FDIC Announces Mortgage Lending Resources for Community Bankers

On September 15, the FDIC announced two new resources intended to provide community bankers with information on federal housing programs: the Affordable Mortgage Lending Guide, Part I: Federal Agencies and Government Sponsored Enterprises and the Affordable Mortgage Lending Center. The FDIC released the guide in response to feedback from community bankers, who claimed “they did not understand the wide array of federal housing programs.” The purpose of the resource center, according to the FDIC, is to assist community bankers “[to] compare a variety of current affordable mortgage programs and to identify the next steps if they seek to expand or initiate affordable mortgage lending.” The FDIC plans to release Part II, State Housing Finance Agencies, and Part III, Federal Home Loan Banks, of the guide at a later date this year.

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District Court Dismisses Disparate Impact Claim under the Fair Housing Act

In The Inclusive Cmtys. Project, Inc. v. The Tex. Dep’t of Hous. and Cmty., No. 3:08-cv-00546-D (N.D. Tex. Aug. 26, 2016), on remand from the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit, the district court dismissed claims of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) where the plaintiff alleged that the defendant allocated two different types of tax credits in a manner that perpetuated racial segregation. The district court applied the Supreme Court’s previously explained three-part burden-shifting framework to analyze the plaintiff’s claim, and determined that, among other things, the plaintiff’s claim failed to show a “specific, facially neutral policy” causing a racially disparate impact. The court reasoned that “[b]y relying simply on [the defendant’s] exercise of discretion in awarding tax credits, [the plaintiff] has not isolated and identified the specific practice that caused the disparity in the location of low-income housing…. [The plaintiff] cannot rely on this generalized policy of discretion to prove disparate impact.” The district court further reasoned that because the plaintiff had not “sufficiently identified a specific, facially-neutral policy that has caused a statistically disparity,” the court could not “fashion a remedy that removes that policy.”  The district court concluded that the plaintiff “failed to prove a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that a challenged practice caused a discriminatory effect” and entered judgment in favor of the defendants.

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Top 20 Bank Settles with DOJ Over Alleged Violations of the False Claims Act

On September 13, the DOJ announced a $52.4 million settlement with a top 20 bank to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly originating and accepting FHA-insured mortgage loans that did not comply with HUD origination, underwriting, and quality control requirements. It is the smallest settlement of a False Claims Act FHA-insured mortgage loans case against a bank to date as part of the government’s recent enforcement initiative in this area. According to the Statement of Facts issued as part of the settlement agreement, from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2011 (relevant time period), the bank, while acting as a direct endorsement lender (DEL) in the FHA program, (i) certified certain mortgage loans for FHA insurance that failed to meet HUD underwriting requirements regarding borrower creditworthiness; (ii) failed to adhere to various HUD quality control requirements; and (iii) failed to adhere to HUD’s self-reporting requirements. The DOJ noted that the “claims asserted against [the bank] are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.” BuckleySandler represented the bank in this matter.

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State Regulatory Registry Proposes Policy Change Related to NMLS Public Comment Procedures

On August 30, the State Regulatory Registry LLC (SRR), a subsidiary of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the entity that operates the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System and Registry (NMLS), requested public comment on a proposal to adopt a formal policy that would govern procedures and processes for requesting comments on NMLS-related updates that impact outside parties. Proposed matters warranting public comment would include (i) major NMLS functionality updates; (ii) call report updates; (iii) impacts to NMLS usability; (iv) Uniform Form changes; and (v) fee changes. SRR proposes that the comment period for NMLS-related updates last for at least 60 days but no longer than 180 days unless, as determined by the SRR Senior Vice President of Policy, there is good cause for extending the comment period. Comments on SRR’s proposed policy change, which defines the roles and responsibilities of various persons and working groups that would be involved in considering proposed NMLS updates, are due by October 31, 2016.

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District Court Issues Orders Against False Mortgage Relief Operation

The District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently ruled in favor of the FTC in the FTC’s complaint for equitable relief against several Florida-based companies and individuals (collectively, defendants), effectively banning the defendants from the mortgage loan modification and debt relief business. The FTC took this action against the defendants in 2014, alleging that they, acting in concert, ran a deceptive mortgage relief operation. According to the FTC, the defendants falsely promised consumers that, by paying an upfront fee of $1,000 to $4,000, and in some cases additional monthly fees, consumers would receive loan modifications or legal representation to prevent foreclosure of their homes. The Court’s final order imposes a judgment of more than $13.5 million against the defendants, subject to a separate stipulated order imposing an $8 million judgment on a subset of the defendants who had previously reached a settlement with the FTC in November 2015.

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