100 Days Until the MLA: Compliance Challenges and Open Questions Before the New MLA’s Rule Implementation

Sasha-LeonhardtWith only 100 days until the new Military Lending Act (MLA) rule takes effect on October 3, 2016, many financial institutions have begun enacting procedures to ensure they are compliant with the new regulation by the effective date. With the implementation of this new rule, financial institutions continue to work towards full compliance with the requirements imposed by the Department of Defense (DoD), but there are growing pains. As this deadline draws near, there are several important compliance concerns that financial institutions must keep in mind and a number of issues where the industry is concerned about unclear language.

What types of credit are covered by the new MLA rule?

The 2007 MLA rule was limited to three specific types of products: payday loans, vehicle title loans, and refund anticipation loans. However, under the new rule, the MLA will cover a far broader range of products. The DoD sought to match the definition of credit under the Truth in Lending Act’s (TILA) implementing regulation—Regulation Z—so the new MLA rule will cover any credit that is (i) primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and (ii) either subject to a finance charge under Regulation Z or payable by written agreement in more than four installments.

However, the new MLA rule excludes four specific types of transactions: Read more…

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SCOTUS Vacates First Circuit Ruling, Holds Scope of FCA Materiality Requirement is “Demanding”

On June 16, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion vacating a First Circuit ruling on the grounds that the appellate court’s interpretation of the False Claims Act’s (FCA) materiality requirement to include any statutory, regulatory, or contractual violation is overly broad. Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, No. 15-7 (U.S. June 16, 2016). In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held that the implied false certification theory can be a basis for liability under the FCA when (i) the defendant submits a claim for payment to the government that makes specific representations about the goods or services provided; and (ii) the defendant’s failure to disclose noncompliance with material statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirements make its representations misleading half-truths. However, the Court did not adopt the appellate court’s expansive interpretation of what constitutes a “false or fraudulent claim” under this theory, concluding:

A misrepresentation cannot be deemed material merely because the Government designates compliance with a particular statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirement as a condition of payment. Nor is it sufficient for a finding of materiality that the Government would have the option to decline to pay if it knew of the defendant’s noncompliance. Materiality, in addition, cannot be found where noncompliance is minor or insubstantial.

Read more…

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CFPB Releases Special Edition Supervisory Highlights with Focus on Mortgage Servicing

On June 22, the CFPB released its eleventh issue of Supervisory Highlights specifically to address recent supervisory examination observations of the mortgage servicing industry. According to the report, mortgage servicers continue to face compliance challenges, particularly in the areas of loss mitigation and servicing transfers. The report attributes compliance weaknesses to outdated and deficient servicing technology, as well as the lack of proper training, testing, and auditing of technology-driven processes. Notable findings outlined in the report include the following: (i) multiple violations related to servicing rules that require loss mitigation acknowledgment notices, observing deficiencies with timeliness and content of acknowledgement notices; (ii) violations regarding servicer loss mitigation offer letters and other related communications, including unreasonable delay in sending letters; (iii) failure to state the correct reason(s) in letters to borrowers for denying a trial or permanent loan modification option; (iv) failure to implement effective servicing policies, procedures, and requirements; and (v) heightened risks to consumers when transferring loans during the loss mitigation process. Although the report focuses largely on mortgage servicers’ continued violations, it acknowledged that certain servicers have significantly improved over the past several years by, in part, “enhancing and monitoring their servicing platforms, staff training, coding accuracy, auditing, and allowing for great flexibility in operations.”

In addition to outlining Supervision’s examination observations of the mortgage servicing industry, the report also notes that the CFPB’s Supervision and Examination Manual was recently updated to reflect regulatory changes, technical corrections, and updated examination priorities in the mortgage servicing chapter.

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CFPB Amends Annual Dollar Thresholds in TILA Regulations

On June 17, the CFPB announced that it adjusted dollar threshold amounts for provisions in Regulation Z, which implements TILA, under the CARD Act, HOEPA, and the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB is required to make adjustments based on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index effective June 1, 2016. For 2017, the minimum interest charge will remain $27 for the first late payment and the subsequent violation penalty safe harbor fee for 2016 was amended to $38 for the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017. The CFPB is increasing the combined points and fees trigger-threshold for compliance with HOEPA to $1,029, and the amount threshold for high-cost mortgages in 2017 will be $20,579. To satisfy the underwriting requirements under the ATR/QM rule, a covered transaction will not be considered a QM unless the combined points and fees do not exceed 3% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $102,894; $3,087 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $61,737 but less than $102,894; 5% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $20,579 but less than $61,737; $1,029 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $12,862 but less than $20,579; and 8% of the total loan amount for a loan amount less than $12,862. The final rule is effective January 1, 2017, except that the amendment to the subsequent violation penalty safe harbor fee amount of $38 for the remainder of 2016 takes effect upon Federal Register publication.

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FSOC Publishes 2016 Annual Report, Highlights Marketplace Lending as Emerging Risk

On June 21, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) released its 2016 annual report. The report reviews financial market and regulatory developments, identifies emerging risks, and offers recommendations to enhance the U.S. financial markets, promote market discipline, and maintain investor confidence. Among other things, the report focuses on threats and vulnerabilities related to cybersecuritry, marketplace lending, and distributed ledger systems/blockchain technology. Addressing the need for heightened cybersecurity, the report advises financial institutions to work together with government agencies to better understand risks associated with destructive malware attacks and to “improve cybersecurity, engage in information sharing efforts, and prepare to respond to, and recover from, a major incident.” Regarding marketplace lending, the report stresses that, as the industry continues to grow, “financial regulators will need to be attentive to signs of erosion in lending standards.” Finally, according to the report, distributed ledger systems pose operational vulnerabilities that “may not become apparent until they are deployed at scale,” and cautions that a “considerable degree of coordination among regulators may be required to effectively identify and address risks associated with distributed ledger systems.”

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