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On September 4, the CFPB released its summer 2020 Supervisory Highlights, which details its supervisory and enforcement actions in the areas of consumer reporting, debt collection, deposits, fair lending, mortgage servicing, and payday lending. The findings of the report, which are published to assist entities in complying with applicable consumer laws, cover examinations that generally were completed between September and December of 2019. Highlights of the examination findings include:
- Consumer Reporting. The Bureau cited violations of the FCRA’s requirement that lenders first establish a permissible purpose before they obtain a consumer credit report. Additionally, the report notes instances where furnishers failed to review account information and other documentation provided by consumers during direct and indirect disputes. The Bureau notes that “[i]nadequate staffing and high daily dispute resolution requirements contributed to the furnishers’ failure to conduct reasonable investigations.”
- Debt Collection. The report states that examiners found one or more debt collectors (i) falsely threatened consumers with illegal lawsuits; (ii) falsely implied that debts would be reported to credit reporting agencies (CRA); and (iii) falsely represented that they operated or were employed by a CRA.
- Deposits. The Bureau discusses violations related to Regulation E and Regulation DD, including requiring waivers of consumers’ error resolution and stop payment rights and failing to fulfill advertised bonus offers.
- Fair Lending. The report notes instances where examiners cited violations of ECOA, including intentionally redlining majority-minority neighborhoods and failing to consider public assistance income when determining a borrower’s eligibility for mortgage modification programs.
- Mortgage Servicing. The Bureau cited violations of Regulation Z and Regulation X, including (i) failing to provide periodic statements to consumers in bankruptcy; (ii) charging forced-placed insurance without a reasonable basis; and (iii) various errors after servicing transfers.
- Payday Lending. The report discusses violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act for payday lenders, including (i) falsely representing that they would not run a credit check; (ii) falsely threatening lien placement or asset seizure; and (iii) failing to provide required advertising disclosures.
The report also highlights the Bureau’s recently issued rules and guidance, including the various responses to the CARES Act and the Covid-19 pandemic.
On September 1, the New York Department of Financial Services issued industry guidance instructing regulated mortgage lenders and servicers not to charge (or pass through to) consumers for mortgage default registration fees. The press release announcing the guidance notes that certain counties, cities, and municipalities in New York require mortgagees to pay a fee to register mortgages declared to be in default. Noting that consumers are facing financial hardship arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, the DFS guidance provides that these fees may not be passed on to consumers. Moreover, lenders and servicers who have charged consumers such fees must provide refunds, and must create a log of all borrowers who were charged such fees.
On August 31, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies updated its Safer at Home: Additional Guidance for Real Estate Brokers & Servicers, previously covered here and here, to note that the executive order creating a statewide mask ordinance was extended by Executive Order D 2020 164. Real estate businesses and professionals are encouraged to review the guidance, which responds to frequently asked questions related to real estate services, including field services.
D.C. enacts law extending obligations for debt collection, credit reporting, mortgage servicing, and evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic
On August 19, the mayor of D.C. signed the Coronavirus Support Second Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2020. The act extends the provisions of D.C.’s prior Covid-19 relief act (previously covered here), which was set to expire after 90 days, until November 16. Among other things, the act includes consumer protection provisions, including provisions regarding debt collection and credit reporting. It also provides housing and tenant protections, including in the areas of mortgage relief, restrictions on evictions, and foreclosures.
On August 13, the Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions extended, until September 30, 2020, interim guidance permitting licensees with locations in Hawaii to reduce hours or close offices during Hawaii’s Covid-19 emergency period. Consistent with the previous guidance, covered here, financial institutions and escrow depositories are required to provide notice of closures or reductions in hours. While mortgage loan originators, mortgage servicers, and money transmitters are not required to provide notice, the regulator requests a courtesy notification of any closure or reduction in hours.
On August 5, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia granted a mortgage servicer’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the servicer “maintained contact and regularly worked” with the consumer to complete her loss mitigation application and thus did not violate Regulation X. According to the opinion, after obtaining the rights to the property and assuming mortgage responsibilities pursuant to a divorce decree, the consumer stopped making mortgage payments in July 2018. The mortgage servicer confirmed the consumer as the successor in interest to the mortgage on March 7, 2019 and on March 14, 2019, the consumer sent the servicer an incomplete loss mitigation application. Between March 2019 and June 2019, the consumer submitted additional loss mitigation application materials and partial application materials for a loan assumption, with the servicer regularly contacting the consumer to obtain documents necessary to complete the applications. The consumer asserted that the servicer, in violation of §1024.41(b)(1), failed to exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining documents and information from her to complete her loss mitigation application and, in violation of §1024.41(c)(1) and §1024.41(c)(2), failed to evaluate her complete loss mitigation application for all loss mitigation options available.
The court granted summary judgment in favor of the servicer. The court reasoned that “undisputed evidence” establishes that the servicer “maintained contact and regularly worked” with the consumer to obtain the paperwork it needed. Moreover, the court noted that while Regulation X requires a servicer to “evaluate a borrower for all loss mitigation options available, that does not mean it must offer every option it considered—or any option at all.” The court rejected the consumers’ claims that the servicer should have offered a loan modification that did not require information from her ex-husband, concluding that Regulation X “required” her ex-husband’s inclusion and nonetheless, “[u]nder the regulatory framework, [the servicer] has discretion to determine which option(s), if any, it offers an applicant.” Lastly, the court disagreed that the mortgage servicer’s actions caused the consumer to incur “substantial damages,” concluding that “evidence of record is clear that her damages were not caused by or even attributable to [the servicer].”
On July 15, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac introduced a new home-retention workout option, the “disaster payment deferral,” for borrowers experiencing financial hardship. According to Fannie Mae’s Lender Letter LL-2020-11 and Freddie Mac’s Guide Bulletin 2020-28, the disaster payment deferral would bring the borrower current on their mortgage by deferring the delinquency amount (which includes up to 12 months of past-due principal and interest payments; out-of-pocket escrow advances paid to third parties; and servicing advances paid to third parties in the ordinary course of business) as a non-interest bearing balance, due and payable at liquidation, refinance, or maturity. To qualify for the program, an eligible disaster event is defined as (i) a financial hardship that impacts the borrower's ability to pay their contractual monthly payment; and (ii) either: the property securing the mortgage loan experienced an insured loss, the property securing the mortgage loan is located in an eligible FEMA-Declared Disaster Area, or the borrower's place of employment is located in an eligible FEMA-Declared Disaster Area. Among other requirements detailed by the Lender Letter and Bulletin, servicers must confirm that the borrower has resolved the financial hardship and have the ability to continue paying the contractual monthly payments. Servicers must begin evaluating borrowers for the disaster payment deferral beginning July 1.
On July 16, the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled “Protecting Homeowners During the Pandemic: Oversight of Mortgage Servicers’ Implementation of the CARES Act.” The subcommittee’s memorandum regarding the hearing discussed, among other things, the HUD Office of Inspector General’s report of its review of the type of forbearance information accessible to borrowers on the top 30 mortgage servicers’ websites. The report highlighted concerns that 10 of the servicers failed to have forbearance information “‘readily available’ on their websites,” 14 servicers’ websites did not provide information about the length of the forbearance period to which borrowers are entitled under the CARES Act, and certain servicers “included information giving the impression that lump sum payments were required at the end of the forbearance period.”
Witnesses discussed widespread issues in CARES Act-related mortgage servicing, with several witnesses and lawmakers highlighting how preexisting inequalities have especially imperiled black and Latinx home ownership during the Covid-19 pandemic. One witness suggested that servicers should be required to provide written notice to borrowers of their options and rights under the CARES Act and should be held accountable for failing to provide consistent, accurate forbearance information to borrowers in a timely manner. Another witness noted that housing counselors have reported servicers providing misinformation on payment and deferral options, and stressed the need for coordinated efforts between the CFPB, FHFA, and HUD, in addition to strong supervisory and enforcement activity.
Other topics discussed during the hearing included (i) the importance of providing clear guidance for borrowers, as well as the importance of loan modifications, loss mitigation options, and long term solutions once forbearance has ended; (ii) understanding what servicers of non-federally backed mortgages not covered by the CARES Act are doing to assist borrowers, and whether there should be a safe harbor for these mortgage servicers from investor liability; and (iii) the CFPB’s responsibility for overseeing servicers. One of the witnesses noted during the hearing, however, that many mortgage servicers offered homeowners forbearance options before the CARES Act, provided forbearance to homeowners with non-federally backed mortgages, and have responded to “an evolving series of program and regulatory announcements from various programs and agencies.”
On July 14, FHA published proposed revisions to the Servicing and Loss Mitigation section (Section III) of the Single Family Housing Policy Handbook 4000.1 (SF Handbook) on the agency’s drafting table. The proposed revisions include: (i) changes to the standard servicing loss mitigation home retention waterfall; (ii) elimination of certain borrower documentation requirements for Trial Payment Plans to be consistent with industry practices; and (iii) modification of certain operational policies to provide more consistency between FHA policies and those used by Government Sponsored Enterprises and the private market. The proposed revisions do not address the immediate servicing and loss mitigation challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Comments on the proposed revisions must be received by September 12.
On July 15, Fannie Mae updated Lender Letter 2020-07. The additions (i) update requirements for repayment of escrow shortage amounts identified in connection with a Covid-19 payment deferral or as part of the next annual analysis, (ii) clarify how certain applicable fees (e.g., servicing, guaranty, and excess servicing fees) will be reimbursed for mortgage loans that receive a disaster payment deferral, and (iii) clarify that the servicer must evaluate the borrower for a Flex Modification in accordance with the reduced eligibility criteria when the borrower becomes 60 days delinquent within six months of the Covid-19 related payment deferral’s effective date and the servicer is unable to achieve quality right party contact.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "High standards: Best practices for banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Wait wait ... do tell me! Where the panelists answer to you" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Matthew P. Previn and Walter E. Zalenski to discuss "Is valid when made ... valid?" at the Women in Housing & Finance Partner Series webinar
- Warren W. Traiger and Caroline K. Eisner to discuss "CRA modernization and the OCC final rule" at CBA Live
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Transnational corruption: A chat with former U.S. federal prosecutors in New York" at Marval Live Talks
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk and Lauren Frank to discuss "New CFPB interpretation on UDAAP" at a California Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Quality and Compliance Committee webinar
- Thomas A. Sporkin to discuss "Managing internal investigations and advanced government defense" at the Securities Enforcement Forum
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Mortgage servicing in a recession: Early intervention, loss mitigation and more" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Independent monitoring in the United States" at the World Compliance Association Peru Chapter IV International Conference on Compliance and the Fight Against Corruption
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "The future of fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Pandemic fallout – Navigating practical operational challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute