On August 21, the CFPB announced the companies that have been selected to participate in its residential mortgage eClosing pilot program. The program is intended to explore how the increased use of technology during the mortgage closing process may affect consumer understanding and engagement and save time and money for consumers, lenders, and other market participants. Specifically, the program seeks to aid the CFPB in better understanding the role that eClosings can play in addressing consumers’ “pain points” in the closing process, as identified by the CFPB in an April 2014 report. The three-month pilot program will begin later this year, and the participants include both technology vendors that provide eClosing solutions and creditors that have contracted to close loans using those solutions.
BuckleySandler is pleased to announce the availability of “The New CFPB Mortgage Origination Rules Deskbook,” by partner Joseph Reilly. The CFPB Deskbook, published in partnership with the American Bankers Association, is an all-inclusive compilation of all the mortgage origination rules made by effective by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in January 2014, including:
- Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage requirements
- Points and Fees
- Loan Originator Compensation
- High-Cost Mortgages
- Qualified Mortgage Provisions for Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs loans
- Summary of the TILA-RESPA disclosure integration taking effect in 2015
“Our goal was to consolidate the numerous sources of CFPB regulatory guidance into a clear, organized format,” said Reilly. “We wanted to provide comprehensive descriptions from not just the rule text and official commentary but also from CFPB webinars, compliance guides, preamble material from federal register releases and informal compliance discussions with CFPB staff. We hope this will be a ‘one-stop shop’ for origination compliance.”
Benjamin K. Olson, BuckleySandler partner and former Deputy Assistant Director in the CFPB’s Office of Regulations who was involved in the development of many of the rules covered by the CFPB Deskbook, describes it as “an invaluable resource with the potential to change the way regulations are understood.”
The CFPB Deskbook is available in PDF and hard copy formats. Requests for copies should be sent to CFPBDeskbook@buckleysandler.com.
Unofficial Transcripts of the ABA Briefing/Webcast “Mortgage Q&A with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau”
To address outstanding questions regarding the new mortgage rules that took effect in January 2014, CFPB staff provided non-binding, informal guidance in a webinar hosted by the American Bankers Association (ABA). Specifically, CFPB staff answered questions regarding the mortgage origination rules and the mortgage servicing rules on April 22, 2014.
With the ABA’s consent, BuckleySandler has prepared a transcript of the webinar that incorporates the ABA’s slides. The transcript is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal opinions, interpretations, or advice by BuckleySandler. The transcript was prepared from the audio recording arranged by the ABA and may have minor inaccuracies due to sound quality. In addition, the transcripts have not been reviewed by the CFPB or the ABA for accuracy or completeness.
Questions regarding the matters discussed in the webinar or the rules themselves may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.
- Jeffrey P. Naimon, (202) 349-8030
- Clinton R. Rockwell, (310) 424-3901
- Joseph J. Reilly, (202) 349-7965
- John P. Kromer, (202) 349-8040
- Joseph M. Kolar, (202) 349-8020
- Jeremiah S. Buckley, (202) 349-8010
- Benjamin K. Olson, (202) 349-7924
- Shara M. Chang, (202) 349-8096
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk, (310) 424-3917
On August 6, the Structured Finance Industry Group released the first edition of a “comprehensive set of proposed industry standards” to promote growth in the private label RMBS market. The SFIG explains that the project “seeks to reduce substantive differences within current market practices through an open discussion among a broad cross-section of market participants,” and, where possible establish best practices related to: (i) representations and warranties, repurchase governance, and other enforcement mechanisms; (ii) due diligence, disclosure, and data issues; and (iii) roles and responsibilities of transaction parties and their communications with investors. The paper is the first in an iterative process, and touches on only a few of the items identified in a sprawling master agenda. With regard to representations and warranties, the paper discusses fraud, regulatory compliance, and objective independent review triggers. For due diligence, data and disclosure, the paper considers underwriting guidelines disclosure and due diligence extract to investors. Finally, the paper addresses the role of transaction parties and bondholder communication.
