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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 October 31, the CFPB and the Federal Reserve Board finalized the annual dollar threshold adjustments that govern the application of Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act) and Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act) to credit transactions, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act (published in the Federal Register here and here). Each year the thresholds must be readjusted based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The exemption threshold for 2020, based on the annual percentage increase in the CPI-W, is now $58,300 or less, except for private student loans and loans secured by real property, which are subject to TILA regardless of the amount.
On September 13, the CFPB released its summer 2019 Supervisory Highlights, which outlines its supervisory and enforcement actions in the areas of automobile loan origination, credit card account management, debt collection, furnishing, and mortgage origination. The findings of the report cover examinations that generally were completed between December 2018 and March 2019. Highlights of the examination findings include:
- Auto loan origination. The Bureau noted that one or more examinations found that guaranteed asset protection (GAP) products were sold to consumers with low loan-to-value (LTV) loans, resulting in those consumers purchasing a product that was not beneficial to them. The Bureau concluded these sales were an abusive practice, as “the lenders took unreasonable advantage of the consumers’ lack of understanding of the material risks, costs, or conditions of the product.”
- Credit card account management. The Bureau found several issues with credit card account servicing, including violations of Regulation Z for failing to clearly and conspicuously provide disclosures required by triggering terms in online advertisements and for offsetting consumers’ credit card debt against funds that the consumers had on deposit with the issuers without sufficient indication that the consumer intended to grant a security interest in those funds.
- Debt collection. The Bureau noted violations of the FDCPA’s prohibition on falsely representing the amount due when debt collectors claimed and collected interest that was not authorized by the underlying contracts between the debt collectors and the creditors.
- Credit information furnishing. The Bureau found multiple violations of the FCRA, including furnishers failing to complete dispute investigations within the required time period and failing to promptly send corrections or updates to all applicable credit reporting agencies after a determination that the information was no longer accurate.
- Mortgage origination. The Bureau noted that creditors had violated Regulation Z by disclosing inaccurate APRs for closed-end reverse mortgages and also by using a unit-period of one month instead of one year to calculate the total annual loan cost (TALC) rate and the future value of all advances, leading to inaccurate TALC disclosures.
The report notes that in response to most examination findings, the companies have taken, or are taking, remedial and corrective actions, including by identifying and compensating impacted consumers and updating their policies and procedures to prevent future violations.
Lastly, the report also highlights the Bureau’s recently issued rules and guidance.
On August 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit concluded that a plaintiff failed to adequately allege the existence of a written agreement for his deductible payment plan and therefore, his surgery institute did not violate TILA’s disclosure requirements. According to the opinion, the day before his surgery, the surgery institute orally agreed to accept a partial deductible payment and agreed to permit the plaintiff to pay the remaining deductible requirements in monthly installments. The plaintiff received two emails, one confirming the initial payment and the other confirming the payment plan and listing the plaintiff’s credit card. The institute performed the surgery, but the plaintiff failed to make any further payments on the deductible. Instead, the plaintiff filed an action against the institute alleging it violated TILA by extending credit and failing to provide the required disclosures. The district court granted judgment on the pleadings for the institute, concluding that the plaintiff' failed to establish a written agreement for the extension of credit. The court also issued sanctions, in the form of attorneys’ fees, against the plaintiff’s counsel, reasoning the counsel could have reasonably discovered the lack of written agreement and lack of payment before initiating the action.
On appeal, the 3rd Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part in the district court’s judgment. The appellate court agreed with the district court that the plaintiff failed to establish the existence of a written agreement for credit with the institute, noting “the requirement of a written agreement [under TILA] is not satisfied by a ‘letter that merely confirms an oral agreement.’” But the appellate court noted that the district court erred in relying on an admission to that effect by plaintiff’s counsel during a telephone conference. Nonetheless, the error was “harmless” because the plaintiff failed to establish a written agreement was executed and signed, stating “[n]owhere does he allege that he signed a written agreement, and the  email correspondence was merely ‘confirming’ the ‘previously discussed’ agreement." The appellate court then reversed the district court’s sanctions ruling, concluding it abused its discretion when it imposed them.
On August 1, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York allowed breach of contract and clear and conspicuous disclosure claims brought by a proposed class of consumers against a national bank to proceed, finding that ambiguity exists over whether credit card cryptocurrency purchases are “cash-like transactions.” The plaintiffs claimed that the bank breached their cardholder agreements when it changed the classification of cryptocurrency acquisitions from “purchases” to “cash advances” between January 23 and February 2, 2018. Plaintiffs contended that this change subjected cardholders to higher interest rates and transaction fees in violation of their cardholder agreements. Moreover, the plaintiffs claimed that the bank’s failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose the different types of transactions and varying rates, as well as its failure to provide advance notice of significant changes in its account terms and accurate disclosures in periodic account statements, violated TILA and Regulation Z.
The bank countered that no breach of contract occurred because cryptocurrency acquisitions are “cash-like transactions” that, under the cardholder agreement, are properly classified as cash advances. Specifically, the bank stated that because cryptocurrency can be a “medium of exchange, a measure of value, or a means of payment” under the definition of “cash,” it is therefore “cash-like.”
The court concluded that the plaintiffs offered a reasonable argument that purchases of cryptocurrency did not constitute cash advances. Plaintiffs argued that the contractual term “cash-like”—which was used in the cardholder agreement to describe a cash advance—referred only to financial instruments formally tied to physical, government-issued “fiat” currency, such as checks, money orders, and wire transfers. “Because, as plaintiffs plausibly allege, cryptocurrency does not imbue its holder with a legal right to any government-issued currency, acquisitions of cryptocurrency could not be classified as a cash-like transaction,” the court stated. As such, “[b]ecause plaintiffs have identified a reasonable interpretation of ‘cash-like transactions’ that would exclude purchases of cryptocurrency, the breach of contract claim survives the motion to dismiss.” The court also allowed plaintiffs’ “clear and conspicuous” disclosure claim under TILA to survive because the contract was not clear that purchases of cryptocurrency would result in cash advance fees. However, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ remaining TILA claims, finding that (i) the bank did not change the contract terms themselves, but rather their application; and (ii) the periodic account statements did not inaccurately convey what the plaintiffs owed to the bank for those particular periods of time.
On July 31, the CFPB released FAQs to assist with TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID Rule) compliance. The five new FAQs relate to providing loan estimates to consumers. Highlights include:
- If a consumer submits the six pieces of information (name, income, social security number, property address, estimate of the value of the property, and loan amount sought) that constitute an application under the TRID Rule, the creditor must ensure that a loan estimate is delivered or placed in the mail within three business days.
- A creditor cannot require the consumer to submit anything other than the six pieces of information that constitute an application under the TRID Rule as a condition to providing a loan estimate.
- A creditor cannot require a consumer to provide verifying documents in order to receive a loan estimate.
- If a consumer submits the six pieces of information that constitute an application, in order to receive a pre-approval or a pre-qualification letter, the creditor must also provide a loan estimate within three business days of receipt.
- A creditor may collection additional information, beyond the six pieces of information that constitute an application, it deems necessary to process a request for a mortgage loan, including a request for a pre-approval or pre-qualification letter.
On July 25, the CFPB issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that is intended as a first step in an orderly expiration of the so-called GSE patch, which confers Qualified Mortgage status for loans purchased or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while those entities operate under FHFA conservatorship. The patch expires in January 2021, or when Fannie and Freddie exit their conservatorships, whichever comes first. The ANPR solicits feedback on amending Regulation Z and the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule (ATR/QM Rule) to minimize disruption from the patch’s expiration. Comments are due 45 days after the ANPR’s publication in the Federal Register, which has not occurred as of the publication of this Special Alert.
The Bureau has previously solicited comments on the ATR/QM Rule, including the GSE Patch — first through a request for information relating to its adopted regulations in March 2018, and then in its ATR/QM Rule Assessment Report in January 2019.
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Click here to read the full special alert.
If you have questions about the GSE Patch and potential changes to the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule, please visit our Consumer Financial Protection Bureau practice page or contact a Buckley attorney with whom you have worked in the past.
