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  • FHFA releases policy statement on fair lending

    Federal Issues

    On July 1, FHFA released a policy statement on its commitment to “comprehensive” fair lending oversight of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks (collectively, “regulated entities”), in addition to expanding FHFA’s fair lending program. The statement describes FHFA’s position on monitoring and information gathering, supervisory examinations, and administrative enforcement regarding ECOA, the Fair Housing Act, and the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act. FHFA noted the purpose of the policy statement is “to provide a foundation for possible future interpretations and rulemakings by the agency for its regulated entities.” FHFA also issued an order on fair lending reporting that requires Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to submit quarterly fair lending reports and data. Comments on the policy statement are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Federal Issues FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSE ECOA Fair Housing Act Mortgages

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  • FHFA expands use of interest rate reduction

    Federal Issues

    On June 30, FHFA announced changes to loan modification terms for borrowers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who need payment reduction. According to FHFA, ​flex modification terms will be adjusted for Covid-19 hardships, which will make “interest rate reduction possible for eligible borrowers, regardless of the borrower’s loan-to-value ratio.” Previously, only borrowers with mark-to-market loan-to-value ratios (which compare the balance remaining on a mortgage to the current market value of a home) greater than or equal to 80 percent were eligible for an interest rate reduction. FHFA acting Director Sandra L. Thompson noted that more families qualifying for interest rate reduction will “prevent unnecessary foreclosures, help strengthen the Enterprises’ books of business, and make sustainable homeownership a reality for more families currently living with the uncertainty of forbearance.”

    Federal Issues FHFA Interest Rate Covid-19 Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSEs Mortgages

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  • FHFA announces CFPB final rule

    Federal Issues

    On June 29, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) will not be permitted to make a first notice or filing for foreclosure that would be prohibited by the CFPB’s “Protections for Borrowers Affected by the COVID-19 Emergency Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), Regulation X” final rule prior to the rule’s effective date. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the Bureau’s final rule, which takes effect August 31, obligates a servicer to continue specifying, with substantial detail, any loss mitigation options that may help borrowers resolve their delinquencies. GSEs are required to follow the CFPB’s new protections a month before the CFPB rule takes effect, which will protect borrowers from foreclosure and provide certainty for servicers regarding GSE expectations. According to FHFA, “[s]ervicers will still be able to make a notice or filing for foreclosure on abandoned properties and those that had a foreclosure referral prior to March 2020, along with certain other exceptions.” FHFA’s action eliminates the gap between the expiration of its current moratoriums for single family foreclosures and real estate owned (REO) evictions that will expire on July 31 (covered by InfoBytes here) and the effective date of the CFPB’s rule, which is a month later.

    Federal Issues FHFA Covid-19 Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSE Forbearance Foreclosure Mortgages Consumer Finance CDC CFPB Mortgage Servicing Loss Mitigation

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  • Supreme Court says FHFA unconstitutionally structured, leaves net worth sweep intact

    Federal Issues

    On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a split opinion in Collins v. Yellen (previously Collins v. Mnuchin), holding that FHFA’s leadership structure, which only allows the president to fire the FHFA director for cause, is unconstitutional. The Court’s determination follows its decision in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), in which the Court held that a similar clause in the Dodd-Frank Act that requires cause to remove the director of the CFPB violates the constitutional separation of powers. In Collins, the Court stated, “[a] straightforward application of our reasoning in Seila Law dictates the result here. The FHFA (like the CFPB) is an agency led by a single Director, and the [Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (Recovery Act)] (like the Dodd-Frank Act) restricts the President’s removal power.”

    Last July, the Court agreed to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit’s en banc decision (covered by InfoBytes here) issued in a 2016 lawsuit brought by a group of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) shareholders against the U.S. Treasury Department and FHFA. The shareholders claimed that the Recovery Act, which created the agency, violated the separation of powers principal because it only allowed the president to fire the FHFA director “for cause,” and that FHFA acted outside its statutory authority when it adopted a third amendment to the Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements, which replaced a fixed-rate dividend formula with a variable one requiring the GSEs to pay quarterly dividends equal to their entire net worth minus a specified capital reserve amount to the Treasury Department (known as the “net worth sweep”). Following the en banc rehearing, the appellate court reaffirmed its earlier decision that FHFA’s structure violates the Constitution’s separation of powers requirements. However, the opinions differed on the appropriate remedy, with nine judges concluding that the remedy should be severance of the for-cause provision, not prospective relief invalidating the net worth sweep, stating that “the Shareholders’ ongoing injury, if indeed there is one, is remedied by a declaration that the “for cause” restriction is declared removed. We go no further.”

    While the split Court agreed with the 5th Circuit that the agency’s structure violates the Constitution’s separation of powers, the justices left intact the net worth sweep. “Although the statute unconstitutionally limited the President’s authority to remove the confirmed Directors, there was no constitutional defect in the statutorily prescribed method of appointment to that office. As a result, there is no reason to regard any of the actions taken by the FHFA in relation to the third amendment as void,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “It is not necessary for us to decide—and we do not decide—whether the FHFA made the best, or even a particularly good, business decision when it adopted the third amendment,” the Court added. “[W]e conclude only that under the terms of the Recovery Act, the FHFA did not exceed its authority as a conservator, and therefore the anti-injunction clause bars the shareholders’ statutory claim.” The Court remanded the case to determine “what remedy, if any, the shareholders are entitled to receive on their constitutional claim.”

    Various concurring and dissenting opinions were issued as well. While concurring, Justice Elena Kagan noted that “[s]tare decisis compels the conclusion that the FHFA’s for-cause removal provision violates the Constitution. But the majority’s opinion rests on faulty theoretical premises and goes further than it needs to.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, writing: “[t]he Court has proved far too eager in recent years to insert itself into questions of agency structure best left to Congress. In striking down the independence of the FHFA Director, the Court reaches further than ever before, refusing tenure protections to an Agency head who neither wields significant executive power nor regulates private individuals.”

    Shortly after the ruling, President Biden appointed Sandra L. Thompson as acting FHFA Director, effective immediately. Thompson has served at FHFA since March 2013 as Deputy Director of the Division of Housing Mission and Goals where she oversaw FHFA’s housing and regulatory policy, capital policy, financial analysis, fair lending, as well as all mission activities for the GSEs and the Federal Home Loan Banks. Former Director Mark Calabria issued a statement noting his respect for the Court’s decision and the authority of the president to remove the FHFA director.

    Federal Issues Courts FHFA Single-Director Structure Fannie Mae Freddie Mac U.S. Supreme Court GSE

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  • FHFA further extends foreclosure moratorium

    Federal Issues

    On June 24, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) will extend their moratorium on single-family foreclosures and real estate owned (REO) evictions until July 31. The current moratoriums were set to expire June 30. The foreclosure moratorium applies only to homeowners with a GSE-backed, single-family mortgage, and the REO eviction moratorium applies only to properties that have been acquired by the GSEs through foreclosure or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure transactions. Additional details on Covid-19 forbearance plan terms and payment deferrals are covered by InfoBytes here and here. The extensions are implemented in Fannie Mae Lender Letter LL-2021-02 and Freddie Mac Guide Bulletin 2021-23. The same day, the CDC also announced an extension of its current moratorium on residential evictions for non-payment of rent through July 31, also stating in the announcement that “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”

    Federal Issues FHFA Covid-19 Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSE Forbearance Foreclosure Mortgages Consumer Finance CDC

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  • 1st Circuit holds Fannie, Freddie not “government actors” despite FHFA control

    Courts

    On June 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit stated that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) can continue non-judicial foreclosures in states that permit them, holding that the GSEs are not “government actors” despite being controlled by FHFA. According to the opinion, the plaintiffs obtained mortgages that were later sold to Fannie Mae. After the borrowers defaulted on their loans, Fannie Mae, consistent with Rhode Island law, conducted non-judicial foreclosure sales of the properties. The plaintiffs filed suit, arguing that Fannie Mae and FHFA (which acts as Fannie Mae’s conservator) are government actors and that the nonjudicial foreclosure sales violated their Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights. The district court disagreed, however, and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss on the grounds that “because FHFA stepped into Fannie Mae’s shoes as its conservator and its ability to foreclose was a ‘contractual right inherited from Fannie Mae by virtue of its conservatorship,’ FHFA was not acting as the government when it foreclosed on the plaintiffs’ mortgages and was not subject to the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claims.” The court further determined that FHFA’s conservatorship over Fannie Mae did not make Fannie Mae a government actor subject to the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims because FHFA “does not exercise sufficient control” over the GSE. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing, among other things, that the FHFA’s nearly 13-year conservatorship of the GSEs makes its control permanent and renders them governmental actors.

    On appeal, the appellate court concluded that in its role as conservator, “FHFA is not a government actor because it has ‘stepped into the shoes’ of the private GSEs” and assumed all of their private contractual rights, including the right to perform non-judicial foreclosures. The appellate court also refuted the plaintiffs’ argument that FHFA’s 13-year conservatorship made its control permanent, pointing out that the “housing and mortgage financial markets are highly complex, as are the various indicators of their financial health, so the fact that FHFA has maintained the conservatorship for almost thirteen years does not mean that the government’s control is permanent.” As such, because the GSEs are not government actors they are also not subject to the plaintiffs’ due process claims, the appellate court concluded.

    Courts Mortgages Foreclosure Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSEs FHFA State Issues

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  • FHFA studies the evolution of mortgage risk

    Federal Issues

    On May 20, FHFA released a comprehensive dataset on ways mortgage risk has evolved over time. The revised staff working paper, “A Quarter Century of Mortgage Risk,” provides an account of the evolution of default risk for newly originated home mortgages over the past 25 years. As FHFA explained in its press release, reviewing a comprehensive dataset containing “aggregated results using more than 200 million purchase-money and refinance mortgages from 1990 to 2019” has led researchers to “challenge some long-held assumptions about the impetus of the 2008 financial crisis.” Key findings presented in the working paper include: (i) new data shows that increased mortgage risk in the 1990s “was a precursor to the market failing in 2008,” whereas “previous research could not identify the fact that a refinance boom from 2000-2003 masked the mortgage risk accumulation”; (ii) prior to the 2008 financial crisis, “mortgage risk accumulated across the full spectrum of borrowers, not just those with low credit scores as some have previously asserted”; (iii) “[m]ortgage rate spreads between ‘not risky loans’ and ‘very risky loans’” tightened for portfolio and private-label securities mortgages in the mid-2000s—an indication of expanded credit supply directly prior to the Great Recession; and (iv) during the current era, “sustained house price appreciation is leading mortgage risk to increase.”

    Federal Issues FHFA Mortgages Consumer Finance Fannie Mae Freddie Mac

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  • 9th Circuit: Federal Foreclosure Bar preempts Nevada HOA law, maintaining Fannie Deed of Trust

    Courts

    On May 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a mortgage servicer in an action asserting claims arising from a homeowners’ association’s (HOA) nonjudicial foreclosure on real property in Nevada. According to the opinion, Fannie Mae originally purchased the loan on the property (secured by a Deed of Trust), which was eventually assigned to the mortgage servicer. Following the homeowners’ failure to pay their HOA dues, a foreclosure sale was held, and the property was conveyed to a limited liability company. The mortgage servicer filed a quiet title suit against the company, and the district court granted summary judgment in its favor on the basis that the Federal Foreclosure Bar (which prohibits the foreclosure of FHFA property without FHFA’s consent) “prevented the extinguishment of Fannie Mae’s Deed.”

    In agreeing with the district court, the 9th Circuit first rejected two threshold challenges raised by the company, holding that the mortgage servicer “properly and timely” raised its claims under the Federal Foreclosure Bar. Specifically, the appellate court determined that the mortgage servicer “presented ample evidence of its servicing relationship with Fannie Mae,” and that this relationship, along with authority delegated to Fannie Mae loan servicers to protect its mortgage loans, “was more than sufficient to establish” that the mortgage servicer was Fannie Mae’s loan servicer and, therefore “had the authority to assert the Federal Foreclosure Bar” in quiet title action. The 9th Circuit also concluded that the mortgage servicer filed the action within the applicable six-year statute of limitations. In holding that the Federal Foreclosure Bar preempted Nevada’s HOA law and prevented the extinguishment of Fannie Mae’s Deed of Trust, the appellate court noted, among other things, that the mortgage servicer demonstrated that Fannie Mae retained an enforceable interest in the loan at the time of the HOA foreclosure sale. The 9th Circuit rejected the company’s argument that the mortgage servicer “failed to produce a ‘signed writing’ evincing such interest as required by the Nevada statute of frauds.” According to the appellate court, given that the company “was not a party to the underlying loan agreement pursuant to which Fannie Mae acquired the loan,” the company could not raise the statute of frauds.

    Courts Appellate Ninth Circuit Fannie Mae FHFA Mortgages

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  • FHFA finalizes GSE resolution plan requirements

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On May 3, FHFA published a final rule requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) to develop “credible resolution plans” (also known as “living wills”) to facilitate their rapid and orderly resolution in the event FHFA is appointed receiver per the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Similar to the living wills that other large financial institutions are required to develop under resolution planning rules issued by the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC, the resolution plans will create a roadmap for preserving business continuity should the GSEs fail again. FHFA Director Mark Calabria stressed that the rule “helps create a stronger, more resilient housing finance system by protecting taxpayers and the mortgage market from harm.”

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, last December FHFA published a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking to, among other things, implement liquidity and funding requirements for the GSEs. According to FHFA’s fact sheet, public input was incorporated into the final rule’s key components, which include the following requirements:

    • The resolution planning process will start with the identification of core business lines.
    • Initial resolution plans must be submitted “two years after the effective date of the final rule” with “subsequent resolution plans to be submitted every two years thereafter.”
    • Resolution plans must include the following required and prohibited assumptions: (i) an assumption of severely adverse economic conditions; (ii) a prohibition on assuming that the U.S. government will provide or continue to provide “extraordinary support”; and (iii) the reflection of statutory provisions stating “that obligations and securities of the [GSE] issued pursuant to its charter are not guaranteed by the [U.S.] and do not constitute a debt or obligation of the [U.S.].”
    • Resolution plans must identify “potential material weaknesses or impediments to rapid and orderly resolution as conceived in its plan,” along with any actions or steps to address the identified weaknesses or impediments.
    • Resolution plans must ensure confidentiality of certain information but also make portions available to the public.
    • Resolution plans will be reviewed by FHFA to identity whether additional information is needed, as well as any deficiencies or “shortcomings” (defined as supervisory concerns that do not rise to the level of “deficiencies”). Feedback will be provided along with an opportunity for resubmission. 

    Additionally, FHFA added a 12-month notification requirement to the final rule should the agency decide to alter the resolution plan submission date. FHFA also reserved the authority to further refine submission requirements. The final rule is effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

     

     

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FHFA Mortgages Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSEs HERA Living Wills

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  • FHFA announces refis for low-income borrowers

    Federal Issues

    On April 28, the FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will implement a new refinance option for low-income borrowers with Enterprise-backed single-family mortgages. The option applies to eligible borrowers that (i) have an owner-occupied Enterprise-backed one-unit single-family mortgage; (ii) have income at or below 80 percent of the area’s median income; (iii) “have not missed a payment in the past six months, and no more than one missed payment in the past 12 months”; and (iv) do not have a mortgage with a loan-to-value ratio greater than 97 percent, a debt-to-income ratio above 65 percent, or a FICO score lower than 620. Under the new refinance option, lenders must provide both a minimum savings of at least $50 in the borrower’s monthly mortgage payment, and at least a 50-basis point decrease in the borrower’s interest rate. In addition, the new refinance choice includes “a maximum $500 credit from the lender for an appraisal if the borrower is not eligible for an appraisal waiver (the Enterprises will provide the lender a credit of $500 upon the loan’​s sale to an Enterprise.)” The new option also includes “a waiver of the 50-basis point up-front adverse market refinance fee for borrowers with loan balances at or below $300,000.” As previously covered by Infobytes, the FHFA announced a new adverse market refinance fee of 50 basis points, or 0.5 percent, on certain refinance mortgages to cash-out and no cash-out refinance mortgages “except for Construction Conversion Mortgages that qualify for single-closing Interim Construction Financing and Permanent Financing,” which went into effect last September. According to FHFA Director Mark Calabria, “this new refinance option is designed to help eligible borrowers who have not already refinanced save between $1,200 and $3,000 a year on their mortgage payment.”

    Federal Issues FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgages

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