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  • DOJ settles with mortgage company for alleged SCRA violations

    Federal Issues

    On February 7, the DOJ announced a $750,000 settlement with a New Jersey-based mortgage company resolving allegations that the company violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by foreclosing on homes owned by servicemembers without first obtaining the required court orders. The complaint, which was filed on the same day as the settlement, alleges that between 2010 and 2012 the company foreclosed on six homes of SCRA-protected servicemembers. Under the SCRA, lenders must obtain a court order before foreclosing on a servicemember’s home during, or within one year after, active military service, provided that the mortgage originated before the servicemember’s period of military service. The settlement requires the company to, among other things, (i) pay $125,000 to each affected servicemember; (ii) provide staff training to prevent unlawful foreclosures in the future; and (iii) notify the DOJ of future SCRA complaints.

    Federal Issues DOJ Foreclosure Mortgages Servicemembers Settlement SCRA

  • CFPB announces settlement with payday lending operation

    Federal Issues

    On February 6, the CFPB announced a settlement with an Indiana-based payday retail lender and affiliates (companies) in seven states to resolve alleged violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) privacy protections. The CFPB alleges that the companies engaged in unfair acts or practices, failed to properly disclose annual percentage rates, and failed to provide consumers with required initial privacy notices.

    Specifically, the Bureau alleges that the companies violated CFPA’s UDAAP provisions by, among other things, (i) failing to implement processes to prevent unauthorized charges, including those resulting from unauthorized draws on borrowers’ bank accounts; (ii) requiring loan applicants to provide contact information for their employers, supervisors, and four personal references, and then repeatedly calling employers to seek payments when borrowers became delinquent; (iii) disclosing the borrower’s financial information during those calls and, in certain instances, asking the third party to make payments on the loan; (iv) misusing personal references for marketing purposes; and (v) advertising check-cashing and telephone reconnection services they were no longer providing.

    The Bureau also asserts that the companies violated the GLBA by only providing initial privacy notices when consumers opened their first loan. GLBA requires financial services firms to provide borrowers a privacy policy each time a new customer relationship is established, which in this instance the CFPB claims, occurred each time a borrower paid off an outstanding loan and subsequently took out a new loan. Finally, the Bureau alleges that because the payday loans extended by the companies constitute as closed-end credit under TILA and Regulation Z, the companies were required to disclose a payday loan database fee charged to Kentucky customers in the APR but failed to do so. This resulted in, among other things, inaccurate APR disclosures in advertisements.

    While the companies have not admitted to the allegations, they have agreed to pay a $100,000 civil money penalty and are prohibited from continuing the illegal behavior.

    Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Settlement Payday Lending CFPA Gramm-Leach-Bliley Regulation P Privacy Notices TILA Regulation Z APR UDAAP

  • Senator Crapo unveils plan for housing finance reform

    Federal Issues

    On February 1, Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Mike Crapo (R-ID) released an outline for a sweeping legislative overhaul of the U.S. housing finance system. Most notably, the plan would end the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) conservatorships, making the GSEs private guarantors while also allowing other nonbank private guarantors to enter the market. Highlights of the proposal include:

    • Guarantors. The GSEs would be private companies, competing against other nonbanks for mortgages, subject to a percentage cap. The multifamily arms of the GSEs would be sold and operated as independent guarantors. Consistent with current GSE policy, the eligible mortgages would, among other things, be subject to loan limits set by FHFA and would be required to have an LTV of no more than 80 percent unless the borrower obtains private mortgage insurance.
    • Regulation of Guarantors. FHFA, structured as a bi-partisan board of directors, would charter, regulate, and supervise all private guarantors, including the former GSEs. FHFA would be required to create prudential standards that include (i) leverage requirements; (ii) if appropriate, risk-based capital requirements; (iii) liquidity requirements; (iv) overall risk management requirements; (v) resolution plan requirements; (vi) concentration limits; and (vii) stress tests. Guarantors would be allowed to fail.
    • Ginnie Mae. Ginnie Mae would operate the mortgage securitization platform and a mortgage insurance fund. Additionally, Ginnie Mae would provide a catastrophic government guarantee to cover tail-end risk, backed by the full-faith and credit of the U.S.
    • Transition. In addition to a cap on the percent of all outstanding eligible mortgages, the legislation would require guarantors to be fully capitalized within an unspecified number of years after enactment.
    • Affordable housing. Current housing goals and duty-to-serve requirements would be eliminated and replaced with a “Market Access Fund,” which is intended to address the homeownership and rental needs of underserved and low-income communities.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, on January 29, Chairman Crapo released the Senate Banking Committee’s agenda, which also prioritizes housing finance reform.

