CFPB Issues Integrated Mortgage Disclosure Rule Compliance Resources

On April 17, the CFPB issued a guide to completing the disclosure forms required by its November 2013 TILA-RESPA integrated disclosures rule, which generally applies to transactions for which a creditor or broker receives an application on or after August 1, 2015. The guide provides instructions for completing the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure and highlights common situations that may arise when completing the forms. The CFPB states in addition to serving as a resource to creditors, the guide also may assist settlement service providers, software providers, and other service providers. The disclosure forms guide follows the release last month of a small entity compliance guide, which summarizes the rule and highlights issues that small creditors, and their partners or service providers, might find helpful to consider when implementing the rule.

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S.D. Fla. Court Holds TILA Assignee Liability Limited To Violations Apparent At Time Of Assignment

On March 10, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida held that a mortgage assignee “may only be held liable for violations that are apparent on the face of disclosure documents that exist at the time of the assignment.” Alaimo v. HSBC Mortg. Servs., Inc., No. 13-62437-CIV, 2014 WL 930787 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 10, 2014). In this case, a borrower sued his current servicer alleging that the servicer violated Section 1641 of TILA by failing to disclose, upon the borrower’s request, the identity of the owner and master servicer of the loan, as well as the total outstanding balance that would be required to satisfy the mortgage loan in full as of a specified date. The court determined that TILA’s plain language demonstrates that “Congress intended assignees to be responsible only for violations within documents that existed prior to assignment.” While acknowledging the potential policy implication of its decision that could allow assignees to avoid liability for certain TILA violations, the court declined to go beyond congressional intent. The court rejected the borrower’s argument that TILA’s requirement that an assignee provide written notice to the borrower upon acquiring the loan includes an exception to the prerequisites for a suit against an assignee. The court dismissed the borrower’s suit.

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Seventh Circuit Holds Retailer’s Credit Card Upgrade Program Did Not Violate TILA

On March 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a retailer’s credit card upgrade program that replaced existing customers’ limited use store charge cards with unsolicited general use credit cards did not violate TILA, and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a putative class action. Acosta v. Target Corp., No. 13-2706, 2014 WL 1045202 (7th Cir. Mar. 19, 2014). Under the upgrade program, the retailer automatically issued new general purpose cards to existing store card customers and closed the old account upon either the activation of the new account or rejection by the consumer of the new card. The class representatives claimed that the program constituted an offer to change the underlying account relationship and violated TILA’s prohibition on the mailing of unsolicited credit cards. The court held that the program fell within TILA’s exemption for substitute cards based on the common understanding of “substitution” and the Federal Reserve Board staff’s Regulation Z commentary. The court also rejected the cardholders’ argument that they were fraudulently induced to accept the new card. The court determined that the retailer disclosed the reasons for a change in the APR and did not raise the rate unless payments were missed, and sufficiently disclosed the potential for a change in credit limit. The court also held that the retailer’s omission of the fact that cardholders could take steps to retain their store card account was not fraudulent, and added that to hold otherwise would require the retailer “to disclose any condition that could theoretically be negotiated with the card issuer.” The court also affirmed the dismissal of the cardholders’ breach of contract and tortious interference claims.

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CFPB Sues For-Profit Educational Institution Over Private Student Loan Origination Practices

On February 26, the CFPB filed its first enforcement action against a for-profit higher-education company, alleging that the company engaged in unfair and abusive private student loan origination practices.

In a civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the CFPB asserts that the company offered first-year students no-interest short-term loans to cover the difference between the costs of attendance and federal loans obtained by students. The CFPB claims that when the short-term loans came due at the end of the first academic year and borrowers were unable to pay them off, the company forced borrowers into “high-rate, high-fee” private student loans without providing borrowers an adequate opportunity to understand their loan obligations. Moreover, the CFPB claims that the company’s business model is dependent on coercing students into “high-rate, high-fee” private loans, despite the low average incomes and credit profiles of the students, and a 64 percent default rate on such loans.

The company issued a statement denying the charges, criticizing the CFPB’s decision to file suit, and challenging the CFPB’s jurisdiction. The statement describes the suit as an “aggressive attempt by the Bureau . . . to extend its jurisdiction into matters well beyond consumer finance” and expresses the company’s intent to “ vigorously contest the Bureau’s theories in court.” Read more…

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Eleventh Circuit Holds Certain Improper Disclosures Do Not Trigger TILA Rescission

On January 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of a suit seeking rescission of a mortgage loan based on the lender’s alleged failure to disclose the “real lender” and improper disclosure of the interest rate, the yield spread premium, the payments schedule and the processing and administrative fees. Wane v. The Loan Corp., No. 13-11597, 2014 WL 114688 (11th Cir. Jan. 14, 2014). The court held that the allegation that the borrower was not informed of the real lender did not support a right to rescind because (i) it was not a material disclosure under the TILA; and (ii) the borrowers were, in fact, apprised of the party financing the mortgage. Similarly, the court held the allegations that other terms were improperly disclosed did not give rise to a right to rescind because they were either properly disclosed or, in the case of the yield spread premium and the processing and administrative fees, did not constitute material violations of TILA’s disclosure requirements. The court also affirmed the district court’s order denying the borrower’s motion for summary judgment to quiet title, and granting the lender’s motion for summary judgment for breach of contract and money lent.

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VA Issues Statement On ATR/QM Rule

On January 9, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-14-1, which clarifies lender requirements for home loans guaranteed by the VA under the TILA and the CFPB’s Ability to Repay and Qualified Mortgage (ATR/QM) rule. Given that the CFPB’s ATR/QM rule took effect on January 10, 2014, and the VA has not yet finalized its own ATR/QM requirements for VA-guaranteed loans, the circular states that all lenders must comply with the requirements of TILA, as established by CFPB’s ATR/QM Rule. Further, all loans made in compliance with existing VA requirements will continue to be guaranteed by VA, regardless of their QM status. The VA expects to publish its ATR/QM rule in the “near future.”

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Utah Federal Court Holds Model TILA Rescission Notice Not “Clear And Conspicuous”

On January 6, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah held that the model TILA rescission disclosure, form H-8, does not clearly and conspicuously disclose the three business day rescission period. Simmons v. Citimortgage Inc., No. 11-171, 2014 WL 37623 (D. Utah Jan. 6, 2014). In this case, two borrowers sued their lender, claiming that the lender improperly refused to rescind the borrowers’ loan within the statutory three-day rescission period. The borrowers, who closed on a Wednesday and sought rescission the following Monday, claimed that their rescission attempt fell within the three business day window granted by TILA. The lender countered that Regulation Z defines Saturday as a business day and therefore the borrowers’ request was untimely. On summary judgment, the court determined that the rescission disclosure the lender provided to the borrowers, model disclosure form H-8, did not clearly and conspicuously disclose the date the rescission period expired. The court explained that the model disclosure is subject to more than one sensible reading and required the borrowers to conduct further research into the meaning of “business day.” The court reasoned that the fact that the borrowers were required to do anything to understand the notice is sufficient to disqualify the notice from being “clear and conspicuous.” The court granted partial summary judgment to the individual borrowers, holding that the borrowers are entitled to the three-year rescission period, and invited further briefing as to whether the borrowers have otherwise met their rescission burden.

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CFPB Seeks Information On Mortgage Closing “Pain Points”

On January 2, the CFPB issued a request for information about “key consumer ‘pain points’ associated with mortgage closing and how those pain points might be addressed by market innovations and technology.” The request includes 17 specific questions about the closing process, common errors at closing, the role of “other parties” at closing, and closing documents. The CFPB stated that the request is part of the next phase of its Know Before You Owe initiative in which the CFPB will “encourage interventions that increase consumer knowledge, understanding, and confidence at closing.” In particular, the CFPB seeks to promote “the development of a more streamlined, efficient, and educational closing process as the mortgage industry increases its usage of technology, electronic signatures, and paperless processes.” The CFPB first announced this initiative in November 2013 in conjunction with the release of the final rule combining mortgage disclosures under TILA and RESPA. Responses to the request are due by February 7, 2014.

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CFPB Increases Asset-Size Thresholds Under HMDA, TILA

On December 30, the CFPB announced final rules adjusting the asset-size thresholds under Regulation C (HMDA) and Regulation Z (TILA). Both rules take effect on January 1, 2014.

HMDA and Regulation C require certain lenders to collect and report data about mortgage application, origination, and purchase activity, and make such data available to the public. Institutions that have an asset level below a certain dollar threshold are exempt from the requirements of Regulation C. The final rule increases the asset-size exemption threshold for banks, savings associations, and credit unions from $42 million to $43 million, thereby exempting institutions with assets of $43 million or less as of December 31, 2013, from collecting HDMA data in 2014.

TILA and Regulation Z, among other things, require creditors to establish escrow accounts when originating higher-priced mortgage loans. However, TILA exempts certain entities from this requirement, including entities that meet an asset-size threshold established by the CFPB. The final rule increases this asset-size exemption threshold from $2 billion to $2.028 billion, thereby exempting creditors with assets of $2.028 billion or less as of December 31, 2013, from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for higher-priced mortgage loans in 2014.

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Sixth Circuit Holds Servicers Exempt from TILA Liability

On November 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that mortgage servicers are exempted from TILA liability, despite recent amendments to the statute. Marais v. Chase Home Fin. LLC, No. 12-4248, 2013 WL 6170977 (6th Cir. Nov. 26, 2013). A borrower had alleged that her servicer violated TILA by failing to properly respond to her written request for information regarding her loan. The Sixth Circuit rejected the borrower’s argument that amendments to TILA as part of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 created a cause of action against mere servicers, and held that servicers who are not creditors or creditor assignees are expressly exempt from TILA liability.  The court, however, held that the servicer could be liable under RESPA for damages caused by its purported deficient response to the borrower’s request for information.

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Special Alert: CFPB Finalizes Rule Combining TILA and RESPA Mortgage Disclosures

On November 20, 2013, the CFPB finalized its long-awaited rule combining the mortgage disclosures consumers receive under the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”). For more than 30 years, the TILA and RESPA mortgage disclosures had been administered separately by, respectively, the Federal Reserve Board (“FRB”) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).  In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) transferred authority over TILA and RESPA to the Bureau and directed the Bureau to create “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.” Congress did not, however, amend TILA and RESPA provisions governing timing, responsibility, and liability for the disclosures, leaving it to the Bureau to resolve the inconsistencies. The final rule generally applies to covered transactions for which the creditor or mortgage broker receives an application on or after August 1, 2015.

Click here to read our Special Alert.

Questions regarding the matters discussed in this Alert may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.

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Federal Reserve, CFPB Announce Increased Consumer Credit, Lease Transaction Thresholds

On November 20, the Federal Reserve Board and the CFPB announced an increase in the dollar thresholds in Regulation Z (TILA) and Regulation M (Consumer Leasing) for exempt consumer credit and lease transactions. Transactions at or below the thresholds are subject to the protections of the regulations. Based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers as of June 1, 2013, TILA and Consumer Leasing Act generally will apply to consumer credit transactions and consumer leases of $53,500 or less beginning January 1, 2014. Private education loans and loans secured by real property remain subject to TILA regardless of the amount of the loan.

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Preliminary Observations Regarding CFPB’s Final Mortgage Disclosure Rule And Forms

**Update – The CFPB has now released the final rule and related materials, available here.**

Later today, as anticipated, the CFPB will release its final rule combining the TILA and RESPA mortgage disclosure forms and rules.  We will review the final forms and rule, monitor the related field hearing, and prepare a preliminary Special Alert followed by a more detailed summary.

The final rule and forms follow two years of drafting, testing, and revision by the Bureau.  According to the Bureau, its testing demonstrates that the new forms significantly improve the ability of consumers with a variety of experience levels and loan types to answer questions about their loans, compare competing loans, and compare estimated and final loan terms and costs.

The text of the final rule will not be available until later today.  However, we are able to make several preliminary observations based on our review of the materials made available thus far, perhaps most importantly that industry will have until August 1, 2015 to make the changes to systems and training necessary to implement the new forms, which is longer than anticipated.  Additional observations follow. Read more…

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CFPB Issues Interpretive Rule Regarding Homeownership Counseling Organizations Lists

On November 8, the CFPB issued an interpretive rule setting forth instructions for lenders on how to comply with the homeownership counseling list requirements set forth in the High-Cost Mortgage and Homeownership Counseling Amendments to TILA and the Homeownership Counseling Amendments to RESPA, which are scheduled to take effect on January 10, 2014. In addition, the CFPB released its homeownership counseling list generation tool to help lenders produce a list that complies with RESPA requirements. Read more…

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S.D.N.Y. Holds TILA Short-Form Credit Card Notice Violations Subject to Statutory Damages

On November 4, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that credit card holders may pursue statutory damages for alleged violations of Regulation Z’s short-form credit card notice requirement, even though the short-form notice requirement is contained in a section of Regulation Z that is not enumerated under TILA’s statutory damages section. Zevon v. Dept. Stores Nat’l Bank, No. 12-7799, 2013 WL 5903024, (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 4, 2013). A credit card holder filed a putative class action alleging that the monthly short-form notice provided by the issuer was incomplete and omitted provisions required by Regulation Z’s model form provision. The court rejected the card issuer’s argument that because TILA only provides card holders with a cause of action for statutory damages for specifically enumerated statutory provisions, and because the short-form notice provision is not enumerated in the statute but is set only by Regulation Z, the card holder is not entitled to statutory damages. The court explained that following the card holder’s reasoning would immunize card issuers from statutory damages for even the most egregious short-from notice violations. Instead, the court held that because the allegedly violated Regulation Z provision was promulgated pursuant to an enumerated statutory provision—TILA’s long-form notice requirement—card holders are permitted to bring claims for statutory damages for short-form violations. The court rejected the card issuer’s motion to dismiss for these reasons, but granted its motion to limit statutory damages to $500,000, holding that the Dodd-Frank Act’s increase to a $1 million cap cannot be applied retroactively to violations that allegedly occurred prior to the Act’s passage.

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