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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.

Is it possible for an investor to participate in the economics of agency residential mortgage servicing rights without being an approved holder of the servicing rights? Acquiring excess servicing fees is one way that investors are exploring to accomplish this objective.  Mayer Brown partners Larry Platt and Jon Van Gorp wrote an article for Bloomberg BNA’s Banking Report on the subject of acquisition of excess servicing fees for mortgage servicing rights, which can be found here.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) rejected the pleas of many in the mortgage industry by adding a question about the applicant’s language preference to the future Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA) (Form 1003/65). While the FHFA is seeking to promote access to credit for consumers with limited English skills, lenders remained concerned that the revisions will raise the risk of confusing or misleading those consumers. Read more about the FHFA’s upcoming changes in Mayer Brown’s latest Legal Update.

When, if at all, should a mortgage lender or servicer be required to conduct business in a language other than English when the consumer has expressed a preference that language? The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is seeking input on actions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could take to promote access to mortgage credit for qualified borrowers with limited English proficiency, and to ensure those borrowers have access to information to understand the mortgage process.  This newest effort by the FHFA follows earlier efforts by that agency and others in the industry, but concerns about increased costs, legal risk, regulatory consequences continue to arise.

Mayer Brown’s latest Legal Update discusses the FHFA’s request and many of the complexities that quickly arise when considering how to access LEP borrowers.

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

If you think the shadow of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is hiding behind a tree, you may well be right. On July 7th, the CFPB posted a Request for Information (“RFI”) on the federal government contracts website, called FedBizOpps.gov, in which it “pre-solicited” vendor capabilities to develop an automated technology solution for nonbank financial institutions to register with the CFPB.  It noted that such a potential registration system “might also be used to collect financial and operational data as well as organizational structure data.”  In other words, in the name of supervision, the CFPB might condition your future ability to offer goods and services on your advance registration and satisfaction of ongoing reporting requirements. Continue Reading Papers Please: CFPB Advances Plans to Register Nonbank Financial Services Providers

For those who thought that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) may be getting bored with US mortgage loan servicing as it turns its attention to arbitration clauses, payday lending and other non-mortgage consumer credit issues, no such luck. Last week, the CFPB released a “special edition” of its Supervisory Highlights focused on examinations of mortgage servicers and an update to the mortgage servicing chapter of the CFPB Supervision and Examination Manual—releases that the CFPB said are intended to “spur industry in its general compliance with CFPB rules.”  Read more about the CFPB’s spur in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update, available here.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Division of Enforcement continues to target issuers of Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities and charge those who violate federal securities laws.  Importantly, those cases seek penalties not only against the companies but also their senior executives.  Issuers of Ginnie Mae securities must comply not only with HUD/GNMA regulations, but be prepared to demonstrate their compliance with the US securities laws and regulations, or face potentially significant consequences.  Read more about the latest enforcement action, costing a Ginnie issuer and its executives $12.7 million, in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update, available here.