This afternoon, the CFPB issued policy guidance on supervision and enforcement considerations relevant to mortgage brokers transitioning to mini-correspondent lenders. The CFPB states that it “has become aware of increased mortgage industry interest in the transition of mortgage brokers from their traditional roles to mini-correspondent lender roles,” and is “concerned that some mortgage brokers may be shifting to the mini-correspondent model in the belief that, by identifying themselves as mini-correspondent lenders, they automatically alter the application of important consumer protections that apply to transactions involving mortgage brokers.”
The guidance describes how the CFPB evaluates mortgage transactions involving mini-correspondent lenders and confirms who must comply with the broker compensation rules, regardless of how they may describe their business structure. In announcing the guidance, CFPB Director Richard Cordray stated that the CFPB is “putting companies on notice that they cannot avoid those rules by calling themselves by a different name.”
The CFPB is not offering an opportunity for the public to comment on the guidance. The CFPB determined that because the guidance is a non-binding policy document articulating considerations relevant to the CFPB’s exercise of existing supervisory and enforcement authority, it is exempt from the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
The CFPB explains that generally, a correspondent lender performs the activities necessary to originate a mortgage loan—it takes and processes applications, provides required disclosures, sometimes underwrites loans and makes the final credit approval decision, closes loans in its name, funds them (often through a warehouse line of credit), and sells them to an investor. The CFPB’s focus here is on mortgage brokers who are attempting to move to the role of a correspondent lender by obtaining a warehouse line of credit and establishing relationships with a few investors. The CFPB believes that some of these transitioning brokers may appear to be the lender or creditor in each transaction, but in actuality have not transitioned to the mini-correspondent lender role and are continuing to serve effectively as mortgage brokers, i.e. they continue to facilitate brokered loan transactions between borrowers and wholesale lenders.
RESPA (Regulation X) and TILA (Regulation Z) include certain rules related to broker compensation, including RESPA’s requirement that lender’s compensation to the mortgage broker be disclosed on the Good-Faith Estimate and HUD-1 Settlement Statement, and TILA’s requirements that broker compensation be included in “points and fees” calculations, and its restrictions on broker compensation and prohibition on steering to increase compensation. Those requirements do not apply to exempt bona fide secondary-market transactions, but do apply to table-funded transactions, the difference between which depends on the “real source of funding” and the “real interest of the funding lender.”
The CFPB states that the requirements and restrictions that RESPA and TILA and their implementing regulations impose on compensation paid to mortgage brokers do not depend on the labels that parties use in their transactions. Rather, under Regulation X, whether compensation paid by the “investor” to the “lender” must be disclosed depends on determinations such as whether that compensation is part of a secondary market transaction, as opposed to a “table-funded” transaction. And under Regulation Z, whether compensation paid by the “investor” to the “creditor” must be included in the points-and-fees calculation and whether the “creditor” is subject to the compensation restrictions as a mortgage broker depends on determinations such as whether the “creditor” finances the transaction out of its own resources as opposed to relying on table-funding by the “investor.”
CFPB’s Factors For Assessing Mini-Correspondent Lenders
The guidance advises lenders that in exercising its supervisory and enforcement authority under RESPA and TILA in transactions involving mini-correspondents, the CFPB considers the following questions, among others, to assess the true nature of the mortgage transaction:
- Beyond the mortgage transaction at issue, does the mini-correspondent still act as a mortgage broker in some transactions, and, if so, what distinguishes the mini-correspondent’s “mortgage broker” transactions from its “lender” transactions?
- How many “investors” does the mini-correspondent have available to it to purchase loans?
- Is the mini-correspondent using a bona fide warehouse line of credit as the source to fund the loans that it originates?
- Is the warehouse line of credit provided by a third-party warehouse bank?
- How thorough was the process for the mini-correspondent to get approved for the warehouse line of credit?
- Does the mini-correspondent have more than one warehouse line of credit?
- Is the warehouse bank providing the line of credit one of, or affiliated with any of, the mini-correspondent’s investors that purchase loans from the mini-correspondent?
- If the warehouse line of credit is provided by an investor to whom the mini-correspondent will “sell” loans to, is the warehouse line a “captive” line (i.e., the mini-correspondent is required to sell the loans to the investor providing the warehouse line or to affiliates of the investor)?
- What percentage of the mini-correspondent’s total monthly originated volume is sold by the mini-correspondent to the entity providing the warehouse line of credit to the mini-correspondent, or to an investor related to the entity providing the warehouse line of credit?
- Does the mini-correspondent’s total warehouse line of credit capacity bear a reasonable relationship, consistent with correspondent lenders generally, to its size (i.e., its assets or net worth)?
- What changes has the mini-correspondent made to staff, procedures, and infrastructure to support the transition from mortgage broker to mini-correspondent?
- What training or guidance has the mini-correspondent received to understand the additional compliance risk associated with being the lender or creditor on a residential mortgage transaction?
- Which entity (mini-correspondent, warehouse lender, or investor) is performing the majority of the principal mortgage origination activities?
- Which entity underwrites the mortgage loan before consummation and otherwise makes the final credit decision on the loan?
- What percentage of the principal mortgage origination activities, such as the taking of loan applications, loan processing, and pre-consummation underwriting, is being performed by the mini-correspondent, or an independent agent of the mini-correspondent?
- If the majority of the principal mortgage origination activities are being performed by the investor, is there a plan in place to transition these activities to the mini-correspondent, and, if so, what conditions must be met to make this transition (e.g. number of loans, time)?
The CFPB cautions that (i) the inquiries described in the guidance are not exhaustive, and that the CFPB may consider other factors relevant to the exercise of its supervisory and enforcement authorities; (ii) no single question listed in the guidance is necessarily determinative; and (iii) the facts and circumstances of the particular mortgage transaction being reviewed are relevant.