Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On December 6, the FDIC issued FIL-84-2018 announcing updates to the Affordable Mortgage Lending Guide, Part I: Federal Agencies and Government Sponsored Enterprises (Guide), which reflect current information available about mortgage products offered through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Guide covers federal programs targeted to a variety of communities and individuals including rural, Native American, low- and moderate-income, and veterans, and is designed to provide community banks resources “to gain an overview of a variety of products, compare different products, and identify next steps to expand or initiate a mortgage lending program.” Updates to the Guide include, among other things, (i) revisions to the Program Matrix; (ii) changes to student loan debt in FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac programs; and (iii) updates to certain FHA loan insurance products, USDA single family housing programs, and various Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac products.
On December 4, Fannie Mae issued SEL-2018-09, which announces updates to the Selling Guide, including a new self-employment income calculation tool and an updated policy for appraisal waivers for disasters. Specifically, the guide now addresses the use of an approved vendor tool to assist lenders in calculating self-employment income: Fannie Mae “will provide representation and warranty enforcement relief on the accuracy of the calculation of the amount of self-employment income” to lenders that use this tool and enter the income calculated into Fannie Mae’s Desktop Underwriter. Additionally, the guide now allows lenders to exercise appraisal waiver offers on loans in process at the time of a disaster. If a property was damaged during a disaster, but the damage does not affect the safety, soundness, or structural integrity of the property and the repair items are covered by insurance, the lender may still deliver the loan to Fannie Mae; however, the lender must obtain a cost estimate for the repair and ensure that funds are available to the borrower to guarantee the completion of the repairs. The appraisal waiver change is available starting on or after the weekend of December 8. Among other things, the updates also include changes to (i) commission income and unreimbursed business expenses; (ii) Desktop Underwriter Version 10.3; (iii) small business administration loans; and (iv) duplicative provisions regarding flood insurance coverage.
On December 4, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that a New York foreclosure law firm and its wholly-owned affiliates—a process server and a title search company (defendants)—have agreed to pay $4.6 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations claiming that between 2009 and 2018 the defendants systematically generated false and inflated bills for foreclosure-related and eviction-related expenses and caused those expenses to be paid by Fannie Mae. The settlement also resolves claims arising from the same misconduct pertaining to eviction-related expenses that were submitted to and ultimately paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The DOJ alleges that the process server and title search company both added “additional charges to the costs charged by independent contractors and otherwise took actions that increased costs and expenses,” which were then submitted by the law firm for reimbursement. According to the DOJ, “[l]awyers are not above the law. For years, the [law firm] submitted bills to Fannie Mae and the VA that contained inflated and unnecessary charges. This Office will continue to hold accountable those who seek to achieve profits by fraudulent conduct.” The DOJ states that Fannie Mae’s Servicing Guide requires “all foreclosure costs and expenses be ‘actual, reasonable, and necessary,’ and that foreclosure law firms ‘must make every effort to reduce foreclosure-related costs and expenses in a manner that is consistent with all applicable laws.’”
The DOJ further notes that the defendants agreed to pay an additional $1,518,000 to resolve separate False Claims Act claims pursued by the whistleblower.
On November 27, the FHFA announced that it will raise the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages purchased in 2019 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from $453,100 to $484,350. The announcement marks the third consecutive year FHFA has increased the baseline loan limit. In high-cost areas, such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., the maximum loan limit will be $726,525. For a county-specific list of the maximum loan limits in the U.S., click here.
On November 13, the OCC, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD issued disaster relief guidance related to the California wildfires. The OCC issued a proclamation permitting OCC-regulated institutions, at their discretion, to close offices affected by wildfires and high winds “for as long as deemed necessary for bank operation or public safety.” In issuing the proclamation, the OCC noted that it expects that only those bank offices directly affected by potentially unsafe conditions will close and that they should make every effort to reopen as quickly as possible to address the banking needs of their customers. The proclamation directs institutions to OCC Bulletin 2012-28 for further guidance on natural disasters and other emergency conditions.
