Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On June 11, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the CFPB’s spring 2021 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau announcement, the information released represents regulatory matters the Bureau is “currently pursuing under interim leadership pending the appointment and confirmation of a permanent Director.” Any changes made by the new permanent director will be reflected in the fall 2021 rulemaking agenda. Additionally, the Bureau indicates that it plans to continue to focus resources on actions addressing the adverse impacts to consumers due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and highlighted an interim final rule issued in April that addresses certain debt collector conduct associated with the CDC’s temporary eviction moratorium order (covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau will also continue to take concrete steps toward furthering the agency’s “commitment to promoting racial and economic equity.”
Key rulemaking initiatives include:
- Small Business Rulemaking. Last September, the Bureau released a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) outline of proposals under consideration, convened an SBREFA panel last October, and released the panel’s final report last December (covered by InfoBytes here and here). The Bureau reports that it anticipates releasing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the Section 1071 regulations this September to “facilitate enforcement of fair lending laws as well as enable communities, governmental entities, and creditors to identify business and community development needs and opportunities of women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses.”
- Consumer Access to Financial Records. The Bureau notes that it is considering rulemaking to implement section 1033 of Dodd-Frank in order to address the availability of electronic consumer financial account data. The Bureau is currently reviewing comments received in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) issued last fall regarding consumer data access (covered by InfoBytes here).
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau published an ANPR in March 2019 seeking feedback on the unique features of PACE financing and the general implications of regulating PACE financing under TILA. The Bureau notes that it continues “to engage with stakeholders and collect information for the rulemaking, including by pursuing quantitative data on the effect of PACE on consumers’ financial outcomes.”
- Automated Valuation Models (AVM). Interagency rulemaking is currently being pursued by the Bureau, Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA to develop regulations for AVM quality control standards as required by Dodd-Frank amendments to FIRREA. The standards are designed to, among other things, “ensure a high level of confidence in the estimates produced by the valuation models, protect against the manipulation of data, [ ] avoid conflicts of interest, require random sample testing and reviews,” and account for any other appropriate factors. An NPRM is anticipated for December.
- Amendments to Regulation Z to Facilitate LIBOR Transition. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued an NPRM in June 2020 to amend Regulation Z to address the sunset of LIBOR, and to facilitate creditors’ transition away from using LIBOR as an index for variable-rate consumer products. A final rule is expected in January 2022.
- Reviewing Existing Regulations. The Bureau notes in its announcement that while it will conduct an assessment of a rule implementing HMDA (most of which took effect January 2018), it will no longer pursue two HMDA proposed rulemakings previously listed in earlier agendas related to the reporting of HMDA data points and public disclosure of HMDA data. Additionally, the Bureau states that it finished a review of Regulation Z rules implementing the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 and plans to publish any resulting changes in the fall 2021 agenda.
The Bureau’s announcement also highlights several completed rulemaking items, including (i) a final rule that formally extended the mandatory compliance date of the General Qualified Mortgage final rule to October 1, 2022 (covered by InfoBytes here); (ii) proposed amendments to the mortgage servicing early intervention and loss mitigation-related provisions under RESPA/Regulation X (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) (the Bureau anticipates issuing a final rule before June 30, when the federal foreclosure moratoria are set to expire); and (iii) a proposed rule (covered by InfoBytes here), which would extend the effective date of two final debt collection rules to allow affected parties additional time to comply due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic (the Bureau plans to issue a final rule in June on whether, and for how long, it will extend the effective date once it reviews comments).
- The TRID Rule covers a loan if it: “[i] is made by a creditor as defined in § 1026.2(a)(17); [ii] is secured in full or in part by real property or a cooperative unit; [iii] is a closed-end, consumer credit (as defined in § 1026.2(a)(12)) transaction; [iv] is not exempt for any reason listed in § 1026.3; and [v] is not a reverse mortgage subject to § 1026.33.”
- Regulation Z exempts certain mortgage loans from the TRID disclosure requirements (i.e., providing the LE and CD) (the “Partial Exemption”). This exemption covers certain subordinate housing assistance loans. To qualify, “a transaction must meet all of the following criteria: [i] the transaction is secured by a subordinate-lien; [ii] the transaction is for the purpose of a down payment, closing costs, or other similar home buyer assistance, such as principal or interest subsidies; property rehabilitation assistance; energy efficiency assistance; or foreclosure avoidance or prevention; [iii] the credit contract provides that it does not require the payment of interest; [iv] the credit contract provides that repayment of the amount of credit extended is: forgiven either incrementally or in whole, deferred for at least 20 years after the transaction, or until the sale of the property, or until the property securing the transaction is no longer the consumer’s principal dwelling; [v] the total of costs payable by the consumer in connection with the transaction only include recording fees, transfer taxes, a bona fide and reasonable application fee, and a bona fide and reasonable fee for housing counseling services[;] the application fee and housing counseling services fee must be less than one percent of the loan amount; [and] [iv] the creditor provides either the Truth-in-Lending (TIL) disclosures or the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure[.] Regardless of which disclosures the creditor chooses to provide, the creditor must comply with all Regulation Z requirements pertaining to those disclosures.”
- The BUILD Act includes a partial statutory exemption from the TRID disclosure requirements for similar transactions. To qualify for the Partial Exemption from the TRID disclosure requirements under the BUILD Act, the loan must be a residential mortgage loan, offered at a 0 percent interest rate, have only bona fide and reasonable fees, and be primarily for charitable purposes and be made by an organization described in Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of that Code.
- If a housing assistance loan creditor opts for one of the partial exemptions under either the Regulation Z Partial Exemption or under the BUILD Act, they are excused from the requirement to provide the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure for that transaction. The Partial Exemption under Regulation Z does not excuse the creditor from providing certain other disclosures required by Regulation Z. If the creditor qualifies for the exemption under the BUILD Act, they have the option to provide the GFE, HUD-1 and Truth In Lending disclosures in lieu of the LE and CD at the creditor’s discretion.
On March 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of an action for failure to state a claim against a mortgage servicer, agreeing with the district court that the consumer failed to plausibly allege a “causal link” between the alleged RESPA violation and actual damages. According to the opinion, the plaintiff alleged he never received notice of a foreclosure sale on his deceased mother’s property, although he was the administrator of her estate. He filed suit, claiming the servicer failed to respond to his qualified written requests within 30 days as required under RESPA, and that as a result of the foreclosure, he allegedly “suffered actual damages from the loss of his mother’s home, loss of her belongings, and his mental anguish.” The servicer countered that the alleged “actual damages” did not result from the servicer’s failure to respond properly to the plaintiff’s letters, but rather were a result of the estate’s failure to pay the mortgage and the resulting foreclosure. In affirming the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims, the 11th Circuit agreed with the district court that the plaintiff never asked the servicer to rescind the foreclosure sale (noting that under RESPA, a borrower is not authorized to request rescission of a foreclosure sale), and that, moreover, the servicer’s failure to do what the plaintiff actually asked it to do—provide information about the mortgage—did not cause his damages.
On March 19, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio granted a mortgage lender’s motion for summary judgment, rejecting allegations that it had violated RESPA and Regulation X in handling plaintiffs’ loss mitigation application. The plaintiffs executed a promissory note and mortgage with the lender in 2017 and then initiated a loss mitigation application the following year. To complete the loss mitigation application process, the lender requested documents and information from the plaintiffs. The lender filed a foreclosure action after informing the plaintiffs that “required documents ‘remain outstanding.’” The plaintiffs filed suit, alleging the lender mishandled their loss mitigation application by, among other things, (i) failing to exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining documents and information to complete the loss mitigation application; (ii) failing to provide “the correct notices regarding the receipt of documents or with notice of a reasonable date by which Plaintiffs were required to submit additional documents to complete the loss mitigation application”; (iii) failing to evaluate the complete loss mitigation application for all available loss mitigation options within 30 days; (iv) requesting documents already received or impossible to obtain; and (v) filing a foreclosure action against the plaintiffs even though the loss mitigation application was either complete or facially complete.
The court disagreed, ruling that the lender “did not violate RESPA or Regulation X in either the handling of Plaintiffs’ loss mitigation application or in filing foreclosure litigation against Plaintiffs” because, among other things, “[t]here is no genuine issue of material fact that Plaintiffs did not comply with [the lender’s] request for additional information” and that “a complete, or even facially complete, loss mitigation application was not pending in this matter at the time of the filing of the foreclosure action.” As such, because an incomplete loss mitigation application does not carry foreclosure protections, the filed foreclosure action was not improper, the court wrote.
On February 25, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granted a motion for entry of monetary remedy filed by the CFPB and the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office (collectively, “Regulators”) in an action concerning the disgorgement calculation for a banker found in contempt of a 2015 consent order. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that while the district court properly determined that the banker violated the terms of the consent order (which previously settled RESPA and state law mortgage-kickback allegations), the court relied on an overbroad interpretation of the consent order and lacked the causal connection between the banker’s profits and a violation when it ordered the banker to pay over $526,000 in disgorged income. The 4th Circuit vacated the disgorgement order and remanded the case to the court to reassess the disgorgement calculation based on the banker’s more limited conduct that did not comply with the order.
On remand, the court reduced the sanctions amount to approximately $270,000, which represents the banker’s earned income (after taxes) “during the period in which he defied the three express provisions of the Consent Order.” Noting that the 4th Circuit rejected the banker’s argument that the Regulators were required to prove a specific monetary harm arising from his violations, the court wrote that in instances “[w]here harm is difficult to calculate, ‘a court is wholly justified in requiring the party in contempt to disgorge any profits it may have received that resulted in whole or in part from the contemptuous conduct,’” particularly where the party engaged in a “pattern or practice” of such conduct.
On February 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a mortgage loan servicer, concluding that the consumer failed to establish that he was injured by the servicer’s alleged violation of RESPA. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled on a motion for summary judgment concerning whether the Minnesota Mortgage Originator and Servicer Licensing Act’s (MOSLA) provision prohibiting “a mortgage servicer from violating ‘federal law regulating residential mortgage loans’” provides a cause of action under state law when a loan servicer violates RESPA but where the consumer ultimately has no federal cause of action because the consumer “sustained no actual damages and thus has no actionable claim under RESPA.” The 8th Circuit previously overturned the district court’s earlier ruling to grant summary judgment in favor of the consumer, concluding that while the loan servicer failed to (i) conduct an adequate investigation following the plaintiff’s request as to why there was a delinquency for his account, and (ii) failed to provide a complete loan payment history when requested, its failure did not cause actual damages.
In affirming the district court’s recent order, the 8th Circuit agreed that for the consumer to pursue a MOSLA cause of action when a loan servicer violates a federal law regulating mortgage loans, such as RESPA, there must be a federal cause of action. Even though the 8th Circuit previously concluded the servicer violated RESPA, the plaintiff must still prove actual damages to establish an injury in order to prevail under MOSLA.
On January 26, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granted plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration and relief stemming from a 2020 dismissal order, which previously dismissed RESPA claims in a kickback suit. The case originally alleged a mortgage lender entered into an arrangement with a settlement service company to trade referrals for kickbacks, which resulted in the plaintiffs being overcharged for their settlement services. In 2020, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding that the alleged payments fell under RESPA’s safe harbor provision permitting compensation to be paid for services performed. In re-opening the case, the court acknowledged that the dismissal of the case was premised on two “clear” errors with respect to RESPA’s safe harbor provision. First, the court noted that it previously misconstrued that the settlement service company was the recipient of the alleged kickbacks, when in actuality, the lender received the kickbacks. Second, the court determined that the plaintiffs were correct in asserting that the court failed to consider allegations in their amended complaint that the lender did not render any services to the settlement service company to warrant the payments it received. The court concluded it had made an error by “concluding that the alleged kickback payments were protected under RESPA’s safe harbor provision.” The court also revived the plaintiffs’ Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act claims after determining they were plausibly pled.
On December 18, the CFPB announced a settlement with a mortgage servicer for allegedly violating the CFPA and RESPA’s implementing regulation, Regulation X, due to widespread failures in the handling and processing of homeowners’ applications for loss mitigation options. According to the consent order, which was entered with the mortgage servicer’s successor in interest, the mortgage servicer violated Regulation X by, among other things, failing to (i) state in the acknowledgement notices the additional documents and information borrowers needed to submit to complete loss mitigation applications; (ii) provide a reasonable due date for submission of borrower documents; (iii) properly evaluate borrowers for all loss mitigation options available to them; and (iv) treat certain applications as “facially complete” in accordance with Regulation X. Additionally, the consent order states that the servicer’s alleged failure to “accurately review, process, track, and communicate to borrowers information regarding their applications for loss mitigation options” is an unfair act or practice and the alleged failure to send accurate acknowledgement notices is a deceptive act or practice. The Bureau asserts that the servicer’s failures delayed or deprived some borrowers of a reasonable opportunity to obtain the benefits of a loss mitigation option, resulting in additional harm such as negative credit reporting, additional late fees, and additional interest.
The consent order requires the successor in interest to pay nearly $5 million in total redress to over 11,000 consumers. The consent order also imposes a $500,000 civil money penalty and includes requirements for operational changes should the successor in interest resume mortgage servicing operations.
On December 11, the CFPB released its fall 2020 rulemaking agenda. According to a Bureau announcement, the information details the regulatory matters that the Bureau “expect[s] to focus on” between November 2020 and November 2021. The announcement notes that the Bureau will also continue to monitor the need for further actions related to the ongoing Covid-19 emergency. In addition to the rulemaking activities already completed by the Bureau this fall, the agenda highlights other regulatory activities planned, including:
- Debt Collection. The Bureau notes that it expects to issue a final rule in December 2020 addressing, among other things, disclosures related to validation notices and time-barred debt (proposal covered by a Buckley Special Alert here).
- LIBOR Transition. The Bureau notes that it anticipates publishing the final rulemaking (proposal covered by InfoBytes here) on the LIBOR transition later than the original January 2021 target identified in the Unified Agenda, due to the November 30 announcement by UK regulatory authorities that they are considering extending the availability of US$ LIBOR for legacy loan contracts until June 2023, instead of the end of 2021.
- FIRREA. The Bureau notes that, together with the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA, it will continue to develop a proposed rule to implement the automated valuation model (AVM) amendments made by the Dodd-Frank Act to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) concerning appraisals.
- Mortgage Servicing. The Bureau notes that it intends to issue an NPRM in spring 2021 to consider amendments to the Bureau’s mortgage servicing rules to address actions required of servicers working with borrowers affected by natural disasters or other emergencies. The Bureau notes that comments to the interim final rule issued in June 2020, amending aspects of the mortgage servicing rules to address the exigencies of Covid-19 (covered by InfoBytes here), suggest that the rules may need additional updates to address natural disasters or other emergencies.
- HMDA. The Bureau states that two rulemakings are planned, including (i) a proposed rule that follows up on a May 2019 advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, which sought information on the costs and benefits of reporting certain data points under HMDA and coverage of certain business or commercial purpose loans (covered by InfoBytes here); and (ii) a proposed rule addressing the public disclosure of HMDA data.
On October 7, the CFPB issued FAQs covering RESPA Section 8 and corresponding Regulation X sections. The FAQs provide a general overview of Section 8 and its prohibited activities. The FAQs also address the application of Section 8 to common scenarios involving gifts and promotional activities and marketing services agreements (MSAs). Highlights of the examples include:
- Gifts. The FAQs note that if a gift ( “thing of value”) is given or accepted as part of an agreement or understanding for referral of business related to a real estate settlement service involving a federally related mortgage loan then it is prohibited under Section 8. The FAQs emphasize that the agreement or understanding need not be in writing or oral and can be established by a practice, pattern, or course of conduct.
- Promotional activities. The FAQs state that promotional or educational activities connected to a referral source would be allowed under Regulation X if the activities (i) are not conditioned on referral of business; and (ii) do not involve defraying expenses that otherwise would be incurred by the referral source. The FAQs describe these conditions in more detail and provide example of activities that meet and do not meet Regulation X’s conditions.
- Marketing Services Agreements. The FAQs emphasize that MSAs that involve payments for referrals are prohibited under RESPA Section 8(a), whereas MSAs that involve payments for marketing services may be permitted under RESPA Section 8(c)(2), depending on certain facts and circumstances. MSAs are lawful under RESPA when structured and implemented as an agreement for the performance of actual marketing services and the payment reasonably reflects the value of the services performed. The FAQs provide examples of prohibited MSAs under Section 8(a) and Section 8(b), including (i) agreements structured to provide payments based on the number of referrals received; or (ii) the use of split charges, either being paid to a person that does not actually perform the services or the amount paid exceeds the value of the services performed by the person receiving the split.
Notably, with the release of the FAQs, the Bureau is rescinding its Compliance Bulletin 2015-05, entitled RESPA Compliance and Marketing Services Agreements, noting that the Bulletin “does not provide the regulatory clarity needed on how to comply with RESPA and Regulation X.” The Bureau emphasizes that with the rescission, MSAs will still “remain subject to scrutiny, and [the Bureau] remain[s] committed to vigorous enforcement of RESPA Section 8.”
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to provide “Fair lending update” at the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association Operational and Compliance Forum
- 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 "Fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “State law regulatory and enforcement trends” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- 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
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss “Modifications and exiting forbearance” at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute