Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
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 July 16, the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled “Protecting Homeowners During the Pandemic: Oversight of Mortgage Servicers’ Implementation of the CARES Act.” The subcommittee’s memorandum regarding the hearing discussed, among other things, the HUD Office of Inspector General’s report of its review of the type of forbearance information accessible to borrowers on the top 30 mortgage servicers’ websites. The report highlighted concerns that 10 of the servicers failed to have forbearance information “‘readily available’ on their websites,” 14 servicers’ websites did not provide information about the length of the forbearance period to which borrowers are entitled under the CARES Act, and certain servicers “included information giving the impression that lump sum payments were required at the end of the forbearance period.”
Witnesses discussed widespread issues in CARES Act-related mortgage servicing, with several witnesses and lawmakers highlighting how preexisting inequalities have especially imperiled black and Latinx home ownership during the Covid-19 pandemic. One witness suggested that servicers should be required to provide written notice to borrowers of their options and rights under the CARES Act and should be held accountable for failing to provide consistent, accurate forbearance information to borrowers in a timely manner. Another witness noted that housing counselors have reported servicers providing misinformation on payment and deferral options, and stressed the need for coordinated efforts between the CFPB, FHFA, and HUD, in addition to strong supervisory and enforcement activity.
Other topics discussed during the hearing included (i) the importance of providing clear guidance for borrowers, as well as the importance of loan modifications, loss mitigation options, and long term solutions once forbearance has ended; (ii) understanding what servicers of non-federally backed mortgages not covered by the CARES Act are doing to assist borrowers, and whether there should be a safe harbor for these mortgage servicers from investor liability; and (iii) the CFPB’s responsibility for overseeing servicers. One of the witnesses noted during the hearing, however, that many mortgage servicers offered homeowners forbearance options before the CARES Act, provided forbearance to homeowners with non-federally backed mortgages, and have responded to “an evolving series of program and regulatory announcements from various programs and agencies.”
On June 29, the U.S. House of Representatives approved resolution H.J. 90, along party lines, which would reverse the OCC’s final rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). As previously covered by InfoBytes, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, Gregory Meeks (D-NY) introduced the resolution, with Waters criticizing the OCC’s decision to move forward with the rule “despite the Federal Reserve and the FDIC—the other regulatory agencies responsible for enforcing CRA—declining to join in the rulemaking.” While the resolution is unlikely to pass the Senate, the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy, which opposes the resolution and states that the President’s advisors will recommend he veto the action.
On June 11, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, Gregory Meeks (D-NY), introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution to reverse the OCC’s final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The OCC’s final rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), while technically effective October 1, provides for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model. However, Waters criticized the OCC’s decision to move forward with the rule “despite the Federal Reserve and the FDIC—the other regulatory agencies responsible for enforcing CRA—declining to join in the rulemaking.” Waters argued that the final rule “will result in disinvestment in many low- and moderate-income communities,” with Meeks stating that the OCC’s decision to “put forward a rushed, incomplete rule. . .will harm the very communities the CRA is meant to support.”
On May 1, Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA), sent a letter to the Department of Treasury (Treasury) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) urging them to prohibit payday and car-title lenders from receiving Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, citing harm these types of lenders have caused to consumers. The Congresswoman stressed that “there is no reason why Congress, SBA, or Treasury should bail out these predatory lenders” and encouraged them to instead focus on “providing PPP loans to the millions of responsible small businesses who are pillars in communities across the country and warrant immediate support.”
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.”
House Financial Services Committee sends letter to trade associations regarding responses to Covid-19
On March 11, the House Financial Services Committee issued a letter to several institutions and trade associations stating its concern for citizens impacted by the pandemic in which it urged them to provide assistance. In doing so, it said that “[i]t would be unfair if innocent borrowers were harmed through negative information on their consumer reports. Once negative information is reported to consumer reporting agencies, these consumers are likely to see a reduction in their credit scores, which may limit their ability to access credit in the future.” The letter asked the entities to provide a written response no later than March 20 to describe what their member companies are doing to respond to Covid-19, including specifics on what accommodations the institutions are offering to affected consumers, including their own employees.
On February 12, Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Joyce Beatty, Chair of the Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, released a majority staff report titled “Diversity and Inclusion: Holding America’s Large Banks Accountable,” which details diversity and inclusion data and policies collected from 44 of the nation’s largest banks. The information requested from the banks included, among other things, (i) “[e]mployee compensation by gender, race, and ethnicity”; (ii) demographic information about the banks’ boards; (iii) data regarding “staff and budget dedicated to diversity initiatives”; and (iv) “diversity policies and practices.” The committee staff found that boards of directors and senior employees at banks are not diverse, and that “[b]anks have limited spending and investments with diverse firms.” Additionally, it was found that “workforce diversity is more visible in entry level rather than executive and senior level positions.” The report recommended a number of avenues for banks to improve diversity and inclusion such as disclosing diversity data to the public and to regulators including bank board diversity. The report also suggested “[i]ncreased spending and investment with diverse” firms and vendors. According to the press release, Congressional legislative actions in these areas would “improve diversity and inclusion at America’s largest banks.”
On February 12, the House Financial Services Committee’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) held a hearing entitled “Equitable Algorithms: Examining Ways to Reduce AI Bias in Financial Services.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Committee created the task force to determine how to use AI in the financial services industry and examine issues surrounding algorithms, digital identities, and combating fraud. According to the Committee’s memorandum regarding the hearing, AI’s key technology is machine learning (ML)—“a process that may rely on pre-set rules to solve problems (also known as algorithms) without” or with only limited involvement of humans. Witnesses largely from the fields of computer science and AI delved into AI and ML at the hearing, discussing how human biases can be perpetuated in algorithms using historical data as input and how to best ensure fairness and accuracy. It was agreed that fairness has many different definitions that must be considered when creating algorithms. Witnesses provided testimony that when striving for fairness for one protected class, there may necessarily be tradeoffs resulting in less fairness to another protected class. Among other things, committee members questioned whether it is possible to formulate an algorithm that guarantees fairness and were urged not to focus too much on algorithms, but to also consider the data—where it came from, its quality and appropriateness—as potentially flawed data that could likely result in flawed outputs.
On February 11, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell provided testimony to the House Financial Services Committee during a hearing titled “Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy,” discussing regulatory issues concerning, among other things, proposed rulemaking related to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the transition away from reliance on LIBOR as an interest rate benchmark in financial products. During the hearing, Powell fielded a number of questions concerning the Fed’s plan to update CRA regulations. Reaffirming his support for Fed Governor Lael Brainard’s disapproval of how quickly the FDIC and OCC issued their notice of proposed rulemaking (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), Powell stated that he is “very comfortable with. . .the thinking” Brainard recently outlined in a speech describing alternative approaches to the CRA modernization process (covered by InfoBytes here). Powell emphasized, however, that the ideas in Brainard’s speech do not yet represent a formal framework, stating “[w]e want to be very, very sure. . .that what comes out of this is a proposal. . .from us that will leave all major participants in CRA better off. And so we think it’s important that each metric, each change that we make is grounded in data.”
Powell also discussed the upcoming transition from LIBOR to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), stating that federal regulators are working to ensure financial institutions are prepared for LIBOR’s possible cessation. When asked whether Congress should “simply give the Fed the right to prescribe backup rates when the debt instruments do not do so,” or explicitly adopt SOFR, Powell responded that he did not believe a federal law change is necessary at this time. Powell further responded that the Fed will inform Congress if a change in federal law is needed, emphasizing that the Fed’s “process is ongoing” and that it is “committed to having the banks ready by the end of next year to switch. . .away from LIBOR in case [the rate] is no longer published.” Powell noted that while SOFR will be the main substitute for LIBOR, the Fed is “working with regional [banks] and some of the larger banks, too, about the idea of also having a credit sensitive rate.”
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "High standards: Best practices for banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Wait wait ... do tell me! Where the panelists answer to you" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Matthew P. Previn and Walter E. Zalenski to discuss "Is valid when made ... valid?" at the Women in Housing & Finance Partner Series webinar
- Warren W. Traiger and Caroline K. Eisner to discuss "CRA modernization and the OCC final rule" at CBA Live
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Transnational corruption: A chat with former U.S. federal prosecutors in New York" at Marval Live Talks
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk and Lauren Frank to discuss "New CFPB interpretation on UDAAP" at a California Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Quality and Compliance Committee webinar
- Thomas A. Sporkin to discuss "Managing internal investigations and advanced government defense" at the Securities Enforcement Forum
- 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 "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