Recently, the CFPB published an updated mortgage rules Readiness Guide for financial institutions to assist them in complying with new mortgage lending requirements. The Guide contains: (i) a summary of the mortgage rules finalized by the CFPB as of August 1, 2014; (ii) a readiness questionnaire to help perform self-assessments; (iii) a section on frequently asked questions; and (iv) a section on further tools to assist with compliance with the new rules. The guide discusses, among other rules, the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule that integrates the mortgage loan disclosures currently required under TILA and RESPA. That rule requires a new Loan Estimate form that combines two existing forms, the Good Faith Estimate and the initial Truth-in Lending disclosure. The Loan Estimate must be provided to consumers no later than the third business day after they submit an application. The rule also requires a Closing Disclosure form, which combines the current Settlement Statement (“HUD-1”) and final Truth-in Lending disclosures forms. The Closing Disclosure must be provided to consumers at least three business days before consummation of the loan. The new requirements are effective for loans where the lender receives an application on or after August 1, 2015.
On October 10, the CFPB issued a proposal to modify and make technical amendments to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule, issued in November of 2013. Specifically, the CFPB proposes to (i) relax the timing requirements associated with the redisclosure of interest rate dependent charges and loan terms after consumers lock in a floating interest rate, such that creditors would have until the next business day after a consumer locks in a floating interest rate to provide a revised disclosure; and (ii) add language to the Loan Estimate form that creditors could use to inform a consumer that the consumer may receive a revised Loan Estimate for a construction loan that is expected to take more than 60 days to settle. In addition, the Bureau proposes non-substantive changes such as technical corrections and corrected or updated citations and cross-references in the regulatory text and commentary, minor word changes throughout the regulatory text and commentary, and an amendment to the 2013 Loan Originator Rule, to provide for placement of the NMSR ID on the integrated disclosures. The CFPB is accepting comments on the proposed changes through November 10, 2014. The CFPB noted its intention to finalize the proposed amendments quickly in order to provide the industry adequate time to implement any resulting changes by August 1, 2015, the effective date of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule.
On October 16, the CFPB announced the findings of its annual student loan ombudsman report. Analyzing over 5,000 private student loan complaints that the CFPB received from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014, the report highlights the struggle private loan borrowers face in repaying their loans, noting that many are driven into default because practical repayment options are not available to them. The report outlines three main reasons why many private student loan borrowers default: (i) they are unaware of the loan modifications available to them; (ii) they do not have the same affordable options that federal student loan borrowers are entitled to by law; and (iii) the temporary forbearance options that some lenders offer often result in “burdensome enrollment fees and processing delays.” In connection with the report, the CFPB released a sample letter that consumers can edit and send to servicers to request lower monthly payments and information on available repayment plans, as well as a sample financial worksheet to assist borrowers to determine maximum funds available to pay their student loans.
On October 23, the CFPB and the FTC will hold a roundtable to discuss the effects of debt collection and credit reporting in the Latino community. The event will focus on the customers with limited English proficiency, and is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Long Beach, CA.
On October 10, the CFPB published for comment a proposal for a limited No-Action Letter policy, which appeared in the Federal Register on October 16. The proposed policy aims to “create a process to reduce the regulatory uncertainty that may exist for certain emerging products or services which stand to benefit consumers.” Specifically geared towards financial products and services for which existing statutes and regulations are vague, the proposed policy allows for a CFPB staff member to inform a company that “staff has no present intention to recommend initiation of an enforcement or supervisory action against the requester” by sending a No-Action Letter. The proposed policy requires that the financial product or service that is the subject of a No-Action Letter have substantial consumer benefit when issues of uncertainty regarding certain provisions of statutes implemented by the Bureau arise.
On October 15, the NCUA released a statement noting that Jamie Goodson, Director of Consumer Compliance Policy and Outreach in the National Credit Union Administration’s Office of Consumer Protection, will participate in the scheduled webinar, “Fair Lending Hot Topics.” Regulators from the Federal Reserve, the CFPB, the FDIC, the OCC, the Justice Department, and HUD are also scheduled to participate in the webinar on October 22. Webinar topics include, among others, auto lending enforcement, fair lending risk assessments, and mortgage pricing risks. The webinar is part of an ongoing series of consumer compliance events.
