Legal Issues

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

July 25, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

GSE Shareholders Score Limited Win as Judge Grants Discovery

A federal judge last week granted limited discovery to a hedge fund representing a group of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shareholders as they challenge the government’s “net worth sweep” of their profits. However, the court will keep a tight lid on public access to the documents in a nod to the government’s claim that a leak could have dire economic consequences on the mortgage market. Fairholme Capital Management has been pushing hard for discovery and access to internal government documents since the shareholder filed suit last summer demanding that the Treasury Department void its August 2012 Third Amendment to its preferred stock purchase agreement with Fannie and Freddie.


July 25, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

Fair Housing Group Accuses Fannie REO Contractor of Discrimination

A Fannie Mae real estate-owned contractor engaged in a “clear pattern” of neglecting Fannie-owned vacant foreclosed homes in black and latino neighborhoods compared to white neighborhoods in four different cities, according to a discrimination complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development this week. The National Fair Housing Alliance and two partners allege that Brandon, FL-based Cyprexx Services violated the federal Fair Housing Act by neglecting minority-owned Fannie REOs.


July 24, 2014 - Inside Mortgage Finance

Consumer Narratives Would be Added to Complaint Database Under CFPB Proposal as Industry Frets

Mortgage lenders and other financial services providers are up in arms about a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposal to allow consumers to post narrative complaints about companies in the agency’s online complaint database. The bureau wants to expand the current database to include “unstructured consumer complaint narrative data.” A consumer who submits a complaint will be given the opportunity to check a consent box giving the bureau permission to publish his or her narrative. Where the consumer provides consent to publish the narrative, the related company will be given...


July 21, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Industry Reps Suggest Alternative To Bureau for Privacy Notices

The CFPB’s proposal to simplify the annual privacy notice requirement under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act would fail to accomplish its goal, a handful of industry trade groups said. They suggested an alternative approach that would eliminate the annual mailed notice requirement for institutions that have not changed their privacy practices and do not share information under the GLBA in a way that gives customers a right to opt out. This approach is compatible with some pending legislation in Congress, S. 635 and H.R. 749. “The key distinction between the legislative solutions pending in Congress and the CFPB approach is that the congressional solutions would only require that information sharing be limited to the current statutory exceptions, that the information disclosed in ...


July 21, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Bureau Fines Big Payday Lender $10 Million for ‘Abusive’ Practices

The CFPB recently ordered ACE Cash Express of Irving, TX, one of the largest payday lenders in the United States, to pay a $10 million fine for allegedly using illegal debt-collection tactics – including harassment and false threats of lawsuits or criminal prosecution – to pressure consumers into debt traps they couldn’t afford and couldn’t get out of. The bureau said it found that ACE used these illegal debt-collection tactics to create a false sense of urgency to lure overdue borrowers into payday debt traps. “ACE would encourage overdue borrowers to temporarily pay off their loans and then quickly re- borrow from ACE,” the CFPB said. Even after consumers explained to ACE that they could not afford to repay the loan, the ...


July 21, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Bureau Files Lawsuit Against Debt-Collection Firm, Principals

The CFPB filed a lawsuit in a federal district court last week against Frederick J. Hanna & Associates, based in Marietta, GA, and its three principal partners – Frederick J. Hanna, Joseph Cooling, and Robert Winter – accusing them of operating a debt-collection lawsuit mill that used illegal tactics to intimidate consumers into paying debts they may not owe. “The CFPB alleges that the firm operates like a factory, producing hundreds of thousands of debt- collection lawsuits against consumers on behalf of its clients, which mainly include banks, debt buyers and major credit card issuers,” the bureau said. Between 2009 and 2013, the firm filed more than 350,000 debt-collection lawsuits in Georgia alone, according to the CFPB. The bureau further alleged the ...


