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  • CFPB settles with eighth lender on misleading VA advertising

    Federal Issues

    On September 14, the CFPB announced a settlement with an eighth mortgage lender for mailing consumers advertisements for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgages that allegedly contained misleading statements or lacked required disclosures. According to the Bureau, the lender offers and provides VA guaranteed mortgage loans, and allegedly sent false, misleading, and inaccurate direct-mail advertisements to servicemembers and veterans in violation of the CFPA, the Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and Regulation Z. Among other things, the Bureau alleged the advertisements (i) failed to include required disclosures; (ii) stated credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (iii) made “misrepresentations about the existence, nature, or amount of cash available to the consumer in connection with the mortgage credit product”; (iv) gave the false impression the lenders were affiliated with the government; and (v) used the name of the consumer’s current lender in a misleading way.

    The settlement imposes a civil money penalty of $625,000 and bans the lender from future advertising misrepresentations similar to those identified by the Bureau. Additionally, the settlement requires the lender to use a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws.

    The latest enforcement action is part of the Bureau’s “sweep of investigations” related to deceptive VA-mortgage advertisements. Previously, the Bureau issued consent orders against seven other mortgage lenders for similar violations, covered by InfoBytes herehere and here.

    Federal Issues CFPB Mortgages Department of Veterans Affairs Mortgage Lenders CFPA UDAAP MAP Rule Regulation Z

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  • CFPB settles with three more lenders on misleading VA advertising

    Federal Issues

    Recently, the CFPB announced settlements (see here, here, and here) with three mortgage lenders for mailing consumers advertisements for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgages that allegedly contained misleading statements or lacked required disclosures. According to the Bureau, the lenders offer and provide VA guaranteed mortgage loans, and allegedly sent false, misleading, and inaccurate direct-mail advertisements to service members and veterans in violation of the CFPA, the Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and Regulation Z. Among other things, the Bureau alleges the advertisements (i) failed to include required disclosures; (ii)  stated credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (iii) made “misrepresentations about the existence, nature, or amount of cash available to the consumer in connection with the mortgage credit product”; and (iv) gave the false impression the lenders were affiliated with the government. Two of the lenders also allegedly used the name of the consumer’s current lender in a misleading way, and misrepresented that consumers would receive specific escrow refund amounts if they refinanced their mortgages, even though the advertised amounts “were calculated using a methodology that had no bearing on the actual escrow refund amount,” and consumers were often required to fund new escrow accounts upon generating new loans.

    In addition, one of the lender’s advertisements represented to consumers that they could “‘[s]kip two payments’ or ‘miss’ two payments by refinancing with the company,” but failed to disclose, among other things, that the skipped or missed payments would be added to the loan’s principal balance.

    The consent orders (see here, here and here) impose bans on future advertising misrepresentations similar to those identified by the Bureau, require the lenders to use a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws, and require compliance with certain enhanced disclosure requirements. The Bureau further imposes civil penalties of $225,000, $50,000, and $230,000 respectively against the lenders.

    The latest enforcement actions are part of the Bureau’s “sweep of investigations” related to deceptive VA-mortgage advertisements. In August and July, the Bureau issued consent orders against four other mortgage lenders for similar violations, covered by InfoBytes here and here.

     

    Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Mortgages Department of Veterans Affairs Mortgage Broker Mortgage Lenders CFPA UDAAP MAP Rule Regulation Z

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  • CFPB settles with two mortgage companies over misleading VA loan advertisements

    Federal Issues

    On August 26, the CFPB announced a settlement with a mortgage company to resolve allegations that the company, which is licensed as a mortgage broker or lender in approximately 11 states, sent false, misleading, and inaccurate direct-mail advertisements to servicemembers and veterans for its VA-guaranteed loans in violation of the CFPA, Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and Regulation Z. According to the Bureau, among other things, the mortgage company (i) advertised credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (ii) failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose payment terms; (iii) made numerous “misrepresentations about the existence, nature, or amount of cash available to the consumer in connection with the mortgage credit product”; and (iv) misrepresented the consumer’s repayment obligations by failing to state the amount of each payment that would apply over the term of the loan or failing to clearly and conspicuously state that actual payment obligations would be greater. In addition to a $260,000 civil money penalty, the consent order requires the company to enhance its compliance functions, designate a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws, and comply with certain enhanced disclosure requirements. Additionally, the company is prohibited from making similar misrepresentations in the future.

    Earlier on August 21, the CFPB also announced a settlement with a mortgage company to resolve allegations that the company sent false, misleading, and inaccurate direct-mail advertisements to servicemembers and veterans for its VA-guaranteed loans in violation of the CFPA, Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), and Regulation Z. According to the Bureau, among other things, the mortgage company (i) advertised credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (ii) described variable-rate loans as “fixed,” when in fact the rates were adjustable; (iii) falsely stated or implied that consumers with “FICO scores as low as 500” would qualify for advertised rates; and (iv) gave the false impression the lenders were affiliated with the government. In addition to a $150,000 civil money penalty, the consent order prohibits the company from making similar misrepresentations and requires the company to designate a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws.

