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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • OCC releases Q4 report on first-lien mortgage performance

    On March 19, the OCC released a report on the performance of first-lien mortgages in the federal banking system during the fourth quarter of 2023. According to the report, 97.2 percent of mortgages included in the report were current and performing at the end of the quarter, which is a slight improvement from the fourth quarter of 2022, but also a minor decline from the third quarter of 2023. The report also shows

    • a rise in the percentage of seriously delinquent mortgages compared to the previous quarter (1.2 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 1.1 percent in the third quarter), but this percentage has trended down since the fourth quarter of 2021 (when it was 2.3 percent);
    • a decline in new foreclosures, with 8,320 new foreclosures in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared to 8,965 new foreclosures the previous quarter and a high of 19,524 new foreclosures in the first quarter of 2022;
    • finalization of 7,382 loan modifications, which was less than the 7,436 modifications completed in the prior quarter. Eighty-seven percent of the modifications were “combination modifications,” which are modifications that incorporate more than one type of modification action to improve the loan’s affordability, such as an interest rate reduction and a loan term extension.

    First-lien mortgages account for 22.2 percent of the total outstanding residential mortgage debt in the country, representing approximately 11.7 million loans with a combined principal balance of $2.9 trillion. 

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC Mortgages Foreclosure

  • CFPB secures $12 million after decade-old complaint against foreclosure relief scam company

    Federal Issues

    On February 8, the CFPB announced the resolution of an enforcement action, begun in 2014, against a foreclosure relief operation that allegedly violated Regulation O. After a decade of court orders, opinions, and appeals, on February 5, 2024, the defendants and the CFPB jointly agreed to the dismissal of their respective appeals and on February 7, 2024, the Seventh Circuit dismissed the parties’ appeals. The final settlement required the defendants to pay $10.9 million in consumer redress and a $1.1 million penalty. The enforcement action notes that the defendants remain “subject to the bans” under the district court’s 2022 order. 

    The CFPB had alleged that the defendants violated Reg. O by taking payments from consumers for (i) mortgage modifications before they signed an agreement from their lender; (ii) failing to make required disclosures; (iii) directing consumers not to contact lenders; and (iv) making deceptive statements to consumers. As previously reported by InfoBytes, the CFPB and the Florida Attorney General obtained a judgment against this group in May 2015 for parallel violations.  

    Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Foreclosure Regulation O Seventh Circuit Appellate

  • OCC reports on the federal banking system’s mortgage performance during the third quarter

    Federal Issues

    On December 12, the OCC released a report on first-lien mortgage performance for the third quarter of 2023. The OCC compares the third quarter’s statistics to this year’s second quarter statistics, as well as a year-over-year analysis in comparison to the third quarter of 2022.

    The OCC found that there was a 0.1 percent increase in “current and performing” mortgages and a 0.2 percent drop in mortgages that are seriously delinquent from the previous year. As for mortgage servicing, there were 7,436 loan modifications completed in the third quarter of 2023, which is a 13.8 percent decrease from the second quarter. The OCC notes that while the third quarter saw an increase in foreclosures from the previous quarter, such figures still represent a decrease from the number of foreclosures from last year. The report breaks down several statistics for each state, including the number of mortgage modification actions, the number of modification actions in combination actions, the changes in monthly principal and interest payments by state, and the number of re-defaults for loans modified six months previously.

    Federal Issues OCC Mortgages Foreclosure

  • VA asks all mortgage servicers to pause all VA foreclosures, extends the Covid-19 Refund Modification program

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 17, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) asked all mortgage servicers to pause any foreclosure proceedings of VA-guaranteed loans, as well as extended its Covid-19 Refund Modification program through May 2024. The VA acknowledges that the veteran community is struggling to make mortgage payments, despite VA-backed mortgages having some of the lowest foreclosure rates in the U.S. The VA’s extension of its Covid-19 Refund Modification program allows more veterans to get a zero-interest, deferred-payment loan to maintain affordable monthly payments. The VA wishes to delay any foreclosure proceedings so that it may continue to assist veterans before it launches its VA Servicing Purchase program, which will allow the VA to purchase defaulted VA loans, modify them, and create a direct loan so that veterans will have a chance at keeping their homes.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Department of Veterans Affairs Foreclosure

  • 6th Circuit: Tennessee judicial foreclosure time-barred


    On May 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision in a judicial foreclosure action, holding that a bank’s lawsuit was barred by Tennessee’s 10-year statute of limitations for actions to enforce liens on real property. The appellate court also refused to establish an equitable lien on the property in favor of the bank. According to the opinion, the home equity line of credit at issue in the case matured in 2007, requiring a final balloon payment, but the bank did not demand this payment, refinance the loan, or foreclose on the property. Instead, the bank continued to accept monthly interest payments totaling around $100,000 until 2017. The opinion reflected that the bank did not contend there to be a written instrument showing an extension of the loan or that such an extension was recorded. Rather, the bank raised several arguments, including that there was an oral modification to the loan and that it had the unilateral right to extend the loan based on “a future advances provision that could extend the maturity date for up to twenty years.” The bank further argued that the defendants’ monthly interest payments excused any writing requirement and evidenced an agreement to extend the loan’s maturity date. The appellate court disagreed, concluding that because the bank could not show, as a matter of law, that the loan’s maturity date was extended, its suit is untimely. The appellate court stated  that the bank was aware that the loan “was in default as early as 2011 (well within the statute of limitations period) but took no action to foreclose or refinance.” The 6th Circuit further noted that if the bank had “simply memorialized an extension to the [l]oan’s maturity date in writing as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-2-111(c), it would not be in this situation.”

    Courts Appellate Sixth Circuit Foreclosure Mortgages Consumer Finance

  • 11th Circuit: ECOA anti-discrimination provision against requiring spousal signature does not apply to defaulted mortgage during loan modification offer


    On April 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision to enter judgment in favor of a defendant national bank following a bench trial related to claims arising from foreclosure proceedings on the plaintiff’s home. The plaintiff executed a promissory note secured by a mortgage signed by both the plaintiff and her husband. After the borrowers defaulted on the mortgage, the defendant filed a foreclosure action and approved the plaintiff for a streamlined loan modification while the foreclosure action was pending. One of the conditions of the streamlined loan modification was that the plaintiff had to make required trial period plan payments and submit signed copies of the loan modification agreement within 14 days. Both individuals were expressly required to sign the modification agreement as borrowers on the mortgage. However, should one of the borrowers not sign, the bank required documentation as to why the signature is not required, as well as a recorded quit claim deed and a divorce decree. The plaintiff acknowledged that she refused to return a fully signed loan modification agreement or provide alternative supporting documentation, and during trial, both individuals admitted that the husband refused to sign. The borrowers eventually consented to final judgment in the foreclosure action and the property was sold.

    The plaintiff then brought claims under ECOA and RESPA. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant on the ECOA discrimination claim and the RESPA claim. After a bench trial on the ECOA notice claim, the district court determined that because the defendant gave proper notice to the plaintiff as required by ECOA (i.e., she was provided required written notices within 30 days after being verbally informed that her modification agreement was not properly completed), plaintiff’s claim failed on the merits.

    On appeal, plaintiff argued, among other things, that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant on her ECOA discrimination claim. The 11th Circuit explained that under ECOA it is unlawful for a creditor to discriminate against an applicant on the basis of marital status. However, ECOA and Regulation B also establish “exceptions for actions that are not considered discrimination, including when a creditor may require a spouse’s signature,” and include additional exceptions to creditor conduct constituting “adverse action” (i.e. “any action or forbearance taken with respect to an account that is delinquent or in default is not adverse action”). The appellate court held that because the plaintiff had defaulted on the mortgage at the time the loan modification was offered, ECOA and Regulation B’s anti-discrimination provision against requiring spousal signatures did not apply to her. Moreover, even if the provision was applicable in this instance, the appellate court held that “the district court correctly concluded that it was reasonable for [defendant] to require either [plaintiff’s] signature or a divorce decree in light of Florida’s homestead laws,” and that such a requirement does not constitute discrimination under ECOA.

    As to the notice claim, the appellate court found no error in the district court’s conclusion that the defendant had satisfied applicable notice requirements by timely sending a letter to the plaintiff that (i) specified the information needed from the plaintiff; (ii) designated a reasonable amount of time within which to provide the information; and (iii) informed the plaintiff that failure to do so would result in cancellation of the modification. This letter satisfied the “notice of incompleteness” requirements of 12 C.F.R. § 202.9(c)(2).

    Courts Consumer Finance Mortgages ECOA Regulation B Appellate Eleventh Circuit Foreclosure

  • CFPB says servicers should suggest sales over foreclosures for some borrowers

    Federal Issues

    On January 20, the CFPB encouraged mortgage servicers to advise homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages that a traditional sale may be better than foreclosure. The Bureau reported that due to the Covid-19 pandemic many homeowners are facing foreclosure, especially consumers who were delinquent when the pandemic began. The Bureau pointed out that while foreclosure rates are relatively low compared to pre-pandemic levels, mortgage data from November 2022 shows an increase of 23,400 foreclosure starts. “Often, the mortgage servicer’s phone representatives are the first line of communication with homeowners,” the Bureau said, reminding servicers to provide training to their representatives so they are prepared to provide information to equity-positive homeowners about selling their home as a potential option. “Of course, conversations about selling the home cannot substitute for the Regulation X requirement that mortgage servicers present all available loss mitigation alternatives to borrowers,” the Bureau stated, explaining that Appendix MS-4(B) to Regulation X contains sample language that can be used to inform homeowners of the option to sell their home. Additionally, the Bureau advised servicers to refer homeowners to HUD-approved housing counseling agencies to discuss their options.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Mortgages Servicing Mortgages Foreclosure Covid-19 Regulation X

  • NY restricts lenders’ ability to reset statute of limitations on foreclosures

    State Issues

    In December, the New York governor signed A 7737-B, the “Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act,” which amends the rights of parties in foreclosure actions. Among other things, the law provides that a lender or servicer’s voluntary discontinuance of a foreclosure action does not reset New York’s 6-year statute of limitations on foreclosures, according to New York CPLR §213. Further, pursuant to the new law, if an action to foreclose a mortgage or recover any part of the mortgage debt is time-barred, any other action seeking to foreclose the mortgage or recover the debt is also time-barred. The amendments are effective immediately and, notably, apply to all pending actions in which a final judgment of foreclosure and sale has not been enforced.

    State Issues New York State Legislation Foreclosure Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Consumer Finance

  • District Court grants summary judgment to bank in discriminatory lending suit


    On December 19, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment in favor of a national bank with respect to discriminatory lending allegations brought by the County of Cook in Illinois (County). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the County alleged that the bank’s lending practices were discriminatory and led to an increase in foreclosures among Black and Latino borrowers, causing the County to incur financial injury, including foreclosure-related and judicial proceeding costs and municipal expenses due to an increase in vacant properties. In 2021, the court denied the bank’s motion to dismiss the alleged Fair Housing Act violations after determining that all the County had to do was show a reasonable argument that the bank’s lending practices resulted in foreclosures, and that the bank failed to dispute that the County properly alleged a financial injury sufficient to support standing.

    The court explained in its December 19 order, however, that two of the County’s expert witnesses did not make valid comparisons when measuring the denial rate for minority borrowers compared to white borrowers. According to the court, the expert witnesses failed to properly account for the financial conditions of the borrowers seeking mortgage modifications, leaving the County with “no other evidentiary basis to establish that [the bank] engaged in intentionally discriminatory servicing practices that caused minority borrowers to disproportionately suffer default and foreclosure.” The court found that, accordingly, the County cannot demonstrate “intentional discrimination against minority borrowers that proximately caused the County’s injuries, and its disparate treatment claim accordingly cannot survive summary judgment.” Additionally, the court found that the County failed to cite authority for its arguments that the bank can be liable for loans it purchased “and for which it did not commit any discriminatory acts in servicing” or for loans it originated but sold and never serviced.

    Courts State Issues Illinois Consumer Finance Discrimination Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Fair Lending Fair Housing Act Disparate Impact Foreclosure

  • Massachusetts reaches settlement in unfair debt collection and mortgage servicing matter

    State Issues

    On December 22, the Massachusetts attorney general announced a settlement with a South Carolina mortgage servicer to resolve claims that it allegedly failed to assist homeowners avoid foreclosure and engaged in unfair debt collection and mortgage servicing practices. According to an assurance of discontinuance filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the servicer allegedly violated the Massachusetts’ Act to Prevent Unlawful and Unnecessary Foreclosures, which requires servicers to make a good faith effort to help borrowers with certain unfair loan terms avoid foreclosure. Among other things, the servicer allegedly failed to (i) properly review borrowers’ income, debts, and obligations when assessing affordable loan modifications; (ii) provide borrowers with the results of these assessments; or (iii) provide borrowers with notice of their right to present a counteroffer after being offered a loan modification. The servicer also allegedly violated the state’s debt collection regulations by failing to timely issue compliant debt validation notices, and calling borrowers more than twice in a seven-day period. While denying the allegations, the servicer agreed to pay $975,000 to the state and will undertake significant business practice changes and provide ongoing reporting to the AG to ensure compliance.

    State Issues Enforcement State Attorney General Massachusetts Mortgage Servicing Mortgages Debt Collection Consumer Finance Foreclosure


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