On June 22, 2017, the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman put out its annual report on student loans, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. The report analyzes complaints submitted by consumers about student loan servicers between March 2016 and February 2017. Many of the complaints relate to practices, such as payment processing, customer service and borrower communication, and income-based repayment plan enrollment, that the CFPB has frequently scrutinized in the past through supervision and enforcement activities.

However, the majority of the report focuses on complaints from consumers related to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which allows those who enter careers in public service to have their student loans forgiven after a decade. The CFPB’s report criticizes servicers’ alleged failures to actively advise borrowers on how to qualify for PSLF, track their progress toward PSLF completion, and inform them about the requirements of the PSLF program. In conjunction with the report, the CFPB updated its education loan examination procedures to include additional questions about the PSLF program. Continue Reading CFPB Issues Report on Student Loan Servicing and Updated Examination Procedures

UPDATE June 8:
The House of Representative approved the Financial CHOICE Act, with a vote largely on party lines of 233 to 186.  While the Senate Banking Committee is and has been considering financial reform proposals, it is unlikely that the Financial CHOICE Act as passed by the House will progress in the Senate.

UPDATE June 7:
As expected, House Rules Committee approved a rule on June 6 allowing 90 minutes of general debate that will permit the Republicans to offer 6 amends. Floor consideration expected to start this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning.

The House Rules Committee has scheduled a meeting on the CHOICE Act for 5:00 PM Tuesday, June 6, to consider the amendments that have been submitted as well as a rule for floor consideration. It is expected that the Committee will issue a rule to bring the bill to the House floor on Wednesday, and that rule is likely to provide for debate and floor consideration of amendments.

There is some speculation that Democratic members may withdraw their amendments in a show of opposition to the bill, similar to their decision last Congress not to participate in the Committee mark-up.  We understand that the Majority Whip, Rep. McCarthy (R-CA), has placed the bill on the calendar for Wednesday, June 7th, subject to the Rules Committee completing its work. Depending on the final number of amendments to be considered (if any), and the time provided for debate, it is possible that the bill could pass as early as Wednesday evening.

*John Mirvish is not admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia.

Flood insurance reform continues to generate interest from Congress, particularly in the context of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization debate. (The program will expire September 30, 2017, absent reauthorization or a continuing resolution.)

In December we discussed a proposed rule to implement the statutory definition of “private flood insurance.” That proposal was related to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act’s requirement that the agencies issue a rule directing lending institutions to accept such insurance, with the goal of stimulating the private flood insurance market.  In March, Senators Heller (R-NV) and Tester (D-MT), and Reps. Ross (R-FL) and Castor (D-FL),** reintroduced legislation to further define “private flood insurance,” seeking to clarify the issue, and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs recently held hearings on the Senate version of that legislation. Continue Reading Redefining Private Flood Insurance*

The long awaited en banc oral argument in the PHH v. CFPB appeal was heard this morning.  Based upon the questions asked by the judges, and with the caveat that such questioning is not always an indicator of how a court will rule, it seems likely that the D.C. Circuit will not find the CFPB to be unconstitutionally structured.  While Judge Kavanaugh, author of the roughly 100-page 3-judge panel decision last October, tried mightily to defend his position that a single director removable only for cause thwarts the President’s Article II authority, most of the judges did not seem to share his views.  Some judges, like Judge Griffith, implied that the Court was bound by the Supreme Court’s decision in Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, which upheld the constitutionality of removal-for-cause provisions as pertains to the multi-member Federal Trade Commission.  Other judges appeared to believe there was sufficient accountability for the CFPB Director because he or she can be removed for cause.  Judge Pillard defended the independence of financial regulatory agencies such as the CFPB.  On the whole, fewer judges seemed inclined to declare the for-cause provisions unconstitutional than to keep the status quo.

Notably, only about 60 seconds of the 90 minute oral argument addressed RESPA concerns, in particular Section 8(c)(2).  The judges’ RESPA-related questions concerned whether the industry had notice that RESPA prohibited the conduct in question (which had been blessed by a 1997 Letter from HUD permitting captive reinsurance if the Section 8(c)(2) safe harbor provisions were met) and whether the CFPB was bound by RESPA’s 3-year statute of limitations.  Questions about both issues were directed to CFPB counsel.  He stated that the statute itself provided ample notice of its prohibitions in Sections 8(a) and 8(c)(2). He also said the Bureau was bound by the generally-applicable 5-year statute of limitations at least insofar as penalties are concerned, but he did not concede the Bureau was otherwise bound by RESPA’s limitations period in an administrative proceeding.  That said, given how little attention was directed to the RESPA questions, it is likely that the full 11-member panel will affirm the 3-judge panel’s views on RESPA expressed last October.

It would appear that Director Cordray will remain at his desk until his term expires in July 2018.  He may, however, need to revise his interpretation of Section 8(c)(2).

 

One week before the en banc D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear oral argument regarding the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) structure in CFPB v. PHH, the Ninth Circuit has taken up the issue as well. In an order issued May 17, 2017, the Ninth Circuit granted permission for interlocutory appeal to address the question of whether the CFPB’s structure is unconstitutional and, if it is, what the proper remedy is.  Continue Reading CFPB Constitutionality Question Headed to 9th Circuit

Last week was busy for the financial technology industry (Fintechs) and non-bank regulators.

New York joined the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) in filing a lawsuit against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and announced plans to adopt a uniform licensing system for Fintechs. CSBS issued its support of the lawsuit, announced Vision 2020 for Fintechs, and invited industry to participate in developing the uniform licensing system (the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System, or NMLS) chosen by most state regulatory agencies as the universal platform for licensing and supervising the Fintech business sector.

