On August 2, the CFPB released consumer protection principles for mortgage servicers to use as they develop new foreclosure relief solutions in anticipation of Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program’s (HAMP) upcoming expiration date (CFPB Principles). The CFPB Principles echo those summarized in FHFA’s, HUD’s, and Treasury’s recently published white paper, “Guiding Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation: How the Lessons Learned from the Financial Crisis Can Influence the Path Forward.” As previously covered in InfoBytes, the white paper recommends that future loss mitigation programs promote accessibility, affordability, sustainability, transparency, and accountability. The CFPB Principles address accessibility, affordability, sustainability, and transparency, and cite to separate CFPB mortgage servicing rules for standards concerning accountability. In its press release, the CFPB notes that the four principles “do not establish binding legal requirements but instead are intended to complement ongoing discussions among industry, consumer, groups, and policymakers.”
On August 25, FHFA announced that the GSEs will implement a new refinancing offering for borrowers having high LTVs who meet certain criteria. The new offering contains a number of similarities to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), including not subjecting eligible borrowers to a minimum credit score, not establishing a maximum debt-to-income ratio or maximum LTV, and often not requiring an appraisal. Dissimilarities from HARP include not imposing eligibility cut-off dates and allowing borrowers to use the offering more than once to refinance their mortgage. Borrowers will not have access to the new offering until October 2017. As such, the FHFA directed the GSEs to extend HARP through September 30, 2017, ensuring that “high LTV borrowers who are eligible for HARP will not be without a refinance option while the new refinance offering is being implemented.”
On July 25, FHFA, HUD, and Treasury published a white paper titled “Guiding Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation: How the Lessons Learned from the Financial Crisis Can Influence the Path Forward.” The paper examines the effect of the 2008 financial crisis on the mortgage servicing industry with a focus on loss mitigation programs. Under the 2009 Making Home Affordable (MHA) program, foreclosure alternatives were established to address the needs of homeowners and to improve the mortgage servicing industry’s loss mitigation practices. According to the paper, between April 2009 and the end of May 2016, 10.5 million modification and mortgage assistance arrangements were completed through government programs and private sector efforts. The paper further notes that, as a result of FHFA’s, HUD’s, and Treasury’s programs, regulatory actions, and private sector initiatives, the mortgage industry is “generally better prepared now to provide assistance to struggling homeowners than it was before the crisis.” The improvement “is due, in part, to the adoption of certain homeowner engagement standards including continuity of contact, solicitation timeframes, and certain notice and appeal processes required by the [CFPB].” At the end of 2016, MHA programs, such as HAMP, will come to a close. Based on the agencies’ collective experience with MHA programs, the paper identifies five guiding principles for loss mitigation programs: (i) accessibility, guaranteeing homeowners a simple process for obtaining mortgage assistance; (ii) affordability, “providing homeowners with meaningful payment relief that addresses the needs of the homeowner, the servicer and the investor, to support long-term performance”; (iii) sustainability, offering long-term solutions intended to resolve delinquency; (iv) transparency, “[e]nsuring that the process to obtain assistance, and the terms of that assistance, are as clear and understandable as possible to homeowners, and that information about options and their utilization is available to the appropriate parties”; and (v) accountability, ensuring sufficient oversight of the process to obtain mortgage assistance.
On July 7, the FHFA released an update entitled An Update: An Implementation of the Single Security and the Common Securitization Platform (the Update) regarding Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s (collectively, the GSEs) joint venture – Common Securitization Solutions (CSS) – to develop and implement a Common Securitization Platform (CSP). As part of a multi-year initiative beginning as early as February 2012, the FHFA has been developing and reporting on the principles and functions for a new securitization platform that supports single-family residential mortgage-backed securitization activities guaranteed by the GSEs. FHFA’s recently issued Update outlines the CSS’s progress made to date, describes expected upcoming milestones, and summarizes the various phases of required testing for Release 1 and Release 2 of the CSP. Importantly, Release 1 will allow Freddie Mac to use the CSP and its Data Acceptance, Issuance Support, and Bond Administration modules to “perform activities related to its current single-class, fixed-rate securities—Participation Certifications (PCs) and Giant PCs—and certain activities related to the underlying mortgage loans (such as tracking unpaid principal balances).” Release 2 will allow both GSEs to use the CSP’s Data Acceptance, Issuance Support, Disclosure, and Bond Administration modules to “perform activities related to their current fixed-rate securities, both single- and multi-class; to issue Single Securities, including commingled resecuritizations; and to perform activities related to the underlying loans,” as well as to allow the GSEs to use the CSP “to issue and administer certain non-TBA mortgage securities, including Fannie Mae securities backed by adjustable rate mortgages.” According to the Update, the Single Security features of the CSP described in the FHFA’s May 2015 update have not been altered and are final. The Single Security features are fundamentally the same as those of the current Fannie Mae MBS and include: (i) payment delay of 55 days; (ii) certain pooling prefixes; (iii) mortgage coupon pooling requirements; (iv) minimum pool submission amounts; (v) general loan requirements such as first lien position, good title, and non-delinquent status; and (vi) seasoning requirements. As outlined in FHFA’s December 2015 publication of the 2016 Scorecard for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Common Securitization Solutions, the GSEs are expected to implement Release 1 in 2016 and Release 2 in 2018.
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.