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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The Department of Labor has finalized its new salary thresholds applicable to an employer’s obligation to pay overtime and minimum wage. Beginning on January 1, 2020, white collar employees who earn less than $684 per week will not qualify for the executive, administrative, or professional employee exemption, and therefore will be entitled to those protections. The Department estimates that the higher salary thresholds will create approximately 1.3 million additional eligible employees.

As we described here previously, the Department acknowledged earlier this year that the current thresholds are outdated, and sought to expand the eligibility for overtime to additional employees. The Department has long used a salary level test, as well as a duties test, to define who is a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional (“EAP”) employee who is exempt.

Effective January 1, 2020, the standard salary level for the EAP exemption will be $684 per week ($35,568 per year), with special salary levels applicable to employees in U.S. Territories. The final rule will allow employers to satisfy up to 10% of the standard or special salary levels with nondiscretionary bonuses or incentive payments, including commissions, provided that such payments are paid no less frequently than on an annual basis. Employers may meet the salary level requirement by making a catch-up payment within one pay period of the end of the 52-week period.

“Highly compensated” employees (“HCEs”), who receive a certain (higher) amount of compensation and meet a less-stringent duties test, also are exempt from federal overtime and minimum wage requirements. The Department’s final rule establishes the new HCE total annual compensation level at $107,432.
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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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Just two months after financial institutions submitted their so-called “new” data as required under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering whether to eliminate or revise the requirement to collect and report those new data elements, and whether to change the requirements to report certain business- or commercial-purpose transactions.

Specifically, the CFPB issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) on May 8, 2019, asking the public for input on those changes. (An agency may issue an ANPR to gather information needed to formulate a proposed rule.) The ANPR fulfills part of the promise announced by former CFPB acting director Mick Mulvaney last year to reconsider nearly all aspects of HMDA reporting, including not just the new data points, but also newly-covered institutions and transactions.

While HMDA (as amended by the Dodd Frank Act) requires certain institutions to collect and report a significant list of data elements regarding the institutions’ home lending activities, the CFPB revised and added to that list during a comprehensive 2015 HMDA rulemaking.
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The Department of Labor is fulfilling its promise to rethink the salary thresholds applicable to an employer’s obligation to pay overtime. The Department published a proposed rule on March 22nd that would expand eligibility for overtime (and minimum wage) to certain previously exempt employees. As explained in a prior update, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has acknowledged that the overtime exemption needed updating, as the current thresholds were established decades ago.

As relevant to the mortgage industry, the Department announced in 2010 that it interprets the typical duties of a mortgage loan originator not to qualify for the “administrative” exemption from the federal obligation to pay employees overtime and minimum wage. Mortgage lenders had relied on previous guidance that those originators were exempt, but then had to analyze their originators’ duties to determine whether recharacterization of the originators as exempt or nonexempt was necessary.

Paying overtime compensation to mortgage loan originators can be a complex and difficult task. They often work nonstandard schedules, seeking to be available to potential borrowers, realtors, and others on a near “24/7” basis. Accordingly, keeping track of exact working hours can be tricky. In addition, they likely earn commissions (or a mix of a salary plus commissions), making the calculation of their weekly overtime rate of pay a challenge. The Department recognizes that employers of all types may decide to raise salary levels, reorganize workloads, adjust work schedules, or spread work hours in order to avoid payment of overtime.

Under the Department’s recent proposal, the salary levels for meeting the administrative exemption would increase, broadening the scope of overtime eligibility, but not as much as the Department’s prior attempt, issued in 2016. (A Texas federal court struck down that 2016 rule, holding that the Department exceeded its authority by raising the salary thresholds so high as to essentially supplant other criteria for the overtime exemption.) The current standard salary threshold is $455 per week ($23,600 per year). The Department’s proposal would raise that threshold to $679 per week ($35,308 per year).
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Congress amended the Truth in Lending Act in May 2018 by directing the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to prescribe ability-to-repay regulations with respect to Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) financing. PACE financing helps homeowners cover the costs of home improvements, which financing results in a tax assessment on the consumer’s property. Ability-to-repay regulations, which TILA

Federal banking agencies issued a final rule, effective July 1, 2019, implementing the requirement in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (the “Act”) for the acceptance of private flood insurance on covered properties. The final rule largely mimics the proposal (which we addressed previously here), but with a few interesting revisions and additional details.

First, the agencies adopted the proposed definition of “private flood insurance” largely unchanged. The Act defines the term, so the agencies had little discretion. However, the agencies clarified what coverage is “at least as broad as” coverage provided under a standard flood insurance policy (“SFIP”). Specifically, the final rule removes the requirement that the policy cover both the mortgagors and mortgagees as loss payees.

The most important change from the proposed stage may be a revision to the rule’s so-called compliance aid. To assist in determining whether a particular private flood insurance policy meets the necessary criteria, the agencies initially proposed that a policy would meet the definition of “private flood insurance” if: (1) the policy includes a written summary identifying the policy provisions meeting each criterion and confirming the insurer’s licensing/approval status; (2) the regulated lending institution verifies in writing the provisions identified in the summary, and that those provisions in fact satisfy the criteria; and (3) the policy includes the following assurance clause: “This policy meets the definition of private flood insurance contained in 42 U.S.C. 4012a(b)(7) and the corresponding regulation.”

The final rule indicated that the reaction to that proposed compliance aid was largely negative.
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On February 6, 2019, the CFPB issued a proposal to reconsider the mandatory underwriting provisions of its pending 2017 rule governing payday, vehicle title, and certain high-cost installment loans (the Payday/Small Dollar Lending Rule, or the Rule).

The CFPB proposed and finalized its 2017 Payday/Small Dollar Lending Rule under former Director Richard Cordray. Compliance with that Rule was set to become mandatory in August 2019. However, in October 2018, the CFPB (under its new leadership of former Acting Director Mick Mulvaney) announced that it planned to revisit the Rule’s underwriting provisions (known as the ability-to-repay provisions), and it expected to issue proposed rules addressing those provisions in January 2019. The Rule also became subject to a legal challenge, and in November 2018 a federal court issued an order staying that August 2019 compliance date pending further order.

The 2017 Rule had identified two practices as unfair and abusive: (1) making a covered short-term loan or longer-term balloon payment loan without determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan; and (2) absent express consumer authorization, making attempts to withdraw payments from a consumer’s account after two consecutive payments have failed. Under that 2017 Rule, creditors would have been required to underwrite payday, vehicle title, and certain high-cost installment loans (i.e., determine borrowers’ ability to repay). The Rule also would have required creditors to furnish information regarding covered short-term loans and covered longer-term balloon loans to “registered information systems.” See our previous coverage of the Rule here and here.
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued final policy guidance on December 21, 2018, explaining how it will make available to the public data submitted by financial institutions under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). The CFPB comprehensively revised HMDA reporting requirements in 2015, and extensive new data collection requirements became effective this year, with a reporting deadline of March 2019. With three months to go before that deadline, the CFPB could not have waited much longer to announce how it will publicly disclose the HMDA data while still protecting sensitive information.

Under the new HMDA requirements, reporting financial institutions must notify the public that the institutions’ data may be obtained on the CFPB’s website. The CFPB is then responsible for protecting applicant and borrower privacy, even as privacy risks evolve. The industry has expressed concern about the breadth of the data the CFPB will be collecting under the new HMDA reporting requirements, and about the increased reidentification risks that could arise upon making the data public (that is, the risk that someone could link an identified individual to his or her HMDA data). Commenters emphasized that if borrowers or applicants could be identified from the HMDA data, predators could target consumers for identity theft, fraudulently pose as the borrower’s lender, or otherwise misuse the data.

However, the CFPB declined to follow the commenters’ requests to exclude from the public all the new data required to be reported under the 2015 HMDA final rule. The CFPB recognized the inherent reidentification risk, but determined that the benefits of certain data disclosure outweigh that risk. The CFPB determined that most of the HMDA data is not sensitive and does not substantially facilitate reidentification or create a risk of harm. The CFPB reportedly employed a balancing test, requiring that HMDA data be excluded from public disclosure or modified when the release of the unmodified data would create risks to applicant and borrower privacy interests that are not justified by the benefits to the public of that release.

Accordingly, at least for 2018 data, the CFPB will modify the HMDA loan-level data to exclude the following fields:
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently proposed amendments to its earlier policy for issuing no-action letters, and proposed a process for participating in a so-called regulatory “sandbox,” which would provide certainty in or exemptions from complying with certain federal consumer protection laws. Comments on the proposals are due by February 19, 2019.

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