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On February 10, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors announced that the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, Maryland’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, and the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation have reached a settlement agreement with the owner of a California-based company for providing false certificates claiming that mortgage loan originators (MLOs) took mandatory eight-hour continuing education courses as required for licensure under state and federal law. The three state financial regulators brought separate enforcement actions alleging violations of the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act) against the individual and his family (collectively, “respondents”) for their role in the “multi-state fraud scheme that involved hundreds of mortgage loan originators.” According to the announcement, the respondents have “agreed to fully cooperate and provide testimony against implicated mortgage loan originators,” and have “agreed to a lifetime restriction from direct and indirect involvement in businesses that provide mortgage lending-related education.” In addition to a $75,000 monetary penalty (which will be divided between the three states), the respondents have agreed to a non-compliance penalty of $15 million should they fail to fully comply with the terms of the settlement agreement.
The action follows a multistate $1.2 million settlement reached last month with 441 MLOs. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the enforcement action included the participation of 44 state agencies from 42 states, and required the settling MLOs to surrender their licenses for three months, pay a $1,000 fine to each state that is a signatory to the consent order in which the MLO holds a license, and take pre-licensing and continuing-education courses before petitioning or reapplying for an MLO endorsement or license.
On January 18, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced that 441 mortgage loan originators (MLOs) have agreed to pay approximately $1.2 million to settle allegations that they falsely claimed to have completed annual mortgage education programs required under the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act). The enforcement action, which included the participation of 44 state agencies from 42 states, targeted a mortgage education scheme offered by a California-based company and its owner that provided false certificates claiming that MLOs took mandatory eight-hour continuing education courses as required for licensure under state and federal law. (See additional background information on the enforcement action here.) The states’ investigation—led by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation—revealed that the owner allegedly, in some instances, completed online education courses on behalf of the MLOs, and in other instances “granted course credit to [MLOs] who had enrolled in his approved course but who neither attended the course nor completed the required coursework necessary to receive course credit.” Administrative enforcement actions have been taken against the company, the owner, and members of the owner’s family. The settling MLOs have agreed to surrender their licenses for three months, pay a $1,000 fine to each state that is a signatory to the consent order in which the MLO holds a license, and take pre-licensing and continuing-education courses before petitioning or reapplying for an MLO endorsement or license. CSBS noted that MLOs implicated in the investigation that did not sign a consent order will face further enforcement actions with their appropriate state financial regulator for additional disciplinary action against their MLO licenses.
On May 19, a group of 34 state attorneys general wrote to congressional leaders urging the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in any future Covid-19 relief package. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the SAFE Banking Act was passed by the House in September 2019 and would provide a safe harbor for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that has implemented laws and regulations that ensure accountability in the marijuana industry. In the letter, the attorneys general outline three reasons legislative action for cannabis banking is needed based on the Covid-19 pandemic: (i) cash-intensive business models could be a target of increased criminal activity; (ii) large cash transactions place the public and government officials at heightened risk of virus exposure; and (iii) tax revenue from over $15 billion in sales in 2019 could provide critical relief for state and local governments. The letter reminds congressional leaders that support for the SAFE Banking Act, or similar legislation, “is not a call for the legalization of medical or retail marijuana in  jurisdictions that choose not to pursue such an approach,” instead it would be a reflection that “our federalist system of government that is flexible enough to accommodate divergent state approaches.”
CFPB says some organizations won’t need to comply with screening and training requirements for temporary MLOs
On November 15, the CFPB issued an interpretive rule, which clarifies the screening and training requirements for mortgage loan originators (MLOs) with temporary authority under Regulation Z. As previously covered by InfoBytes, Section 106 of Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act amends the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (SAFE Act) to establish temporary authority, providing a way for eligible MLOs who have applied for a new state loan originator license to act as a loan originator in the application state while the state considers the application. Regulation Z currently requires organizations to perform criminal screenings (including whether the applicant has been convicted of enumerated felonies within specified timeframes) and training requirements before permitting the individual to originate loans. According to the Bureau, Regulation Z is “ambiguous” as to whether these requirements would apply to MLOs with temporary authority and therefore, the interpretive rule clarifies that an organization is not required to conduct the criminal screening or ensure the training of any MLOs with temporary authority under the SAFE Act.
The interpretive rule is effective November 24, the same day the SAFE Act amendments take effect.
On September 25, the CFPB published four FAQs pertaining to compliance with federal SAFE Act amendments created by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act), which take effect on November 24. According to the Bureau, the Act’s amendments “establish temporary authority, which provides a way for eligible loan originators who have applied for a new state loan originator license to act as a loan originator in the application state while the state considers the application.” Specifically, the FAQs address (i) residential mortgage loan originator categories and requirements; (ii) the temporary authority to act as a loan originator, as added by Section 106 of the Act; (iii) guidance concerning state transitional license availability under the SAFE Act; and (iv) the impact of the Act’s amendments on the permissibility of state transitional licensing under the SAFE Act and Regulation H.