Fannie Mae reminded servicers of available mortgage assistance options for homeowners impacted by the wildfires: (i) qualifying homeowners are eligible to stop making mortgage payments for up to 12 months without incurring late fees and without having delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus; (ii) servicers may immediately suspend or reduce mortgage payments for up to 90 days without any contact with homeowners believed to have been affected by a disaster; and (iii) servicers must suspend foreclosures and other legal proceedings for homeowners believed to be impacted by a disaster. Freddie Mac similarly reminded servicers of these mortgage relief options.
HUD announced an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties and is further making FHA insurance available to those victims whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.
On October 31, Freddie Mac released Guide Bulletin 2018-19, which announces selling updates, including updates to the Settlement/Closing Disclosure Statement that sellers are required to use for mortgages with note dates on or after September 25, 2017. Effective immediately, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have jointly agreed that sellers “must create or obtain . . . the [c]losing [d]isclosure form for each [m]ortgage, regardless of whether another form might also be required by a [s]tate or local law.” Bulletin 2018-19 additionally states that, with the exception of certain servicing transactions, the Settlement/Closing Disclosure Statement means the closing disclosure required under TILA for mortgages subject to TRID rules, “whether or not the TRID rules apply to the transaction.”
Among other things, Bulletin 2018-19 also (i) updates certain rental income and documentation requirements; (ii) removes the special loan-to-value (LTV)/total LTV (TLTV)/Home Equity Line of Credit TLTV ratio requirements for a “no cash-out” refinance of a mortgage owned or securitized by Freddie Mac with settlement dates on or after February 1, 2019; and (iii) removes the mandatory expiration date on Guide Form 960 (the Concurrent Transfer of Servicing Agreement), eliminating the need for sellers to submit a new guide form each year.
It has been reported that during a hearing on October 29, a judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York approved Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc.’s motion to amend and extend indemnification claims brought against mortgage sellers, allowing Lehman to include an additional $2.45 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) allowed claims from settlements reached earlier this year. As previously reported by InfoBytes, these claims had not yet accrued when the original order was entered pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9024. Lehman’s prior claims addressed indemnification claims held against roughly 3,000 counterparties involving more than 11,000 mortgage loans related to litigation settlements reached with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
According to the report, the judge stated her decision to allow the amendments will not delay litigation, nor abridge defendants’ rights, as discovery has not yet commenced. The judge’s decision further requires the parties to reach an agreement concerning an alternative dispute resolution regarding the claims.
On October 16, Fannie Mae’s Mortgage Fraud Program issued an industry alert to mortgage companies operating in California identifying new, potentially false, employment information used by mortgage loan applicants in Southern California, Los Angeles County. As previously covered by InfoBytes, Fannie Mae issued industry alerts earlier this year covering “fictitious” employers whose existence could not be verified. This new alert provides common “red flags” to help lenders and originators identify potential mortgage fraud when reviewing employment information.
FHFA launches clearinghouse for mortgage industry to assist borrowers with limited English proficiency
On October 15, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae announced the joint launch of the Mortgage Translations clearinghouse, a collection of online resources designed to help lenders and servicers assist borrowers with limited English proficiency. The clearinghouse currently provides Spanish-language resources, and will add resources in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Tagalog in the coming years. Mortgage Translations also includes a Spanish-English glossary developed in collaboration with the CFPB to help standardize translations across the mortgage industry.
On October 1, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the firm’s plan administrator, and certain subsidiaries moved to increase the indemnification claims brought against mortgage sellers, seeking to include obligations resulting from more than $2.45 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) trust claims. Lehman’s prior claims addressed indemnification claims held against roughly 3,000 counterparties involving more than 11,000 mortgage loans related to litigation settlements reached with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Lehman now seeks to increase the indemnification claims to include claims from additional settlements reached earlier this year for an additional $2.45 billion in RMBS allowed claims. The proposed amended order does not seek to materially change existing procedures, but only seeks to add claims which had not accrued when the original order was entered pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9024. Lehman asserts the amendment is appropriate under Bankruptcy Rule 7015 and would benefit the creditors by “expediting the resolution and recovery on account of such claims and by increasing distributions to creditors.”
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Trends in regulatory enforcement" at the American Bar Association Banking Law Committee Meeting
- Jessica L. Pollet to discuss "Your career is impacting your life..." at the Ark Group Women Legal Conference
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Successors in interest updates" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "Keeping your head above water in flood insurance compliance" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo