On April 4, the CFPB announced enforcement actions against four mortgage insurers against which it filed complaints alleging that their captive reinsurance arrangements with mortgage lenders violated Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The actions are the first public actions the CFPB has taken to enforce RESPA, and follow investigations started by HUD and transferred to the CFPB in July 2011. The insurers did not admit the allegations but agreed to pay a combined $15.4 million to end the investigations. The consent orders also (i) prohibit the insurers from entering into any new captive mortgage reinsurance arrangements with mortgage lenders or their affiliates, and from obtaining captive reinsurance on any new mortgages, for a period of ten years, (ii) require the insurers to forfeit any right to the funds not directly related to collecting on reinsurance claims in connection with pre-existing reinsurance arrangements, and (iii) subject the insurers to compliance monitoring and reporting. The orders must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida before taking effect.
On May 17, the CFPB announced an enforcement action against a homebuilder the CFPB alleges violated Section 8(a) of RESPA through joint venture arrangements. According to the CFPB, the homebuilder created two joint ventures, one with a state bank and the other with a nonbank mortgage company. The CFPB consent order alleges the homebuilder referred mortgage customers to the joint ventures in exchange for payments from those ventures, and that such payments violate RESPA’s prohibition on the acceptance of any fee, kickback, or thing of value in exchange for referral of customers for real estate settlement services. The homebuilder did not admit to the allegations, but agreed to disgorge over $100,000 and cease from performing any real estate settlement services, including mortgage origination. The CFPB investigation resulted from an FDIC referral. That agency issued an enforcement action in June 2012 against the state bank for related alleged activities.
On January 17, the CFPB issued final rules amending Regulation Z (TILA) and Regulation X (RESPA) to implement certain mortgage servicing standards set forth by the Dodd-Frank Act and to address other issues identified by the CFPB. The rule amending Regulation Z includes changes to (i) periodic billing statement requirements, (ii) notices about adjustable rate mortgage interest rate adjustments, and (iii) rules on payment crediting and payoff statements. The rule amending Regulation X addresses (i) force-placed insurance requirements, (ii) error resolution and information request procedures, (iii) information management policies and procedures, (iv) standards for early intervention with delinquent borrowers, (v) rules for contact with delinquent borrowers, and (vi) enhanced loss mitigation procedures. This Alert includes a detailed analysis of these nine topics and also provides links to each of the model forms amended or added by the rule. For ease of reference, this Alert contains a detailed, hyper-linked table of contents. Click here to download our detailed analysis of CFPB’s Mortgage Servicing Rules.
On January 17, the CFPB issued final rules amending Regulation Z (TILA) and Regulation X (RESPA) to implement certain mortgage servicing standards set forth by the Dodd-Frank Act and to address other issues identified by the CFPB. The rule amending Regulation Z includes changes to (i) periodic billing statement requirements, (ii) notices about adjustable rate mortgage interest rate adjustments, and (iii) rules on payment crediting and payoff statements. The rule amending Regulation X addresses (i) force-placed insurance requirements, (ii) error resolution and information request procedures, (iii) information management policies and procedures, (iv) standards for early intervention with delinquent borrowers, (v) rules for contact with delinquent borrowers, and (vi) enhanced loss mitigation procedures. While many of the rules implement changes required by the Dodd-Frank Act, other proposed requirements incorporate requirements similar to those placed on servicers as part of the national mortgage servicing settlement earlier this year, or corrective actions taken in 2011 by the prudential regulators. The new standards go into effect on January 10, 2014. The rule provides certain exemptions for servicers that service 5,000 or fewer mortgage loans and service only mortgage loans that they or an affiliate originated or own. BuckleySandler will provide additional analysis of key issues in the rules once we complete our review of them.
On December 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that letters sent by two borrowers challenging the monthly payment due on their mortgage loan were not “qualified written requests” and therefore did not trigger the servicer’s duty under RESPA to respond. Medrano v. Flagstar Bank, FSB, No. 11-55412, 2012 WL 6183549 (9th Cir. Dec. 11, 2012). The borrowers alleged that their mortgage servicer failed to respond adequately to three letters in which the borrowers challenged the monthly payment due on their loan. RESPA grants borrowers a private right of action against servicers who fail to respond to a “qualified written request.” Following the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Catalan v. GMAC Mortgage Corp., 629 F.3d 676 (7th Cir. 2011), the court held that RESPA provides that such requests must (i) reasonably identify the borrower’s name and account, (ii) either state the borrower’s reasons for the belief that the account is in error or provide sufficient detail to the servicer regarding other information sought, and (iii) seek information relating to the servicing of the loan. The court held that because the letters did not seek information relating to the servicing of the loan, but rather challenged the loan’s terms, the letters were not qualified written requests and the servicer had no duty to respond. The court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the borrowers’ RESPA claims and remand of the borrowers’ remaining state law claims.
On November 16, the CFPB announced that it is providing a temporary exemption from the mortgage disclosure requirements in title XIV of the Dodd-Frank Act, including new disclosures regarding (i) cancellation of escrow accounts, (ii) a consumer’s liability for debt payment after foreclosure, and (iii) the creditor’s policy for accepting partial payment. The Federal Reserve Board proposed a rule in March 2011 to implement these requirements, but did not finalize the rule prior to July 21, 2011, when authority transferred to the CFPB. Subsequently, the CFPB issued a proposal to integrate the TILA and RESPA disclosures and create new disclosure forms, which, as proposed, include many of the additional disclosures required by title XIV. In light of the overlap in the two rulemakings, and given that the title XIV requirements are required by statute to take effect on January 21, 2013, the CFPB effectively agreed to delay the compliance date pending completion of the TILA/RESPA disclosures proposal.
On August 31, the CFPB extended the comment period for aspects of two recently proposed rules. On July 9, the CFPB proposed a rule to merge the TILA and RESPA mortgage loan disclosures. That proposal includes potential changes to the definition of finance charge, comments on which were due September 7, 2012. Having heard from stakeholders that the proposed definition could impact changes proposed in other CFPB mortgage-related rulemakings, the CFPB extended the comment deadline to November 6, 2012, which matches the deadline for most of the other aspects of the proposed TILA/RESPA disclosure rule. This extension does not impact the September 7, 2012 deadline for comments on whether the CFPB should delay implementation of certain new TILA and RESPA disclosures. Also on July 9, 2012, the CFPB proposed a rule to expand the types of mortgage loans subject to HOEPA, with comments due September 7, 2012. Given the extension of the deadline for comments on the definition of finance charge, which will impact the scope of the extended HOEPA coverage, the CFPB also extended the HOEPA proposed rule comment deadline to November 6, 2012.
After years of discussion and analysis by industry groups, consumer advocates, regulators, and Congressional committees, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) has finally proposed a rule (the “Proposed Rule” or “Rule”) that merges the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) mortgage loan disclosures. To make absolutely sure it happened this time around, in 2010 Congress directed that such an integrated disclosure be developed in no fewer than three separate sections of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act” or “Dodd-Frank”). The rule was published in yesterday’s Federal Register, with no substantive changes between that version and the version originally released on July 9.
Section 1032(f) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that, by July 21, 2012, the Bureau “shall propose for public comment rules and model disclosures that combine the disclosures required under [TILA] and [sections 4 and 5 of RESPA] into a single, integrated disclosure for mortgage loan transactions covered by those laws, unless the Bureau determines that any proposal issued by the [Board] and [HUD] carries out the same purpose.” 12 U.S.C. 5532(f).
Section 1098(2) of the Dodd-Frank Act amended RESPA section 4(a) to require that the Bureau “publish a single, integrated disclosure for mortgage loan transactions (including real estate settlement cost statements) which includes the disclosure requirements of this section and section 5, in conjunction with the disclosure requirements of [TILA] that, taken together, may apply to a transaction that is subject to both or either provisions of law.” 12 U.S.C. 2603(a).
