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On September 24, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2013-18, which updates and revises certain selling and servicing requirements. Effective October 1, 2013, Freddie Mac will require that seller/servicers (i) provide third-party vendors retained to perform functions relating to origination and servicing of mortgages with training on fraud prevention, detection, and reporting as outlined in the Seller/Servicer Guide, (ii) maintain written procedures for reporting fraud or possible fraud in connection with a mortgage sold to or serviced for Freddie Mac, and (iii) report to Freddie Mac when they first know or suspect an incident of fraud may have occurred in connection with a mortgage sold to or serviced for Freddie Mac, rather than when they have a reasonable belief of such an incident. With regard to selling requirements, the bulletin, among other things, (i) updates asset documentation requirements, including the requirements for verification of large deposits, (ii) updates requirements for underwriting borrowers on temporary leave, (iii) updates certain relief refinance requirements, and (iv) retires Investor Feature Identifiers for temporary subsidy buydown mortgages with special characteristics.
On September 23, the FHFA launched a nationwide campaign to educate borrowers about HARP. The FHFA explains that the campaign is designed to encourage homeowners who have been making their mortgage payments, but who owe more than their home is worth, to contact their current lender or any other mortgage lender offering HARP refinances to review their refinancing options. As part of this campaign, FHFA has launched a new website and is working with mortgage companies across the U.S. to help reach homeowners who may qualify.
On September 23, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 568, which prohibits an operator of a website, online service, online application, or mobile application from (i) marketing or advertising certain products or services to a minor and (ii) knowingly using, disclosing, compiling, or allowing a third-party to use, disclose, or compile, the personal information of a minor for the purpose of marketing or advertising specified types of products or services. The provisions apply to marketing provided by an advertising service if the operator notifies the service that the website, online service, or application is directed to minors. The bill also requires operators to permit a minor, who is a registered user of the operator’s website, online service, online application, or mobile application, to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted on the operator’s website, service, or application by the minor. The law provides exceptions for content or information posted by a third-party, or if (i) any other provision of state or federal law requires the operator or third party to maintain the content or information or (ii) the operator anonymizes the content or information. The law is effective January 1, 2015.
On September 18, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced new State Banking Department regulations that will create a state database of payday loans made to borrowers. Under the Alabama Deferred Presentment Services Act (DPSA), payday lenders are prohibited from making loans to borrowers with more than $500 in outstanding payday loan debt. According to the announcement, the Governor believes that the database is needed to enforce this restriction because lenders and borrowers can easily exceed the $500 limit by obtaining loans from multiple lenders. The regulations also implement other aspects of the DPSA, including a payday lender licensing regime. The database is expected to be operational by January 2014. Following the Governor’s announcement, a group of payday lenders reportedly filed suit in Montgomery County Circuit Court to prevent the state from implementing the database provisions. According to reports, the lenders argue that (i) the Banking Department is trying to create the database by regulation after it failed to obtain legislative authority to do so, (ii) the database is discriminatory because it does not apply to other lenders, such as banks and online lenders, and (iii) the state is unlawfully imposing a tax by charging payday lenders a fee to access the database.
On September 24, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman largely denied a bank’s motion to dismiss a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in which the government alleges that the bank falsely certified loans under the FHA’s Direct Endorsement Lender Program in violation of the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA). U.S. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 12-7527, 2013 WL 5312564 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2013). Addressing four primary arguments raised by the bank, the court held that the government sufficiently pleaded (i) that the bank falsely certified compliance with FHA regulations upon which payment was conditioned, (ii) that the bank fraudulently induced the government to insure loans it otherwise would not have, and (iii) that this alleged misconduct caused the FHA to pay insurance claims it otherwise would not have. It also held that the government’s claims were pleaded with sufficient particularity. Citing two recent decisions from other Southern District of New York courts, the court held that FIRREA allows the government to pursue claims against an institution for engaging in alleged fraud that “affects” itself. Further, relying in part on a recent holding by the Fourth Circuit, the court held that the government’s claims were timely because they were tolled by the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act. Finally, relying on an order issued earlier this year by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the court rejected the bank’s argument that the release it executed as part of the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement specifically released liability arising under the FCA and FIRREA for the government’s claims. The court dismissed as untimely certain of the government’s common law and quasi-contract claims, but preserved the government’s breach of fiduciary duty claim, reasoning that whether such a duty existed is a question of fact.
On September 20, the FHFA filed a motion requesting that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois amend an order it issued after holding on August 23 that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are exempt from a 2011 City of Chicago ordinance that established new requirements for mortgagees and their agents regarding the maintenance of vacant property. The FHFA, as conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sued the city in December 2011 over the ordinance, which requires mortgagees to register vacant properties and pay a $500 registration fee per property. The FHFA asked the court “to specify the contents and persons” bound by its August 23 order. The motion was accompanied by a proposed order for declaratory and monetary relief, which would restate Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s immunity from the City’s ordinance and also would require the City to refund any payments that those the two enterprises, or any entities acting on their behalf, made pursuant to the ordinance.
On September 24, a firm that handles due-diligence matters for financial institutions filed its opposition to a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, on behalf of the federal-state RMBS Working Group, to compel production of documents and information the group sought in a July subpoena. In its brief, the firm reviews its cooperation to respond to “six years of subpoenas, investigatory demands, and formal and informal requests for information,” and summarizes the volume and types of information it has provided to the DOJ and the Working Group to date as a third-party witness in connection with the 16 companies the Working Group has identified as subjects of its RMBS investigations. The firm notes the “substantial expense” it has incurred “to educate an ever-growing, and often-changing, number government attorneys and investigators.” The firm argues that the Working Group’s most recent subpoena, which seeks “every document and communication for all 193 clients and for almost 5,000 e-mail custodians,” constitutes a “fishing expedition” and violates the firm’s rights under the Fourth Amendment.
On September 23, in a brief order, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit withdrew his concurrence in a recent opinion in which the court held that HAMP Trial Period Plans (TPPs) create a contractual obligation for servicers to offer a permanent modification to borrowers who complete the TPP. Corvello v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Nos. 11-16234, 11-16242 (9th Cir. Sept. 23, 2013). In the concurring opinion, the judge had argued that the bank created the trial plan document for “the fraudulent purpose of inducing [the borrower] to make the payments while the bank retained the option of modifying the loan or stiffing him.” The bank filed a motion for rehearing and asked the court to withdraw the concurrence because the Treasury Department, not the bank, drafted the trial plan document and required its use. Therefore, according to the bank, its actions should not be characterized as fraudulent because it adhered to its obligations by using the required HAMP documents.
On September 18, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held that an employee’s computer, issued by the employer, is not a “facility” subject to protections of the Stored Communications Act. Roadlink Workforce Solutions, L.L.C. v. Malpass, No. 13-5459, 2013 WL 5274812 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 18, 2013). In this case, an employer sued a former employee for allegedly copying and then deleting certain information from an employer-issued computer before leaving to work for a competitor. The employer claimed a private right of action under the Stored Communications Act based on its allegation that the former employee intentionally exceeded his authorization to access a “facility through which an electronic communication service” it provided, and obtained and altered an electronic communication while it was in electronic storage. The court held that the employer-issued computer was not a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided, citing to previous decisions holding that including personal computing devices within the definition of “facility” would render other parts of the SCA illogical. The court reasoned that the plaintiff’s definition of facility would mean that any web site accessed on the computer would be a “user” of the communication service provided by the computer, and exempt from the SCA because of the exception for communications “of or intended for” that website. The court also held that the employer failed to demonstrate that the files accessed were in electronic storage because emails that have been opened but not deleted to not fit the SCA’s definition of “storage.” The court dismissed the employer’s SCA claim and a claim under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but retained jurisdiction over certain state claims.
On September 24, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) released a paper and held an event regarding the CFPB’s activities in its first three years, and potential changes to the agency and its policies going forward. The paper, generally critical of the CFPB’s use of guidance, expressed a preference for rulemakings to implement policy. The BPC argued that if the CFPB must issue substantive guidance, then it should employ a more open and transparent process, seeking input from a variety of parties, including consumer groups and regulated entities. In addition, the BPC identified several concerns with the CFPB’s supervisory and examination processes and recommended that the CFPB, among other things, (i) establish a specific policy setting timelines for closing out examinations, (ii) end its policy of including enforcement staff in the supervisory process, (iii) renew its effort to recruit and train high-quality supervisory and examination staff, and (iv) improve coordination with other agencies, particularly to integrate the CFPB’s product-based approach. The BPC also addressed, among other things, the CFPB’s requests for data from regulated entities, the use of its civil penalty fund, oversight of the Bureau, and the development and implementation of performance metrics.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Making customers whole: Trends in remediation and restitution expectations" at the American Bar Association Business Law Virtual Section Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fairness gone viral: Fair lending considerations for financial institutions amid Covid-19" at the American Bar Association Business Law Virtual Section Meeting
- 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