On July 25, the CFPB issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking feedback on potential revisions to the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage (ATR/QM) Rule related to the expiration in 2021 of the “GSE patch,” a temporary provision granting Qualified Mortgage status to mortgages that are eligible for purchase or guarantee by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including loans with higher debt-to-income (DTI) ratios than are allowed under the general QM requirements. The GSE patch (also referred to as the “QM patch”) is set to expire no later than January 10, 2021, or when Fannie and Freddie exit their government conservatorship, whichever comes first, with the Bureau stating that it currently plans to allow the GSE patch to expire as scheduled or “after a short extension” to facilitate a smooth transition. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued an assessment report on the ATR/QM Rule, in which it reported, among other things, that the GSEs have persistently maintained a high share of the market.
The ANPR requests comments on several potential amendments, including (i) whether the “qualified mortgage” definition should be revised in light of the upcoming expiration (currently, loans under the GSE patch generally qualify for safe harbor from legal liability under the ATR/QM Rule even if their DTI ratio exceeds 43 percent); (ii) whether the DTI ratio limit should remain at 43 percent or be increased or decreased, along with whether loans above the DTI ratio should be granted QM status if they have “certain compensating factors,” (iii) whether the QM definition should take into account possible alternatives to the DTI ratio for assessing a borrower’s ability-to-repay; and (iv) whether Appendix Q—which sets standards for calculating and verifying debt and income to determine the borrower’s DTI ratio—should be replaced, changed, or supplemented. Comments on the ANPR are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On May 31, the CFPB released FAQs to assist with TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID) compliance. The two new FAQs relate to the application of TRID to construction loans. Highlights include:
- Most construction-only and construction-permanent loans are covered by TRID as long as such a loan: (i) is made by a creditor as defined in Regulation Z; (ii) is a closed-end, consumer credit transaction; (iii) is secured in full or in part by real property or cooperative unit; (iii) is not a reverse mortgage; and (iv) is not exempt for any reason under Regulation Z.
- There are three special disclosure provisions for construction-only or construction-permanent loans under TRID: (i) Section 1026.17(c)(6) permits a creditor to issue separate or combined disclosures for construction-permanent loans based on whether each phase is treated as a separate transaction; (ii) Appendix D provides methods that may be used for estimating construction phase financing disclosures; and (iii) Section 1026.19(e)(3)(iv)(F) permits creditors, in certain instances involving new construction, to use a revised estimate of a charge for good faith tolerance purposes when settlement will occur more than 60 days after the original Loan Estimate. The Bureau notes that these provisions apply “even if the creditor does not necessarily label the product as construction-only or construction-permanent, so long as the product meets the requirements discussed in each provision.”
On February 22, the FDIC issued FIL-9-2019, which announces revisions to interagency examination procedures for evaluating compliance with the CFPB’s Prepaid Accounts Rule. The Rule was originally finalized in October 2016 and expands coverage under Regulation E to provide consumers, among other things, additional federal protections on prepaid financial products, person-to-person payment products, and other electronic accounts with the ability to store funds. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In January 2018, the CFPB finalized updates to the Rule and delayed the effective date until April 1, 2019. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The FIL contains a link to the interagency procedures listed in the FDIC Compliance Examination Manual and confirms that after April 1 the examination staff will begin supervising institutions for compliance with the rule.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss “Beneficial Ownership: You have questions – We have quick answers” at the ABA/ABA Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss "Legal & regulatory issues – Next wave of regulatory policy" at the Marketplace Lending & Alternative Financing Summit
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Risk management in enforcement actions: Managing risk or micromanaging it" at an American Bar Association webinar
- Kari K. Hall and Christopher M. Walczyszyn to speak on the "Understanding updates to Regulation CC to ensure effective check processing" at a National Association of Federal Credit Unions webinar
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "ACAMS Moneylaundering.com Year-End Compliance Review and 2020 Outlook" at an ACAMS webinar
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- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "A 20/20 view on 2020’s legislative and regulatory outlook" at the ACAMS Anti-Financial Crime and Public Policy Conference