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On October 9, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) wrote to the ranking members of the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee with an update on the organization’s efforts regarding the CARES Act and oversight of nonbank mortgage servicers. CSBS notes that state regulators are the primary authority over nonbank mortgage servicers, and during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state regulators “identified liquidity as a supervisory priority.” Thus, according to CSBS, state regulators have been actively monitoring liquidity and other business operations by seeking real time data and other updates from nonbank mortgage servicers. Moreover, CSBS discusses the efforts made in response to the CARES Act, including consumer and servicer guidance issued in conjunction with the CFPB (covered by InfoBytes here and here), as well as examination procedure guidance. Lastly, the letter highlights the organization’s recent release of proposed regulatory prudential standards for nonbank mortgage servicers. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the proposal includes baseline standards that would apply to all covered servicers and enhanced standards—covering capital, liquidity, stress testing, and living will/recovery and resolution planning—that would apply to certain larger servicers. CSBS concludes the letter with a commitment for “continued coordination and information exchange with federal agencies.”
On July 29, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger testified at a hearing held by the Senate Banking Committee on the CFPB’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress, which covers the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2019, through March 31, 2020. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Kraninger’s testimony identified four key areas of focus for the Bureau: (i) providing financial education resources to prevent consumer harm; (ii) implementing “clear rules of the road” to encourage “competition, increase transparency, and preserve fair markets for financial products and services”; (iii) ensuring a “culture of compliance” through supervision; and (iv) following a consistent, purposeful enforcement regime. Kraninger also highlighted Bureau efforts to address discrimination, consumer confusion regarding forbearance options under the CARES Act, and a legislative proposal that would authorize the Bureau to award whistleblowers who report federal consumer financial law violations.
During the hearing, committee members focused on, among other things, the Bureau’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the agency’s recent repeal of certain underwriting provisions of its 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (covered by InfoBytes here). In response to Democratic criticism regarding the repeal of the underwriting provisions, Kraninger reiterated that a Bureau analysis of the provisions in the 2017 final rule revealed it would reduce the availability of small-dollar credit “by at least 70 percent,” and denied claims that the rulemaking process had been impacted by political appointees at the agency. Additionally, Kraninger said she intends to move ahead with putting the payment provisions of the payday rule into effect and is currently “working through” a pending legal challenge to the provisions.
Democratic committee members also questioned Kraninger regarding temporary regulatory relief to mortgage servicers and other financial services companies (covered by InfoBytes here) and the Bureau’s policy statement providing Fair Credit Reporting Act and Regulation V compliance flexibility for consumer reporting agencies and furnishers during the pandemic (covered by InfoBytes here). With regard to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling in Seila Law v. CFPB (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) noted he is still advocating for “a bipartisan board of directors to oversee the CFPB” and for subjecting the Bureau to the annual appropriations process.
The next day, Kraninger appeared before the House Financial Services Committee’s hearing to discuss the semi-annual report. Similar to the Senate hearing, committee members questioned Kraninger on the payday rule, the revision to the HMDA rule, the Bureau’s pandemic-related initiatives for consumers, and on ways the Bureau is protecting struggling consumers during the pandemic, particularly with respect to the agency’s supervisory and enforcement work.
On June 9, Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mark Calabria testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on the state of the housing market due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In his published statement, Calabria noted that at the start of 2020, the housing market was in a “strong position,” but “in response to Covid-19, financial markets endured a severe dislocation in March.” According to the statement, home prices have remained supported, as drops in demand have been balanced by a decrease in inventory. The statement also provides an update on FHFA’s policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. With regard to forbearances, Calabria acknowledged that forbearance rates were predicted to reach 25-50 percent; however, internal data indicates that “[e]nterprise forbearance rates remain manageable.” Specifically, the 30-60 day combined delinquency rate for borrowers with loans in Enterprise mortgage-backed securities “remains below the estimated rate of forbearance,” with Calabria commenting that some borrowers “who have requested forbearance are nonetheless continuing to make payments on their loan.” At the hearing, in response to a question asking if the FHFA plans to extend the foreclosure moratorium past June 30, Calabria noted that the agency is considering extending it “a month at a maximum” and would be “making that announcement certainly within a week.”
