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  • Another court dismisses PPP agent fees suit

    Courts

    On January 6, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued an order dismissing a putative class action against two national banks alleging that the banks owe fees to agents that helped businesses file applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The named plaintiff, a consulting company that aided borrowers in applying for federally guaranteed loans through the PPP, argued that its agents were entitled to fees from the banks that provided PPP loans. The court disagreed, finding that the CARES Act and its implementing regulations do not require lenders to pay agent fees absent an express agreement between an agent and the lender. The court further found that “nothing behind language in the CARES Act suggests that Congress intended to create an implied private right of action.”

    The court’s decision follows rulings issued by other federal courts, which have also dismissed similar agent fee actions (covered by InfoBytes here, herehere, and here).

    Courts Covid-19 SBA CARES Act

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  • Maryland extends restrictions on repossessions and residential foreclosures

    State Issues

    On December 17, 2020, the governor of Maryland issued an executive order that further prohibits certain repossessions, suspends foreclosures of occupied residential property absent adherence to specific procedural protections, including those provided by the federal CARES Act.  The foreclosure suspension is in effect until the “re-start date,” which is either (1) January 31, 2021, or (2) such later date as established by the commissioner of financial regulation, not to be more than 30 days after the state of emergency is terminated.

    State Issues Covid-19 Maryland Repossession Auto Finance Mortgages Foreclosure CARES Act

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  • Court: Lender does not owe PPP fees to law firm

    Courts

    On December 15, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona issued an order dismissing an action against a California bank over whether a law firm is entitled to a portion of the fees paid by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to lenders making loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). According to the order, the law firm argued that it assisted a borrower in applying for a PPP loan from the bank and was therefore entitled to collect an agent fee. The court was unpersuaded and dismissed the action, concluding that the CARES Act—which created the PPP—“undermines, rather than supports” the law firm’s position. While “the statute affirmatively obligates the SBA Administrator to pay processing fees to lenders that make PPP loans,” it “does not create an affirmative obligation on the part of the SBA Administrator, or anybody else, to pay a fee to agents who assist borrowers in applying for PPP loans,” the court ruled. Instead, the statute “‘merely establishes that there can be a ceiling on the amount of such fees if they are collected.’” The court’s decision follows rulings issued by other federal courts, which have also dismissed similar agent fee actions (covered by InfoBytes here, here, and here). The order states that to date, every court that has addressed this question has concluded that PPP lenders do not have a mandatory obligation to pay fees to agents assisting borrowers with their PPP loan applications.

    Courts Covid-19 SBA CARES Act

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  • Bipartisan Covid-19 legislation includes new PPP funding

    Federal Issues

    On December 14, congressional lawmakers released the details of bipartisan Covid-19 relief legislation (and accompanying memorandum), titled “the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020,” which would provide $300 billion to the U.S. Small Business Administration to allow for second forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to certain businesses after the program’s lending expired in August (covered by InfoBytes here). In addition to capping the maximum PPP loan amount at $2 million, the proposed legislation would limit eligibility of new PPP loans to (i) businesses with 300 or fewer employees that have sustained a 30 percent revenue loss in any quarter of 2020; and (ii) non-lobbying, tax-exempt organizations that have 150 employees or fewer. Additionally, the legislation clarifies that business expenses paid for with the proceeds of PPP loans are tax deductible, and simplifies the loan forgiveness process for loans $150,000 or less. Lastly, the legislation includes set-asides for (i) small businesses with 10 or fewer employees; (ii) loans made by small community lenders, including Community Development Financial Institutions, credit unions, Minority Depository Institutions; and (iii) the Minority Business Development Agency.

    Federal Issues SBA Covid-19 IRS CARES Act U.S. House U.S. Senate Federal Legislation

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  • Waters recommends Biden reverse several of Trump's actions

    Federal Issues

    On December 4, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a letter to President-Elect Biden providing a list of regulations and other executive actions taken by the Trump administration that the Biden administration should immediately reverse, as well as recommendations for strengthening other regulations. Among other things, Waters recommended that the Biden administration (i) issue an executive order to prevent evictions by “directing the CDC to extend and improve its public health order so people can remain in their homes until emergency rental assistance is available”; (ii) amend HUD and FHFA policies that impose restrictions and increased costs for certain loans that go into forbearance prior to FHA endorsement or purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to ensure these loans are still eligible for FHA insurance and purchase by Fannie and Freddie; and (iii) fully use Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act lending authorities, many of which will terminate at the end of December (covered by InfoBytes here).

