Agencies Propose Flood Insurance Rule

On October 30, five federal agencies – the FCA, FDIC, NCUA, OCC and the Fed – issued a proposed rule regarding flood insurance. The proposed rule will amend regulations relating to loans secured by property located in special flood hazard areas. Specifically, the proposed rule would (i) establish requirements in connection with the escrow of flood insurance payments; (ii) provide certain borrowers with the option to escrow flood insurance premiums and fees; and (iii) eliminate the HFIAA requirement “to purchase flood insurance for a structure that is part of a residential property located in a special flood hazard area if that structure is detached from the primary residential structure and does not also serve as a residence.” Comments on the proposed rule are due by December 29, 2014.

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Interagency Guidance Regarding Unfair Or Deceptive Credit Practices

On August 22, the CFPB and the federal banking agencies (Fed, OCC, FDIC and NCUA) issued interagency guidance regarding unfair or deceptive credit practices (UDAPs). The guidance clarifies that “the repeal of the credit practices rules applicable to banks, savings associations, and federal credit unions is not a determination that the prohibited practices contained in those rules are permissible.” Notwithstanding the repeal of these rules, the agencies preserve supervisory and enforcement authority regarding UDAPs. Consequently, the guidance cautions that “depending on the facts and circumstances, if banks, savings associations and Federal credit unions engage in the unfair or deceptive practices described in the former credit practices rules, such conduct may violate the prohibition against unfair or deceptive practices in Section 5 of the FTC Act and Sections 1031 and 1036 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The Agencies may determine that statutory violations exist even in the absence of a specific regulation governing the conduct.” The guidance also explains that the FTC Rule remains in effect for creditors within the FTC’s jurisdiction, and can be enforced by the CFPB against creditors that fall under the CFPB’s enforcement authority.

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Federal Appeals Court Affirms Extender Statutes Trump Securities Act Statute Of Limitations

On August 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reissued its original opinion affirming a district court’s holding that FIRREA’s NCUA extender statute circumvents the three-year repose period found in Section 13 of the Securities Act. Nat’l Credit Union Admin. Board v. Nomura Home Equity Loan Inc., Nos. 12-3295, 12-3298, 2014 WL 4069137 (10th Cir. Aug. 19, 2014). Extender statutes define the time period for government regulators to bring actions on behalf of failed financial organizations. The NCUA sued a number of RMBS issuers for violations of federal securities laws on behalf of two credit unions that the NCUA had placed into conservatorship. The defendant RMBS issuers countered that the suit was untimely under the applicable three-year statute of limitations in the Securities Act. The court originally held in 2013 that the NCUA’s claim was timely pursuant to the relevant extender statute, but its opinion had been vacated and remanded for further consideration in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in a similar case under a federal environmental statute. The court distinguished its case by first determining that the relevant statute was “fundamentally different” from the one in the Supreme Court’s case because the extender statute “plainly establishes a universal time frame for all actions brought by [the] NCUA.” The court rejected the argument that placed a distinction between statutes of limitations and statutes of repose by noting that extender statutes “displace[] all preexisting limits on the time to bring suit, whatever they are called.” The court then found that the extender statute’s surrounding language, statutory context, and statutory purpose supported its original decision that the NCUA’s suit was timely. Accordingly, the court reinstated its original opinion.

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Federal, State Prudential Regulators Issue HELOC Guidance