Calabria also discussed FHFA’s re-proposed capital rule for the Enterprises (covered by InfoBytes here). His statement notes that “Fannie and Freddie lack the capital to withstand a serious downturn in the housing market,” and the re-proposed rule would “help each [E]nterprise become safe and sound to fulfill its statutory mission across the economic cycle.”
On May 19, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs conducted a hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin to discuss the agencies’ efforts to implement the CARES Act relief provisions to support consumers and help stabilize the infrastructure of the economic system. Topics discussed included emergency lending facilities, such as the Main Street Lending Program and the Municipal Liquidity Facility, as well as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Payroll Support Program.
Mnuchin testified that Treasury has “worked closely with the Small Business Administration on the [PPP] to ensure the processing of more than 4.2 million loans for over $530 billion[.]” He issued praise for the nearly 400 Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions, as well as the many small and non-bank lenders that are participating in the program. Mnuchin noted that, while Treasury has already committed up to $195 billion of the $500 billion provided by Congress, the agency plans to use the remainder to create or expand programs as necessary after determining how best to deploy the money to help losses associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. “The only reason I have not allocated it fully is we are just starting to get these facilities up and running,” Mnuchin emphasized during the hearing. “We want to have a better idea as to which one of the facilities needs more capital as well as the potential for adding additional facilities.” Mnuchin also stated that Treasury is “fully prepared to take losses in certain scenarios on that capital.”
Powell discussed lending programs and monetary policy efforts taken by the Fed under section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act since the pandemic started, including measures to help stabilize short-term funding markets. These include lengthening the term and lowering the rate on discount window loans to depository institutions, and—together with Treasury—establishing the Commercial Paper Funding Facility and the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility. Powell also discussed the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, which will lend against asset-backed securities “backed by newly issued auto loans, credit card loans, and other consumer and small business loans.” Powell stressed that “public input has been crucial” in the agency’s development of these facilities and that additional adjustments may occur “as we learn more” about the needs of potential borrowers.
On May 12, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing entitled “Oversight of the Financial Regulators,” which primarily focused on responses by the Federal Reserve Board (Fed), FDIC, OCC, and NCUA to the Covid-19 pandemic. Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) opened the hearing by thanking the regulators for crafting regulatory responses to assist financial institutions in meeting the needs of affected borrowers, and encouraged the regulators to find ways to provide flexibility for financial institutions that lend to households and businesses. Crapo also stressed the importance of making sure the Fed’s Main Street Lending Program (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) and the Municipal Liquidity Facility (coved by InfoBytes here) are “up and running quickly,” and expressed continued concerns that the “inclusion of population thresholds for cities and states that were not a part of the CARES Act will still impede access to smaller and rural communities.” Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) argued, however, that the regulators’ relief measures have not favored consumers.
Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles provided an update on the Fed’s Covid-19 regulatory and supervisory efforts. When asked during the hearing when the Main Street Lending Program would be operational, he declined to give an exact date but emphasized it is the Fed’s “top priority,” and that he did not anticipate it will take months. When questioned about whether the Fed is taking measures to “ensure businesses are getting equitable access to the [lending] facilities,” Quarles stated that the Fed relies on banks to do the underwriting, but will supervise the banks to make sure the underwriting is done “safely and fairly.”
OCC Comptroller Joseph M. Otting also discussed a range of actions taken by the agency in response to the pandemic and outlined additional OCC priorities and objectives, including its proposal to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Senator Menendez (D-NJ) asked whether the OCC should revisit the proposed CRA rewrite, citing the inability of some small businesses—particularly minority-owned businesses—to obtain relief under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). In response, Otting argued that the rewrite (done in conjunction with the FDIC—see InfoBytes CRA coverage here) should actually be accelerated “because it will drive more dollars into low and moderate income communities” impacted by the pandemic. However, several Democrats on the Committee disagreed and called for a separate hearing to discuss the CRA proposal.
FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams also addressed actions undertaken to maintain stability and to provide flexibility to both banks and consumers. Among other things, McWilliams stated that banks should rely on borrowers’ statements certifying that their economic need is legitimate when making PPP loans. “Our instruction to banks has been to make sure these loans are not being traditionally underwritten [and] to take a look at the certification that the borrower is providing,” McWilliams said during the hearing. She also emphasized that all banks must comply with fair lending laws when making PPP loans, whether or not specific guidance has been issued.
NCUA Chairman Rodney E. Hood also outlined agency measures in response to the pandemic. Among other things, Hood noted that the NCUA has issued guidance to support credit union industry participation in the PPP and approved several regulatory changes concerning the classification of PPP loans for regulatory capital and commercial underwriting purposes.
The following day, the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions also held a roundtable with the federal regulators to discuss Covid-19 responses.
In April, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, received replies to an April 8 letter he sent to the Federal Reserve (Fed), OCC, NCUA, and FDIC, which urged the regulators to “strengthen the Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) and requested that they provide recommendations to assist the market as well as lenders and borrowers affected by Covid-19.
The Fed highlighted how it has strengthened the PPP, stating it: (i) eased “leverage requirements for community banks”; (ii) “published rules delaying the impact on regulatory capital of new loan-loss accounting standards”; (iii) created a new lending facility for the PPP; (iv) jointly with the FDIC, and OCC, “issued an interim final rule to clarify that a zero percent risk weight applies to PPP loans and to neutralize the regulatory capital effects of participating in the new PPP lending facility, helping preserve the flow of credit to small businesses”; (v) “encouraged institutions to use their capital buffers for their primary purpose: to support safe and sound lending throughout the credit cycle”; and (vi) provided suggestions for “congressional action to improve regulatory flexibility.”
The OCC’s replied that it has taken the following actions, among others, to support the PPP: (i) “encouraged banks to work with customers affected by” the pandemic; (ii) “encouraged banks to use the [Fed’s] discount window”; (iii) encouraged use of capital and liquidity buffers by banks; (iv) issued a joint statement with five regulatory agencies promoting “responsible small-dollar loans to consumers and small businesses”; (v) jointly issued interim final rules regarding regulatory capital and deferral of real estate appraisals; and (vi) coordinated listening sessions on the PPP.
The FDIC stated it is working to provide “necessary flexibility to both banks and their customers.” The agency’s response also enumerated several other actions it has taken to promote the PPP, including that it: (i) created a PPP information page on their website; (ii) shared bank questions and concerns with the Small Business Administration (SBA); (iii) created bank frequently asked questions; (iv) issued a financial institution letter referencing resources from the SBA and the Treasury; (v) continues to “provid[e]…resources to our examination teams so they” can better answer questions from regulated institutions; and (vi) jointly with other regulatory agencies, issued guidance on current expected credit losses methodology and community bank leverage ratio. The FDIC also reported possible supplementary and tier 1 leverage ratio changes.
On April 15, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin urging the agencies to use the authority granted under Title IV of the CARES Act to meet the needs of the housing market and ensure the stability of nonbank mortgage servicers as homeowners and renters struggle to make timely mortgage and rent payments. Brown and Waters stress that the “government must be prepared to respond quickly to prevent a liquidity shortfall in the single-family and multifamily mortgage markets, and to ensure that consumers are equitably served by that response.” They caution that while Ginnie Mae has announced measures to meet its servicers’ liquidity needs (covered by InfoBytes here), these changes “may be insufficient to address all of the liquidity challenges.”
On March 12, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger expressing concerns over the Bureau’s oversight of the auto lending market. The Senators contend that the Bureau has not taken any auto lending enforcement actions since Kraninger became director, despite reports expressing concern with the volume of outstanding auto debt and “auto lenders  engaging in predatory practices and cutting back safeguards.” The Senators were “particularly concerned with the targeting of subprime consumers by non-bank lenders through indirect financing.” The letter seeks information regarding the Bureau’s plans to “fulfill its mission of stopping abusive practices and protecting consumers from this emerging threat,” including (i) whether the Bureau believes that the “incentive structure” between dealers and lenders in indirect financing can create risks for consumers; (ii) whether the Bureau believes lenders are intentionally charging higher rates because of arrangements with auto dealers; (iii) the types of actions the Bureau would take when it identifies a problematic relationship between a lender and a dealer; and (iv) a list of past enforcement actions by the Bureau against lenders who incentivized dealers to offer consumers a larger loan than the market value of the vehicle. In addition, the letter seeks information on the ways that the Bureau evaluates lender underwriting practices and whether it maintains a database with average LTV ratios, length of loan terms, and related data points for each lender. Finally, the Senators asked for clarifications on how the Bureau would evaluate whether auto lenders are engaging in abusive practices in light of its revised “abusiveness” standard and whether the Bureau has identified fair lending concerns with auto lenders. The letter requests that the Bureau respond to the questions by March 26.
On March 10, Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) released a minority staff report titled “Consumers Under Attack: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Director Kraninger.” Specifically, the report faulted the Bureau for, among other allegations, purportedly protecting payday lenders, failing to properly scrutinize student loan servicers, and failing to enforce civil rights protections. The report was released the same day Kraninger testified before the Senate Banking Committee (covered by InfoBytes here). Among other things, the report argues that the CFPB’s proposed debt collection rule and supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (covered by InfoBytes here and a Buckley Special Alert) “does more to provide safe harbors for debt collectors than protect consumers” by not banning the collection of time-barred debt. The report also reiterates concerns over Kraninger’s decision to no longer defend the CFPB’s constitutionality (covered by InfoBytes here), as well as her decision last year to delay certain ability-to-repay provisions of the agency’s 2017 final rule covering “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans” (covered by InfoBytes here), which has led to stays of enforcement actions.
On March 10, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger testified at a Senate Banking Committee hearing regarding the Bureau’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress. The hearing examined the report (covered by InfoBytes here), which outlines the Bureau’s work from April 1, 2019, through September 30, 2019.
In her opening remarks, Kraninger pointed to the newly announced measures that the Bureau has initiated to carry out the CFPB’s mission to prevent consumer harm, including the advisory opinion program, the updated Responsible Business Conduct bulletin, and proposed legislation to begin a whistleblower award program. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In response to questions about the constitutionality of the CFPB’s structure, Kraninger stated that she was “incredibly encouraged” when the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Seila Law as it should provide “certainty and clarity.” Kraninger also addressed the Bureau’s COVID-19 preparedness by saying that the financial regulators are in “routine contact with the institutions we regulate” and that they maintain a steady flow of information with the Treasury Department, as well as with OPM, CDC, and FEMA to ensure coordinated operations. A number of Senators asked about the effects of COVID-19 on the economy, including with respect to new scams designed to take advantage of panicked consumers, consumers losing pay and benefits due to employer shut downs, and whether financial institutions are making accommodations for consumers during this time. Kraninger responded that financial institutions will have “supervisory flexibility” to help consumers and ensured that the CFPB is taking steps such as encouraging the public to attend the Bureau’s events via webcast. She also confirmed that the Financial Stability Oversight Council, of which she is a member, will meet this month. Other covered topics included small dollar loans and payday lending, supervision and enforcement, and the timeline for rulemaking on amendments to the qualified mortgage and ability to repay requirements. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Being fair, responsible, & profitable" at the QuestSoft Lending Compliance & Risk Management Virtual Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "NMLS mortgage call report – Where’s NMLS 2.0?" at the QuestSoft Lending Compliance & Risk Management Virtual Conference
- Thomas A. Sporkin to discuss "Managing internal investigations and advanced government defense" at the Securities Enforcement Forum
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "2021 - A new beginning/what's to come" at the QuestSoft Lending Compliance & Risk Management Virtual Conference
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Mortgage servicing in a recession: Early intervention, loss mitigation and more" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Independent monitoring in the United States" at the World Compliance Association Peru Chapter IV International Conference on Compliance and the Fight Against Corruption
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Cyber security, incident response, crisis management" at the Legal & Diversity Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "The future of fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Pandemic fallout – Navigating practical operational challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "BSA/AML - Covid impact and regulatory/guidance roundup" at an NAFCU webinar