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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
On October 23, the CFPB, the OCC, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board, the NCUA, and the SEC proposed joint standards for assessing the diversity policies and practices of regulated institutions. Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act required the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) at each agency to develop the standards. The Act specifically prohibits the standards from imposing requirements on or otherwise affecting the lending policies and practices of any regulated entity, or requiring any specific action based on the findings of an assessment, and the agencies state that the assessments will not occur within the standard examination or supervision process. The standards, which the agencies believe are designed to promote “transparency and awareness,” cover four general areas: (i) organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion, (ii) workforce profile and employment practices, (iii) procurement and business practices to promote supplier diversity, and (iv) practices to promote transparency of organizational diversity and inclusion. The agencies state that the standards account for variables including asset size, number of employees, governance structure, income, number of members or customers, contract volume, location, and community characteristics, and the agencies recognize the standards may need to change and improve over time. The proposed standards are subject to a public comment period, which will run for 60 days once they are published in the Federal Register.
On October 22, the CFPB, the OCC, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board, and the NCUA (collectively, the Agencies) issued a joint statement (Interagency Statement) in response to inquiries from creditors concerning their liability under the disparate impact doctrine of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and its implementing regulation, Regulation B by originating only “qualified mortgages.” Qualified mortgages are defined under the CFPB’s January 2013 Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule (ATR/QM Rule). The DOJ and HUD did not participate in the Interagency Statement.
The Interagency Statement describes some general principles that will guide the Agencies’ supervisory and enforcement activities with respect to entities within their jurisdiction as the ATR/QM Rule takes effect in January 2014. The Interagency Statement does not state that a creditor’s choice to limit its offerings to qualified mortgage loans or qualified mortgage “safe harbor” loans would comply with ECOA; rather, the Agencies state that they “do not anticipate that a creditor’s decision to offer only qualified mortgages would, absent other factors, elevate a supervised institution’s fair lending risk.” Furthermore, the Interagency Statement will not necessarily preclude civil actions. Read more…
This week, the NCUA issued Letter No. 13-FCU-09 to advise federally insured credit unions of changes to its examination report. The NCUA made the changes to “streamline the examination report, better clarify the priority exam action items to be resolved, reduce redundancy, and ensure consistency.” In an effort to help credit union officials clearly differentiate between major and minor problems in order to prioritize corrective actions, and to enhance consistency in the examination process, the Document of Resolution (DOR) and Examiner’s Findings will now be stand-alone documents. For any material problems identified in an examination, the examiner’s concern and documented support for that concern will be included in the DOR, along with corrective action plans. The letter also provides a table that details, document-by-document, other changes to the examination report. Full implementation will begin with examinations starting on or after January 1, 2014.
On September 23, the NCUA announced that it filed separate lawsuits against nine financial institutions on behalf of five insolvent credit unions for alleged violations of federal and state securities laws in the sale of $2.4 billion in mortgage-backed securities. The complaints, which the NCUA filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, claim that the securitizer made numerous misrepresentations and omissions in the offering documents regarding adherence to the originators’ underwriting guidelines, which concealed the true risk associated with the securities and routinely overvalued them. The NCUA claims that when the allegedly risky securities lost value, the credit unions were forced into conservatorship and liquidated as a result of the losses sustained. The NCUA has filed numerous similar suits, and it has previously settled similar claims for more than $335 million with four financial institutions.
On September 23, the NCUA announced a lawsuit against 13 international banks alleging violations of federal and state antitrust laws by artificially manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) system. The NCUA filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas on behalf of five failed credit unions. The NCUA claims the institutions individually and collectively gave false interest rate information through the LIBOR rate-setting process to benefit their own LIBOR-related investments, to reduce their borrowing costs, to deceive the marketplace as to the true state of their creditworthiness and to deprive investors of interest rate payments. According to the NCUA, the now defunct credit unions held tens of billions of dollars in investments and other assets that paid interest streams tied to LIBOR, and that the alleged conspiracy to artificially depress LIBOR caused the failed credit unions to receive less in interest income than they otherwise were entitled to receive.
On April 9, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed claims brought by the FDIC as receiver for a failed bank against a financial institution related to 10 MBS certificates sold to the bank, holding that the FDIC’s claims were time-barred. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Countrywide Secs. Corp., No. 12-6911, slip op. (C.D. Cal. Apr. 9, 2013). The court found that “a reasonably diligent plaintiff had enough information about false statements in the Offering Documents of [the firm’s] securities to file a well-pled complaint before” the statute of limitations expired on August 14, 2008. The court noted that deviations from stated underwriting guidelines and inflated appraisals had come to light prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations through “multiple lawsuits” and “numerous media sources.” The court found that it was irrelevant that the FDIC was named receiver for the bank because “[t]he FDIC [did] not have the power to revive expired claims.” Similarly, on April 8, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas granted, in part, a motion to dismiss federal and state claims brought by the NCUA on behalf of three failed credit unions against a financial institution related to certain MBS certificates sold to the credit unions, holding that certain NCUA claims were time-barred. Nat’l Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. Credit Suisse Secs. (USA) LLC, No. 12 Civ. 2648, 2013 WL 1411769 (D. Kan. Apr. 8, 2013). The court found that the applicable federal and state law statutes of limitations required claims to be filed within one or two years of discovery of the alleged misstatement or omission, and within three or five years of sale or violation, respectively. The judge dismissed the federal and state claims for 12 of the MBS certificates as untimely, but preserved federal claims as to eight certificates, determining that the statutes of limitations were tolled on those claims. In addition, the court found that (i) venue was proper because defendant engaged in activity that would constitute the transaction of business in the district for purposes of the applicable venue statute and (ii) plaintiff set forth plausible claims for relief.
On April 2, the NCUA announced that a financial institution agreed to settle allegations related to mortgage-backed securities issued to certain corporate credit unions. The NCUA has alleged on behalf of failed corporate credit unions that certain MBS issuers made numerous misrepresentations and omissions in MBS offering documents regarding adherence to the originators’ underwriting guidelines, which supposedly concealed the true risk associated with the securities and routinely overvalued them. When the allegedly risky securities lost value, the NCUA claims, the credit unions were forced into conservatorship and liquidated as a result of the losses sustained. In this settlement, the institution did not admit fault but agreed to pay $165 million to avoid threatened litigation. The settlement adds to the $170.75 million the NCUA already has obtained from four other institutions, and the agency continues to pursue additional institutions in 10 pending lawsuits.
On March 29, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the OCC, the NCUA, and the Farm Credit Administration issued an interagency statement to clarify the effective dates for changes to the Flood Disaster Protection Act enacted last year in the Biggert-Water Flood Insurance Reform Act (the Act). The statement informs financial institutions that the force-placed aspects of the Act became effective upon enactment, which was July, 6, 2012, while provisions related to private flood insurance and escrow of flood insurance payments do not take effect until the agencies issue regulations. The statement reiterates the OCC’s prior statement that the new flood insurance penalty provisions in the Act took effect immediately and apply to violations that occurred on or after July 6, 2012.