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On July 16, the CFPB finalized a rule that will allow it to begin supervising certain consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB has authority to supervise, regardless of size, nonbanks offering (i) certain mortgage-related products and services, (ii) private education loans, and (iii) payday loans. The CFPB also has the power to supervise “larger participants” in any other market for consumer financial products or services, provided that it first conducts a rulemaking to define “larger participants.” Under this first “larger participant” rule, the CFPB will have supervisory authority over CRAs with more than $7 million in annual receipts from consumer reporting activities, effective September 30, 2012. The CFPB believes that the $7 million threshold will cover 30 companies that account for 94% of total industry receipts. The final rule is divided into two parts: (i) Subpart A sets the definitions and other terms applicable to the CFPB’s supervision of “larger participants” in general, and (ii) Subpart B identifies the market, terms, and “larger participant” test for the CRA industry. This latter part will be expanded for each new market the CFPB opts to supervise under its “larger participant” authority. While the rule as proposed also included a threshold for use in identifying “larger participants” in the debt collection market, the CFPB has postponed issuance of the final debt collection “larger participant” rule until the fall. The CFPB described the final rule as “the first in a series of rules to define larger participants of other markets.”
On June 6, the CFPB released final versions of three rules governing aspects of the CFPB’s enforcement activities and issued a new interim rule. The three rules set forth, respectively, the CFPB’s (i) authority and procedures for conducting investigations, (ii) practices for adjudication proceedings, and (iii) procedures through which state officials update the CFPB on state enforcement activities. While the rules have been in effect since July 2011 (in interim form), the final versions include some changes in response to public comments received. For example, the final investigations rule (i) specifies the CFPB staff members that have authority to initiate or close an investigation, (ii) adds to the CID process a conference between the parties within 10 calendar days of service, (iii) provides CID recipients a number of procedural options when additional time is needed to respond, and (iv) clarifies the rights of witnesses and which objections are appropriate for counsel to make during investigations. Additionally, the CFPB issued a new interim final rule to implement the Equal Access to Justice Act and will accept public comments for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
CSBS and NMLS Issue New Forms for Expanded Use of Registry. On April 16, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors and the National Mortgage License and Registry System (NMLS) issued new licensing forms to support the CSBSs previously announced plans to expand the use of NMLS to include nonbank, non-mortgage financial service providers. With the issuance of the new forms, the NMLS announced that 11 states have committed to requiring non-mortgage financial services institutions to begin using the NMLS this year, with Washington, Vermont, and Rhode Island as the most recent to provide transition plans. The other states include theDistrict of Columbia,Idaho,Louisiana,Maryland,Massachusetts,New Hampshire,Oklahoma,Tennessee, andPennsylvania. Nebraska Expands NMLS Use and Alters Mortgage Licensing. On April 5, Nebraska enacted Legislative Bill 965 to require and provide for the transition of the states manual licensing of installment loan companies to licensing through the NMLS. This change will take effect beginning January 2013. The law also amends the Residential Mortgage Licensing Act to, among other things (i) update and add certain exemptions for mortgage banker and mortgage loan originator licensing requirements, and (ii) adjust the powers of the Department of Banking and Finance to administer the mortgage banker and loan originator licensing process. Kentucky Enacts Numerous Bills Impacting Mortgages and Vehicle Finance. On April 11, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed several bills impacting consumer lending. House Bill 417 makes a variety of amendments impacting motor vehicle installment contracts, including, among other things, (i) altering the form and required content of retail installment contracts, (ii) adjusting the permissible delinquency and collection charge on an installment in arrears for a period of 10 or more days, (iii) creating a safe harbor for retail installment contracts that satisfy the requirements of the Truth in Lending Act, and (iv) making various amendments regarding retail installment sales that are precomputed. House Bill 62 and House Bill 396 relate to foreclosures. The former requires a mortgage holder to file a deed in lieu of foreclosure with the county clerk within 45 days of the instrument's execution and allows for a penalty in the form of a violation of law for any mortgage holder who fails to do so. The bill also exempts filing deeds in lieu of foreclosures from the states transfer tax on property as well as the voluntary surrender under a mortgage in lieu of a foreclosure proceeding. The latter relates to an expedited sale mechanism for foreclosures involving vacant and abandoned real property and amends the offense of defrauding a secured creditor to add situations where collateral is