The CFPB’s Mortgage Originations Agenda in 2016

John Kromer captionMichelle Rogers captionBen-Olson-captionNow more than ever, financial services firms need to proactively focus on issues of concern identified by the CFPB and ensure that they are engaged in industry best practices that are clearly identified and carefully monitored. In the mortgage originations sphere, the new TRID/ KBYO rule, MSAs, LO compensation, UDAAP, and fair lending are all issues for companies to focus on in the coming year.

TRID/KBYO

Compliance with the new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure/Know Before You Owe (TRID/KBYO) rule will likely be an area of Bureau concern in 2016. The rule took effect on October 3, 2015 and does not include a “hold harmless” period for errors as lenders implement the new disclosure requirements, although letters from the OCC, FDIC, and CFPB have clarified that regulators will focus in the beginning on institutions’ implementation plans, training, and handling of early technical problems. It is likely that the CFPB will require remediation back to the rule’s compliance date when it identifies tangible consumer harm, but it is unlikely that the Bureau will bring enforcement actions initially based on technical issues where there is no tangible consumer harm.

GSEs have also issued letters stating they will not perform TRID/KBYO compliance file reviews at the beginning of the implementation period. The GSEs further stated that it will not exercise its repurchase and other remedies unless (1) a required form is not used or (2) a practice would impair its enforcement of its rights against borrowers.  In contrast, the FHA has stated that it expects lenders to comply with “all federal, state, and local laws, rules, and requirements applicable to the mortgage transaction as outlined in [the] FHA Handbook….” Read more…

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FHA Loan Limits for Forward Mortgages to Increase in 2016

On December 9, FHA announced new maximum loan limits for forward mortgages for 2016 in 188 counties due to changes in housing prices. The new loan limits for forward mortgages are effective for case numbers assigned on or after January 1, 2016 through the end of the year. FHA noted that no areas saw a decrease in the maximum loan limits for forward mortgages and that, as detailed in Mortgagee Letter 2015-30, the national standard loan limits for low cost and high cost areas remain unchanged at $271,050 and $625,500, respectively.

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Mortgage Company Resolves DOJ Allegations of False Claims Act Violations

On December 2, a Tennessee mortgage company agreed to pay the United States $70 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act. According to the DOJ, the company, acting as a direct endorsement lender, knowingly originated and accepted FHA-insured mortgage loans that did not meet applicable HUD underwriting and quality control requirements. As part of the settlement agreement, the company admitted to engaging in the following conduct between January 1, 2006 and March 31, 2012: (i) employing unqualified junior underwriters to complete important underwriting tasks; (ii) setting high quotas for underwriters and disciplining them if the quotas were not met; and (iii) offering underwriters bonuses based in part on the number of loan files reviewed as incentive to increase loan production. Even though deficiencies in the loan underwriting process were identified in post-close audits, the company did not make any self-reports until 2009 and, even then, “[v]ery few of these self-reported loans were reported for containing serious underwriting deficiencies.” As a result of the company’s conduct, the FHA insured loans that were not eligible, purportedly suffering “substantial losses when it later paid insurance claims on those loans.”

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DOJ Announces Mortgage Lending Discrimination Charges Against Massachusetts Bank

On November 30, the DOJ announced the filing of a complaint and proposed consent order against a Massachusetts-based bank alleged to have violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) by charging African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher prices for home loans than similarly situated white borrowers. From 2011 until at least 2014, the bank allegedly used a “target pricing” mortgage origination policy, assigning loan officers with a Minimum Base Price (MBP) they were expected to achieve on each home loan without regard to the borrower’s creditworthiness. According to the DOJ’s complaint, “African-American and Hispanic borrowers were served disproportionately by loan officers with higher MBPs than the loan officers serving white borrowers.” The complaint further alleges that, from April 2011 through December 2013, the bank authorized loan officers to price a loan higher than their assigned MBP, without documenting the reasons for doing so. Pending court approval, the DOJ’s proposed consent order will require the bank to (i) pay $1,175,000 as compensation to borrowers affected by its practices; (ii) establish a new loan pricing policy and a new loan officer compensation policy; (iii) provide fair lending and fair housing training to loan officers and bank employees; and (iv) establish a monitoring program designed to, at a minimum, assess loan pricing disparities.

In May 2013, the FDIC conducted a consumer compliance examination of the bank and found reason to believe that its lending practices violated the FHA and ECOA, prompting the agency to refer the matter to the DOJ on February 7, 2014.

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New York DFS Requires Mortgage Originator to Surrender License for Exam Cheating Scheme

On November 19, the New York DFS announced a consent order with a nonbank mortgage originator to resolve allegations that its employees engaged in a scheme to cheat on state-required continuing education courses and exams. Specifically, the DFS alleged that at least 20 Mortgage Loan Originators (MLOs), including the Chief Executive Officer and former Chief Operating Officer, encouraged compliance staff to take required continuing education courses and exams on their behalf. Furthermore, the MLOs “shared information acquired during licensing exams with . . . senior management, despite the fundamental obligation of test-takers to preserve the confidentiality of all such information.” The DFS’s examination of the mortgage originator revealed additional state banking law violations, including (i) failing to provide mandatory disclosures on more than 100 subprime loans; (ii) misstating applicable late fees on at least three loans; (iii) failing to maintain the minimum line of credit; and (iv) underreporting its total New York revenue in its 2010 and 2011 Volume of Operations Report. The settlement requires the mortgage originator to immediately surrender its mortgage banker’s license and its status as an exempt mortgage servicer in New York, and pay a civil money penalty in the amount of $1 million.

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