On July 25, FHFA, HUD, and Treasury published a white paper titled “Guiding Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation: How the Lessons Learned from the Financial Crisis Can Influence the Path Forward.” The paper examines the effect of the 2008 financial crisis on the mortgage servicing industry with a focus on loss mitigation programs. Under the 2009 Making Home Affordable (MHA) program, foreclosure alternatives were established to address the needs of homeowners and to improve the mortgage servicing industry’s loss mitigation practices. According to the paper, between April 2009 and the end of May 2016, 10.5 million modification and mortgage assistance arrangements were completed through government programs and private sector efforts. The paper further notes that, as a result of FHFA’s, HUD’s, and Treasury’s programs, regulatory actions, and private sector initiatives, the mortgage industry is “generally better prepared now to provide assistance to struggling homeowners than it was before the crisis.” The improvement “is due, in part, to the adoption of certain homeowner engagement standards including continuity of contact, solicitation timeframes, and certain notice and appeal processes required by the [CFPB].” At the end of 2016, MHA programs, such as HAMP, will come to a close. Based on the agencies’ collective experience with MHA programs, the paper identifies five guiding principles for loss mitigation programs: (i) accessibility, guaranteeing homeowners a simple process for obtaining mortgage assistance; (ii) affordability, “providing homeowners with meaningful payment relief that addresses the needs of the homeowner, the servicer and the investor, to support long-term performance”; (iii) sustainability, offering long-term solutions intended to resolve delinquency; (iv) transparency, “[e]nsuring that the process to obtain assistance, and the terms of that assistance, are as clear and understandable as possible to homeowners, and that information about options and their utilization is available to the appropriate parties”; and (v) accountability, ensuring sufficient oversight of the process to obtain mortgage assistance.
On August 2, the CFPB released consumer protection principles for mortgage servicers to use as they develop new foreclosure relief solutions in anticipation of Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program’s (HAMP) upcoming expiration date (CFPB Principles). The CFPB Principles echo those summarized in FHFA’s, HUD’s, and Treasury’s recently published white paper, “Guiding Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation: How the Lessons Learned from the Financial Crisis Can Influence the Path Forward.” As previously covered in InfoBytes, the white paper recommends that future loss mitigation programs promote accessibility, affordability, sustainability, transparency, and accountability. The CFPB Principles address accessibility, affordability, sustainability, and transparency, and cite to separate CFPB mortgage servicing rules for standards concerning accountability. In its press release, the CFPB notes that the four principles “do not establish binding legal requirements but instead are intended to complement ongoing discussions among industry, consumer, groups, and policymakers.”
On July 20, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell of the U.S. Department of Education sent a memo to the Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer containing policy directives intended to “strengthen student loan servicing.” Developed in consultation with the CFPB and the Department of the Treasury, the memo provides direction in the following five areas: (i) economic incentives, directing the FSA to use “incentives that encourage servicers to help borrowers stay on top of their loans and avoid default while avoiding fixed-fee structures that create a disincentive to help struggling borrowers”; (ii) accurate and actionable information about account features, borrower protections, and loan terms; (iii) consistency in communications; (iv) accountability, directing the FSA to “step up monitoring of servicing vendors and to integrate complaint resolution into the oversight of those vendors”; and (v) loan data transparency. Commenting on the policy directives outlined in the memo, CFPB Director Richard Cordray noted that the joint servicing standards are intended to increase consistency, transparency, actionability, and accountability in the student lending marketplace.
On July 13, the Treasury Department announced that the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) adopted a methodology for monitoring the affordability of auto insurance. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the FIO is authorized to monitor the extent to which affordable personal automobile insurance is made available to traditionally underserved communities and consumers, minorities, and low- and moderate-income (LMI) persons. Pursuant to the new methodology, FIO will calculate affordability by using an affordability index that divides the average annual personal automobile liability premium by the median household income for identified majority-minority or majority-LMI ZIP codes. If the Affordability Index does not exceed to 2%, then FIO will consider personal automobile liability insurance affordable. Finally, to monitor the availability of auto insurance, FIO will obtain and analyze aggregated premium data in addition to using publicly available data through the U.S. Census Bureau.
On May 24, FinCEN Director Calvery delivered remarks before the House Committee on Financial Services at a hearing entitled “Stopping Terror Finance: A Coordinated Government Effort.” Calvery noted FinCEN’s commitment to fostering an environment of financial transparency, and provided insight on the recent issuance of a final rule, issued on May 6, which clarified customer due diligence (CDD) requirements for financial institutions: “[w]e are confident that the CDD final rule will increase financial transparency and augment the ability of financial institutions and law enforcement to identify the assets and accounts of criminals and national security threats. We anticipate that the CDD rule will also facilitate compliance with sanctions programs and other measures that cut off financial flows to these actors.” Calvery further emphasized the significance of recently proposed beneficial ownership legislation, noting that it and the CDD rule “dovetail together.” Calvery opined that the level of transparency that the proposed legislation and the CDD rule offer would assist law enforcement in identifying who the “real people are that are involved in a transaction,” furthering its efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism, enforce sanctions, and prevent other unlawful abuses of the U.S. financial system. Finally, she noted that the beneficial ownership legislation, if enacted, would provide FinCEN with the ability to collect information on all funds transfers (instead of only monetary instruments, as currently authorized) through the use of geographic targeting orders.