    The latest enforcement actions are part of the Bureau’s “sweep of investigations” related to deceptive VA-mortgage advertisements. In July, the Bureau issued consent orders with two other mortgage lenders for similar violations, covered by InfoBytes here.

    Federal Issues CFPB Mortgages Department of Veterans Affairs Mortgage Broker Mortgage Lenders CFPA UDAAP MAP Rule Regulation Z Enforcement

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  • CFPB settles with two mortgage lenders for misleading VA loan advertisements

    Federal Issues

    On July 24, the CFPB announced settlements with two mortgage lenders (here and here) for allegedly mailing consumers advertisements for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgages that allegedly contained misleading statements or lacked required disclosures. According to the Bureau, both lenders offer and provide VA guaranteed mortgage loans, and allegedly disseminated direct-mail advertisements to servicemembers and veterans in violation of the Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule) and Regulation Z. Among other things, the Bureau alleges the advertisements (i) stated credit terms that the lenders were not actually prepared to offer; (ii) described introductory interest rates as “fixed,” when in fact, the rates were adjustable; (iii) gave the false impression the lenders were affiliated with the government; and (iv) used the name of the consumer’s current lender in a misleading way. Both consent orders impose bans on future advertising misrepresentations similar to those identified by the Bureau and require the companies to use a compliance official to review mortgage advertisements for compliance with consumer protection laws. The Bureau imposes a civil penalty of $460,000 against one lender and a civil penalty of $645,000 against the other.

    Federal Issues CFPB Mortgages Department of Veteran Affairs Mortgage Lenders CFPA UDAAP MAP Rule Regulation Z

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  • CFPB adjusts annual dollar amount thresholds under TILA regulations

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On July 17, the CFPB released the final rule revising the dollar amounts for provisions implementing the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and amendments to TILA, including the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA), and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage (ATR/QM) provisions. The CFPB is required to make annual adjustments to dollar amounts in certain provisions in Regulation Z, and has based the adjustments on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index in effect on June 1, 2020. The following thresholds will be effective on January 1, 2021:

    • For open-end consumer credit plans under TILA, the threshold for disclosing an interest charge will remain unchanged at $1.00;
    • For open-end consumer credit plans under the CARD Act, the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a first violation penalty fee will remain unchanged at $29, and the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a subsequent violation penalty fee will also remain unchanged at $40;
    • For HOEPA loans, the adjusted total loan amount threshold for high-cost mortgages will be $22,052, and the adjusted points and fees dollar trigger for high-cost mortgages will be $1,103; and
    • The maximum thresholds for total points and fees for qualified mortgages under the ATR/QM rule will be: (i) three percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $110,260; (ii) $3,308 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $66,156 but less than $110,260; (iii) five percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $22,052 but less than $66,156; (iv) $1,103 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $13,783 but less than $22,052; and (v) eight percent of the total loan amount for loan amounts less than $13,783.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB TILA Regulation Z CARD Act Credit Cards HOEPA Qualified Mortgage Dodd-Frank

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  • CFPB issues proposed rule on Regulation Z HPML escrow exemptions

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On July 2, the CFPB issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend Regulation Z, as required by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, and exempt certain insured depository institutions and credit unions from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for certain higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs). Under the proposed amendment, any loan made by an insured depository institution or credit union that is secured by a first lien on the principal dwelling of a consumer would be exempt from Regulation Z’s HPML escrow requirement if (i) the institution has assets of no more than $10 billion; (ii) “the institution and its affiliates originated 1,000 or fewer loans secured by a first lien on a principal dwelling during the preceding calendar year”; and (iii) the institution meets certain existing HPML escrow exemption criteria. Comments on the NPRM will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Escrow Mortgages Regulation Z TILA EGRRCPA

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  • CFPB releases spring 2020 rulemaking agenda

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 30, the CFPB released its spring 2020 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau announcement, the information details the regulatory matters that the Bureau “expect[s] to focus on” between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021. The announcement notes that the agenda was set before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and while the Bureau “continues to move forward with other regulatory work,” it will prioritize work related to supporting consumers and the financial sector during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

    In addition to the rulemaking activities already completed by the Bureau in May and June of this year, the agenda highlights other regulatory activities planned, including:

    • Escrow Rulemaking. The Bureau intends to issue a proposed rule to implement Section 108 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, which directs the Bureau to exempt certain loans made by creditors with assets of $10 billion or less (and that meet other criteria) from the escrow requirements applicable to higher-priced mortgage loans.
    • Small Business Rulemaking. The Bureau states that in September 2020, it will publicly release materials for an October panel (convening under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act) with small entities likely to be directly affected by the Bureau’s rule to implement Section 1071 of Dodd-Frank.
    • HMDA. The Bureau states that two rulemakings are planned, including (i) a proposed rule that follows up on a May 2019 advanced notice of proposed rulemaking which sought information on the costs and benefits of reporting certain data points under HMDA and coverage of certain business or commercial purpose loans (covered by InfoBytes here); and (ii) a proposed rule addressing the public disclosure of HMDA data.
    • Debt Collection. The Bureau intends to release the final rule amending Regulation F to implement the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in October 2020 (InfoBytes coverage of the May 2019 proposed rule here). Additionally, “at a later date” the Bureau intends to finalize the February supplemental proposal, which covers time-barred debt disclosures (covered by a Buckley Special Alert here).
    • Qualified Mortgages (QM). The Bureau states it is considering issuing a proposed rule “later this year” that would create a new “seasoning” definition of a QM under Regulation Z, allowing for QM status after the borrower has made consistent timely payments for a defined period.