    Waters also urged the Biden administration to take measures to ensure consumer protections, including by, among other things, dismissing Director Kathy Kraninger, enforcing CARES Act protections, and directing the CFPB to (i) issue guidance to financial institutions to ensure affected borrowers are afforded “appropriate forbearance and loan modifications”; (ii) “work to replace the ’Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans’ rule with [one] that protects consumers from predatory lenders”; (iii) restore the Bureau’s Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity’s roles and responsibilities; and (iv) rescind its recently issued final rule amending certain debt collection rules (covered by InfoBytes here), and instead strengthen “consumer protections against abusive debt collection practices.” Other recommendations address diversity and inclusion, financial stability, investor protection, affordable housing, and international development.

    Federal Issues Biden House Financial Services Committee FHA HUD Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgages CARES Act Covid-19 CFPB

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  • VA proposes partial claim payment program

    Federal Issues

    On December 9, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register, which would establish a temporary program to help veterans return to making normal loan payments on VA-guaranteed loans after exiting a Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) forbearance period, known as “the COVID–19 Veterans Assistance Partial Claim Payment program” (PCP). The proposal would allow the VA to assist a veteran exiting a CARES Act forbearance by purchasing the amount of the veteran’s CARES Act indebtedness needed to bring the loan current, known as a “partial claim payment.” In exchange for the VA’s partial claim payment, the veteran would have to agree to repay the VA the amount of the PCP.

    In order to qualify for the PCP, servicers must first evaluate the borrower for loss-mitigation options already available in the VA program. For a loan to qualify for a PCP, among other things, (i) the guaranteed loan must have been either current or less than 30 days past due on March 1, 2020; (ii) the borrower must have received a CARES Act forbearance and missed at least one scheduled monthly payment; and (iii) there remains at least one unpaid monthly payment that the veteran did not make while under a CARES Act forbearance. Moreover, the amount of the partial claim payment cannot exceed 15 percent of the unpaid principal balance of the guaranteed loan on the date the borrower entered into the CARES Act forbearance. The PCP would have an annual interest rate fixed at 1 percent, with an automatic 60-month deferment period while interest accrues, and a total term of 120 months.

    The proposal does not include an effective date, but the VA requests comments on how a final rule that is not effective for 30 or 60 days following publication might negatively impact veterans, servicers, and other stakeholders. Additionally, the VA asks whether there would be enough time for industry implementation of the partial claim payment program if the final rule is effective 7 days after publication.

    Comments on the proposal are due by January 8, 2021.

    Federal Issues Department of Veterans Affairs Mortgages Covid-19 Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CARES Act

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  • SBA addresses Loan Necessity Questionnaire review process

    Federal Issues

    On December 9, the Small Business Administration (SBA), in consultation with the U.S. Treasury Department updated the PPP FAQs to include a question covering the SBA’s Loan Necessity Questionnaire (for-profit here, non-profit here). Specifically, the SBA has sent a Loan Necessity Questionnaire to lenders to be provided to PPP borrowers that received loans of $2 million or more in order to perform a review for eligibility, fraud or abuse, and compliance with loan forgiveness requirements. The FAQs emphasize that being asked to complete a questionnaire “does not mean that SBA is challenging a borrower’s certification that is required by the CARES Act.” Moreover, after a borrower submits its completed questionnaire, the FAQs note that the SBA may request additional information, if necessary, to complete its review. At this point, the SBA states that borrowers will have an opportunity to provide a narrative response explaining the circumstances that provided the basis for their good-faith loan necessity certification. The SBA intends to “take into account the borrower’s circumstances and actions both before and after the borrower’s certification to the extent that doing so will assist SBA in determining whether the borrower made the statutorily required certification in good faith at the time of its loan application.”

    Federal Issues Covid-19 SBA CARES Act

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  • SBA issues tax guidance for Section 1112 of CARES Act

    Federal Issues

    On December 8, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released a guidance document covering tax issues relating to payments made on behalf of borrowers under Section 1112 of the CARES Act. Specifically, Section 1112 of the CARES Act authorizes the SBA to cover, for a six-month period, the principal, interest, and any associated fees that small businesses owe on 7(a) loans, 504 loans, and microloans. The guidance states, among other things, that lenders are responsible for issuing Form 1099-MISC for 7(a) loans that have not been purchased by SBA, and for 7(a) loans that have been purchased by SBA and are serviced by the lender. Additionally, Microloan Intermediaries are responsible for issuing Form 1099-MISC for the microloans serviced by the intermediaries. However, the SBA is responsible for issuing Form 1099-MISC for (i) 7(a) loans that have been purchased, and are serviced, by SBA; (ii) microloans that are serviced by SBA; and (iii) all 504 loans.

