CFPB Finalizes Qualified Mortgage Points & Fees Cure

On October 22, the CFPB finalized targeted amendments to the Dodd-Frank Act mortgage rules that took effect in January 2014.  The amendments include:

  • Points and fees cure.  Under the Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule, loans must meet certain requirements to receive “qualified mortgage” or “QM” status.  In particular, the points and fees charged to a consumer on a QM generally cannot exceed 3 percent of the loan amount.  The amendments permit a lender or secondary market purchaser that discovers, after the loan has closed, that the 3 percent cap was exceeded to retain QM status by refunding the excess amount to the consumer with interest. However, the refund must occur within 210 days after consummation and before the consumer files suit, provides written notice to the lender that the cap has been exceeded, or becomes 60 days past due.  In addition, the creditor must maintain and follow policies and procedures for reviewing points and fees and providing refunds to consumers. Although the CFPB stated that this amendment is intended to encourage lenders to provide access to credit to consumers seeking loans that are at or near the points and fees limit, the provision will expire on January 10, 2021.

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Regulators Jointly Approve Final Risk Retention Rule

On October 22, coordinated by the Department of Treasury, six federal agencies – the Board of Governors, HUD, FDIC, FHFA, OCC, and SEC – approved a final rule requiring sponsors of securitized transactions, such as asset-backed securities (ABS), to retain at least 5 percent of the credit risk of the assets collateralizing the ABS issuance. The final rule, which largely mirrors the proposed rule issued in August 2013, defines a “qualified residential mortgage” (QRM) and exempts securitized QRMs from the new risk retention requirement. Government-controlled Fannie and Freddie are exempt from the rule. Most notably, the final rule’s definition of a QRM parallels with that of a qualified mortgage as defined by the CFPB. Further, initially part of the proposed rule, the final rule does not include down payment provisions for borrowers. The final rule will be effective one year after publication in the Federal Register for residential mortgage-backed securities, and two years after publication for all other types of securitized assets.

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FHFA Director Outlines Plan To Refine Representation and Warranty Framework

On October 20, FHFA Director Melvin Watt delivered remarks at the Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Watt addressed the Agency’s progress in ensuring safety and soundness and liquidity in the housing finance market. Specifically, Director Watt focused on the Agency’s continued work to revise the Representation and Warranty Framework (Framework) under which lenders and Enterprises function, stressing the importance of providing “clear rules of the road to allow lenders to manage their risk and lend throughout the Enterprises’ credit box.” In January 2013, the Agency implemented the first improvements to the Framework, which ultimately “relieved lenders of representation and warranties obligations related to the underwriting of the borrower, the property, or the project for loans that had clean payment histories for 36 months;” and in May, the Agency announced additional clarifications on the 36 month benchmark. Now, the Agency is focusing on improving the Framework by (i) clearly defining the life-of-loan exclusions to ensure lenders know what the exclusions are and when the exclusions apply to loans that are eligible for repurchase relief. These exclusions range into six categorical types: 1) misrepresentations, misstatements and omissions; 2) data inaccuracies; 3) charter compliance issues; 4) first-lien priority and title matters; 5) legal compliance violations; and 6) unacceptable mortgage products. Details regarding the definitions of the life-of-loan exclusion types will be released by the Enterprises in the coming weeks; (ii) clarifying that only life-of-loan exclusions can trigger a repurchase; and (iii) adding a “significance” test that requires the Enterprises to “determine that the loan would have been ineligible for purchase initially if the loan information had been accurately reported.” By making these revisions to the Framework, the Agency anticipates that the Enterprises will continue to conduct quality control reviews, enhance their risk management practices, and “engage in transactions that sell a portion of the credit risk from new mortgage purchases to the private market.”

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Ginnie Mae Revises Net Worth And Liquidity Requirements

On October 17, Ginnie Mae announced that it would be adjusting its minimum net worth and liquid asset requirements for Single-Family Issuers and Issuers that participate in at least two Mortgage-Backed Securities programs. For Single-Family Issuers, the minimum net worth will be $2,500,000 plus .35% of the Issuer’s total effective outstanding Single-Family obligations; the minimum liquidity will be either $1,000,000 or .10% of the Issuer’s Single-Family securities. For Issuers participating in more than one Mortgage-Backed Securities program, the new minimum net worth and liquid assets requirement will be adjusted so that they are “equal to or greater than the sum of the minimum requirements for all the program types in which the Issuer is approved to participate, as opposed to the highest program requirement.” The new requirements will be effective January 1, 2015 for those Issuers seeking approval in the new year, but for Issuers approved on or before December 31, 2014, the new requirements take effect beginning December 31, 2015.

