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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • FHFA suspends foreclosure for borrowers applying for HAF funds

    Federal Issues

    On April 6, FHFA announced that servicers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are required to suspend foreclosure activities for up to 60 days if the servicer is notified that a borrower has applied for mortgage assistance under the Treasury Department’s Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the HAF was created to provide direct assistance for mortgage payments, property insurance, utilities, and other housing-related costs to help prevent delinquencies, defaults, and foreclosures after January 21, 2020.

    Federal Issues FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgages Foreclosure Consumer Finance Mortgage Servicing

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  • FDIC announces Puerto Rico disaster relief

    On April 5, the FDIC issued FIL-15-2022 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and facilitate recovery in areas of Puerto Rico affected by severe storms, flooding and landslides. The FDIC acknowledged the unusual circumstances faced by institutions and their customers affected by the weather and suggested that institutions work with impacted borrowers to, among other things, (i) extend repayment terms; (ii) restructure existing loans; or (iii) ease terms for new loans, so long as these measures are done “in a manner consistent with sound banking practices.” Additionally, the FDIC noted that institutions “may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery.” The FDIC will also consider regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Disaster Relief Mortgages FDIC Consumer Finance Puerto Rico

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  • CFPB’s UDAAP claims to proceed against mortgage lender

    Courts

    On March 31, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia mostly denied motions to dismiss filed by a mortgage lender and four executives (collectively, “defendants”) sued by the CFPB for allegedly engaging in unlawful mortgage lending practices. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau filed a complaint last year against the defendants alleging violations of several federal laws, including TILA and the CFPA. According to the Bureau, (i) unlicensed employees allegedly offered and negotiated mortgage terms; (ii) company policy regularly required consumers to submit documents for verification before receiving a loan estimate; (iii) employees denied consumers credit without issuing an adverse action notice; and (iv) defendants regularly made misrepresentations about, among other things, the availability and cost savings of FHA streamlined refinance loans. 

    The mortgage lender had argued in its motion to dismiss that neither TILA nor the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act) required the lender to ensure that its individual employees were licensed under state law. In denying the motions to dismiss, the court disagreed with the lender’s position stating that in order for a mortgage originator to comply with TILA, it must also comply with Bureau requirements set out in Regulation Z, including a requirement that “obligates loan originator organizations to ensure that individual loan originators working for them are licensed or registered as required by state and federal laws.”

    The court also concluded that the individual defendants must face claims for allegedly engaging in unfair or deceptive practices. The Bureau contended that the company’s chief compliance officer had warned the individual defendants that certain unlicensed employees were engaging in activities requiring licensure, and that the company’s owners approved the business model that permitted the underlying practices. According to the court, an individual “engages” in a UDAAP violation if the individual “participated directly in the practices or acts or had authority to control them” and “‘had or should have had knowledge or awareness’ of the misconduct.” The court rejected defendants’ arguments that it was improper to adopt this standard, and stated that “the fact that a separate theory of liability exists for substantially assisting a corporate defendant’s UDAAP violations has no bearing on how courts evaluate whether an individual defendant himself engaged in a UDAAP violation.”

    While the court allowed the count to continue to the extent that it was based on allegations of unlicensed employees performing duties that would require licensure, it found that the complaint did not support an inference that the individual defendants knew that the employees were engaging in activities to make it appear that they were licensed. The court provided the Bureau an opportunity to replead the count to provide a stronger basis for such an inference.

    Courts CFPB Mortgages UDAAP Deceptive Enforcement TILA FCRA ECOA MAP Rule CFPA Regulation Z Unfair

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  • District Court rejects borrower’s RESPA, TILA mortgage servicing claims

    Courts

    On March 15, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted a defendant mortgage loan servicer’s motion for summary judgment in an action claiming violations of federal law based on alleged defects in the servicing of the plaintiff’s loan. According to the court, after settling similar claims against his two prior loan servicers, the plaintiff sued the companies that own and service his mortgage loan (collectively, defendants) disputing the precise amount of his delinquency and claiming the defendants failed to properly apply his mortgage payments or to respond to his notice of error (NOE). The plaintiff contended, among other things, that the defendants’ response to the NOE, misapplication of payments, and inaccurate periodic mortgage statements breached the terms of the mortgage agreement and violated RESPA, FDCPA, and TILA. In granting summary judgment, the court agreed with the defendants, finding that plaintiff’s breach of contract claim was foreclosed by a prior settlement agreement with his former servicer. The court also found that the servicer’s response to plaintiff’s NOE did not violate RESPA because it “fully addressed both ‘errors’ that the plaintiff presented,” and the perceived errors “amounted to confusion about basic arithmetic.” The court emphasized that “[n]othing in RESPA or Regulation X gives borrowers authority to dictate the parameters of a lender’s investigation,” and concluded that the servicer’s investigation and response was sufficient since the servicer provided the documents used to conclude that there was no misapplication of funds and “[e]ven a cursory investigation would have revealed that the specific errors alleged in the NOE did not occur.”

    In granting the defendants’ request for summary judgment regarding claims that the plaintiff received five inaccurate mortgage statements in violation of the FDCPA and TILA, the court concluded that the periodic statements contained all the fields required under Regulation Z, and explained that allegations contesting the accuracy of the information contained in the statements did not violate TILA because “12 C.F.R. § 1026.42(d) does nothing to regulate the accuracy of information presented in a periodic statement.” As to the plaintiff’s FDCPA claim, which was premised on allegations that plaintiff’s prior servicer misapplied funds which caused defendants to collect amount that plaintiff did not owe, the court found that that the disputed periodic statement was truthful and accurate and that the plaintiff released the defendants of any liability under the FDCPA in his settlement agreement with the prior servicer.

    Courts RESPA FDCPA TILA Regulation X Consumer Finance Mortgages Mortgage Servicing

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  • HUD proposes 40-year term for loan modifications

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On April 1, HUD published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to increase the maximum term limit allowable on loan modifications for FHA-insured mortgages from 360 to 480 months. According to the proposed rule, the update would allow mortgagees to provide a 40-year loan modification option to borrowers who may not qualify for loss mitigation options and is intended to help borrowers experiencing a financial hardship, including those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, obtain affordable monthly payments. The proposed rule noted that “[i]ncreasing the maximum term limit to 480 months would allow mortgagees to further reduce the borrower’s monthly payment as the outstanding balance would be spread over a longer time frame, providing more borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages the ability to retain their homes after default.” Additionally, the proposal would align FHA with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, “which both currently provide a 40-year loan modification option.” Comments are due by May 31.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance HUD Federal Register FHA Mortgages Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Consumer Finance

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  • CFPB handled nearly 1 million consumer complaints in 2021

    Federal Issues

    On March 31, the CFPB published its Consumer Response Annual Report for 2021, providing an overview of consumer complaints received by the agency between January 1 and December 31, 2021. According to the report, the Bureau handled approximately 994,000 consumer complaints last year. Among other trends, the agency found that complaints about credit or consumer reporting continue to increase, accounting for more than 70 percent of all complaints received last year. Debt collection complaints are also increasing, accounting for more than 10 percent of all complaints. Consumers also reported difficulties with financial institutions failing to adequately address consumer complaints, giving consumers the runaround, and described issues with reaching companies to raise concerns about digital assets, mobile wallets, and buy-now-pay-later credit. The Bureau noted that during the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, complaint data showed that the volume of complaints from consumers struggling to pay their mortgages is increasing as borrower protections have expired. While complaints related to vehicle loans have also increased, the Bureau reported that student loan complaints remain lower than pre-Covid levels due to the implementation of temporary relief programs. The top products and services—representing approximately 94 percent of all complaints—were credit or consumer reporting, debt collection, credit cards, checking or savings accounts, and mortgages. The Bureau also received complaints related to money transfers and virtual currency; vehicle finance; prepaid cards; student, personal, and payday loans; credit repair; and title loans.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Consumer Complaints Covid-19 Consumer Reporting Agency Debt Collection Buy Now Pay Later Mortgages Student Lending Digital Assets

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  • HUD offers disaster relief for homeowners in Puerto Rico

    Federal Issues

    On March 29, HUD announced disaster assistance for certain areas in Puerto Rico impacted by a severe storm, flooding, and landslides from February 4 to February 6. The disaster assistance follows President Biden’s major disaster declarations on March 29. According to the announcements, HUD is providing an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties and is making FHA insurance available to victims whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged, such that “reconstruction or replacement is necessary.” HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program enables individuals who have lost homes to finance a home purchase or to refinance a home to include repair costs through a single mortgage. The program also allows homeowners with damaged property to finance the repair of their existing single-family homes. Furthermore, HUD is allowing administrative flexibilities to community planning and development grantees, as well as to public housing agencies.

    Federal Issues Disaster Relief Mortgages HUD Consumer Finance FHA

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  • Arizona and Utah modify various licensing provisions

    On March 24, the Arizona governor signed HB 2612, which eliminates requirements for there to be a finding on whether an applicant is law abiding, honest, trustworthy, and of good moral character in order to be eligible for a license, permit, or certification. This applies to bank or in-state financial institution acquisitions, banking, consumer lenders, trust companies, escrow agents, mortgage brokers, mortgage bankers, commercial mortgage brokers, loan originators, financial institution holding companies, premium finance companies, real estate appraisers and appraisal management companies, among others. The bill also makes other technical and conforming changes and takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the legislature.

    Earlier, on March 23, the Utah governor signed HB 69, which modifies various licensing provisions under the state’s Residential Mortgage Practices and Licensing Act. The bill also makes various amendments under the Real Estate Licensing and Practices Act related to licensing, fees, and disciplinary actions. Among other things, the bill amends the general qualifications of licensure to make residential mortgage loans, including provisions related to mandatory education requirements for both state applicants and applicants licensed in other states and criminal background checks. Specifically, the bill removes a provision that states a “license is immediately and automatically revoked if the criminal background check discloses the applicant fails to accurately disclose a criminal history involving: (A) the real estate industry; or (B) a felony conviction on the basis of an allegation of fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit.” Additional amendments authorize the commission to impose sanctions against licensees and unregistered persons that were found to be in violation of a provision of the act; discuss the process for filing a written request for the vacation of a license revocation; address pending transactions should the death of a principal broker occur; and remove provisions regarding the payment of certain expenses and costs. The bill takes effect 60 days after adjournment of the legislature.

    Licensing State Issues State Legislation Utah Arizona Mortgages

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  • New York Court of Appeals narrows trust’s RMBS repurchase action

    Courts

    On March 17, the New York Court of Appeals majority narrowed the scope of a 2013 repurchase action brought by the trustee of a residential mortgage-backed securities trust (trustee) against the trust’s sponsor (sponsor). The trustee filed suit after flagging roughly 1,204 nonconforming loans that were allegedly “in breach of the representations and warranties based on, among other things, borrower misrepresentation of income and occupancy status, miscalculations of borrowers’ debt to income ratios, and the charging of high-cost interest on the loans.” The trustee demanded that the sponsor buy back the defective loans as contractually promised. A separate, smaller set of loans was eventually added to the suit after being identified as defective during the discovery phase. The trustee contended that the original repurchase demands were sufficient under the repurchase protocol to satisfy the notice requirement for all allegedly problematic loans in the trust, including loans flagged after litigation had begun.

    The sponsor moved for partial summary judgment on the trustee’s claims, arguing that the trustee could not pursue recovery for loans “not specifically identified in the pre-suit letters to the extent that the trustee relied on a notice, rather than an independent discovery, theory.” The sponsor also sought summary judgment with respect to the method of calculation of the repurchase price. The New York Supreme Court denied the sponsor’s motion for partial summary judgment, concluding, among other things, that “‘because the repurchase letters identified some timely claims, the later identified claims relate back to the original filing.’” The appellate division affirmed, stating that the trustee’s December 2011 letter timely informed the sponsor “that a substantial number of identified loans were in breach, and that the pool of loans remained under scrutiny, with the possibility that additional nonconforming loans might be identified.” The appellate division also agreed “that ‘interest could be calculated on liquidated loans, at the applicable mortgage rate, up until the repurchase date.’”

    In narrowing the scope of the loans subject to repurchase, the Court of Appeals majority held that it would be “inconsistent” with the contractual language of the repurchase protocol to conclude that loan-specific notice is not required, adding that the trustee could not rely on the relation back doctrine “to avoid the consequences of its failure to comply with the contractual condition precedent with respect to the loans in question prior to commencing this action.” “The parties agreed to a limited remedy for the inclusion of nonconforming loans in the trust and made that remedy available only if the trustee first complied with certain loan-specific notice requirements, providing the sponsor an opportunity to cure or repurchase the identified loans,” the majority wrote. “We cannot rewrite the contract by substituting a different, post-suit notice procedure in place of the one chosen by the parties.” The majority further concluded that under the parties’ agreement, interest recoverable on liquidated loans was limited to interest that accrued prior to liquidation.

    The dissenting judge disagreed, stating that “[i]t could not have been the intent of the parties to provide a remedy for a few defective loans but allow for systemwide breaches affecting thousands of loans in the pool—allegedly 80% here—or to permit the sponsor to escape the contractual cure and repurchase obligations simply because [the sponsor] was informed there was a significant problem with its securitization but not given the corresponding number for every loan it allegedly failed to properly vet.”

    Courts RMBS State Issues Mortgages

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  • CFPB announces 2021 HMDA-modified LAR availability

    Federal Issues

    On March 23, the CFPB announced that the HMDA modified loan/application register (LAR) is available on the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s HMDA Platform for approximately 4,316 HMDA filers. According to the announcement, the modified LARs provide each financial institution's loan-level HMDA data, as modified to protect applicant and borrower privacy in accordance with the CFPB’s final policy guidance on the disclosure of HMDA data. Additionally, the 2021 HMDA data will be available later this year in other forms to provide users insights into the data, which will include: (i) a nationwide loan-level dataset with all publicly available data for all HMDA reporters; (ii) aggregate and disclosure reports with summary information by geography and lender; and (iii) the HMDA Data Browser to allow users to customize datasets, reports, and data maps. Additionally, the FFIEC released an updated version of “A Guide To HMDA Reporting: Getting It Right!," which is designed to be an "easy-to-use summary of certain key requirements" of Regulation C.

    Federal Issues CFPB FFIEC HMDA Mortgages

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