    Federal Issues Senate Banking Committee Housing Finance Reform Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Ginnie Mae Mortgages GSE FHFA Securitization

  • Fannie Mae announces updates to multifamily small mortgage loan, hybrid ARM loan, and property inspection protocol

    Federal Issues

    On February 1, Fannie Mae issued Lender Memo 19-02 to provide updated guidance for multifamily lenders. The following adjustments have been made to the Multifamily Selling and Servicing Guide and are effective February 4:

    • The maximum small mortgage loan amount eligible for underwriting is increased to $6 million and will apply to all markets.
    • The maximum Hybrid ARM Loan amount has also been increased to $6 million.
    • Property Inspection Protocols and Financial Analysis of Property Operations associated with small mortgage loans have been updated to align asset management requirements with the increases described above. Fannie Mae noted that quarterly financial reporting will not be required—nor will a waiver be needed—for a mortgage loan secured by a cooperative property or a small mortgage loan provided it is not on Fannie Mae’s watchlist or does not have a rating of 4 or 5 on its most recent property inspection.

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Mortgages Underwriting

  • Federal Reserve Governor discusses CRA modernization feedback

    Federal Issues

    On February 1, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard spoke at the “Research Symposium on the Community Reinvestment Act” hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia to discuss the need to update Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations. Brainard summarized comment letters received in response to the OCC’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) published last August (previously covered by InfoBytes) seeking input on ways to transform or modernize the CRA regulatory framework, and discussed the following six key takeaways:

    • There is broad support for the CRA among commenters—including academics, financial institutions, banking trade associations, community organizations, consumer groups, and citizens—who, among other things, applaud the volume of CRA loans and investments that support low-and-moderate income households and communities.
    • There is general agreement among commenters for the need to modernize—but not completely overhaul—CRA assessment areas, while retaining its core focus.
    • Commenters support different performance tests for different types of banks. According to Brainard, there is broad agreement that “CRA regulations cannot be one-size-fits-all” and should be tailored to banks of different sizes, as well as different business models.
    • CRA modernization should keep the focus on underserved areas. Commenters discussed concerns about “CRA hotspots and credit deserts,” and the need for incentives to ensure CRA capital can reach underserved communities has been a common theme at regional roundtables.
    • Commenters offered recommendations on how to increase the “consistency and predictability of CRA evaluations and ratings.”
    • Roundtable discussions as well as commenters have emphasized the “historical context of the CRA as it relates to redlining practices,” and demonstrated strong support for the CRA to retain its underlying focus of reaching all underserved borrowers, including low-income communities and communities of color.

    Federal Issues Federal Reserve CRA OCC Redlining Fair Lending

  • Computer financing operator cannot use bankruptcy to discharge $13.4 million judgment

    Federal Issues

    On February 1, the FTC announced that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that the operator of a computer-financing scheme cannot use his bankruptcy to discharge a $13.4 million judgment entered in 2016 for violating a 2008 FTC order. The FTC alleged that the defendant and his affiliated companies collected more than $14 million from consumers based on promises that they would finance the purchase of new computers but failed to actually deliver the computers. The court determined that the contempt judgment issued in 2016 could not be discharged because it resulted from the defendant’s fraudulent conduct “based on both misrepresentation and concealment.” In a press release describing the ruling, the FTC stated that the defendant’s attempt to shield himself from complying with the order by filing for bankruptcy was an attempt to “avoid justice.”

