On September 25, California Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 908, enacting the Debt Collection Licensing Act (the “DCLA”), placing California with the majority of states that require consumer debt collectors to be licensed. Subject to a few exemptions, persons engaging in the business of debt collection in California (including debt buyers) will be required to submit a license application before January 1, 2022. Senate Bill 908 is just one of a number of consumer protection bills enacted in California in recent days, including a bill creating the state’s “mini-CFPB.”

Continue Reading California Becomes the Latest State to License Debt Collectors

On May 20, 2020, the Office of the US Comptroller of the Currency announced its final rule overhauling the Community Reinvestment Act regulations. The CRA requires insured depository institutions to participate in investment, lending, and service activities that help meet the credit needs of their assessment areas, particularly low- and moderate-income  communities and small businesses

After a number of failed efforts and amid the COVID-19 national emergency, Virginia enacted a law that requires student loan servicers to obtain a license. On April 22, 2020, Virginia House Bill 10 and the identical Senate Bill 77 (collectively, the “Legislation”) were enacted into law after state representatives agreed to certain recommendations made by Virginia’s Governor earlier last month. Although eleven other states require student loan servicers to obtain a license, registration, or make a notice filing, Virginia’s new law is unique in that it could reach a much wider range of companies.

Continue Reading Virginia Enacts One of the Broadest Student Loan Servicer Licensing Laws

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic stress it is imposing on residential mortgage borrowers, lenders and servicers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released a compliance bulletin and policy guidance regarding the handling of information and documents in mortgage servicing transfers. While not specifically motivated by the COVID-19 crisis, Bulletin 2020-02

Federal regulators and Congress continue to release new guidance and requirements to assist residential mortgage loan borrowers facing economic hardships due to the pandemic. But in light of the anticipated volume of requests and associated burden on servicers, they also are offering some regulatory relief. This alert contains a summary of relevant mortgage servicing requirements,

On Friday, January 24, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“Bureau” or “CFPB”) published a Policy Statement clarifying how it intends to exercise its authority to prevent abusive acts or practices under the Dodd-Frank Act. According to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger, the purpose of the Policy Statement is to promote clarity, which in turn should encourage both compliance with the law and the development of beneficial financial products for consumers.  The Policy Statement describes how the Bureau will use and develop the abusiveness standard in its supervision and enforcement work, pursuant to a three-part, forward-looking framework. Under the framework, the Bureau will: (1) generally rely on the abusiveness standard to address conduct only where the harm to consumers outweighs the benefit, (2) avoid making abusiveness claims where the claims rely on the same facts that the Bureau alleges are unfair or deceptive, and (3) not seek certain types of monetary relief against a covered person who made a good-faith effort to comply with a reasonable interpretation of the abusiveness standard. The Policy Statement suggests that the Bureau will use its abusiveness authority even less frequently than it has in the past. While that may be welcome news to regulated parties, it is also likely to mean slower development of meaningful guideposts as to what constitutes abusive conduct.
Continue Reading CFPB Announces Policy Regarding Prohibition on Abusive Acts or Practices

Earlier this month, the Bureau released its Summer 2019 edition of Supervisory Highlights.  This is the second edition issued under Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger, who was confirmed to a five-year term in December 2018.  The report covers examinations that were generally completed between December 2018 and March 2019 and, as such, is the first edition of Supervisory Highlights to cover examination activities that occurred during Kraninger’s tenure as Director.  This edition is much the same as previous editions, but unlike many past versions, it does not address any mortgage servicing-related findings.  Instead the report focuses on, among other things, UDAAPs (including, notably, an abusiveness finding), furnishing of consumer report information, and technical regulatory violations.  The report also details supervision program developments.

Remarkably, there is no mention of any public enforcement action resulting from supervisory examination work.  It is standard practice for the Bureau to use these reports to tout both public and nonpublic remedial actions that stemmed from examinations—but here we don’t see that, and it is not clear whether that is because none of the enforcement actions the Bureau has taken as of late actually came out of supervisory exams or if they chose not to highlight remedial actions for some other reason. 
Continue Reading CFPB’s Latest Supervisory Highlights Focuses on UDAAPs, Furnishing, and Technical Regulatory Requirements

While banks must be prudent and follow applicable regulations, the latest guidelines from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency may allow banks to justify a nuanced asset dissipation or depletion underwriting program, so long as it is backed by analysis.

On July 23, 2019, the OCC issued a bulletin reminding its regulated institutions to use safe and sound banking practices when underwriting a residential mortgage loan based on the applicant’s assets. While the bulletin does not provide much satisfaction for those seeking safe harbors or any specific guidance, it provides certain hints at what the OCC will look for in an examination.

Asset dissipation underwriting (or asset amortization or depletion underwriting) is a way for mortgage lenders to calculate a stream of funds derived from an applicant’s assets that could be available for loan payments, in addition to income (if any) received from employment or other sources. The bulletin notes that while the OCC’s regulated institutions have prudently administered asset depletion models for many years, examiners have seen an uptick that is unsupported by credit risk management practices and insufficiently compliant with existing regulations and guidelines.

One such existing regulation, which the bulletin mentions in a footnote, is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule, applicable to most closed-end residential mortgage loans. That Rule allows a mortgage lender to consider an applicant’s current or reasonably expected assets in determining his/her ability to repay a mortgage loan, so long as the lender verifies the assets through financial institution statements or other reliable documents. Still, mortgage lenders must – when making QMs or non-QMs – calculate a debt-to-income ratio (DTI). (Non-QM lenders could also use a residual income figure.) Accordingly, if lenders are relying on an applicant’s assets, the lenders must come up with a monthly amount available for mortgage payments. However, unlike the Rule’s Appendix Q, which regulates how lenders may consider various types of income when making general QMs, neither the Rule nor Appendix Q specifies any requirements for unacceptable types of assets, discounts of asset values based on liquidity, amortization periods, or rate-of-return estimates.

While the OCC bulletin does not directly fill in any of those blanks, it does provide some clues.
Continue Reading OCC Bulletin on Asset Dissipation – The Art and Science of Underwriting

Legalization of certain cannabis-related activities by over 30 states has led to a surge in companies that grow and produce cannabis and related products. However, banks and other financial services companies have been hesitant to serve this growing population of potential customers due to conflicting statutes and enforcement policies under federal law. On Thursday, March 28, 2019, the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives took a step toward clearing some ambiguity, at least for federally insured financial institutions.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (“SAFE Act”), which the Committee approved on a vote of 45-15, with 11 of the panel’s Republican members voting in favor, has been cleared for consideration by the full House. The SAFE Act would, if enacted, provide a safe harbor against retaliatory enforcement action by federal bank regulators directed at banks (including federal branches of non-U.S. banks), savings associations, and credit unions that provide services to cannabis businesses or service providers. In addition, the SAFE Act would prohibit federal regulators from discouraging depository institutions from offering financial services, including loans, to an account holder on the basis that the account holder is a cannabis-related business or service provider; an employee, owner, or operator of a cannabis-related business; or an owner or operator of real estate or equipment leased to a cannabis-related business. Furthermore, the SAFE Act would provide that officers, directors, and employees of depository institutions and the Federal Reserve Banks may not be held liable under federal law or regulations based solely on their provision of financial services to cannabis-related businesses or for investing any income derived from such businesses. The protections would apply only to cannabis-related businesses located in states, political subdivisions of states, or an Indian country where local law permits the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, distribution, or purchase of cannabis. 
Continue Reading House Takes First Step to Open Banking for Cannabis Companies

Earlier this week, the Bureau released the Winter 2019 edition of Supervisory Highlights.  This marks the first edition issued under the CFPB’s new Director, Kathy Kraninger, who was confirmed to a five-year term in December.  The report describes observations from examinations that were generally completed between June and November 2018 and summarizes recent publicly-released enforcement actions and guidance.

Like the sole edition of Supervisory Highlights issued under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s tenure, this edition emphasizes that “it is important to keep in mind that institutions are subject only to the requirements of relevant laws and regulations,” and that the purpose of disseminating Supervisory Highlights is to “help institutions better understand” how the Bureau examines them for compliance—statements that signal a shift in how the Bureau approaches its supervisory role.
Continue Reading First Supervisory Highlights Under Director Kraninger Reflects Focus on Corrective Action and Prevention of Harm