In 2017, the CFPB issued several final rules to clarify, revise, and update the regulatory framework applicable to the home mortgage origination and servicing market:
Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA)
In August 2017, the CFPB published a final rule that clarifies certain HMDA data collection and reporting requirements, most of which became effective on January 1, 2018. Among other changes, the rule introduces mandatory reporting of home equity lines of credit for both depository and non-depository institutions above a certain threshold3 and adds 25 new data points for collection and reporting—in addition to the pre-existing 23 data points.4 The Bureau also published a reference chart intended to assist lenders with compliance with the new collection requirements.5
"Know-Before-You-Owe" mortgage disclosure
In July 2017, the CFPB released an updated version of its TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure rule (TRID). Notably, the amended rule extends coverage to all closed-end credit transactions (other than reverse mortgages) that are secured by a cooperative unit; creates tolerances for calculating the finance charge and disclosures affected by such charge; clarifies the circumstances in which a creditor may provide disclosures to certain parties involved in the origination process; and expands the rule's partial exemption for certain non-interest-bearing subordinate loans that provide down-payment and other homeowner assistance.6 The mortgage industry must comply with these updated provisions by October 1, 2018. Concurrently, the Bureau issued a follow-up proposal for public comment to address the "black hole" issue that prevents creditors from resetting tolerances except in very limited circumstances.7 However, it remains unclear how the new CFPB leadership will proceed on this issue.
Truth in Lending Act
In March 2018, the CFPB also finalized an amendment to its 2016 mortgage servicing rule to clarify and, as of April 19, 2018, afford mortgage servicers more latitude in providing periodic statements to consumers entering or exiting bankruptcy.8
In December 2017, CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney announced that the Bureau would not penalize industry participants for non-material errors in data reported for 2019, and would open a rulemaking to reconsider certain aspects of HMDA.9 Moving forward, we expect the CFPB to focus on the HMDA disclosure requirements and seek to reduce the regulatory burden for mortgage-related activities, particularly concerning regulatory provisions not required by statute. This could include the removal of certain data points previously added by the CFPB under its discretionary authority. Additionally, the House passed a bill in January 2018 that if enacted, would exempt community banks, small credit unions and nonbank mortgage lenders from the expanded HMDA disclosure requirements.10
The CFPB remained a prominent enforcer in the mortgage space in 2017, primarily targeting mortgage lenders and loan servicers with respect to kickback schemes, mortgage servicing violations, and deceptive foreclosure practices and communications.
In 2017, the CFPB resolved two enforcement actions involving alleged illegal kickbacks. In January, the Bureau imposed a US$3.5 million fine on a major mortgage lender for paying illegal kickbacks for mortgage business referrals, including paying for referrals through agreements and split fees.11 In September, the Bureau ordered a real estate settlement services provider to pay US$1.25 million in redress for steering consumers to a title insurer owned in part by several of its executives.12 The CFPB also sued two mortgage servicers for failing to disclose critical information about the process of applying for foreclosure relief,13 or imposing excessive paperwork demands to apply for such relief, as well as issued a US$1.75 million fine on a mortgage company that failed to report accurate mortgage transaction data under HMDA.14 Finally in 2018, in a joint enforcement action with the OCC, the Bureau notably reached an unprecedented US$1 billion settlement with a major financial institution for mortgage servicing abuses that include improperly charging fees to borrowers for mortgage interest rate-lock extensions.
A notable pending enforcement action in 2018 concerns alleged improper mortgage servicing practices. The Bureau filed a lawsuit against a leading nonbank mortgage servicer for failing to provide routine servicing functions, including making widespread errors and runaround costs, failing to send accurate monthly statements, illegally foreclosing on struggling borrowers, ignoring customer complaints and selling off the servicing rights to loans without fully disclosing the mistakes it made in borrowers' records.15
Although the new CFPB leadership is conducting an ongoing review of pending enforcement actions,16 we expect mortgage servicing violations to remain a focal point of the Bureau's enforcement efforts.
In 2016, the mortgage industry represented 23 percent of all consumer complaints,17 82 percent of which concerned mortgage servicing.18 In light of the continued high rates of mortgage servicing-related complaints, we anticipate that the CFPB will continue to scrutinize mortgage servicing practices.
In 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Attorneys reached several large settlements against bank and nonbank mortgage companies under the False Claim Act (FCA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), frequently through joint actions with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Enforcement efforts primarily focused on origination and servicing violations in connection with FHA-insured loans, as well as discriminatory lending practices. The DOJ and US Attorneys secured significant settlements (including treble damages) under the FCA. Notably:
- In September 2017, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas obtained a US$280 million settlement against two mortgage companies for violating various FHA guidelines in underwriting and originating FHA-insured loans, as well as falsely certifying compliance with the FHA program.19 The DOJ also reached a US$74 million settlement against a leading mortgage servicer and an US$11.7 million settlement with a Louisiana-based mortgage lender on similar grounds.20 The DOJ has initiated at least one other investigation regarding the adequacy of underwriting and quality control processes of FHA-insured loans21
- In March 2017, HUD reached a US$1 million settlement with an Illinois bank resolving allegations that the bank engaged in illegal "redlining" of mortgage applicants in minority neighborhoods.22 The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York also obtained a US$53 million settlement against a leading financial institution for discriminatory pricing on the basis of race and national origin in the conduct of its wholesale lending business23
By reassigning the Office of Fair Lending to the Office of the Director, the new CFPB leadership has signaled a possible retreat from fair lending enforcement. HUD and the DOJ seem unlikely to compensate for any such retreat. For example, HUD Secretary Ben Carson has recently proposed to remove language promoting "inclusive, discrimination-free communities" from HUD's mission statement,24 reflecting a similar slowdown in HUD's fair housing enforcement activity. Thus, moving forward, we expect consumer advocates, state enforcement authorities and municipalities to drive further fair housing/lending activity.
Fintech outlook and mortgages
Fintechs in this space have principally focused on developing software to assist mortgage lenders in complying with HMDA disclosure requirements, and performing real-time audits of the entire mortgage origination process to reduce cost and exposure. Fintechs have also developed AI-based scoring algorithms used to evaluate alternative data sources and assess mortgage seekers' creditworthiness, as well as provide more accurate mortgage origination pricing and rates. As in other market segments, these tech-focused methods may raise novel fair lending considerations. While the CFPB may not prioritize federal fair lending enforcement moving forward, new market entrants unfamiliar with applicable consumer protection laws and regulations may be particularly susceptible to state fair lending enforcement.
State-level mortgage enforcement activity, reflective of a diminishing pool of credit crisis-related cases, trended downward in 2017. One notable exception was the Florida AG's office, which filed a suit against a leading nonbank mortgage loan servicer and its subsidiaries for failing to provide routine servicing functions, including filing illegal foreclosures, mishandling loan modifications, misapplying mortgage payments and collecting excessive fees.25
We expect that AGs will be more proactive in 2018. In light of the new CFPB leadership's retreat from fair lending and explicit reliance on states to take the lead on enforcement actions,26 we anticipate that AGs will focus on discriminatory practices. A recent Senate vote to roll back certain consumer protections under the Dodd-Frank Act, including provisions designed to combat housing discrimination and disclosure requirements for mortgage lenders, may provide an additional impetus for AGs to pick up this issue:27
- In February 2018, the Pennsylvania AG announced it has opened three investigations to probe redlining in Philadelphia28; at least five other states have started to investigate local mortgage lending disparities as well29