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This afternoon, the CFPB released its summer 2013 Supervisory Highlights report, which covers supervisory activity from November 2012-June 2013. This is the second such report the CFPB has released; the first report came out in October 2012 and covered activity from July 2011 through September 2012.
The report provides a brief review of the CFPB’s public enforcement actions and non-public supervisory actions and developments in the supervision program, including the issuance of bulletins, the issuance of new fair lending examination procedures, and the reorganization of supervision staff. The report also reviews the CFPB’s risk-based approach to examinations, including the “Institution Product Lines” approach, and outlines the factors that influence examination priorities. The report does not identify any planned supervisory activities.
The bulk of the report, however, summarizes the CFPB’s examination findings. Key findings are discussed below.
Compliance Management Systems (CMS)
- CMS Elements
- Although the report states no specific CMS structure is required, it also states that, based on the CFPB’s supervisory experience, an effective CMS commonly has the following components: (i) board and management oversight; (ii) compliance program; (iii) consumer complaint management program; and (iv) independent compliance audit. The report provides additional discussion on each component.
- The report states that nonbanks are more likely than banks to lack a robust CMS. The CFPB found one or more instances of nonbanks that lack formal policies and procedures, have not developed a consumer compliance program, or do not conduct independent consumer compliance audits. According to the CFPB, the lack of an effective CMS has, in a number of instances, resulted in violations of Federal consumer financial laws. In these instances, the CFPB has required appropriate corrective action.
- The report notes that CMS deficiencies in nonbanks are generally related to the supervised entity’s lacking a CMS structure altogether. CFPB examinations have found instances where nonbanks do not have a separate compliance function; rather, compliance is embedded in the business line, which can lead to deficiencies.
- The CFPB found that banks generally had an adequate CMS structure; however, several institutions lacked one or more of the components of an effective CMS.
- The most common weakness the CFPB identified in banks is a deficient system of periodic monitoring and independent compliance audits. An entity that lacks periodic monitoring and instead relies on an annual independent compliance audit to identify regulatory violations and CMS deficiencies increases its risk that violations and weaknesses will go undetected for long periods of time, potentially leading to multiple regulatory violations and increased consumer harm.
- Servicing Transfers
- Examiners found noncompliance with RESPA’s requirement to provide disclosures to consumers about transfers of the servicing of their loans.
- Examiners also noted lack of controls relating to the review and handling of key documents – such as loan modification applications, trial modification agreements, and other loss mitigation agreements – necessary to ensure the proper transfer of servicing responsibilities for a loan.
- Examiners noted that one servicer did not review any individual documents that the prior servicer had transferred, such as trial loan modification agreements.
- At another servicer, examiners determined that documentation the servicer received in the transfer was not organized or labeled, and as a result, the servicer did not utilize loss mitigation information provided to the prior servicer in its loss mitigation efforts.
- Payment Processing
- A servicer provided inadequate notice to borrowers of a change in the address to which they should send payments, which constituted a potentially unfair practice impacting thousands of borrowers. The entity acted promptly to ensure that it did not impose late fees or other delinquency fees, or any other negative consequences.
- A servicer decided – without notice to borrowers – to delay property tax payments from December of one year to January of the next, resulting in the borrowers’ inability to claim a tax deduction for the prior year, which the CFPB cited as an unfair practice.
- A servicer paid certain property taxes late, in violation of RESPA. The CFPB directed the servicer to pay any fees associated with the late payment and to investigate whether consumers experienced any additional harm as a result of the late payments. Further, at the CFPB’s direction, the servicer will notify consumers of the late payment and solicit information about any additional harm. If any such harm is identified, the servicer will remediate it.
- Examiners have found violations of the Homeowners Protection Act (HPA) at several servicers. In one examination, examiners found excessive delays in processing borrower requests for private mortgage insurance (PMI) cancellation. Additionally, in cases where PMI was canceled, the servicer improperly handled unearned PMI premiums in violation of the HPA. The CFPB required the servicer to amend its policies and procedures relating to PMI cancellation. The servicer also must conduct a review to determine whether borrowers were subject to additional harm caused by delays in processing PMI cancellations.
- Examiners identified a servicer that charged consumers default-related fees without adequately documenting the reasons for and amounts of the fees. Examiners also identified situations where servicers mistakenly charged borrowers default-related fees that investors were supposed to pay under investor agreements. Servicers have refunded these fees to borrowers.
- Loss Mitigation
- Examiners have found issues related to: (i) inconsistent borrower solicitation and communication; (ii) inconsistent loss mitigation underwriting; (iii) inconsistent waivers of certain fees or interest charges; (iii) long application review periods; (iv) missing denial notices; (v) incomplete and disorganized servicing files; (vi) incomplete written policies and procedures; and (v) lack of quality assurance on underwriting decisions.
- The CFPB states that weak compliance management surrounding loss mitigation processes creates fair lending risk and that it expects that entities servicing mortgage loans will implement fair lending policies, procedures, and controls to ensure that they are ECOA compliant. The CFPB states that servicers should conduct fair lending training for loss mitigation staff and engage in effective and timely fair lending risk assessments, compliance monitoring, and testing.
- The report states that some lenders are not complying with various aspects of the adverse action notification requirements under ECOA and Regulation B. The CFPB has found instances where supervised entities violated ECOA and Regulation B by failing to comply with either the provision, content, or timing requirements for adverse action notices and has directed the entities to develop and implement plans to ensure that the appropriate monitoring and internal controls are in place to detect and prevent future violations.
- The report specifically notes that loan servicers should have systems in place to determine whether borrowers who apply for a change in the terms of credit are entitled to adverse action notices. The CFPB notes that some institutions may find it helpful to arrange for independent, internal reviews of loan files to ensure that the documentation supports the action taken and that all timing requirements are met. In addition, the report states that institutions should provide comprehensive periodic training to management and staff regarding compliance with ECOA and Regulation B, including compliance with provisions on adverse action notices.
- CMS Elements
Over the past year, the CFPB has started to publicly outline its supervisory approach to student lending and servicing. In doing so, it repeatedly has identified similarities between the lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis and the escalating default rate in the burgeoning level of student loan debt. Rather than wait for a student loan crisis, the CFPB is attempting to put in place a program it hopes can help prevent one.
As part of that program, at the end of 2012, the CFPB released its student loan examination procedures. Also in 2012 the CFPB released two reports (July 2012 and October 2012) aimed at curbing purported violations of law, and it has continued to highlight student loan issues this year, including in a recent update on student loan complaints. In addition, in March of 2013, partly to address the complaints of student loan debtors, the CFPB announced its intention to supervise and examine the larger non-bank education loan servicers. That rule should be finalized next month.
Student lenders and servicers also should take note of the CFPB’s recently issued debt collection guidance, which, among other things, holds CFPB-supervised creditors accountable for engaging in acts or practices the CFPB considers to be unfair, deceptive, and/or abusive (UDAAP) when collecting their own debts. Many of the guideposts set forth in the guidance reflect the standards to which third-party debt collectors are held accountable under the FDCPA.
For more information about the CFPB’s debt collection guidance, please see a recent article by BuckleySandler Partner Valerie Hletko. Over the coming months, look for additional articles from BuckleySandler attorneys about the CFPB’s activities in the area of student loans and other non-mortgage consumer financial products and services.
On July 22, a Connecticut bankruptcy attorney and a firm with whom the attorney contracts for legal support services filed a lawsuit charging the CFPB with “grossly overreaching its authority” in requesting “sensitive and privileged information” about thousands of consumers and challenging the constitutionality of the Bureau itself. The suit was filed in response to a CFPB investigation into the service provider’s relationships with law firms that provide debt settlement assistance to consumers facing bankruptcy. The complaint asserts that the CFPB lacks authority to regulate the law firms supported by the service provider and that the information demanded by the CFPB – disclosed to lawyers by clients seeking advice regarding bankruptcy – is protected by the attorney-client privilege.
On June 26, the CFPB issued a final rule outlining new procedures for establishing supervisory authority over nonbanks that it has “reasonable cause” to believe pose “risks to consumers” with regard to consumer financial products or services. The rule outlines the procedures by which the CFPB will notify nonbanks that they are being considered for supervision and how they can respond to the CFPB’s notice. The CFPB’s determination regarding whether and when to issue a “Notice of Reasonable Cause” will be based on complaints collected by the Bureau or on information from other sources, including judicial opinions and administrative decisions. Once supervised, a nonbank is subject to the CFPB’s authority to require reports and conduct examinations, but can petition to end the supervision after two years and annually thereafter. The final rule takes effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
On June 17, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez named several senior staff members, including Jessica Rich as Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ms. Rich has been with the FTC for more than 20 years and most recently served as Associate Director of the Division of Financial Practices. Prior to that, Ms. Rich was a Deputy Director of the Bureau and has served as the Acting Associate Director and Assistant Director of the Bureau’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, among numerous other positions. Ms. Ramirez also named Jonathan E. Nuechterlein as General Counsel. He joins the agency from a large law firm, where he was a partner and chair of the firm’s communications, privacy, and Internet law practice group. He previously was Deputy General Counsel for the FCC and an Assistant to the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice.
On June 4, during a board meeting, the FDIC approved a final rule to establish criteria for determining if a nonbank is predominantly engaged in “activities that are financial in nature or incidental thereto” and, as such, can be subject to the Orderly Liquidation Authority granted to the FDIC under Dodd-Frank Act Title II. Under the rule, a company is predominantly engaged in financial activities if at least 85 percent of a company’s revenues are derived from financial activities under either of two revenue tests (i.e., the two-year test or the facts and circumstances analysis). The rule adopts for Title II the same definitions of activities that are financial in nature that the Federal Reserve Board adopted for purposes of Title I, except that the FDIC’s rule also includes finder activities that the Federal Reserve Board determined in its rulemaking are incidental to financial activities. The rule will take effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
On May 21, the CFPB and the CSBS released an agreement to coordinate supervision of entities subject to concurrent jurisdiction of the CFPB and one or more state regulators. The Supervisory Coordination Framework is a nonbinding guide that builds off of the parties' 2011 Memorandum of Understanding, which has since been signed by 59 state regulators. The Framework establishes processes for information sharing, consulting on corrective actions, and coordinating exam schedules and supervisory plans. The Framework also includes a general process for resolving disputes between the CFPB and state regulators, and directs the parties to develop additional processes and procedures to ensure standardization and consistency in implementing the Framework.
On April 15, the Federal Reserve Board proposed a rule that would establish an annual assessment for bank holding companies and savings and loan holding companies with $50 billion or more in total consolidated assets and for nonbanks designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The Dodd-Frank Act directed the Board to establish such an assessment to cover expenses the Board estimates are necessary to carry out its supervision and regulation of those companies. This proposed rule outlines how the Board would (i) determine which companies are assessed, (ii) estimate the total anticipated expenses, (iii) determine the assessment for each of the covered companies, and (iv) bill for and collect the assessment from the companies. Beginning this year, the Board proposes to notify covered companies of the amount of their assessment no later than July 15 of the year following each assessment period (the calendar year). After an opportunity for appeal, assessed companies would be required to pay their assessments by September 30 of the year following the assessment period. For the 2012 assessment period, the Board estimates that the assessment basis would be approximately $440 million. Comments on the proposal are due by June 15, 2013.
On April 3, the Federal Reserve Board approved a final rule that establishes the requirements for determining when a company is “predominantly engaged in financial activities.” The requirements will be used by the Financial Stability Oversight Council when considering whether to designate a nonbank financial company as systemically important and subject to supervision by the Federal Reserve Board. Pursuant to the rule, a company is considered to be predominantly engaged in financial activities if 85 percent or more of the company's consolidated revenues or assets are derived from or related to activities that are defined as financial in nature under the Bank Holding Company Act. In addition, the FSOC may issue recommendations for primary financial regulatory agencies to apply new or heightened standards to a financial activity or practice conducted by companies that are predominantly engaged in financial activities. The final rule largely mirrors the rule as proposed, but includes some changes. For example, final rule states that engaging in physically settled derivatives transactions generally will not be considered a financial activity. The final rule also defines the terms "significant nonbank financial company" and "significant bank holding company." The rule will become effective on May 6, 2013.
The Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) held its fifth annual NMLS User Conference and Training in San Antonio, Texas from February 26 through March 1, 2013. The Conference brought together state and federal mortgage regulators, industry professionals, compliance companies, top law firms, and education providers to learn about the latest developments in mortgage supervision and to discuss pressing issues confronting the industry.
The first day of the Conference included the bi-annual NMLS Ombudsman Meeting, which provided an opportunity for NMLS users to raise issues concerning the NMLS, state and/or federal regulation. NMLS Ombudsman Timothy Siwy, Deputy Secretary of Non-Depository Institutions with the Pennsylvania Department of Banking, presided over the meeting, in which specific questions submitted by industry representatives were addressed. Several of the submitted questions focused on the new Uniform State Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) Exam or Uniform State Test (the UST) of which 24 agencies have already adopted. Concerns were raised by the regulators as some state statutes require that a state’s specific laws be tested as a pre-requisite of MLO licensure. Others, such as regulators from California and Utah, had concerns that MLOs would not adequately learn state specific laws and regulations prior to licensure. In light of these concerns, industry representatives indicated that the UST is only the first step in licensure, and continuing education requirements, monitoring, and examinations would also serve as opportunities to ensure MLOs are well-versed in applicable state specific licensing laws and regulations.
Other areas of focus included NMLS’s expansion to include non-mortgage licenses, such as payday lender and pawn broker licenses. Some industry representatives voiced concern that approval of a license via the NMLS now carries with it an image of legitimacy with the public and expanding licensure to non-mortgage, less regulated industries could undermine that image. Regulators responded that the NMLS is a tracking mechanism—a way for regulators to track licensees state-to-state and industry-to-industry—not an independent licensing credential.
Full details regarding the specific issues submitted for comment, as well as accompanying exhibits, will be available on the NMLS Website, Ombudsman Page. A recording of the Ombudsman Meeting should be posted to the NMLS Resource Center in the near future.
The remaining days of the Conference covered various federal and state regulatory rule implementation, updates for industry, and a look ahead at new initiatives and changes to the NMLS (please refer to the NMLS Conference Agenda, which also includes copies of presentations). Specifically, various sessions covered the following topics, among others:
- The collaboration of the CFPB and state regulators to level the playing field between banks and non-banks with respect to enforcing regulations and conducting examinations. David Liken, the Deputy Director of Supervision and Enforcement with the CFPB, explained that Dodd Frank contemplated a partnership between state regulators and the CFPB, which includes information sharing and joint examinations. The CFPB plans to provide state regulators with training conducted by CFPB personnel at no cost to state regulators.
- The future of the NMLS which includes a goal to initiate three system releases/ enhancements per year. 2013-2014 will include launching an advance change notice function, electronic surety bond management, and a requirement for annual volume reports for non-mortgage entities.
- The state of financial supervision, in particular, concerns about industry diversity and cooperation between state and federal agencies to leverage their resources to address emerging issues and trends in the financial market.
- Regulation of debt collectors as the “larger participant” rule giving the CFPB supervisory authority over debt collectors was issued in October 2012 and took effect on January 2, 2013. The CFPB has started looking at collection practices of creditors when the creditor collects in its own name and through third party collectors.
In addition, the Conference covered major changes to the NMLS and also included a presentation from the CFPB summarizing the CFPB’s final rules:
- Advance Change Notification—The NMLS will launch its Advance Change Notice functionality that will allow licensees to provide notice electronically to NMLS participating states of proposed changes to the company and its branches, including, but not limited to: name changes, address changes, and change of control. The initial roll out of this functionality is slated for June 2013.
- Money Services Regulator Panel—A Money Services Regulator Panel, which included Stephanie Newberg, Deputy Commissioner of the Texas Department of Banking, and Deb Bortner of the Washington Department of Financial Institutions, discussed the benefits and challenges associated with the addition of money services licenses to the NMLS. The NMLS has provided money services business with a streamlined system to apply for licenses and keep regulators updated on license changes; however, licensees continue to struggle with certain aspects of the system (e.g., transmission of materials via the NMLS and confusion with completing certain control person and direct and indirect owner forms, given varying state interpretations).
- The New System of Dual Regulatory Supervision—A panel, which included Charlie Fields, Director, Non-Depository Entities Division, North Carolina Office of the Commissioner of Banks, Calvin Hagins, Program Manager, Supervision, Fair Lending & Enforcement with the CFPB, and various industry representatives, discussed the coordinated efforts of state regulators and the CFPB to conduct licensee examinations. The panel focused on (1) examination selection criteria—i.e., how the Multi-State Examination Committee or CFPB may decide to examine an entity, (2) factors weighed by the Multi-State Examination Committee when deciding whether to join CFPB in an examination, (3) CFPB examination process—i.e., CFPB’s preference to collect date on-site while processing and analyzing data off-site, and (4) encouraging entities to engage in “self-regulation” and “self-review.”
- 2013 Mortgage Final Rules Overview—Kelly Thompson Chochran, Assistant Director for Regulations of the CFPB summarized several recently issued CFPB rules, which are expected to be implemented in the next year, including: the Ability-to-Repay / Qualified Mortgages Final Rule, the Mortgage Servicing Final Rule, and the Loan Originator Compensation, HOEPA, Escrows, and Appraisal Final Rule.
BuckleySandler recently issued detailed summaries of the CFPB rules.
For more information about NMLS, visit the NMLS Resource Center, About NMLS.
- APPROVED Webcast: CFL license transition to NMLS
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Justice for all: Achieving racial equity through fair lending” at CBA Live
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss “On the horizon for CRA modernization” at CBA Live
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Government investigations, and compliance 2021 trends” at the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference
- Max Bonici to discuss “BSA/AML trends: What to expect with the implementation of the AML Act of 2020” at the American Bar Association Banking Law Fall Meeting