Tag Archives: anti-money laundering

FinCEN Penalizes California Bank for Egregious Violations of Anti-Money Laundering Laws

Merchants failed to establish and implement an adequate anti-money laundering (AML) program

OnlineEd Blog

gavel money(February 28, 2017) – WASHINGTON—The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today announced the assessment of a $7 million civil money penalty (CMP) against Merchants Bank of California of Carson, CA for willful violations of several provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the primary federal regulator of Merchants, has identified deficiencies in the Bank’s practices that resulted in violations of previous consent orders entered into by Merchants, as well as other violations. The OCC simultaneously assessed a $1 million CMP against Merchants for these violations.

Merchants failed to (a) establish and implement an adequate anti-money laundering (AML) program, (b) conduct required due diligence on its foreign correspondent accounts, and (c) detect and report suspicious activity. Merchants’ failures allowed billions of dollars to flow through the U.S. financial system without effective monitoring to adequately detect and report suspicious activity. Many of these transactions were conducted on behalf of money services businesses (MSBs) that were owned or managed by Bank insiders who encouraged staff to process these transactions without question or face potential dismissal or retaliation. Bank insiders directly interfered with the BSA staff’s attempts to investigate suspicious activity related to these insiderowned accounts.

“The banking of money services businesses is important to the global financial system, and we believe that banks can mitigate the risks associated with such businesses, just as they do with other customers,” said FinCEN Acting Director Jamal El-Hindi. “But here we had an institution run by insiders essentially to provide banking services to MSBs that the insiders owned, combined with directions from Bank leadership to staff to ignore BSA requirements with respect to those MSB customers and others. It is certainly not an acceptable way to bank MSBs.”

Merchants specialized in providing banking services for check-cashers and money transmitters. However, it provided those services without adequately assessing the money laundering risks and without designing an effective AML program. Merchants also provided its high-risk customers with remote deposit capture services without adequate procedures for monitoring their use.

Merchants failed to provide the necessary level of authority, independence, and responsibility to its BSA officer to ensure compliance with the BSA as required, and compliance staff was not empowered with sufficient authority to implement the Bank’s AML program. Merchants’ leadership impeded BSA analysts and other employees from investigating activity on transactions associated with accounts that were affiliated with Bank executives, and the activity in these accounts went unreported for many years. Merchants’ interest in revenue compromised efforts to effectively manage and mitigate its deficiencies and risks.

In addition, Merchants banked customers located in several jurisdictions considered to be highrisk but did not identify these customers as foreign correspondent customers and therefore did not implement the required customer due diligence program. In a three-month period, Merchants processed a combined $192 million in high-risk wire transfers through some of these accounts.

The Bank’s payment of the $1 Million OCC penalty will be credited towards the satisfaction of the FinCEN penalty. FinCEN’s settlement with a financial institution does not preclude consideration of separate enforcement actions that may be warranted with respect to any financial institution or any partner, director, officer, or employee of a financial institution.

FinCEN seeks to protect the U.S. financial system from being exploited by illicit actors. Its efforts focus on compromised financial institutions and their employees, significant fraud, thirdparty money launderers, transnational organized crime and security threats, and cyber threats. FinCEN has a broad array of enforcement authorities to target both domestic and foreign actors affecting the U.S. financial system.

[Source: FinCEN media release]

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Partners, and State Attorneys General File Order Requiring Suntrust to Provide $540 Million in Relief to Homeowners for Servicing Wrongs

Company Also Ordered to Pay $10 Million for Servicing Misconduct and Fined $418 Million by the DOJ

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SunTrust to Provide $540 Million in Relief to Homeowners

(CFPB -WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and attorneys general in 49 states and the District of Columbia filed a proposed federal court order requiring SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. to provide $500 million in loss-mitigation relief to underwater borrowers. The order also requires SunTrust to pay $40 million to approximately 48,000 consumers who lost their homes to foreclosure and $10 million to the federal government. The order addresses systemic mortgage servicing misconduct, including robo-signing and illegal foreclosure practices. SunTrust must also pay a $418 million penalty, in a parallel mortgage lending filing announced by DOJ today.

 “Deceptive and illegal mortgage servicing practices have pushed families into foreclosure and devastated communities across the nation,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Today’s action will help homeowners and consumers harmed by SunTrust’s unlawful foreclosure practices. The Consumer Bureau will continue to investigate mortgage servicers that mistreat consumers, and we will not hesitate to take action against any company that violates our new servicing rules.”

SunTrust is a mortgage lender and servicer headquartered in Richmond, Va., and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks, Inc. As a mortgage servicer, it is responsible for collecting payments from the mortgage borrower on behalf of the owner of the loan. It handles customer service, collections, loan modifications, and foreclosures.

 The CFPB, DOJ, HUD, and state attorneys general uncovered substantial evidence that SunTrust was engaged in systemic mortgage servicing misconduct. According to the complaint filed in the federal district court in the District of Columbia, SunTrust’s illegal practices put thousands of people at risk of losing their homes. Specifically, the complaint alleges that SunTrust:

  •  Took advantage of homeowners with servicing shortcuts and unauthorized fees: SunTrust failed to promptly and accurately apply payments made by borrowers, and charged unauthorized fees for default-related services.
  •  Deceived homeowners about foreclosure alternatives and improperly denied loan modifications: SunTrust failed to provide accurate information about loan modification and other loss-mitigation services, failed to properly process borrowers’ applications and calculate their eligibility for loan modifications, and provided false or misleading reasons for denying loan modifications.
  • Engaged in illegal foreclosure practices: SunTrust provided false or misleading information to consumers about the status of foreclosure proceedings where the borrower was in good faith actively pursuing a loss mitigation alternative also offered by SunTrust. The company also robo-signed foreclosure documents, including preparing and filing affidavits whose signers had not actually reviewed any information to verify the claims.

Enforcement Action

Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices. Today’s proposed court order, filed in federal district court in the District of Columbia, would require SunTrust to correct their practices and provide relief to harmed consumers. Under the terms of the order, SunTrust must:

  • Provide at least $500 million in relief to underwater borrowers: Over a three-year period, SunTrust must provide more than $500 million in loss mitigation relief to consumers, including reducing the principal on mortgages for borrowers who are at risk of default and reducing mortgage interest rates for homeowners who are current but underwater on their mortgages. If SunTrust fails to meet this requirement, it must pay a cash penalty equal to at least 125 percent of the shortfall.
  •  Provide $40 million in refunds to foreclosure victims: SunTrust must refund $40 million to consumers whose loans it serviced who lost their homes to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2013. All consumers who submit valid claims will receive an equal share of the $40 million. Borrowers who receive payments will not have to release any claims and will be free to seek additional relief in the courts. Eligible consumers can expect to hear from the settlement administrator about potential payments later this year.
  •  Pay $10 million to the federal government: SunTrust must pay $10 million to cover losses it caused to the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Rural Housing Service.
  •  Homeowner protections: Today’s order will require SunTrust to establish additional homeowner protections, including protections for consumers in bankruptcy. Like other servicers, SunTrust is subject to the CFPB’s new mortgage servicing rules that took effect on January 10, 2014. The agreement only covers SunTrust’s violations before the new rules took effect, and does not prevent the CFPB from pursuing civil enforcement actions against SunTrust for violations of these rules.  

 A copy of the SunTrust complaint that was also filed in the federal court in the District of Columbia will be posted at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/

The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. The proposed federal court order will have the full force of law only when signed by the presiding judge.

The settlement administrator will be in touch with eligible consumers who lost their homes to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2013.  Consumers who are interested in loss mitigation should contact SunTrust at 1-800-634-7928 or by email through the SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. support page at www.SunTrustMortgage.com.

CFPB Report Shows Complaints Rose 80 Percent in 2013

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – CFPB) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently announced that consumer complaint volume nearly doubled from 91,000 complaints received in 2012 to 163,700 complaints received in 2013. The CFPB’s Consumer Response Annual Report also highlighted the many issues the CFPB is helping consumers address – from foreclosure alternatives to simply receiving better customer service.

“Consumer complaints have become central to the work of this agency. They enable us to listen to, and amplify, the concerns of any American who wants to be heard,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “They are also our compass. They make a difference by informing our work and helping us identify and prioritize problems for potential action.”

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Report reveals the most complained about product is mortgages

The 2013 Consumer Response Annual Report can be found at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/reports/2013-consumer-response-annual-report/

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, established the handling of consumer complaints as an integral part of the CFPB’s work. When the Bureau opened its doors on July 21, 2011, it began consumer response operations the same day, accepting consumer complaints about credit cards. Since then, the Bureau has expanded its complaint handling in 2012 to include complaints about mortgages, bank accounts and services, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, and credit reporting. In 2013, it began taking complaints on money transfers, debt collection, and payday loans.

Today’s report covers the 163,700 complaints received by the CFPB from Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2013. This is an 80 percent increase over the previous year’s 91,000 complaints. To date, including this year, the CFPB has received more than 310,000 complaints overall. According to the report, the top three complaints in 2013 by consumers were:

Mortgages: The number one most complained about consumer product was mortgages, accounting for 37 percent of overall complaints. For these approximately 60,000 complaints, consumers were most concerned with problems when they were unable to pay, such as issues relating to loan modifications, collections, or foreclosures.

Debt collection: Debt collection was the second most complained about category, accounting for 19 percent of overall complaints even though the Bureau did not begin accepting debt collection complaints until July 2013. For the approximately 31,000 debt collection complaints, consumers were most concerned with collectors attempting to collect debt not owed, communication tactics by the collectors, and collectors taking or threatening illegal action.

Credit reporting: The number three most complained about category was credit reporting, accounting for about 15 percent of overall complaints. For the approximately 24,000 complaints about credit reporting, nearly three out of four consumers were concerned with incorrect information on their credit report.

The Bureau expects companies to respond to complaints within 15 days and to describe the steps they have taken or plan to take. The CFPB expects companies to close all but the most complicated complaints within 60 days. Companies have responded to more than 93 percent of the complaints sent to them for response, and consumers have disputed only 21 percent of those company responses.

Sometimes, companies respond through non-monetary relief. About 11 percent of complaints fall into this category; for credit reporting complaints, companies respond to about one out of three complaints this way. Through the CFPB’s complaint process, consumers have received a range of non-monetary relief in response to their complaints, such as:

Foreclosure alternatives: Consumers have received mortgage foreclosure alternatives that help them keep their home;
Protection from debt collectors: After CFPB inquiries, debt collectors have stopped engaging in excessive collection communications with consumers;
Restored lines of credit: Consumers have had their credit lines restored when they wanted, or removed when that was their desired outcome;
Corrections to credit reports: Consumers have had their credit reports cleaned up either by having correct submissions given to credit bureaus or by having credit bureaus correct inaccurate information about their consumer accounts; and
Customer service: Many consumer problems are related to unanswered inquiries or incorrect information. After CFPB involvement, many customers had their formerly unmet customer service issues finally resolved.

The Bureau has also seen monetary relief for consumers in about 7 percent of complaints. This includes:

A median amount of $460 for mortgages;
A median amount of $126 for credit cards; and
A median amount of $111 for bank accounts or services.

Information about consumer complaints is available to the public through the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaint Database. A complaint is listed in the database after the company responds to the complaint or after the company has had the complaint for 15 calendar days, whichever comes first. If a company demonstrates within 15 days that it has been wrongly identified, no data for that complaint is posted. The database is updated nightly and includes anonymized complaint information. The database enables the public to see what is being complained about and why; and it enables consumer groups to identify troublesome trends.

Complaints inform the Bureau’s work and help to identify problems, which then feed into the Bureau’s supervision and enforcement prioritization process.

The Bureau will continue to work toward expanding its complaint handling capabilities to include other products and services under its authority, such as prepaid cards.

To submit a complaint, consumers can:

Go online at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint
Call the toll-free phone number at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372) or TTY/TDD phone number at 1-855-729-CFPB (2372)
Fax the CFPB at 1-855-237-2392
Mail a letter to: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244
Additionally, through “Ask CFPB,” consumers can get clear, unbiased answers to their questions at consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb or by calling 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).

CFPB Orders Connecticut Lender to Pay $83,000 Civil Penalty

Pay Fine

Connecticut Lender to Pay $83,000

(Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Washington, D.C.) Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered a Connecticut mortgage lender, 1st Alliance Lending, LLC (First Alliance), to pay an $83,000 civil money penalty for violating federal law by illegally splitting real estate settlement fees. First Alliance self-reported these violations to the Bureau, admitted liability, and provided information related to the conduct of other actors that has facilitated other enforcement investigations.