Section 1100A(5) of the Dodd-Frank Act amended TILA section 105(b) to require that the Bureau “publish a single, integrated disclosure for mortgage loan transactions (including real estate settlement cost statements) which includes the disclosure requirements of this title in conjunction with the disclosure requirements of [RESPA] that, taken together, may apply to a transaction that is subject to both or either provisions of law.” 15 U.S.C. 1604(b). Read more…
On August 10, the CFPB proposed two sets of rules covering a number of residential mortgage servicing practices. The rules would amend Regulation Z (TILA) and Regulation X (RESPA) to implement certain mortgage servicing standards set forth by the Dodd-Frank Act and to address other issues identified by the CFPB. The TILA proposal includes changes to (i) periodic billing statement requirements, (ii) notices about adjustable rate mortgage interest rate adjustments, and (iii) rules on payment crediting and payoffs. The proposed changes to RESPA relate to (i) force-placed insurance requirements, (ii) error resolution and information request procedures, (iii) information management policies and procedures, (iv) standards for early intervention with delinquent borrowers, (v) rules for contact with delinquent borrowers, and (vi) enhanced loss mitigation procedures. While many of the rules implement changes required by the Dodd-Frank Act, other proposed requirements incorporate those placed on servicers as part of the national mortgage servicing settlement earlier this year, or corrective actions taken in 2011 by the prudential regulators. The proposed rules follow a small business review panel that provided feedback on the rules’ impact on small servicers. In response to the panel, the CFPB states that it incorporated small business concerns, such as an exemption from new periodic statement requirements for certain small servicers. In addition to comments on the substance of the proposals, the CFPB requests detailed comments about the appropriate effective date of the rules, including whether the CFPB should set staggered effective dates for different aspects of the rules or a single implementation deadline. The CFPB is accepting comments through October 9, 2012 and intends to finalize the rules by the Dodd-Frank statutory deadline in January 2013.
On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a writ of certiorari and permitted a plaintiff’s putative suit against a title insurance company under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act’s (RESPA) anti-kickback provisions to proceed. First Am. Fin. Corp. v. Edwards, No. 10-708, 2012 WL 2427807 (U.S. June 28, 2012). After purchasing title insurance at a rate approved by the Ohio Title Insurance Rating Bureau, plaintiff alleged that her title insurance company paid a “kickback” to receive referrals for title insurance. The plaintiff sued her title insurance company under RESPA’s anti-kickback provisions. The district court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court granted the writ of certiorari and heard oral arguments on November 28, 2011 but declined to issue an opinion, stating that the writ was “improvidently granted.”
California Federal District Court Dismisses Four Mortgage Insurers from Captive Reinsurance Kickback Suit
On May 25, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed a group of mortgage insurers from a proposed class action over allegations that their reinsurance arrangement with a lender’s affiliate violated RESPA’s anti-kickback prohibitions. McCarn v. HSBC USA, Inc, No. 12-00375, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74085 (E.D. Ca. May 29, 2012). In this case, the borrower was required to procure private mortgage insurance (PMI) in order to obtain a mortgage loan. The mortgage insurance he purchased was arranged by his lender. Unbeknownst to the borrower, the PMI provider he engaged had a reinsurance arrangement with the lender whereby the lender required the PMI provider, as a condition of doing business with the lender, to reinsure the PMI provider’s insurance risk with the lender’s subsidiary. The borrower alleged that this arrangement violated RESPA’s anti-kickback provision, which specifies that captive reinsurance arrangements are permissible only if the payments to the affiliated reinsurer (i) are for reinsurance services actually furnished or for servicers performed and (ii) are bona fide compensation that does not exceed the value of such services. Certain of the PMI providers—not the borrower’s actual PMI provider—moved to dismiss the action on standing grounds. They claimed that they did not provide PMI for the borrower’s loan and therefore the borrower’s injuries were not fairly traceable to their alleged actions. The court agreed, and held that the borrower failed to adequately plead a conspiracy and thus did not establish that the injuries were causally connected to these PMI providers’ actions. The court noted that from the PMI providers’ standpoint, the fewer participants in the alleged “scheme” the better because the remaining providers would each get more of the lender’s business. The court found that the borrower had not pled facts supporting a conspiracy, aside from “conclusory allegations of ‘collective action’ to suggest that the various PMI providers would have any financial motivation to act in concert” and dismissed the action without prejudice.
Federal District Court in Florida Lacks Jurisdiction Over TILA and RESPA Claims After State Court Foreclosure Judgment
On April 2, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida dismissed an action brought by a borrower against her mortgage lender alleging violations of TILA and RESPA and seeking a declaratory judgment that the lender holds no interest in the property. Chipman v. US Bank, N.A., No. 10-cv-483, 2012 WL 1093144 (M.D. Fla. April 2, 2012). The borrower brought the pro se action alleging that a forensic audit revealed certain TILA violations. Upon discovering those violations, the borrower submitted two Qualified Written Requests, at least one of which was not acknowledged by the lender in the time frame established by RESPA. The borrower brought suit seeking a recession of the loan. The court dismissed the case, taking judicial notice of a final foreclosure judgment in state court and holding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies. Applying that doctrine, the court found that it is precluded from reviewing the state court final foreclosure judgment because (i) the parties to the two actions are the same, (ii) the state court ruling was a final judgment on the merits, and (iii) the borrower could have raised the TILA and RESPA claims in the state court action.
On March 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit concluded that borrower claims against a title insurance company for alleged kickbacks and fee splitting, in violation of Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), were not appropriate for class treatment because an individual determination of liability would be required for each class member. Howland v. First American Title Ins. Co., Nos. 11-1816, 11-1817, 2012 WL 695636 (7th Cir. Mar. 6, 2012). The case involves the sale of title insurance in Illinois by First American Title Insurance Company. First American typically sells title insurance to borrowers by contracting with the borrower’s real estate attorney to conduct a title examination. As part of that contract, First American provides the real estate attorney with a substantial amount of information about the property, including a summary sheet that includes legal description of the property, the last known grantee, and any open liens. The borrowers alleged that this summary sheet was itself a preliminary title examination. Because much of the title examination work was provided by First American to the attorney as title agent, the borrower sought to certify a class based on two related alleged violations of RESPA: (i) that the fees charged were excessive and unreasonable given the small amount of work performed and (ii) that the attorney title agents were paid to compensate for referrals and not actual services. The court concluded class certification was not appropriate in this instance. It held that while kickbacks and referral fees to the real estate attorney title agents based on compensation for nominal or duplicative services were banned by Section 8 of RESPA, “the existence or the amount of the kickback in these cases generally requires an individual analysis of each alleged kickback to compare the services performed with the payment made.” Furthermore, the court found that claims attorney title agents were being overcompensated for a pro forma clearance of the title based on the title company’s property summary sheet required a specific case-by-case inquiry. The court concluded that “RESPA Section 8 kickback claims premised on an unreasonably high compensation for services actually performed are inherently unsuitable for class action treatment.”
On January 18, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied a motion to dismiss a putative class action suit alleging violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Bolinger v. First Multiple Listing Serv., Inc., No. 10-00211-RWS, 2012 WL 137883 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 18, 2012). Georgia residents who purchased properties listed on the First Multiple Listing Service, Inc. (FMLS) database claim that member agents and brokers paid fees to FMLS out of settlement proceeds but did not disclose those fees on the HUD-1 settlement statement. Plaintiffs also claim that FMLS used those fees to pay kickbacks to member brokers for referrals of listing business. As such, plaintiffs allege that defendants violated (i) Section 8 of RESPA; (ii) the Sherman Act; and (iii) several Georgia state laws. The court found that plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts for their RESPA claims to survive the motion to dismiss. The Court did, however, dismiss plaintiffs’ claims under the Sherman Act, holding that the plaintiffs failed to allege facts showing that defendants engaged in price-fixing by agreeing to fix broker commissions.