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On October 5, the FDIC published its monthly list of state nonmember banks recently evaluated for CRA compliance. The list reports CRA evaluation ratings assigned to institutions in July 2017 as required by the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989. Of the 59 banks evaluated, six were rated “Outstanding,” 52 received a “Satisfactory” rating, and one was rated “Needs to Improve.” Monthly lists of all state nonmember banks and their evaluations that have been made publicly available may be accessed through the FDIC’s website.
In September, the DOJ Civil Rights Division issued its Annual Report to Congress regarding its 2016 activities related to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Highlights include:
- Fair lending: The DOJ opened 18 fair lending investigations; filed seven lawsuits and settled six of them; and obtained almost $37 million in relief. At the end of 2016, the DOJ had 33 open fair lending investigations.
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act: In November 2016, the DOJ announced a new pilot program funding additional attorneys and resources to support enforcement efforts related to the SCRA. In addition, the DOJ entered into two SCRA settlements, initiated a new lawsuit (subsequently settled in 2017), and continued to support distribution of compensation under the National Mortgage Settlement.
- ECOA/FHA Referrals: The DOJ received 22 ECOA and FHA referrals in 2016; opened eight investigations from these referrals; and noted that all but one of the lawsuits filed by the Civil Rights Division in 2016 were based in part on referrals.
On September 29, Fannie Mae released updates to its servicing guidelines for multifamily residences, effective October 2. Fannie Mae is updating provisions concerning Asset Management and Watchlist Management. Changes include:
- removing color descriptions that previously corresponded to defined Mortgage Loan rating classifications;
- updating the rating classification descriptions and/or characteristics to conform to regulatory definitions for Pass/Watch and Special Mention Assets; and
- requiring Servicers provide an explanation and status of the issues causing an Asset to be reported on the Servicer Watchlist.
On October 3, the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Melvin L. Watt, testified at a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. The testimony provided an update on FHFA’s conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) and Watt’s views on housing financing reform. In his prepared remarks, Watt informed the Committee that the GSEs’ financial performance has improved significantly over the course of the FHA’s conservatorship and that the GSEs continue to provide liquidity to the housing finance market. Nonetheless, Watt stressed that in less than three months, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s taxpayer-financed capital buffer will run out, and any loss the GSEs experience after that would require additional money from taxpayers. Watt warned that any additional draw of taxpayer support could erode investor confidence in the GSEs, which could result in reduced liquidity in the mortgage-backed securities market and increase the cost of credit for borrowers.
On October 4, the Senate Special Committee on Aging (Committee) held a hearing entitled “Still Ringing Off the Hook: An Update on Efforts to Combat Robocalls” to discuss efforts to combat illegal robocalls. Committee Chairman Susan M. Collins (R-Me.) opened the hearing by reinforcing the importance of utilizing technology not only to block robocalls but to better understand the scams that continue to impact consumers. Sen. Collins also stressed the positive impact “aggressive law enforcement” has had on these efforts.
According to a hearing-related press release issued by the FTC, the Commission received more than 3.4 million robocall complaints from consumers in 2016 and at least another 3.5 million complaints between January and August 2017. The FTC’s ongoing efforts to address these complaints include: (i) initiating enforcement actions targeting robocall violators; (ii) cooperating with law enforcement at the state, federal, and international level to develop solutions to prevent and detect calls; and (iii) as previously discussed in InfoBytes, publicly posting robocall numbers received from consumer complaints to help enable industry groups develop call-blocking solutions. The following four witnesses offered testimony on industry and state efforts to protect consumers from scams and increase education efforts.
- Ms. Lois C. Greismann, Associate Director of the Division of Marketing Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC (testimony);
- The Honorable Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General (testimony);
- Mr. Kevin Rupy, Vice President for Law and Public Policy, USTelecom (testimony); and
- Ms. Genie Barton, President, BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (testimony).
Federal agencies continue to announce regulatory relief for financial institutions aiding consumers affected by recent hurricane disasters. InfoBytes coverage on previous disaster relief measures can be accessed here, here, and here.
Freddie Mac. On September 25, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2017-21 (Bulletin) to extend certain temporary selling and servicing requirements meant to provide flexibility and relief for mortgages and borrowers in areas impacted by all hurricanes occurring on or after August 25 through the 2017 hurricane season. In particular, Freddie Mac will reimburse sellers for property inspections completed prior to the sale or securitization of mortgages secured by properties in disaster areas caused by a 2017 hurricane. Freddie Mac is also requiring servicers to suspend foreclosure sales and eviction activities on property located in eligible disaster areas affected by Hurricane Maria. However, the Bulletin provides that a servicer can proceed with a foreclosure sale if it can confirm that (i) inspection was completed on a mortgaged property “identified as vacant or abandoned prior to Hurricane Maria,” and (ii) the property sustained no “insurable damage.” The Bulletin also reminds servicers to report all mortgages affected by an eligible disaster that are 31 or more days delinquent to Freddie Mac.
Veterans Affairs (VA). On September 27, the VA issued Circular 26-17-28 to outline measures that it encourages mortgagees to utilize to provide relief to veterans affected by Hurricane Maria. Specific recommendations include: (i) extending forbearance to distressed borrowers; (ii) establishing a 90-day moratorium on initiating foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waiving late charges; (iv) suspending credit bureau reporting with the understanding that servicers will not be penalized by the VA; and (v) extending “special forbearance” to National Guard members who report for active duty to assist recovery efforts.
FDIC. On September 27, the FDIC released a financial institution letter to provide additional guidance for depository institutions assisting affected consumers. As previously covered in Infobytes, the FDIC released guidance for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief, and issued a joint press release in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Board, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, and the OCC as a response to those affected by Hurricane Irma. The newest release, FIL-46-2017, announced regulatory relief for financial institutions affected by Hurricane Maria, and steps to facilitate recovery in affected areas, which include: (i) “extending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans, or easing terms for new loans,” and (i) “encourage[ing] depository institutions to use non-documentary verification methods permitted by the Customer Identification Program requirement of the Bank Secrecy Act for affected customers who cannot provide standard identification documents.” Further, banks that support disaster recovery efforts, the FDIC noted, may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration.
SEC. On September 28, the SEC issued an order providing regulatory relief to companies and individuals with federal securities law obligations who have been affected by recent natural disasters. The order provides conditional exemptions to certain securities laws requirements for specified periods of time. The Commission additionally adopted “interim final temporary rules” applicable to Regulation Crowdfunding and Regulation A filing deadline extensions.
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). On October 3, FinCEN issued a notice to financial institutions that file Bank Secrecy Act reports to encourage communication with FinCEN and their functional regulator regarding any expected filing delays caused by recent hurricanes.
On September 30, President Trump issued a Proclamation announcing October 2017 as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. As part of the initiative, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued tools and resources for both consumers and organizations to manage cybersecurity risk. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the President issued an Executive Order earlier this year entitled “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure” that requires agencies to submit risk management reports to DHS and develop recommendations for cybersecurity improvements affecting all critical infrastructure, including the financial services industry.
On September 29, the FDIC released its list of 27 orders of administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in August. The FDIC assessed civil money penalties against three banks, including one citing violations of the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA) and the Flood Disaster Protection Act for (i) failing to obtain flood insurance before loan origination; (ii) failing to provide flood insurance coverage for the full term of the loan; (iii) failing to ensure the amount of flood insurance coverage was “at least equal to the outstanding principal balance of the loan or the maximum limit of coverage” under the NFIA, including numerous instances where coverage options were not provided to borrowers; and (iv) failing to provide written notice in a timely fashion—or at all—to borrowers that the property securing the loan was in a special flood hazard area.
Also on the list are six removal and prohibition orders against institution-affiliated parties related to unsafe or unsound banking practices and breaches of fiduciary duty leading to financial loss. One of these orders fines an individual $200,000 for expense account-related misconduct, concealing the ownership of certain stock from the FDIC, and causing dividends on this stock to be placed into his personal account. The list also contains seven Section 19 orders allowing applicants to participate in the affairs of an insured depository institution after having demonstrated “satisfactory evidence of rehabilitation,” and eight terminations of consent orders.
There are no administrative hearings scheduled for October 2017. The FDIC database containing all 27 of its enforcement decisions and orders may be accessed here.
HUD IG Blames Ginnie Mae for Inadequate Supervision; HUD IG Concludes HUD Did Not Follow Requirements When Forgiving Debts
On September 21, the HUD Inspector General (IG) released an audit report of Ginnie Mae’s oversight of nonbanks in the mortgage servicing industry. The report found that Ginnie Mae did not adequately respond to the growth in its nonbank issuer base; a base, the report notes, that tends to have more complex financial and operating structures than banking institutions. The IG found, among other things, that Ginnie Mae may not be prepared to identify problems with nonbank issuers prior to default, requiring additional funds from the U.S. Treasury to pay back investors in the event of a large default.
On the same day, the IG also announced a report which found that HUD did not always follow applicable requirements when forgiving debts and terminating debt collections. The report determined that HUD’s review process for evaluating debt forgiveness or collection termination was not thorough enough to ensure that statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements associated with this process were met—such as ensuring DOJ approval was obtained when required.
House Financial Services Committee Issues Second Interim Report on Bureau’s Role in Fraudulent Accounts Scandal Investigation
On September 19, the Majority Committee Staff of the House Financial Services Committee (Committee) released a second interim report and supporting documents on the investigation of the role the CFPB played in detecting and remedying a major national bank’s practice of opening unauthorized bank accounts. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the first interim report, issued June 6, accused Director Richard Cordray, among other things, of failing to cooperate with the Committee’s “comprehensive investigation.” The second interim report claims the CFPB and Director Cordray failed to comply with the Committee’s repeated requests for documents related to the investigation into the bank’s practices, never conducted its own independent investigation (but, instead, “relied primarily, if not exclusively,” on a third party report), and withheld a crucial Recommendation Memorandum from the Committee for over a year that disclosed analysis of the legal and factual components of the Bureau’s investigation, as well as an evaluation of whether to enter into a settlement. The Committee’s accusations also include claims that Director Cordray allegedly misled Congress about the agency's investigation into the bank’s illegal sales practices and may have “rushed” a settlement with the bank, which resulted in a $100 million fine when it was potentially liable for a statutory civil monetary penalty exceeding $10 billion. Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) said in a press release that “[t]he premature suspension of its investigation means that the CFPB also potentially lost the opportunity to discover recently revealed instances of further consumer harm.”