Mortgage Loan Servicing

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.

On November 7, Texas voters will have the opportunity to make some significant changes to the state’s homestead equity loan restrictions. As summarized below, Texas Proposition 2 will, if approved: (1) revise the strict fee limits for such loans; (2) add to the list of lenders that are authorized to make the loans; (3) eliminate the “once-a-home-equity-loan, always-a-home-equity-loan” rule; (4) allow borrowers to sign an affidavit of compliance regarding certain new refinancings of such loans; and (5) allow advances on lines of credit up to 80% loan-to-value (LTV) ratio.

The Texas Constitution imposes strict limits on the types of loans that validly may be secured by Texas homestead property. For home equity loans (other than purchase-money loans or rate/term refinances), the Texas Constitution imposes a long list of limitations and requirements, the violation of which invalidates the lien and can result in the forfeiture of principal and interest. A lender or holder has an opportunity to cure at least some of those violations. Since the limitations are part of the state constitution, relief can come only through legislative resolutions on which the public must then have the opportunity to vote. Continue Reading Texas Voters Consider Big Changes to Home Equity Loan Restrictions

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.

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 October 4, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued an interim final rule and a proposed rule related to the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule to clarify the timing of and facilitate the provision of certain required communications with borrowers.

The CFPB amended its mortgage servicing rules in August 2016, to go into effect in large part on October 19, 2017 (the “2016 Final Rule”). One provision of the 2016 Final Rule requires mortgage servicers to send certain delinquent borrowers early intervention notices, modified for use with a borrower who has requested a cease in communication under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The FDCPA allows borrowers to request that servicers and other companies refrain from contacting them except in certain circumstances, such as when a borrower becomes delinquent. The 2016 Final Rule exempts servicers from sending the early intervention notices only in situations where the borrower does not have a loss mitigation option available or where the borrower is a debtor in bankruptcy.

Under the 2016 Final Rule, mortgage servicers, when communicating with consumers who have invoked the FDCPA’s cease communication right, were required to provide the consumers modified early intervention notices, but only once every 180 days. Continue Reading It’s All in the Timing: CFPB Addresses Timing Challenges in 2016 Mortgage Servicing Rules


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

Pay-by-phone fees continue to attract the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s attention. Compliance Bulletin 2017-01, issued on July 27, 2017, indicates that the following acts or practices may constitute unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (“UDAAP”) or contribute to the risk of committing UDAAPs:

  1. Failing to disclose the prices of all available phone pay fees when different payment options carry materially different fees;
  2. Misrepresenting the available options or that a fee is required to pay by phone;
  3. Failing to disclose that a phone pay fee would be added to a consumer’s payment, which could create the misimpression that there is no service fee; and
  4. Lack of employee monitoring or service provider oversight, which may lead to misrepresentations or failure to disclose available options and fees.

The Bureau has previously raised concerns about phone pay fees. In a 2014 enforcement action, the Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission alleged that a mortgage servicer engaged in deceptive acts or practices by misrepresenting that the only payment method consumers could use to make timely payments was a particular method that required a convenience fee. In 2015, the Bureau took action against a bank for allegedly misrepresenting that a phone pay fee was a processing fee rather than a fee to enable the payment to post on the same day. The bank also allegedly failed to disclose other no-cost payment options. This week’s Bulletin 2017-01 suggests that companies should disclose such fees in writing to consumers, as opposed to relying solely on phone representatives to  explain the fees to consumers.

Bulletin 2017-01 also reiterates that certain practices in connection with phone pay fees may conflict with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). For example, Bureau examiners have found alleged violations of the FDCPA where the underlying consumer debt contract did not expressly permit the charging of phone pay fees and where the applicable state law was silent on the fees’ permissibility. The Bureau indicated last year that it may propose rules under the FDCPA to clarify that debt collectors may charge convenience fees only where state law expressly permits them or the consumer expressly agreed to them in the contract that created the underlying debt.

