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  • District Court Fines Mortgage Brokers More Than $298 Million for Alleged FCA/FIRREA Violations

    Courts

    On September 14, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled after a five-week jury trial that defendants, who allegedly submitted fraudulent insurance claims after acquiring risky loans, were liable for treble damages and the maximum civil penalties allowed under the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA). According to the court, the evidence presented at trial demonstrated that the damages suffered by the U.S. were a “foreseeable consequence” of the defendants’ misconduct and that such misconduct was part of an “prolonged, consistent enterprise of defrauding the [U.S.],” warranting a higher level of penalties. The jury found that one of the defendants along with its CEO “submitted or caused to be submitted 103 insurance claims” while misrepresenting that its branches were registered by HUD, causing the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to sustain damages in excess of $7 million. A separate mortgage broker defendant was found to have submitted or caused to be submitted 1,192 insurance claims causing over $256 million in damages to the FHA due to the “reckless” underwriting of loan applications, in violation of FCA. The court rejected the defendants’ request for lenient civil penalties, finding the defendants’ behavior to be “custom-designed to flout the very program that relied upon [defendants’] diligence and compliance” and demonstrating “a patent unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions.” The FIRREA penalties resulted from defendants submitting false annual certifications to HUD that were intended “to serve as a separate and independent quality check on the [defendant’s] branches,” but instead led to injury in the form of borrowers entering into default or foreclosures, as well as elevated mortgage insurance premiums.

    The judge imposed over $291 million in FCA treble damages and penalties against the three defendants. Additionally, each defendant was fined $2.2 million in FIRREA penalties for actions that “were neither isolated or relatively benign . . . [but] were reckless, egregious, and widely injurious.”

    Courts Lending Mortgages False Claims Act / FIRREA Litigation Insurance FHA HUD

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  • CFPB Announces Final Rule Modifying ECOA Regulations, Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Disclosure of HMDA Data

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 20, the CFPB announced its Final Rule amending Regulation B, which implements the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), as well as a notice of proposed policy guidance requesting public comment on modifications to loan-level HMDA data that will be made publicly available beginning in 2019.

    Amendments to Regulation B. The Final Rule, among other things, permits institutions not subject to HMDA reporting requirements to choose, on an “application-by-application basis,” between two approaches to collecting race and ethnicity data from applicants for certain dwelling-secured loans: either collect such data in the aggregate or use the disaggregated and more expansive categories required for HMDA-reporting institutions under revisions to Regulation C effective in 2018.  According to the Final Rule, this means that creditors that are not HMDA reporters could transition to using the 2016 Uniform Residential Loan Application, which was updated to comply with the upcoming changes to Regulation C. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the justification for the change was to provide consistency and clarity with respect to other Bureau rules.

    Proposed Policy Guidance Regarding Publicly Available Loan-Level HMDA Data. The CFPB has issued a notice of proposed policy guidance with a request for public comment concerning modifications that it intends to apply to publicly available loan-level HMDA data that financial institutions will be required to report in connection with the new HMDA data reporting requirements that become effective January 1, 2018. The CFPB is specifically seeking comment on whether certain data fields should be included or modified in the publicly available loan-level HMDA data; these fields include the universal loan identifier, application date, loan amount, action taken date, property address, age, credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and property value, among others. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB issued its final rule amending Regulation C in August. Comments on the proposed guidance are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Consumer Finance CFPB ECOA HMDA Mortgages Regulation B Regulation C

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  • FHFA Releases July 2017 Refinance Report

    Lending

    On September 14, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) published its Refinance Report for July 2017. As previously reported by the FHFA and other sources, interest rates continued to increase for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages in July (from 3.9 percent in June to 3.97 percent), while overall refinance volume decreased. Specific to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), the report found, among other things, that borrowers completed 2,305 HARP refinances in July, bringing the total HARP refinances to 3,473,109. Consistent with recent Refinance Reports, the report also notes that borrowers who refinanced through HARP had a lower delinquency rate compared to borrowers eligible for HARP who did not refinance through the program. Last month, the FHFA extended HARP until December 31, 2018.

    Lending FHFA Mortgages Refinance Home Affordable Refinance Program

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  • Agencies Issue Proposed Rulemaking to Amend CRA Regulations to Conform With HMDA Regulation Changes

    Lending

    On September 13, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the OCC (Agencies) issued a joint notice of proposed rulemaking to amend Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations to conform to the CFPB’s changes to Regulation C, which implements the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). The proposed amendments revise the definition of “home mortgage loan” and “consumer loan,” update the public file content requirements to comply with recent Regulation C changes, and make various technical corrections. In addition, the proposal will eliminate obsolete references to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), an initiative created by HUD to help stabilize communities contending with foreclosures and abandonment. In 2016, under CRA regulations, NSP-eligible activities were no longer considered “community development.” The Agencies anticipate that the proposed rule will become effective on January 1, 2018, when most of the changes to the HMDA rules go into effect.

    Home Mortgage Loan. Under the 2015 HMDA Rule changes, “most consumer-purpose transactions, including closed-end mortgage loans, closed-end home equity loans, home-equity lines of credit, and reverse mortgages will be reported under HMDA if they are secured by a dwelling.” To conform to the Regulation C amendments, effective January 1, 2018, for purposes of CRA regulations, a “home mortgage loan” will now mean a “closed-end mortgage loan” or an “open-end line of credit,” both of which will now apply only to loans that are secured by a dwelling. Financial institutions will now have the option to decide whether they want home improvement loans that are not secured by a dwelling, which will no longer be HMDA, considered for CRA purposes, although the Agencies note that they may choose to still evaluate some of these loans in certain circumstances “where the consumer lending is so significant a portion of an institution’s lending by activity and dollar volume of loans that the lending test evaluation would not meaningfully reflect lending performance if consumer loans were excluded.”

    Consumer Loan. The proposed rulemaking would no longer include “home equity loans” in the list of “consumer loan” categories for CRA purposes, as it will now be included within the proposed revised definition of a “home mortgage loan.”  

    Comments on the proposal will be accepted for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Lending Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Federal Reserve FDIC CFPB CRA HMDA Mortgages

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  • District Court Grants Preliminary Settlement Approval in SCRA Class Action Suit

    Courts

    On September 13, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina granted preliminary approval to settle a class-action suit resolving allegations that a national bank overcharged military families on interest and fees related primarily to mortgage and credit card accounts in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The order also, in the context of the proposed settlement only, preliminarily certifies the class, which is comprised of members who—after September 11, 2001—were entitled to “additional compensation related to military reduced interest rate benefits from [the bank].” The plaintiffs filed the complaint against the bank in 2015 claiming alleged violations of the SCRA, TILA, and the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. In May 2016, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the first amended complaint, and at the end of 2016, the parties agreed to mediation. A second amended complaint—now the operative complaint—was filed just prior to the motion for preliminary approval. While the bank has not admitted any wrongdoing, it has agreed to refrain from using an “interest subsidy method for interest benefits calculations for a five-year period,” which, plaintiffs pleaded, can lead to higher costs.

    According to the terms of the memorandum in support of the motion for preliminary approval, class members will receive payments based on the strength of their individual claims, considering such factors as: (i) loan type; (ii) whether they previously received remediation from the bank, and how much; and (iii) the eligible period for interest rate refunds. The memorandum further stipulates that approximately $15.4 million of the nearly $42 million overall settlement will be provide to class members who have not received or deposited any payments from the bank. Unclaimed amounts from the first round will be pooled with the remainder of the settlement to be allocated as outlined in the distribution plan. A final approval hearing is scheduled for February of next year.

    Courts SCRA TILA Servicemembers Mortgages Credit Cards Class Action Litigation Settlement

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  • OCC Updates Comptroller’s Licensing Manual to Provide Revised Guidance on Flood Insurance Requirements

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 7, the OCC released OCC Bulletin 2017-35 announcing a replacement of its handbook titled “Flood Disaster Protection Act” (FDPA)—last issued in 1999—to reflect recent amendments to the FDPA and implement regulations that resulted from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (Biggert-Waters Act) and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. The booklet, which is part of the Comptroller’s Licensing Manual, clarifies the following changes, among other things:

    • flood insurance requirement exemptions for certain detached nonresidential structures;
    • a requirement that banks—or servicers acting on behalf of a bank—escrow flood insurance premiums and fees for “any loan secured by a residential improved real estate or a mobile home that is made, increased, extended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2016,” and also lists exemptions to the requirement;
    • a requirement that banks and servicers “subject to the escrow requirement” must provide borrowers the option to escrow flood insurance premiums and fees and are required to implement the escrow “as soon as reasonably practicable” after the request has been received;
    • FDPA provisions on force-placed insurance, including termination and refund requirements; and
    • “examination procedures for determining compliance with the detached structure, escrow, and force placement provisions.”

    Notably, the OCC stated that the Biggert-Waters Act provision, which requires the acceptance of private flood insurance policies that meets specified criteria to satisfy the mandatory purchase requirement, has not yet been adopted and will be addressed separately.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Flood Insurance Licensing Treasury Department Force-placed Insurance Escrow Mortgages

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  • CFPB, Federal and State Banking Agencies Issue Guidance for Financial Institutions on Providing Disaster Relief to Consumers

    Consumer Finance

    As previously reported in InfoBytes, several federal banking agencies have already issued guidance and resources for national banks and federal savings associations aiding consumers affected by recent disasters. On September 1, the CFPB issued a statement for CFPB-supervised entities on ways to provide assistance to consumers who may be at financial risk. The list includes:

    • offering penalty-free forbearance or repayment periods with disclosed terms;
    • limiting or waiving fees and charges, including overdraft fees, ATM fees, or late fees;
    • restructuring or refinancing existing debt, including extending repayment terms;
    • easing documentation or credit-extension requirements;
    • increasing capacity for customer service hotlines, particularly those that serve consumers in languages other than English; and
    • increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits.

    The statement further suggests that supervised entities should utilize existing regulatory flexibility if doing so would benefit affected consumers. Included are examples from Regulations B, X, and Z. Additionally, the Bureau stated it will “consider the circumstances that supervised entities may face following a major disaster and will be sensitive to good faith efforts to assist consumers.”

    The CFPB separately published a blog post for consumers containing a financial toolkit that includes links to disaster relief organizations, ways to secure financial needs, and information on forbearance options, insurance settlements, and contractor evaluations. The CFPB also issued a warning to consumers of the increased risk of scams and fraud.

    In related news, on September 6, the Federal Reserve Board, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, FDIC, and OCC issued a joint press release for financial institutions that may be impacted by Hurricane Irma. The agencies encouraged constructive cooperation with borrowers, noting that “prudent efforts to adjust or alter terms on existing loans in affected areas should not be subject to examiner criticism.” Guidance was also issued on matters concerning Community Reinvestment Act considerations, investments, regulatory reporting requirements, publishing requirements, and temporary banking facilities.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Federal Reserve CSBS FDIC OCC CRA Lending Mortgages

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  • District Court Denies Class Certification for Lack of Temporal Constraint on Proposed Class Definition

    Courts

    On August 30, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an opinion and order denying the certification of a proposed class of investors alleging that a bank failed in its responsibilities as trustee of five residential mortgage-backed securities. The court found that “the proposed class cannot be certified because it is not ‘defined using objective criteria that establish a membership with definite boundaries’ . . . [such as] a fixed date, a window of acquisition, or length or continuity of ownership.” The judge ruled that the lack of a “temporal constraint on the proposed class definition” meant investors who bought and sold the securities before and after the alleged violations occurred could be included in the suit, despite the fact that any losses incurred by these groups would not necessarily be associated with the bank’s alleged misconduct. However, the court ruled that the plaintiff may file an amended motion proposing an alternative class construction within 45 days.

    Courts Class Action Mortgages Securities

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  • CFPB Issues Summary of Changes and Clarifications to 2017 TILA-RESPA Rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On August 30, the CFPB released “2017 TILA-RESPA Rule: Detailed Summary of Changes and Clarifications” to assist the mortgage industry in implementing the disclosure requirements of the CFPB’s recently finalized TILA-RESPA Rule. The summary provides an in-depth outline of modifications to the rule, and explains and corrects certain provisions.

    Topics covered by the summary include:

    • “Effective date and mandatory compliance date”;
    • “Coverage,” specifically with respect to cooperative units, trusts, and housing assistance loans;
    • “Good faith requirement (i.e., tolerances) and revised disclosures”;
    • “Shopping for settlement services”;
    • “Disclosure of principal reductions (also known as principal curtailments)”;
    • “Total of payments disclosure”;
    • “Simultaneous subordinate lien loans”;
    • “Construction loans”;
    • “Use of positive and negative numbers for certain disclosures in the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure”;
    • “Rounding”;
    • “Calculating cash to close”;
    • “Disclosure of payoffs of existing liens, and unsecured debt”;
    • “Disclosure of estimated value when no sales price or appraised value”;
    • “Separation of consumer and seller information on Closing Disclosures”;
    • “Other disclosures in the Loan Estimate”;
    • “Other disclosures in the Closing Disclosure”; and
    • “Other minor changes” (including correcting typographical errors).

    In addition to the summary, the CFPB also provided additional reference materials to help industry participants to comply with the rule. The rule becomes effective on October 10.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB RESPA TILA TRID Mortgages

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  • CFPB Publishes Final Rule Amending Annual Dollar Threshold in TILA Regulations

    Lending

    On August 30, the CFPB issued a final rule amending Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), under the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA), and the Dodd-Frank ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage provisions (ATR/QM). The CFPB is required to make adjustments to dollar amounts in the Regulation Z provisions implementing these laws based on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index effective June 1, 2017. For open-end consumer credit plans under TILA, the minimum interest charge disclosure threshold will remain unchanged at $1.00 in 2018. For open-end consumer credit plans under the CARD Act amendments, the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a first violation penalty fee will remain unchanged at $27 in 2018, and the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a subsequent violation penalty fee will remain unchanged at $38 in 2018. For HOEPA loans, the adjusted total loan amount threshold for high-cost mortgages in 2018 will increase to $21,032, and the adjusted points and fees dollar trigger for high-cost mortgages in 2018 will be $1,052. To satisfy the underwriting requirements under the ATR/QM rule, the maximum thresholds for total points and fees for qualified mortgages in 2018 will be: (i) 3 percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $105,158; (ii) $3,155 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $63,095 but less than $105,158; (iii) 5 percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $21,032 but less than $63,095; (iv) $1,052 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $13,145 but less than $21,032; and (v) 8 percent of the total loan amount for loan amounts less than $13,145. The final rule is effective January 1, 2018.

    Lending Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB TILA Credit Cards HOEPA Ability To Repay Qualified Mortgage Federal Register Regulation Z Mortgages

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