July 18, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

House Democrats’ Bill Features Amped-Up GNMA

Ginnie Mae would play a greater role in a private-market partnership model envisioned in proposed housing finance reform legislation introduced recently by House Democrats. However, many in the industry doubt whether a Democrat-sponsored reform bill will pass in this Congress. Sponsored by Reps. John Delaney (MD), John Carney (DE) and Jim Himes (CT), the Partnership to Strengthen Homeownership Act would put Ginnie Mae in charge of all single- and multifamily mortgage-backed securities with government backing. Among other things, H.R. 5055 would create a new Ginnie Mae MBS for conventional mortgages backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government with minimum support from the private sector. Under the proposed model, private entities would assume up to 5 percent of the first-loss capital on the MBS. The remaining 95 percent would be shared between ...


July 18, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Ginnie Mae Servicing Remains Flat in 2Q14

Ginnie Mae servicing remained flat in the second quarter of 2014, continuing a trend that began in the third quarter of last year as FHA refinancing fell and purchase activity slowed, according to Inside FHA Lending’s analysis of Ginnie Mae data. Servicing volume rose by only 0.7 percent from the first quarter, slightly lower from the 0.9 percent increase reported by Ginnie Mae servicers for the first three months of 2014. On the other hand, volume was up modestly by 5.9 percent year-over-year, data showed. Ginnie Mae servicers ended the second quarter with a total of $1.46 trillion in unpaid principal balance, up from $1.45 trillion in the prior quarter. Four out of the top five Ginnie Mae servicers were banks. Wells Fargo closed out the second quarter with $425.9 billion in servicing volume, a 0.2 percent decrease from the previous quarter but up 2.1 percent from a year ago. Its 29.2 percent market share put it ... [1 chart]


July 18, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

VA Clarifies Impact of Same-Sex Marriage Policy

Same-sex couples are entitled to veteran benefits, including home loan guaranty, if their marriage is recognized by the state where they live or where they lived when they filed a claim for benefits – and not where the marriage took place.The VA made the clarification in the wake of guidance the agency issued regarding the benefits and services same-sex married couples are entitled to under current laws and regulation. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court, in United States v. Windsor, struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which governs the definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” for all federal agencies, because it was unconstitutional. The court held that the provision deprives a person of the right to equal liberty, which is protected by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. Prior to the SCOTUS opinion, DOMA defined “marriage” as a ...


July 18, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Infractions that Could Trigger MRB Enforcement

One deficiency commonly noted in cases heard by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Mortgagee Review Board is failure by FHA lenders and servicers to implement and maintain a quality control (QC) plan. FHA’s focus on quality control has increased over the last couple of years as the agency strives to correct underwriting flaws that have contributed to the massive losses and severe depletion of the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund. After years of guiding and helping clients comply and cope with FHA regulations, requirements and enforcement actions, the Collingwood Group reports that a common QC-related mistake among FHA lenders is failure to document steps taken to correct deficiencies – or to take any corrective action at all. Tied to this issue is ...


July 18, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Borrower OK Required to Voluntarily End Federal MI

New FHA guidance regarding voluntary termination of FHA mortgage insurance does not affect separate guidance requiring borrowers to continue payment of their annual insurance premium regardless of the loan’s amortization terms. The FHA made the clarification in relation to Mortgagee Letter 2014-13, which requires written consents by the lender and the borrower in all voluntary terminations of FHA mortgage insurance. The requirement becomes effective on Oct. 1st this year. Specifically, the guidance requires FHA lenders to document that they have obtained the borrower’s informed consent to terminate FHA insurance on the mortgage. The change ensures that the lender would incur no liability and that the borrower understands the terms of the voluntary termination. Under current rules, the FHA may terminate mortgage insurance at the request of the borrower and the lender. The lender may cancel the insurance endorsement upon notification by the FHA commissioner that the insurance contract is terminated.


July 18, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

FHA to Lenders: Try PFS First Before DIL Option

If an FHA borrower runs out of options for loss mitigation and home retention, a lender must first consider a pre-foreclosure or short sale, with deed-in-lieu (DIL) of foreclosure as a second option, according to new FHA guidance. Mortgagee Letter 2014-5 states that the lender must first determine whether the borrower facing default or at risk of default qualifies for a pre-foreclosure sale (PFS). The FHA allows pre-foreclosure sales to be processed as either a “standard PFS” or a “streamline PFS.” The former is available only to owner-occupants while the latter is for both owner- and non-owner-occupied single-family properties. In determining standard PFS eligibility, the lender must use a “deficit income test” to determine whether the borrower is experiencing hardship and is able to sustain his or her mortgage. A DIT resulting in a negative amount would likely qualify the borrower for a ...


