Mortgage Companies Penalized for Deceptive Reverse Mortgage Ads; Must Take Corrective Action

On December 7, the CFPB announced that it had entered into consent orders with three reverse mortgage companies to settle claims that their advertisements for those mortgages were deceptive under the Mortgage Acts and Practices Advertising Rule. The alleged misconduct included deceptive advertising campaigns that misrepresented, among other things: (i) the risk of losing home and the right to remain in the home; (ii) expected costs and mortgage payments; (iii) government affiliations of the mortgage company; and (iv) the effectiveness of a reverse mortgage credit product to eliminate debt.

The consent orders require the companies to make clear and prominent disclosures in their reverse mortgage advertisements and implement systems to ensure they are following all laws. One of the three firms also cannot imply affiliation with the government and must maintain complete and accurate records. In addition, the consent orders impose civil penalties ranging from $65,000 up to $400,000.

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CFPB Releases Supervisory Highlights Report for Fall 2016

On October 31, the CFPB released the 13th Edition of its Supervisory Highlights Report, covering the period May through August of this year. The report shares recent supervisory observations in the areas of automobile loan origination, automobile loan servicing, debt collection, mortgage origination, mortgage servicing, student loan servicing, and fair lending. The report found that the CFPB’s recent supervisory actions returned more than $11 million to approximately 225,000 consumers. The Bureau also set forth new examination procedures for reverse mortgage servicing, student loan servicing, and the Military Lending Act.

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FHA Proposes Revisions to Reverse Mortgage Program

On May 18, HUD announced that the FHA proposed a new rule that is intended to “strengthen” its Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) Program by reinforcing reforms that have taken place in the past two years, and by adding new consumer protections. New revisions to the HECM program outlined in the proposed rule include, but are not limited to, (i) ensuring that required HECM counseling occurs before a mortgage contract is signed; (ii) amending the definition of “property charges” to include utilities as a borrower responsibility; (iii) capping lifetime interest rate adjustments for adjustable interest rate products at 5%; (iv) requiring as a condition of eligibility for loan assignment that the HECM mortgage be in lien status prior to homeowners association and condo association liens; and (v) creating a “cash for keys” program to “incentivize parties with legal authority to dispose of a property that serves as the security for a HECM to complete a deed in lieu of foreclosure more quickly.” Comments on the proposal are due by Monday, July 18, 2016.

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Mortgage Banking Firm Settles with DOJ for Participation in Fraudulent Reimbursement Scheme

On September 4, the DOJ announced a settlement of more than $29 million with a Florida-based mortgage banking firm in connection with violations of the False Claims Act. The firm’s subsidiaries participated in HUD’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) program, which insures reverse mortgage loans by reimbursing lenders that are unable to recoup the full amount of a reverse mortgage loan once the loan becomes due and payable. HUD will reimburse sales commissions paid to real estate agents in connection with the liquidation of foreclosed properties, but will not reimburse fees paid to real estate agents for referrals of loans to be liquidated. According to the DOJ, from July 2010 to October 2014, the firm used straw companies to split commissions with real estate agents, and then later submitted claims to HUD for reimbursement of the full commission amount. Additionally, from August 2009 to March 2015, the firm encouraged its subsidiaries to submit false debenture interest claims to HUD. Specifically, the subsidiaries neglected to disclose that they had failed to meet certain required regulatory deadlines and were therefore not entitled to interest payments. The DOJ stated that the settlement “represents a significant milestone in [the DOJ’s] long standing campaign against mortgage fraud.”

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Illinois Governor Signs Reverse Mortgage Act

On August 10, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law Senate Bill 1440, the Reverse Mortgage Act which provides new consumer protections for borrowers with respect to reverse mortgage loan transactions. Among other things, the legislation establishes a regulatory framework to govern reverse mortgage loan transactions made within the state including provisions that (i) require lenders to provide certain mortgage disclosures to potential borrowers; and (ii) implement a three-day “cooling off” period in which a potential borrower can rescind the loan. The Act also grants the Illinois Attorney General sole enforcement authority to pursue any violations of the Reverse Mortgage Act, which would constitute as an unlawful practice under the state’s Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. The law becomes effective January 1, 2016.

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