Learn more about Vision 2020 and NMLS 2.0 in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

On May 15, the Supreme Court held that a debt collector does not violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) by knowingly attempting to collect a debt in bankruptcy proceedings after the statute of limitations for collecting that debt has expired. As explained in Mayer Brown’s Decision Alerts, the FDCPA generally prohibits a debt collector from using false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means in collecting debts. In the opinion for the Court, Justice Breyer looked to state law to determine whether the creditor had a right to payment. Under Alabama law, a creditor has the right to payment of a debt even after the limitations period has expired. Accordingly, a creditor may legitimately claim the existence of a debt even if the debt is no longer enforceable in a collection action. Likewise, the streamlined rules of bankruptcy proceedings mean that it is not obviously “unfair” for a creditor to inject an additional claim into the proceedings, even if it would be unfair for a creditor to file a standalone civil action to collect a time-barred debt.

In addition, the Court also held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts any state law that discriminates against arbitration on its face, and any rule that disfavors contracts with features of an arbitration agreement. Mayer Brown, which represented the petitioner before the Court, explained the case in its Decision Alerts.  The FAA requires courts to place arbitration provisions on an equal footing with other contract terms. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court had refused to enforce two arbitration provisions executed by individuals holding powers of attorney, because the power-of-attorney documents did not specifically mention arbitration or the ability to waive the principals’ right to trial by jury. The Supreme Court held that Kentucky’s rule violates the FAA by singling out arbitration agreements for disfavored treatment, explaining that “the waiver of the right to go to court and receive a jury trial” is a “primary characteristic of an arbitration agreement.” The Court explained that the FAA “cares not only about the ‘enforce[ment]’ of arbitration agreements, but also about their initial ‘valid[ity]’—that is, about what it takes to enter into them.”  The Court also pointed out that a contrary interpretation would make it “trivially easy” for courts hostile to arbitration to undermine the FAA—“indeed, to wholly defeat it.”

For more docket reports and decision alerts, go to Mayer Brown’s appellate.net.

After leaving residential mortgage lenders guessing for many years, the California Department of Business Oversight (“DBO”) finally provided the industry with some guidance on the documentation licensees may use to verify compliance with the state’s per diem statutes.

The California per diem statutes (Financial Code § 50204(o) and Civil Code § 2948.5) prohibit a lender from requiring a borrower to pay interest for more than one day prior to the disbursement of loan proceeds, subject to some limited exceptions.

In 2007, the DBO issued Release No. 58-FS (the “2007 Release”), which provided guidance on acceptable evidence of compliance with Financial Code § 50204(o):

  • A final, certified HUD-1 that reflects the disbursement date;
  • Written or electronic records of communications between the licensee and the settlement agent verifying the disbursement date of loan proceeds and identifying the name of the settlement agent providing the information and the electronic or business address used to contact the settlement agent; or
  • Contemporaneous written or electronic records of oral communications between the licensee and the settlement agent verifying the disbursement date of loan proceeds and identifying the name and telephone number of the settlement agent providing the information.

Of course, much has changed since 2007, including the enactment and implementation of TRID, which replaced the HUD-1 with the Closing Disclosure.  Continue Reading Carpe Per Diem Redux — California Clarifies How to Document Compliance

Once again, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is providing compliance tips through its Supervisory Highlights for lenders making non-Qualified Mortgages (“non-QMs”). In its latest set of Highlights, the CFPB addresses how a lender must consider a borrower’s assets in underwriting those loans, and clarifies that a borrower’s down payment cannot be treated as an asset for that purpose, apparently even if that policy has been shown to be predictive of strong loan performance.

The Dodd-Frank Act and the CFPB’s Ability to Repay Rule generally require a lender making a closed-end residential mortgage loan to determine that the borrower will be able to repay the loan according to its terms. A lender may choose to follow the Rule’s safe harbor by making loans within the QM parameters. Alternatively, a lender may opt for more underwriting flexibility (and somewhat less compliance certainty). When making a non-QM, a lender must consider eight mandated underwriting factors and verify the borrower’s income or assets on which it relies using reasonably reliable third-party records. As one of those eight factors, the lender must base its determination on current or reasonably expected income from employment or other sources, assets other than the dwelling that secures the covered transaction, or both. Continue Reading CFPB Prohibits Considering Down Payments for Non-QMs

Several of Mayer Brown’s Consumer Financial Services partners will be featured at the upcoming Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference in Miami, sponsored by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

On Sunday, May 7, Kris Kully will participate in a Compliance Essentials panel, providing an Overview of Consumer Protection Compliance (the Dodd Frank Rules). Anyone new to the conference, or new to the industry, should make a point to attend that session. Also on Sunday, Melanie Brody will bring the attendees up to date on ECOA litigation, in the Litigation Forum (TILA, RESPA, ECOA, Fair Housing Act).

On Monday, May 8, Larry Platt will head to the dais for the panel on Expedited Processes, Day One Certainty, and More, discussing advancements in origination processes that may render representations and warrants unnecessary and eMortgages a reality. Later that afternoon, Krista Cooley will participate in a panel on Dealing with False Claims Act Matters, providing suggestions for avoiding liability under the statute.

On Tuesday, May 9, Phil Schulman will discuss the status of the PHH case, as well as the Prospect Consent Orders and their effects on marketing and advertising activities. Gus Avrakotos will participate in a panel discussing State Regulatory Developments.

Finally, you won’t want to miss Wednesday’s Conference Supersession, in which Kris Kully will return to address any remaining questions.

Other Mayer Brown partners in the group, including Debra Bogo-Ernst, Holly Bunting, Eric Edwardson, Jon Jaffe, Lucia Nale, and David Tallman, also will be on hand.  See you in Miami!