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On July 26, the CFPB released its Summer 2023 issue of Supervisory Highlights, which covers enforcement actions in areas such as auto origination, auto servicing, consumer reporting, debt collection, deposits, fair lending, information technology, mortgage origination, mortgage servicing, payday lending and remittances from June 2022 through March 2023. The Bureau noted significant findings regarding unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts or practices and findings across many consumer financial products, as well as new examinations on nonbanks.
- Auto Origination: The CFPB examined auto finance origination practices of several institutions and found deceptive marketing of auto loans. For example, loan advertisements showcased cars larger and newer than the products for which actual loan offers were available, which misled consumers.
- Auto Servicing: The Bureau’s examiners identified unfair and abusive practices at auto servicers related to charging interest on inflated loan balances resulting from fraudulent inclusion of non-existent options. It also found that servicers collected interest on the artificially inflated amounts without refunding consumers for the excess interest paid. Examiners further reported that auto servicers engaged in unfair and abusive practices by canceling automatic payments without sufficient notice, leading to missed payments and late fee assessments. Additionally, some servicers allegedly engaged in cross-collateralization, requiring consumers to pay other unrelated debts to redeem their repossessed vehicles.
- Consumer Reporting: The Bureau’s examiners found that consumer reporting companies failed to maintain proper procedures to limit furnishing reports to individuals with permissible purposes. They also found that furnishers violated regulations by not reviewing and updating policies, neglecting reasonable investigations of direct disputes, and failing to notify consumers of frivolous disputes or provide accurate address disclosures for consumer notices.
- Debt Collection: The CFPB's examinations of debt collectors (large depository institutions, nonbanks that are larger participants in the consumer debt collection market, and nonbanks that are service providers to certain covered persons) uncovered violations of the FDCPA and CFPA, such as unlawful attempts to collect medical debt and deceptive representations about interest payments.
- Deposits: The CFPB's examinations of financial institutions revealed unfair acts or practices related to the assessment of both nonsufficient funds and line of credit transfer fees on the same transaction. The Bureau reported that this practice resulted in double fees being charged for denied transactions.
- Fair Lending: Recent examinations through the CFPB's fair lending supervision program found violations of ECOA and Regulation B, including pricing discrimination in granting pricing exceptions based on competitive offers and discriminatory lending restrictions related to criminal history and public assistance income.
- Information Technology: Bureau examiners found that certain institutions engaged in unfair acts by lacking adequate information technology security controls, leading to cyberattacks and fraudulent withdrawals from thousands of consumer accounts, causing substantial harm to consumers.
- Mortgage Origination: Examiners found that certain institutions violated Regulation Z by differentiating loan originator compensation based on product types and failing to accurately reflect the terms of the legal obligation on loan disclosures.
- Mortgage Servicing: Examiners identified UDAAP and regulatory violations at mortgage servicers, including violations related to loss mitigation timing, misrepresenting loss mitigation application response times, continuity of contact procedures, Spanish-language acknowledgment notices, and failure to provide critical loss mitigation information. Additionally, some servicers reportedly failed to credit payments sent to prior servicers after a transfer and did not maintain policies to identify missing information after a transfer.
- Payday Lending: The CFPB identified unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts or practices, including unreasonable limitations on collection communications, false collection threats, unauthorized wage deductions, misrepresentations regarding debt payment impact, and failure to comply with the Military Lending Act. The report also highlighted that lenders reportedly failed to retain evidence of compliance with disclosure requirements under Regulation Z. In response, the Bureau directed lenders to cease deceptive practices, revise contract language, and update compliance procedures to ensure regulatory compliance.
- Remittances: The CFPB evaluated both depository and non-depository institutions for compliance with the EFTA and its Regulation E, including the Remittance Rule. Examiners found that some institutions failed to develop written policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Remittance Rule's error resolution requirements, using inadequate substitutes or policies without proper implementation.
On June 27, FHA announced lenders will have to submit information about borrowers’ language preferences and homeownership education or housing counseling history through the Supplemental Consumer Information Form when originating mortgages for FHA insurance. According to FHA, borrowers may choose to provide all, some, or none of the information requested on the form, and lenders must transmit any information the borrower disclosed. The information collected from the form will allow the administration to have a better aggregate view of language preferences, which FHA stated, “will influence its future actions to continue breaking down language and other barriers to homeownership.” On June 13, FHA also announced the availability of Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese versions of more than 30 single family mortgage documents and related resources associated with FHA programs.
On May 4, the Indiana governor signed SB 452 to amend Indiana code governing financial institutions. Among other things, the Act amends a provision to require the Department of Financial Institutions to adopt emergency rules no later than June 30, 2024, to authorize certain licensees (or certain exempt persons aside from a person that has voluntarily registered with the Department) “to sponsor one (1) or more mortgage loan originators, who are not employees of the sponsoring person, to perform mortgage loan originator activities” provided certain criteria is met. Requirements include that (i) each sponsored person performs mortgage loan originator activities exclusively for the sponsoring person (as provided in a written agreement); (ii) the sponsoring person assumes responsibility for and reasonably supervises the activities of each sponsored mortgage loan originator; (iii) the sponsoring person maintains a bond that covers all sponsored mortgage loan originators; and (iv) each sponsored mortgage loan originator possesses a current, valid insurance producer license as required under state law. The emergency rules must meet the requirements of the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008, HUD and CFPB interpretations of that Act, as well as a subsequent amendment provided by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.
On March 26, the Virginia governor signed HB 2389, which permits mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers to allow employees and exclusive agents to work remotely provided certain conditions are met. Requirements to conduct business out of a remote location include: (i) the establishment of written policies and procedures for remote work supervision; (ii) ensuring access to platforms and customer information adheres to the licensee’s comprehensive written information security plan; (iii) the employment of appropriate risk-based monitoring and oversight processes, as well as the agreement from employees or exclusive agents who will work remotely to comply with these established practices; (iv) banning in-person customer interaction at an employee’s or exclusive agent’s residence unless the residence is an approved office; (v) the proper maintenance of physical records; (vi) compliance with federal and state security requirements when engaging in customer interactions and conversations; (vii) access to the licensee’s secure systems via a virtual private network or comparable system with password protection; (viii) the installation and maintenance of security updates, patches, or other alterations; (ix) “the ability to remotely lock or erase company-related contents of any device or otherwise remotely limit access to a licensee’s secure systems"; and (x) the designation of the principal place of business as the mortgage loan originator’s registered location for the purposes of the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry record, “unless such mortgage loan originator elects an office as a registered location.” The amendments also add definitions for “office” and “remote location.” The Act is effective July 1.
Recently, the Washington Department of Financial Institutions adopted regulations implementing amendments to the Consumer Loan Act and the Mortgage Broker Practices Act. The amendments, among other things, allow licensed companies, subject to enumerated conditions, to permit licensed mortgage loan originators to work from their residence without licensing the residence as a branch. The amended regulations also clarify that a licensed loan originator may originate loans from any licensed location or their residence, whether located in Washington or not, so long as the mortgage loan originator’s sponsoring company is licensed to do business in Washington. The amendments are effective January 1, 2023.
On December 13, the CFPB and FHFA published updated loan-level data from the National Survey of Mortgage Originations. (See also FHFA announcement here.) The publicly available data highlights borrowers’ experiences when obtaining a mortgage during the Covid-19 pandemic. Key highlights from the updated data include: (i) in 2020 a higher percentage (48 percent) of borrowers reported that a paperless online mortgage process was important; (ii) 21 percent of borrowers reported that their mortgage closing did not occur as originally scheduled (up from 17 percent in 2019); (iii) an increased number of borrowers reported that they were very familiar with available interest rates, with 78 percent of borrowers (up from 67 percent in 2019) stating that they were very satisfied with the interest rate that they qualified for; and (iv) borrowers who refinanced in 2020 versus 2019 were better off financially, with 76 percent of borrowers who refinanced reporting that they were not concerned about qualifying for a mortgage in 2020.
“The data released today provide a clear view of borrower sentiment about the mortgage process during the COVID pandemic in 2020,” said Saty Patrabansh, FHFA Associate Director for the Office of Data and Statistics. “This data should be helpful to analysts and policymakers in understanding the complete experience of mortgage borrowers and identifying what challenges may still exist in mortgage lending.”
On November 3, the Pennsylvania governor signed HB 2667, which amends the definition of “remote location” in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. In order for a mortgage loan originator sponsored by a licensee to be permitted to work from a “remote location,” the location must meet certain criteria. The amended definition includes a prohibition against “in-person consumer interaction” that is limited to “in-person consumer interaction” at a mortgage loan originator’s personal residence. It also removes a requirement for a “remote location” to maintain “physical records regarding the licensee’s mortgage loan business . . . at the location.” The bill is effective immediately.
On October 4, FHA announced a request for information (RFI) seeking input on ways to facilitate greater origination of small balance mortgages for FHA insurance. FHA will use feedback received in response to the RFI to help identify barriers to the origination of small mortgages in its program. The agency will also consider the development of policies and programs to better support and expand affordable homeownership opportunities in underserved markets with lower housing prices and to close the racial homeownership gap. According to the announcement, the RFI seeks input on topics related to “the current availability of small mortgage financing, barriers and disincentives to small mortgage lending transactions, changes to policies or processes that would encourage origination of more FHA-insured small balance mortgages, and considerations regarding liquidity provided through securitization.” Comments on the RFI are due December 5.
In conjunction with the RFI, HUD released a report assessing factors that limit the supply of small mortgage loans and highlighting challenges facing borrowers who need loans to purchase lower-priced homes. The report, titled Financing Lower-Priced Homes: Small Mortgage Loans, found that mortgage loans having an original principal obligation of $70,000 or less represent less than 3.5 percent of originations in 2020. Many of these loans secure properties valued at more than $70,000—an indication that the purchases included substantial down payments, HUD said. Among other things, the report also found that FHA disproportionately insures loans for lower-priced homes compared to the rest of the mortgage market and has loan insurance programs for financing property improvements and manufactured homes that are particularly targeted to lower loan amounts. Additionally, the report flagged the fixed costs of loan origination and servicing as a significant barrier to small mortgage lending, noting that this makes small mortgage loans less profitable and may necessitate additional incentives for lenders, such as reducing costs or providing additional lender or loan originator compensation.
On September 21, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services filed permanent administrative order FSR 3-2022 with the Secretary of State to allow licensed loan originators and employees to work from home. Under the order, Oregon licensed mortgage loan originators “may originate loans from a location other than from a licensed branch office if the location is the licensed mortgage loan originator’s home; the licensed mortgage loan originator is an employee of a mortgage banker or mortgage broker; and the mortgage banker or the mortgage broker complies with OAR 441-860- 0040, as applicable.” Mortgage bankers or brokers must have in place appropriate policies and procedures to supervise licensees working from home, including data security measures to protect consumers’ personal data. Additionally, licensees working from home “are prohibited from engaging in person with consumers for loan origination purposes at the home of the loan originator or employee, unless the home is licensed as a branch.” Licensees may, however, “engage with consumers for loan origination purposes at the home of the loan originator or employee by means of conference telephone or similar communications equipment that allows all persons participating in the visitation to hear each other, provided that participation is controlled and limited to those entitled to attend, and the identity of participants is determinable and reasonably verifiable.” Licensees who work from home are also prohibited from keeping any physical business records at any location other than a licensed location, and must also ensure that all origination records are available at a licensed location.
On June 17, the Hawaii governor signed two bills into law. HB 2113 permits money transmitter license applicants to submit to either a state or federal criminal history record check, rather than both, upon application. SB 1105 establishes that, in addition to application fees, and any fees required by NMLS, a mortgage loan originator licensee must pay a mortgage loan recovery fund fee of $200, and upon application for renewal of a license, a mortgage loan originator licensee must pay $100. The bill also permits a person aggrieved by the fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit of a mortgage loan originator company licensee to receive restitution payment upon a final court order. The bills are effective July 1.