Legal Issues

Browse articles from all of our Newsletters related to Legal Issues.

January 26, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

CFPB Seeks Public Input on Safe Student Account Scorecard

As part of the growing attention the CFPB is paying these days to the marketing relationships between financial institutions and colleges and universities, the CFPB released for public comment a draft Safe Student Account Scorecard that offers information to institutions of higher learning when soliciting agreements from financial institutions to market safe and affordable financial accounts for their students. “The scorecard builds on prior work by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and is designed to help colleges evaluate the costs and benefits to students of a financial product based on information about its features and how it is marketed,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The bureau is seeking public input on the scorecard, which highlights four areas for schools to ...

January 26, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

Bureau Position Upheld as SCOTUS Sides With Borrower on Rescission

When it comes to legal cases at the Supreme Court of the United States, score one for the CFPB. Earlier this month, in Jesinoski v. Countrywide, the SCOTUS essentially upheld the bureau’s position on borrower rescission of a mortgage under the Truth in Lending Act. Specifically, the high court unanimously ruled that TILA only requires written notice to a mortgage lender within three years in lieu of requiring a borrower to formally file a lawsuit within that time span. Under TILA, a borrower may rescind a mortgage within the first three days of consummation of the transaction or the delivery of the mandated disclosures required. However, if a lender fails to make the disclosures demanded under TILA, this right is ...

January 26, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

CFPB Enforcement Tool Hangs in Balance as SCOTUS Hears Case

The legal doctrine of disparate impact is a powerful arrow in the enforcement quiver the CFPB can bring to bear across a number of sectors in the broad financial services industry – and it may get a big boost if the Supreme Court of the United States says it is legal. Last week, the SCOTUS heard oral arguments in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Et Al., v. The Inclusive Communities Project Inc. (No. 13-1371). The crux of this case is whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, where a plaintiff alleges discrimination based on the disparate impact that a defendant’s “facially neutral” practice has on members of a demographic group of society, the ...

January 26, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

Wells, JPMorgan Settle With CFPB Over Mortgage Kickback Claims

Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase settled with the CFPB and the Maryland Attorney General last week, resolving allegations of participating in an illegal marketing kickback scheme with Genuine Title, a title company that has since gone out of business. The government agencies alleged that Genuine Title gave the banks’ loan officers cash, marketing materials and consumer information in exchange for business referrals. The CFPB and the Maryland AG also took action against former Wells Fargo employee Todd Cohen and his wife, Elaine Oliphant Cohen, both of Baltimore, for their alleged involvement. The two government agencies are seeking $24 million in civil penalties from Wells Fargo and $600,000 in civil penalties from JPMorgan Chase. They also want $10.8 million from Wells ...

January 23, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

GNMA to Launch Issuer Scorecard in the Spring

Ginnie Mae will soon introduce the third prong of a strategy to improve its oversight of participants in its mortgage-backed securities program – a performance scorecard for issuers – and monitoring of its risk. Essentially a “scorecard,” the Issuer Operational Performance Profile (IOPP) will enable issuers to better understand and comply with Ginnie Mae’s expectations. It also provides a way for issuers to measure and improve their performance and compare it to the performance of their peers. Final testing and training for IOPP began this winter, with deployment expected “in early 2015,” the agency said. Issuers will be scored monthly based on a series of metrics. Each issuer will be rated against its peers by applying a weighting algorithm and, in some cases, adjusting for certain control factors. Each issuer will receive two scores: one for operational management and ...

January 23, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

FHA Tweaks Rules for Doing Business with Agency

The FHA has proposed key changes to rules for 203(k) consultants, direct endorsement (DE) underwriters and nonprofit groups that do business with the agency. The changes are part of a draft section, “Doing Business with FHA – Other Participants,” which will be incorporated into the overall Single Family Policy handbook. The draft contains information regarding eligibility, approval and recertification requirements for 203(k) program consultants, direct endorsement (DE) underwriters and nonprofit groups. The FHA posted the draft versions of “Doing Business with FHA – Other Participants in FHA Transactions” and “Quality Control, Oversight and Compliance – Other Participants in FHA Transactions” on its SF Housing Policy Drafting Table for public review and comment. The draft consolidate various existing Department of Housing and Urban Development handbooks, mortgagee letters, housing notices and ...

January 23, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

Low Rates, High Demand Power VA’s 3Q14 Surge

Production of loans with a VA guaranty was moderately strong in the third quarter of 2014, thanks to lower rates and increased demand for the no-downpayment loans, according to Inside FHA Lending’s analysis of the latest agency data. A 14.1 percent quarter-to-quarter surge helped the industry end last year’s first nine months with a total of $76.3 billion in VA loans, mostly purchase home mortgages taken out by a younger generation of war veterans. VA streamline refinancing also accounted for a substantial chunk of originations, 19.2 percent. Volume jumped from $19.5 billion in the first quarter of 2014 to $26.5 billion the following quarter. Lenders closed out the third quarter with $30.2 billion. Stanley Middleman, chief executive officer of Freedom Mortgage, said VA lending is on the upswing, driven by low interest rates. He thinks the VA home loan guaranty program has been ... [ 1 chart ]

January 23, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

FHA Likely to Reclaim Share with Premium Cut

The half-percent annual premium reduction the FHA announced recently will likely enable the agency to reclaim the high loan-to-value segment of the mortgage market from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to analysts. Speaking with some originators that have been looking at the best way to securitize high LTV loans, Deustche Bank securities analysts said the lower FHA annual premium would put pressure on the government-sponsored enterprises to lower the cost of their guarantees. “The grapevine has anticipated for months that [g-fees] have little chance of going up and more chance of going down,” the analysts said. “But the specific risk triggered by the FHA move is that the cost of credit will now drop for high-LTV conventional borrowers.” Even before the FHA policy shift, private mortgage insurers have been pressuring the Federal Housing Finance Agency to ...

January 23, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

Lenders Expect Modest Refinance Wave

FHA lenders are gearing up to meet an anticipated increase in demand for purchase and refinance loans with mortgage rates falling to near-historic lows coupled by a 50 basis point cut in FHA’s annual insurance premium. Lenders hope the combination of lower mortgage rates and the revised FHA pricing structure will create sufficient incentive for more borrowers to purchase a home or refinance an existing mortgage. For example, Freedom Mortgage, 32nd in Inside FHA Lending’s 2014 ranking of FHA lenders, is looking to hire as many as 500 new employees to handle the anticipated surge following the FHA action. Stanley Middleman, chief executive officer of Freedom Mortgage, expects a robust FHA refinance market during the first half of 2015, tapering off in the second half. “Lower rates, coupled with premium reduction, put a lot of FHA borrowers in a position to get their ...

January 23, 2015 - Inside Nonconforming Markets

Views Vary on CFPB’s Proposal to Help Innovation

Some observers see a proposal from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help lenders gain certainty regarding new products as helpful, while others warn that it is unworkable. In October, the CFPB proposed a system for issuing no-action letters to companies that want to offer innovative financial products but face “substantial uncertainty” regarding how the regulator might treat them. Affirmative no-action letters would state that the CFPB has no ...

January 23, 2015 - Inside MBS & ABS

SCOTUS Ruling in TILA Rescission Case Could be Trouble for Non-Agency MBS, SFIG Brief Suggests

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Truth in Lending Act only compels a borrower to file a written notice within three years of consummation in order to rescind a mortgage if the lender fails to provide the required disclosure, instead of formally filing a lawsuit within that period. This could spell bad news for the non-agency RMBS space, according to an amicus brief the Structured Finance Industry Group filed with the high court in the case, Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. The first problem SFIG noted with the position that the SCOTUS eventually upheld is that it will have a chilling effect on non-agency MBS. “A determination that mere notice is sufficient to effect a rescission would reverberate through all segments of the RMBS market, creating significant hurdles for originators, issuers, ratings agencies, servicers, and trustees alike, while breeding doubt among investors regarding the value of future and already-issued private-label RMBS,” said the trade group. That’s...

January 23, 2015 - Inside MBS & ABS

S&P Settles Certain MBS Rating Issues, But Regulators Hint More Actions Are Pending

Standard & Poor’s agreed this week to a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and two state attorneys general regarding ratings on commercial MBS and non-agency MBS. Regulators suggest that further actions involving the ratings services are in the works, likely including a much larger settlement with S&P regarding activity before the financial crisis. S&P’s settlement this week involved post-2010 activity. The rating service agreed to pay the SEC and attorneys general for New York and Massachusetts more than $77 million. S&P will also take a one-year “timeout” from rating conduit/fusion commercial MBS. “They lied...

January 22, 2015 - Inside Mortgage Finance

SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Disparate-Impact Case; Scalia’s Comments Suggest He May ‘Go Rogue’

Trying to handicap a forthcoming ruling from the highest court in the land is notoriously fraught with difficulty and unpredictability, given that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have a penchant for playing devil’s advocate on both sides of a legal issue. But comments made this week by one of the conservative justices, Antonin Scalia, during the high court’s consideration of the latest disparate-impact case to reach it made it clear he believes the legal doctrine of disparate impact is a part of the contemporary legal landscape. And that could prove to be pivotal to the ultimate outcome. The central legal question in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, et al., v. The Inclusive Communities Project Inc. (No. 13-1371) is whether disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The state of Texas is challenging...

January 16, 2015 - Inside MBS & ABS

SCOTUS Allows NCUA MBS Lawsuit to Proceed, JPMorgan Poised to Settle, Citigroup Gets Summons

The U.S. Supreme Court this week denied a petition by major banks to reject a lower court decision to allow a National Credit Union Administration MBS lawsuit to go forward. The SCOTUS chose not to hear the case, a lawsuit filed by the NCUA to recover damages suffered by five now-defunct federal credit unions as a result of investments in non-agency MBS sold by the banks. The suit is...

January 12, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

Bureau Minutiae/Vendor/Compliance News/Looking Ahead

CFPB Raises TILA Reg Z Exemption Threshold. The CFPB raised the asset size for banks exempt from the requirement to establish an escrow account for higher-priced mortgages under Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act) from $2.028 billion to $2.060 billion, as of Jan. 1, 2015. The adjustment is based on the 1.1 percent increase in the average of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the 12-month period ending in November 2014. The adjustment to the escrow exemption asset-size threshold will also increase a similar threshold for small-creditor portfolio and balloon-payment qualified mortgages. CFPB Increases HMDA Reg C Exemption Threshold. The bureau slightly ratcheted up the asset- size exemption threshold for financial institutions reporting ...

January 12, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

Plenty of Investigations Underway At the Bureau, Report Suggests

The CFPB’s second report to the appropriations committees of both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives suggests the bureau has a full plate when it comes to enforcement-related probes of financial services providers. For instance, “Investigations currently underway span the full breadth of the bureau’s enforcement jurisdiction,” the report stated. “Further detail about ongoing investigations will not generally be made public by the bureau until a public enforcement action is filed.” Elsewhere, the report reminded lawmakers that the bureau was a party in 41 public enforcement actions from Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014, the period covered by the report, and it proceeded to highlight all of them. However, not all of them have been settled, such ...

January 12, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

‘No-Action Letter’ Proposal Won’t Reduce Regulatory Uncertainty

The CFPB’s proposal to reduce regulatory uncertainty for financial innovation through the selective use of “no-action” letters is based on a good idea but is likely to fail to meet its objective unless important changes are made, according to three industry trade groups. For instance, when it comes to submitting requests for a “no-action” letter, the set of products and services to which the bureau’s proposal may apply is difficult to identify, the American Bankers Association, the American Bankers Insurance Association and the Consumer Bankers Association said in a joint comment letter to the regulator. “On the one hand, the proposal requires that the product must not be well established; on the other, it may not cover ‘hypothetical products that ...

January 12, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

CFPB Looking for More Legal Conflicts to Enter, Weigh in On

The CFPB has reached out to sympathetic constituencies in search of more legal cases in which it can submit amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs, a letter from the bureau suggests. The text of the letter was reproduced on a legal blog hosted by the consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen. “The bureau welcomes and encourages suggestions of cases as candidates for amicus curiae participation,” said the Dec. 17, 2014, letter, signed by Meredith Fuchs, general counsel, and Nandan Joshi, director of the amicus program. “We seek your recommendations as important stakeholders in the area of consumer finance.” The occasion precipitating the letter apparently was the three-year anniversary of the program. “Through the amicus program, the bureau has sought to ...

January 12, 2015 - Inside the CFPB

2015 Unlikely to Match Last Year’s Mortgage Rulemaking Fireworks

The CFPB is likely to throw its weight around just as much this year as it did last year, only its focus and intensity will be more diverse in terms of the industries that will be affected. Back in 2014, much of the regulatory concern among lenders had to do with the bureau’s ability-to-repay rule with its qualified mortgage standard, and to lesser extents its rules on mortgage servicing and loan originator compensation. Make no mistake. The mortgage industry is still in the CFPB’s crosshairs. The biggest payload to be delivered in this regard in 2015 is the long-awaited and much discussed integrated disclosure rule under the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. That rule ...

January 9, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

HECM Volume Declines Further in FY 2014

FHA reverse mortgage production fell during the first nine months of 2014 compared to same period in the prior year due to changes made by the agency to the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program. The nine-month HECM volume stood at $10.1 billion as of Sept. 30, down 14.8 percent from the previous nine-month period in 2013, according to an Inside FHA Lending analysis of agency data. Volume also fell 9.8 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis. HECM purchase loans accounted for 93.5 percent of the market while a large majority, 77.0 percent, appeared to favor adjustable-rate reverse mortgages over fixed-rate reverse mortgages. Limited maximum draws in the first year and reduction of principal limit factors – actions taken by HUD to improve the HECM program – significantly decreased the demand for HECM products compared with ... [ 1 chart ]

January 9, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

FHA Borrowers Benefit from MHA Enhancements

FHA borrowers who refinance through the agency’s Home Affordable Modification Program will also be eligible to earn $5,000 in the sixth year of their performing, modified loan, subject to the Department of the Treasury’s guidelines, the FHA has announced. The incentive to FHA-HAMP borrowers is one of several enhancements to the Making Home Affordable program that the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Treasury Department unveiled in December last year. The enhancements were designed to motivate homeowners in MHA to continue making timely mortgage payments, strengthen the safety net for those still facing financial hardships, and help them build equity in their homes. Under the revised HAMP guidelines, all homeowners in the program become eligible to earn $5,000 in the sixth year of their loan modification. This means a borrower’s outstanding principal balance could ...

January 9, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

FHA Lenders Agree to Settle DOJ Fraud Charges

Two FHA lenders have agreed to separate settlements with the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to resolve allegations of mortgage fraud that resulted in huge losses for HUD. Golden First Mortgage Corp. and its owner/president, David Movtady, have agreed to a $36.3 million settlement with the DOJ to resolve allegations they had lied to the FHA about the quality of loans they had certified for FHA insurance since July 2007. Consequently, the agency incurred more than $12 million in losses since that time, according to court documents. Filed in April 2013 in Manhattan federal court and amended in August 2013, the government complaint sought damages and penalties under the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act against Golden First for years of misconduct as an FHA direct-endorsement lender. Golden First was a ...

January 9, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

FHA Tweaks Method of Reporting PETRs Results

The FHA has temporarily suspended publication of its Quarterly Loan Review Findings Report, which contains the results of all post-endorsement technical reviews (PETRs) conducted by the FHA during a particular quarter. The suspension will give the FHA sufficient time to “recalibrate how the report is run” as well as improve the report, the agency explained. The report is currently published in Lender Insight, a quarterly publication that contains information from the FHA’s Office of Lender Activities and Program Compliance. Specifically, the report contains charts that divide PETRs findings into five main categories. Each chart lists the top five underwriting errors in each category for each review period. The FHA said it is working to display the results in a more user-friendly, actionable manner. It did not say when the quarterly report will be ...

January 9, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

FHA Opens Up on QC Reviews, Targeting Methods

The FHA rarely talks about its lender and loan review process in detail but in the latest issue of Lender Insight the agency discusses how it is done and how it selects targets for each review. FHA’s overall counterparty quality-control efforts are divided into lender-monitoring reviews, nonperforming loan reviews, post-endorsement technical reviews of performing loans, post-endorsement technical reviews of early payment defaults (EPD), early cohort claim reviews and lender self-reports. For lender-monitoring reviews, the FHA uses a targeting methodology that takes into account loan volume, default/claim rates, participation in specific FHA loan programs, servicer loss-mitigation performance and certain other factors. Loans are selected to determine compliance with FHA requirements. The Quality Assurance Division (QAD) in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Single-Family ...

January 9, 2015 - Inside FHA Lending

New VA Limits: No Material Impact on Borrowers

Despite reduced guaranty limits in more than 80 counties, recent changes to the VA mortgage limits in 2015 will have no material impact on veteran borrowers or hurt credit availability, according to industry analysts. In enacting the omnibus spending bill, Congress reduced the maximum size of mortgages guaranteed by the VA, matching it to the $625,500 high-cost loan limits for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA. The change took effect on Jan. 1, 2015, affecting 82 counties, some seeing as much as a 40 percent reduction in the VA loan limit. For example, loan limits in the New York area fell by 36.1 percent and in the Washington, DC, area, lenders saw a 9.7 percent decline, according to estimates by the Urban Institute. The VA home loan program does not require a downpayment and the guaranty is limited to 25 percent of the loan amount. In certain cases, the program allows a veteran to ...

January 9, 2015 - Inside Nonconforming Markets

Ocwen Settles with NYDFS, Looks to Non-Agency

Ocwen Financial agreed to a $150 million settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services in late December. Officials at the nonbank said Ocwen’s focus will shift to non-agency servicing and originations in 2015. The settlement includes a number of provisions beyond the monetary penalty. To acquire mortgage servicing rights – the fuel for Ocwen’s dramatic growth in recent years – Ocwen must receive approval from the NYDFS and meet performance benchmarks. The NYDFS will also appoint...

January 9, 2015 - Inside MBS & ABS

Ambac Whacks BofA With a New MBS Lawsuit, Credit Suisse’s and Wells Fargo’s MBS Woes Mount

Bank of America’s never-ending litigation woes spilled into 2015 as Ambac Assurance hit the bank with a new lawsuit related to toxic mortgages. Credit Suisse and Wells Fargo also welcomed the new year facing MBS lawsuits. According to analysts at Stone Fox Capital, an investment advisory firm, Ambac is claiming $600 million in losses, which arose from insuring approximately $1.7 billion in MBS transactions from 2005 to 2007. The MBS were issued by Countrywide Financial, which BofA acquired in 2008 and has been the principal cause of its legal headaches ever since. Ambac emerged...

January 8, 2015 - Inside Mortgage Finance

Legacy Mortgage Troubles Continue for SunTrust As Lender Prepares to Take $145 Million Charge

SunTrust Banks started off the new year reliving the pain of the last six years since the financial crisis by revealing it plans to take yet another financial hit – this time, a $145 million legal expense in its fourth quarter results tied to legacy mortgage issues. In a Form 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission early this week, David Wisniewski, deputy general counsel, said the bank was taking the charge “to increase legal reserves and complete the final resolution of one matter. Accordingly, based on current information, the company expects its estimate of reasonably possible losses related to legal matters, in excess of reserves, to decrease by approximately this amount.” Wisniewski did not specify...

December 30, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

FHFA Fights to Keep GSEs In Front on Foreclosures

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is fighting state-level court actions that threaten the first-lien status of loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including a recent ruling in Nevada granting a homeowners association priority in collecting unpaid HOA fees ahead of the mortgage lender in a foreclosure. The regulator has filed separate actions in federal court in Nevada seeking to overturn recent state court rulings allowing HOAs to jump to the front of the creditor list with ...

December 30, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

FHFA Seeks End to Another Fannie/Freddie Investor Suit

An attorney representing the Federal Housing Finance Agency called on a federal judge in Iowa to dismiss a third federal suit brought by affiliated entities challenging the terms of the 2012 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac net worth sweep. “There is gamesmanship going on here, your honor,” said Howard Cayne, an attorney with Arnold & Porter who is representing the FHFA in its motion for summary judgment. Investors say the net worth sweep, authorizing the Treasury to ...

December 30, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

Treasury Called on to Rebuild GSEs’ Net Worth, Retain Profits

With Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on solid financial footing in terms of earnings, some factions of the mortgage industry believe the two should be allowed to rebuild capital by retaining some of their profits. But getting there would require a hard push from the White House, and the approval of the Treasury Department, which controls the senior preferred stock of the two. In a recent letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Melvin Watt ...

December 30, 2014 - Inside Mortgage Trends

Loan Doc Fraud Most Reported in 2013

Most of the mortgage fraud investigations in 2013 that involved industry professionals were about misrepresentations on loan documents, evidence that the market remains fertile for fraud, according to a new LexisNexis report. Focusing on proven incidences of fraud, the report found that the share of loans investigated in 2013 for misrepresentation on the credit report, credit history or references rose to 17 percent from 5 percent in 2012. Notably, property valuation fraud ...

December 22, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

TRID, New HMDA Rule Compliance Can Increase Fair Lending Liability

Many mortgage lenders are going to feel they are “damned if they do, damned if they don’t,” when they learn about the fair lending pitfalls inadvertently lurking in the weeds of compliance with the CFPB’s Truth in Lending Act and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act integrated disclosure rule and the forthcoming Home Mortgage Disclosure Act rule. “Looking ahead to next year and beyond, the TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure rule could bring additional new risk,” said Colgate Selden, counsel with the Alston & Bird law firm, during a recent webinar on fair lending risk sponsored by Inside Mortgage Finance, an affiliated newsletter. “Some of these are old risks that may have gone away, but are back in some ways,” Selden told attendees. ...

December 22, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Industry Reps Split on CFPB’s ‘No-Action Letters’ Proposal

Different segments of the financial services industry are split on the CFPB’s proposal to implement a limited “no-action letter” policy to reduce the regulatory uncertainty that may exist for certain emerging products or services which stand to benefit consumers. The proposed policy would allow bureau staff to send a no-action letter to a company informing it that the CFPB isn’t planning to recommend initiation of supervisory or enforcement action in connection with a firm’s offering or provision of a new product. As innocuous as that sounds, at least one firm, International Bancshares Corp. of Laredo, TX, said it had serious concerns with the bureau’s proposal, which the company characterized as very narrow. Among the company’s complaints is that the bureau’s ...

December 22, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

CFPB Sues Company Over Allegedly Sham Credit Card

The CFPB sued a Dallas-based company, Union Workers Credit Services, for allegedly deceiving consumers into paying fees to sign up for what it advertises to be a general-use credit card that actually can only be used to buy products from the company. “The business model for Union Workers Credit Services is built on duping consumers into signing up for a sham credit card,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Hundreds of thousands of people, including a great many union members who were specially targeted, have been tricked into spending millions of dollars for a so-called credit card that can really only be used to buy the company’s own products, ” he added. “From the misleading photos of nurses and firemen on ...

December 22, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Bureau, FL AG, Move Against Debt- Relief Firms Targeting Fed. Loans

In another example of multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional legal action, the CFPB and Florida’s Attorney General Office brought an enforcement against two student debt-relief companies accused of tricking borrowers into paying upfront fees for federal loan benefits. “We allege that both companies exploited vulnerable student loan borrowers, made false promises about their debt-relief services, and charged illegal upfront fees,” said CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Rohit Chopra. The bureau and the Florida AG shut down Tampa-based student loan debt-relief company College Education Services, and its owners, Marcia Elena Vargas and Frank Liz, for allegedly scamming students into paying upfront fees for student loan debt consolidation, loan forgiveness, and relief from garnishments, services that were never provided or not performed as promised, according to ...

December 22, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

CFPB, Two State AGs, Act Against Service Member Debt Collectors

The CFPB and the attorneys general of North Carolina and Virginia brought an enforcement action against three related firms last week, alleging they used illegal debt collection practices against U.S. military service members. Freedom Stores (also known as Freedom Furniture and Electronics) is a Virginia-based retailer that caters to U.S. military members with stores located near military bases nationwide. Freedom Stores offers credit to consumers purchasing its merchandise and transfers the contracts to an affiliated company, Freedom Acceptance Corp. Owners and top executives John Melley and Leonard Melley Jr. also own Military Credit Services, which provides financing for purchases made at over 300 independent consumer-goods retailers, primarily catering to service members. The CFPB and the states filed a proposed consent ...

December 22, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Bureau Sues Sprint for Allegedly ‘Cramming’ Third-Party Charges

The CFPB sued Sprint Corp. last week for allegedly billing wireless customers tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized third-party charges from 2004 to 2013. The issue here involves charges for what are known as “premium text messages” or “premium short messaging services” because they are frequently delivered by text messages. Examples of such products and services include ringtones, wallpaper images, and text messaging providing flirting tips, horoscopes, and other digital content. Some third-party goods were sold with one-time charges, costing about $0.99 to $4.99, according to the bureau’s complaint. Often, they were monthly subscriptions that cost about $9.99 a month. Most consumers were targeted online, according to the CFPB. Consumers clicked on ads that brought them to websites asking ...

December 19, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

MBA Boycotts FHA Panel Talk for Being too Biased

The Mortgage Bankers Association this week declined to participate in a panel discussion on FHA hosted by the American Enterprise Institute because the trade group did not believe the discussion would be balanced and though it would favor only a certain point of view. The topic was “FHA from 1934 to 1938: Lessons for Wealth Building,” with Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at AEI, and Dave Stevens, MBA president, as presenters. Stevens, however, decided to pull out of the event when he saw the format. In a letter to the AEI organizers, Stevens said he agreed to be a presenter thinking the debate “would be a balanced approach.” “When I first agreed to do this, I did not expect that the format would be 45 minutes of [Ed Pinto] and then no more than 12 minutes for me to respond,” he wrote. “That’s an extremely lopsided approach that did not appear to be ...

December 19, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Ocwen Reports FHA Buyouts from Ginnie II Pools

Ocwen Financial’s dry spell of acquiring nonperforming FHA loans out of Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities pools ended in early December with the nonbank servicing giant buying $253.1 million of delinquent product. Speculation, however, is mounting that Ocwen may not be long for the Ginnie Mae business, at least as a servicer. Ocwen’s disclosure of the “early” FHA buyouts came 11 days after it sold to an undisclosed buyer. In the first quarter, the company engaged in $646 million of early buyouts (EBO) and followed up with a $490 million EBO deal in the second quarter. However, EBO volume fell to zero in the third quarter. The December acquisition came in one fell swoop raising cautious, short-term expectations at Ocwen. “We expect to execute more such purchases in the next few months, as long as market conditions are favorable,” said Chief Investment Officer John Britti. As fast as it had ...

December 19, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

OIG Recovers $300M from SunTrust Settlement

The Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a $300 million recovery from an earlier settlement between SunTrust Mortgage and the Department of Justice, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the HUD Office of the Inspector General, and 50 state attorneys general. The settlement resolved allegations of violations of FHA requirements in a joint complaint filed on June 14, 2014, by federal and state enforcement agencies. The suit against SunTrust alleged misconduct related to the origination and servicing of single-family residential mortgages. The problem loans were uncovered during a routine OIG review of targeted FHA-insured loans. According to the suit, as an FHA direct endorsement lender, SunTrust certified poorly underwritten loans for FHA insurance from January 2006 through March 2012, despite its knowledge of ...

December 19, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

VA Announces New, Lower Loan Limits in 2015

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced new, lower loan limits for 2015 after Congress decided not to extend the agency’s current maximum lending limits beyond 2014. The current limits will expire on Dec. 31. Under new guidelines, the maximum guaranty amounts for VA loan limits in 2015 will match the lower conforming loan limits established by the Federal Housing Finance Agency for the government-sponsored enterprises next year. These limits range from $417,000 to $625,500, depending on where the borrower is located. VA’s loan limits are tied to the county-based limits established for conforming loans backed by Freddie Mac. Freddie’s loan limits are calculated based on median house prices in counties across the nation. In recent years, VA’s high-cost loan limits have exceeded Freddie’s due to statutory authority granted under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The VA authority was ...

December 19, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Congress Shoots Down HAWK, Rejects FHA Fee

Congress denied funding for an enhanced FHA housing counseling initiative for first-time homebuyers and rejected a request for authority to collect a new FHA fee to enhance quality-assurance reviews. President Obama this week signed the FY 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, a comprehensive package of 11 funding bills for federal agencies. The bill does not include the provisions the FHA had sought to toughen enforcement and help lower costs for first-home purchases. The House passed the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, H.R. 83, by a vote of 219-to-206 on Dec. 11, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown. The Senate approved the bill on Dec. 13. The bill allocates $47 million to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s housing counseling program and $50 million for foreclosure mitigation counseling. It also provides $400 billion in ...

December 19, 2014 - Inside MBS & ABS

Bankruptcy Court Refuses to Raise Lehman’s Legacy Reserves, Hearing on JPM’s $4.5B Settlement Begins

A federal bankruptcy judge last week ruled against increasing Lehman Brothers’ reserves for residential MBS claims. The ruling by Judge Shelley Chapman of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York was a setback for investors and trustees who asked the court in August to increase Lehman’s current reserves of $5 billion to $12.1 billion in a bid to force the defunct investment bank to repurchase legacy MBS., according to a Barclay’s Research report. The lawsuit against Lehman alleges...


The FHA is cutting its annual premium by 50 basis points. How much of a difference will this cut make in your FHA business?

Not much at all—maybe 10 percent at best.
Modestly. We expect a 10 percent to 25 percent gain in applications.
This is a real game changer, 25 percent or better.
Hard to say. This cut may just steal business away from the new Fannie/Freddie 97 LTV effort.

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