statements following the meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council concerning the LIBOR transition. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu said it is “imperative that banks continue careful planning” for the transition away from LIBOR to an alternate reference rate, such as the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), the Alternate Reference Rates Committee’s (ARRC) preferred LIBOR alternative. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the ARRC released the SOFR “Starter Kit” in August 2020, which includes three factsheets that are the result of a series of educational panel discussions held by ARRC. The various panel discussions were designed to educate on “the history of LIBOR; the development and strengths of SOFR; progress made in the transition away from LIBOR to date; and how to ensure organizations are ready for the end of LIBOR.” SEC Chairman Gary Gensler also expressed support for SOFR, calling it a “preferable” alternate rate. In addition, Gensler shared his concerns regarding the Bloomberg Short-Term Bank Yield Index (BSBY), which some commercial banks are advocating as a replacement for LIBOR. Gensler said the BSBY is based upon unsecured, term, bank-to-bank lending, which is like LIBOR. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen encouraged market participants to “act promptly to support the switch in derivatives from LIBOR to SOFR.” She noted that “[w]hile important progress is being made in some segments of the market, other segments, including business loans, are well behind where they should be at this stage in the transition.” FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams pointed out that the “FDIC continues to focus on the LIBOR transition and to assess institutions’ practices and plans to adopt a replacement rate and address legacy contracts before December 31 of this year.” However, she disclosed that “the FDIC does not endorse any particular alternative reference rate.”
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).
- Daniel R. Alonso to moderate an interactive roundtable at the Latin Lawyer and GIR Connect: Anti-Corruption & Investigations Conference
- APPROVED Checkpoint Webcast: You have license renewal questions, we have answers
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending” at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss anti-money-laundering at FELABAN Spanish-language webinar “Perspective for banks: LAFT, FINCEN, OFAC, Cryptocurrency”
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "What’s new in BSA/AML compliance?" at the Institute of International Bankers Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Regulatory update: What you need to know under the new boss; It won’t be the same as the old boss" at the IMN Residential Mortgage Service Rights Forum (East)
- Benjamin B. Klubes to discuss “Creating a Fantastic Workplace Culture”
- John R. Coleman and Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek