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FHFA seeks feedback on updated credit score requirements
On March 23, FHFA announced a two-phase plan for soliciting stakeholder input on the agency’s proposed process for implementing updated credit score requirements. In October, FHFA announced that the FICO credit score model would be replaced by the FICO 10T and the VantageScore 4.0 credit score models, which were both validated and approved for use by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (covered by InfoBytes here). The agency also announced that Fannie and Freddie will now require two credit reports – instead of three – from the national consumer reporting agencies for single-family loan acquisitions. FHFA seeks public input on the projected implementation process to inform the transition to these new credit score models, which the agency estimates will happen in two phases. Phase one, estimated to start Q3 2024, will include the delivery and disclosure of additional credit scores, while phase two will include the incorporation of the new credit score models in pricing, capital, and other processes (estimated to occur in Q4 2025).
CFPB releases data on pandemic credit scores
On January 25, the CFPB released a blog post on credit score transitions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Using data available to the Bureau, the agency examined the transitions of consumers across credit score tiers using a commercially available credit score. According to the Bureau, the data used quarterly snapshots from June 2010 through June 2022 of the Consumer Credit Panel (CCP), which is a 1-in-48 deidentified longitudinal sample of credit records from one of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies. The Bureau assigned consumers to five credit score bins : deep subprime (300-579); subprime (580-619); near-prime (620-659); prime (660-719); and superprime (720-850). For each quarter of the CCP through June 2021, the Bureau assigned consumers a credit score bin reflecting their credit score, and a score bin reflecting their credit score 12 months in the future. The Bureau reported that transitions out of the subprime credit score tier was more common during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, 37 percent of consumers with subprime credit scores remained in the subprime tier after one year, and 26 percent dropped to the deep subprime tier. The Bureau also found that of consumers with near-prime credit scores, 24 percent transitioned to a lower tier before the pandemic, compared to 21 percent after the pandemic. Because prime credit scores are important to access lower-cost credit, the increasing number of transitions out of subprime credit scores is one factor that led to increased access to credit during the pandemic. Nevertheless, the Bureau warned that a higher credit score may not be enough to offset rising costs for goods purchased on credit.
FTC takes action against debt relief operation
On November 30, the FTC announced an action against three individuals and their affiliated companies (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly participating together in a credit card debt relief scheme since 2019. The FTC alleged in its complaint that the company violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by using telemarketers to call consumers and pitch their deceptive scheme, falsely claiming to be affiliated with a particular credit card association, bank, or credit reporting agency and promising they could improve consumers’ credit scores after 12 to 18 months. The defendants also allegedly misrepresented that the upfront fee, which in some cases was as high as $18,000, was charged to consumers’ credit cards as part of the overall debt that would be eliminated, and therefore consumers would not actually have to pay this fee. The District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted the Commission’s request to temporarily shut down the scheme operated by the defendants and froze their assets. The complaint requests, among other things, a permanent injunction to prevent future violations of the FTC Act and the TSR by the defendants.
FHFA announces validation of FICO 10T and VantageScore 4.0 for GSE use
On October 24, FHFA announced the validation and approval of both the FICO 10T credit score model and the VantageScore 4.0 credit score model for use by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). The agency also announced that the GSEs will require two credit reports from the national consumer reporting agencies, rather than three. According to the announcement, FHFA expects implementation of FICO 10T and VantageScore 4.0 to be a multiyear effort, but once in place, lenders will be required to deliver both FICO 10T and VantageScore 4.0 credit scores with each loan sold to the GSEs. FHFA noted that FICO 10T and VantageScore 4.0 are more accurate than the classic FICO model because they include payment history for factors like rent, utilities, and telecommunications. FHFA also released a Fact Sheet on the newly approved models, which “will improve accuracy, strengthen access to credit, and enhance safety and soundness.”
CFPB examines potential impact of high vehicle costs on consumers with deep subprime credit scores
On September 28, the CFPB published a blog post examining the potential impact of high vehicle costs on borrowers with deep subprime credit scores (credit scores below 540). The findings follow a separate recent CFPB blog post, which explored the potential relationship between high vehicle costs and changes in auto loan characteristics and performance (covered by InfoBytes here). Pointing out that many lenders do not provide information on deep subprime auto loans to consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), the Bureau’s newest findings rely on a statistical database containing information on vehicles and vehicle loans pulled from various sources, including vehicle titles and registrations, auto lenders, and auto manufacturers. The Bureau found that the median value of vehicles purchased by consumers with deep subprime credit scores has increased by roughly 60 percent since 2019, as compared to only a 30 percent increase for consumers with prime credit scores. The Bureau expressed concern that many consumers with deep subprime credit scores have been priced out of the auto loan market, noting that “the rapid increase in vehicle prices has had the largest impacts on the most vulnerable consumers.” The Bureau will continue to monitor these trends, but said the lack of data on monthly payments or delinquency rates for auto loans that are not furnished to CRAs limits its ability to study affordability concerns.
CFPB examines relationship between high vehicle costs and loan performance
On September 19, the CFPB published a blog post exploring the potential relationship between high vehicle costs and changes in auto loan characteristics and performance, particularly with respect to consumers with near-prime or subprime credit scores. The Bureau reported that the average vehicle price increased over the past two years, particularly throughout 2021, and that data from the Bureau’s Consumer Credit Panel showed that an increase in the size of newly originated auto loans coincided with a spike in vehicle price. The blog post also highlighted a recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York report, which found that higher vehicle prices are a significant factor driving larger loan amounts. “The dollar value of outstanding auto loans increased by $33 billion between the first and second quarters of 2022 to $1.5 trillion outstanding,” the report said, noting that the increase “is due in large part to larger loan originations rather than by an increase in the number of loans.” The Bureau also reported that recent data has shown that delinquency rates, especially for low-income borrowers, has increased over the past year. While the Bureau said it cannot fully infer that the end of pandemic-related stimulus policies or inflationary pressures are possible explanations for the rise in delinquency rates, the agency said it “cannot ignore the relationship between larger loan amounts and increasing interest rates to consumer’s monthly budgets and some consumers’ struggle to stay current on their loans.” The Bureau stressed, however, that while current data provides insight into broad indicators, it “lacks the granularity to isolate specific economic trends or to fully explore the impact on subsets of consumers.” The agency said it will continue to seek data that allows for better visibility in this market and will remain focused on ensuring that the auto lending market is fair, transparent, and competitive.
WA Superior Court: Insurance commissioner overstepped in banning credit scoring in underwriting
On August 29, the Washington State Superior Court entered a final order declaring that the Washington Insurance Commissioner exceeded his authority when he issued an emergency rule earlier this year banning the use of credit-based insurance scores in the rating and underwriting of insurance for a three-year period. As previously covered by InfoBytes, several industry groups led by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) sued to stop the rule from taking effect. The rule was intended to prevent discriminatory pricing in private auto, renters, and homeowners insurance in anticipation of the end of the CARES Act, and specifically prohibited insurers from “us[ing] credit history to place insurance coverage with a particular affiliated insurer or insurer within an overall group of affiliated insurance companies.” The rule applied to all new policies effective, and existing policies processed for renewal, on or after June 20, 2021. Industry groups countered that the rule would harm insured consumers in the state who pay less for auto, homeowners, and renters insurance because of the use of credit-based insurance scores to predict risk and set rates.
According to a press release issued by APCIA, earlier this year the superior court issued a bench decision granting the trade group’s petition for a declaratory judgment and invalidating the rule. The superior court “held that the Commissioner could not rely on the more general rating standard statute that prohibited “excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory” rates to “eliminate all meaning from the more specific credit history statutes by which the legislature had authorized its use.” Calling the final order “an important victory for Washington consumers, particularly lower risk senior policyholders who were forced to pay more to subsidize higher risk policyholders because the rule eliminated the use of credit,” the trade groups said they were pleased that the court agreed with their position that the Commissioner “exceeded his authority when he acted contrary to the longstanding statute that authorized the use of credit in the property and casualty insurance space.”
CFPB receives rulemaking petition seeking validation of credit score models for credit unions
Recently, the CFPB received a rulemaking petition seeking validation of credit score models for credit unions. The petition, which seeks “a rule governing the requirement to periodically validate credit scores for all lending or financing entities,” argues that validation is necessary to measure the effectiveness of credit scores being used to measure credit risk. Claiming that general letters of compliance from credit reporting agencies are inadequate, the petitioner explains that these letters do not “address the misapplication of credit scores by banks, credit card issuers, auto financing groups or individual credit unions that are the primary cause of errors and financial exclusion.” According to the petitioner, “[o]nly a statistically valid empirically derived study based on funded and declined loans will resolve many of the issues in consumer lending today.” The petitioner points out that validation reports “provide the information necessary to measure the efficiency of the credit score being used to measure credit risk,” and that “[d]emographic comparisons of funded and declined applicants can also be used to identify if the underwriting guidelines used in the application of credit scores result in acceptable percentages of financial inclusion for minorities or protected consumer groups.”
Fannie and Freddie release updated guidance on credit score coding glitch
On June 24, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued additional guidance related to a coding issue that impacted approximately 12 percent of credit scores earlier this year. As previously covered by InfoBytes, a consumer reporting agency informed lenders and industry members that it experienced a coding issue when it changed some of the technology to its legacy online model platform.
After making a determination that the underlying credit report data errors resulting from the coding issue “are not considered to be material erroneous credit data errors under Selling Guide B3-2-09,” Fannie Mae issued LL-2022-02 to provide requirements applicable specifically to impacted loans. Specifically, lenders are not required to obtain an updated credit report and re-underwrite the impacted loan “by resubmitting the loan to Desktop Underwriter® (DU® )” nor are they required to “re-assess the underwriting decision for non-DU loans, based solely on this issue.” An inaccurate credit score used at the time of underwriting will not render the loan ineligible for purchase, Fannie Mae stated, adding that a “repurchase request will not be issued based solely on this issue.” Guidance related to obtaining corrected credit scores and making data corrections, as well as information concerning loan-level price adjustments, post-closing quality control review, and representation and warranty relief is also provided in the lender letter.
Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2022-14 to provide similar guidance to sellers about their credit reporting and data correction responsibilities, and stated that it will also “not issue a repurchase based solely on an inaccurate credit score used in the underwriting of a mortgage.”
The guidance is effective immediately.
CFPB says BNPL needs standardized credit reporting
On June 15, the CFPB published a blog post calling on the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) industry to establish standardized codes and formats for furnishing information to credit reporting agencies that take into account the unique characteristics of these short-term, no-interest consumer credit products. Citing to the rapid growth within the BNPL industry, the Bureau stressed the need for standardization in how BNPL debts are reported on consumers’ credit reports. According to the Bureau, the three major credit reporting agencies have different policies for handing positive and negative reports on BNPL transactions in consumers’ core credit files. Moving to a more standardized approach would “facilitate the consistent and accurate furnishing of BNPL payment information” the Bureau said, noting that the agency “believes that when BNPL payments are furnished it is important that lenders furnish both positive and negative data.” Consumers who pay on time and may be seeking to build credit should receive the benefits of making timely payments on their BNPL debts, the Bureau said, explaining that this may also impact lenders seeking to understand how much debt a consumer is carrying.
The Bureau stressed it will continue to monitor the progress of BNPL lenders, credit reporting agencies, and credit scoring companies, and said it plans to “revisit this issue as part of a broader report on the industry stemming from our market monitoring order and responses to a public request for comments.” The Bureau is currently conducting an industry review, which includes a series of orders sent last December to five companies seeking information on the risks and benefits of the BNPL credit model (covered by InfoBytes here).