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For most of 2017, the Trump Administration was quiet with regard to the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) loan program. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) recently offered some relief to lenders and servicers of FHA-insured loans. Through Mortgagee Letter 2017-18, HUD ended its policy of allowing FHA insurance for mortgage loans secured by properties encumbered with Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) obligations. FHA’s new policy prohibiting PACE obligations in connection with FHA-insured loans, which becomes effective for loans with FHA case numbers issued on or after January 7, 2018, reverses Mortgagee Letter 2016-11, a short-lived Obama era policy that permitted lenders to originate FHA-insured loans involving PACE obligations.

PACE loans provide homeowners an alternative to traditional financing for energy efficient home improvements such as solar panels, insulation, water conservation projects, and HVAC systems. Instead of funding the home improvements through loans, the borrower pays through special property tax assessments. PACE financing does not follow the standard review of a borrower’s income, debt, and FICO score, but rather is based on the borrower’s equity in the home and the mortgage or property tax payment history. Many states and municipalities passed legislation implementing a PACE program and establishing their own terms and conditions for PACE loans. Homeowners voluntarily sign up for PACE financing through private companies, which often offer PACE through a network of approved dealers and installers. The PACE loan is secured by a property tax lien, often with terms of up to twenty years, which takes priority over both existing and future mortgages on the property.  Continue Reading FHA Changes Course on PACE Obligations

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) announced a Request for Information (“RFI”) about alternative data on February 16, 2017, seeking insights into the benefits and risks of using unconventional financial data in assessing a consumer’s creditworthiness. On the same day, the CFPB held a hearing in Charleston, West Virginia, inviting consumer groups, industry representatives, and others to comment on the use of alternative data.

The CFPB estimates that 45 million Americans have difficulty getting a loan under traditional underwriting criteria, because they do not have a sufficient credit history. According to the CFPB, the use of alternative data may support those Americans’ creditworthiness and allow them better access to financing at more affordable rates. Alternative data includes sources such as timely payment of rent, utilities, or medical bills, as well as bank deposit records, and even internet searches or social media information—data that credit bureaus do not traditionally consider. However, a consumer who lacks a credit history but who makes timely rent and utility payments may be as likely to repay a loan as another consumer with a higher credit score. Continue Reading CFPB Calls for Comment on Alternative Data

Two-for-one is harder than it sounds. President Trump’s recently-issued executive order on reducing regulations, requiring the repeal of two regulations for each new one issued, provided agencies with precious little guidance. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the executive order applies only to “significant regulatory actions” of executive agencies (not independent agencies like the CFPB, SEC, FHFA, or the federal banking agencies). It requires an analysis of cost savings, but appears to exempt regulations “required by law.” A lawsuit has already been filed, claiming that the order is unconstitutional and contrary to the will of Congress. To learn more, applicable agencies are instructed to call OMB. However, you can learn more about the two-for-one executive order in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

Following his campaign promise to dismantle the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on February 3, 2017 that set out “Core Principles” for regulating the financial system.  Trump proclaimed that his administration would be “doing a big number on Dodd-Frank,” yet his recent Executive Order on Core Principles appears to be more of a tempered call for analysis and review rather than an outright demolition of existing financial regulations, especially when read in light of the administration’s more drastic requirement that Executive agencies must eliminate two existing regulations for each new one that it issues. Continue Reading Moving On: Core Principles for Dodd-Frank Reform Omit Mention of Financial Crisis

Financial services companies that hoped for immediate regulatory relief when the Trump Administration assumed control may have to wait a bit longer, because the newly announced freeze on federal regulations does not appear to apply across the board.  “Independent regulatory agencies,” such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) may be excluded from that moratorium. Continue Reading How Solid is the “Freeze”? Some Agencies May Be Excluded from White House Regulatory Moratorium

New regulations under the federal Military Lending Act (“MLA”) that become effective next week will prohibit consumer loans to covered US Service members if those loans have a “military annual percentage rate” (“MAPR”) greater than 36 percent. The Defense Department’s regulations will impose that MAPR limit on additional types of consumer credit transactions (beyond just payday, vehicle title, and tax refund anticipation loans) to active duty members of the armed forces and their spouses/dependents. The regulations will also change how a lender may determine whether applicants are “covered borrowers” and modify the disclosures required for those borrowers.

The MLA’s enforcement provisions include criminal and civil liability for noncompliance and provide for a private right of action.

Read more about the new regulations in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.