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On June 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a RESPA action against a mortgage servicer, concluding that rescheduling a foreclosure sale is not a violation of Regulation X’s prohibition on moving for an order of foreclosure sale after a borrower has submitted a complete loss-mitigation application. According to the opinion, a consumer’s home was the subject of an order of foreclosure, and the mortgage servicer subsequently approved a trial loan-modification plan for a six-month period. The servicer filed a motion to reschedule the foreclosure sale so that the sale would not occur unless the consumer failed to comply with the modification plan during the trial period. The consumer filed suit, alleging that the servicer violated Regulation X––which prohibits loan servicers from moving for an order of foreclosure sale after a borrower has submitted a complete loss-mitigation application––because the servicer rescheduled the foreclosure sale instead of cancelling it. The district court dismissed the action.
On appeal, the 11th Circuit agreed with the district court, concluding that the consumer failed to state a claim for a violation of Regulation X. The appellate court reasoned that Regulation X does not prohibit a servicer from moving to reschedule a foreclosure sale as that motion is not the same as the “order of sale,” a substantive and dispositive motion seeking authorization to conduct a sale at all, as referenced in Regulation X. Moreover, the appellate court argued that the consumer’s interpretation of the prohibition is inconsistent with the consumer protection goals of RESPA because it would disincent loan servicers from offering loss-mitigation options and helping borrowers complete loss-mitigation applications, if a foreclosure sale has already been scheduled. Lastly, the appellate court noted that the motion to reschedule is consistent with the CFPB’s commentary that, “[i]t is already standard industry practice for a servicer to suspend a foreclosure sale during any period where a borrower is making payments pursuant to the terms of a trial loan modification,” rejecting the consumer’s argument that the servicer should have cancelled the sale altogether.
On June 11, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued its 2018 Report to Congress, which, in part, provides information regarding FHFA's oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs) and describes FHFA actions as conservator the GSEs.
Most notably, in his letter to Congress introducing the report, FHFA Director Mark Calabria urged Congress to act on housing finance reform, noting that the conservatorship over the GSEs was “established as a short-term measure to address instability” during the financial crisis and now is of “unprecedented duration and scope.” Calabria encouraged Congress to work with the FHFA and the Administration to enact housing finance reform to ensure the GSEs are “well-capitalized, well-regulated, and well-managed to withstand any future downturn in the economy.” Additionally, Calabria requested that Congress provide FHFA with chartering authority similar to that of the OCC to increase competition in the secondary mortgage market. (As previously covered by InfoBytes here and here, Calabria and the Administration have encouraged housing finance reform that would end the GSE conservatorships and increase private sector participation in the mortgage market.) Lastly, Calabria argued for strengthening FHFA’s powers, similar to that of other federal financial safety and soundness regulators, including by granting the agency the authority to oversee third parties that do business with the GSEs, such as nonbank mortgage servicers.
On June 11, House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters and 64 other Democratic House members sent a letter to the CFPB urging rescission of its May proposal to permanently raise the coverage thresholds for collecting and reporting HMDA data and to retire its HMDA Explorer tool. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In the letter, members argue that recent data “showed widespread discrimination in bank lending” and that redlining continues to be a pervasive problem. They note that HMDA data is an important tool for public officials to understand access to credit in their communities, and that the Bureau’s proposal would exempt “about half of lending institutions from reporting data about closed-end mortgages … [and] sacrifice information that can make a difference in the lives of creditworthy, lower-income consumers.” The members also ask for information regarding the new Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) query tool that is to be used as a replacement for the HMDA Explorer tool and Public Data Platform API that the Bureau plans to retire, as previously covered by InfoBytes here.
Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overruled its own precedent, holding that the plain language of the Bankruptcy Code authorizes modification of undersecured homestead mortgage claims—not just the payment schedule for such claims—including through bifurcation and cram down. According to the opinion, a creditor initiated a foreclosure action against a mortgage debtor alleging that the debtor failed to repay approximately $136,000 due under the mortgage. The debtor filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy and valued the mortgaged property at $40,000 in his petition. The debtor proposed a bankruptcy plan that would bifurcate the creditor’s claim into a secured component commensurate with the value of the mortgaged property, and an unsecured component for the remainder. The bankruptcy court rejected the debtor’s proposal on the grounds that the 4th Circuit’s 1997 holding in Witt v. United Cos. Lending Corp (In re Wiit) barred any modification or bifurcation of the creditor’s claim, and thus entitled her to a secured claim in the full amount due under the mortgage, plus interest. The district court and a 4th Circuit panel affirmed.
Following an en banc rehearing, the 4th Circuit reversed, overruling its decision in Witt. The en banc appellate court concluded that the plain text of Section 1322(c)(2) authorizes modification of covered homestead mortgage payments and claims, and allows for the bifurcation of undersecured homestead mortgages into secured and unsecured components. The appellate court noted that its initial interpretation in Witt had been “universally” criticized by courts and commentators, including for running “contrary to accepted canons of statutory construction.” Therefore, the appellate court reversed the district court’s judgment relying on Witt and remanded the case.
In dissent, three circuit judges stated that the majority went too far in its interpretation of Section 1322, and that Section 1322(c)(2) allows debtors to repay their mortgages over the full duration of their plan. The dissent’s view was that the majority’s decision essentially overturns the Supreme Court’s holding in Nobelman v. American Savings Bank without “any clear desire by Congress to do so.” Moreover, the dissent argued that, while it agreed that “Congress meant for [Section] 1322(c)(2) to create an exception to Nobelman’s prohibition against modifying the timing of loan repayments,” Congress did not intend to “eviscerate Nobelman altogether.”
On June 6, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report concluding that the VA improperly charged exempt veterans VA home loan funding fees. According to the OIG, from 2012 through 2017, the VA charged approximately 72,900 exempt veterans around $286.4 million in funding fees, which represents 3 percent of the total amount of funding fees collected during that time. The OIG reports that, while the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) that the VA produces is intended to assist lenders in identifying the exempt veterans, “many COEs reflected an outdated, incorrect, or missing exemption status resulting in veterans being incorrectly charged a funding fee.”
Additionally, the OIG found that the VA does not have a policy in place to identify and issue refunds for inappropriate funding fee charges. Currently the VA relies on the veterans to contact the VA and file a claim for a refund, although the VA has not published a standard form for the request. Based on the findings, the OIG recommends that the VA develop a plan to (i) identify exempt veterans who were inappropriately charged funding fees and issue refunds; (ii) create system enhancements or procedural changes that minimize inappropriate funding fee charges; (iii) conduct periodic reviews to identify exempt veterans charged funding fees from January 1, 2018, forward and issue refunds in a timely manner; and (iv) consistently obtain documentation and verify lenders apply the funding fee refunds to loan balances in a timely manner.
On June 5, Fannie Mae issued a Selling Notice to address new regulations on private flood insurance taking effect July 1. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) While the joint final rule issued by the federal banking agencies in February applies the private flood insurance provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (Biggert-Waters Act) to supervised financial institutions, Fannie Mae stated that it is not subject to the final rule and will continue to apply its current Selling Guide eligibility standards and procedures to all loans in FEMA-designated special flood hazard areas (SFHA), or to loans secured by residences that are in a SFHA at the time of origination. Under the Selling Guide, “private flood insurance policies may be delivered as an alternative to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies” provided the terms and amount of coverage meet the specified qualifications and the property insurer meets the rating requirements.
On June 6, Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2019-11, which, among other things, also emphasizes that it is not subject to the final rule, and is separately authorized by the Biggert-Waters Act to accept private flood insurance policies and establish requirements for issuers of these policies on premises securing Freddie Mac Mortgages. Specifically, Freddie Mac stated that it will continue to apply its current criteria when accepting private flood insurance policies, and that its requirements will “apply to all Seller/Servicers, including an institution subject to the federal banking agencies’ rule regardless of the rule provision (mandatory or discretionary) used to accept a private flood insurance policy.”
On May 25, the Maryland governor signed HB 0425, which amends the state’s statute of limitations applicable to certain civil actions relating to unfair, abusive, or deceptive trade practices (UDAP) filed against a mortgage servicer. Specifically, the bill requires that an action filed by a homeowner alleging damages arising out of a UDAP violation shall be filed within the earlier of: (i) 5 years after a foreclosure sale of the residential property; or (ii) 3 years after the mortgage servicer discloses its UDAP violation to the homeowner. The bill is effective October 1.
On May 31, the FDIC announced its release of a list of administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in April. The list reflects that the FDIC issued 17 orders, which includes “two consent orders; three terminations of consent orders; five Section 19 orders; three removal and prohibition orders; and four orders to pay civil money penalty.” Among other actions, the FDIC assessed civil money penalties against three separate banks (see here, here, and here) for alleged violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act, including failing to (i) obtain flood insurance coverage on loans at or before origination; (ii) maintain, increase, extend, renew, or provide written notification to borrowers concerning flood insurance coverage on loans secured by collateral located in special flood hazard areas; (iii) follow force-placement flood insurance procedures; or (iv) provide borrowers with notice of the availability of federal disaster relief assistance within a reasonable timeframe.
The FDIC also assessed a civil money penalty against a New York-based bank related to alleged violations of the Bank Secrecy Act.
On June 3, the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) officially launched the Uniform Mortgage-Backed Security (UMBS), a common security through which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities will be issued. FHFA Deputy Director Robert Fishman noted that the new UMBS will bring “additional liquidity and efficiency to the market.” Moreover, “[b]y addressing structural issues and trading disparities, the UMBS will benefit taxpayers and the nation's housing finance system.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in March 2018, FHFA announced the UMBS, stating that it would replace all current offerings of mortgage-backed securities that occur in the to-be-announced (TBA) forward market. The FHFA also indicated that the UMBS would be issued using the Common Securitization Platform (CSP) through the Enterprises’ joint venture, Common Securitization Solutions (CSS).
On May 22, the Minnesota governor signed HF 990, which exempts manufactured home dealers and salespersons from the state’s licensing requirements for residential mortgage originators. Under the bill, manufactured home dealers or salespersons qualify for the exemption if they (i) perform only clerical or support duties in connection with assisting a consumer in filling out a loan application; (ii) do not receive any direct or indirect compensation from any individual or company, in excess of the customary salary or commission, for assisting consumers with loan applications; and (iii) provide specified disclosures. The bill takes effect on August 1.
- APPROVED Webcast: Introducing Mogy — APPROVED’s licensing technology solution
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: Addressing prosecutions driven by hidden actors" at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers West Coast White Collar Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Mid-year policy update" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Keep off the grass: Mitigating the risks of banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML Risk Management Conference
- Christopher M. Witeck and Moorari K. Shah to discuss "The latest in vendor management regulations" at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Buckley Webcast: Hot topics in debt collection — An analysis of recent federal FDCPA litigation
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "How to succeed in law school" at the SEO Law DC Panel Discussions
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Navigating the challenges of the latest data protection regulations and proven protocols for breach prevention and response" at the ACI National Forum on Consumer Finance Class Actions and Government Enforcement
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference