Mayer Brown Partners Paul Jorissen and Lauren Pryor will speak at the 6th Annual Residential Mortgage Servicing Rights Forum being held April 15-16, 2019 in New York City. This conference explores the key industry issues, including the origination trends, views from the regulators, and more.

Paul Jorissen will moderate the panel on “Financing in the MSR Market” and Lauren Pryor will moderate the panel on “Buying a Mortgage Servicer/Originator vs. Rights vs. Subservice” on April 15.

Mayer Brown is a Silver Sponsor.

For more information, please visit the conference website.

Legalization of certain cannabis-related activities by over 30 states has led to a surge in companies that grow and produce cannabis and related products. However, banks and other financial services companies have been hesitant to serve this growing population of potential customers due to conflicting statutes and enforcement policies under federal law. On Thursday, March 28, 2019, the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives took a step toward clearing some ambiguity, at least for federally insured financial institutions.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (“SAFE Act”), which the Committee approved on a vote of 45-15, with 11 of the panel’s Republican members voting in favor, has been cleared for consideration by the full House. The SAFE Act would, if enacted, provide a safe harbor against retaliatory enforcement action by federal bank regulators directed at banks (including federal branches of non-U.S. banks), savings associations, and credit unions that provide services to cannabis businesses or service providers. In addition, the SAFE Act would prohibit federal regulators from discouraging depository institutions from offering financial services, including loans, to an account holder on the basis that the account holder is a cannabis-related business or service provider; an employee, owner, or operator of a cannabis-related business; or an owner or operator of real estate or equipment leased to a cannabis-related business. Furthermore, the SAFE Act would provide that officers, directors, and employees of depository institutions and the Federal Reserve Banks may not be held liable under federal law or regulations based solely on their provision of financial services to cannabis-related businesses or for investing any income derived from such businesses. The protections would apply only to cannabis-related businesses located in states, political subdivisions of states, or an Indian country where local law permits the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, distribution, or purchase of cannabis.  Continue Reading House Takes First Step to Open Banking for Cannabis Companies

The Department of Labor is fulfilling its promise to rethink the salary thresholds applicable to an employer’s obligation to pay overtime. The Department published a proposed rule on March 22nd that would expand eligibility for overtime (and minimum wage) to certain previously exempt employees. As explained in a prior update, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has acknowledged that the overtime exemption needed updating, as the current thresholds were established decades ago.

As relevant to the mortgage industry, the Department announced in 2010 that it interprets the typical duties of a mortgage loan originator not to qualify for the “administrative” exemption from the federal obligation to pay employees overtime and minimum wage. Mortgage lenders had relied on previous guidance that those originators were exempt, but then had to analyze their originators’ duties to determine whether recharacterization of the originators as exempt or nonexempt was necessary.

Paying overtime compensation to mortgage loan originators can be a complex and difficult task. They often work nonstandard schedules, seeking to be available to potential borrowers, realtors, and others on a near “24/7” basis. Accordingly, keeping track of exact working hours can be tricky. In addition, they likely earn commissions (or a mix of a salary plus commissions), making the calculation of their weekly overtime rate of pay a challenge. The Department recognizes that employers of all types may decide to raise salary levels, reorganize workloads, adjust work schedules, or spread work hours in order to avoid payment of overtime.

Under the Department’s recent proposal, the salary levels for meeting the administrative exemption would increase, broadening the scope of overtime eligibility, but not as much as the Department’s prior attempt, issued in 2016. (A Texas federal court struck down that 2016 rule, holding that the Department exceeded its authority by raising the salary thresholds so high as to essentially supplant other criteria for the overtime exemption.) The current standard salary threshold is $455 per week ($23,600 per year). The Department’s proposal would raise that threshold to $679 per week ($35,308 per year). Continue Reading Department of Labor Proposes New Overtime Salary Thresholds

The Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) is updating its Technology Open to Approved Lenders (“TOTAL”) Mortgage Scorecard in an effort to address excessive risk layering where, for example, FHA mortgage loan applicants have low credit scores and high debt-to-income (“DTI”) ratios. The FHA announced on March 14th that the TOTAL Mortgage Scorecard updates will apply for all mortgages with FHA case numbers assigned on or after March 18, 2019. As a result, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) indicated that lenders should expect to receive an increase in the number of referrals from TOTAL for manual underwriting. While HUD appears to be focused on loans with low credit scores and high DTI ratios, it did not identify the specific changes it will make or the precise combinations of factors that may result in referrals for manual underwriting.

HUD created the FHA TOTAL Mortgage Scorecard as a statistical algorithm to evaluate loan applications and consumer credit using a scoring system that remains constant for all applicants. FHA lenders access TOTAL through an automated underwriting system. Lenders are required to score potential FHA mortgage transactions through TOTAL, except for streamline refinances, home equity conversion mortgages, Title I mortgages, and loans involving borrowers without credit scores. Continue Reading HUD updates FHA TOTAL Mortgage Scorecard

Earlier this week, the Bureau released the Winter 2019 edition of Supervisory Highlights.  This marks the first edition issued under the CFPB’s new Director, Kathy Kraninger, who was confirmed to a five-year term in December.  The report describes observations from examinations that were generally completed between June and November 2018 and summarizes recent publicly-released enforcement actions and guidance.

Like the sole edition of Supervisory Highlights issued under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s tenure, this edition emphasizes that “it is important to keep in mind that institutions are subject only to the requirements of relevant laws and regulations,” and that the purpose of disseminating Supervisory Highlights is to “help institutions better understand” how the Bureau examines them for compliance—statements that signal a shift in how the Bureau approaches its supervisory role. Continue Reading First Supervisory Highlights Under Director Kraninger Reflects Focus on Corrective Action and Prevention of Harm

Congress amended the Truth in Lending Act in May 2018 by directing the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to prescribe ability-to-repay regulations with respect to Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) financing. PACE financing helps homeowners cover the costs of home improvements, which financing results in a tax assessment on the consumer’s property. Ability-to-repay regulations, which TILA and the CFPB currently impose in connection with most closed-end residential mortgage loans, would generally require a creditor to consider specific factors about a consumer’s finances, including income, assets, and debt obligations, and to verify the income and assets with reliable third-party documentation, prior to extending the financing.

On March 4, 2019, the CFPB issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) seeking information regarding, and responses to specific questions related to, PACE financing.

Read more in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

On February 22, the Third Circuit sidestepped the Supreme Court’s 2017 holding in Henson v. Santander Consumer USA Inc. and found that a purchaser of defaulted debt qualified as a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

In Barbato v. Greystone Alliance, the Third Circuit considered whether an entity that purchased charged off receivables and outsourced the actual collection activity was subject to the FDCPA.  In analyzing the issue, the court explained that the FDCPA’s definition of the term debt collector has two prongs, and if an entity satisfies either of them, it is a debt collector subject to the Act.  Under the “principal purpose” prong, a debt collector includes any person who “uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of is the collection of any debts.”  Under the “regularly collects” prong, a debt collector includes any person who “regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another.”

The defendant in Barbato, Crown Asset Management, purchased defaulted debt and outsourced the collection function to a third party.  After being sued for allegedly violating the FDCPA, Crown argued (among other things) that under the Supreme Court’s decision in Henson, the Act did not apply to it because Crown owned the debts and thus did not regularly seek to collect debts owed to another.  In response to this argument, the Third Circuit explained that while Henson clarified the scope of the “regularly collects” definition, the Supreme Court “went out of its way in Henson to say that it was not opining on whether debt buyers could also qualify as debt collectors under [the principal purpose prong].” Continue Reading Third Circuit Holds that Debt Purchasers Can Qualify as Debt Collectors

Federal banking agencies issued a final rule, effective July 1, 2019, implementing the requirement in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (the “Act”) for the acceptance of private flood insurance on covered properties. The final rule largely mimics the proposal (which we addressed previously here), but with a few interesting revisions and additional details.

First, the agencies adopted the proposed definition of “private flood insurance” largely unchanged. The Act defines the term, so the agencies had little discretion. However, the agencies clarified what coverage is “at least as broad as” coverage provided under a standard flood insurance policy (“SFIP”). Specifically, the final rule removes the requirement that the policy cover both the mortgagors and mortgagees as loss payees.

The most important change from the proposed stage may be a revision to the rule’s so-called compliance aid. To assist in determining whether a particular private flood insurance policy meets the necessary criteria, the agencies initially proposed that a policy would meet the definition of “private flood insurance” if: (1) the policy includes a written summary identifying the policy provisions meeting each criterion and confirming the insurer’s licensing/approval status; (2) the regulated lending institution verifies in writing the provisions identified in the summary, and that those provisions in fact satisfy the criteria; and (3) the policy includes the following assurance clause: “This policy meets the definition of private flood insurance contained in 42 U.S.C. 4012a(b)(7) and the corresponding regulation.”

The final rule indicated that the reaction to that proposed compliance aid was largely negative. Continue Reading Acceptance of Private Flood Insurance – Final Rule

CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger has filed her first contested lawsuit as CFPB Director.  Somewhat surprisingly, the lawsuit seeks to enforce a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) issued by the CFPB in June 2017—under former Director Richard Cordray—to a debt collection law firm.  The petition to enforce the CID makes clear that the respondent law firm made a “final, partial, redacted production” in response to the CID in September 2017.  Clearly, therefore, this matter was pending at the CFPB throughout the year-long tenure of Mick Mulvaney, during which the agency took no action to enforce the CID. It is dangerous to read too much into this action, but it does suggest that Kraninger may take a more aggressive enforcement posture than Mulvaney, who was criticized for the sharp drop in the number of enforcement actions under his watch.

The CID at issue is a typically broad CFPB CID from that era. It contains 21 interrogatories with dozens of sub-parts, seven requests for written reports, 15 requests for documents, and, unusually, four request for “tangible things,” in this case phone recordings and associated metadata. Read as a whole, the CID seeks information regarding virtually every aspect of the respondent’s debt collection business over a period of three-and-a-half years. The CID’s Notification of Purpose is equally broad and limitless, Continue Reading Kraninger’s First Lawsuit

Freddie Mac is an outlier among the three primary secondary market investors with its mid-month investor reporting cycle. In an effort to standardize the marketplace, Freddie Mac is joining Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae by shifting its investor reporting cycle to the beginning of each month. In this regard, Freddie Mac is implementing the following changes: (i) the investor reporting cycle will run from the first day of each calendar month to the last day of such month; (ii) Freddie Mac is encouraging daily loan-level reporting, with reporting of at least one loan level-transaction detailing activity submitted no later than the 15th calendar day of each month (or next business day) (the “P&I Determination Date”); (iii) servicers will report the actual principal received and the forecasted scheduled interest based on unpaid principal balance reported at the end of the current one-month period; (iv) Freddie Mac will draft principal and interest from the servicer’s custodial account two business days after the P&I Determination Date; (v) on the fifth business day following a payoff, Freddie Mac will draft payoff proceeds, provided such payoff was reported within two business days of the payoff date, subject to certain requirements; and (vi) Freddie Mac will process and settle loan modifications on a daily basis.

Freddie Mac has released several bulletins outlining the transition (2016-15, 2017-4, 2017-15, and 2018-14), summarized in the following timeline:

Continue Reading Freddie Mac’s Investor Reporting Changes