On July 1, the OCC, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the NCUA, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors issued interagency guidance on home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) nearing their end-of-draw periods. The guidance states that as HELOCs transition from their draw periods to full repayment, some borrowers may have difficulty meeting higher payments resulting from principal amortization or interest rate reset, or renewing existing loans due to changes in their financial circumstances or declines in property values. As such, the guidance describes the following “core operating principles” that the regulators believe should govern oversight of HELOCs nearing their end-of-draw periods: (i) prudent underwriting for renewals, extensions, and rewrites; (ii) compliance with existing guidance, including but not limited to the Credit Risk Management Guidance for Home Equity Lending and the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies; (iii) use of well-structured and sustainable modification terms; (iv) appropriate accounting, reporting, and disclosure of troubled debt restructurings; and (v) appropriate segmentation and analysis of end-of-draw exposure in allowance for loan and lease losses estimation processes. The guidance also outlines numerous risk management expectations, and states that institutions with a significant volume of HELOCs, portfolio acquisitions, or exposures with higher-risk characteristics should have comprehensive systems and procedures to monitor and assess their portfolios, while less-sophisticated processes may be sufficient for community banks and credit unions with small portfolios, few acquisitions, or exposures with lower-risk characteristics.

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Supreme Court Directs Tenth Circuit To Reconsider RMBS Ruling

On June 16, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a Tenth Circuit holding that RMBS claims filed by the NCUA were timely and instructed the circuit court to reconsider that holding in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in an environmental case. National Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. Nomura Home Equity Loan, Inc., No. 13-576, 2014 WL 2675836 (U.S. Jun. 16, 2014). On June 9, the Court delivered its opinion in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, an environmental case that addressed the difference between statutes of limitations and statutes of repose, which are both used to limit the temporal extent or duration of tort liability. In Waldburger, the Supreme Court held that under the environmental statute at issue, Congress intended to preempt state statutes of limitations but not statutes of repose. In light of that decision, the Court asked the Tenth Circuit to reconsider its holding that the federal extender statute supplants all other limitations frameworks, including both the one-year statute of limitations and the three-year statute of repose, included in the limitations provision of the Securities Act of 1933 and the similar state laws at issue in the case.

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Prudential Regulators Issue Statement On Increased Maximum Flood Insurance Coverage

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.

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House Financial Services Chairman Questions Regulators’ Use Of Reputation Risk

On May 22, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) sent letters to the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, the FDIC, and the NCUA asking the regulators to explain their use of “reputational risk,” and citing Operation Choke Point as an example of the potential for “reputation risk” to become “a pretext for the advancement of political objectives, which can potentially subvert both safety and soundness and the rule of law.” Congressman Hensarling asked each regulator to explain (i) whether it consider reputation risk in its supervision of depositories, and, if so, to explain the legal basis for such consideration and why it is appropriate; (ii) what data are used to analyze reputational risk and why such data are not already accounted for under CAMELS; and (iii) whether a poor reputation risk rating could be sufficient to warrant recommending a change in a depository’s business practices notwithstanding strong ratings under CAMELS.

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Federal Regulators Propose Framework for State Supervision of Appraisal Management Companies

On March 24, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, the FDIC, the CFPB, the FHFA, and the NCUA proposed a rule to implement the Dodd-Frank Act’s minimum requirements for registration and supervision of Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs). While current federal regulations mandate that appraisals conducted for federally related transactions must comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), this rule would represent the first affirmative federal obligations relating to the registration, supervision, and conduct of AMCs.

Generally, the proposed rule would establish a framework for the registration and supervision of AMCs by individual states that choose to participate, and for state reporting to the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC). Although state participation is optional, AMCs would be prohibited from providing appraisal management services for federally related transactions in states that do not establish such a program.

Comments on the proposal will be due 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Read more…

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NCUA To Host Town Hall With CFPB Director

On January 8, the NCUA announced that Board Chairman Matz will host CFPB Director Richard Cordray for a free town hall webinar on February 12, 2014. The event will be the third NCUA has hosted with the Director and it is expected to cover a wide range of consumer financial protection issues.

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Prudential Regulators Address Impact Of QM Lending On CRA Ratings

On December 13, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the OCC, and the NCUA issued an interagency statement to clarify safety and soundness expectations and CRA considerations in light of the CFPB’s ability-to-repay/qualified mortgage rule. The statement emphasizes that institutions may originate both QM and non-QM loans based on their business strategies and risk appetites and that residential mortgage loans “will not be subject to safety-and-soundness criticism based solely on their status as QMs or non-QMs.” Acknowledging that some institutions may choose to originate only or predominantly QM loans, the agencies state that, consistent with recent guidance concerning the fair lending implications of QM-only lending, “the agencies that conduct CRA evaluations do not anticipate that institutions’ decision[s] to originate only QMs, absent other factors, would adversely affect their CRA evaluations.”

