On February 18, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey announced that a New York-based mortgage lender and servicer agreed to pay a total of $4 million “to resolve allegations that it received commissions and other kickbacks relating to force-placed insurance policies that it procured for struggling Massachusetts homeowners.” According to AG Healey, until June 1, 2012, the mortgage servicer received payments that were linked to force-placed insurance premiums charged to borrowers, which “created an improper conflict of interest and violated state consumer protection laws.” Under the assurance of discontinuance, which was filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the mortgage servicer will pay affected Massachusetts homeowners $2.675 million in restitution, as well as $1.4 million to the Commonwealth.
On Thursday, the CFPB issued its long-awaited final amendments to the mortgage servicing provisions of Regulations X and Z. The Bureau had sought comment on the proposed rule in December 2014, more than 18 months ago. Spanning 900 pages, the final rule makes significant changes that will impact servicers even as it clarifies several points of confusion with the existing regulations. Most significantly, the amendments extend existing protections to successors in interest and borrowers who have previously been evaluated for loss mitigation under the rules, brought their loans current, and then experienced new delinquencies. The amendments also require servicers to provide modified periodic statements to borrowers in bankruptcy. In coordination with the final amendments, the Bureau published an interpretive rule under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) to address industry concerns about conflicts with the servicing rules.
A summary of the key amendments is provided below. Unless otherwise stated below, the amendments take effect 12 months from the date of publication of the rule in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred. If recent experience is any guide, we anticipate that publication in the Federal Register may be delayed for as long as a month, given the length of the final rule, commentary, and preamble.
Please join BuckleySandler attorneys Ben Olson, Michelle Rogers and Kitty Ryan for a webinar on September 7 to further discuss the amended rules and their compliance, examination and enforcement implications. Invitation and registration information to follow.
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Questions regarding the matters discussed in this Alert may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.
- Melissa Klimkiewicz, (202) 349-8098
- Benjamin B. Klubes, (202) 349-8002
- John P. Kromer, (202) 349-8040
- Jon David D. Langlois, (202) 349-8045
- Jeffrey P. Naimon, (202) 349-8030
- Benjamin K. Olson, (202) 349-7924
- Matthew P. Previn, (212) 600-2310
- Joseph J. Reilly, (202) 349-7965
- Clinton R. Rockwell, (310) 424-3901
- Michelle L. Rogers, (202) 349-8013
- Kathleen C. Ryan, (202) 349-8055
- Kathryn L. Ryan, (202) 349-8008
- Jonice Gray Tucker, (202) 349-8005
- Christopher M. Witeck, (202) 349-8051
On June 25, the FHFA Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report that urges the FHFA to consider whether to pursue servicers and insurers for alleged lender-placed insurance (LPI) losses. The OIG cited prior determinations by state insurance regulators that LPI rates in their respective jurisdictions allegedly were excessive and that those rates may have been driven up by profit-sharing arrangements under which servicers allegedly were paid to steer business to LPI providers. The OIG believes that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “have suffered considerable financial harm in the LPI market.” The OIG explained that using a methodology similar to that utilized by a state insurance regulator, it estimates that for 2012 alone the combined financial harm due to “excessively priced LPI” amounted to $158 million. The OIG acknowledged that its assessments did not consider compensation already received by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac from repurchase requests. The report also notes that the FHFA has yet to complete an assessment regarding the merits of potential litigation to recover alleged financial damages associated with the LPI market, but recommends that the FHFA do so and take appropriate action in response. In its response to the report, the FHFA concurred and pledged to complete the review in the next 12 months. The FHFA also pointed out that its litigation assessment would differ from the review conducted by the OIG and would consider potential legal arguments and litigation risks, economic assessments, and relevant public policies.
On May 30, the OCC, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board, the NCUA, and the Farm Credit Administration issued an interagency statement regarding the increased maximum amount of flood insurance available for “Other Residential Buildings” (i.e., non-condominium residential buildings designed for use for five or more families) beginning June 1, 2014. The statement explains that the maximum amount of flood insurance available under the NFIP for Other Residential Buildings increased from $250,000 to $500,000 per building, which may affect the minimum amount of flood insurance required for both existing and future loans secured by Other Residential Buildings. The statement also informs institutions that FEMA instructed insurers to notify Other Residential Building policyholders—which potentially could include notice to lenders on those policies—of the new limits before June 1, 2014. The agencies state that “[i]f a financial institution or its servicer receives notification of the increased flood insurance limits available for an Other Residential Building securing a designated loan, the agencies expect supervised institutions to take any steps necessary to determine whether the property will require increased flood insurance coverage.” According to the statement, lenders are not required to perform an immediate full file search, but, for safety and soundness purposes, lenders may wish to review their portfolios in light of the availability of increased coverage to determine whether additional flood insurance coverage is required for the affected buildings. If, as a result of this increase, a lender or its servicer determines on or after June 1 that an Other Residential Building is covered by flood insurance in an amount less than required by law, then it should take steps to ensure the borrower obtains sufficient coverage, including lender-placing insurance.
Fannie Mae Reminds Servicers Of Lender-Placed Insurance Certification Requirements, Updates Servicing Transfer Policies
On May 9, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2014-06, which reminds servicers that no later than June 1, 2014 they must certify compliance with new requirements for acceptable lender-placed insurance costs and carriers under an interim process announced in SCV-2013-07. After that date servicers will complete the certification using a new form. The announcement also states that Fannie Mae is adding new definitions related to servicing transfers, and that effective August 1, 2014, Fannie Mae will require the transferor servicer or transferor subservicer to submit the Form 629 to Fannie Mae no earlier than 60 days prior to the proposed transfer date, and that the proposed transfer date must be the first business day of the month for which the transferee servicer will be responsible for reporting the loan-level detail activity to Fannie Mae.