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  • Massachusetts Regulator Fines Auto Finance Companies for Violations of State Fair Lending Rules

    Lending

    On August 7, the Division of Banks of the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (Division) announced it had entered into consent orders with several motor vehicle sales finance companies to address allegations of unlicensed and illegal auto lending practices uncovered during an investigation of approximately 200 car dealerships. According to a press release issued by the Division, the investigation resulted in “five enforcement actions, 135 cease directives, $170,000 in fines and penalties, and more than $200,000 in consumer reimbursements.” Violations include, among others, (i) pricing vehicles far above blue book value; (ii) charging interest rates that approach or are at, or exceed the state’s maximum level, which is set at 21 percent, including interest rate violations occurring as a result of the financing of debt cancellation (GAP) coverage premiums; (iii) assessing interest and/or late fees after repossession of a vehicle “on which a repossession of the collateral has been executed”; and (iv) failure to obtain a motor vehicle sales finance company license through the Division, failure to address license renewal application deficiencies, or operating without a valid license. According to one consent order, the company allegedly failed to provide consumers an opportunity to “cure a default” before using starter interrupt devices to shut down their cars. A different consent order ordered the company to identify borrowers for whom their finance charges were calculated incorrectly, or those who overpaid due to a total loss insurance claim, and reimburse borrowers the amount that was overcharged or overpaid. A third consent order was issued to a California-based auto lender who purchased finance contracts from Massachusetts auto dealers without being licensed through the Division and engaged in several of the aforementioned violations.

    None of the companies entering into the consent orders admitted to any of the allegations or the existence of any violation of state or federal law concerning their operations as motor vehicle sales finance companies.

    Lending Fair Lending Auto Finance Consumer Finance UDAAP

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  • Small Lenders Call for Restraint on Housing Finance Reform During Senate Banking Committee Hearing

    Federal Issues

    On July 20, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Committee) held a hearing entitled, “Housing Finance Reform: Maintaining Access for Small Lenders.” Frequent topics of discussion in the hearing included, among other things, housing finance reform, secondary market access, affordable housing, access to credit in rural areas, mortgage insurance, and mortgage backed securities issued by government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), operating under conservatorship since 2008.

    Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chairman of the Committee, remarked in his opening statement that “small lenders play a critical role in the mortgage market,” and that a need exists to preserve access to the secondary market. However, Sen. Crapo asserted that although GSEs are currently earning profits, a risk exists for taxpayers if there is a market downturn. “A mortgage market dominated by two huge government-sponsored companies in conservatorship is not a long-term solution, and is not in the best interest of consumers, taxpayers, lenders, investors, or the broader economy,” Sen. Crapo stated.

    Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), ranking member of the Committee, released an opening statement in which he stated, “[S]mall lenders are often the only lenders willing to go the extra mile to underwrite mortgages . . . in cities’ urban core and in rural communities. . . . As we continue to debate the role of the GSEs, private capital, and large financial institutions in providing access to affordable mortgages, we cannot create a system that allows the GSEs or new players to use a business model that serves only the largest lenders, the highest income borrowers, or the well-off pockets of our country.”

    The coalition of consumer groups and small lenders present at the hearing supported GSE reform, sought additional support for small lenders, and called for prompt government action relative to housing finance reform.

    The July 20 hearing—a video of which can be accessed here—included testimony from the following witnesses:

    • Ms. Brenda Hughes, Senior Vice President and Director of Mortgage and Retail Lending, First Federal Savings Bank of Twin Falls, on behalf of the American Bankers Association (testimony)
    • Mr. Tim Mislansky, Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer, Wright-Patt Credit Union and President and CEO, myCUmortgage, LLC on behalf of the Credit Union National Association (testimony)
    • Mr. Jack E. Hopkins, President and CEO, CorTrust Bank, N.A., on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America (testimony)
    • Mr. Charles M. Pruvis, President and CEO, Coastal Federal Credit Union, on behalf of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (testimony)
    • Mr. Wes Hunt, President, Homestar Financial Corporation, on behalf of the Community Mortgage Lenders of America (testimony)
    • Mr. Bill Giambrone, President and CEO, Platinum Home Mortgage and President, Community Home Lenders Association (testimony)

    Federal Issues Lending Mortgages Fair Lending Fannie Mae Freddie Mac ABA CUNA ICBA NAFCU

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  • Appeal Denied in Los Angeles Fair Housing Suit

    Courts

    On May 26, the Ninth Circuit issued decisions affirming the District Court’s decisions to grant summary judgments in two separate lawsuits brought against two different national banks by the city of Los Angeles (city). (View the district court’s summary judgments here and here). In separate appeals, the city alleged that each of the banks violated the Fair Housing Act by engaging in discriminatory mortgage lending to minority borrowers. The city also asserted that this practice resulted in risky loans and increased foreclosures, which lowered the city’s property tax revenues.

    The appellate court disagreed with the city. In both decisions, the court observed that the city’s theory of liability was based on alleged “disparate impact,” which requires the city to demonstrate both the existence of a disparity and a facially neutral policy that caused the disparity.” The court noted that under established precedent a disparate impact claim, to succeed, must be supported by evidence of a robust causal connection between the disparity and the facially neutral policy. In the first case, the court held that the city failed to show such a robust causal connection, and in the second, it found “[t]he record does not reflect that the city raised a genuine issue of material fact as to a policy or policies with a robust casual connection to the racial disparity.” (View appellate memoranda for these cases here and here).

    Courts UDAAP Mortgages Fair Lending Litigation Fair Housing Appellate

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  • CFPB Monthly Complaint Snapshot Highlights Complaints from Older Consumers

    Consumer Finance

    On May 31, the CFPB released Vol. 23 of its Monthly Complaint Report. This month’s report highlights complaints from “older consumers” defined as those who voluntarily report their age as 62 or older. Since it began accepting complaints, the Bureau has received over 1 million complaints—more than 100,000 from older consumers. The report focuses on these complaints, with some of the most common in 2017 including:

    • Reverse mortgage servicing issues, which are unique to this group of consumers. Many of the complaints surround older consumers attempting to stay in their home after the death of the borrowing spouse, occasionally ending in foreclosure;
    • Financial scams and identity theft issues are often difficult to recover from—especially for consumers on fixed-incomes;
    • Credit card issues such as introductory offers may cause confusion for older consumers in understanding credit terms and conditions or the difference between zero interest and deferred interest. Additionally, many older consumers struggle with billing disputes, unwanted subscription services and credit monitoring; and
    • Escrow issues, especially when the consumer is trying to benefit from tax relief programs.

    The graph shown in a blog on the Bureau’s website compares complaints from consumers 62 and older with complaints from consumers under 62. Although both groups of consumers reported complaints for many of the same products, the graph shows that mortgages, debt collection and credit cards, in that order, are the top three products for those 62 and older—whereas debt collection, mortgages and credit reporting are the top three for those under 62. Additionally, the report reveals that almost a quarter of all complaints from older consumers came from residents of California, Texas, and Florida.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Mortgage Servicing Credit Cards Consumer Complaints Consumer Lending Fair Lending Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • National Fair Housing Alliance Settles Lending Discrimination Claims Brought Against National Bank

    Lending

    On May 19, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced it had reached an agreement with a major national bank (Bank) related to a housing discrimination complaint the NFHA filed with HUD in 2014. The complainant alleges that NFHA conducted a series of tests over a period of several months revealing a “pattern of discriminatory conduct.” Latino prospective qualified borrowers were often quoted higher monthly payment and closing costs and were denied opportunities to speak with loan officers. The complainants also cited data showing that the number of purchase loan applications received from Latinos had declined over the past few years. While the Bank denied all allegations in the complaint, it agreed to contribute more than $400,000 towards fair housing efforts in South Carolina and nationwide. Separately, the original complaint led to HUD filing charges against the Bank last December on behalf of the NFHA for lending discrimination—citing, in particular, that prospective Latino borrowers were treated less favorably than non-Latinos, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

    Lending HUD Enforcement Fair Lending Mortgage Lenders

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  • CFPB to Discuss Small Business Lending at May 10 Field Hearing

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On May 10, the CFPB will hold a field hearing on small business lending in Los Angeles, CA. The announcement, which is posted on the Events page of the CFPB’s website, indicates that the hearing will feature “remarks from Director Cordray, as well as testimony from community groups, industry representatives, and members of the public.” Notably, “small business data collection” was among the topics covered by the Bureau in its latest fair lending report (See previous InfoBytes coverage here). Specifically, the CFPB noted in its report that Congress “expressed concern that women-owned and minority-owned businesses may experience discrimination when they apply for credit, and has required the CFPB to take steps to ensure their fair access to credit.” In response to this observation, the Bureau indicated in its report that its “[s]mall business lending supervisory activity will also help expand and enhance the Bureau’s knowledge in this area, including the credit process; existing data collection process; and the nature, extent, and management of fair lending risk.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Consumer Finance CFPB Fair Lending

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  • Special Alert: Supreme Court Holds Cities Have Standing Under FHA, But Limits Potential Claims

    On May 1, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that municipal plaintiffs may be “aggrieved persons” authorized to bring suit under the Fair Housing Act against lenders for injuries allegedly flowing from discriminatory lending practices. However, the Court held that such injuries must be proximately caused by the alleged misconduct—rather than simply a foreseeable result. Some commentators suggest that the Court’s zone of interest analysis will result in the filing of new claims. Our view of this decision is that it will reduce such litigation efforts as prospective municipal plaintiffs recognize that it will be more difficult to survive early dispositive motions focused on whether the damages claims bear a direct relationship to the conduct alleged.

    ***
    Click here to read full special alert.

    If you have questions about the ruling or other related issues, visit our Fair Lendingpractice page for more information, or contact a Buckley Sandler attorney with whom you have worked in the past.

    FHA Fair Lending U.S. Supreme Court

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  • CFPB’s Latest Fair Lending Report Focuses on Credit Discrimination

    Lending

    On April 14, the CFPB issued its fifth fair lending report to Congress, which outlines the Bureau’s efforts in 2016 as well as its plans for 2017. According to the report, in 2016, the CFPB (i) engaged in significant outreach to both consumers and lenders to better understand fair lending compliance and access to credit issues; (ii) worked with government regulators and agencies to protect and obtain reimbursement for harmed consumers; and (iii) assisted consumers with limited proficiency in English. For 2017, the report indicates that the Bureau intends to (i) evaluate whether lenders have “intentionally discouraged” potential applicants in minority neighborhoods from applying for credit; (ii) investigate whether mortgage or student loan borrowers who fall behind on payments face more difficulty in working out new payment plans because of their race, ethnicity, age, or gender; and (iii) further explore fair access to credit for woman- and minority-owned firms—all areas the Bureau characterizes as presenting “substantial risk of credit discrimination for consumers.”

    Additional information on fair lending reports issued by the Bureau can also be found in BuckleySandler’s CFPB Resource Center.

    Lending Fair Lending CFPB

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  • FDIC Releases Third Volume in its Affordable Mortgage Lending Guide

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On April 6, the FDIC released the third volume of its Affordable Mortgage Lending Guide (Guide). The Guide is designed to help community bankers understand and compare various affordable mortgage-related programs, as well as their Community Reinvestment implications. This third installment of the Guide provides an overview of Federal Home Loan Bank programs designed to support single-family home purchases, such as down payment and closing cost assistance—many of which can be used in conjunction with other federal and state housing finance agency and government-sponsored enterprise programs. The Guide also provides alternatives for selling mortgages on the secondary market. As previously reported in InfoBytes, the first and second volumes in the series were published last year.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FDIC Mortgages Affordable Housing Fair Lending Lending

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  • CFPB Director Speaks at National Community Reinvestment Coalition Conference; Discusses Regulatory Review at Chamber of Commerce 11th Annual Capital Markets Summit

    Consumer Finance

    On March 29, CFPB Director Richard Cordray spoke at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss, among other things, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the difficulties faced by individuals who cannot obtain mainstream credit. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB is exploring the risks and benefits of using “alternative data” to assist consumers whose limited credit histories prevent them from accessing many lending opportunities. Cordray stated that one of the CFPB’s priorities “is [to increase] the availability of responsible financial products and services, especially for those who have been underserved or shut out.”

    The next day, on March 30, Cordray spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 11th Annual Capital Markets Summit in Washington, D.C. In prepared remarks, Cordray discussed the regulatory compliance challenges and burdens that financial organizations face, as well as the CFPB’s efforts to assist with regulatory implementation, the development of clearer guidance, and methods to streamline and modernize regulations based on effectiveness. Cordray noted the CFPB’s efforts to improve and adapt regulations based on the needs of the industry. “We learn from the comments we receive and our final rules are helpfully informed by that input on a consistent basis,” Cordray stated. “But even after we issue a final rule, if the data shows over time that any of our substantive calls need to be reconsidered, we can and will face the issue frankly and address it. We will not let pride of authorship interfere with the serious task of policymaking in the interests of consumers and the American public.” As mandated by Congress, the CFPB must review any significant rules after five years have passed. The CFPB plans to review remittance rules followed by a review of the mortgage rules. Cordray also noted efforts to address ambiguities and conflicts in other areas such as debt collection and payday lending.

    Consumer Finance CFPB ECOA Discrimination Fair Lending Compliance Regulator Enforcement

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