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  • CFPB argues structure is constitutional under current precedent

    Courts

    On September 10, the CFPB rejected the arguments made by two Mississippi-based payday loan and check cashing companies (appellants) challenging the constitutionality of the CFPB’s single director structure. The challenge results from a May 2016 complaint filed by the CFPB against the appellants alleging violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) for practices related to the companies’ check cashing and payday lending services, previously covered by InfoBytes here. The district court denied the companies’ motion for judgment on the pleadings in March 2018, declining the argument that the structure of the CFPB is unconstitutional and that the CFPB’s claims violate due process. The following April, the 5th Circuit agreed to hear an interlocutory appeal on the constitutionality question and subsequently, the appellants filed an unopposed petition requesting for initial hearing en banc, citing to a July decision by the 5th Circuit ruling the FHFA’s single director structure violates Article II of the Constitution (previously covered by InfoBytes here).

    In its September response to the appellants’ arguments, which are similar to previous challenges to the Bureau’s structure—specifically that the Bureau is unconstitutional because the president can only remove the director for cause—the Bureau argues that the agency’s structure is consistent with precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has held that for-cause removal is not an unconstitutional restriction on the president’s authority. The brief also cited to the recent 5th Circuit decision holding the FHFA structure unconstitutional and noted that the court acknowledged the Bureau’s structure as different from FHFA in that it “allows the President more ‘direct[] control.’” The Bureau also argues that the appellants are not entitled to judgment on the pleadings because the Bureau’s complaint— which was filed under the previous Director, Richard Cordray— has been ratified by acting Director, Mick Mulvaney, who is currently removable at will under his Federal Vacancies Reform Act appointment and therefore, any potential constitutional defect in the filing is cured. Additionally, the Bureau argues that even if the single-director structure were deemed unconstitutional, the provision is severable from the rest of the CFPA based on an express severability clause in the Dodd-Frank Act.

    Courts Fifth Circuit Appellate Federal Issues CFPB CFPB Succession Dodd-Frank FHFA Single-Director Structure U.S. Supreme Court

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  • 8th Circuit rules Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac net worth sweep payments acceptable under FHFA statutory authority

    Courts

    On August 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of claims brought by shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) against the GSEs’ conservator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), alleging that FHFA exceeded its powers under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) and “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” when it entered an agreement with the Treasury Department requiring the GSEs to pay their entire net worth, minus a small buffer, as dividends to the Treasury every quarter.  In so holding, the 8th Circuit joined the 5th, 6th, 7th, and D.C. Circuits, each of which has previously “rejected materially identical arguments” presented by other GSE shareholders. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the 5th Circuit decision here.) The shareholders sought an injunction to set aside the so-called “net worth sweep,” asserting that “HERA’s limitation on judicial review does not apply when FHFA exceeds its statutory powers under the Act . . . [and] that the net worth sweep exceeds, and is antithetical to, FHFA’s statutory powers.” However, the appellate court agreed with the lower court and found, among other things, the net worth sweep payments to be acceptable because HERA “grant[s] FHFA broad discretion in its management and operation of Fannie and Freddie” and permits, but does not require, the agency “to preserve and conserve Fannie’s and Freddie’s assets and to return [them] to private operation.”  The court also noted that HERA “authorize[d] FHFA to act ‘in the best interests’ of either Fannie and Freddie or itself,” thus affording FHFA more discretion than common law conservators.   Finally, the appellate court held that HERA’s anti-injunction provision, which states that “no court may take any action to restrain or affect the exercise of powers or functions of the [FHFA] as a conservator or a receiver,” also precludes enjoining the Treasury Department from participating in the net worth sweep because doing so would “restrain or affect” FHFA.

    Courts Appellate Eighth Circuit GSE Fannie Mae Freddie Mac FHFA Single-Director Structure

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  • Appellants petition 5th Circuit for en banc hearing of CFPB constitutionality challenge

    Courts

    On August 13, two Mississippi-based payday loan and check cashing companies (appellants) filed an unopposed petition for initial hearing en banc with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit regarding a challenge to the constitutionality of the CFPB’s single director structure. In April, the 5th Circuit agreed to hear the appellant’s interlocutory appeal, and now the appellants request the appeals court move straight to an en banc panel, stating “if [the] appeal is heard under the normal panel process, [the] Court will likely be asked to rehear that panel’s decision en banc, as occurred in the D.C. Circuit’s PHH case.” (covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert here.) The appellants cite to the July decision by the 5th Circuit ruling the FHFA’s single director structure violates Article II of the Constitution (previously covered by InfoBytes here) and note that a petition for rehearing en banc has already been filed in that case. The appellants suggest coordination in scheduling the potential en banc arguments should the court accept both petitions, arguing that the decision would “guarantee that the Fifth Circuit speaks with one voice regarding the constitutionality of these agencies’ structures.”

    Courts Fifth Circuit Appellate Federal Issues CFPB PHH v. CFPB CFPB Succession Dodd-Frank FHFA Single-Director Structure

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  • FHFA reports results of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac annual stress tests

    Federal Issues

    On August 7, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) published a report providing the results of the fifth annual stress tests conducted by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). According to the report, Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests Results – Severely Adverse Scenario—which provides modeled projections on possible ranges of future financial results and does not define the entirety of possible outcomes—the GSEs will need to draw between $42.1 billion and $77.6 billion in incremental Treasury aid under a “severely adverse” economic crisis, depending on how deferred tax assets are treated. The losses would leave $176.5 billion to $212 billion available to the companies under their current funding commitment agreements. Notably, the projected bailout maximum is lower this year than FHFA reported last year, which ranged between $34.8 billion and $99.6 billion.

    Federal Issues Lending Mortgages GSE Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Stress Test Dodd-Frank FHFA

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  • FHFA extends comment deadline for proposed rule on capital requirements for Freddie and Fannie

    Federal Issues

    On July 31, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced a 60-day extension on the public comment period for a proposed rule that would implement a new regulatory capital framework for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Among other things, the proposed rule would implement: (i) a new framework for risk-based capital requirements; and (ii) two alternative approaches to setting minimum leverage capital requirements. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here). The previous deadline for comments was September 17, and the deadline is now November 16.

    Federal Issues FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSE Capital Requirements

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  • FHFA pauses credit score initiative, will use formal rulemaking to create new credit score model

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On July 23, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that it will not decide this year whether to update the credit score model used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises), as previously announced. Instead, FHFA will focus on implementing Section 310: Credit Score Competition, of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (Public Law 115-174) (the Act). Section 310 requires FHFA to establish, through the rulemaking process, standards and criteria to govern the verification and validation of credit score models used by the Enterprises. According to the press release, prior to Section 310 becoming law, FHFA and the Enterprises had been engaged in an ongoing initiative to evaluate a new credit score model’s potential impact on “access to credit, safety and soundness, operations in the mortgage finance industry, and competition in the credit score market.” However, after Section 310 was enacted in May, FHFA “determined that proceeding with efforts to reach a decision based on our [initiative] and timetable would be duplicative of, and in some respects inconsistent with, the work we are mandated to do under Section 310 of the Act. In light of that, we are communicating to Congress that we are transferring our full efforts to working with the Enterprises to implement the steps required under Section 310.” FHFA will release a proposed rule open for public comment in the future to govern the verification of credit score models.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FHFA Credit Scores Fannie Mae Freddie Mac

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  • 5th Circuit rules FHFA structure violates Constitution’s separation of powers

