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, 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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