CFPB Releases Annual Report to Congress on Transparency, Accountability in 2016

On January 3, the CFPB announced the release of its annual report to the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations for 2016. The report—which covers October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016—identifies the specific responsibilities that the Dodd-Frank Act tasked to the CFPB and explains how the Bureau has attempted to meet those responsibilities. Among other things, the report describes Bureau regulations and guidance related to the Dodd-Frank Act including, but not limited to: (i) a proposed rule on arbitration; (ii) a proposed rule related to payday loans, vehicle title loans, and other similar credit products; (iii) a final rule to amend various provisions of the mortgage servicing rules implementing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and the Truth in Lending Act; and (iv) a final rule amending Regulation C, implementing the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The report also includes descriptions of the Bureau’s supervisory activities and enforcement actions undertaken by in the 2016 fiscal year.

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PHH v CFPB: PHH and U.S. Solicitor General Respond to CFPB’s Petition for En Banc Review

On December 22, PHH filed its brief opposing the CFPB’s petition for en banc review of the October 2016 three-judge panel decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB. PHH argued that the case is not worthy of review by the full D.C. Circuit because, although the majority of the panel determined that the CFPB’s structure violated the constitutionally-mandated separation of powers, that “conclusion, which horrifies the CFPB, simply means that an agency of the Executive Branch will be answerable to the Chief Executive.” With respect to the panel’s unanimous decision that the CFPB incorrectly interpreted RESPA, PHH argued that en banc review is inappropriate because, among other reasons, the D.C. Circuit could not side with the CFPB without “creat[ing] a circuit split with every other court to have considered the proper scope of RESPA.”

At the invitation of the D.C. Circuit, the U.S. Solicitor General also filed its brief later the same day. While the Solicitor General supported the CFPB’s petition for en banc review of the constitutional question, it also suggested that, consistent with Judge Henderson’s dissent from the panel opinion, the full D.C. Circuit could simply vacate the CFPB’s order against PHH on the grounds that the Bureau misinterpreted RESPA. Doing so, the Solicitor General notes, would be consistent with the “well-established principle … that normally the Court will not decide a constitutional question if there is some other ground upon which to dispose of the case.” This ruling would vacate the panel majority’s conclusion that the CFPB’s structure was unconstitutional, although the Solicitor General noted that PHH could renew its constitutional challenge if the CFPB continues to pursue the case on remand.

With respect to the separation of powers question itself, the Solicitor General argued that en banc review is warranted because the majority departed from the analysis used by the Supreme Court to decide such questions. Specifically, the Solicitor General suggests that the panel majority erred by concluding “that an agency with a single head poses a greater threat to individual liberty than an agency headed by a multi-member body that exercises the same powers,” noting that the President’s authority over the multi-member FTC was similarly limited and the FTC enjoyed similar powers at the time the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

Finally, after the filing of the Solicitor General’s brief, PHH requested permission to file an additional brief on the grounds that the Solicitor General had raised arguments not presented in the CFPB’s petition.

For additional background, please see our summaries of the panel decision, the CFPB’s petition for rehearing, and the D.C. Circuit’s order directing PHH to respond and the Solicitor General to provide views.

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CFPB Requests Rehearing of Decision Threatening Agency’s Structure

Earlier today, the CFPB filed its much-anticipated response in PHH Corp. v. CFPB, requesting reconsideration by the full D.C. Circuit. As discussed in our special alert, on October 11, 2016, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit vacated the CFPB’s $109 million penalty against PHH under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). In addition, a majority of the panel held that, to resolve a constitutional defect in the CFPB’s structure, the Director was removable by the President at will, meaning that President Trump could remove Director Cordray upon taking office. However, the panel’s decision is stayed until seven days after the court rules on the CFPB’s request.

Rather than proceeding directly to the Supreme Court, the CFPB proceeded as expected by requesting rehearing en banc by the full D.C. Circuit, which is generally disfavored and granted only for matters of “exceptional importance.” Perhaps most significantly, the Bureau’s petition does not request rehearing of the panel’s conclusion that RESPA’s three-year statute of limitations applied to administrative as well as judicial actions brought under that statute.  Read more…

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CFPB Director Cordray Delivers Remarks at MBA Conference

On October 25, CFPB Director Richard Cordray delivered remarks to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). Cordray highlighted the CFPB’s role in helping the housing economy to recover, including regulatory actions from 2014 to the present. Director Cordray also advised industry participants that they should expect more regulation and oversight over the coming year, explaining that the cost of compliance, though burdensome, was “inevitable” in light of the “far-reaching” effects of the financial crisis that Congress was trying to fix.

Director Cordray revealed three priority areas for enforcement and supervision in the next year: (i) consumer complaints, explaining that the CFPB will now require underperforming servicers to document the technology and process changes used to implement the agency’s recently released servicing regulations, because, among other reasons, the Bureau considers monitoring and addressing the process through which complaints are handled part of “a basic component” of any compliance effort; (ii) redlining, noting that the Bureau has identified “redlining” as a target for its supervisory work in the coming year, and has teamed up with the DOJ to bring “major enforcement actions” against institutions found to be discriminatory in their lending practices; (iii) RESPA violations, announcing that the CFPB will continue to adhere to its 2015 bulletin regarding marketing servicing agreements despite the recent PHH ruling. He further noted that the PHH case “is not final at this point” and that the Bureau “respectfully disagrees” with the finding.

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POSTED IN: Consumer Finance, Federal Issues

ABA and CBA Lend Perspective on CFPB’s Proposed TRID Revisions

On October 18, the American Banking Association (ABA) and Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) submitted a joint comment letter responding to a recent proposal by the CFPB seeking to codify informal guidance and clarifications to the Know Before Your Owe TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule. Of particular concern among lenders and investors was the lack of clarity about liability for unintentional mistakes and technical noncompliance with TRID. To help address these concerns, the Associations urged the CFPB to, among other things, (i) publish the specific statutory provisions it relied upon for each disclosure item or requirement identified in the recent proposal; (ii) grant a “safe harbor” for model forms issued by the bureau; (iii) grant an extension of the “good faith” compliance examination policy pending the CFPB’s proscribed deadlines for the proposed rules; and (iv) develop a formal process to address ongoing compliance and legal issues related to TRID.

The Associations also expressed appreciation for “the numerous amendments offered in th[e] proposal,” including those allowing corrected closing disclosures to reset applicable good faith tolerances for creditors. The Associations further explained that their “preliminary analysis reflects that this proposed rule will resolve multiple ambiguities that banks deem significant” and “urged that the bureau . . . allow for the correction of previous non-compliance caused by the interpretive ambiguity that the bureau is now fixing” (emphasis added).

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POSTED IN: Miscellany, Mortgages