    Courts

    On July 16, in a divided opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a lower court’s decision that addressed two claims brought by a group of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government-sponsored entities or GSEs) shareholders: (i) whether the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) acted within its statutory authority when it adopted a dividend agreement, which requires the GSEs to turn over every quarter “dividends equal to their entire net worth” to the Treasury Department; and (ii) whether the structure of the FHFA is unconstitutional and in violation of the separation of powers. The lower court previously dismissed the shareholder’s statutory claims and granted summary judgment in favor of the Treasury Department and the FHFA on the constitutional claim. In addressing the first claim, the appellate court agreed with the lower court and found the government-sponsored entities’ payments acceptable under the agency’s statutory authority and that the FHFA was lawfully established by Congress through the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which places restrains on judicial review. However, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision as to the second claim and agreed with shareholders that Congress went too far in insulating the FHFA’s single director from removal by the president for anything other than cause, ruling that the agency’s structure violates Article II of the Constitution. “We hold that Congress insulated the FHFA to the point where the Executive Branch cannot control the FHFA or hold it accountable,” the opinion stated. The divided appellate panel remanded to the lower court for further proceedings.

    Earlier this year, in response to a challenge to the CFPB's single-director structure, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit en banc upheld the CFPB’s constitutionality in a 7-3 decision (see Buckley Sandler Special Alert). The 5th Circuit is also scheduled to hear a challenge by two Mississippi-based payday loan and check cashing companies to the constitutionality of the CFPB’s single-director structure, in which 14 state Attorney General filed an amici curiae brief encouraging the appellate court to disagree with the en banc decision of the D.C. Circuit. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here and here.)

    Courts Appellate Fifth Circuit FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Congress CFPB Single-Director Structure

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  • International bank must maintain $500 million bond securing $806 million RMBS judgment

    Courts

    On July 5, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a memorandum opinion and order stating that an international bank must maintain the $500 million bond it had filed in 2015 to secure $806 million in damages owed to the Federal Housing Finance Agency for selling allegedly faulty residential mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The court had stayed execution of the judgment pending appeal, and the stay expired on July 5, following the Supreme Court’s denial without comment of the bank’s petition for writ of certiorari. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) According to the district court opinion and order, the bank maintained that the stay order required the bond to remain in effect only through July 5, even though the bank was not required to pay the final judgment until July 20. The court disagreed, explaining that a “more natural reading of the [s]tay [o]rder and the [b]ond together is that the [b]ond must remain in place until two conditions are met: (1) the stay of execution ends and (2) the [f]inal [j]udgment is satisfied. Condition 1 has now been met, but not condition 2.” The court added that the bank is free to satisfy the final judgment prior to its July 20 due date, at which point the bond could be dissolved prematurely.

    Courts FHFA RMBS Bond U.S. Supreme Court Fannie Mae Freddie Mac

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  • Supreme Court rejects review of $806 million RMBS judgment

    Courts

    On June 25, the Supreme Court denied without comment an international bank’s petition for writ of certiorari to challenge the $806 million in damages awarded by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) for selling allegedly faulty mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in September 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirmed the New York District Court’s ruling requiring the $806 million payment. Both lower courts concluded that the marketing prospectus used to sell the mortgage securities to Fannie and Freddie between 2005 and 2007 contained “untrue statements of material fact,” including false statements regarding the underlying loans’ compliance with underwriting standards related to the creditworthiness of borrowers and appraisal value of the properties.  

    Courts U.S. Supreme Court Writ of Certiorari RMBS FHFA Appellate Second Circuit Fannie Mae Freddie Mac

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  • White House proposes to fully privatize GSEs in broad government reorganization plan

    Federal Issues

    On June 21, the White House announced a government reorganization plan titled, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations.” The plan covers a wide-range of government reorganization proposals, including several related to the federal government’s involvement in mortgage finance. Among other things, the White House is proposing to end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) and fully privatize the companies. The plan notes that a “[f]ederal entity with secondary mortgage market experience would be charged with regulatory oversight” of the GSEs, but does not state whether this would be done by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the GSEs current primary regulator. According to the proposal, this structure would ensure the government’s role “is more transparent and accountable to taxpayers,” as HUD would assume the primary responsibility for affordable housing, and the GSEs would solely focus on secondary market liquidity.

    Federal Issues Trump GSE Fannie Mae Freddie Mac FHFA

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