On July 23, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed HB 3783, which prohibits creditors from requiring borrowers or owners to purchase flood insurance on the property: (i) at a coverage amount that exceeds the outstanding mortgage thereon; (ii) that includes coverage for contents; or (iii) that includes a deductible less than $5,000. Borrowers and owners will still have the option of purchasing a greater amount of insurance. The law provides that, in each instance flood insurance is required, the creditor must provide notice explaining that insurance coverage will only protect the creditor or lender’s interest in the property, and may not be sufficient to pay for repairs or property loss after a flood. The changes took effect immediately.
Fannie Mae Updates Fraud Notice Requirements, Policies Regarding Significant Derogatory Credit Events, Other Selling Topics
On July 29, Fannie Mae issued Selling Guide Announcement SEL-2014-10, which includes updates and clarifications regarding numerous selling topics. The announcement states that the long-standing requirement that a lender must notify Fannie Mae immediately if it learns of any misrepresentation, breach of selling warranty, or fraud is being updated to clarify Fannie Mae’s expectation that the lender perform due diligence to establish a reasonable belief that a misrepresentation, breach of selling warranty, or fraud may have occurred prior to making the self-report to Fannie Mae. Several other changes in the announcement relate to significant derogatory credit events, and many of them were previously announced in the Desktop Originator/Underwriter Release Notes. These changes relate to, among other things, waiting periods related to: (i) mortgage debt discharged through bankruptcy; (ii) a preforclosure sale or deed-in-lieu of a foreclosure; and (iii) charge off accounts. In addition, the announcement (i) provides a table of policy updates and clarifications regarding lender quality control processes; (ii) describes changes to the MBS buyup and buydown ratio grids; and (iii) updates property insurance requirements for condos, co-ops, and PUDs.
On July 24, the CFPB issued a proposed rule to expand the scope of HMDA data reporting requirements. Section 1094 of the Dodd-Frank Act transferred responsibility for HMDA and Regulation C to the CFPB and directed the CFPB to conduct a rulemaking to expand the collection of mortgage origination data to include, among other things: (i) the length of the loan; (ii) total points and fees; (iii) the length of any teaser or introductory interest rates; (iv) the applicant or borrower’s age and credit score; and (v) the channel through which the application was made. The Dodd-Frank Act also granted the CFPB discretion to collect additional information as it sees fit. The proposed rule would implement all of the new data points required by the Dodd-Frank Act, and also would utilize the CFPB’s discretionary authority to substantially expand the number of new data points required to be reported. In addition, the CFPB’s proposal would require reporting for all dwelling-secured loans, which would include some loans not currently covered by Regulation C, including reverse mortgages, and all home equity lines of credit irrespective of their purpose. The proposal follows a review initiated by the CFPB earlier this year to assess of the potential impacts of a HMDA rulemaking on small businesses. The CFPB released a summary of that review with the proposed rule. Comments on the proposal are due by October 22, 2014. We are reviewing the proposed rule and plan to provide a more detailed summary in the coming days.
Maryland’s High Court Holds Suits Under Finder’s Fee Law Subject To Three-Year Statute Of Limitations
On July 21, the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the state’s highest court, held in responding to a question certified by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland that alleged violations of Maryland’s Finder’s Fee Act are subject to a three-year statute of limitations. NVR Mortg. Fin. v. Carlsen, Misc. No. 11, 2014 WL 3565472 (Md. Jul. 21, 2014). In this case, a borrower sued a mortgage broker on behalf of a putative class alleging the broker violated the state’s Finder’s Fee Act by failing to make certain disclosures before collecting finder’s fees for brokering mortgages. The borrower filed suit more than three years after the alleged failure to disclose, but asserted that an alleged violation of the Finder’s Fee Act is an “other specialty” under Maryland state law and as such is subject to a 12-year state of limitations. Under state law an alleged violation of a statute is an “other specialty” only if, in relevant part, the duty, obligation, prohibition, or right sought to be enforced is created or imposed solely by the statute, or a related statute, and does not otherwise exist as a matter of common law. The court rejected the borrower’s claim that the Finder’s Fee Act created a statutory duty for mortgage brokers, and held instead that a mortgage broker owes to a borrower a common law duty to disclose all facts or information which may be relevant or material in influencing the judgment or action of the borrower in the matter. The court held, therefore, that in an action for an alleged violation the Finder’s Fee Act the duty sought to be enforced exists as a matter of common law, rather than having been created solely by the statute, and is subject to a three-year, not 12-year, statute of limitations.
Ninth Circuit Holds Plaintiffs Not Required To Plead Tender Or Ability To Tender To Support TILA Rescission Claim
On July 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that an allegation of tender or ability to tender is not required to support a TILA rescission claim. Merritt v. Countrywide Fin. Corp., No. 17678, 2014 WL 3451299 (9th Cir. Jul. 16, 2014). In this case, two borrowers filed an action against their mortgage lender more than three years after origination of the loan and a concurrent home equity line of credit, claiming the lender failed to provide completed disclosures. The district court dismissed the borrowers’ claim for rescission under TILA because the borrowers did not tender the value of their HELOC to the lender before filing suit, and dismissed their RESPA Section 8 claims as time-barred.
On appeal, the court criticized the district court’s application of the Ninth Circuit’s holding in Yamamoto v. Bank of New York, 329 F.3d 1167 (9th Cir. 2003) that courts may at the summary judgment stage require an obligor to provide evidence of ability to tender. Instead, the appellate court held that borrowers can state a TILA rescission claim without pleading tender, or that they have the ability to tender the value of their loan. The court further held that a district court may only require tender before rescission at the summary judgment stage, and only on a case-by-case basis once the creditor has established a potentially viable defense. The Ninth Circuit also applied the equitable tolling doctrine to suspend the one-year limitations period applicable to the borrower’s RESPA claims and remanded to the district court the question of whether the borrowers had a reasonable opportunity to discover the violations earlier. The court declined to address two “complex” issues of first impression: (i) whether markups for services provided by a third party are actionable under RESPA § 8(b); and (ii) whether an inflated appraisal qualifies as a “thing of value” under RESPA § 8(a).
On July 17, the FHFA Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report on risks to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) related to purchasing mortgages from smaller lenders and nonbank mortgage companies. The report states such lenders present elevated risk in the following areas: (i) counterparty credit risk—smaller lenders and nonbank lenders may have relatively limited financial capacity, and the latter are not subject to federal safety and soundness oversight; (ii) operational risk—smaller or nonbank lenders may lack the sophisticated systems and expertise necessary to manage high volumes of mortgage sales to the Enterprises; and (iii) reputational risk—the report cites as an example an institution that was sanctioned by state regulators for engaging in allegedly abusive lending practices. The report notes that in 2014 the FHFA’s Division of Enterprise Regulation’s plans to focus on Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s controls for smaller and nonbank sellers, which will include assessments of the Enterprise’s mortgage loan delivery limits and lender eligibility standards and assessment of the counterparty approval process and counterparty credit risk resulting from cash window originations. The report also notes FHFA guidance to the Enterprises last year on contingency planning for high-risk or high-volume counterparties, and states that the FHFA plans to issue additional guidance on counterparty risk management. Specifically, the Division of Supervision Policy and Support plans to issue an advisory bulletin focusing on risk management and the approval process for seller counterparties. The OIG did not make any recommendations to supplement the FHFA’s planned activities.
On July 15, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed a relator real estate agent’s suit against a group of lenders the relator alleged submitted claims for FHA insurance benefits to HUD based on false certifications of compliance with the National Housing Act. U.S. ex rel Hastings v. Wells Fargo Bank, No. 12-3624, Order (C.D. Cal. Jul. 15, 2014). The relator alleged on behalf of the U.S. government that loans where borrowers received assistance from seller-funded down payment assistance programs, such as the Nehemiah Program, did not satisfy requirements for gift funds, and as a result the lenders had falsely certified compliance with the National Housing Act’s three-percent down payment requirement when seeking FHA insurance for such loans. The government declined to intervene in the case. The court agreed with the lenders and held that the complaint could not survive the False Claims Act’s public disclosure bar—a jurisdictional bar against claims predicated on allegations already in the public domain. The court explained that the public disclosure standard is met if there were either (i) public allegations of fraud “substantially similar” to the one described in the False Claims Act complaint, or (ii) enough information publicly disclosed regarding the allegedly fraudulent transactions to put the government on notice of a potential claim. Here, the court determined that claims related to seller-funded down payment assistance programs were part of a “robust public debate” well prior to the time the complaint was filed in this case, and that the debate was sufficient to put the government on notice of the alleged conduct. The court also determined that the relator was not an “original source” of the public disclosures and as such could not overcome the public disclosure bar. Because the court concluded that amendment would be futile, the court dismissed the suit with prejudice. BuckleySandler represented one of the lenders in this case.
On July 15, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced the availability of additional documentation to support the mortgage industry with the implementation of the Uniform Closing Dataset (UCD), the common industry dataset that supports the CFPB’s closing disclosure. The documents provide information to supplement the MISMO mapping document released in March 2014. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac intend to collect the UCD from lenders in the future, but have not yet determined the method or timeline for that data collection.
On July 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court’s holding that the fees charged by a mortgage company jointly owned by a national bank and a real estate firm did not violate Maryland’s Finder’s Fee Act. Petry v. Prosperity Mortg. Co., No. 13-1869, 2014 WL 3361828 (4th Cir. Jul. 10, 2014). On behalf of similarly situated borrowers, two borrowers sued the bank, the real estate firm, and the mortgage company, claiming that the mortgage company operated as a broker that helped borrowers obtain mortgage loans from the bank. The borrowers alleged that all the fees that the mortgage company charged at closing were “finder’s fees” within the meaning of the Maryland Finder’s Fee Act, and, as such, the company—aided and abetted by the bank and the real estate firm—violated the Finder’s Fee Act (i) by charging finder’s fees in transactions in which it was both the mortgage broker and the lender and (ii) by charging finder’s fees without a separate written agreement providing for them.
After certifying the class the district court advised the borrowers that the fees did not qualify as finder’s fees under state law unless they had been inflated so that the overcharge could disguise the referral fee. When the borrowers acknowledged they could not prove the fees were inflated, the district court entered judgment for the defendants. On appeal, the court agreed with the district court’s conclusion as to the fees at issue, but held for the defendants on different grounds. The appeals court determined that because the mortgage company was identified as the lender in the documents executed at closing, it was not a “mortgage broker” under Finder’s Fee Act and therefore was not subject to the Act’s provisions. As such, the court further determined it need not decide whether the bank and real estate firm could be liable for the mortgage company’s alleged violations under theories of aiding and abetting.
Recently, the Massachusetts Division of Banks published final amendments to its regulation concerning documentation and determination of borrower’s interest to establish an additional safe harbor for any home loan that meets the definition of a “Qualified Mortgage” under the CFPB’s ability-to-repay/qualified mortgage rule. A Qualified Mortgage now will be deemed to be in the borrower’s interest under the regulation. The amendments also clarify that the exemption under the borrower’s interest regulation applies to all Qualified Mortgages which are eligible for safe harbor consideration under TILA, including the small creditor exemption, provided that the Qualified Mortgage is not higher cost. The amendments became effective July 18, 2014.
On July 2, the Massachusetts Division of Banks published an industry letter regarding mortgage lenders’ obligation to timely fund and disburse mortgage proceeds and oversee internal and third-party compliance with that requirement. The letter advises lenders that numerous recent examinations have revealed issues with timely funding of loans by lenders and disbursement of funds by settlement agents. The letter reminds lenders that the state’s “Good Funds Law” requires a mortgage lender to disburse—in the form of a certified check, bank treasurer’s check, cashier’s check, or wire transfer—the full amount of the loan proceeds prior to recording the mortgage, and that failure to do so may be considered an unfair and deceptive practice. In addition, the letter advises lenders that (i) they must establish and implement policies and procedures to ensure that vendors distribute loan proceeds in the required timeframe, and (ii) internal compliance audits should include testing of the lender’s and any settlement agents’ settlement processes and procedures.