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  • 7th Circuit says “door hanger” company that performs property inspections for mortgage servicer is not a debt collector

    Courts

    On August 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling that a company (defendant) that performed inspections for a mortgage servicer is not a “debt collector” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and was not liable for claims brought by a putative class of homeowners. According to the opinion, the defendant entered into a contract with the mortgage servicer to perform inspections to determine whether properties were still occupied for homes with defaulted mortgage payments of 45 days or more if the servicer was unable to contact the homeowner directly. When performing the inspections, the defendants left door hangers on the plaintiffs’ properties containing instructions to contact the mortgage servicer, which the plaintiffs claimed violated the FDCPA's disclosure requirements, including the requirement to disclose the creditor’s name, the amount owed, and that the debtor can dispute the debt. However, the lower court ruled—and the appellate court affirmed—that the defendant was not a “debt collector” for purposes of the FDCPA. The court found that the activities did not constitute direct debt collection because the door hangers did not demand payment and did not reference the underlying debt. The court also held that the defendant was not engaged in “indirect” debt collection, agreeing with the characterization of the lower court that the activities were more akin to those of a “messenger” than those of an “indirect” debt collector.

    Courts Seventh Circuit Appellate Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Debt Collection

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  • Federal Reserve Board fines national bank $8.6 million for legacy mortgage documentation deficiencies

    Federal Issues

    On August 10, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) announced a settlement with a national bank for legacy mortgage servicing issues related to the improper preparation and notarization of lost note affidavits. Under the consent order, the Board assessed an $8.6 million civil money penalty for alleged safety and soundness violations under Section 8 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act. The Board emphasized that the bank’s servicing subsidiary replaced the documents with properly executed and notarized affidavits and, as of September 2017, the subsidiary no longer participated in the mortgage servicing business. The Board also announced the termination, due to “sustainable improvements,” of a 2011 enforcement action against the national bank and its subsidiary related to residential mortgage loan servicing.

    Federal Issues Enforcement Civil Money Penalties Mortgages FDI Act

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  • Fannie Mae issues updated mortgage industry alert in California

    Federal Issues

    Recently, Fannie Mae’s Mortgage Fraud Program issued an industry alert to mortgage companies operating in California regarding the use of false employment information by mortgage loan applicants. (See previous coverage in InfoBytes here). Fannie Mae extended its alert to Northern California and identified additional employers whose existence could not be verified by Fannie Mae. The alert provides “red flags” to help lenders and originators identify potential mortgage fraud when reviewing employment information.

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Mortgages Fraud State Issues

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  • 5th Circuit affirms dismissal of automatic stay violation claim on grounds of judicial estoppel

    Courts

    On July 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision following a bench trial to dismiss plaintiffs’ allegations that a bank violated an automatic stay imposed during one of the plaintiff’s (debtor) bankruptcy schedules when it took foreclosure action, holding that the plaintiffs were barred by judicial estoppel from pursuing claims because the debtor failed to amend his bankruptcy schedules to disclose a quitclaim deed for his mortgage or note a change in his financial status. In this case, the debtor filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but failed to list the address or creditor information for a property in which he had entered into an equity sharing agreement with his son. When the son signed a quitclaim deed conveying the property to the debtor, the deed was recorded but not listed on the bankruptcy schedules.

    According to the appellate court, the debtor failed to “disclose an asset to a bankruptcy court, but then pursue[d] a claim in a separate tribunal based on that undisclosed asset” when it filed a lawsuit against the bank for wrongful foreclosure. The doctrine of judicial estoppel requires that three elements be met: (i) “the party against whom estoppel is sought has asserted a position plainly inconsistent with a prior position”; (ii) “a court accepted the prior position”; and (iii) "the party did not act inadvertently.” The court held the first two elements were met by the plaintiff’s failure to amend his bankruptcy schedules to disclose the quitclaim deed or his legal action against the bank. The court noted, however, the debtor’s actions were not inadvertent because he was aware of the inconsistency and had a motive to conceal the asset. The appellate court specifically noted the motive to conceal was “self-evident” because the debtor’s failure to disclose his changed financial status had the potential to provide a financial benefit to the debtor. The appellate court further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs' motion for a new trial, and that, moreover, the plaintiffs failed to show that the district court abused its discretion when it chose to exclude several of their exhibits.

    Courts Appellate Fifth Circuit Mortgages Bankruptcy Foreclosure

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  • CFPB announces HMDA File Format Verification Tool and new 2017 data reports and datasets

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On August 9, the CFPB released the 2018 File Format Verification Tool (FFVT). The FFVT tests whether HMDA reporters’ files meet formatting requirements, specifically whether the file (i) is pipe-delimited; (ii) has the proper number of data fields; and (iii) has data fields formatted as integers, where necessary. It does not include any data validation or consistency tests. Because the tool has no login functions, no federal agency will receive or review the files tested. Additionally, earlier in the week, the Bureau announced the release of the 2017 HMDA Dynamic National Loan-Level Dataset and the Aggregate & Disclosure reports. The Dynamic National Loan-Level Dataset contains the raw HMDA data reported by all HMDA reporters, redacted by the Bureau to protect applicant and borrower privacy. The Disclosure Reports summarize lending activity for individual institutions by MSA or MD and nationwide and the National Aggregate Reports summarize aggregate lending activity of all institutions, tabulated by a variety of loan, borrower, and geographical characteristics.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB HMDA Mortgages

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  • Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac issue forbearance relief to homeowners affected by California wildfires

    Federal Issues

    On August 8, Freddie Mac extended its disaster relief options to homeowners affected by ongoing California wildfires who have access to federal individual assistance programs in FEMA-declared disaster areas. The relief suspends foreclosures by providing forbearance for up to 12 months. Penalties and late fees will also be waived. Freddie Mac also reminded servicers to consider borrowers who work in eligible disaster areas but have homes outside the affected area for standard relief policies. Moreover, servicers may leverage Freddie Mac forbearance programs to provide immediate mortgage relief to those affected by the wildfires in areas where FEMA has not made individual assistance available.

    On August 7, Fannie Mae issued a notice to mortgage servicers reminding them that homeowners impacted by the California wildfires are eligible to stop making mortgage payments for up to 12 months, during which time late fees will not be incurred nor delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus. Furthermore, servicers may immediately suspend or reduce mortgage payments for up to 90 days without any contact with homeowners believed to have been affected by the wildfires. Additionally, foreclosures and other legal proceedings must be suspended for impacted homeowners.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.

    Federal Issues Fannie Mae Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Disaster Relief

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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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  • Washington state updates mortgage provisions of Consumer Loan Act

    State Issues

    On July 24, the Washington Department of Financial Institutions adopted new mortgage-related provisions of the state’s Consumer Loan Act (CLA). In addition to technical changes and certain definition modifications, the rulemaking, among other things, (i) adds a requirement that if electronic records are stored using a closed service, the service must be located in the U.S. or its territories; (ii) prohibits certain servicing activities, such as receiving payments and collection activities, from being conducted outside the U.S. or its territories; and (iii) requires servicers to maintain a compliance management system with the functionalities that are described in the CFPB’s Supervision and Examination Manual. The rulemaking is effective September 1.

    State Issues State Regulators Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Compliance Examination CFPB

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  • National bank settles with DOJ for $2.09 billion over RMBS misrepresentations

    Federal Issues

    On August 1, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement with a national bank and several of its affiliates (bank) for allegedly misrepresenting the quality of certain loans originated by the bank that were packaged and sold in residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). The alleged representations related to debt-to-income ratios for stated income loans sold to investors and in which a significant number of borrowers misstated income information on the applications. The settlement agreement states that the bank “sold at least 73,529 stated income loans in RMBS during [2005-2007], and nearly half of those loans defaulted.” The bank, without admitting liability or wrongdoing, agreed to pay $2.09 billion in a civil money penalty under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act, and the DOJ agreed to release the bank from any civil claims arising under several other laws, including: (i) the False Claims Act; (ii) the Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act; (iii) the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; and (iv) the Injunctions Against Fraud Act.

    Federal Issues DOJ RMBS Settlement Loan Origination Mortgages

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  • 2nd Circuit affirms no securities fraud in mortgage bundle sale

    Courts

    On July 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision, holding that a group of securities investment firms (defendants-appellees) did not unlawfully hide concerns about a mortgage bundle it sold to a Luxemburg-based financial institution (plaintiff-appellant) when it marked down the value of certain junior securities within the bundle. The three judge panel affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss securities fraud and breach of contract claims, which alleged that the defendants-appellees’ undisclosed markdown concealed its view that the mortgage bundle would underperform. The defendants-appellees contended that the markdown was related to commonly-used accounting strategies designed to manage risk tied to the preference shares, to which the lower court agreed—ruling that the plaintiff-appellant had failed to show evidence proving its claims of fraud. The appellate court agreed, holding that the plaintiff-appellant “has thus failed to raise a material issue of fact as to [the defendants-appellees’] knowledge that there was anything wrong with the underlying assets, which is essential to establishing its theory of fraud.” The appellate court further upheld the breach of contract dismissal because the offering circular and marketing materials for the mortgage bundle did not specify the value of the preference shares.

    Courts Appellate Second Circuit Securities Mortgages

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