    Additionally, in its announcement, the Bureau notes that it is (i) participating in an interagency rulemaking process on quality control standards for automated valuation models (AVMs) with regard to appraisals; and (ii) continuing to review and conduct the five-year lookback assessments under Section 1022(d) of Dodd-Frank.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Rulemaking Agenda HMDA Small Business Lending Regulation Z Debt Collection ECOA Escrow EGRRCPA Mortgages

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  • CFPB issues interpretive rule on determining underserved areas

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 23, the CFPB issued an interpretive rule to provide guidance for creditors and others involved in mortgage origination on the CFPB’s process for determining which counties and areas are considered “underserved” for a given calendar year. This interpretive rule supersedes certain parts of the official commentary to Regulation Z that became obsolete when HMDA data points were replaced or otherwise modified by the 2015 HMDA Final Rule. Lenders use the CFPB’s annual list of rural counties and rural or underserved counties when determining qualified exemptions to certain TILA regulatory requirements, such as “the exemption from the requirement to establish an escrow account for a higher-priced mortgage loan and the ability to originate balloon-payment qualified mortgages,” and use the CFPB’s Rural or Underserved Areas Tool to assess whether a rural or underserved area qualifies for a safe harbor under TILA’s Regulation Z. Under the interpretive rule, the CFPB will determine whether an area is considered “underserved” by counting first-lien originations from HMDA data from the preceding calendar year. The interpretive rule also discusses certain “covered transaction” exclusions that will not be counted related to (i) construction methods and total units; (ii) open-end lines of credit and reverse mortgages; (iii) business or commercial purposes; and (iv) demographic information where both the applicant’s and co-applicant’s ethnicity, race, sex, and age are all reported as “not applicable.” The interpretive rule is effective upon publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB HMDA TILA Regulation Z Underserved

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  • CFPB issues LIBOR transition materials

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 4, the CFPB released three documents to assist in the LIBOR transition before its anticipated cessation at the end of 2021. Highlights of the documents include:

    • Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The Bureau issued a proposed rule 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. For open-end products, among other things, the proposal would (i) require creditors to include in the change-in-terms notice the replacement index and any adjusted margin; (ii) add a LIBOR-specific provision allowing the LIBOR transition to occur on or after March 15, 2021, as opposed to the current rule’s “no longer available” standard; and (iii) allow creditors to elect a replacement index that is newly established and has no history, or is not newly established and has a history, if certain conditions are met. For closed-end credit, among other things, the proposal provides the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) recommended by the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) as a “comparable index” to LIBOR. In conjunction with the proposal, the Bureau released a “Fast Facts” high-level summary and an unofficial redline
    • FAQ Guidance. The Bureau released FAQ guidance to address other LIBOR transition topics and regulatory questions that do not require amendments to Regulation Z. Among other things, the FAQs cover general regulatory implementation considerations and specific requirements related to adjustable rate mortgage and HELOC disclosures.
    • CHARM Booklet. The Bureau released revisions to their Consumer Handbook on Adjustable Rate Mortgages (CHARM) booklet, which aims to help consumers better understand adjustable rate mortgage loan products. The revisions provide updates based on consumer testing and remove LIBOR-based rate examples.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Regulation Z Open-End Credit Closed-End Credit LIBOR ARRC

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  • CFPB provides E-Sign consent flexibility due to Covid-19

    Federal Issues

    On June 3, the CFPB released a statement on temporary and targeted flexibility for credit card issuers regarding electronic provision of certain disclosures during the Covid-19 pandemic. The statement highlights that certain credit card issuers are receiving far more calls from consumers seeking relief as a result of the pandemic, but are unable to provide such relief without first providing certain written disclosures required by Regulation Z. Because such disclosures can only be provided electronically after consent sufficient under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) is obtained, credit card issuers may be unable to move quickly to assist consumers. To address this issue, the statement provides that the CFPB “will take a flexible supervisory and enforcement approach during this pandemic regarding card issuers’ electronic provision of disclosures required to be in writing for account-opening disclosures and temporary rate or fee reduction disclosures mandated under provisions governing non-home secured, open-end credit.”

    Specifically, the Bureau states that it does not intend to cite a violation in an examination or bring an enforcement action against an issuer that, during a phone call, does not obtain the formal E-Sign consent required by Regulation Z to receive electronic written disclosures, as long as the issuer obtains both (i) oral consent to electronic delivery of the written disclosures, and (ii) oral affirmation of the consumer’s ability to access and review the electronic written disclosures. The Bureau states that it expects issuers to take “reasonable steps during the phone call to verify consumers’ electronic contact information,” including verifying the accuracy of email addresses already on file.

    Federal Issues Covid-19 CFPB TILA E-SIGN Act Regulation Z

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