The Bulletin recommends that companies review their phone pay fee practices, including reviewing applicable state and federal laws, underlying debt contracts, service provider procedures, other consumer-facing materials, consumer complaints, and employee incentive plans for potential risks.

On May 15, the Supreme Court held that a debt collector does not violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) by knowingly attempting to collect a debt in bankruptcy proceedings after the statute of limitations for collecting that debt has expired. As explained in Mayer Brown’s Decision Alerts, the FDCPA generally prohibits a debt collector from using false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means in collecting debts. In the opinion for the Court, Justice Breyer looked to state law to determine whether the creditor had a right to payment. Under Alabama law, a creditor has the right to payment of a debt even after the limitations period has expired. Accordingly, a creditor may legitimately claim the existence of a debt even if the debt is no longer enforceable in a collection action. Likewise, the streamlined rules of bankruptcy proceedings mean that it is not obviously “unfair” for a creditor to inject an additional claim into the proceedings, even if it would be unfair for a creditor to file a standalone civil action to collect a time-barred debt.

In addition, the Court also held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts any state law that discriminates against arbitration on its face, and any rule that disfavors contracts with features of an arbitration agreement. Mayer Brown, which represented the petitioner before the Court, explained the case in its Decision Alerts.  The FAA requires courts to place arbitration provisions on an equal footing with other contract terms. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court had refused to enforce two arbitration provisions executed by individuals holding powers of attorney, because the power-of-attorney documents did not specifically mention arbitration or the ability to waive the principals’ right to trial by jury. The Supreme Court held that Kentucky’s rule violates the FAA by singling out arbitration agreements for disfavored treatment, explaining that “the waiver of the right to go to court and receive a jury trial” is a “primary characteristic of an arbitration agreement.” The Court explained that the FAA “cares not only about the ‘enforce[ment]’ of arbitration agreements, but also about their initial ‘valid[ity]’—that is, about what it takes to enter into them.”  The Court also pointed out that a contrary interpretation would make it “trivially easy” for courts hostile to arbitration to undermine the FAA—“indeed, to wholly defeat it.”

For more docket reports and decision alerts, go to Mayer Brown’s appellate.net.

On the theory that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac cannot remain in conservatorship forever, on April 20, 2017, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) issued a proposal for reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, titled “GSE Reform: Creating a Sustainable, More Vibrant, Secondary Mortgage Market” (accessible at the MBA’s GSE Reform web page). While the ultimate fate of any GSE reform effort in the current political environment is uncertain, there is at least a consensus that the Congress and the Trump administration should undertake such an effort, and each has promised to do so.  The MBA’s proposal is intended to provide a voice for the mortgage banking industry in that process.

The proposal includes a mixture of changes to the GSE system as it exists today, and maintenance of existing processes and structures the MBA believes work well. It proposes a replacement or conversion of the GSEs with “Guarantors,” which would guaranty mortgage backed securities (MBS).  The Guarantors would be structured as “private utilities”, meaning that they would be privately owned, but established through a government charter for the primary or exclusive purpose of providing the MBS guaranty, and heavily regulated.  Think of a privately owned electric company, that is granted the right to participate in the electricity market, on the condition that it complies with various regulatory requirements and oversight, including rate approvals.  The proposal even quotes from a paper regarding investor-owned electrical utilities.  The expectation, as stated in the proposal, is that the Guarantors would be “low-volatility companies that would pay steady dividends over time, not growth companies that aggressively seek to expand market share or generate above-market returns.”  Guarantors’ MBS guaranty would then be supplemented with an explicit government guaranty of the MBS, which would only be used if a Guarantor failed, and would only be used to support the MBS, not the Guarantors and their private investors.

The following is an outline of key elements of the MBA’s proposal, divided into elements reflecting changes to the current system, and those reflecting continuation of the current system in a similar form. Continue Reading MBA Issues Proposal on GSE Reform

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