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Banking Regulators Finalize Social Media Guidance

On December 11, the FFIEC, on behalf of the CFPB, the FDIC, the OCC, the Federal Reserve Board, the NCUA, and the State Liaison Committee, released final guidance on the applicability of consumer protection and compliance laws, regulations, and policies to activities conducted via social media by federally supervised financial institutions and nonbanks supervised by the CFPB. The guidance was finalized largely as proposed. However, in response to stakeholder comments, the regulators clarified certain provisions. For example, the final guidance clarifies that traditional emails and text messages, on their own, are not social media. The final guidance also explains that to the extent consistent with other applicable legal requirements, a financial institution may establish one or more specified channels that customers must use for submitting communications directly to the institution, and that a financial institution is not expected to monitor all Internet communications for complaints and inquiries, but should take into account the results of its own risk assessment in determining the appropriate approach regarding monitoring and responding to communications. The regulators also clarified that the guidance is not intended to provide a “one-size-fits-all” approach; rather financial institutions are expected to assess and manage the risks particular to the individual institution, taking into account factors such as the institution’s size, complexity, activities, and third party relationships. The final guidance also contains further discussion regarding the application of certain laws and regulations to social media activities, such as the Community Reinvestment Act. Finally, consistent with other recent regulatory initiatives, the final guidance clarifies that prior to engaging with a prospective third party an institution should evaluate and perform due diligence appropriate to the risks posed.

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Agencies Finalize Exemptions To Higher-Priced Mortgage Loan Appraisal Requirements

On December 12, the Federal Reserve Board, the CFPB, the FDIC, the FHFA, the NCUA, and the OCC, issued a final rule supplementing their January 2013 interagency appraisal rule. As described in detail in our Special Alert, the January 2013 rule amended Regulation Z to require creditors to obtain appraisals for a subset of loans called Higher-Priced Mortgage Loans (HPMLs) and to notify consumers who apply for these loans of their right to a copy of the appraisal. Those new requirements take effect January 18, 2014.

The supplemental final rule, which takes effect on the same date, exempts certain transactions from the HPML appraisal requirements. First, all loans secured in whole or in part by a manufactured home are fully exempt until July 18, 2015. After that date: (i) transactions secured by a new manufactured home and land are exempt only from the requirement that the appraisal include a physical review of the interior of the property; (ii) transactions secured by an existing manufactured home and land are not exempt from any HPML appraisal requirements; and (iii) transactions secured by a manufactured home but not land are exempt from all HPML appraisal requirements, provided the creditor provides the consumer with certain specified information about the home’s value. Second, the supplemental final rule exempts streamlined refinances—i.e. refinancing transactions where the holder of the successor credit risk also held the credit risk of the original credit obligation—so long as the consumer does not take any cash out and the new loan does have negative amortization, interest only, or balloon payments. Third, the supplemental final rule exempts “small dollar” transactions of $25,000 or less, indexed annually for inflation.

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Federal, State Authorities Announce Largest RMBS Settlement To Date

On November 19, the DOJ, other federal authorities, and state authorities in California, Delaware, Illinois, and Massachusetts, announced a $13 billion settlement of federal and state RMBS civil claims, which were being pursued as part of the state-federal RMBS Working Group, part of the Obama Administration’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The DOJ described the settlement as the largest it has ever entered with a single entity. Federal and state law enforcement authorities and financial regulators alleged that the bank and certain institutions it acquired mislead investors in connection with the packaging, marketing, sale and issuance of certain RMBS. They claimed the institutions’ employees knew that loans backing certain RMBS did not comply with underwriting guidelines and were not otherwise appropriate for securitization, yet allowed the loans to be securitized and sold without disclosing the alleged underwriting failures to investors.The agreement includes $9 billion in civil penalties and $4 billion in consumer relief. Of the civil penalty amount, $2 billion resolves DOJ’s claims under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), $1.4 billion resolves federal and state securities claims by the NCUA, $515.4 million resolves federal and state securities claims by the FDIC, $4 billion settles federal and state claims by the FHFA, while the remaining amount resolves claims brought by California ($298.9 million),  Delaware ($19.7 million) Illinois ($100.0 million), Massachusetts ($34.4 million), and New York ($613.0 million). The bank also was required to acknowledge it made “serious misrepresentations.” The agreement does not prevent authorities from continuing to pursue any possible related criminal charges.

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Report On CFPB’s Auto Finance Forum

This morning, the CFPB hosted an auto finance forum, which featured remarks from CFPB staff and other federal regulators, consumer advocates, and industry representatives.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Patrice Ficklin (CFPB) confirmed that the CFPB, both before issuing the March bulletin and since, has conducted analysis of numerous finance companies’ activities and found statistically significant disparities disfavoring protected classes. She stated that there were “numerous” companies whose data showed statistically significant pricing disparities of 10 basis points or more and “several” finance companies with disparities of over 20 or 30 basis points.
  • Much of the discussion focused on potential alternatives to the current dealer markup system.  The DOJ discussed allowing discretion within limitations and with documentation of the reasons for exercising that discretion (e.g., competition). The CFPB focus was exclusively on non-discretionary “alternative compensation mechanisms”, specifically flat fees per loan, compensation based on a percentage of the amount financed, or some variation of those. The CFPB said it invited finance companies to suggest other non-discretionary alternatives. Regardless of specific compensation model, Ms. Ficklin stated that in general, nondiscretionary alternatives can (i) be revenue neutral for dealers, (ii) reduce fair lending risk, (iii) be less costly than compliance management systems enhancements, and (iv) limit friction between dealers on the one hand and the CFPB on the other.
  • There was significant debate over whether flat fee arrangements, or other potential compensation mechanisms, actually eliminate or reduce the potential for disparate impact in auto lending. There was also criticism of the CFPB’s failure to empirically test whether these “fixes” would result in other unintended consequences.  Industry stakeholders asserted that such arrangements fail to mitigate fair lending risk market-wide while at the same time potentially increase the cost of credit and constrain credit availability. Industry stakeholders also questioned the validity of the large dollar figures of alleged consumer harm caused by dealer markups.  When assessing any particular model, the CFPB’s Eric Reusch explained, finance companies should determine whether (i) it mitigates fair lending risk, (ii) creates any new risk or potential for additional harm, and (iii) it is economically sustainable, with sustainability viewed through the lens of consumers, finance companies, and dealers.
  • Numerous stakeholders urged the CFPB to release more information about its proxy methodology and statistical analysis, citing the Bureau’s stated dedication to transparency and even referencing its Data Quality Act guidelines.  The DOJ described its commitment to “kicking the tires” on its statistical analyses and allowing institutions to do the same.  The CFPB referenced its recent public disclosure of its proxy methodology, noting that this was the methodology the CFPB intended to apply to all lending outside of mortgage.
  • Steven Rosenbaum (DOJ) and Donna Murphy (OCC) pointedly went beyond the stated scope of the forum to highlight potential SCRA compliance risks associated with indirect auto lending.

Additional detail from each panel follows. Read more…

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Banking Agencies Clarify Guidance On Troubled Debt Restructurings

Last week, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the NCUA, and the OCC released interagency guidance related to the accounting treatment and regulatory credit risk grade or classification of commercial and residential real estate loans that have undergone troubled debt restructurings (TDRs). The guidance clarifies the definition of collateral-dependent loans and states that impaired collateral-dependent loans should be measured for impairment based on the fair value of the collateral rather than the present value of expected future cash flows.

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