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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • FSOC issues final guidance on nonbank designations; highlights key risks in annual report

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On December 4, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) issued final interpretive guidance to revise and update 2012 guidance concerning nonbank financial company designations. According to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, the guidance “enhances [FSOC’s] ability to identify, assess, and respond to potential risks to U.S. financial stability. . . by promoting careful analysis and creating a more streamlined process.” Among other things, the guidance (i) implements an activities-based approach for identifying, assessing, and addressing potential risks and threats to financial stability in the U.S., allowing FSOC to work with federal and state financial regulators to implement appropriate actions when a potential risk is identified; (ii) enhances the analytic framework for potential nonbank financial company designations, which includes a cost-benefit analysis and a review of the likelihood of a company’s material financial distress determined by its vulnerability to a range of factors; and (iii) enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of the nonbank financial company designation process by condensing the process into two stages and increasing “engagement with and transparency to” companies under review, as well as their regulators, through the creation of pre- and post-designation off ramps.

    FSOC also released its 2019 annual report to Congress, which reviews financial market developments, identifies emerging risks, and offers recommendations to enhance financial stability. Key highlights include:

    • Cybersecurity. FSOC states that “[g]reater reliance on technology, particularly across a broader array of interconnected platforms, increases the risk that a cybersecurity event will have severe consequences for financial institutions.” Among other things, FSOC recommends continued robust, comprehensive cybersecurity monitoring, and supports the development of public and private partnerships to “increase coordination of cybersecurity examinations across regulatory authorities.”
    • Nonbank Mortgage Origination and Servicing. The report adds the increasing share of mortgages held by nonbank mortgage companies to its list of concerns. FSOC notes that of the 25 largest originators and servicers, nonbanks originate roughly 51 percent of mortgages and service approximately 47 percent—a notable increase from 2009 where nonbanks only originated 10 percent of mortgages and serviced just 6 percent. FSOC states that risks in nonbank origination and servicing arise because most nonbanks have limited liquidity as compared to banks and rely more on short-term funding, among other things. FSOC recommends that federal and state regulators continue to coordinate efforts to collect data, identify risks, and strengthen oversight of nonbanks in this space.
    • Financial Innovation. The report discusses the benefits of new financial products and practices, but cautions that these may also create new risks and vulnerabilities. FSOC recommends that these products and services—particularly digital assets and distributed ledger technology—should be continually monitored and analyzed to understand their effects on consumers, regulated entities, and financial markets. 

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FSOC Nonbank Mortgages Mortgage Origination Mortgage Servicing Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Fintech

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  • FHFA increases conforming loan limits for 2020

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 26, the FHFA announced that it will raise the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages purchased in 2020 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from $484,350 to $510,400. In high-cost areas, such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., the maximum loan limit will be $765,600. For a county-specific list of the maximum loan limits in the U.S., click here.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FHFA Mortgages Mortgage Lenders Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Conforming Loan

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  • CFPB report compares large and small mortgage servicers

    Federal Issues

    On November 21, the CFPB released a new Data Point report from the Office of Research titled, “Servicer Size in the Mortgage Market,” which examines the differences between large and small mortgage servicers in the mortgage market. The report considers mortgage servicers in three size categories, (i) “small servicers” that service 5,000 or fewer loans; (ii) “mid-sized servicers” that service between 5,000 and 30,000 loans; and (iii) “large servicers” that service more than 30,000 loans.” Key findings of the report include:

    • Only five percent of loans at small servicers are insured by FHA or guaranteed by the VA, the Farm Service Agency, or the Rural Housing Service, whereas such loans account for about 25 percent of loans at mid-sized and large servicers.
    • Less than one-third of conventional loans are serviced on behalf of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac at small servicers, whereas at large servicers, over 75 percent of conventional loans are serviced for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
    • Small servicers service the majority of loans in a number of rural counties in the U.S., particularly in the Midwest.
    • From 2012 to 2018, delinquency rates of loans at large and small servicers generally converged, as compared to mortgage crisis levels when delinquency rates for loans serviced by small services were much lower than at mid-sized and large servicers.
    • In response to a survey, 74 percent of borrowers with mortgages at small servicers said having a branch or office nearby was important, compared to 44 percent of borrowers with mortgages at large servicers.

    Federal Issues CFPB Mortgages Mortgage Servicing

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  • CFPB seeks feedback on TRID

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 20, the CFPB issued a request for information (RFI) regarding the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures Rule (TRID Rule) assessment, which is required by Section 1022(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act. Section 1022(d) requires the Bureau to conduct an assessment of each “significant rule or order” no later than five years after its effective date. The Bureau issued the TRID Rule in November 2013, and the rule took effect on October 3, 2015. In addition to comments received on this RFI, the Bureau notes that it is also considering the approximately 63 comments already received regarding the TRID Rule from the 2018 series of RFIs issued on the adopted regulations and new rulemakings, as well as the inherited regulations (covered by InfoBytes here and here).

    The RFI seeks public feedback on any information relevant to assessing the effectiveness of the TRID Rule, including (i) comments on the feasibility and effectiveness of the assessment plan; (ii) recommendations to improve the assessment plan; (iii) data and information about the benefits, costs, and effectiveness of the TRID Rule; and (iv) recommendations for modifying, expanding, or eliminating the TRID Rule.

    Comments must be received within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance TRID RFI Mortgages Mortgage Origination Dodd-Frank TILA RESPA CFPB Disclosures

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  • District Court rejects sampling-related expert discovery in RMBS action

    Courts

    On November 18, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied an investment company’s request to use “sampling-related expert discovery” in its action against a trustee of five residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), concluding that the proposal was not proportional to the needs of the case. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the investment company filed suit against the trustee alleging the trustee “failed to fulfil certain contractual duties triggered by the discovery of breaches of ‘representations and warranties’” when the underlying mortgages allegedly were found not to be of the promised quality. The investment company also alleged that the trustee failed to exercise its rights to require the companies that sold the mortgages in question “to cure, substitute, or repurchase the breaching loans.” After being denied class certification by the court in February, the investment company preemptively moved for an order from the court allowing it to use sampling-related expert discovery—a process which “engage[s] experts to select samples of mortgage loans from each of the five trusts and to perform analyses on those samples of loans to extrapolate information about the quality of all of the loans in the trusts.”

    The court denied the request, calling the proposed sampling a “blind corner.” The court noted that the “breach rate evidence” that would be discovered by the sampling “only provides substantial probative value for [the investment company’s] claims if [the investment company] can demonstrate that [the trustee] was under an obligation to conduct an investigation of the loans in each of the trusts,” which the investment company has failed to do. Because “the probative value of that discovery hinges upon a factual theory that [the investment company] has yet to demonstrate is viable,” the court could not justify allowing the parties to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the proposed sampling.

    Courts RMBS Mortgages Securities Discovery

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  • CFPB says some organizations won’t need to comply with screening and training requirements for temporary MLOs

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 15, the CFPB issued an interpretive rule, which clarifies the screening and training requirements for mortgage loan originators (MLOs) with temporary authority under Regulation Z. As previously covered by InfoBytes, Section 106 of Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act amends the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (SAFE Act) to establish temporary authority, providing a way for eligible MLOs who have applied for a new state loan originator license to act as a loan originator in the application state while the state considers the application. Regulation Z currently requires organizations to perform criminal screenings (including whether the applicant has been convicted of enumerated felonies within specified timeframes) and training requirements before permitting the individual to originate loans. According to the Bureau, Regulation Z is “ambiguous” as to whether these requirements would apply to MLOs with temporary authority and therefore, the interpretive rule clarifies that an organization is not required to conduct the criminal screening or ensure the training of any MLOs with temporary authority under the SAFE Act.

    The interpretive rule is effective November 24, the same day the SAFE Act amendments take effect.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgages Licensing SAFE Act EGRRCPA Regulation Z

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  • FDIC quarterly looks at growth in nonbank lending

    Federal Issues

    On November 14, the FDIC released its latest issue of the FDIC Quarterly, which analyzes the U.S. banking system and focuses on changes occurring since the 2008 financial crisis, particularly within nonbank lending growth. The three reports—published by the FDIC’s Division of Insurance and Research—“address the shift in some lending from banks to nonbanks; how corporate borrowing has moved between banks and capital markets; and the migration of some home mortgage origination and servicing from banks to nonbanks.”

    • Bank and Nonbank Lending Over the Past 70 Years notes that total lending in the U.S. has grown dramatically since the 1950s, with a shift in bank lending that reflects the growth of nonbank loan holders as nonbanks have gained market share in residential mortgage and corporate lending. The report states that in 2017, nonbanks represented 53 percent of mortgages originated by HMDA filers, and originated a significant volume of loans for sale to the GSEs. Mortgage servicing also saw a shift from banks to nonbanks, with nonbanks holding “42 percent of mortgage servicing rights held by the top 25 servicers in 2018.” The report also discusses shifts in lending for commercial real estate, agricultural loans, consumer credit, and auto loans, and notes that bank lending to nondepository financial institutions has grown from roughly $50 billion in 2010 to $442 billion in the second quarter of 2019.
    • Leveraged Lending and Corporate Borrowing: Increased Reliance on Capital Markets, With Important Bank Links examines the shift in corporate borrowing from banks to nonbanks, with nonfinancial corporations “relying more on capital markets and less on bank loans as a funding source.” The report also, among other things, discusses resulting risks and notes that “[d]espite the concentration of corporate debt in nonbank credit markets, banks still face both direct and indirect exposure to corporate debt risks.”
    • Trends in Mortgage Origination and Servicing: Nonbanks in the Post-Crisis Period examines changes to the mortgage market post 2007, including the migration outside of the banking system of a substantive share of mortgage origination and servicing. The report also discusses trends within the mortgage industry, key characteristics of nonbank originators and servicers, potential risks posed by nonbanks, as well as potential implications the migration to nonbanks may pose for banks and the financial system. Specifically, the report lists several factors contributing to the resurgence of nonbanks in mortgage origination and servicing, including (i) crisis-era legacy portfolio litigation at bank originators; (ii) more aggressive nonbank expansion (iii) nonbanks’ technological innovations and mortgage-focused business models; (iv) large banks’ sales of crisis-era legacy servicing portfolios due to servicing deficiencies and other difficulties; and (v) capital treatment changes to mortgage servicing assets applicable to banks. The report emphasizes, however, that “[c]hanging mortgage market dynamics and new risks and uncertainties warrant investigation of potential implications for systemic risk.”

    Federal Issues FDIC Nonbank Mortgage Origination Mortgage Servicing Mortgages Nonbank Lending

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  • VA encourages relief for Tropical Storm Imelda-affected borrowers

    Federal Issues

    On November 8, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-19-29, encouraging mortgagees to provide relief for VA borrowers affected by Tropical Storm Imelda. Among other forms of assistance, the Circular encourages loan holders and servicers to (i) extend forbearances to borrowers in distress because of the disaster; (ii) establish a 90-day moratorium from the disaster declaration date on initiating new foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waive late charges on affected loans; and (iv) suspend credit reporting related to affected loans. The Circular is effective until January 1, 2021. Mortgage servicers and veteran borrowers are also encouraged to review the VA’s Guidance on Natural Disasters.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief guidance here.

    Federal Issues Disaster Relief Department of Veterans Affairs Consumer Finance Mortgages

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  • DOJ charges short-sale negotiators with fraud

    Federal Issues

    On November 8, the DOJ announced that it charged the principals and co-founders (collectively, “defendants”) of a mortgage short sale assistance company with allegedly defrauding mortgage lenders and investors out of half a million in proceeds from short sale transactions. The DOJ also alleged the defendants’ actions defrauded Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD. According to the announcement, from 2014 to 2017, the defendants negotiated with lenders for approval of short sales in lieu of foreclosure, and falsely claimed during settlement that the lenders had agreed to pay loss mitigation service fees from the proceeds of short sales. The defendants allegedly obtained around 3 percent of the short sale price from the settlement agent, which was separate from fees paid to real estate agents and closing attorneys, among others. In order to further deceive lenders, the defendants would then file fabricated documents to justify or conceal the additional fees being paid to the company. The defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one co-founder was also charged with aggravated identity theft.

    Federal Issues DOJ Mortgages Fraud Enforcement Fees

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  • FDIC, bank reach RESPA settlement

    Federal Issues

    On November 6, the FDIC announced that a Washington-based bank agreed to settle allegations that it violated RESPA by paying fees to real estate brokers and homebuilders in exchange for mortgage business referrals. Section 8(a) of RESPA “prohibits giving or accepting a thing of value for the referral of settlement service involving a federally related mortgage loan.” According to the FDIC, the bank’s discontinued mortgage banking line allegedly entered into arrangements with real estate brokers and homebuilders to co-market services through online platforms. The FDIC also alleged that the bank’s mortgage banking business rented desk space in brokers’ and homebuilders’ offices, which resulted in the payment of fees by the bank for referrals of mortgage loan business. The FDIC further stated, “While co-marketing arrangements and desk rental agreements are permissible where the fees paid bear a reasonable relationship to the fair market value of marketing or rental costs, such arrangements and agreements violate RESPA when the amounts paid exceed fair market value and the excess is for referrals of mortgage business.” The bank, which has neither admitted nor denied the charges, has agreed to pay a $1.35 million civil money penalty under the terms of the settlement order, and has terminated all of its co-marketing and desk rental agreements.

    Federal Issues FDIC RESPA Enforcement Mortgages

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