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On September 16, the SBA published a final rule in the Federal Register informing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) borrowers and lenders of the appeal process for certain SBA loan review decisions under the PPP to the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals. The final rule adopts, with changes, certain portions of an interim final rule published in August 2020 (covered by InfoBytes here). Among other things, the final rule dispenses the 30-day delayed effective date to allow SBA to immediately issue decisions and provide certainty concerning the appeals process to potential appellants without further delay. Because the final rule further “provides increased accessibility to borrowers in response to comments previously received by the public, allowing the borrowers that receive an appealable final SBA loan review decision to immediately appeal under the final rule is in the best interests of the borrowers.” The final rule became effective September 14.
On July 29, the SBA added question #69 to its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) frequently asked questions explaining why the agency is discontinuing the use of two Loan Necessity Questionnaires (SBA Form 3509 or 3510). Borrowers that received PPP loans of at least $2 million were required to complete the questionnaires to back up their good faith certification “that economic uncertainty made the loan request necessary to support ongoing operations.” However, SBA noted that following a notice and comment period, the majority of commentators objected to the questionnaires. Based on the results of completed loan reviews so far, the agency believes that “audit resources will be more efficiently deployed across all loans if the loan necessity questionnaire is discontinued.” The SBA noted that these reviews “are lengthy and have caused delays beyond the 90-day statutory timeline for forgiveness, thus negatively impacting those borrowers that made their loan necessity certification in good faith.”
On July 28, SBA announced the launch of a streamlined application program to allow borrowers with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $150,000 or less to apply for direct forgiveness through SBA, thereby reducing the burden on participating lenders to service forgiveness applications. The new direct forgiveness platform will start accepting applications from borrowers on August 4. Under the interim final rule (IFR), lenders who choose to participate will be required to opt-in to the program and will be provided a single secure location for all of their borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less to apply for loan forgiveness using the electronic equivalent of SBA Form 3508S. When notice is received that a borrower has applied for forgiveness through the platform, lenders will review both the borrower’s loan forgiveness application and issue a forgiveness decision to SBA inside the platform. Additional procedural guidance will be released in the near future to provide information on (i) the opt-in process; (ii) how qualified borrowers can access the platform and submit loan applications; and (iii) how lenders can access and review forgiveness applications, issue forgiveness decisions, and request forgiveness payments from SBA. During the transition period after the launch of the platform, SBA expects lenders that opt-in “to complete the processing of any loan forgiveness applications that have already been submitted by borrowers to the lender and should inform such borrowers not to submit a duplicate loan forgiveness application through the [p]latform.”
The IFR also extends the loan deferment period for PPP loans in circumstances where a borrower timely files an appeal of a final SBA loan review decision with SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. Additionally, the IFR permits lenders to use a “COVID Revenue Reduction Score” at the time of forgiveness in order to document the required revenue reduction for second draw PPP loans of $150,000 or less, exempting those borrowers from supplying required documentation demonstrating a 25 percent revenue reduction or more in at least one quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019.
The IRF takes effect immediately.
On July 15, the SBA issued Procedural Notice 5000-812316 to remind lenders of their servicing responsibilities and provide guidance on the agency’s guaranty purchase process for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) first-draw and second-draw loans. Lenders may submit requests for SBA to purchase and charge off PPP loans in instances where a borrower (i) is past due 60 days or more on scheduled loan payments where the default has not been cured; (ii) has permanently closed and does not intend to submit a forgiveness application; (iii); has filed for bankruptcy; or (iv) is deceased in the case of self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, single-member LLCs, or independent contractors. In circumstances where a borrower or any owner of 20 percent or more of the borrower has been indicted for, or convicted of, a felony related to a PPP loan, or in a case where a borrower has appealed an SBA loan review decision, the lender may request guaranty purchase without charge-off from SBA. Additionally, SBA outlines procedures for lenders when a borrower submits a forgiveness application after the lender has submitted a request to SBA for guaranty purchase. Guidelines for submitting guaranty purchase and charge-off requests are provided in the procedural notice.
On July 1, the CFPB released an enforcement compliance bulletin to reiterate to landlords, consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), and others of their obligation to correctly report rental and eviction information. The CFPB noted that it is “concerned that the end of the CDC eviction moratorium could mean both an increase in negative rental information in the consumer reporting system and an increase in consumers seeking rental housing.” According to the bulletin, the CFPB intends to examine if landlords, property management companies, and debt collectors are reporting accurate information to CRAs and complying with their dispute-handling obligations under the FCRA. Specifically, the Bureau will “pay particular attention to whether furnishers are reporting arrearages” regarding amounts paid on behalf of a tenant through a government grant or relief program and fees or penalties prohibited by CARES Act or other laws. In addition, the Bureau noted that it intends to look at whether CRAs are, among other things: (i) following procedures to only include accurate rental information in individuals’ consumer reports; (ii) reporting rental information for the consumer who is the subject of the report; (iii) reporting accurate and complete eviction information; and (iv) properly investigating when inaccuracies are reported by the consumer.