intentionally damaged. Finally, House Bill 409, among other things, exempts from most laws and regulations applicable to mortgage loan companies and brokers persons other than natural persons that originate four or fewer mortgage loans per year and do not hold themselves out to be primarily in the mortgage loan business, while House Bill 533 prohibits private transfer fees. Oregon Establishes Foreclosure Mediation Process. On April 11, Oregon established a foreclosure mediation process when it enacted Senate Bill 1552. The law requires that a beneficiary (i) enter into mediation with a grantor for the purpose of negotiating a foreclosure avoidance measure and (ii) notify a grantor if they are not eligible for any foreclosure avoidance measure or if the grantor has not complied with the terms of a foreclosure avoidance measure. The new law details the form for notices required under the new process and establishes potential penalties for a beneficiary failing to comply with the new procedures. The bill took effect on April 11, with most of the new requirements becoming operative 91 days after the effective date. Maryland Alters Mortgage Licensing Exemptions, Expands Commissioners Enforcement Power. On April 10, Maryland enacted Senate Bill 302, which removes the mortgage licensing exemption for a person who makes three or fewer mortgage loans per calendar year and brokers no more than one mortgage loan per calendar year. The law also expands the authority of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to investigate and enforce state law with regard to a subsidiary or affiliate of an institution over which the Commissioner has jurisdiction. The law becomes effective on January 1, 2013. Colorado Amends Foreclosure Law. On April 12, Colorado passed a law amending administrative procedures under its foreclosure law. Pursuant to Senate Bill 30, effective September 1, 2012 counties must (i) notify a homeowner during the foreclosure process that they may be due money if excess funds are obtained through the sale of their foreclosed property, (ii) attempt to locate the homeowner and notify them of excess funds obtained from the public auction of their foreclosed property, and (iii) turn excess funds over to the state treasurer if the homeowner cannot be located. The state will hold the funds in perpetuity, allowing a homeowner to claim the funds at any time. Under existing law, counties are not required to conduct any initial outreach and can retain for themselves any money not claimed within five years of the sale.
The CFPB today put consumer lenders on notice that it “will use all available legal avenues, including disparate impact, to pursue lenders whose practices discriminate against consumers.” The CFPB intends to employ disparate impact when examining auto lenders, credit card issuers , student lenders, mortgage lenders, and other providers of consumer credit, allowing the CFPB to claim an institution has engaged in discriminatory lending based on the effects and not the intent of the lending practices. In remarks to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition today, CFPB Director Richard Cordray stated that “[t]he consequences of ‘disparate impact’ discrimination are very real and they affect consumers just as significantly as other forms of discrimination.” To help consumers identify and avoid credit discrimination, the CFPB also compiled and released new lending discrimination “tips and warning signs.”
Concurrent with the announcement, the CFPB published Bulletin 2012-04 to specifically reaffirm its commitment to applying disparate impact when conducting supervision and examination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and its implementing regulation, Regulation B. In support of this application, the CFPB cites what it refers to as the “consensus approach” outlined by a 1994 interagency Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending, which notes court findings that discriminatory lending in violation of ECOA can be established through (i) overt evidence of discrimination, (ii) evidence of disparate treatment, and (iii) evidence of disparate impact. The CFPB also argues that the ECOA legislative history, as characterized in the original Regulation B adopted by the Federal Reserve Board, supports application of the disparate impact doctrine.
On April 13, the CFPB issued Bulletin 2012-3, which states the CFPB's expectation that supervised banks and nonbanks have an effective process for managing the risks of service provider relationships. In a press release announcing the Bulletin, the CFPB promised to “take a close look at service providers’ interactions with consumers” and “hold all appropriate companies accountable when legal violations occur.” According to the Bulletin, the CFPB expects supervised institutions to (i) conduct thorough due diligence to verify that a service provider understands and is capable of complying with the law, (ii) request and review a service provider’s policies, procedures, internal controls, and training materials to ensure that the service provider conducts appropriate training and oversight of employees or agents that have consumer contact or compliance responsibilities, (iii) include in the contract with a service provider clear expectations about compliance, as well as appropriate and enforceable consequences for violating any compliance-related responsibilities; (iv) establish internal controls and on-going monitoring to determine whether a service provider is complying with the law, and (v) take prompt action to address fully any problems identified through the monitoring process.
On April 3, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) voted to approve a final rule and interpretive guidance regarding the process it intends to use in designating nonbank financial companies as systemically important and subject to supervision by the Federal Reserve Board (FRB). The final rule and guidance follow an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, two proposed rules, and proposed guidance. The final designation process is substantially similar to that outlined in the second proposed rule, issued in October 2011, with some clarifications. For example, the final rule provides a longer time period (no less than 30 days) for companies to respond to a notice that it is being considered for a systemically important determination and makes clear that hearings conducted as part of the determination process are nonpublic. The FSOC also clarified in response to comments that it intends to interpret the term "company" broadly to include any corporation, limited liability corporation, partnership, business trust, association, or similar organization, but not unincorporated associations. The rule does not provide any industry-based exemptions and the FSOC indicated that it does not intend to provide any, but will consider related comments as part of the determination process. Regarding coordination, the FSOC declined to delay finalizing this rule until related regulatory activities are completed, for example, the FRB's rule for determining if a company is "predominantly engaged in financial activities," choosing to view those considerations as non-essential to its consideration of whether a nonbank financial company could pose a threat to U.S. financial stability.
On April 2, the FRB released an amended proposed rule to establish requirements for determining whether a company is “predominantly engaged in financial activities.” The original proposal also defined the terms “significant nonbank financial company” and “significant bank holding company.” Comments received in response to the February 2011 proposed rule raised questions as to whether conditions imposed on the conduct of financial activities by the Bank Holding Company Act and the FRB’s implementing regulations should be considered in defining financial activities. In response, the FRB amended the proposal to clarify that any activity referenced in section 4(k) of the Bank Holding Act will be considered to be a financial activity without regard to conditions that were imposed on bank holding companies that do not define the activity itself. The revised proposal also adds an appendix that lists all activities that would be considered to be financial activities as of April 2, 2012. While the FSOC can designate nonbanks as systemically important, it can only do so with regard to nonbank financial companies that are predominantly engaged in financial activities which, under Section 102 of the Dodd-Frank Act, means that 85 percent or more of the company’s revenues or assets are related to financial activities, as defined in section 4(k) of the Bank Holding Act. The FRB is tasked with establishing the detailed criteria for determining whether a company meets this definition.
Federal Reserve Extends Comment Period on Proposed Rules for Oversight of Largest Banks and Systemically Important Nonbanks
On March 2, the Federal Reserve Board extended from March 31, 2012 to April 30, 2012 the comment period on its proposed rules related to supervision and regulation of (i) all U.S. bank holding companies with assets of $50 billion or more, and (ii) nonbank financial firms designated as systemically important by the Financial Stability Oversight Council.
CFPB Proposes Rule to Define "Larger Participants" in the Consumer Debt Collection And Consumer Reporting Markets
On February 16, the CFPB released a proposed rule to define “larger participants” in the markets for consumer debt collection and consumer reporting, thereby beginning the process by which the CFPB will determine which such entities are subject to its supervision. In short, the proposal uses annual receipts as the metric for determining larger participants. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB has authority to supervise, regardless of size, nonbanks that provide to consumers (i) origination, brokerage, or servicing of residential mortgage loans secured by real estate, and related mortgage loan modification or foreclosure relief services; (ii) private education loans; and (iii) payday loans. The CFPB also has the power to supervise “larger participants” in any other market for consumer financial products or services, and the Act grants the CFPB authority to define “larger participants.” In this first effort to define larger participants in specific markets, the CFPB proposes to supervise debt collectors with more than $10 million in annual receipts from debt collection activities, which would cover approximately 175 debt collection firms that collectively account for 63 percent of annual receipts from the debt collection market. Consumer reporting agencies with more than $7 million in annual receipts from consumer reporting activities also would be covered, capturing approximately seven percent of consumer reporting agencies, or about 30 firms, which the CFPB estimates account for approximately 94 percent of the annual receipts from consumer reporting. Stakeholders and the public can submit comments on the proposal through April 17, 2012. The CFPB plans to issue larger participant proposed rules for other markets. Final rules for all markets must be published by July 21, 2012.
The Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) held its fourth annual NMLS User Conference and Training (the Conference) in Scottsdale, Arizona from February 6-9, 2012. 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. This special report includes a summary of key topics addressed at the meeting as well as announcements regarding important state licensing initiatives, including: (i) enhancements to the NMLS system to expand its use for licensing of non-mortgage financial services companies, (ii) issuance of SAFE Act examination guidelines, and (iii) the announcement of efforts to develop a uniform mortgage loan originator state test.
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 Deborah Bortner, Director of the Non-Depository Division of the Washington Department of Financial Institutions, presided over the meeting, in which specific questions submitted by industry representatives were addressed. Several of the submitted questions focused on "leveling the playing field" between depositories and non-depositories by suggesting various means to allow a more efficient flow of mortgage loan originators (MLOs) from a federally-registered MLO status to a state-licensed MLO status. Suggestions included "transitional licensing", which would allow a federally registered MLO that moves to a state-licensed entity to continue operating for a period of 120 days, during which the individual would complete education, testing and other requirements in order to secure licenses within the transitional approval. Another suggestion was to allow federally registered MLOs to complete state education, examination, and other approval requirements prior to moving from a federal registrant to a state licensee. During a later panel, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) indicated that there are no immediate plans to amend the requirements applicable to federal registrants.
Full details regarding the specific issues submitted for comment, as well as accompanying exhibits, are available on the NMLS website. 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. Specifically, various sessions covered the following issues:
- The CFPB’s supervision of the mortgage industry and the direction that the CFPB is taking with respect to depository and non-depository financial services, including a discussion with CFPB staff regarding issues of interpretation and implementation of state licensing, NMLS and the rules implementing the SAFE Act. Of particular interest, the CFPB indicated that it has started planning its first set of exams of non-depository financial institutions and that the CFPB will select institutions for examination based on size, volume, type of product or service offered, extent of state oversight, patterns of complaints, and other factors.
- Industry views on the regulation of and the future of the mortgage industry.
- Updates regarding the Mortgage Call Report, including a review of preliminary data, how it is used by regulators, and a review of additional changes and updates to assist with the compliance process.
- Review of the NMLS federal registration process and a discussion on how to improve the process.
- NMLS testing and education discussion, with a focus on understanding the desire from industry for increasing the available continuing education topics in order to provide a better learning experience for MLOs.
- NMLS federal examination and third party compliance management, including a discussion of best practices that institutions can consider to efficiently and effectively implement policies and procedures to ensure third parties are properly licensed and/or registered.
- Credit and criminal background checks for MLOs, control persons, and branch managers, which included discussions of expanding the criminal background check process from MLOs to also include branch managers and control persons.
- Potential modifications to the NMLS to accommodate state pre-notification filings for changes in control, changes in branch manager, or other changes in corporate structure or operations that require prior notice.
- Federal and state rules implementation, including ability to repay, loan officer compensation and TILA/RESPA disclosure conflicts.
- Discussion of important FHA rule changes for 2011 and upcoming changes in 2012.
- Surety bonds necessary to comply with state and federal law, including underwriting considerations, risk mitigation, and claim resolution.
In addition to the above general sessions, the Conference covered several major changes and new initiatives announced by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), including:
- System Enhancements and Expansion of NMLS to Cover Additional Financial Services Companies. The CSBS announced plansto expand the use of the NMLS to include nonbank, non-mortgage financial service providers, including consumer lenders, money services businesses, and debt collectors. Following this expansion, these other nonbank firms will be obligated to alter their compliance programs in order to apply for, amend, and renew state licenses using the NMLS. Entities that previously obtained and maintained relevant licenses via hard-copy applications and filings will be required to transition onto the NMLS, a process which could prove difficult as licensee's struggle to learn the new system and which may allow the state agency an opportunity to vet anew its licensees. While the electronic application and related processes will be centralized and uniform, entities that use the NMLS to obtain and maintain their licenses still will be subject to various unique state-specific requirements, which must be dealt with outside of the NMLS. For many participants in the mortgage industry, the mandated use of the NMLS has brought with it heightened compliance costs and increased reporting requirements, particularly as states increased disclosure and other application requirements to become more consistent with other states. Non-mortgage state licensed financial institutions should be mindful of this experience and be prepared to review their licensing compliance procedures and resources following transition to the NMLS. At a minimum, licensees should carefully monitor developments regarding licensing requirements during and after the transition to the NMLS.Through expansion of the system state bank regulators expect to see improved efficiency, and regulated entities can expect enhanced supervision and increased public access to license, registration, and supervisory information. The expansion is scheduled to begin in April when at least 12 states will begin transitioning their exiting licensing and registration systems to the NMLS.Further, the April expansion and update will include other changes and enhancements in an effort to improve the system overall:
- New Workflow – the changes and enhancements to the system require a new "license management workflow" (i.e., online navigation and information contained in the uniform plans) to support the new Business Activities section. The new workflow will (1) introduce a new navigational landing page in the Company (MU1), (2) combine the selection of licenses and entry of transition numbers into one step, and (3) introduce new navigation items onto the License/Registrations page.
- Amended Forms – the uniform mortgage forms (i.e., MU1 and MU3) will be amended to "Company Filing" and "Branch Filing", respectively, in anticipation of the expansion of the system to cover non-mortgage related industries.
- Business Activities – expands this section of the Form MU1 to allow users to identify a broader range of business activities conducted by the user (e.g., loan modifications, seller of money orders) based on definitions developed by the states.
- Approvals and Designations – introduces new approval and designation types, and allows users to add approval or identification numbers.
- Disclosure Explanation – in addition to updated company, branch and individual disclosure questions, a new disclosure explanation feature will allow users to add explanations to each disclosure question that has a “yes” answer in conjunction with submitting a filing.
- Document Upload – users will be able to upload specific materials into the NMLS to be shared by state regulators, thereby eliminating the need to send certain materials via hard copy outside the system. The type of materials that may be uploaded may include business plans, certificates of good standing, fidelity bonds, errors and omissions insurance, and other materials generally provided in the application and renewal process.
- Criminal Background Check for a Control/Qualifying Individual – all state licensed individuals will be required to complete a criminal background check via the NMLS.
Upon implementation of the new forms in April, existing NMLS users should be aware that in order to submit any new applications, address updates, addition of officers, or other general maintenance items, the company will be required to complete all new Company Filing fields, and the company's control persons and qualifying individuals must complete additional questions and information requests.
- SAFE Act Examination Guidelines. The Multi-State Mortgage Committee (MMC), a ten-state representative body created by CSBS and AARMR, issued SAFE Act Examination Guidelines (SEGs) for use by state non-depository mortgage regulators. The SEGs are not required guidelines for state agencies, but utilization of SEGs is intended to allow state agencies to determine compliance with the SAFE Act and provides consistent and uniform guidelines for use by institution in-house compliance and audit departments conducting SAFE Act and state compliance reviews. The SEGs are presented in a question and answer format and are “modular,” such that state mortgage regulators may easily use part or all of the SEGs as they see fit.
- Uniform MLO State Test. The CSBS announced that efforts are underway to develop content for a uniform MLO state test. Currently, an MLO is required to take the state component of the SAFE Act mortgage loan originator test for each state in which he or she intends to be licensed. With the introduction of a uniform MLO state test, an MLO will meet the testing requirement for multiple states by passing a single test that includes content representative of all of the states.An ad hoc committee composed of state regulators has been charged with researching the feasibility of developing a uniform MLO state test. In coordination with industry subject matter experts and test consultants, the committee has completed its initial feasibility studies and test development is now underway. Later this year, the committee plans to present a uniform test proposal to state regulators.
A message that pervaded the Conference was that with the completion of several multi-year NMLS initiatives responding to the requirements of the SAFE Act (e.g., the introduction of the NMLS Mortgage Call Report), NMLS is turning its attention to implementing changes to and expanding the NMLS. While the changes are ultimately intended to streamline the NMLS process, current NMLS users should prepare for additional oversight and regulation, and licensees transitioning onto the system should prepare for heightened compliance costs and increased reporting requirements.
For more information about NMLS, visit the NMLS Resource Center, About NMLS.
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