    Federal Issues SBA Covid-19 IRS CARES Act

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  • Another district court dismisses PPP agent fee class action

    Courts

    On November 16, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued an order dismissing a putative class action against several large banks over whether agents providing consulting, legal, accounting, and tax preparation services are entitled to “agent fees” from lenders for helping businesses secure loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The agents argued that the banks received lender fees from the government and funded PPP loans for borrowers but failed to and refused to pay any agent fees. The court found, however, that the agents failed to allege facts sufficient to establish standing or to “inform any Defendant of its particular role in the alleged general harm,” and instead relied “merely on generalized, conclusory allegations.” While the court gave the agents 21 days to amend their complaint, it noted that “[b]ecause the CARES Act does not provide a private cause of action to recover agent fees absent an agreement between agent and lender, it appears unlikely that Plaintiffs can overcome the [identified] deficiencies.” The court’s decision follows decisions issued by other federal courts, which have also dismissed similar agent fee class actions (see InfoBytes here and here).

    Courts SBA CARES Act Covid-19 Class Action

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  • Regulators update Senate on Covid-19

    Federal Issues

    On November 10, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing entitled “Oversight of Financial Regulators,” which primarily focused on Covid-19-related actions taken by the Federal Reserve Board (Fed), OCC, FDIC, and NCUA since the federal financial regulators last testified in May (covered by InfoBytes here). Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) opened the hearing by applauding the actions taken by the regulators after the passage of the CARES Act to help mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. Crapo cautioned, however, that the regulators should continue to review and adjust their regulatory and supervisory frameworks to support economic recovery, including by “alleviat[ing] the regulatory burdens associated with a variety of asset-based regulatory thresholds on [] banks and credit unions temporarily experiencing growth from participation in recovery-orientated programs” such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

    In his written statement, Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles discussed actions taken by the Fed, such as (i) issuing a set of key principles concerning Covid-related credit accommodations; (ii) updating guidance on bank examinations to “consider the unique, evolving, and potentially long-term issues that institutions face”; (iii) clarifying the Fed’s approach to Covid-related activity under the Community Reinvestment Act; and (iv) supporting the ability of banks to meet customer needs by issuing PPP loans, underwriting loans in the Main Street Lending Program, and acting as counterparties in several other facilities.

    OCC Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks also discussed activities undertaken by the agency, and noted that the regulators are working on an interagency basis “on a set of rule[s] that would relieve for a period of time certain asset thresholds being tripped that trigger heightened scrutiny and heightened compliance requirements at different levels.” According to Brooks, this relief would “cap out at $10 billion, most likely, based on current conversations.” Brooks agreed with Quarles that while larger banks are “fully capable of managing those risks,” smaller banks will face difficulties.

    FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams also provided an update on actions undertaken to provide banks flexibility while maintaining safety and soundness. McWilliams discussed five key areas: (i) responding to Covid-19 economic risks; (ii) “enhancing [] resolution readiness”; (iii) supporting communities; (iv) “fostering technology solutions and encouraging innovation”; and (v) “finalizing outstanding rulemakings,” including approving an interim final rule to provide regulatory relief to insured depository institutions that have experienced significant, but temporary, asset growth due to government stimulus efforts (covered by InfoBytes here).

    NCUA Chairman Rodney E. Hood also discussed updated agency measures in response to the pandemic, such as adjusting supervision priorities to ensure that credit unions’ good-faith efforts to comply with the CARES Act are reviewed. Hood further emphasized in his written statement that “NCUA’s examiners will not criticize a credit union’s efforts to provide prudent relief for members when such efforts are conducted in a reasonable manner with proper controls and management oversight.” Hood also discussed, among other things, NCUA’s cybersecurity efforts in response to the pandemic and significant rulemaking actions, including an interim final rule that provides relief to credit unions that temporarily fall below the well-capitalized level.

    The House Financial Services Committee also held a hearing later in the week to discuss the regulators' responses to the pandemic.

     

    Federal Issues Senate Banking Committee OCC FDIC Federal Reserve NCUA CARES Act Covid-19 SBA

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