In an email to staff, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray announced on Wednesday, November 15, that he will be stepping down this month.  His departure was widely anticipated.  Because the CFPB is headed by a single director – as opposed to a 5-member commission – the agency’s director wields enormous power. Below we address some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Director Cordray’s resignation.

Continue Reading CFPB Director Richard Cordray to Step Down

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

The anti-arbitration rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in July is now just one short step away from elimination.

The Senate tonight voted 51-50 (with Vice President Pence casting the deciding vote) to invalidate the CFPB’s rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That vote follows the House of Representatives’ disapproval of the rule in July.

The last remaining step is the President’s signature on the legislation, which seems highly likely given the Administration’s statement today urging the Senate to invalidate the rule.

The President’s approval will trigger two provisions of the CRA.

First, the rule “shall not take effect (or continue)” (5 U.S.C. § 801(b)(1)). In other words, the rule no longer has the force of law and businesses are no longer required to comply with its terms.

Second, the CFPB may neither re-issue the rule “in substantially the same form” nor issue a new rule that is “substantially the same” as the invalidated rule—unless Congress enacts new legislation “specifically authoriz[ing]” such a rule (5 U.S.C. § 801(b)(2)). The scope of this “substantially the same” standard has not been addressed by the courts, but it seems clear that at the very minimum the Bureau cannot issue (a) a new rule banning class action waivers; (b) an express ban of pre-dispute arbitration clauses; (c) a rule that has the practical effect of eliminating pre-dispute arbitration clauses; or (d) any other rule that imposes similar burdens on the use of arbitration.

Invalidation of the rule under the CRA also will moot the pending broad-based industry lawsuit against the CFPB challenging the legality of the regulation. (Mayer Brown represents the plaintiffs in the litigation).

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

Appraisal management companies (“AMCs”) are one step closer to being required to pay annual registry fees. The Appraisal Subcommittee (“ASC”) of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Counsel published a final rule on September 25, 2017, pursuant to its authority granted under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”), to govern a state’s collection of annual registry fees from AMCs. The final rule will take effect on November 24, 2017.

The Dodd-Frank Act amended Title XI of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”) to require states that opt to register and supervise AMCs to collect an annual AMC registry fee. The federal law requires such states to collect (i) from AMCs that have been in existence for more than one year, an annual registry fee of $25 multiplied by the number of appraisers working for or contracting with the AMC in the state during the previous year; and (ii) from AMCs that have not been in existence for more than a year, $25 multiplied by an appropriate number determined by the ASC. The Dodd-Frank Act gives the ASC discretion to increase the $25 fee to $50 if necessary to satisfy the ASC’s functions under the Dodd-Frank Act.

The ASC proposed regulations in May 2016 to implement the registry fee requirement and received 104 public comment letters. Most notably, the proposed regulations offered the ASC’s interpretation of what it means to be “working for or contracting with” an AMC for purposes of the registry fee. The final rule effectively adopts the standards from the proposed rule and establishes the annual AMC registry fee for AMCs in states that opt to register and supervise AMCs as follows:

  1. For AMCs that have been in existence for more than one year, $25 multiplied by the number of appraisers who have performed an appraisal for the AMC in connection with a covered transaction in said State during the previous year; and
  2. For AMCs that have been in existence for less than one year, $25 multiplied by the number of appraisers who have performed an appraisal for the AMC in connection with a covered transaction in said State since the AMC commenced doing business.

The final rule defines “performed an appraisal” to mean “the appraisal service requested of an appraiser by the AMC was provided to the AMC.”  Continue Reading FFIEC Finalizes Regulations for the Payment of AMC Registry Fees

A Texas federal court has struck down the 2016 U.S. Department of Labor’s rule that would have greatly increased the number of employees eligible for overtime pay.

This may seem like old news to those who have been following the rule. In November 2016, Judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued a preliminary junction, preventing the rule from becoming effective (which would otherwise have occurred in December 2016). The rule would have significantly raised the salary level that qualifies an employee for an exemption from overtime eligibility under the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations. Judge Mazzant stated that, pending further review by the court, the rule’s challengers were likely to be able to show that such a significant increase would exceed the agency’s authority.  (We addressed that decision in a prior post on this blog.)

The Department (then under the Obama Administration) appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Even after the change in administration, the Department asked the court to overturn the injunction, asserting that the Department has the authority to use a salary test for the exemption. New Labor Secretary Acosta reportedly indicated in congressional hearings that while he believes the rule set the salary test too high, the overtime exemption nonetheless needed updating. The Department requested public input on whether the exemption should have a salary level test, and if so what that level or levels should be. The request also addressed certain other topics related to the exemption, such as the extent to which commissions should count toward meeting the test, and whether the level should be automatically updated. The comment period for the Department’s request ends on September 25th.

The news is that last week, Judge Mazzant issued a final summary judgment in the original challenge to the rule. He agreed with his preliminary statements that the Department lacks the authority to establish such a high salary test, as that test then essentially supplants other criteria (such as the types of duties the employee performs) for determining who is exempt from overtime eligibility. The court’s ruling makes the pending appeal to the Fifth Circuit moot.

Questions remain, though, as to what the current administration will do regarding employees’ eligibility for overtime pay. According to estimates, the prior rulemaking would have affected 4.2 million employees, but it faced opposition from many types of employers (and consequently from many on Capitol Hill). The Department now specifies that it will not advocate for such an expansion. Accordingly, if and when Secretary Accosta resurrects the overtime exemption, odds are that number will come down.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a proposed rule that would raise the threshold temporarily for institutions that will be required to collect and report data on home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

Financial institutions that must collect and report data under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) will start to feel the brunt of the CFPB’s HMDA overhaul relatively soon. Beginning January 1, 2018, new thresholds for determining which institutions must collect and report HMDA data (including the extensive set of new data elements) are set to become effective. As it stands, those institutions will include those that, in addition to other criteria, originated at least 25 closed-end mortgage loans or 100 open-end lines of credit in each of the two preceding calendar years. Accordingly, in connection with HELOCs, if the institution did not originate 100 open-end lines of credit in both of those past two years, the Bureau will not require the institution to collect and report data on those loans.

As indicated in the Bureau’s recent proposed rule, it has learned that the 100-HELOC threshold may be too low, and may impose significant costs on relatively small HELOC lenders. The Bureau indicated that the number of open-end loan originations is continuing to rise, so the threshold may capture more institutions than previously estimated. Further, while the Bureau previously thought that the start-up costs of implementing new technology for capturing and reporting data on HELOCs are sometimes not quite as overwhelming for small institutions (since they may not be as burdened by legacy systems), the Bureau now believes it may have underestimated those costs. HMDA reporting on HELOCs has historically been voluntary – many lenders originate those loans through separate business units using separate systems, and have not needed to consolidate those processes or otherwise collect that data until now. Accordingly, the Bureau is proposing to relieve those institutions that originate fewer than 500 open-end lines of credit in either of the preceding two years from having to collect and report data on those loans.

This higher threshold applies both to whether an institution is a reporting “financial institution,” and with regard to the types of transactions a reporting “financial institution” must report.

The proposed rule would raise the HELOC threshold to 500 open-end lines of credit just for two years, until January 1, 2020, at which time the threshold will revert back to 100 such loans. The agency will use that time to reassess whether it should adjust the threshold permanently.

Comments on the proposed rule are due in just two weeks (by July 31, 2017) – arguably indicating that the Bureau does not expect much opposition to this proposal. The Bureau reportedly hopes to finalize this rule along with the technical corrections it proposed in April 2017.

Two-for-one is harder than it sounds. President Trump’s recently-issued executive order on reducing regulations, requiring the repeal of two regulations for each new one issued, provided agencies with precious little guidance. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the executive order applies only to “significant regulatory actions” of executive agencies (not independent agencies like the CFPB, SEC, FHFA, or the federal banking agencies). It requires an analysis of cost savings, but appears to exempt regulations “required by law.” A lawsuit has already been filed, claiming that the order is unconstitutional and contrary to the will of Congress. To learn more, applicable agencies are instructed to call OMB. However, you can learn more about the two-for-one executive order in Mayer Brown’s Legal Update.

Following his campaign promise to dismantle the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on February 3, 2017 that set out “Core Principles” for regulating the financial system.  Trump proclaimed that his administration would be “doing a big number on Dodd-Frank,” yet his recent Executive Order on Core Principles appears to be more of a tempered call for analysis and review rather than an outright demolition of existing financial regulations, especially when read in light of the administration’s more drastic requirement that Executive agencies must eliminate two existing regulations for each new one that it issues. Continue Reading Moving On: Core Principles for Dodd-Frank Reform Omit Mention of Financial Crisis

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