Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau intends to revise its Qualified Mortgage definition by moving away from a debt-to-income ratio threshold, and instead adopting a different test, such as one based on the loan’s pricing. The CFPB also apparently indicated it may extend, for a short time, the temporary QM

The agencies responsible for the securitization credit risk retention regulations and qualified residential mortgages (“QRMs”) are asking for public input as part of their periodic review of those requirements. Comments on the review are due by February 3, 2020.

Five years ago, in response to the Dodd-Frank Act, an interagency final rule provided that a securitizer of asset-backed securities (“ABS”) must retain not less than five percent of the credit risk of the assets collateralizing the securities. Sponsors of securitizations that issue ABS interests must retain either an eligible horizontal residual interest, vertical interest, or a combination of both. The Act and the rule establish several exemptions from that requirement, including for ABS collateralized exclusively by residential mortgages that qualify as “qualified residential mortgages,” as defined in the rule.

The Act provides that the definition of QRM can be no broader than the definition of a “qualified mortgage” (“QM”), as that term is defined under the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) and applicable regulations. QMs are a set of residential mortgage loans deemed to comply with the requirement for creditors to determine a borrower’s ability to repay. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”), and Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) decided to define a QRM in full alignment with the definition of a QM. The agencies concluded that alignment was necessary to protect investors, enhance financial stability, preserve access to affordable credit, and facilitate compliance. Their rule also includes an exemption from risk retention for certain types of community-focused residential mortgages that are not eligible for QRM status but that also are exempt from the TILA ability-to-pay rules under the TILA. The credit risk retention requirements became effective for securitization transactions collateralized by residential mortgages in 2015, and for other transactions in 2016.

The agencies of the credit risk retention regulations committed to reviewing those regulations and the definition of QRM periodically, and in coordination with the CFPB’s statutorily mandated assessment of QM.
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Along with other federal agencies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released its Fall 2019 regulatory agenda, announcing its intentions over the next several months to address the GSE QM Patch, HMDA, payday/small dollar loans, debt collection practices, PACE financing, business lending data, and remittances. Over the longer-term, the CFPB indicated it may even address feedback on the Loan Originator Compensation Rule under the Truth in Lending Act.

  • Qualified Mortgages. As we have previously described, the CFPB must in short order address the scheduled expiration of the temporary Qualified Mortgage status for loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (often referred to as the “Patch”). The Patch is set to expire on January 10, 2021, leaving little time to complete notice-and-comment rulemaking, particularly on such a complex and arguably controversial issue. The CFPB has indicated that it will not extend the Patch, but will seek an orderly transition (as opposed to a hard stop). The CFPB asked for initial public input over the summer, and announced that it intends to issue some type of statement or proposal in December 2019.
  • Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The CFPB intends to pursue several rulemakings to address which institutions must report home mortgage data, what data they must report, and what data the agency will make public. First, the CFPB announced previously that it was reconsidering various aspects of the 2015 major fortification/revamping of HMDA reporting (some – but not all – of which was mandated by the Dodd Frank Act). The CFPB announced its intention to address in one final rule (targeted for next month) its proposed two-year extension of the temporary threshold for collecting and reporting data on open-end lines of credit, and the partial exemption provisions for certain depository institutions that Congress recently enacted. The CFPB intends to issue a separate rule in March 2020 to address the proposed changes to the permanent thresholds for collecting and reporting data on open-end lines of credit and closed-end mortgage loans.


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Last week — roughly 8 1/2 years after the CFPB published a letter to financial institutions promising to develop rules “expeditiously” — the CFPB held an information-gathering symposium on Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Section 1071 amended the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to require that financial institutions collect and report information concerning credit applications made by women- or minority-owned businesses and by small businesses.

As we previously noted, once Section 1071 is implemented, institutions will be required to collect information regarding the race, sex, and ethnicity of the principal owners of small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses. Collection of this information is designed to “facilitate enforcement of fair lending laws,” among other things. Applicants can refuse to provide required information, but the financial institution must retain the required demographic information that it collects and submit it to the CFPB. Section 1071 mandates that, where feasible, a financial institution’s underwriters, officers, employees, or affiliates involved in making credit determinations should not have access to this demographic information, and applicants must receive notice if those individuals do receive access to demographic information.

While the CFPB is responsible for drafting rules to implement Section 1071, it had not previously taken significant steps to meet that obligation other than reporting on some preliminary research it conducted in 2017. The CFPB had moved the Section 1071 rulemaking to “long-term” status. However, in its Spring 2019 rulemaking agenda, the CFPB indicated that it expected to resume pre-rulemaking activities related to Section 1071.
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Last week, the CFPB announced that it will hold a symposium on Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) on November 6, 2019. This will be the third in a series of symposia held by the CFPB. Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act amended the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) to require financial institutions to collect, report, and make public information about credit applications made by women- and minority-owned businesses and small businesses. The CFPB is responsible for drafting rules to implement Section 1071, but, other than issuing a Request for Information in 2017, has not yet taken significant steps to meet this statutory requirement. The stated purpose of the symposium is to hear various perspectives on the small business lending marketplace and CFPB’s implementation of Section 1071. The CFPB had moved the Section 1071 rulemaking to long-term status, but indicated in its Spring 2019 rulemaking agenda that it expected to resume pre-rulemaking activities. With this symposium, the CFPB appears to be (re)starting those activities.

Once Section 1071 is implemented, institutions will be required to collect information regarding the race, sex, and ethnicity of the principal owners of small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses. Applicants have the right to refuse to provide required information. Financial institutions must retain required demographic information and submit it to the CFPB.
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Earlier this month, the Bureau released its Summer 2019 edition of Supervisory Highlights.  This is the second edition issued under Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger, who was confirmed to a five-year term in December 2018.  The report covers examinations that were generally completed between December 2018 and March 2019 and, as such, is the first edition of Supervisory Highlights to cover examination activities that occurred during Kraninger’s tenure as Director.  This edition is much the same as previous editions, but unlike many past versions, it does not address any mortgage servicing-related findings.  Instead the report focuses on, among other things, UDAAPs (including, notably, an abusiveness finding), furnishing of consumer report information, and technical regulatory violations.  The report also details supervision program developments.

Remarkably, there is no mention of any public enforcement action resulting from supervisory examination work.  It is standard practice for the Bureau to use these reports to tout both public and nonpublic remedial actions that stemmed from examinations—but here we don’t see that, and it is not clear whether that is because none of the enforcement actions the Bureau has taken as of late actually came out of supervisory exams or if they chose not to highlight remedial actions for some other reason. 
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Many thought that with former Director Richard Cordray’s resignation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) would stop using its abusiveness authority in enforcement actions. After all, claims of abusiveness were the epitome of what critics derided as “regulation by enforcement,” as abusiveness was a new concept whose contours were not well defined. While that has largely proven true, there have been some exceptions. Last October, under then-Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, the CFPB issued a Consent Order against a payday lender that also offered check cashing services, which contained a single claim of abusiveness. That claim was based on the entity’s practice, when providing check-cashing services, of using check proceeds to pay off outstanding payday loan debts and providing only the remaining funds to the consumer. That, however, was the only abusiveness claim among the ten enforcement actions of the Mulvaney era (although the Mulvaney-led CFPB did continue to litigate abusiveness claims filed under Cordray).

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The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) requires the CFPB to prepare a biennial report to Congress regarding the consumer credit card market. On August 27th, the CFPB issued its fourth such report (previous reports were issued in 2013, 2015 and 2017) which describes the CFPB’s findings regarding, among other things, the

While banks must be prudent and follow applicable regulations, the latest guidelines from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency may allow banks to justify a nuanced asset dissipation or depletion underwriting program, so long as it is backed by analysis.

On July 23, 2019, the OCC issued a bulletin reminding its regulated institutions to use safe and sound banking practices when underwriting a residential mortgage loan based on the applicant’s assets. While the bulletin does not provide much satisfaction for those seeking safe harbors or any specific guidance, it provides certain hints at what the OCC will look for in an examination.

Asset dissipation underwriting (or asset amortization or depletion underwriting) is a way for mortgage lenders to calculate a stream of funds derived from an applicant’s assets that could be available for loan payments, in addition to income (if any) received from employment or other sources. The bulletin notes that while the OCC’s regulated institutions have prudently administered asset depletion models for many years, examiners have seen an uptick that is unsupported by credit risk management practices and insufficiently compliant with existing regulations and guidelines.

One such existing regulation, which the bulletin mentions in a footnote, is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule, applicable to most closed-end residential mortgage loans. That Rule allows a mortgage lender to consider an applicant’s current or reasonably expected assets in determining his/her ability to repay a mortgage loan, so long as the lender verifies the assets through financial institution statements or other reliable documents. Still, mortgage lenders must – when making QMs or non-QMs – calculate a debt-to-income ratio (DTI). (Non-QM lenders could also use a residual income figure.) Accordingly, if lenders are relying on an applicant’s assets, the lenders must come up with a monthly amount available for mortgage payments. However, unlike the Rule’s Appendix Q, which regulates how lenders may consider various types of income when making general QMs, neither the Rule nor Appendix Q specifies any requirements for unacceptable types of assets, discounts of asset values based on liquidity, amortization periods, or rate-of-return estimates.

While the OCC bulletin does not directly fill in any of those blanks, it does provide some clues.
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On July 25th, the CFPB announced plans to allow the temporary Qualified Mortgage (QM) status given to loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (the GSEs) to expire. However, the agency stated it could allow a short extension past the January 10, 2021 expiration date, and is in any case soliciting public comments on the general QM definition, including its income and debt documentation requirements.

When the CFPB issued its Ability-to-Repay/QM Rule in response to the Dodd-Frank Act, it sought to provide some bright-line tests for loans deemed generally safe for residential mortgage borrowers. The CFPB decided that a debt-to-income ratio (DTI) that does not exceed 43% was an appropriate proxy, along with several other factors. While the CFPB believed that many consumers can afford a DTI above 43%, those consumers should be served by the non-QM market, where lenders must individually evaluate the consumers’ compensating factors. However, the CFPB recognized that it may take some time, post-crisis, for a non-QM market to develop, even for credit-worthy borrowers. Accordingly, the CFPB created a category of loans that would temporarily enjoy QM status – loans that meet the GSEs’ underwriting criteria (plus a few other requirements). The CFPB set the expiration date for the temporary QM category at five years (unless the GSEs were to emerge from conservatorship prior to that).

Now, several years later, the CFPB has found that the temporary GSE QM “patch” represents a “large and persistent” share of originations, and likely was the reason the Rule did not result in decreased access to credit for those with DTIs over 43%.
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