July 18, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

JPMorgan Chief Seeks FHA Safe Harbor for Bank

JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jaime Dimon this week warned that the investment bank may rethink its FHA business without some type of safe harbor to shield it from potential future liabilities arising from the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act and the False Claims Act. In February this year, JPMorgan agreed to pay $614 million to the federal government to settle allegations that it falsely certified poorly underwritten loans for FHA endorsement, causing massive losses to taxpayers in paid claims. Dimon lashed out at the government during a telephone briefing on the company’s second-quarter 2014 earnings report. He said JPMorgan lost a tremendous amount of money over what the government claimed was fraud but was in fact a “commercial dispute” between FHA and the bank. “We collected $600 million in insurance, the [government] disputed $200 million [alleging] it was fraud ...


July 18, 2014 - Inside MBS & ABS

Citigroup’s Settlement a Gain for Government, But Observers Say It’s a Setback to Recovery

The Department of Justice this week announced a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup to resolve federal and state civil claims related to legacy residential MBS. Industry attorneys are warning that such gargantuan settlements might cause lenders to pull back further, making credit far less available to borrowers and causing economic recovery to falter further. The settlement includes...


July 18, 2014 - Inside MBS & ABS

FINRA Eases TBA Margin Requirement Proposal For Smaller Participants, Forgoes Other Suggestions

After hearing from some market participants about certain unintended consequences, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority decided to revise its earlier proposal to establish margin requirements for to-be-announced transactions to accommodate smaller players in the market. Last week, its board authorized FINRA to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission the revised amendments to FINRA Rule 4210 (Margin Requirements) to establish margin requirements for TBA transactions (including adjustable-rate mortgage transactions), specified pool transactions, and transactions in collateralized mortgage obligations, with forward settlement dates. The proposal is...


July 17, 2014 - Inside Mortgage Finance

Miami Loses Discrimination Fight with Banks, But Some States Find Ways to Force Banks to Pay Foreclosure Costs

While legal attempts by city governments to force large banks to pay for the high cost of foreclosure have failed, efforts to resolve the problem in state legislatures appear to be making headway. The City of Miami suffered consecutive defeats in three of the four lawsuits it filed against major banks after a federal district court judge dismissed all three because of the city’s lack of standing to bring suit under the federal Fair Housing Act. U.S. District Court Judge William Dimitrouleas dismissed...


July 11, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

FHFA: ‘No Change’ in Opposition To Eminent Domain to Seize Loans

The Federal Housing Finance Agency remains committed under new management to deploy regulatory countermeasures against municipalities that move forward with proposed efforts to seize underwater mortgages via local eminent domain powers, agency officials say. After a quiet period when it appeared this issue was going away, eminent domain initiatives are cropping up again, including a recent push by a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to get the city to partner with Richmond, CA.


July 11, 2014 - Inside MBS & ABS

‘Flood of Litigation’ Expected Against Non-Agency MBS Trustees for Failing to Pursue Buyback Claims

The six lawsuits filed in June by institutional investors against non-agency MBS trustees are just the beginning of actions against trustees, according to an attorney who has pursued representation-and-warranty claims against non-agency MBS issuers. “We are likely to see a flood of litigation against trustees alleging that the banks sat on their hands and blew the statute of limitations on valuable putback claims,” according to Isaac Gradman, an attorney at Perry Johnson Anderson Miller & Moskowitz. The June lawsuits by BlackRock, PIMCO and other institutional investors targeted...


July 10, 2014 - Inside Mortgage Finance

U.S. Judge Finds MERS Liable in Mortgage Recording Suit, Registry Faces Possibility of Costly Award, New Lawsuits

An industry that is used to reading about MERS’ court victories was stunned last week after a federal court judge in Pennsylvania found Merscorp Inc. and its electronic mortgage registry system in violation of state recording laws for real estate properties. While the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge J. Curtis Joyner may be appealed, MERS could be held liable for its role as an “agent” for member-lenders involved in property transfers and for alleged unjust enrichment, according to legal experts. The case was brought...


July 10, 2014 - Inside Mortgage Finance

SunTrust Mortgage to Pay $320M To Settle HAMP Fraud Allegations

SunTrust Mortgage will pay $320 million to resolve a criminal investigation and allegations that the bank misled homeowners interested in the Home Affordable Modification Program, the Department of Justice announced late last week. In the first settled case of its kind, SunTrust allegedly misrepresented how long it would take to determine if a borrower was qualified for HAMP and how long the trial period would last. “Specifically, SunTrust made...


July 7, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Compliance Management Systems Prime Focus of CFPB Supervision

Compliance management systems are a “fundamental focus of supervision” for the CFPB, regardless of whether a given entity is a bank or nonbank, a top official told members of the industry recently. During a recent webinar sponsored by Inside Mortgage Finance, an affiliated newsletter, Ann Thompson, a senior analyst in the CFPB’s Office of Supervision Policy, discussed the critical relevance of a sound and solid CMS. “We think that a fully developed compliance management system is important because it should lessen risks to consumer and reduce the potential for violations of federal consumer financial laws,” Thompson said. “Even though the CFPB does not require a particular CMS structure, our supervisory experience has found that an effective CMS commonly has four ...


July 7, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Credit Unions Support Broader Exemptions from CFPB Rules

Credit union industry representatives want the CFPB to expand some exemptions in some of its recent rulemakings so their CU members could reach larger portions of their targeted markets. One of the recent amendments the bureau proposed to its mortgage rules issued in 2013 would provide an alternative definition of “small provider” applicable to Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit entities that service loans for a fee and on behalf of other nonprofit entities within the same overall organization. This is the so-called “small servicer exemption.” Also for 501(c)(3) nonprofit entities, the proposed rule would exempt certain interest-free, contingent subordinate liens from the credit extension limit under the ability-to-repay rule. This is what’s known as the “small creditor exemption.” As ...


July 7, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

CSBS Worried Lenders Could Exploit Proposed ‘Right to Cure’

The Conference of State Bank Supervisors told the CFPB it is concerned that certain bad actors within the mortgage lending industry could take advantage of the bureau’s proposed “right to cure” an otherwise qualified mortgage loan that inadvertently falls outside the ability-to-repay rule’s 3 percent cap on points and fees. The CSBS concern revolves largely around bona fide discount points. “State banking regulators support measures that would increase access to credit for consumers who are at the margins of the points-and-fees limits,” the CSBS said in public comment letter to the bureau. “However, there is concern that the proposed ‘cure’ mechanism for inadvertent points and fee miscalculations could disguise or promote the misuse of discount points by unscrupulous lenders seeking ...


July 7, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Cordray’s Recess Appointment Likely Invalid, Issue Now Moot

President Barack Obama’s original recess appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the CFPB was likely unconstitutional, according to the rationale the U.S. Supreme Court used late last month to unanimously declare the president’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board out of bounds. Late last month, in NLRB v. Noel Canning, the SCOTUS ruled that the president’s Jan. 4, 2012, recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were invalid. Alan Kaplinsky, a practice leader with the Ballard Spahr law firm, explained the legal question in dispute this way: “The NLRB recess appointments were made on January 4, the day after a new session of Congress had begun with a pro forma January 3 session and two days before ...


July 3, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Around the Industry

Senate Banking Committee Approves HUD, FHFA IG Nominees. The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs recently approved the nomination of Julian Castro as the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Castro, D, is the incumbent mayor of San Antonio, TX. The panel also approved the nomination of Laura Wertheimer as inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The Senate has yet to confirm their nominations. Meanwhile, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget was approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Reform on June 25. FHA Policies on Arm’s Length Transactions and Compliance with State Laws. The FHA is developing guidance to address concerns that laws in certain states may conflict with its arm’s length transaction requirements for preforeclosure/short sales. Until the guidance is issued, FHA lenders should seek guidance and assistance from the FHA National Servicing Center in matters of ...


