On April 29, the CFPB released its fourth annual report to Congress on fair lending activities. The report recaps the CFPB’s 2015 supervisory and enforcement efforts around fair lending and identifies ongoing priorities in the areas of: (i) mortgage lending, noting a continuing focus on HMDA data integrity and fair lending risks related to redlining, underwriting, and pricing; (ii) indirect auto lending, noting targeted ECOA reviews in examinations; (iii) credit cards, focusing “on the quality of fair lending compliance management systems and on fair lending risks in underwriting, line assignment, and servicing”; and (iv) other product areas including small-business lending, focusing on risks in underwriting, pricing, and redlining, and offering that “current and future small business lending supervisory activity will help expand and enhance the Bureau’s knowledge in this area, including the credit process; existing data collection processes; and the nature, extent, and management of fair lending risk.” The report highlights that “supervisory work on mortgage servicing has included use of the ECOA Baseline Review Modules … to identify potential fair lending risk in mortgage servicing and inform [its] prioritization of mortgage servicers.” In addition to recaps of its 2015 rulemaking, published guidance and efforts at interagency cooperation (including its MOU and sharing of customer complaints with HUD), the report also indicates that the CFPB had a number of authorized enforcement actions in settlement negotiations or pending investigations at year end in areas including mortgage lending, indirect auto lending, and credit cards.
On June 8, HUD announced a conciliation agreement with a North Carolina-chartered commercial lender to resolve allegations that, as the successor of a merger with a South Carolina-based bank, it denied mortgage loans to African American, Latino, and Asian American applicants at a disproportionately higher rate than white applicants in violation of Section 804(b) and 805 of the Federal Fair Housing Act. After conducting an analysis of mortgage loans originated by the South Carolina bank between 2010 and 2011, the Department found that the bank demonstrated preferential treatment of white mortgage loan applicants through the retail channel via manual override of its automated underwriting system. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the commercial lender, having cooperated with HUD’s investigation, must among other things, (i) provide nonprofit organizations with $140,000 to use toward credit and housing counseling, financial literacy training, and related programs for first-time homebuyers in South Carolina; (ii) spend an aggregate amount of $20,000 on positive marketing, advertising, and outreach to residents in majority-minority census tracts in South Carolina; (iii) partner with a non-profit organization or community groups involved in financial education to conduct, at a minimum, 24 financial education programs in South Carolina for individuals and small business owners; (iv) hire three mortgage banker market specialists to “focus on diverse lending in Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, Columbia, and Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin metro areas”; (v) require fair housing training for all employees and agents substantially involved in manual underwriting of mortgages; and (vi) implement “a new standardized and objective set of guidelines for a second review of retail channel residential loan applications initially denied by the automated underwriting system.”
On April 12, CFPB Assistant Director for Installment Lending and Collections Markets Jeffrey Langer delivered remarks at the San Francisco LendIt USA Conference on the marketplace lending industry. Langer began his remarks by summarizing the CFPB’s Project Catalyst initiative, which was designed to support and encourage consumer-friendly innovation pertaining to financial products and services, such as marketplace lending. Langer, referencing the CFPB’s recently released consumer bulletin on online marketplace lending, commented that marketplace lending is a “young” industry with both potential benefits and potential risks. For example, Langer explained that marketplace lenders may be able to offer consumers faster and more convenient methods of obtaining credit, and may also have fewer overhead costs to pass along to consumers as compared to brick-and-mortar institutions. However, Langer also expressed concerns about the industry’s agility in changing markets, opining that, “[i]t is unclear whether marketplace lenders’ have adequate loan servicing infrastructure or the ability to scale infrastructure quickly and effectively in the event of [an economic] downturn.” According to Langer, “it is simply too soon to know whether marketplace lending will be able to realize its potential as a means of delivering credit at a lower cost to consumers (and small businesses) who have the ability to repay the loans they obtain or whether the marketplace lending business model will prove unable to sustain itself through a full business cycle.” Langer additionally noted that marketplace lenders could face fair lending risk as a result of introducing new types of data and/or analytics in making credit decisions.
On February 29, HUD announced an agreement with a Kansas City-based bank over its alleged redlining practices against African-American mortgage applicants. Two fair housing organizations (Complainants) filed separate complaints with HUD in October 2015 alleging that the bank engaged in discriminatory acts and violated the Fair Housing Act. According to Complainants, the bank’s “lack of market penetration in African-American communities made residential real estate products less available to persons based on race.” Complainants further alleged that the bank “designated their service area, or assessment area, in a way that excluded areas of high African-American concentration, which resulted in making residential real estate products less available to persons based on race” – a practice generally referred to as redlining. The agreement requires that the bank must, during the three-year agreement period: (i) allocate $75,000 in subsidy funds to provide discounts on home purchase loans to majority African-American census tracts in the Kansas City area; and (ii) originate $2.5 million in mortgage loans in African-American neighborhoods. Read more…
On November 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote H.R. 1210 and H.R. 1737, both of which will affect CFPB policies governing the mortgage and auto lending industries. The “Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act” – H.R. 1210 – would amend the Truth in Lending Act to create a safe harbor from certain requirements for depository institutions making residential mortgage loans held in portfolios. Specifically, the bill permits loans that appear on a depository institution’s balance sheet to be treated as a Qualified Mortgage subject to certain limitations, thus permitting such loans to fall under the Ability-to-Repay Rule’s safe harbor provisions. The “Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Finance Guidance Act” – H.R. 1737 – would invalidate CFPB Bulletin 2013-02, which provides guidance to indirect auto lenders regarding compliance with federal fair lending laws.