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  • HUD suspends downpayment assistance mortgagee letter following injunction

    Federal Issues

    On July 23, HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2019-10, announcing the official suspension of the effective date of the agency’s April guidance (Mortgagee Letter 2019-06), which changed the downpayment assistance (DPA) guidelines. The suspension comes just a week after the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah granted an American Indian band and its mortgage company (collectively, “plaintiffs”) a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the April changes, and ordering that HUD “shall not deny insurance nor cause insurance to be denied based on non-compliance with Mortgagee Letter 19-06 and shall provide public notice that the effective date of Mortgagee Letter 19-06 is suspended until after a final determination on the merits of the case.” Buckley is co-counsel in the pending litigation.

    The suspended guidance, Mortgagee Letter 2019-06 (Mortgagee Letter), issued on April 18, imposed new documentation requirements purportedly aimed at confirming that Governmental Entities operate their DPA programs within the scope of their governmental capacity when providing any portion of a borrower’s Minimum Required Investment (MRI). The letter updated Handbook 4000.1 to specify that when any portion of a borrower’s MRI comes from a Governmental Entity, a mortgagee must obtain the following documentation: (i) proof that the Governmental Entity has authority to operate in the jurisdiction where the property is located; (ii) a legal opinion from the Governmental Entity’s attorneys, signed and dated within two years of closing, establishing the Governmental Entity’s authority to operate in the jurisdiction where the property is located, which in the case of a federally recognized Indian Tribe means the entity is operating on tribal land in which the property is located, or offering DPA to enrolled members of the tribe; and (iii) evidence that the Governmental Entity is providing DPA and is doing so in its governmental capacity. The Mortgagee Letter went on to require documentation indicating that the provision of DPA is not contingent upon the future transfer of the insured mortgage to a specific entity.

    The plaintiffs filed suit against HUD on April 22 arguing that the Mortgagee Letter was unlawful and discriminatory, and unfairly targeted American Indian tribes by “requiring them, for the first time, to confine their DPA programs to the geographic boundaries of their reservations and to enrolled members of the tribes, literally driving them out of the national marketplace and back onto the reservation.” Additionally, the complaint argued that HUD failed to execute these changes in accordance with the protections of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) by providing a notice and comment period—purporting the Mortgagee Letter to be an “informal ‘guidance’ document that merely ‘clarifies’ existing law.” The decision to grant the preliminary injunction was announced by the court at the conclusion of a July 16 hearing. In the written order released the following week, the court concluded that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on claims that the agency violated the APA because the Mortgagee Letter was actually a legislative rule with the force and effect of the law, not merely an interpretive rule. Moreover, the court rejected HUD’s argument that the Mortgagee Letter merely reiterates jurisdictional limitations that were already present, and stated the plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated irreparable harm caused by the new jurisdictional limitations in the Mortgagee Letter.

    Federal Issues Courts Agency Rule-Making & Guidance HUD Downpayment Assistance Preliminary Injunction

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  • 9th Circuit: FTC does not need to show irreparable harm to get injunctive relief

    Courts

    On June 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that no showing of irreparable harm is required for the FTC to obtain injunctive relief when the relief is sought in conjunction with a statutory enforcement action where the applicable statute authorizes such relief. According to the opinion, the FTC brought an action against an entity and related individuals (collectively, “defendants”) operating a mortgage loan modification scheme for allegedly violating the FTC Act and Regulation O by making false promises to consumers for services designed to prevent foreclosures or reduce interest rates or monthly mortgage payments. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.) The FTC brought the action under the second proviso of Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, which allows the agency to pursue injunctive relief without initiating administrative action. The district court granted the motion for preliminary injunction without requiring the FTC to make a showing of irreparable harm.

    On appeal, the 9th Circuit rejected the defendants’ argument that the FTC was still required to demonstrate the likelihood of irreparable harm in a Section 13(b) action. The appellate court noted that the FTC’s position is supported by the court’s precedent, quoting “‘[w]here an injunction is authorized by statute, and the statutory conditions are satisfied . . ., the agency to whom the enforcement of the right has been entrusted is not required to show irreparable injury.’” The appellate court concluded that its precedent is not irreconcilable with the 2008 Supreme Court decision in Winter v. Natural Resource Defense Council, Inc, noting that Winter did not address injunctive relief in the context of statutory enforcement. Therefore, the appellate court concluded that although irreparable harm is required to obtain injunctive relief in an ordinary case, the district court did not error in granting injunctive relief, without the showing of irreparable harm, in conjunction with a statutory enforcement action.  

     

    Courts Appellate FTC FTC Act Preliminary Injunction Ninth Circuit

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  • Court holds SEC has not proven pre-ICO cryptocurrency is a “security”

    Courts

    On November 27, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California denied the SEC’s motion for a preliminary injunction against a cryptocurrency company, concluding the agency failed show the currency tokens were “securities” as defined under federal securities laws. According to the order, the SEC filed a complaint against the company in October alleging it falsely claimed its initial coin offering (ICO) was registered and approved by the SEC and other regulators, including using the agency’s seal in marketing materials. At the time of the filing, the SEC claimed the company had already raised more than $2.5 million in pre-ICO sales. The SEC moved for a preliminary injunction to freeze the company’s assets and prevent the company’s owner from buying or selling securities and other digital currency during the pendency of the case. Upon review, the court noted the SEC must establish the company previously violated federal securities laws and there is a reasonable likelihood that it will happen again. The SEC argued the allegedly fraudulent marketing materials used to raise money from 32 “test investors” violated federal securities laws, while the company argued the investors did not have an expectation to receive profits as they were working with the company on the exchange’s functionality and therefore, the currency tokens were not “securities.” The court denied the SEC’s motion, concluding that it could not determine whether the tokens were “securities” under federal law without full discovery as there were disputed issues of material facts, including what the test investors relied on in terms of marketing materials before they purchased the cryptocurrency tokens.

    Courts Cryptocurrency Virtual Currency Initial Coin Offerings SEC Preliminary Injunction

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