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  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac release updates to servicing guides

    Federal Issues

    On April 11, Fannie Mae updated its Servicing Guide, regarding servicing transfer welcome calls. Pursuant to Fannie Mae SVC-2018-03, transferee servicers are no longer required to, among other things, initiate welcome calls within five days of the transfer of servicing. Transferee servicers may now implement their own processes for borrower contact as long as the servicer remains in compliance with applicable laws. Fannie Mae also updated the Servicing Guide to add flexibility in connection with the collection of escrow shortages during a mortgage modification.  Under the amendment to the Servicing Guide, servicers may spread repayment of the shortage amount over a term of up to 60 months, unless the borrower decides to pay up-front. Additionally, Fannie Mae released a revised Reverse Mortgage Loan Servicing Manual, which includes updates to expense reimbursement claim submissions and mortgage loan status codes.

    On the same day, Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2018-6, which, among other things, updates servicer requirements on Subsequent Transfers of Servicing (STOS) and borrower-paid mortgage insurance. Effective July 23, transferor servicers must use the automated STOS request system and new transfer requests must be submitted at least 45 days and no more than 60 days prior to the effective date of the transfer. The Bulletin also provides additional details on initiating the electronic STOS and executing the STOS agreement. There will be a temporary moratorium on STOS requests and modifications to existing requests from July 9 through July 20, in order for Freddie Mac to implement the new process.

    Separately, the Bulletin includes various changes to streamline servicer responsibilities in canceling borrower-paid mortgage insurance, such as now allowing servicers to process a borrower’s verbal request to cancel mortgage insurance and simplifying the process to determine current value.  

    Consistent with the Fannie updates, Freddie Mac also modified its escrow shortage collection requirements to allow repayment to be spread over up to 60 months.

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Servicing Guide Mortgages Mortgage Modification Mortgage Servicing Reverse Mortgages Mortgage Insurance

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  • Special Alert: D.C. Circuit Panel Rejects CFPB's RESPA Interpretation and Alters its Structure in PHH Corp. v. CFPB

    Lending

    On October 11, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion vacating a $109 million penalty imposed on PHH Corporation under the anti-kickback provisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), concluding that the CFPB misinterpreted the statute and violated due process by reversing the interpretation of the prior regulator and applying its own interpretation retroactively. Furthermore, the panel rejected the CFPB’s contention that no statute of limitations applied to its administrative actions and concluded that RESPA’s three-year statute of limitations applied to any actions brought under RESPA.

    In addition, a majority of the panel held that the CFPB’s status as an independent agency headed by a single Director violates the separation of powers under Article II of the U.S. Constitution. However, rather than shutting down the CFPB and voiding all of its regulations and prior actions, the majority chose to remedy the defect by making the CFPB’s Director subject to removal at will by the President. In effect, this makes the CFPB an executive agency (like the Department of the Treasury) rather than, as envisioned by the Dodd-Frank Act, an independent agency (like the Federal Trade Commission). (One member of the panel, Judge Henderson, dissented from this portion of the opinion on the grounds that it was not necessary to reach the constitutional issue because the panel was already reversing the CFPB’s interpretation of RESPA.)

    The panel remanded the case to the CFPB to determine whether, within the three-year statute of limitations, the payments to PHH’s affiliate exceeded the fair market value of the services provided in violation of RESPA. The CFPB is expected to petition for en banc reconsideration by the full D.C. Circuit or to seek direct review by the United States Supreme Court. Therefore, final resolution of this matter may be delayed by a year or more.

     

    Click here to read the full 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.

     

    Mortgages CFPB Insurance RESPA Mortgage Insurance Special Alerts PHH v. CFPB

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  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Hears Oral Arguments Regarding CFPB's Interpretation of RESPA

    Consumer Finance

    On April 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held oral arguments in the case PHH Corporation v. CFPB. The primary issue in the case is whether the CFPB is constitutionally and statutorily authorized to assess a $109 million penalty against the petitioner, a nonbank mortgage lender (Lender), for allegedly violating Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) by referring customers to certain mortgage insurance companies that purchased mortgage reinsurance at fair market value from an affiliate of the Lender. According to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, this practice was a violation of Section 8’s prohibition on kickbacks for referrals, because the mortgage insurers allegedly only purchased mortgage reinsurance in order to receive customer referrals from the Lender.

