Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)/Regulation X

New title insurance regulations in New York restrict the marketing practices of title insurance agencies and affect the operation of affiliated businesses.

The New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) issued two final regulations on October 17, 2017 that follow a DFS investigation into the marketing practices and fees charged by title insurance industry members. The DFS stated that the investigation revealed that members of the title industry spend millions each year in “marketing costs” provided to attorneys, real estate professionals, and mortgage lenders in the form of meals, gifts, entertainment, and vacations and then include those expenses in the calculation of future title insurance rates. The DFS had already implemented emergency regulations to address those practices. The recent final regulations represent permanent guidelines on certain behavior the DFS deems prohibited and permissible under the state’s title insurance statutes. Continue Reading New York Takes Aim at Title Insurance Marketing Practices

No AfBA disclosure — no safe harbor!

By Consent Order dated September 27, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took action against Meridian Title Corporation for violating Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 by failing to furnish affiliated business arrangement (AfBA) disclosures to consumers. Meridian, an Indiana title and settlement agent, referred over 7,000 customers to its affiliated title insurer, Arsenal Insurance Corporation, without providing written AfBA disclosures notifying consumers of the entities’ affiliation and consumers’ rights. It also received compensation above and beyond its standard allowable commission set forth in the companies’ agency agreement. Under the Consent Order, Meridian agreed to disclose its affiliation with Arsenal, implement certain compliance measures, and set aside $1.25 million for affected consumers, with any portion of that amount not ultimately provided to consumers to be paid to the CFPB.

As indicated above, the underlying basis for action in this case was Meridian’s failure to provide written AfBA disclosures to consumers it referred to Arsenal. The disclosure requirement is black and white – payments under an AfBA cannot qualify for RESPA’s Section 8(c)(4) exception to the anti-kickback and fee-splitting provisions unless the referring entity provides written disclosures to customers meeting certain form and content requirements. Failure to furnish the disclosures leaves payments between the entities subject to scrutiny to determine whether they constitute payments for referrals or qualify for some other exception, Continue Reading CFPB Requires Title Agent to Pay Up To $1.25 Million to Consumers Referred to Affiliated Title Insurer

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a final rule to clarify the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure requirements. The rule finalizes many of the CFPB’s earlier proposals, some with modifications. However, the agency still has not formally addressed important issues (like a lender’s ability to cure errors and the disclosure of title insurance premiums where a simultaneous discount applies), and it offers a new proposal to address the “black hole” on resetting fee tolerances. The final regulations will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Mayer Brown’s Legal Update discusses the CFPB’s latest attempt to strike a balance between the disclosure burdens on lenders or closing agents and ensuring consumers receive clear and useful information.

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).

 

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

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.

With just a week to spare before its 45-day deadline for appeal expired, last week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for en banc review of the October three-judge panel decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB.  Penned by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, that ruling declared the CFPB’s single-director structure unconstitutional and rejected the CFPB’s interpretation of Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).  The CFPB’s petition does not come as a surprise.  If the D.C. Circuit agrees to rehear the constitutional and/or RESPA arguments, the three-judge panel ruling will be stayed pending the full court’s decision and the CFPB will return to business as usual, at least for now. Continue Reading CFPB Petitions D.C. Circuit for Review of PHH Ruling by Full Court

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, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling overturning a $109 million monetary penalty imposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”).  The decision in PHH Corporation v. CFPB, written by Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, addressed the unconstitutionality of the Bureau’s structure and its retroactive application of a new RESPA interpretation, and imposed RESPA’s three-year statute of limitations on the Bureau.  Continue Reading Court Rejects CFPB’s RESPA Interpretation, Declares Single-Director Structure Unconstitutional

Several of Mayer Brown’s Consumer Financial Services partners will be featured at this month’s Regulatory Compliance Conference in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

On Sunday, September 18th, Kris Kully will participate in the Compliance Essentials Workshop outlining how the Dodd Frank Act changed the regulatory framework for mortgages.  This panel will be useful for attendees looking for an introduction or refresher course in mortgage origination compliance, and those seeking MBA certification.

Also on Sunday the 18th, Krista Cooley will participate on the Servicing Essentials panel, which will include a discussion of the latest updates to the CFPB’s servicing rules, the TCPA, and the FDCPA.

Melanie Brody will participate on a Sunday panel addressing fair lending and HMDA.

Phil Schulman will participate on a panel on Monday, September 19th, discussing how the CFPB’s views affect marketing and advertising campaigns under RESPA. If the Circuit Court releases its opinion in the PHH case before the Conference, Phil will discuss how the court’s opinion will affect future RESPA compliance.

We look forward to seeing you there!