July 3, 2014 - Inside MBS & ABS

Eminent Domain Comes Up for Air Again on East, West Coasts as Industry Groups Go Back on Defense

The issue of eminent domain is rearing its head again, compelling mortgage and securitization industry groups to once more mobilize their resources to deep-six the latest initiatives. The most recent manifestation of a resurgent interest in eminent domain is in California, where John Avalos, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, has sponsored a resolution seeking to enter the city into a joint powers authority agreement with Richmond, CA, a vehicle by which both cities could seize underwater but performing mortgages using eminent domain. Avalos’ resolution targets...


July 3, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

FHA Requests Feedback on Handbook Sections

The FHA is seeking comment on two new sections of a proposed single-family handbook for mortgage lenders. The handbook is in development. Once completed, it will serve as the centralized source of current and future FHA policies. Agency staff is collating policies from several handbooks, rules, mortgagee letters, notices and other sources to incorporate into the handbook. The FHA is publishing two new sections, “Doing Business with FHA – FHA Lenders and Mortgagees” and “Quality Control, Oversight and Compliance,” for comment. The “Doing Business” section lays out the requirements for FHA lender approval, including eligibility requirements, application processes, operating requirements and post-approval changes. The section also contains the recertification process as well as processes for applying for ...


July 3, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Protection Extended for Surviving HECM Spouses

The FHA has extended indefinitely the timeframe during which servicers may begin to foreclose on properties with reverse mortgages while it considers possible steps to protect non-borrowing spouses of deceased reverse-mortgage borrowers from outright eviction from their homes. The latest action stemmed from a June 10 court order, which found that current statutory protection for reverse mortgage borrowers against forced eviction and foreclosure extended to their spouses even if the latter is not a co-signer on the note. Non-borrowing spouses of deceased Home Equity Conversion Mortgage borrowers sued in federal district court in Washington, DC, last year to stop foreclosure on their homes and to challenge the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s interpretation of the regulation. Since launching the HECM program, HUD has required that a HECM be ...


July 3, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Lenders Find Glitches in Fledgling LEAP 3.0

It has been barely a month since the FHA deployed its Lender Electronic Assessment Portal (LEAP 3.0), but lenders are already having difficulty executing some functions in the new system. Lenders are complaining about how hard it is to provide access to independent public accountants (IPA) for purposes of recertification functions, as well as difficulties in making changes to existing branches or adding new ones or changing cash flow accounts. Lenders are concerned they may be sanctioned or penalized if they make a mistake, but the FHA seems not inclined to do this because the system is new. “[We] are highly focused on correcting these issues, and hope to have these functions working properly very soon,” the agency promised in a recent note to FHA lenders. The FHA said it is also aware of the complications that some lenders have faced in submitting their annual recertification in LEAP. Many of these problems have been addressed and the deadline for submission of recertification packages has been extended as well, the agency noted.


July 3, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Agencies Take Down Another FHA Lender

U.S. Bank became the latest casualty in the government’s offensive against lax underwriting and improper origination of FHA mortgages after the bank to pay $200 million to settle all related charges. The Minneapolis-based bank became the seventh FHA lender since 2012 that has entered into settlement agreements with the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to resolve alleged violation of the False Claims Act and the Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act, according to Inside FHA Lending’s analysis of government data. The government lawsuits allege that the banks’ certification of loans as eligible for FHA insurance under the direct endorsement program violated the FCA. The banks’ misconduct allegedly contributed to the legacy losses that crippled the FHA Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund and placed the ...


June 27, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

Enterprise Endnotes

DC Circuit Latest Court to Reject GSE Tax Collection Effort by Municipalities. A three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court recently upheld a lower court ruling against Kay County in Oklahoma, which has been trying to collect real estate transfer taxes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In rejecting Kay County’s bid to get the GSEs to pay a 1 percent “documentary stamp tax,” the DC court’s finding became the latest in a growing number of…


June 27, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

RBS Agrees to Pay FHFA $99.5M To Settle Non-Agency MBS Lawsuit

The Federal Housing Finance Agency late last week announced it reached a nearly $100 million settlement with RBS Securities to settle allegations tied to non-agency MBS bought by Freddie Mac from 2005 to 2007, but the deal represents just a fraction of the firm’s remaining exposure. The $99.5 million settlement only resolves claims against RBS in FHFA v. Ally Financial Inc. in the Southern District of New York. Ally Financial is the successor company to GMAC-RFC, a now defunct non-agency MBS issuer.


June 27, 2014 - Inside MBS & ABS

RBS to Pay FHFA $99.5 Million to Settle Non-Agency MBS Lawsuit; MBIA Demands Documents from Credit Suisse

The Federal Housing Finance Agency late last week announced it reached a nearly $100 million settlement with RBS Securities to settle allegations tied to non-agency MBS bought by Freddie Mac from 2005 to 2007, but the deal represents just a fraction of the firm’s remaining exposure. The $99.5 million settlement only resolves claims against RBS in FHFA v. Ally Financial Inc. in the Southern District of New York. Ally Financial is the successor company to GMAC-RFC, a now defunct non-agency MBS issuer. Last week’s deal is...


June 27, 2014 - Inside MBS & ABS

Secondary Mortgage Market Reps Urge CFPB To Make QM ‘Right to Cure’ Easier for Assignees

Secondary mortgage market participants generally support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed “right to cure” a mortgage that inadvertently breaches the qualified mortgage 3 percent points-and-fees cap – but they want to see it made more assignee-friendly. Earlier this year, the CFPB proposed allowing a limited cure for a points-and-fee violation if the creditor in good faith intended to originate the loan as a QM under the bureau’s ability-to-repay rule and the loan otherwise meets the requirements of a QM. A refund of the overage would have to be paid to the consumer and the party seeking to cure the violation (either creditor or assignee) would have to follow certain policies and procedures for post-consummation review of loans. In its comment letter to the CFPB, Fannie Mae suggested...


June 26, 2014 - Inside Mortgage Finance

IG Audit: Fannie, Freddie Overcharged at Least $158M For ‘Force Placed’ Insurance, FHFA Should Sue to Recover

The Federal Housing Finance Agency will “assess the merits of litigation” against Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s servicers and lender-placed insurance providers to recover premium overpayments by the government-sponsored enterprises following a pointed suggestion to do so by the agency’s official watchdog. A new audit released by the FHFA’s Inspector General found that Fannie and Freddie could have overpaid about $158 million in 2012 alone for lender-placed or “force-placed” insurance policies. The IG said it calculated its $158 million figure as the difference between the amount the GSEs actually paid in premiums – $360 million – and a “reasonable” price for such coverage – $202 million. “Our retrospective analysis suggests...


June 23, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Industry Reps Ask for More Time to Comment on CFPB Privacy Proposal

Multiple lender industry representatives have asked the CFPB to extend the 30-day comment period to weigh in on the bureau’s proposal to ease financial institutions’ annual privacy-notice requirement under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act by creating an alternative delivery method which financial institutions would be able to use under certain circumstances. “The proposal describes an alternative method for delivering privacy notices with numerous conditions and qualifications that have not been previously articulated,” the industry groups said. For example, in order to take advantage of the alternative delivery method, financial institutions must not only limit their information sharing to one of the established exceptions but must also provide an alternative annual notice, maintain a dedicated webpage, offer customers a toll-free number and institute ...


June 23, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

As New Compliance Risks Emerge, Eyeball the Canary in the Coal Mine

As the lending compliance landscape continues to evolve under the influence of multiple CFPB rulemakings, it’s critical compliance professionals keep their eyes on emerging risks as soon as they develop, compliance professionals said during the American Bankers Association’s recent 2014 regulatory compliance conference held earlier this month in The Big Easy. “Inevitably, I always have someone ask me what things keep me up at night. For me, I could pull out a list of all the issues I’ve identified and am working on,” said Carol Yee, chief compliance officer for People’s United Bank in Bridgeport, CT. “But what really keeps me at night are the things I have not detected. These are the emerging risks that are developing and that ...


June 23, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

Oops! We Messed Up! What to Do When You Find Something Yourself

If compliance professionals are fortunate enough to discover a compliance issue before the CFPB does, they’ll likely be best served by self-reporting to the CFPB – after they get to the root cause of the problem and begin remediation efforts. That was perhaps the single most important take-away from one of the breakout sessions at the American Bankers Association’s 2014 regulatory compliance conference, held in New Orleans earlier this month. According to Christopher Spellman, corporate compliance director for Heartland Financial USA, the first step in the process is, what is the issue and how was it discovered? “The answer to that question can impact the remediation process,” Spellman said. “Obviously, it’s best if you discover it yourself internally,” said John Podvin ...


June 23, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

CFPB Slams NJ Title Company Over Alleged RESPA Kickbacks

The CFPB recently ordered a New Jersey company, Stonebridge Title Services Inc., to pay a $30,000 civil penalty to the bureau for allegedly paying illegal kickbacks for referrals. According to the CFPB, Stonebridge paid commissions to more than 20 independent sales representatives who referred title insurance business to Stonebridge. Stonebridge solicited people to provide it with referrals of title insurance business, offering to pay commissions of up to 40 percent of the title insurance premiums Stonebridge itself received, the bureau alleged. “These practices violated Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which prohibits kickbacks and payment of unearned fees in the context of residential real estate transactions,” the CFPB said. Paying commissions for referrals is allowed under RESPA ...


June 23, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

CFPB, Other Feds, State AGs Slap SunTrust With $968 Million Action

SunTrust Mortgage, based in Richmond, VA, agreed to pay a total of $968 million to settle allegations of origination and servicing wrongdoing under a consent order brought by the CFPB. The Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and state attorneys general from 49 states and the District of Columbia joined in the settlement, which stemmed from the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement. The company will provide $500 million in loss-mitigation relief to underwater borrowers. The order also will require SunTrust to pay $40 million to approximately 48,000 consumers who lost their homes to foreclosure, and $10 million to cover losses it caused to the FHA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Rural Housing Service. The order...


June 23, 2014 - Inside the CFPB

CFPB Hits GE Capital Retail Bank With Record Credit Card Fine

Last week, the CFPB ordered GE Capital Retail Bank – a financial institution in New Jersey now known as Synchrony Bank – to provide approximately $225 million in relief to consumers harmed by alleged illegal and discriminatory credit card practices. Under the terms of a consent order brought by the bureau, GE Capital is required to refund $56 million to approximately 638,000 consumers who were subjected to allegedly deceptive marketing practices. As part of the joint enforcement action by the CFPB and Department of Justice, GE Capital must also provide an additional $169 million to about 108,000 borrowers excluded from debt relief offers because of their national origin. The consent order represents the federal government’s largest credit card discrimination settlement in history...


June 20, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Public Support Building for HUD’s HAWK Pilot

The FHA’s Homeowners Armed With Knowledge (HAWK) pilot program is getting strong public support, particularly from first-time homebuyers and housing counselors.Based on comments received by the Department of Housing and Urban Development so far, the HAWK pilot is already taking hold in the public’s mind despite its limited publicity. -Rachel Andreyo, a new college graduate who was turned down recently for a mortgage loan pre-approval, said HAWK not only would educate potential first-time homebuyers about homeownership but also raise their hope of becoming a homeowner before the age of 30. “The knowledge this program would provide could be a game changer for young people and struggling Americans everywhere,” she wrote. Shawanda Walker, a single mother, sees HAWK as an opportunity for her to learn how to negotiate her first home purchase, learn about property taxes and ...


June 20, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Castro Sails Smoothly Through Nomination Hearing

Barring any unpleasant news, Julian Castro, President Obama’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, apparently has passed his job interview with the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. This week, Castro, a three-term mayor of San Antonio, TX, laid out his priorities as HUD secretary before committee members if he is confirmed for the job. Castro underscored the importance of “partnership and pragmatism” as the key drivers in running a city. As HUD secretary, Castro said he would enhance “cross-agency collaboration” and emphasize the value of “measuring results” by setting precise goals, consulting with the public on major issues, developing a public report card and annual updates – tools he employed in his municipal housing education and affordable housing initiatives in San Antonio. As mayor, Castro worked to ...


June 20, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Agencies Crack Down on False Ads, Marketing

Two federal agencies have announced separate actions to protect reverse mortgage borrowers and rural home purchasers from deceptive advertising and marketing. This week, the FHA warned lenders participating in the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program not to use misleading or deceptive language in marketing FHA-insured reverse mortgages to consumers. The FHA said the guidance is intended to protect HECM borrowers from advertising and presentations that appear to limit their options rather than informing them of the full range of available HECM products. Underscoring senior borrowers’ “freedom of choice,” FHA Commissioner Carol Galante said the agency wants lenders to know their marketing and advertising practices are under constant surveillance to prevent customers from being steered to unsuitable reverse mortgage products. Galante noted the ...


June 20, 2014 - Inside FHA Lending

Lenders Feel ‘Unsafe’ Dealing with FHA

SunTrust Mortgage’s recent settlement of a dispute with the federal government and 49 state attorneys general over defective FHA loans and Wells Fargo’s losing bid to quash a similar lawsuit are raising concerns about doing business with the FHA. Industry attorneys say the lesson for lenders in these recent industry debacles is that it is “extraordinarily dangerous” to do FHA loans these days given the outcome of the two cases. It is also getting harder to trust mortgage settlement agreements with the government, they added. “The scariest part in all these is the combination of government forces involved in these claims – state AGs, Department of Justice, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” said an attorney, who worked on both cases. “When they want to get you, they can get you.” Others believe these developments could have a ...


June 19, 2014 - Inside Mortgage Finance

Are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Being Engineered to Be Barely Profitable?

In a few weeks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will release second quarter results, likely posting positive earnings, but the revenue figures will not include any major boost from legal settlements or the recapture of previously set-aside loan loss reserves. In short, what the two government-sponsored enterprises report in earnings for the second quarter should reflect what their operating profits might look like going forward, given normal market conditions. However, over the past six months, the CEOs of Fannie and Freddie and top officials at the Treasury Department – the owner of its senior preferred shares – have consistently argued...


June 13, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

Lawyers for GSE Shareholders Move To Vacate ‘Illegal” Profit Sweep

Attorneys for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac junior shareholders have doubled down in their assertions that the government had no authority to initiate a “net-worth sweep” of nearly all GSE profits. They say a federal court should not only decline Uncle Sam’s recent motion to dismiss but also “vacate the illegal sweep amendment.” In a joint rebuttal motion filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, attorneys for Perry Capital and Fairholme Funds note that in attempt to evade judicial scrutiny, the Treasury Department and the Federal Housing Finance Agency raise “a host of frivolous and irrelevant challenges” to the plaintiffs’ legal standing while ignoring investors” core assertion that the 2012 sweep was illegal.


June 13, 2014 - Inside The GSEs

Massachusetts Sues FHFA, GSEs Over State Foreclosure Law

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley last week filed suit against Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, alleging that the GSEs are violating state law by failing to let non-profits buy foreclosed homes to sell them back to their former homeowners. In 2012, Massachusetts lawmakers passed An Act to Prevent Unnecessary and Unreasonable Foreclosures, which prohibits creditors from blocking or placing conditions on home sales to non-profits that intend to resell those properties back to their former owners. The AG’s complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, says the GSEs failed to comply with the Bay State law by “blocking foreclosure buyback programs” designed to help residents keep their homes.


Poll

Home-equity lending is beginning to show new life. My company (pick one):

Plans to enter this market over the next 12 months.
Is already making home equity loans and hopes to increase the offerings.
Is in the market but don’t expect much growth.
Is not making second liens and has no plans to do so.

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