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On December 3, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) released its 2020 annual report. The report reviews financial market developments, identifies emerging risks, and offers recommendations to enhance financial stability. The report also highlights the impact of Covid-19 on the economy and the financial system. The report notes that although “policy actions to minimize the effects of the pandemic have been effective at improving market conditions, risks to U.S. financial stability remain elevated compared to last year” and that “the global outlook for economic recovery is uncertain, depending on the severity and the duration of the ongoing pandemic.” Highlights include:
- Nonbank mortgage origination and servicing. FSOC notes that disruptions in mortgage payments due to the pandemic have focused attention on the nonbank sector. In particular, FSOC states that due to a surge in refinancing due to low rates, nonbank servicers have an additional source of liquidity to help sustain operations. However, FSOC cautions that “an increase in forbearance and default rates . . . has the potential to impose significant strains on nonbank servicers.” FSOC recommends federal and state regulators coordinate and share data and information, identify and address potential risks, and strengthen oversight of nonbank companies originating and servicing residential mortgages.
- Alternative Reference Rates. FSOC recommends that the Alternative Reference Rates Committee continue to work to facilitate an orderly transition to alternative reference rates following the anticipated cessation of LIBOR at the end of 2021, and encourages federal and state regulators to “determine whether further guidance or regulatory relief is required to encourage market participants to address legacy LIBOR portfolios.”
- Cybersecurity. FSOC “recommends that federal and state agencies continue to monitor cybersecurity risks and conduct cybersecurity examinations of financial institutions and financial infrastructures to ensure, among other things, robust and comprehensive cybersecurity monitoring, especially in light of new risks posed by the pandemic.” FSOC also supports “efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of cybersecurity examinations across the regulatory authorities.”
- Large bank holding companies. FSOC recommends that financial regulators “continue to monitor and assess the impact of rules on financial institutions and financial markets—including, for example, on market liquidity and capital—and ensure that [bank holding companies] are appropriately monitored based on their size, risk, concentration of activities, and offerings of new products and services.”
Additional topics also addressed include short-term wholesale funding markets, nonfinancial business borrowing, and commercial real estate asset valuations.
On October 23, a Chicago-based nonbank mortgage company moved to dismiss a CFPB redlining action on the grounds that the Bureau’s complaint “improperly seek[s]” to expand ECOA to “prospective applicants.” As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, in July, the Bureau filed a complaint against the mortgage company alleging the mortgage company engaged in redlining in violation of ECOA and the Consumer Financial Protection Act. The Bureau argued, among other things, that the company redlined African American neighborhoods in the Chicago area by discouraging their residents from applying for mortgage loans from the company and by discouraging nonresidents from applying for loans from the company for homes in these neighborhoods. To support its arguments, the Bureau cited to (i) a number of racially disparaging comments allegedly made by the owner and employees on the company’s broadcasts; (ii) the company’s comparatively low application volume from African American neighborhoods and applicants; (iii) its lack of specific marketing targeting the African American community in Chicago; (iv) and its failure to employ African American mortgage loan officers.
In support of its motion to dismiss, the mortgage company argued that the Bureau’s complaint is “flawed” by seeking to expand the reach of ECOA to “prospective applicants” and regulate the company’s behavior before a credit transaction begins. In addition to expanding the application of ECOA, the company argued that the Bureau is attempting to impose—through Regulation B’s “discouragement” definition—(i) “affirmative requirements to target advertising to specific racial or ethnic groups”; (ii) “a demographic hiring quota”; and (iii) “a requirement to have business success with specific racial or ethnic groups.” Moreover, the company argued the Bureau’s interpretation of ECOA and Regulation B violates the company’s First Amendment rights by attempting to regulate “the content and viewpoint of protected speech . . . in a way that is unconstitutionally overbroad and vague.” Lastly, the company argued the Bureau similarly violated the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause by seeking to enforce Regulation B’s definition of “discouragement,” because it is unconstitutionally vague.
On October 1, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) requested public comment on proposed regulatory prudential standards for nonbank mortgage servicers. According to CSBS, the proposal is being issued to address concerns about nonbank mortgage servicers, including the rapid market share growth, institution size, and financial stability and governance. The goals of the proposal are to (i) “[p]rovide better protection for borrowers, investors and other stakeholders in the occurrence of a stress event. . .[that] could result in harm”; (ii) “[e]nhance effective regulatory oversight and market discipline over these entities”; and (iii) “[i]mprove transparency, accountability, risk management and corporate governance standards.” Highlights of the proposal include:
- Baseline Standards. CSBS notes that the baseline standards, which cover eight areas—capital, liquidity, risk management, data standards and integrity, data protection/cyber risk, corporate governance, servicing transfer requirements and change of control—will represent regulatory requirements for state-licensed nonbank mortgage servicers and will “leverage existing standards or generally accepted business practices” in order to minimize the regulatory burden.
- Enhanced Standards. CSBS is proposing enhanced standards that would apply to servicers owning whole loans plus mortgage servicing rights (MSRs) totaling the lesser of $100 billion or representing at least a 2.5 percent total market share based on Mortgage Call Report quarterly data of licensed nonbank owned whole loans and MSRs (known as “Complex Servicers”). The enhanced standards would be applied to capital, liquidity, stress testing and living will/recovery and resolution planning. Additionally, the proposal notes that regulators may determine a nonbank mortgage servicer that does not meet the definition of Complex Servicer is still subject to the enhanced standards based on “a unique risk profile, growth, market importance, or financial condition of the institution.”
Comments on the proposal are due by December 31.
On September 11, the California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) initiated the formal rulemaking process with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for the proposed regulations implementing the requirements of the commercial financing disclosures required by SB 1235 (Chapter 1011, Statutes of 2018). In September 2018, California enacted SB 1235, which requires non-bank lenders and other finance companies to provide written consumer-style disclosures for certain commercial transactions, including small business loans and merchant cash advances (covered by InfoBytes here). In July 2019, California released the first draft of the proposed regulations (covered by InfoBytes here) to consider comments prior to initiating the formal rulemaking process with the OAL.
The new proposed regulations, which have been modified since the July 2019 draft, provide general format and content requirements for each disclosure, as well as specific requirements for each type of covered transaction. Additionally, the proposed regulations provide information on calculating the annual percentage rate (APR), including additional details for calculating the APR for factoring transactions, as well as calculating the estimated APR for sales-based financing transactions, among other things. Additional details about the proposed regulations can be found in the CDBO’s initial statement of reasons. Comments on the proposed regulations will be accepted through October 28.
California DBO reports installment consumer lending by California nonbanks increased 68 percent in 2019
On September 9, the California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) released its annual report covering the 2019 operations of finance lenders, brokers, and Property Assessed Clean Energy program administrators licensed under the California Financing Law. Key findings of the report include (i) “installment consumer lending by nonbanks in California increased more than 68 percent” from $34 billion to $57 billion, largely due to real estate-secured loans, which more than doubled to $47.3 billion; (ii) consumer loans under $2,500 accounted for 40.2 percent of the total number of consumer loans made in 2019, with unsecured loans making up 98.7 percent of these loans; and (iii) online consumer loans increased by 69.1 percent with the total principal amount of these loans increasing by 134 percent. CDBO also noted in its release that 58 percent of loans ranging from $2,500 to $4,999—the largest number of consumer loans—carried annual percent rates of 100 percent or higher. “This report reflects the final year in which there are no state caps on interest rates for loans above $2,500,” CDBO Commissioner Manual P. Alvarez stated. He further noted that “[b]eginning this year, the law now limits permissible interest rates on loans of up to $10,000. Next year’s report will reflect the [CDBO’s] efforts to oversee licensees under the new interest caps.”
On July 15, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a complaint against a Chicago-based nonbank mortgage company alleging fair lending violations predicated, in part, on statements made by the company’s owner and other employees during radio shows and podcasts from 2014 through 2017. The complaint, filed in federal court in Illinois, marks the first instance in which a federal regulator has taken a public enforcement action against a nondepository institution based on allegations of redlining.
According to the CFPB, the mortgage company violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act by engaging in discriminatory marketing and applicant outreach practices that allegedly:
On May 6, a small California business filed a proposed class action against a nonbank lender, accusing the lender of a “scheme to enrich itself at the expense of small businesses in connection with the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP),” in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law. In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges she submitted an application for less than $25,000 to the lender on March 28 and received an email response that same day acknowledging receipt of her application. On March 29, the plaintiff received another email from the lender, which asked her to gather documentation and stated that she would receive an invitation to a secure portal in the next “48 business hours.” According to the complaint, however, by April 13, the plaintiff had not yet received a link to the portal, but the lender had sent an email acknowledging the delay. The complaint states that the plaintiff “informed and believes, and on that basis alleges” that the lender “chose to prioritize higher loans that would yield higher fees,” and did not disclose to the public that “it was prioritizing loans not on a first come, first served basis, but on criteria relating to the value of the loan.” The plaintiff alleges she would have chosen a different lender had she known the lender was going to prioritize larger loans. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, restitution, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Treasury Department released a lender agreement for non-bank and non-insured depository institution lenders seeking to make SBA-guaranteed financing under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as part of the CARES Act. The agreement sets forth attestation requirements for two subsets of eligible lenders. Group A attestation requirements relate to depository or non-depository financing providers who have, among other things, “originated, maintained, and serviced more than $50 million in business loans or other commercial financial receivables during a consecutive 12 month period in the past 36 months.” Group B attestation requirements relate to service providers of insured depository institutions, who among other things: (i) must have a contract to support an insured depository institution’s lending activities; and (ii) within the past three years, must have been subject to an examination by the Federal Reserve, OCC, or FDIC in connection with that role. Unless an earlier termination occurs, lenders under the agreement will have “authority to make covered loans” until July 1, 2020.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the SBA, in consultation with the Treasury Department, recently updated PPP frequently asked questions to provide additional clarifications to lenders and borrowers.
Please see Buckley’s dedicated SBA page, which includes additional SBA resources.
On March 25, CSBS President and CEO John W. Ryan sent a letter to Federal Reserve Board Governor Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin encouraging the agencies to create a liquidity facility under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act to support mortgage servicers “in anticipation of widespread borrower payment forbearance.” According to the letter, CSBS members—state regulatory agencies responsible for regulating bank and nonbank financial companies—have expressed concerns regarding liquidity and solvency in the mortgage servicing sector, and are particularly focused on monitoring the financial condition of nonbank mortgage servicers. Without a liquidity facility, CSBS warned that “mortgage servicers will experience a severe liquidity shortage that may threaten their continued viability, and by extension, the health of the nation’s housing finance market.”
On March 18, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposed relief legislation which, among other things, would temporarily allow fintechs to offer “small business interruption loans” for as long as the Covid-19 national emergency is in effect. The “CARES Act” or Corornavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, would provide nearly $300 trillion in additional funds to the SBA in order to provide emergency government-backed loans. Under the proposal, small businesses eligible for the SBA Section 7(a) loans with 500 or fewer employees, could use the loans to fund, such things as (i) paid sick, medical, or family leave; (ii) group health care benefits; (iii) employee salaries; (iv) mortgage payments; and (v) utilities. In addition, the proposal provides for loan deferment for a year and loan forgiveness for loans used to cover payroll expenses.
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "Non-QM market overview & the impact of QM 2.0" at the IMN Non-QM Virtual Conference
- Buckley Webcast: Looking ahead — Tighter scrutiny of deposit and payment practices
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What have you bought non-QM post-Covid?" at the IMN Non-QM Virtual Conference
- Garylene D. Javier to moderate "Innovation in an evolving privacy landscape" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Consumer Financial Services Committee Winter Meeting