    In appealing the CFPB’s action, counsel for the Lender argued that the CFPB is attempting to effectively rewrite Section 8 to prohibit activities expressly permitted by the statute’s implementing regulation, Regulation X, as well as prior agency guidance and the plain language of the statute itself. According to the Lender, its mortgage reinsurance practices had long been understood to be legal, were widespread throughout the country, and aligned with existing HUD guidance. The Lender further argued that Section 8(c)(2) permits entities to refer business so long as the referrals are not compensated, and any payments are equal to the market value cost of services actually provided. In the Lender’s case, counsel argued that the mortgage reinsurance premiums could not have been compensation for referrals, because mortgage reinsurance premiums received by the Lender’s affiliate were equal to the fair market value of mortgage reinsurance services actually rendered. The Lender further argued that the CFPB improperly ignored RESPA’s statutorily-prescribed statute of limitations (SOL) of three years when, under Section 15, RESPA clearly applies the SOL to “any action” – which, in the Lender’s view, would include an administrative action. Finally, the Lender argued that the CFPB’s structure and funding under the Dodd-Frank Act was unconstitutional in that it violated the requirement for separation of powers by, among other things, (i) restricting the President’s removal power to “for cause” removal; (ii) concentrating power in one individual; and (iii) funding the CFPB outside of the Congressional appropriations process.    

    Counsel for the CFPB responded that, during the period in question, mortgage insurance companies only purchased reinsurance from affiliates of lenders who referred them business. According to the CFPB, this type of quid pro quo arrangement is a violation of Section 8 even if the reinsurance premiums were equal to the fair market value of a service rendered. Counsel for the CFPB said that, notwithstanding the fact that the Lender’s conduct was common throughout the financial services industry, it had never expressly been blessed by prior agency guidance, and resulted in the type of market distortion that RESPA was designed to prevent. The CFPB also defended its position that its administrative actions are not subject to an SOL by noting that the Consumer Financial Protection Act, which authorizes the CFPB to take enforcement actions against regulated entities, does not include an SOL for such actions. In response to the challenge to the constitutionality of its structure, the CFPB pointed to the diversity of agency structures throughout the executive branch, including single-headed agencies and agencies that do not rely on Congress for appropriations funding.

    The panel consisted of Judges Kavanaugh, Randolph, and Henderson; Judge Henderson was not present.

    CFPB RESPA Mortgage Insurance PHH v. CFPB

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  • DOJ Settles with National Bank Over Underwriting Practices

    Consumer Finance

    On April 8, the DOJ announced a $1.2 billion settlement with a San Francisco-based bank and the bank’s Vice President of Credit-Risk – Quality Assurance to resolve allegations that the bank submitted false claims for FHA insurance in connection with loans that did not meet FHA underwriting standards. According to DOJ, “[d]uring the period May 1, 2001 through on or about December 31, 2008, [the bank] (or its predecessor) submitted to HUD certifications stating that certain loans were eligible for FHA mortgage insurance when in fact they were not.” The settlement agreement further explains that when certain of these loans defaulted, HUD paid for the insurance claims out of the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund. In addition, the settlement agreement states that from January 2002 through December 2010, the bank failed to inform HUD that the bank’s quality assurance personnel had determined that some of the FHA-insured loans contained a material finding. In response to this failure to self-report, the DOJ also asserted claims against the bank’s VP of Credit-Risk – Quality Assurance, as the individual responsible for overseeing the bank’s self-reporting policy and procedures. Both the bank and the individual officer acknowledged responsibility for the alleged violations as part of the settlement agreement.

    HUD Mortgage Insurance DOJ

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  • FHA Publishes Consolidated Multifamily Handbook

    Consumer Finance

    Recently, the FHA published a new Multifamily Accelerated Processing Guide (MAP Guide) that consolidates underwriting and program requirements in one document. The revised MAP Guide is intended to “cut the time required to approve loan applications and to assure consistent application of program requirements and credit standards across all HUD processing offices.” The revised MAP Guide comes after the FHA’s February 2015 release of a draft version of the guide and incorporates revisions into four main areas: (i) technical corrections and edits based on operational guidance; (ii) incorporation of previously published policy issued since 2011, including Mortgagee Letters, Housing Notices, and Memos; (iii) inclusion of significant organizational and operational business model changes related to the Multifamily for Tomorrow transformation initiative; and (iv) revisions to policy. The new MAP Guide will become effective for all applications for FHA multifamily mortgage insurance received after May 28, 2016.

    Mortgage Insurance FHA

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  • FHA Submits Annual Report to Congress, Capital Reserves Exceed 2%

    Lending

    On November 16, HUD released FHA’s annual report to Congress on the financial condition of its Mutual Mortgage Insurance (MMI) Fund. For the first time since 2008, the report shows that FHA’s MMI fund’s capital ratio exceeds the congressionally required 2% threshold, standing at 2.07%. The report points to FHA policy changes and program improvements as the driving factors behind the improved MMI fund capital ratio. Notably, the report states that the agency’s decision to reduce annual mortgage insurance premiums by a half percent (i) marginally decreased the projected time to reach the 2% capital ratio; (ii) enabled over 75,000 new creditworthy borrowers to purchase homes; and (iii) compensated for the credit risk of the Forward mortgage loan program. Finally, the report highlights the agency’s efforts to reduce risk and improve loss mitigation by making substantial revisions to its credit guidelines, including strengthening its underwriting guidelines to discourage extreme risk layering and prohibiting seller-funded down-payment assistance.

    Mortgage Insurance FHA Loss Mitigation

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  • HUD Publishes Withdrawal of Proposed Rule Limiting FHA Insurance Claim Period

    Consumer Finance

    On October 16, HUD’s FHA published a notice of partial withdrawal of its July 6 proposed rule to limit the time frame in which FHA-approved lenders must file insurance claims for benefits. The July 6 proposal would have required mortgagees to file claims (i) within three months from when marketable title to the property was obtained; or (ii) when the property was sold to a third party. In addition, the proposal sought to terminate the FHA’s insurance contract as a penalty for missing the proposed filing deadlines. Based on feedback that HUD received through its notice and comment process, HUD withdrew the proposed provisions to limit the FHA insurance claim period and its proposed amendment to the penalty provisions.

    HUD Mortgage Insurance FHA

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  • CFPB Issues Guidance Reminding Servicers of Requirements for Cancellation and Termination of Private Mortgage Insurance

    Consumer Finance

    On August 4, the CFPB issued Compliance Bulletin 2015-03 to provide guidance to mortgage servicers on their compliance obligations related to the private mortgage insurance (PMI) cancellation and termination provisions under the Homeowners Protection Act (HPA). The bulletin summarizes HPA requirements regarding annual disclosures, PMI refunds, borrower-requested cancellation, automatic termination, and final termination of PMI. The bulletin also cautions servicers to implement investor guidelines in a manner that does not violate the HPA. In a statement released by the Bureau, CFPB Director Richard Cordray advised, “We will continue to supervise mortgage servicers to ensure they are treating borrowers fairly, and [the Bureau’s] guidance should help servicers come into compliance with the [HPA].”

    CFPB Mortgage Insurance Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

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  • HUD Proposes to Establish Deadline for FHA-Approved Lenders to File Insurance Claims

    Consumer Finance

    On July 6, HUD’s Federal Housing Administration (FHA) proposed a rule to establish a maximum time period for FHA-approved lenders to file insurance claims for benefits following the foreclosure of FHA-insured mortgages. Currently, HUD does not require mortgagees to file claims by a certain time, but the proposed rule will require lenders to file insurance claims (i) three months from when they obtain marketable title to the property; or (ii) when the property is sold to a third party. Since the housing market collapse, which dramatically increased mortgage defaults, mortgagees have chosen to forgo promptly filing insurance claims with the FHA, instead opting to wait and file multiple claims at once. This uncertainty of when claims will be filed, along with the high number filed at the same time, has strained FHA resources and negatively impacted its ability to project the future state of the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMIF), which it is statutorily obligated to safeguard. In addition to the deadline, the proposed rule would ban from insurance payouts certain expenses incurred by mortgagees that are the result of their failure to timely fulfill the requirements necessary to submit an insurance claim (such as promptly initiating foreclosure). Comments on the proposed rule are due September 4, 2015.

    HUD Mortgage Insurance Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

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  • FHFA Proposes Mortgage Insurer Eligibility Requirements

    Lending

    On July 10, the FHFA sought input on a proposal to establish new eligibility requirements for private mortgage insurers seeking to insure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) mortgages. As described in an overview document, the FHFA proposes to revise business requirements to identify, measure, and manage exposure to counterparty risk. The FHFA also proposes new financial requirements and minimum quality control program requirements, which it states are intended to (i) facilitate an insurer’s monitoring of adherence to its underwriting and eligibility guidelines; (ii) ensure data accuracy; and (iii) prevent the insuring of fraudulent mortgages or mortgages with other defects. An insurer would be required to submit to each Enterprise a copy of its quality control program annually, with changes noted from the prior year’s version. The proposal also describes numerous potential remedies available to the Enterprises should an insurer fail to meet its requirements, ranging from more frequent dialogue or visits with an insurer to suspension or termination. All components of the requirements would become effective 180 days after the publication date of the finalized requirements. During the input period, and until the requirements are finalized, any insurer already approved to do business with the Enterprises that does not fully meet each Enterprise’s existing eligibility requirements would continue to operate in its current status and would be given a transition period of up to two years from the publication date to fully comply. Comments on the proposal are due by September 8, 2014.

    Freddie Mac Fannie Mae Mortgage Insurance FHFA

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