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On June 20, HUD published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in the Federal Register seeking comment on potential amendments to its the 2013 Disparate Impact Regulation, which implements the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact standard, as well as the 2016 Application of the Fair Housing Act’s Discriminatory Effects Standard to Insurance (supplement). The notice requests comments on whether the 2013 regulation and the 2016 supplement are consistent with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (Covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert.) While HUD is seeking feedback on any potential changes to the regulation, the agency is particularly interested in, among other things, (i) whether the burden-shifting framework appropriately assigns burdens of production and persuasion; and (ii) whether the regulation should provide defenses or safe harbors to claims of liability. Comments on the notice are due by August 20.
On June 13 and 14, Comptroller of Currency Joseph Otting appeared before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to discuss his priorities as Comptroller. As highlighted in the identical press releases for both House and Senate hearings, Otting testified about the OCC’s achievements and efforts since being sworn in as Comptroller in November 2017. Among other things, Otting discussed the agency’s efforts to (i) modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA); (ii) promote compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering regulations (BSA/AML); and (iii) simplify the Volcker Rule, particularly for small and mid-size banks. Otting emphasized in his written testimony that his priority is to reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions, specifying that the CRA requirements have become "too complex, outdated, cumbersome, and subjective." To that end, Otting stated that the OCC, in coordination with other federal agencies, is preparing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to gather information on potential CRA updates, which, in Otting’s view, should include (i) expanding the types of activities that are eligible for CRA credit; (ii) changing assessment areas so they are not based solely on where the bank has a physical presence; and (iii) providing clearer metrics. As for BSA/AML, Otting noted this was his “number two issue” behind reforming the CRA and the working group—the OCC, FinCEN, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and NCUA— will likely address key issues like de-risking and improvement of transparency over the next three to six months. Otting noted his pleasure with the Volcker Rule changes in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155/ P.L. 115-174) but cautioned that fine-tuning may be necessary as the OCC proceeds with implementation.
On June 18, the White House announced President Trump’s selection of Kathleen Kraninger to be the director of the CFPB for a five-year term. Kraninger currently serves as the associate director for general government at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Prior to OMB, Kraninger worked at the Department of Homeland Security and in Congress on the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Bureau and director of OMB, supervises Kraninger in her current role. In a statement commending the selection, Mulvaney emphasized that Kraninger is likely to follow his example, “I have never worked with a more qualified individual than Kathy… I know that my efforts to rein in the bureaucracy at the [Bureau] to make it more accountable, effective, and efficient will be continued under her able stewardship.” While the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) required the president to nominate a new director prior to June 22nd, Mulvaney is likely to remain the acting Bureau director for the foreseeable future, as FVRA allows Mulvaney to continue in the acting capacity until the Senate confirms or denies Kraninger’s nomination. If Kranginger’s nomination fails, FVRA would allow Mulvaney to restart a new 210-day period as acting director of the Bureau and to continue serving if the president makes another nomination before that period ends.
OCC releases recent enforcement actions, issues $12.5 million penalty for BSA/AML compliance deficiencies
On June 15, the OCC released a list of recent enforcement actions taken against national banks, federal savings associations, and individuals currently and formerly affiliated with such entities. The new enforcement actions include cease and desist orders, civil money penalty orders, and removal/prohibition orders. The consent order described below was among those in the OCC’s list:
On April 14, the OCC issued a consent order and $12.5 million civil money penalty order against a New York-branch of an international bank for alleged deficiencies in the branch’s BSA/AML compliance program. The alleged deficiencies included the failure to file timely Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) as well as deficiencies in the branch’s compliance with Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) requirements. Among other things, the consent order requires the branch to (i) develop and implement an ongoing BSA/AML and OFAC risk assessment program; (ii) adopt an independent audit program to conduct a review of the bank’s BSA/AML compliance program; and (iii) ensure the branch has a permanent and experienced BSA officer. The bank has neither admitted nor denied the OCC’s findings.
On June 13, Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2018-9, which among other things, updates servicer requirements for short-term, long-term, and unemployment forbearance plans and consolidates the offerings into a single plan. Effective December 1, the streamlined plan will allow servicers to approve forbearance plans lasting up to six months without requiring eligible borrowers to submit a Borrower Response Package. Servicers may also offer consecutive forbearance plans that do not exceed 12 months in total to qualifying borrowers. Separately, the Bulletin includes the introduction of Freddie Mac’s NextJob re-employment services company designed to serve high-needs areas and provide job search skills and training for unemployed or underemployed borrowers who have requested loss mitigation assistance.
On the same day, Fannie Mae updated its Servicing Guide to consolidate and simplify its forbearance policies into a single plan, and encouraged servicers to implement the changes immediately, but no later than December 1. Fannie Mae clarified, however, that forbearance plans “entered into prior to the servicer’s implementation would adhere to existing policy until the expiration of such forbearance plan.” Additional changes to the Servicing Guide include: (i) clarifications to the escrow advances reimbursement policy for real estate taxes and flood/property insurance premiums; and (ii) updates to be implemented by August 1 for when servicers are required to notify Fannie Mae that a mortgage loan has been placed under military indulgence.
On June 13, the CFPB ordered a South Carolina-based installment lender and its subsidiaries to pay $5 million in civil money penalties for allegedly making improper in-person and telephonic collection attempts in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) and inaccurately furnishing information to credit reporting agencies in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to the consent order, between 2011 and 2016, the company and its subsidiaries (i) initiated collection attempts at consumers’ homes and places of employment; (ii) routinely called consumers at work to collect debts, sometimes after being told they were not allowed to receive calls; and (iii) contacted third parties and disclosed or were at risk of disclosing the existence of the consumer’s debt. The CFPB also alleges that the company and its subsidiaries failed to implement reasonable credit reporting procedures and failed to correct inaccurate information furnished to credit reporting agencies. In addition to the $5 million civil money penalty, the company and its subsidiaries must (i) cease improper collection practices; (ii) correct the credit reporting errors; and (iii) develop a comprehensive compliance plan.
On June 12, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced a proposed rulemaking, which implements a regulatory capital framework for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the Enterprises) including (i) a new framework for risk-based capital requirements; and (ii) two alternative approaches to setting minimum leverage capital requirements. Regulatory capital requirements for the Enterprises have been suspended since the Enterprises were placed in conservatorship in September 2008, and these new requirements would continue to be suspended while the Enterprises remain under conservatorship. FHFA stated that the purpose of the rulemaking effort is to develop a risk measurement framework to better evaluate each Enterprise’s business decisions while in conservatorship. As a result, the proposed risk-based capital requirements would “provide a granular assessment of credit risk specific to different mortgage loan categories, as well as market risk, operational risk, and going-concern buffer components.” The two options for minimal leverage capital requirements include (i) requiring the Enterprises to hold capital equal to 2.5 percent of total assets and off-balance sheet guarantees related to securitization activities; and (ii) requiring the Enterprises to hold capital equal to 1.5 percent of trust assets and 4 percent of non-trust assets. Comments on the proposed rulemaking must be submitted within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.
On June 12, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas denied a joint request by the CFPB and two payday loan trade groups to stay the compliance date (August 19, 2019) of the Bureau’s final rule on payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other high-cost installment loans (Rule) until 445 days after final judgment in the pending litigation. The court declined to provide an explanation for the denial, but did grant the parties’ joint request to stay the lawsuit pending further court order. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the payday loan trade groups filed a lawsuit in April asking the court to set aside the Rule on the grounds that, among other reasons, the CFPB is unconstitutional and the Bureau’s rulemaking failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. On May 31, the parties filed a joint request to stay the lawsuit and the compliance date for the Rule because of the Bureau’s plans to reconsider the Rule, which may repeal or revise certain provisions rendering the case moot or otherwise resolved.
On June 7, the FTC announced a settlement with an individual who allegedly operated a mortgage relief scheme, which charged distressed homeowners thousands in upfront fees while falsely promising foreclosure prevention or payment modifications. According to the FTC, the defendant, operating through multiple company names, falsely suggested the businesses were endorsed by the federal government and encouraged consumers not to communicate with their mortgage company and to stop making monthly mortgage payments. The settlement order imposes a judgment of more than $15.5 million but suspends the judgment due to the individual’s inability to pay. The settlement prohibits the individual from, among other things, (i) advertising, marketing, promoting, offering, or selling debt relief services or products; and (ii) misrepresenting, or assisting others in misrepresenting information relating to the offering of financial products and services. Additionally, the settlement bars the individual from disclosing or benefitting from the information collected from the consumers through the business operations.
Federal banking agencies release policy statement on interagency notification of enforcement actions
On June 12, the OCC, Federal Reserve, and FDIC (collectively, “Federal Banking Agencies” or “FBAs”) published in the Federal Register a policy statement on interagency notification of formal enforcement actions to assure ongoing coordination after the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council rescinded its 1997 revised policy statement on “Interagency Coordination of Formal Corrective Action by the Federal Bank Regulatory Agencies.” According to the new policy statement, when making a determination to bring a formal enforcement action, an FBA should evaluate whether a potential enforcement action involves the interests of another FBA and if so, should notify the agency prior to notifying the financial institution about the pending action. The notice to the FBA should contain enough information for the agency to take necessary action to examine or investigate the financial institution. The statement clarifies that the policy is not intended to substitute or replace the informal communication that routinely occurs between FBAs in advance of an enforcement action.