    Federal Issues FTC Consumer Finance Bankruptcy Courts

  • CFPB files proposed consent order banning certain Canadian and Maltese payday lenders from U.S. consumer lending

    Federal Issues

    On February 1, the CFPB and a group of payday lenders, including individuals and corporate officials based in Canada and Malta (collectively, “defendants”), filed a proposed consent order with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that would resolve allegations that the defendants violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act. According to the Bureau’s press release, the defendants allegedly (i) misrepresented to consumers an obligation to repay loan amounts that were voided because the loan violated state licensing or usury laws; (ii) misrepresented that loan agreements were not subject to federal or state laws; (iii) misrepresented that non-payment would result in lawsuits, arrests, imprisonment, or wage garnishment; and (iv) conditioned loan agreements upon irrevocable wage assignment clauses. Under the terms of the proposed order, the defendants would be, among other things, (i) permanently banned from consumer lending in the U.S.; (ii) permanently restrained from the collection or sale of existing U.S. consumer debts; and (iii) subject to certain reporting and recordkeeping requirements. The proposed order does not impose a fine on the defendants.

    Federal Issues CFPB Settlement Payday Lending Enforcement Consumer Finance CFPA Courts

  • CFPB releases complaint snapshot on mortgages

    Federal Issues

    On January 29, the CFPB released a report on mortgage complaints, and a corresponding blog post, which provide a high-level overview of the mortgage complaints received by the Bureau during the last 24 months. According to the report, mortgage complaints accounted for 11 percent, or approximately 71,000 complaints, of the total complaints the Bureau received from November 2016 through October 2018. An analysis of the complaints indicated that 42 percent of them had to do with issues concerning the payment process, while 36 percent had to do with difficulties in paying off the mortgage. Consumer complaints regarding payment process problems describe a variety of issues, including misapplied payments and escrow analysis inaccuracies. The CFPB notes that complaints from consumers struggling to pay their mortgages often state they have difficulty receiving assistance after a financial hardship, illness, or a natural disaster.

    Additional highlights of the report include: (i) the number of mortgage complaints received between August 2018 and October 2018 was 15 percent lower than the number of mortgage complaints received during the same time period in 2017; (iii) 50 percent of mortgage complaints relate to conventional mortgages; and (iii) adjusted for population, the largest mortgage complaint volumes came from the District of Columbia, Maryland and New Jersey.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Complaints Mortgages

  • OCC allows institutions affected by severe winter weather to close

    Federal Issues

    On January 30, the OCC issued a proclamation permitting OCC-regulated institutions, at their discretion, to close offices affected by severe winter weather in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States “for as long as deemed necessary for bank operation or public safety.” In issuing the proclamation, the OCC noted that it expects that only those bank offices directly affected by potentially unsafe conditions will close and that institutions should make every effort to reopen as quickly as possible to address the banking needs of their customers. The proclamation directs institutions to OCC Bulletin 2012-28 for further guidance on natural disasters and other emergency conditions.

    Federal Issues Disaster Relief OCC

  • CFPB releases RFI on consumer credit card market

    Federal Issues

    On January 31, the CFPB published a request for information (RFI) on the consumer credit card market. Section 502 of the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility Disclosure Act (CARD Act) of 2009 requires the Bureau to conduct a review of the consumer credit card market every two years and to seek public comment to assist in that review. While the Bureau seeks feedback on all aspects of the consumer credit card market, the RFI specifically seeks comments related to, among other things, (i) the terms of credit card agreements and the practices, such as collection efforts, of credit card issuers; (ii) the effectiveness of disclosures related to rates, fees, and other cost terms; (iii) prevalence of unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in the market; and (iv) credit card product innovation. Comments must be received by May 1, 2019.

    Federal Issues CFPB RFI Credit Cards CARD Act

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