In what may be the first action of its kind, a consumer who received restitution under the CFPB consent order has filed a class action lawsuit based on the same alleged violations. While this litigation is still in its early stages, it serves as an important reminder that an institution’s exposure does not end when it reaches a public settlement with a regulator and may, in fact, increase.
Settlement of CFPB Action
As previously discussed in a BuckleySandler webinar, on July 24, 2013, the CFPB filed suit against Castle & Cooke Mortgage LLC, its President, and its Senior Vice President of Capital Markets, alleging that the defendants “developed and implemented a scheme by which the Company would pay quarterly bonuses to loan officers in amounts that varied based on the interest rates of the loans they originated” in violation of the Truth in Lending Act’s loan originator compensation rules.
On November 7, 2013, the defendants entered into a consent order with the CFPB, agreeing to pay $9.2 million for restitution and a $4 million civil penalty to resolve the allegations. Consistent with current CFPB practice, the consent order stated that “[r]edress provided by the Company shall not limit consumers’ rights in any way” – in other words, affected consumers are not required to sign releases in order to receive remediation. Read more…
On October 8, the CFPB published a rule proposing oversight of larger nonbank auto finance companies for the first time at the federal level. The proposed rule will “amend the regulation defining larger participants of certain consumer financial product and service markets by adding a new section to define larger participants of a market for automobile financing.” Under the new section, a market would be defined to include: (i) grants of credit for the purchase of an automobile, refinancings of such credit obligations, and purchases or acquisitions of such credit obligations (including refinancings); and (ii) automobile leases and purchases or acquisitions of such automobile lease agreements. Previously, on September 17, the CFPB released information regarding its resolve to supervise and enforce auto finance companies’ compliance with consumer financial laws, including fair lending laws. Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before December 8, 2014.
On October 7, the CFPB and the FDIC announced a Spanish-language version of Money Smart for Older Adults, a free financial resource tool intended to prevent the elder financial exploitation that is affecting millions of senior citizens each year. The English-language version, which “includes practical information that can be put to use right away,” was jointly developed by the two agencies last year. The Spanish-language participant/resource guide and power point slides can be downloaded for free at the FDIC’s website, or can be ordered as hard copies on the CFPB’s website.
On October 8, the CFPB held a forum on consumers’ access to checking accounts. The event featured remarks from Director Cordray, as well as presentations from federal and local government officials, consumer groups, and industry representatives. Director Cordray noted the following three main issues of concern regarding the checking account application process, specifically in connection with the reports generated by specialty consumer reporting agencies and sold to banks and credit unions for use in determining whether to approve or reject a consumer for a checking account: (i) the accuracy of the information in the reports; (ii) the consumer’s ability to access the reports and dispute any inaccurate information; and (iii) the use of the reports to exclude consumers from basic financial services. According to Cordray, while credit reporting agencies are required to report accurate information, the “institutions vary in their abilities to conduct the careful investigations needed to differentiate between accountholders who perpetrate fraud versus those who are victims of fraud.” The Bureau plans to explore alternative procedures for screening consumers, hopeful that better data might enable a financial institution to make more nuanced decisions in account screening rather than simply reaching a “yes or no” result.
On October 8, the FCC announced a $105 million settlement – the largest in the agency’s history – with a mobile telephone company to resolve allegations that the company engaged in unauthorized billing practices. According to the FCC, the company charged customers for third-party services, such as subscriptions for ringtones, wallpapers, and certain premium text messages, for which they did not sign up. Many customers contested the charges, only to discover that the company either refused to issue refunds or refunded them for only one or two months. Under the terms of the settlement, which the FCC negotiated with the FTC and the attorney generals of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the company must pay $80 million to the current and former customers affected by its billing practices, $20 million to the state governments involved in the settlement, and $5 million to the U.S. Treasury.
On September 30, the CFPB announced a consent order with a Michigan-based title insurance company to address allegations that the company’s marketing services agreements (MSAs) with several real estate brokers violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act’s (RESPA) prohibition against kickbacks in connection with real estate settlement services. According to the CFPB, the MSAs provided that the company would pay the real estate brokers for performing marketing services promoting the company. Specifically, although the MSAs provided for payment to the brokers based on the marketing services provided to the company, according to the CFPB the brokers were actually paid, in part, based on the number of referrals to the company they generated. Also, the CFPB asserted that the company entered the MSAs “as a quid pro quo for the referral of business.” In addition, the CFPB alleged that brokers that had entered into a MSA with the company referred a “statistically significant” higher amount of business than brokers who had not entered into a MSA. According to the terms of the consent order, the company must pay a $200,000 civil monetary penalty, immediately terminate any existing MSAs, and not enter into any MSAsthe future, providing a very broad and novel definition of MSAs that includes agreements with any person in a position to refer business providing for endorsements, joint advertising, access to counterparty and its employees, or marketing of the company’s services to others. However, the company may still purchase consumer-oriented advertising from companies that do not offer settlement services such as newspapers or television or radio stations, provided that the publisher does not endorse the company as part of the advertisement.
On September 30, the CFPB published a white paper claiming that manufactured-home owners typically pay higher interest rates for their loans than site-built borrowers. The white paper cites data in support showing that a greater share of manufactured-housing loans are classified as higher-priced mortgage loans or “high-cost” loans. The white paper further discusses the CFPB’s findings that: (i) manufactured homeowners are likely to be older, live in a rural area, and have a lower net worth than site-built borrowers; (ii) manufactured homes typically cost less than site-built homes; (iii) about three-fifths of manufactured-housing residents who own their home also own the land it is sited on; (iv) approximately 65 percent of borrowers who own their land and financed the purchase of their manufactured home between 2001 and 2010 did so using a chattel loan (rather than a manufactured-housing loan); and (v) manufactured-housing production contracted in the 2000s. The white paper does not propose any formal rule or guidance related to manufactured-housing. Rather, it indicates that the CFPB will continue to analyze facets of the manufactured-housing market to identify ways to fill in gaps in available data about that market. For example, the white paper states that the CFPB is considering adding a data field to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act’s reporting requirements that would indicate whether a manufactured-housing loan is secured by real or personal property.
On September 29, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Department of Defense’s regulation that implements the Military Lending Act (MLA) was published in the Federal Register, with comments due by November 28. Most importantly, the amendment expands the protections of the MLA by defining “consumer credit” to be consistent with closed- and open-end credit products already regulated under TILA, which would include all forms of payday loans, vehicle title loans, refund anticipation loans, deposit advance loans, installment loans, unsecured open-end lines of credit, and credit cards. Currently, the MLA only applies to (i) closed-end payday loans up to $2,000 with a term of 91 days or fewer; (ii) closed-end auto title loans with a term of 181 days or fewer; and (iii) closed-end tax refund anticipation loans. However, the proposed regulation would continue to exclude residential mortgages and purchase-money loans for personal property from coverage, including motor vehicles. The MLA was passed in 2006 and provides active duty servicemembers and their dependents with, among other protections, a 36% interest rate cap, military-specific disclosures, and a prohibition on creditors against requiring the servicemember to submit to arbitration in the event of a dispute.
On September 29, Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin delivered remarks on student loans and their macroeconomic consequences at the National Association for Business Economics. With over $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, the U.S. has the highest level of student loan debt when compared to any country in the world. Deputy Treasury Secretary Raskin indicated that student loans surpassed credit cards and auto loans as the largest source of unsecured consumer debt. Recognizing that student loan debt is not inherently bad, Deputy Treasury Secretary Raskin emphasized that its impact on the economy cannot be understood without considering both the economic and societal benefits of a more educated workforce. Deputy Treasury Secretary Raskin expressed concern that student loan debt has become a “serious burden for far too many borrowers,” noting that student loan delinquency and default could undermine the country’s economic growth by “crowding out other kinds of investment.” She commented on the number of complaints and testimonials reported by distressed borrowers and advocated for “accuracy and fairness in the loan servicing industry, and transparency and disclosure for borrowers in the loan process.”