On June 22, the CFPB issued a release with data updating its March report on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on housing insecurity, finding some improvement but still elevated risks for borrowers relative to prior periods. The report summarized data and research regarding the impact of the pandemic on the rental and mortgage market, and specifically its effects on low income and minority households. According to the report, as of December 2020, 11 million renter and homeowner households were significantly overdue on their regular housing payments, which placed them, especially Black and Hispanic households, at a heightened risk of their homes being subjected to foreclosure or eviction. The report also indicated that as of January 2021, there were 2.7 million borrowers in active forbearance. As of June 2021, 600,000 fewer consumers were in mortgage forbearance than in January 2021, with forbearance rates significantly decreasing in April when many borrowers exited forbearance after reaching 12 months. According to the CFPB, this was a positive indication because many of these borrowers would have qualified for longer extensions of total forbearance. The release also notes, however, that for borrowers who have exited forbearance, payment deferrals or partial claims were the most common repayment option, and that “[o]f the borrowers still in forbearance, many may face a precarious financial situation upon exiting.” Additionally, while indicating that foreclosure rates remained at historic lows during the first quarter of 2021, with 0.54 percent of mortgages in foreclosure, the release also notes that the CARES Act and direction from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs), FHA, VA, and USDA “have prohibited lenders and servicers of GSE and federally-backed loans from beginning or proceeding with foreclosures.” Seriously delinquent mortgage borrowers remain approximately three times higher than before the pandemic, with 1.9 million mortgage borrowers over three months behind on mortgage payments or in active foreclosure, with more than one in 10 borrowers with an FHA loan remaining seriously delinquent on their mortgage, a rate higher than the peak during the Great Recession. The release also notes that during the pandemic, mortgage forbearance and delinquency have been significantly more common in communities of color and lower-income communities (covered by Infobytes here).
On June 11, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s spring 2021 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau announcement, the information released represents regulatory matters the Bureau is “currently pursuing under interim leadership pending the appointment and confirmation of a permanent Director.” Any changes made by the new permanent director will be reflected in the fall 2021 rulemaking agenda. Additionally, the Bureau indicates that it plans to continue to focus resources on actions addressing the adverse impacts to consumers due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and highlighted an interim final rule issued in April that addresses certain debt collector conduct associated with the CDC’s temporary eviction moratorium order (covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau will also continue to take concrete steps toward furthering the agency’s “commitment to promoting racial and economic equity.”
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Small Business Rulemaking. Last September, the Bureau released a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) outline of proposals under consideration, convened an SBREFA panel last October, and released the panel’s final report last December (covered by InfoBytes here and here). The Bureau reports that it anticipates releasing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the Section 1071 regulations this September to “facilitate enforcement of fair lending laws as well as enable communities, governmental entities, and creditors to identify business and community development needs and opportunities of women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses.”
- Consumer Access to Financial Records. The Bureau notes that it is considering rulemaking to implement section 1033 of Dodd-Frank in order to address the availability of electronic consumer financial account data. The Bureau is currently reviewing comments received in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) issued last fall regarding consumer data access (covered by InfoBytes here).
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau published an ANPR in March 2019 seeking feedback on the unique features of PACE financing and the general implications of regulating PACE financing under TILA. The Bureau notes that it continues “to engage with stakeholders and collect information for the rulemaking, including by pursuing quantitative data on the effect of PACE on consumers’ financial outcomes.”
- Automated Valuation Models (AVM). Interagency rulemaking is currently being pursued by the Bureau, Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA to develop regulations for AVM quality control standards as required by Dodd-Frank amendments to FIRREA. The standards are designed to, among other things, “ensure a high level of confidence in the estimates produced by the valuation models, protect against the manipulation of data, [ ] avoid conflicts of interest, require random sample testing and reviews,” and account for any other appropriate factors. An NPRM is anticipated for December.
- Amendments to Regulation Z to Facilitate LIBOR Transition. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued an NPRM in June 2020 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. A final rule is expected in January 2022.
- Reviewing Existing Regulations. The Bureau notes in its announcement that while it will conduct an assessment of a rule implementing HMDA (most of which took effect January 2018), it will no longer pursue two HMDA proposed rulemakings previously listed in earlier agendas related to the reporting of HMDA data points and public disclosure of HMDA data. Additionally, the Bureau states that it finished a review of Regulation Z rules implementing the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 and plans to publish any resulting changes in the fall 2021 agenda.
The Bureau’s announcement also highlights several completed rulemaking items, including (i) a final rule that formally extended the mandatory compliance date of the General Qualified Mortgage final rule to October 1, 2022 (covered by InfoBytes here); (ii) proposed amendments to the mortgage servicing early intervention and loss mitigation-related provisions under RESPA/Regulation X (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) (the Bureau anticipates issuing a final rule before June 30, when the federal foreclosure moratoria are set to expire); and (iii) a proposed rule (covered by InfoBytes here), which would extend the effective date of two final debt collection rules to allow affected parties additional time to comply due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic (the Bureau plans to issue a final rule in June on whether, and for how long, it will extend the effective date once it reviews comments).
On June 2, the Federal Reserve Board announced plans to wind down the portfolio of the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF), a temporary emergency lending facility that was established and provided by the Treasury Department under the CARES Act, which closed in December 2020. The SMCCF (covered by InfoBytes here) played a role in restoring market functioning, supported the availability of credit for certain employers, and assisted employment numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the announcement, sales from the SMCCF portfolio will be “gradual and orderly,” aiming to decrease the likelihood of “any adverse impact on market functioning by taking into account daily liquidity and trading conditions for exchange traded funds and corporate bonds.” The announcement also indicates that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which manages the operations of the SMCCF, will release more details before sales begin.
On June 1, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an announcement on the closure of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to new loan guaranty applications. The PPP has provided over $798 billion in economic relief to over 8.5 million small businesses and nonprofits across the nation, and was among the first Covid-19 economic disaster relief programs to provide small businesses affected by the pandemic with emergency funds. According to the announcement, the PPP supported the “smallest of small businesses with 32 percent of the loans going to Low-and-Moderate Income (LMI) communities.” Additionally, Community Financial Institutions played a role in PPP lending to underserved communities by providing 1.5 million loans, which totaled around $30 billion. SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman pointed out, “in 2021, 96 percent of PPP loans went to small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Moving forward, [the SBA] will continue to prioritize equity in all SBA programs and services.”
On May 28, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a final rule in the Federal Register, which establishes the “COVID–19 Veterans Assistance Partial Claim Payment” (VAPCP) program to help veterans resume making normal loan payments on VA-guaranteed loans after exiting forbearance due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The final rule incorporates several revisions in response to comments submitted by veterans, lenders, servicers, consumer groups, and trade associations on the VA’s proposed rule published last December (covered by InfoBytes here). Under the final rule, the partial claim maximum limit is increased from the proposed 15 percent to 30 percent of the unpaid principal balance of the guaranteed loan as of the date the veteran entered into a Covid-19 forbearance. The timeframe for servicers to submit partial claim payment requests to the VA also was increased from 90 to 120 days. Additionally, the final rule will allow servicers to use the Covid-VAPCP program “even if other home retention options are feasible, provided the partial claim payment option is in the veteran’s financial interest.” For a loan to qualify for a Covid-VAPCP, among other things, (i) the guaranteed loan must have been either current or less than 30 days past due on March 1, 2020, or made on or after March 1, 2020; (ii) the veteran must have received a Covid-19 forbearance and missed at least one scheduled monthly payment; (iii) at least one unpaid scheduled monthly payment must remain that the veteran did not make while under a Covid-19 forbearance; (iv) the veteran must indicate the ability to “resume making scheduled monthly payments, on time and in full, and that the veteran occupies, as the veteran’s residence, the property securing the guaranteed loan for which the partial claim is requested”; and (v) the veteran must timely execute all necessary loan documents in order to establish an obligation to repay the partial claim payment.
Notably, the final rule strikes the following requirements that were included in the proposed rule: (i) veterans will not be required to repay the partial claim within 120 months; (ii) interest will not be charged on the Covid-VAPCP; and (iii) servicers will not have to complete financial evaluations of veterans in the program.
The rule is effective July 27.
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss internal investigations at the Institute of Internal Auditors of Argentina Spanish-language webinar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending” at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss anti-money-laundering at FELABAN Spanish-language webinar “Perspective for banks: LAFT, FINCEN, OFAC, Cryptocurrency”
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "What’s new in BSA/AML compliance?" at the Institute of International Bankers Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Marshall T. Bell and John R. Coleman to speak at 2021 AFSA Annual Meeting
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Regulatory update: What you need to know under the new boss; It won’t be the same as the old boss" at the IMN Residential Mortgage Service Rights Forum (East)
- Benjamin B. Klubes to discuss “Creating a Fantastic Workplace Culture”
- John R. Coleman and Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek