On January 19, the FDIC issued FIL-6-2016 announcing that, between February 23, 2016 and December 5, 2016, it will conduct six identical live seminars regarding FDIC deposit insurance coverage for bank employees and bank officers. In addition to the live seminars, the FDIC posted to its YouTube channel three separate seminars, entitled (i) Fundamentals of Deposit Insurance Coverage; (ii) Deposit Insurance Coverage for Revocable Trust Accounts; and (iii) Advanced Topics in Deposit Insurance Coverage. Both the live seminars and the seminars readily available on the YouTube channel will provide bank employees and officers with an understanding of how to calculate deposit insurance coverage.
FDIC Seeks Comments on Revised Proposed Rule That Would Amend How Small Banks are Assessed for Deposit Insurance
On January 21, the FDIC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would amend how FDIC-insured banks with less than $10 billion in assets are assessed for deposit insurance. Specifically, the proposed rule would “update the data and revise the methodology that the FDIC uses to determine risk-based assessments for these institutions to better reflect risks and to help ensure that banks that take on greater risks pay more for deposit insurance than their less risky counterparts.” The proposal, which is intended to be revenue neutral, revises an initial June 2015 proposal to, among other things, (i) use a brokered deposit ratio, as opposed to a core deposit ratio, to calculate assessment rates; (ii) remove the existing brokered deposit adjustment for established small banks; and (iii) revise the one-year asset growth measure. The comment period will be open for 30 days upon publication in the Federal Register.
On January 12, the FHFA issued a final rule amending membership eligibility in the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLBank) system. The final rule, which follows the FHFA’s September 2014 proposal to revise the requirements for financial institutions applying for and retaining membership in the FHLBank system, removes two provisions from the proposal “that would have required FHLBank members to maintain ongoing minimum levels of investment in specified residential mortgage assets as a condition of remaining eligible for membership.” In addition, the final rule defines “insurance company” to exclude captive insurers, rendering such entities ineligible for FHLBank membership. According to the FHFA, a captive insurer’s primary business is to underwrite insurance for its “parent company or for other affiliates, rather than for the public at large.” According to the FHFA, “REITs and other entities have been forming captives solely for the purpose of providing ineligible institutions access to Bank advances,” and the FHFA’s final rule is “intended to prevent further use of captives to circumvent the membership eligibility of the Bank Act.” The final rule allows current captive insurer members who joined prior to the 2014 proposal up to five years to terminate their membership, and captive insurers who joined after the issuance of the 2014 proposal have one year to terminate. The final rule becomes effective 30 days from publication in the Federal Register.
On November 5, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey announced a settlement with a national auto lender to resolve allegations that the lender charged excessive interest rates on subprime auto loans. The company agreed to provide over $5 million – approximately $11,000 per consumer – in relief to those affected by its alleged practice of charging consumers excessive interest rates as a result of including fees from an add-on GAP insurance product. Under the terms of the assurance and discontinuance, the company will (i) eliminate the alleged excessive interest on certain loans as a result of the GAP fee; and (ii) forgive outstanding interest on loans. In addition, the company must pay $150,000 to Massachusetts and perform supervised audits of its existing loan portfolio to ensure that no additional consumers were overcharged because of GAP fees.
North Carolina Passes Legislation to Clarify Applicability of Motor Vehicle Service Agreement Protections
On October 22, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law North Carolina SB 195 to clarify the types of service agreements that come under the existing framework governing how motor vehicle service agreements are sold. The bill revises the existing statute to specifically describe a set of products considered to be motor vehicle service agreements and delegates to the Commissioner of Insurance power to define additional products consistent with the law. The bill also amends the statute to expressly carve out from the regulatory framework maintenance agreements offered by certain entities. Finally, the new law amends the statute to clarify that ancillary anti-theft protection program and ancillary anti-theft protection program warranty products are not considered contracts of insurance. The amendments are effective as of October 1, 2015.
On October 16, HUD’s FHA published a notice of partial withdrawal of its July 6 proposed rule to limit the time frame in which FHA-approved lenders must file insurance claims for benefits. The July 6 proposal would have required mortgagees to file claims (i) within three months from when marketable title to the property was obtained; or (ii) when the property was sold to a third party. In addition, the proposal sought to terminate the FHA’s insurance contract as a penalty for missing the proposed filing deadlines. Based on feedback that HUD received through its notice and comment process, HUD withdrew the proposed provisions to limit the FHA insurance claim period and its proposed amendment to the penalty provisions.
On September 10, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Sarah Bloom Raskin delivered remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Strategic Technologies Program in Washington, D.C. After summarizing threats posed to U.S. companies and strategic interests, citing to notable recent cyberattacks, Raskin laid out the roles governments, the insurance industry, and state insurance regulators can take in responding to cyberattacks.
Raskin noted that governments can facilitate information-sharing related to cyber threats and deter incidents through law enforcement and diplomatic engagement as well as by imposing financial sanctions on wrongdoers overseas. The insurance sector can gauge the risks and costs posed by cyber incidents and provide an important risk mitigation tool by allowing policyholders to transfer some financial exposure associated with cyber events. The insurance qualification and underwriting process also encourages businesses to engage in increased cybersecurity and risk-mitigation activities. Finally, state insurance regulators can assist response by setting standards for cybersecurity and the protection of the sensitive information of policyholders at the entities that they regulate.
On August 6, OFAC announced a $271,815 settlement with a New York-based insurance company with an overall focus on marine insurance and related lines of business, professional liability insurance, and commercial umbrella and primary and excess casualty businesses. According to OFAC, from May 8, 2008 to April 1, 2011, the company and its London branch office, “issued global protection and indemnity (“P&I”) insurance policies that provided coverage to North Korean-flagged vessels and covered incidents that occurred in or involved Iran, Sudan, or Cuba—some of which led to the payment of claims.” The company’s willingness to engage with OFAC-sanctioned countries resulted in 48 alleged violations of Foreign Assets Control Regulations, Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008, North Korea Sanctions Regulations, Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, and Cuban Asset Control Regulations. OFAC stated that (i) the company did not maintain a formal compliance program at the time it issued the P&I insurance policies; and (ii) the company’s London office personnel “misinterpreted the applicability of OFAC sanctions regulations.” The final settlement amount reflects the fact that managers and supervisors knew or had reason to know that the majority of the insurance policies and claims payments at issue involved OFAC-sanctioned countries; the company is a commercially sophisticated financial institution; and it did not have a formal OFAC compliance program in place at the time the apparent violations occurred. Mitigating factors included the company’s cooperation with OFAC’s investigation; lack of prior enforcement action; and its remedial action plan to implement a sufficient OFAC compliance program.
CFPB Issues Guidance Reminding Servicers of Requirements for Cancellation and Termination of Private Mortgage Insurance
On August 4, the CFPB issued Compliance Bulletin 2015-03 to provide guidance to mortgage servicers on their compliance obligations related to the private mortgage insurance (PMI) cancellation and termination provisions under the Homeowners Protection Act (HPA). The bulletin summarizes HPA requirements regarding annual disclosures, PMI refunds, borrower-requested cancellation, automatic termination, and final termination of PMI. The bulletin also cautions servicers to implement investor guidelines in a manner that does not violate the HPA. In a statement released by the Bureau, CFPB Director Richard Cordray advised, “We will continue to supervise mortgage servicers to ensure they are treating borrowers fairly, and [the Bureau’s] guidance should help servicers come into compliance with the [HPA].”
On July 22, BuckleySandler secured a substantial victory before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Representing a global insurance company in a nationwide lender-placed insurance (“LPI”) class action brought by mortgage borrowers, the Firm argued on interlocutory appeal that the Second Circuit should reverse the district court’s denial of its motion to dismiss on the basis of the “filed-rate” doctrine. Ordinarily, the filed-rate doctrine provides that rates approved by the applicable regulatory agency – including LPI rates – are per se reasonable and unassailable in judicial proceedings brought by ratepayers. The district court, however, held that the plaintiffs’ claims were not barred by the doctrine because, rather than directly billing the plaintiffs for the LPI premiums, the insurance company initially charged the premiums to the plaintiffs’ mortgage servicer who, in turn, charged the borrowers. The Second Circuit reversed the Southern District of New York’s decision, holding that the filed-rate doctrine applied notwithstanding the fact that the mortgage servicer served as an intermediary to pass on the LPI rates to borrowers. Because the plaintiffs’ claims ultimately rested on the premise that the LPI rates approved by the regulators were too high and included impermissible costs, the Second Circuit held that the claims were barred by the filed-rate doctrine.
On February 8, New York DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky announced that the DFS would begin (i) regularly examining insurance companies’ cyber security preparedness; (ii) enhancing regulations that will require insurance providers to meet higher standards of cyber security; and (iii) examining “stronger measures related to the representations and warranties insurance companies receive from third-party vendors.” Lawsky expects the targeted exams to begin in the “coming weeks and months.” The announcement was accompanied by the release of the state agency’s report on cybersecurity in the insurance industry.
On October 30, five federal agencies – the FCA, FDIC, NCUA, OCC and the Fed – issued a proposed rule regarding flood insurance. The proposed rule will amend regulations relating to loans secured by property located in special flood hazard areas. Specifically, the proposed rule would (i) establish requirements in connection with the escrow of flood insurance payments; (ii) provide certain borrowers with the option to escrow flood insurance premiums and fees; and (iii) eliminate the HFIAA requirement “to purchase flood insurance for a structure that is part of a residential property located in a special flood hazard area if that structure is detached from the primary residential structure and does not also serve as a residence.” Comments on the proposed rule are due by December 29, 2014.
On April 3, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York certified an interlocutory appeal of an order denying a motion to dismiss filed by a group of insurers facing class allegations of unlawful lender-placed insurance practices. Rothstein v. GMAC Mortgage, LLC, No. 12-3412, 2014 WL 1329132 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 3, 2014). In declining to dismiss the case, the court held, among other things, that the filed rate doctrine did not bar borrowers’ claims because the doctrine applies only where the challenged rate is one imposed directly by an insurer, and does not apply to lender-placed insurance where a third-party—the lender or servicer—acquires the insurance at a filed rate and bills the borrower for the costs. On the insurers’ motion for interlocutory appeal, the court held that the issue of whether the filed rate doctrine applies is a question of law that could be dispositive and for which there is substantial ground for a difference of opinion, and that the potential to avoid protracted litigation warranted certification for appeal. BuckleySandler represents the insurers in this action.
On November 5, the FHFA announced that it had directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to implement new restrictions on lender-placed insurance practices. In March, the FHFA sought comments on certain potential lender-placed insurance restrictions, including new policies to (i) prohibit sellers and servicers from receiving, directly or indirectly, remuneration associated with placing coverage with or maintaining placement with particular insurance providers, and (ii) prohibit sellers and servicers from receiving, directly or indirectly, remuneration associated with an insurance provider ceding premiums to a reinsurer that is owned by, affiliated with or controlled by the sellers or servicer. Following that comment process and related efforts by the FHFA to obtain feedback on these issues, the FHFA now has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide aligned guidance to sellers and servicers to prohibit servicers from being reimbursed for expenses associated with captive reinsurance arrangements. The announcement does not provide any timeline for the new guidance, but states Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will provide implementation schedules with the new rules.
On November 4, the United States District Court for the Central District of California denied certification of a putative nationwide class that alleges a mortgage servicer and lender-placed insurance (LPI) companies violated California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), breached mortgage contracts, and unjustly enriched themselves by improperly charging and overcharging borrowers for lender-placed insurance. Gustafson v. BAC Home Loans Servicing LP, No. 11-00915, 2013 WL 5911252 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 4, 2013). The court held that the named borrowers could not assert a UCL claim nationwide because (i) the UCL claims fell within the mortgage contracts’ choice-of-law provisions, (ii) there are material differences among the states’ consumer protection laws, (iii) foreign states have an interest in regulating conduct that was carried out, in part, within their borders, and (iv) the last event necessary to make the insurers and servicer liable occurred where the insurance premiums were charged to borrowers in their home states. The court also held that the borrowers failed to meet the commonality and predominance requirements of Rule 23 for both their breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims, in part because laws regarding breach of contract, affirmative defenses, and unjust enrichment vary from state to state. Further, the court explained that the unjust enrichment claim required individualized fact determinations as to whether (i) borrowers who are charged for LPI may either not pay for it, or not pay the full rate, and (ii) individual class members’ circumstances could preclude or reduce recovery. BuckleySandler represents lender-placed insurers in this and other similar actions.