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Melanie Brody is a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington DC office and a member of the Consumer Financial Services group. She concentrates her practice on federal and state government enforcement matters, primarily for banks, mortgage lenders, auto lenders, credit card issuers, student lenders and other financial service providers. She represents clients in investigations, examinations and enforcement actions by the US Department of Justice, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Reserve Board, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Trade Commission, state banking regulators and state attorneys general.

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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).

 

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

On Friday, January 13, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota bank in which it alleged that the bank violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by unlawfully redlining in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan statistical area (“Minneapolis MSA”).  The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, claims that from 2010 to at least 2015, the bank purposely avoided serving the credit needs of residents in majority-minority neighborhoods while meeting the credit needs of residents in majority-white neighborhoods.  The DOJ is seeking damages for aggrieved persons, civil money penalties, and injunctive relief. The bank has chosen to litigate, rather than settle, as it believes the DOJ’s claim is baseless. Continue Reading Redlining Revelations: DOJ Lawsuit Alleges Discriminatory Practices by Bank

New regulations will impose increased inspection, reporting, and maintenance obligations on mortgagees and servicers of defaulted residential mortgage loans in New York.  You can learn more about the regulations of the New York Department of Financial Services for “zombie” properties in Mayer Brown’s latest Legal Update.  The regulations become effective today, December 20, 2016.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has issued an updated small entity compliance guide for compliance with the Mortgage Servicing Rules after the CFPB’s recent amendments to the rules take effect, generally on October 19, 2017.

The existing guide is still relevant for compliance before the new amendments take effect.

To learn more about the amendments to the Mortgage Servicing Rules, read the Mayer Brown white paper.

On November 17, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a request for information (RFI) to better understand the benefits and risks associated with market developments that rely on access to consumer financial records.  The Bureau indicated that the information it obtains in response to its request may help shape industry best practices for delivering consumer benefits and minimizing consumer harm, and also could serve as a foundation for future CFPB guidance.

The Bureau’s RFI comes in the wake of the CFPB’s first report on its Project Catalyst and CFPB Director Cordray’s speech at the October 2016 Money 20/20 conference. During his remarks, the Director conveyed strong support for the ability of consumers to access their financial data and “grave concerns” about reports that financial institutions are seeking to limit such access.  Although banks and other institutions have expressed privacy- and information security-related concerns about providing consumer financial information to third parties, Director Cordray emphasized the importance of consumers being able to obtain their information and suggested that the focus should be on ensuring that the information remains secure, rather than on limiting access. Continue Reading CFPB Enters the Fray: Agency Solicits Information About “Screen Scraping”

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it is sending warning letters to 44 mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers, stating that the CFPB staff has information that the companies may not be complying with their obligations to report data under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA).

The CFPB states in its press release that it “identified the 44 companies by reviewing available bank and nonbank mortgage data,” but it does not provide further details about how the companies were identified.

The warning letters note that failure to comply with HMDA reporting requirements “could result in the imposition of the full range of available remedies, including injunctive relief and civil money penalties.”

The letters are a reminder to all institutions to ensure that they are compliant with HMDA.  Several years ago, the CFPB issued consent orders against two institutions for inaccurate HMDA reporting, requiring them to correct and resubmit certain data and to implement effective HMDA compliance management systems.  The letters described above may signal that the CFPB plans to step up its HMDA enforcement again.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has offered its new mortgage servicing rule for public inspection today, meaning it is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on October 19, 2016.  The CFPB informally released the rule on its website in August.

The effective date of the rule is tied to its publication date, so the bulk of its requirements (with some exceptions) will take effect in 12 months, on October 19, 2017.

To learn more about the rule, read our Mayer Brown white paper.

Today the CFPB finalized the final mortgage servicing rules update that it proposed at the end of 2014.  The rule adds new protections for mortgage borrowers in financial distress, including provisions that require servicers to:

  • Provide some borrowers with foreclosure protections more than once over the life of the loan;
  • Provide protections to an expanded universe of successors in interest upon the death of a borrower;
  • Provide more information to borrowers in bankruptcy;
  • Notify borrowers when their loss mitigation applications are complete;
  • Comply with specific timing requirements for loss mitigation activities when servicing rights are transferred;
  • Avoid wrongful foreclosures by refraining from pursuing those actions until loss mitigation applications are properly dispositioned;
  • Comply with clear timing requirements for borrower delinquencies.

The final rule also addresses force-placed insurance and periodic disclosure requirements.

Concurrently with that final servicing rule, the CFPB issued an interpretive rule under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), to address its interplay with the new servicing rules and their requirements related to certain borrower communications.

Most of the new requirements will become effective one year following their publication in the Federal Register, so their effective date will likely be in the fall of 2017.  The requirements addressing successors in interest and periodic statements for borrowers in bankruptcy will become effective 18 months after publication.

Mayer Brown will issue a detailed analysis of the new provisions in an upcoming Legal Update.

On June 27, 2016, a New York federal jury found that a bank and its affiliated mortgage company violated the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the New York City Human Rights Law by intentionally marketing to African-American and Hispanic homeowners predatory loans with default interest rates of 18 percent.

In 2011, eight homeowners filed suit in the Eastern District of New York, claiming that between 2004 and 2009 the bank “aggressively originated” no income refinancing loans with unfavorable terms to them because they were minority borrowers.

According to the 2014 amended complaint, the bank marketed NINA (No Income No Assets) loans to homeowners with low credit scores but substantial equity in their houses. When issuing these loans, the bank did not consider the homeowners’ ability to repay but valued the loan based on the home’s equity. Homeowners could be charged an interest rate of 18 percent if they were late by 30 days in making a single payment.

The homeowners alleged they were purposely targeted for these loans because of their poor credit and resulting likelihood of default, and that this practice had a disparate impact on African-American and Hispanic borrowers. Specifically, the complaint stated that “[s]ince black and Latino individuals are disproportionately represented among persons with low credit scores, [the bank’s] marketing of these abusive loans to this population ensured that the loans would have their greatest impact on minority homeowners.” The jury found that the bank’s practices constituted violations of the federal fair lending laws and the New York state law.

Six of the plaintiffs were awarded a combined $950,000 in damages, while the jury found that the remaining two homeowners waived their claims upon modifying their loans and were not eligible for damages. The bank has asserted its plan to appeal the decision.

Legal Services NYC, who represented several of the homeowners, stated that the case marks the first time a jury has held a bank liable for reverse redlining.

Lenders that offer loans to consumers with impaired credit should consider evaluating their practices for potential reverse redlining risk.

*Mrs. Moyer is not admitted in the District of Columbia. She is practicing under the supervision of firm principals