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Senator Warren And Congressman Cummings Urge GAO To Study Economic Vulnerability Of Non-Bank Mortgage Servicers, Risks To Consumers

On October 20, Senator Warren and Congressman Cummings co-authored a letter to the GAO requesting that the agency investigate possible effects on the non-bank servicing industry in the event of an economic downturn. In addition, the duo urged the GAO to study the potential risks to consumers should a major non-bank servicer fail. The letter stems from a report recently issued by the FHFA-OIG. The report cites that the rise in non-bank mortgage servicers “has been accompanied by consumer complaints, lawsuits, and other regulatory actions as the servicers’ workload outstrips their processing capacity.”

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Fannie Mae Appoints Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary

On October 20, Fannie Mae announced that, effective November 10, Brian Books would serve as its executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary. Prior to his appointment, Brooks was the vice chairman and chief legal officer of OneWest Bank, where he “advised executive management and the board of directors on all key legal, risk, and strategic issues, developed and implemented strategies to manage litigation and government inquiries, and led the bank’s compliance with regulatory orders on mortgage servicing and foreclosures.” Additionally, Brooks has over 20 years of experience in the legal and business industry including serving as a managing partner at O’Melveny & Meyer before serving as OneWest Bank’s Vice Chairman and chief legal officer.

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Fannie Mae Provides New Appraisal Tool For Lenders

On October 20, Fannie Mae announced that its proprietary appraisal and analysis application, Collateral Underwriter, will become available to lenders in early 2015. Currently, Fannie Mae uses the tool to “analyze appraisals when a lender delivers a loan,” and the Agency anticipates that by providing greater certainty around repurchase rise, the tool will help “lenders expand access to mortgage credit.” Ultimately, Collateral Underwriter will allow lenders to evaluate the appraisal of a loan, address any potential issues, and then close and deliver the loan to Fannie Mae.

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NY DFS Addresses Concerns Regarding Loan Servicer’s Noncompliance Issue

On October 21, New York DFS’s Superintendent Lawsky issued a letter to a large loan servicer institution regarding its systems and processes, most significantly the practice of backdating letters to borrowers. As a result of the alleged backdating issue, Lawsky’s letter highlights the servicer’s failure to meet state and federal agreements concerning its communication timing with borrowers on requests for mortgage modifications or the initiation of foreclosure proceedings. According to the letter, potentially hundreds of thousands of borrower letters were incorrectly dated. The DFS alleged that one letter in particular contained a time lapse of nearly a year: “[The servicer’s] system shows that [it] sent a borrower a pre-foreclosure dated May 23, 2013, stating that the borrower was in default and at risk of foreclosure. Yet, a conflicting notice record in [the servicer’s] system indicates that the notice was created on April 9, 2014.” The NYDFS stresses the urgency the servicer must take to remedy these issues by fixing its systems, and notes that it “intends to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that borrowers are protected.”

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Massachusetts Suit Against Fannie and Freddie Dismissed

On October 21, a federal judge dismissed the claims brought by the State AG that the GSEs violated state law by putting limits on the sale of pre- and post-foreclosure homes. Commonwealth v. Fed. Hous. Fin. Agency, No. 14-12878-RGS, 2014 BL 295733 (D. Mass. Oct. 21, 2014). In this case, the State argued that the GSEs violated a state law by refusing to sell homes in foreclosure to nonprofit organizations who intended to restructure the loan and sell or rent the property back to the original homeowner at a lower price. The 2012 state law forbids banks and lenders from refusing to consider offers from legitimate buyback programs solely because the property will be resold to the former homeowner. The judge dismissed the lawsuit agreeing with the FHFA, conservator of the GSEs, that the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) allows the FHFA to enforce restrictions under its conservatorship mandate authorized by Congress. Further, the judge noted that “Congress, by enacting HERA’s Anti-Injunction Clause, expressly removed such conservatorship decisions from the courts’ oversight.” The State is expected to appeal the decision.

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Third Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Pay-to-Play Class Action

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a class action lawsuit against a large financial institution for allegedly violating Section 8 of RESPA. Riddle v. Bank of America Corp., No. 13-4543 (3rd Cir. Oct. 15, 2014).The complaint, originally filed in 2012, alleged that, between 2005 and 2007, the defendant profited hundreds of millions of dollars from illegal referrals from private insurance companies. The plaintiffs failed to prove that the defendant engaged in fraudulent concealment that the plaintiffs relied upon. As a result, the Third Circuit dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim, citing the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations. The court noted, “the clock has run on the plaintiffs’ RESPA claims, and despite ample opportunity, they are unable to create a triable fact that they are entitled to equitable tolling.”

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CFPB Updates Dodd-Frank Mortgage Rules Readiness Guide

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.

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HUD Continues To Fight Housing Discrimination

On October 15, HUD announced the award of more than $38 million to fair housing and non-profit organizations in 43 states and the District of Columbia to address discrimination in the housing industry. Through HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program, grants are funded with the intent that they will “help enforce the Fair Housing Act through investigations and testing of alleged discriminatory practices.” Additionally, the grants are meant to help provide education on rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act to housing providers, local governments, and potential victims of housing discrimination. HUD’s most recent categories of grants included: (i) Private Enforcement Initiative Grants; (ii) Education and Outreach Initiative Grants; and (iii) Fair Housing Organizations Initiative.

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BuckleySandler & American Bankers Association Release CFPB Mortgage Origination Deskbook

BuckleySandler is pleased to announce the availability of “The New CFPB Mortgage Origination Rules Deskbook,” by partner Joseph Reilly. The CFPB Deskbook, published in partnership with the American Bankers Association, is an all-inclusive compilation of all the mortgage origination rules made by effective by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in January 2014, including:

  • Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage requirements
  • Points and Fees
  • Loan Originator Compensation
  • Appraisals
  • High-Cost Mortgages
  • Qualified Mortgage Provisions for Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs loans
  • Summary of the TILA-RESPA disclosure integration taking effect in 2015

“Our goal was to consolidate the numerous sources of CFPB regulatory guidance into a clear, organized format,” said Reilly. “We wanted to provide comprehensive descriptions from not just the rule text and official commentary but also from CFPB webinars, compliance guides, preamble material from federal register releases and informal compliance discussions with CFPB staff.  We hope this will be a ‘one-stop shop’ for origination compliance.”

Benjamin K. Olson, BuckleySandler partner and former Deputy Assistant Director in the CFPB’s Office of Regulations who was involved in the development of many of the rules covered by the CFPB Deskbook, describes it as “an invaluable resource with the potential to change the way regulations are understood.”

The CFPB Deskbook is available in PDF and hard copy formats. Requests for copies should be sent to CFPBDeskbook@buckleysandler.com.

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Special Alert: Proposed Amendments to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (“TRID”) Rule, Transcript of CFPB Webinar on the Loan Estimate Form, and Introducing BuckleySandler’s TRID Resource Center

BuckleySandler is pleased to announce our new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (“TRID”) Resource Center.  The TRID Resource Center is a one-stop shop for TRID issues, providing access to BuckleySandler’s analysis of the TRID rule and the CFPB’s amendments, transcripts of CFPB webinars providing guidance on the rule, and other CFPB publications that will facilitate implementation of the rule.  In particular, the TRID Resource Center will address the following recent developments:

  • Proposed amendments. On October 10, 2014, the CFPB proposed amendments to the TRID rule that, if adopted, would: (1) allow creditors to provide a revised Loan Estimate on the business day after the date the interest rate is locked, instead of the current requirement to provide the revised Loan Estimate on the date the rate is locked; and (2) correct an oversight by creating room on the Loan Estimate form for the disclosure that must be provided on the initial Loan Estimate as a condition of issuing a revised estimate for construction loans where the creditor reasonably expects settlement to occur more than 60 days after the initial estimate is provided.  The proposal would also make a number of additional amendments, clarifications, and corrections, including:
    • Add the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure to the list of loan documents that must disclose the name and NMLSR ID number of the loan originator organization and individual loan originator under 12 C.F.R. § 1026.36(g);
    • Provide additional guidance related to the disclosure of escrow accounts, such as when an escrow account is established but escrow payments are not required with a particular periodic payment or range of payments; and
    • Clarify that, consistent with the requirement for the Loan Estimate, the addresses for all properties securing the loan must be provided on the Closing Disclosure, although an addendum may be used for this purpose.

    Comments on the proposal are due by November 10, 2014. For your convenience, we have updated our summary of the TRID rule to identify the most significant proposed changes.

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GAO Publishes Report Regarding Proposed Changes To The Single-Family Housing Finance System

On October 7, the GAO published a report to help policymakers assess proposals for changing the single-family housing finance system and consider ways to make it more effective and efficient. To this end, the report first describes the market developments since 2000 that have led to changes in the federal government’s role in single-family housing finance. Most notably, the GAO found that as the market share of nonprime mortgages grew before the 2007-2009 financial crisis, the share of new mortgage originations insured by federal entities (including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) fell dramatically before rising sharply again during and after the crisis. Second, the report analyzed whether and how these market developments created challenges for the housing finance system. The GAO concluded that mortgage markets since 2000 have challenged the housing finance system, revealing the following weaknesses: (i) misaligned incentives between originators and securitizers on the one hand, and borrowers and investors on the other, as the former did not share the risks of the latter; (ii) a lack of reliable information and transparency for borrowers because originators were not required to share certain information; (iii) excessive risk taking due to a loosening of underwriting standards prior to the financial crisis; and (iv) a lack of federal oversight (since addressed by Congress through the FHFA and CFPB). Finally, the report presents a nine-pronged evaluation framework for assessing potential changes to the housing finance system designed to help policymakers understand the strengths and weaknesses of competing goals and policies, to craft new proposals, and to understand the risks of transitioning to a new housing finance system.

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