On April 4, the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS) issued a set of guidelines and FAQs clarifying federal SAFE Act amendments created by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act), to establish “temporary authority” provisions for mortgage loan originators (MLOs). According to the guidelines, temporary authority to act as a loan originator while completing state-specific licensing requirements is granted to: (i) qualified MLOs who are changing employment from a depository institution to a state-licensed mortgage company; and (ii) qualified state-licensed MLOs seeking to be licensed in another state. The guidance expands upon temporary authority eligibility requirements; disqualification criteria; and the length of time MLOs may operate under temporary authority.
The guidelines also emphasize that “any MLO operating under temporary authority is subject to the requirements of the federal SAFE Act, and all applicable laws of the application state, to the same extent as if that MLO was a state-licensed loan originator licensed by the state.” MLOs will be able to apply for a license and become eligible for temporary authority on November 24.
On November 9, the CFPB issued its semi-annual report to Congress, covering the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2017 to March 30, 2018. The report, which is required by the Dodd-Frank Act, addresses, among other things, problems faced by consumers with regard to consumer financial products or services; significant rules and orders adopted by the Bureau; and various supervisory and enforcement actions taken during the majority of acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s tenure. Specifically, the report includes (i) a summary of five “significant” state Attorney General actions pursuant to Section 1042 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which allows states to enforce the federal law; (ii) a review of the Bureau’s fair lending efforts, noting that it “conducted fewer fair lending supervisory events. . .than in the prior period,” but “cleared a substantially higher number of MRAs or MOU items from past supervisory events than in the prior period”; (iii) a discussion of non-prime and secured credit cards marketed to consumers; and (iv) a list of upcoming initiatives, which includes requests for information regarding, among other things, the Bureau’s consumer complaint and consumer inquiry handling processes, the Bureau’s inherited regulations and inherited rulemaking authorities, the Bureau’s adopted regulations and new rulemaking authorities, Bureau rulemaking processes, Bureau public reporting practices of consumer complaint information, Bureau external engagements, the Bureau’s supervision program, and the Bureau’s enforcement processes.
Notably, the report also discusses the budget for FY 2018, acknowledging the unusual January 2018 request for zero dollars in funding for the Bureau’s quarterly operations (previously covered by InfoBytes here). As for FY 2019, Mulvaney most recently requested nearly $173 million for Q1, which is still significantly below former Bureau Director Richard Cordray’s FY 2017 Q1 request of $217 million.
On September 21, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on the repeal of certain provisions of regulations that incorporate the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act), which the Board states are intended to reflect the transfer of rulemaking authority to the CFPB by the Dodd-Frank Act. Specifically, the Board proposes amending Regulation H (Membership of State Banking Institutions in the Federal Reserve System) and Regulation K (International Banking Operations) to repeal the provisions that incorporate the SAFE Act because of the change in rulemaking authority and because the CFPB finalized a rule that is substantially identical to the Board's regulations. Comments on the proposal are due within 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On February 6, the OCC published a notice and request for comment in the Federal Register concerning its information collection entitled, “Registration of Mortgage Loan Originators.” Under the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act), any person employed by a regulated entity, who is engaged in the business of residential mortgage loan origination, must register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLS), obtain a unique identifier, and adopt policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the SAFE Act’s requirements. The NMLS is structured to, among other things, (i) improve information sharing between regulators; (ii) increase mortgage loan originator accountability; and (iii) provide consumers easy access to background information on mortgage loan originators, including publicly adjudicated disciplinary and enforcement actions. The OCC retains enforcement authority under the SAFE Act for financial institutions (including federal branches of foreign banks) with total assets of $10 billion or less. Comments on the notice must be received by April 9.
On June 30, the CFPB published its ninth Semi-Annual Report to Congress covering supervisory and enforcement actions, rulemaking activities, newly designed consumer tools, and published reports from October 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016. The Semi-Annual Report provides an overview of relevant topics addressed in previous CFPB reports and bulletins, including monthly Consumer Complaint reports, Supervisory Highlights, and the February 2016 compliance bulletin regarding Regulation V. The report outlines, among other things, the CFPB’s (i) efforts to monitor the effectiveness of the SAFE Act; (ii) fair lending activities, including its risk-based fair lending prioritization process and recent public enforcement actions; and (iii) ongoing efforts to define larger participants in markets for consumer financial services and products which are subject to the Bureau’s supervisory authority. According to the report, the Bureau’s supervisory actions during the six month period covered in the report provided over $44 million in compensation to over 177,000 consumers, while enforcement actions in the same time period resulted in “approximately $200 million in total relief for consumers who fell victim to various violations of consumer financial protection laws, along with over $70 million in civil money penalties.”
- Jedd R. Bellman to discuss “The CFPB’s crackdown on collection junk fees and the growing anti-CFPB rhetoric” at an Accounts Recovery webinar
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Latest on AML regulations and impact of economic sanctions” at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Fundamentals of financial crime compliance” at the Practicing Law Institute
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar