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Foreign statutory trusts that acquire delinquent residential mortgage loans are NOT required to be licensed under the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act (the “Act”), based on an opinion released today by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The opinion reverses lower court rulings that called for such licensing. According to the opinion, the Act’s plain language is ambiguous as to whether the Maryland General Assembly intended foreign statutory trusts, acting as a special purpose vehicle in the mortgage industry, to obtain a license as a collection agency. The court conducted a fulsome review of the original legislative history, subsequent legislation, and related statutes to discern legislative intent.

Finding that the original impetus for licensing was to address abuses in the debt collection industry, the court held that the General Assembly did not intend for foreign statutory trusts to obtain a collection agency license under the Act before their substitute trustees filed foreclosure actions in various circuit courts. As a result, the court held that the lower courts improperly dismissed foreclosure actions (which the courts had done simply because the two foreign statutory trusts that had acquired the delinquent mortgage loans were not licensed under the Act before the substitute trustees instituted the foreclosure proceedings).

Of particular interest in the opinion is the conclusion that a foreign statutory trust is not “doing business” as a collection agency. The court wrote:

 Applying that definition of “business” as used in [the Act] to the consolidated cases before us presents further ambiguity. Specifically, the foreign statutory trusts that own the mortgage loans in the cases sub judice do not have any employees or offices, do not have any registered agent, and do not have any specifically identified pursuit in the State of Maryland. Instead, [the trusts] both act solely through trustees and substitute trustees. Therefore, it would be hard for this Court in the first instance to conclude that the foreign statutory trusts engage, either directly or indirectly, in the business of a collection agency when it is hard to deduce if these entities are even conducting “business” under Funk and Wagnall’s definition.

The earlier, now overturned, opinions had set off a frenzy within the Maryland foreclosure bar and the delinquent loan holders they represent. Many foreclosure law firms simply were unwilling to pursue foreclosures unless the owner of a loan that had been acquired in a delinquent status was licensed as a collection agency, and Maryland had to create an entirely new process to license trusts. Underlying the confusion was the view that a trust simply is not “doing business” as a matter of law, and thus a state did not have jurisdiction to require the licensing of the trust. The earlier Maryland opinions followed a twisted logic that a trust may not be “doing business” in the state as a matter of Maryland law on foreign qualifications, but is “doing business” as a collection agency. The plain speaking Maryland Court of Appeals concluded that doing business means doing business, and not doing business means not doing business — a logical conclusion that is elegant in its simplicity.

*Daniel Pearson is not admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia. He is practicing under the supervision of firm principals.

On March 15, 2018, the State of Washington enacted Senate Bill 6029 (“SB 6029”), titled the “Washington Student Education Loan Bill of Rights,” which takes effect June 7, 2018, and amends the state’s Consumer Loan Act (the “CLA”) to expand its scope to include student loan servicers. Whereas the CLA currently regulates and licenses consumer lenders (both mortgage and non-mortgage), and mortgage servicers, when SB 6029 takes effect the CLA will also regulate and license student loan servicers. As a license is needed under the CLA to make any student loans to residents of Washington, it seems reasonable that if state legislators believed student loan servicers should be licensed in Washington, the CLA should be amended to provide for such licensing rather than enact a new and separate licensing law.¹

With that legislation, Washington becomes the latest state to license student loan servicers, joining California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and Illinois.² Continue Reading Washington Licenses Student Loan Servicers*

Pennsylvania became the latest state to impose a licensing obligation on mortgage loan servicers. It appears that the licensing obligation will apply not only to entities that conduct the typical mortgage loan servicing activities for others, but also to certain mortgage lenders servicing their own portfolio. In addition, the licensing obligation may apply to persons merely holding mortgage servicing rights. Pennsylvania regulators intend to issue guidance regarding the scope of the state’s new licensing obligation while the effective date is pending.

Read more in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

On December 22, 2017, Ohio Governor Kasich signed into law Ohio House Bill 199, which will make significant changes in how the state will license and regulate mortgage lenders and brokers. The bill takes effect 91 days after filing with the Ohio Secretary of State (which filing had not been made as of January 4, 2018).

The bill amends the Ohio Mortgage Brokers Act (the “OMBA”) to bring the registration of mortgage lenders and brokers, and the licensing of mortgage loan originators, together under a single statute. The amended statute will be called the Ohio Residential Mortgage Lending Act (“ORMLA”). Continue Reading Ohio Consolidates its Mortgage Finance Licensing Laws into a new Residential Mortgage Lending Act

For years, state regulators have been considering whether the law that licenses residential mortgage loan servicers should be applied to entities that acquire and hold mortgage loan servicing rights (“MSRs”). As states enacted new laws to license mortgage loan servicers, one of the first questions we asked of regulators is whether the licensing obligation is applied to those who only hold the servicing rights for the mortgage loans. (For instance, Oregon’s new Mortgage Loan Servicer Practices Act, effective January 1, 2018, will require a license by those who hold mortgage loans servicing rights under certain conditions.) While states continue in that direction, they have not been quick to take action against companies that acquire and hold mortgage servicing rights without a license.

However, Arkansas recently joined California as a state prepared to sanction companies that acquire and hold MSRs without a license. On November 2, 2017, the Arkansas Securities Department, which administers the Arkansas Fair Mortgage Lending Act (“FMLA”), entered into a consent order with Aurora Financial Group, Inc. (the “Company”). The Department had concluded that Aurora was “operating as an unlicensed mortgage servicer in Arkansas by holding master servicing rights on 169 residential mortgage loans in Arkansas.” We understand this is the Department’s first such action. The fine was small, only $5,000, and the Company did not need to divest itself of its servicing rights, which may be because the Company self-reported its error. The Department required the Company to apply for a license under the FMLA and maintain its license until such time as it no longer conducts mortgage servicing activities under the FMLA.

Arkansas has licensed those who only hold MSRs without actually servicing mortgage loans since August 2013. At that time, amendments to the Arkansas FMLA became effective that changed the definition of “mortgage servicer” to mean a person that receives, or has the right to receive, from or on behalf of a borrower: (A) funds or credits in payments for a mortgage loan; or (B) the taxes or insurance associated with a mortgage loan. From our conversations with Arkansas regulators, we understand they apply the mortgage servicer licensing obligation to those that acquire and hold mortgage loans with the servicing rights, as well as those that only hold mortgage servicing rights.

Over 20 states now license entities that hold MSRs. The definition of a mortgage servicer under the Arkansas FMLA as a person that has the right to receive funds for a mortgage loan is a key component of the definition in some other states. However, other definitional language could impose a licensing obligation for holding mortgage loan servicing rights. For instance, in a few states (such as New Hampshire), the licensing obligation expressly applies to a person that holds mortgage servicing rights. Other states (such as Connecticut) define a mortgage loan servicer as a person that indirectly services a mortgage loan, and apply that definition and licensing obligation to a person that merely holds servicing rights. Then there is the California Department of Business Oversight, which has applied the licensing obligations of the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (“RMLA”) to persons that only hold mortgage loan servicing rights, even though the RMLA defines “servicing” on the basis of receiving payments and performing services related to the receipt of those payments on behalf of the note holder.

It is unclear if the Arkansas action, and similar actions by California, signal that a long overlooked licensing obligation under the laws of many states may be coming into focus for enforcement actions. It is clear, though, that more states are moving to license entities that merely hold MSRs.

With Oregon scheduled to begin accepting mortgage loan servicer license applications through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (“NMLS”) on November 1, 2017, we wanted to update our August 16, 2017 blog post for those who may be subject to the licensing requirements.

Temporary rules were issued on October 20, 2017 so that the licensing process can commence.  Rules applicable to the non-licensing requirements of the new Oregon Mortgage Loan Servicer Practices Act (the “Servicer Act”), will be proposed later this year or early 2018, and will be incorporated with the temporary rules when the final servicer rules are issued.

Licensing Obligations Under the Servicer Act

The new Oregon Servicer Act provides for a dedicated mortgage loan servicer license, separate from the license as a mortgage banker or mortgage broker obtained under Oregon’s Mortgage Lender Law.  Although the Oregon Servicer Act was effective upon Governor Katherine Brown’s signature on August 2nd, the legislation expressly provides that the Servicer Act will become operative on January 1, 2018, and that it will apply “to service transactions for residential mortgage loans that occur on or after [the] operative date.” Continue Reading Oregon Begins to License Residential Mortgage Loan Servicers


On August 2nd, Oregon Governor Katherine Brown signed legislation that provides for the licensing of residential mortgage loan servicers, Senate Bill 98 (“S 98”), the Oregon Mortgage Loan Servicer Practices Act (the “Servicer Act”).  S 98 provides for a dedicated mortgage loan servicer license, separate from the license as a mortgage banker or mortgage broker obtained under the Oregon Mortgage Lender Law.  With the enactment of the Servicer Act, Oregon joins the majority of states that license residential  mortgage loan servicers.  (A number of states still do not license residential mortgage loan servicers, including New Jersey, and Pennsylvania which is considering a mortgage loan servicer licensing law.) Although the Oregon Servicer Act was effective upon the Governor’s signature, the legislation expressly provides that the Servicer Act will become operative on January 1, 2018, and that it will apply “to service transactions for residential mortgage loans that occur on or after [the] operative date.” Continue Reading Oregon Licenses Residential Mortgage Loan Servicers

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.

The NMLS Money Services Businesses (MSB) Call Report, described by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) as “a new tool within the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS) that will streamline MSB reporting, improve compliance by the industry, and create the only comprehensive database of nationwide MSB transaction activity,” is now live in the NMLS, and the initial report is due May 15, 2017.

Since state regulators decided to transition the licensing of money services businesses on to the NMLS, they have been developing a more uniform report, which standardizes a number of definitions and the categorization of transactions, by which MSBs could report on their money service-related activities through the NMLS. Further, with the development and use of a more standardized MSB report, the need for MSBs to have additional tracking and reporting systems that can slice and dice transactions into each state’s unique buckets is reduced or eliminated.

Consequently, the new MSB Call Report was adopted by CSBS and released in NMLS on April 1, 2017. As a former Assistant Commissioner with the State of Maryland, I served on both the MSB Call Report Working Group and the NMLS Policy Committee (NMLSPC). The NMLSPC was responsible for recommending the approval of the Report, which was envisioned to operate along the lines of the Mortgage Call Report required of mortgage finance licenses, to CSBS. Continue Reading Money Services Businesses Call Report Q1 Submission Deadline Quickly Approaching

The 2017 Maryland legislative session ended at midnight last Monday, April 10. Here is a look at legislation affecting financial services businesses that the Governor is expected to sign into law.

HB0182 – Commissioner of Financial Regulation and State Collection Agency Licensing Board – Licensees – Revisions

HB0182, or as we prefer, the “2017 NMLS Transition Bill,” is intended to transition Maryland’s Check Casher, Collection Agency, Consumer Lender, Credit Service Business, Debt Management Company, Installment Lender, and Sales Finance licenses to the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (the “NMLS”) effective July 1, 2017.

NMLS was established originally to provide a platform for mortgage licensing. More recently, however, NMLS has been expanded to accommodate other categories of licenses. Pursuant to prior state legislation, the Commissioner transitioned all mortgage lender (which includes mortgage brokers and mortgage servicers) and mortgage loan originator licenses to NMLS in 2009-2010 and money transmitter licenses in 2012. Similar to prior transition legislation, the 2017 NMLS Transition Bill is massive and includes: (i) new and amended definitions (including “branch location” and “control person”), (ii) revisions to the term of the license, (iii) with respect to any information and disclosures provided to NMLS, provisions that continue to apply any privilege arising under federal or state law to that information, (iv) authority to share  information with certain officials without the loss of privilege or confidentiality protections provided by federal or certain State laws, and (v) authority to adopt regulations to facilitate the transition to NMLS and more.

No Fee Increase

NMLS was created by Conference of State Bank Supervisors (“CSBS”) and the American Association of Residential Mortgage Regulators and began operations in January 2008. It is owned and operated by the State Regulatory Registry L.L.C., a wholly-owned subsidiary of CSBS. Significantly, the cost to register with NMLS annually is $100 and $20 for each additional branch license/registration. The Commissioner advised that NMLS has agreed to waive the annual fees for Maryland licensees transitioning to the system this fiscal year (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018). Although NMLS will resume charging its annual fee for use of the system during the next fiscal year, in an effort to reduce the cost of regulation, the Commissioner proposed and the final bill includes the NMLS processing fee as part of the licensing fee without increasing the current license fee.

No State Criminal Background Check 

Applicants for Maryland mortgage lender, check casher, debt management service, and money transmitter licenses and certain other persons are required to submit fingerprints for a national and State criminal history records check (the “CHRC”) as part of the licensing process. Presently, if an individual required to submit fingerprints for a CHRC is within the Maryland borders, the individual can electronically submit fingerprints for the CHRC, but the process is particularly burdensome for those individuals or control persons who are out-of-state. Individuals who are out-of state cannot use the state’s electronic fingerprint submission process without physically entering the state and must submit fingerprints for processing on paper cards through the mail.

According to the bill’s fiscal and policy notes, the Commissioner advised that the state criminal history records check requirement is time-consuming and does not provide a significant benefit. Therefore, HB0182 not only effectively eliminates the state background check requirement at this time, but allows for the use of the NMLS process for the submission of the CHRC.

The bill would have an effective date of July 1, 2017, but stay tuned for notices from the Commissioner to confirm the precise submission dates for new applications, the transition period for current licensees, and transition instructions – specifically as it relates to licenses that are approaching renewal periods. Continue Reading Maryland Legislative Session Adjourned