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On March 23, CFPB acting Director Dave Uejio published a blog post highlighting the Bureau’s belief that harms in the small dollar lending market identified by its 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” still exist. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, the Bureau issued a final rule revoking certain underwriting provisions of the 2017 final rule, including (i) the provision that makes it an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered high-interest rate, short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loans according to their terms; (ii) the prescribed mandatory underwriting requirements for making the ability-to-repay determination; (iii) the “principal step-down exemption” provision for certain covered short-term loans; and (iv) related definitions, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements. Uejio stressed that the Bureau intends to “use the authority provided by Congress to address these harms, including through vigorous market monitoring, supervision, enforcement, and, if appropriate, rulemaking.” Additionally, he noted that the Bureau “continues to believe that ability to repay is an important underwriting standard. To the extent small dollar lenders’ business models continue to rely on consumers’ inability to repay, those practices cause harm that must be addressed by the CFPB.”
On March 3, the CFPB released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to delay the mandatory compliance date of the General Qualified Mortgage (QM) Final Rule from July 1, 2021 to October 1, 2022. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last December the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule to amend Regulation Z and revise the definition of a “General QM” by eliminating the General QM loan definition’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio (DTI) limit and replacing it with bright-line price-based thresholds. The new General QM definition became effective on March 1, 2021. The General QM Final Rule also eliminates QM status resulting solely from loans meeting qualifications for sale to Fannie or Freddie Mac (GSEs), known as the “GSE Patch.” In issuing the NPRM, the Bureau expressed concerns “that the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mortgage market may continue for longer than anticipated at the time the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule, and so could warrant additional flexibility in the QM market to ensure creditors are able to accommodate struggling consumers.” Extending the compliance date will allow lenders to offer QM loans based on either the old or new QM definitions, including the GSE Patch (unless the GSEs exit conservatorship), until October 1, 2022. Comments on the NPRM must be received by April 5.
The NPRM follows a statement issued last month (covered by InfoBytes here), in which the Bureau said it is considering whether to revisit final rules issued last year that took effect March 1 concerning the definition of a Qualified Mortgage and the establishment of a “Seasoned QM” category of loans. In the NPRM, the Bureau stated “this rulemaking does not reconsider the merits of the price-based approach adopted in the General QM Final Rule. . . .Rather, this proposal addresses the narrower question of whether it would be appropriate in light of the continuing disruptive effects of the pandemic to help facilitate greater creditor flexibility and expanded availability of responsible, affordable credit options for some struggling consumers” by keeping both the old and new rule until October 1, 2022.
On February 23, the CFPB issued a statement noting it is considering whether to revisit final rules issued last year regarding the definition of a Qualified Mortgage and the establishment of a “Seasoned QM” category of loans. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last December the Bureau issued the General QM Final Rule to amend Regulation Z and revise the definition of a “General QM” by eliminating the General QM loan definition’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio (DTI) limit and replacing it with bright-line price-based thresholds. The General QM Final Rule also eliminates QM status resulting solely from loans meeting qualifications for sale to Fannie or Freddie Mac (GSEs), known as the “GSE Patch.” The Bureau issued a second final rule, the Seasoned QM Final Rule, to create a new category of safe-harbor QMs applicable to first-lien, fixed-rate mortgages that are held in portfolio by the originating creditor or first purchaser for a 36-month period while meeting certain performance requirements, and comply with general QM restrictions on product features and points and fees. The effective date for both final rules is March 1. The General QM Final Rule also has a mandatory compliance date of July 1.
In the statement, the Bureau noted that it is “considering whether to initiate a rulemaking to revisit the Seasoned QM Final Rule,” including whether to revoke or amend the Seasoned QM Final Rule and how that would affect covered transactions for which applications were received after the March 1 effective date. In addition, the Bureau stated that it expects to issue a rule to delay the July 1, 2021 mandatory compliance date of the General QM final rule. Should a proposed rule be finalized, creditors would then “be able to use either the current General QM loan definition or the revised General QM loan definition for applications received during the period from March 1, 2021, until the delayed mandatory compliance date,” the Bureau said. Additionally, the GSE patch would also remain in effect until the new mandatory compliance date, or until the GSEs cease to operate under conservatorship prior to that date.
The same day, the Bureau updated its small entity compliance guide and other compliance aids for the Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage Rule. The updates reflect amendments set forth in the GSE Patch Extension Final Rule, the General QM Final Rule, and the Seasoned QM Final Rule.
January 10 was the sunset date for the QM Rule’s provision allowing creditors to cure loans that exceed the rule’s limitation on points and fees. For transactions consummated prior to January 10, a creditor could cure any loan exceeding the (generally 3 percent) points and fees limit by refunding to the consumer the excess amount plus interest within 210 days of consummation (assuming the borrower had not notified the creditor of the error or become 60 days past due). The cure provision was originally added by the amendments to the ATR/QM Rule published in November 2014 and was always set to expire on January 10, 2021. The new QM rulemakings issued by the CFPB in December 2020 (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) do not extend it or replace the cure provision.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week released two final rules further defining what types of loans can be a “qualified mortgage loan” for purposes of the bureau’s Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule (ATR/QM Rule). The General QM Final Rule substantially revamps the general rules defining what constitutes a General QM and removes the existing debt-to-income threshold over which a loan cannot be considered a General QM. The Seasoned QM Final Rule creates a new class of QM that allows certain rebuttable presumption QMs and non-QMs to achieve “safe harbor” QM status three years after origination provided the consumer has strong repayment history.
Importantly, the “GSE Patch,” which provides QM status to loans qualifying for sale to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, expires for applications submitted before July 1, 2021, at which point the General QM Rule will take effect (although compliance with both rules is permitted 60 days after publication in the Federal Register).
On December 10, the CFPB issued two final rules related to qualified mortgage (QM) loans. The first of the two final rules, the General QM Final Rule, amends Regulation Z and revises the definition of a General QM by eliminating the General QM loan definition’s 43 percent debt-to-income ratio (DTI) limit and replacing it with bright-line price-based thresholds. The General QM Final Rule also eliminates QM status resulting solely from loans meeting qualifications for sale to Fannie or Freddie Mac (GSEs), known as the so-called “GSE Patch.” The Bureau’s second final rule, the Seasoned QM Final Rule, creates a new category of safe-harbor QMs applicable to first-lien, fixed-rate mortgages that are held in portfolio by the originating creditor or first purchaser for a 36-month period while meeting certain performance requirements, and comply with general restrictions on product features and points and fees.
Both final rules become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The mandatory compliance date for the General QM Final Rule is July 1, 2021; however, the Bureau notes that, between the effective date and the mandatory compliance date, there will be an optional early compliance period during which creditors will be able to use either the current General QM definition or the revised General QM definition. In addition, the GSE Patch will be available only for transactions where the creditor receives the consumer’s application before July 1, 2021 (or earlier if the GSEs exit conservatorship). Further, the Seasoned QM Final Rule applies to covered transactions for which creditors receive an application on or after the effective date, but will not apply retroactively to loans already in a lender’s portfolio.
Buckley will follow up with a more detailed summary of the final rules soon.
On August 18, the CFPB released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to create a new category of Qualified Mortgages to be called “Seasoned QMs”. The CFPB concluded that if a loan has performed for a long enough period of time and meets certain underwriting conditions and product restrictions, it is warranted to conclusively presume that the creditor’s determination of a consumer’s ability to repay at consummation was reasonable. The new QM category would designate the loan as a safe harbor QM, even if the loan did not meet the criteria of any of the other QM definitions at consummation.
Under the NPRM, a loan originated as a rebuttable presumption QM or as a Non-QM loan will be granted a safe harbor presumption that it complies with the ATR requirements if it (1) meets certain product restrictions and (2) is held in portfolio during the seasoning period and meets specified performance criteria. The product restrictions require that (1) the loan is secured by a first lien; (2) the loan has a fixed rate, with fully amortizing payments and no balloon payment; (3) the loan term does not exceed 30 years; and (4) the total points and fees do not exceed specified limits.
On February 25, in a speech before the Credit Union National Association Government Affairs Conference, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger discussed the Bureau’s rulemaking approach in the consumer financial marketplace. Specifically, Kraninger reminded attendees that the Bureau’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule (ATR/QM rule) issued last July signaled its “intent to allow the patch to expire as intended in January 2021 or shortly thereafter to allow for a smooth and orderly transition.” As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the ANPR solicited feedback on, among other things, whether the debt-to-income ratio should be altered and how Regulation Z and the ATR/QM Rule should be amended to minimize disruption from the so-called GSE patch expiration. Following a review of all received public comments, Kraninger stated that the Bureau has “decided to propose to amend the QM rule by moving away from the 43 percent debt-to-income ratio requirement,” and will instead “propose an alternative, such as [a] pricing threshold to better ensure that responsible, affordable mortgage credit remains available for consumers.” A proposed rule seeking comments on possible amendments will be issued no later than May, Kraninger stated.
Kraninger also discussed possible amendments to the Remittance Rule (Rule), which implements the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and requires financial companies handling international money transfers, or remittance transfers, to disclose exact fees and exchange rates. The Bureau issued a Request for Information last April on two aspects of the Rule (covered by InfoBytes here), and a follow-up Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) in December (covered by InfoBytes here) to propose a permanent safe harbor for financial companies that provide 500 or fewer remittance transfers a year. According to Kraninger, “[t]his would reduce the burden on over 400 banks and almost 250 credit unions that send a relatively small number of remittances. Ultimately, by allowing the use of estimates in some circumstances and adjusting the threshold for coverage under the rule, . . . [the] proposal was designed to preserve consumers’ ability to send remittances from their bank accounts to certain destinations.” The Bureau plans to finalize the remittances rulemaking in May.
Kraninger also commented on the Bureau’s regulatory review process, and reminded attendees of its “Start Small, Save Up” initiative, which encourages partnerships between financial companies/service providers and the Bureau in order to develop savings products for consumers.
On February 6, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger testified at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the CFPB’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The hearing covered the semi-annual report to Congress on the Bureau’s work from April 1, 2019, through September 30, 2019. In her opening remarks, Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters argued, among other things, that the Bureau’s recent policy statement on the “abusiveness” standard in supervision and enforcement matters “undercuts” Dodd-Frank’s prohibition on unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. Waters also challenged Kraninger on her support for the joint notice of proposed rulemaking issued by the OCC and FDIC to strengthen and modernize Community Reinvestment Act regulations (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), arguing that the proposal would lead to disinvestment in communities, while emphasizing that Kraninger’s actions have not demonstrated the Bureau’s responsibility to meaningfully protect consumers. However, in her opening statement and written testimony, Kraninger highlighted several actions recently taken by the Bureau to protect consumers, and emphasized the Bureau’s commitment to preventing harm by “building a culture of compliance throughout the financial system while supporting free and competitive markets that provide for informed consumer choice.”
Additional highlights of Kraninger’s testimony include:
- Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Education (Department). Kraninger discussed the recently announced information sharing agreement (covered by InfoBytes here) between the Bureau and the Department, intended to protect student borrowers by clarifying the roles and responsibilities for each agency and permitting the sharing of student loan complaint data analysis, recommendations, and data analytic tools. Kraninger stated that the MOU will give the Department the same near real-time access to the Bureau’s complaint database enjoyed by other government partners, and also told the Committee that the Bureau and Department are currently discussing a second supervisory MOU.
- Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans. Kraninger told the Committee that a rewrite of the payday lending rule—which will eliminate requirements for lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to repay loans—is expected in April. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Kraninger noted that the Bureau is currently reviewing an “extensive number of comments” and plans to address a petition on the rule’s payments provision. “[F]inancial institutions have argued that there were some products pulled into that that were, you know, unintended,” she stated. “[W]orking through all of that and. . .moving forward in a way that is transparent in. . .April is what I am planning to do.”
- Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgages (QM). Kraninger discussed the Bureau’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would modify the QM Rule by moving away from the 43 percent debt to income ratio requirement and adopt an alternative such as a pricing threshold to ensure responsible, affordable mortgage credit is available to consumers. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) She stated that the Bureau would welcome legislation from Congress in this area.
- Supervision and Enforcement. Kraninger repeatedly emphasized that supervision is an important tool for the Bureau, and stated in her written testimony that during the reporting period discussed, “the Bureau’s Fair Lending Supervision program initiated 16 supervisory events at financial services institutions under the Bureau’s jurisdiction to determine compliance with federal laws intended to ensure the fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory access to credit for both individuals and communities, including the Equal Credit Opportunity Act  and HMDA.” In addition to discussing recent enforcement actions, Kraninger also highlighted three innovation policies: the Trial Disclosure Program Policy, No-Action Letter Policy, and the Compliance Assistance Sandbox Policy. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- Military Lending Act (MLA). Kraninger reiterated her position that she does not believe Dodd-Frank gives the Bureau the authority to supervise financial institutions for military lending compliance, and repeated her request for Congress to grant the Bureau clear authority to do so. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Congressman Barr (R-KY) noted that while he introduced H.R. 442 last month in response to Kraninger’s request, the majority has denied the mark up.
- UDAAP. Kraninger fielded a number of questions on the Bureau’s recent abusiveness policy statement. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Several Democrats told Kraninger the new policy will put unnecessary constraints on the Bureau’s enforcement powers, while some Republicans said the policy fails to define what constitutes an abusive act or practice. Kraninger informed the Committee that the policy statement is intended to “clarify abusiveness and separate it from deceptive and unfairness because Congress explicitly gave us those three authorities.” Kraninger reiterated that the Bureau will seek monetary relief only when the entity has failed to make a good faith effort to comply, and that “[r]estitution for consumers will be the priority in these cases.” She further emphasized that “in no way should that policy be read to say that we would not bring abusiveness claims.” Congresswoman Maloney (D-NY) argued, however, that a 2016 fine issued against a national bank for allegedly unfair and abusive conduct tied to the bank’s incentive compensation sales practices “would have been substantially lower if the [B]ureau hadn’t charged [the bank] with abus[ive] conduct also.” Kraninger replied that the Bureau could have gotten “the same amount of restitution and other penalties associated with unfairness alone.”
- Constitutionality Challenge. Kraninger reiterated that while she agrees with Seila Law on the Bureau’s single-director leadership structure, she differs on how the matter should be resolved. “Congress obviously provided a clear mission for this agency but there are some questions around. . .this and I want the uncertainty to be resolved,” Kraninger testified. “Congress will have the opportunity to make any changes or respond to that and I think that’s appropriate,” she continued. “I would very much like to see a resolution on this question because it has hampered the CFPB’s ability to carry out its mission, virtually since its inception.” (Continuing InfoBytes coverage on Seila Law LLC v. CFPB here.)
According to sources, on January 17, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger sent a letter to prominent members of Congress announcing plans to extend the qualified mortgage patch—which exempts loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) from the Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule’s 43 percent debt-to-income (DTI) ratio—for a short period beyond its current January 2021 expiration. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the Bureau issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last July to solicit feedback on, among other things, whether the DTI limit should be altered and how Regulation Z and the Ability to Repay/QM Rule should be amended to minimize disruption from the so-called GSE patch expiration. Kraninger notes in her letter that the Bureau plans to propose an amendment to the QM Rule to replace DTI ratios as a factor in mortgage underwriting with an alternative measure of credit risk. One alternative, Kraninger says, could be to use pricing thresholds based on the difference between the loan’s annual percentage rate and the average prime offer rate for a similar loan. The Bureau is also considering adding a “seasoning” approach through a separate rulemaking process to give safe harbor to certain loans when the borrower has made timely payments for a certain period, Kraninger states. Sources report that the Bureau plans to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking no later than May.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to join CFPB panel at CBA’s Washington Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to moderate “Pandemic relief response and lasting impacts on access, credit, banking, and equality” at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Spring Meeting
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Post-pandemic CFPB exam preparation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Making fair lending work for you" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Reading the tea leaves of President Biden’s initial financial appointees" at LendIt Fintech
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss “CA, NY, federal licensing and disclosure” at the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association Legal Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Compliance under Biden" at the WSJ Risk & Compliance Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference