Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
CFPB proposal would apply ATR requirements to PACE financing
On May 1, the CFPB announced a proposed rule which would prescribe ability-to-repay (ATR) rules to residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing and apply TILA’s civil liability provisions for violations. The proposal, required by Section 307 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, would amend Regulation Z to address how TILA applies to PACE transactions to account for the unique nature of PACE loans. PACE loans are designed to finance clean energy improvements on a borrower’s home and are secured by that residence. The Bureau explained that the loans are repaid through a borrower’s property tax payments, which increase over time and which remain with the property even if the borrower sells the property.
If finalized, the proposed rule would require lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to repay a PACE loan and would (i) clarify an existing exclusion to Regulation Z’s definition of credit relating to tax liens and tax assessments to provide that this specific exclusion “applies only to involuntary tax liens and involuntary tax assessments”; (ii) make several adjustments to PACE financing loan estimate and closing disclosure requirements, including providing new model forms specifically designed for PACE transactions, and exempting PACE transactions from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for certain higher-priced mortgage loans and from the requirement to provide periodic statements; (iii) prescribe ATR requirements for residential PACE financing that account for the unique nature of these transactions; (iv) provide that a PACE transaction is not a qualified mortgage; (v) extend TILA Section 130’s ATR requirements and liability provisions to any “PACE company” with substantial involvement in making credit decisions for a PACE transaction; and (vi) clarify how PACE and non-PACE mortgage creditors should consider pre-existing PACE transactions when originating new mortgage loans.
The proposed effective date is at least one year after the final rule is published in the Federal Register (“but no earlier than the October 1 which follows by at least six months Federal Register publication”), with the possibility of a further extension to ensure compliance with a TILA timing requirement. Comments on the proposed rule are due July 26 or 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, whichever is later.
To accompany the proposed rule, the Bureau released several fast facts breaking down and clarifying proposed coverage and the suggested changes. The Bureau also released a data point report documenting research findings on PACE financing in California and Florida from July 2014 through June 2020. Among other things, the report found that PACE loans create an increase in negative credit outcomes for borrowers, particularly with respect to mortgage delinquency. Additionally, PACE borrowers were more likely to have higher interest rates and increased credit card balances and were more likely to live in census tracts with higher percentages of Black and Hispanic residents relative to the average for their states. The report noted that “PACE outcomes improved significantly in California after that State began requiring PACE companies to consider ability to pay before making a loan.”
CFPB releases regulatory agenda
Recently, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s fall 2022 regulatory agenda. Key rulemaking initiatives that the agency expects to initiate or continue include:
- Overdraft and NSF fees. The Bureau is considering whether to engage in pre-rulemaking activity in November to amend Regulation Z with respect to special rules for determining whether overdraft fees are considered finance charges. According to the Bureau, the rules, which were created when Regulation Z was adopted in 1969, have remained largely unchanged despite the fact that the nature of overdraft services has significantly changed over the years. The Bureau is also considering whether to engage in pre-rulemaking activity in November regarding non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees. The Bureau commented that while NSF fees have been a significant source of fee revenue for depository institutions, recently some institutions have voluntarily stopped charging such fees.
- FCRA rulemaking. The Bureau is considering whether to engage in pre-rulemaking activity in November to amend Regulation V, which implements the FCRA. As previously covered by InfoBytes, on January 3, the Bureau issued its annual report covering information gathered by the Bureau regarding certain consumer complaints on the three largest nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). CFPB Director Rohit Chopra noted that the Bureau “will be exploring new rules to ensure that [the CRAs] are following the law, rather than cutting corners to fuel their profit model.”
- Section 1033 rulemaking. Section 1033 of Dodd-Frank provides that covered entities, such as banks, must make available to consumers, upon request, transaction data and other information concerning consumer financial products or services that the consumer obtains from the covered entity. Over the past several years, the Bureau has engaged in a series of rulemaking steps to prescribe standards for this requirement, including the release of a 71-page outline of proposals and alternatives in advance of convening a panel under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). The outline presents items under consideration that “would specify rules requiring certain covered persons that are data providers to make consumer financial information available to a consumer directly and to those third parties the consumer authorizes to access such information on the consumer’s behalf, such as a data aggregator or data recipient (authorized third parties).” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The Bureau anticipates issuing a SBREFA report in February.
- Amendments to FIRREA concerning automated valuation models. The Bureau is participating in interagency rulemaking with the Fed, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA to develop regulations to implement the amendments made by Dodd-Frank to FIRREA concerning appraisal automated valuation models (AVMs). The FIRREA amendments require implementing regulations for quality control standards for AVMs. The Bureau released a SBREFA outline and report in February and May 2022 respectively (covered by InfoBytes here), and estimates that the agencies will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in March.
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. The Bureau issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) in March 2019 to extend TILA’s ability-to-repay requirements to PACE transactions. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The Bureau is working to develop a proposed rule to implement Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act Section 307 in April.
- Nonbank registration. The Bureau issued an NPRM in December to enhance market monitoring and risk-based supervision efforts by including all final public written orders and judgments (including any consent and stipulated orders and judgments) obtained or issued by any federal, state, or local government agency for violation of certain consumer protection laws related to unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in a database of enforcement actions taken against certain nonbank covered entities. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In a separate agenda item, the Bureau states that the NPRM would also require supervised nonbanks to register with the Bureau and provide information about their use of certain terms and conditions in standard-form contracts. The Bureau proposes “to collect information on standard terms used in contracts that are not subject to negotiating or that are not prominently advertised in marketing.”
- Credit card penalty fees. The Bureau issued an ANPRM last June to solicit information from credit card issuers, consumer groups, and the public regarding credit card late fees and late payments, and card issuers’ revenue and expenses. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Under the CARD Act rules inherited by the Bureau from the Fed, credit card late fees must be “reasonable and proportional” to the costs incurred by the issuer as a result of a late payment. Calling the current credit card late fees “excessive,” the Bureau stated it intends to review the “immunity provision” to understand how banks that rely on this safe harbor set their fees and to examine whether banks are escaping enforcement scrutiny “if they set fees at a particular level, even if the fees were not necessary to deter a late payment and generated excess profits.” The Bureau is considering comments received on the ANPRM as it develops an NPRM that may be released this month.
- Small business rulemaking. Section 1071 of Dodd-Frank amended ECOA to require financial institutions to report information concerning credit applications made by women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses, and directed the Bureau to promulgate rules for this reporting. An NPRM was issued in August 2021 (covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau anticipates issuing a final rule later this month.
California broadens DFPI commissioner’s enforcement authority
On August 26, the California governor signed AB 2433, which broadens DFPI’s unlawful practices oversight and enforcement power over any person currently engaging in or having engaged in the past, in unlicensed activity. Among other things, the bill amends the DFPI commissioner’s enforcement of various laws, such as the California Commodity Law, Escrow Law, California Financing Law (CFL), Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), Student Loan Servicing Act, and California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. The bill establishes that the commissioner may act “upon having reasonable grounds to believe that a broker-dealer or investment advisor has conducted business in an unsafe or injurious manner.” The bill also permits the DFPI to “act upon having cause to believe that a licensee or other person has violated the CFL.” The CFL provides for the licensure and regulation of finance lenders, brokers, and specified program administrators by the Commissioner of Financial Protection and Innovation to issue a citation to the licensee or person and to assess an administrative fine, as specified, among other things. The CFL also regulates certain persons acting under the PACE program, including PACE solicitors and PACE solicitor agents. The new bill establishes that “if the commissioner, upon inspection, examination, or investigation, has cause to believe that a PACE solicitor or PACE solicitor agent is violating any provision of that law, or rule or order thereunder, the commissioner or their designee is required to exhaust a specified procedure before bringing an action.” Additionally, bill specifies that certain “procedures apply when the commissioner has cause to believe that a PACE solicitor or solicitor agent has violated any provision of that law or rule or order thereunder.” The bill also mentions the Student Loan Servicing Act, which “provides for the licensure, regulation, and oversight of student loan servicers by the commissioner,” and establishes that the commissioner is required, upon having reasonable grounds after investigation to believe that a licensee is conducting business in an unsafe or injurious manner, to direct, by written order, the discontinuance of the unsafe or injurious practices. This bill specifies “that these procedures also apply if, after investigation, the commissioner has reasonable grounds to believe that a licensee has conducted business in an unsafe or injurious manner.” The bill is effective immediately.
California issues remote work guidance to CFL licensees
On August 26, the California governor signed AB 2001, which amends the California Financing Law (CFL) regarding remote work. According to the bill, a licensee would be authorized “under the CFL to designate an employee, when acting within the scope of employment, to perform work on the licensee’s behalf at a remote location, as defined, if the licensee takes certain actions, including that the licensee prohibits a consumer’s personal information from being physically stored at a remote location except for storage on an encrypted device or encrypted media.” Currently, the CFL provides that a licensee cannot engage in loan business or administer a PACE program in any office, room, or place of business that any other business is solicited or engaged in, or in association or conjunction therewith, under certain circumstances. Additionally, “a finance lender, broker, mortgage loan originator, or program administrator licensee shall not transact the business licensed or make any loan or administer any PACE program provided for by this division under any other name or at any other place of business than that named in the license except pursuant to a currently effective written order of the commissioner authorizing the other name or other place of business.”