On November 18, the Department of Energy released new best practices guidelines for residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) mortgages, which provide homeowners a way to finance energy-efficient home improvements through property tax assessments. The new guidelines are intended to help state and local governments as they expand their PACE programs, and address the various problems that have emerged in the market since the PACE framework was first established in 2009. Among other things, the guidelines suggest that PACE programs confirm property owners’ ability to repay their assessments, and that state and local governments work with program administrators to establish underwriting guidelines and criteria for PACE programs.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is requesting comment on its proposed “Digital Currency Regulatory Guidance” on decentralized digital currencies—including Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and Zcash. The proposed guidance seeks to establish the regulatory treatment of decentralized digital currencies under existing definitions of money transmission in Illinois, as defined in the Illinois Transmitters of Money Act (205 ILCS 657) (TOMA). Currently, digital currencies do not fit the statutory definitions of “money” and, therefore, do not independently trigger the licensing requirements of TOMA. However, some business activities involving decentralized digital currency that involve the receipt of “money” can trigger the licensing requirements of TOMA. Comments must be received by January 18, 2017 at 6:00pm EST and may be submitted by clicking here.
In a press release issued November 9, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that a leading mortgage services provider and its affiliate, agreed to pay a $28 million fine and engage a third-party auditor as part of a settlement agreement and consent order with the NY Department of Financial Services. The matter arose after a series of audits conducted by the NYDFS had revealed inconsistencies in how mortgage foreclosures were documented and processed. As part of the settlement agreement, the company has agreed to allow an independent third-party auditor to help identify borrowers entitled to refunds.
New NYDFS Regulation Requires All Institutions of Higher Education to Immediately Provide Uniform Financial Aid Award Information Sheet
On November 3, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state Department of Financial Services has adopted a new regulation requiring all institutions of higher education and vocational schools in New York to immediately begin providing a uniform Financial Aid Award Information Sheet to undergraduate students when responding to financial aid applications. The U.S. Department of Education utilizes a similar form, however it is less extensive and is not mandatory – except for schools that accept assistance to make loans to military students. Additional information concerning the regulations and model forms can be found here.
State AGs Urge the CFPB to Ensure that States Maintain the Right to Set Usury Caps on High Cost Loans
In October, New York AG Eric T. Schneiderman, along with seven other state AGs (Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont and the District of Columbia), submitted a letter to the CFPB in response to the agency’s proposed rule addressing payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain high-cost installment loans. While commending the CFPB for introducing additional consumer protections, the letter urges the CFPB to integrate the following language from the preamble of the proposed rule into the body of the final rule: “The protections imposed by this proposal would operate as a floor across the country, while leaving State and local jurisdictions to adopt additional regulatory requirements (whether a usury limit or another form of protection) above that floor as they judge appropriate to protect consumers in their respective jurisdictions.” The letter explains that because the CFPB does not have the authority to set interest rates – or usury caps – for loans, it is “crucial” that states maintain their right to do so.