“These types of illegal payments can harm consumers by driving up the costs of mortgage settlements,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The Bureau will use its enforcement authority to ensure that these types of practices are halted. We will, however, also continue to take into account the self-reporting and cooperation of companies in determining how to resolve such matters.”

First Alliance is a mortgage lender in East Hartford, Conn. that focuses primarily on providing loss-mitigation financing to distressed borrowers. First Alliance obtains troubled mortgages from mortgage servicers, and reaches out to consumers to offer them new loans with reduced principal amounts under federally related mortgage programs.

First Alliance started using a hedge fund to finance its loans in 2010. Under this arrangement, First Alliance split revenues and fees with affiliates of the hedge fund. In 2011, First Alliance secured less costly financing and ended its arrangement with the hedge fund and its affiliates. Although the hedge fund and its affiliates no longer financed First Alliance’s mortgages, First Alliance continued to split origination and loss-mitigation fees with them. The hedge-fund affiliates received payments from 83 First Alliance loans made between August 2011 and April 2012.

In 2013, First Alliance reported to the Bureau that it believed it had violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) by paying these unearned fees. RESPA bans a person from paying or receiving a portion or split of a fee that has not been earned in connection with a real estate settlement. First Alliance cooperated with the Bureau’s investigation, and the Bureau concluded that First Alliance’s payments to the hedge fund and its affiliates had violated RESPA. First Alliance’s self-reporting and cooperation, consistent with the Bureau’s Responsible Business Conduct bulletin published on June 25, 2013, were taken into account in resolving this matter.

Under the terms of today’s consent order, First Alliance is required to pay a civil money penalty of $83,000 to the Bureau and agrees not to violate RESPA in the future. The Bureau will continue to enforce RESPA’s provisions to protect consumers and to deter unlawful activity.

A copy of the Bureau’s consent order is available here: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201402_cfpb_consent-order_first-alliance.pdf

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 For more information about OnlineEd and their pre-license and continuing education for real estate and mortgage brokers, please visit www.OnlineEd.com. For more information about mortgage-specific products for compliance training, tracking, and management, please visit  https://www.onlineed.com/inlineed.php or contact Joseph Mikkelson at 1.866.519.9597.

This article was published on February 25, 2014. All information contained in this posting is deemed correct and current as of this date, but is not guaranteed by the author. Due to the fluid nature of the subject matter, regulations, requirements, laws, prices and all other information may or may not be correct in the future and should be verified if cited, shared or otherwise republished.

CFPB Seeks Constent Order Against Castle & Cooke for $13 Million

(CFPB – WASHINGTON, D.C.)  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today announced a proposed consent order in its enforcement action against Castle & Cooke Mortgage, LLC, for allegedly steering consumers into costlier mortgages. The Bureau has asked a federal district court to approve a consent order that would provide more than $9 million in restitution for consumers and obtain $4 million in civil money penalties against Castle & Cooke and two of its officers for allegedly paying loan officers illegal bonuses.

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Mortgage Loan Originators were allegedly paid illegal bonuses for steering consumers into mortgages with higher interest rates.

“Our action has put an end to illegal steering of consumers and has put more than $9 million back in their pockets,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “This outcome embodies our mission—to root out bad practices from the marketplace and ensure consumers are being treated fairly.”

Castle & Cooke is a  Utah-based mortgage company that originated about $1.3 billion in loans in 2012. The company maintains 45 branches and does business in 22 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. On July 23, 2013, the CFPB filed a complaint in federal district court against the mortgage company and two of its officers for allegedly paying illegal bonuses to loan officers who steered consumers into mortgages with higher interest rates.

The complaint alleged that Castle & Cooke, through actions taken by its president, Matthew A. Pineda, and senior vice-president of capital markets, Buck L. Hawkins, violated the Federal Reserve Board’s Loan Originator Compensation Rule by paying loan officers quarterly bonuses that varied based on the interest rate of the loans they offered to borrowers. That rule banned compensation based on loan terms such as the interest rate of the loan. The rule had a mandatory compliance date of April 6, 2011, and authority over that rule transferred to the CFPB on July 21, 2011. The CFPB estimates that more than 1,100 quarterly bonuses were paid to over 215 Castle & Cooke loan officers.

Enforcement Action

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions for violations of federal consumer financial protection laws. To ensure that all impacted consumers are repaid and that consumers are no longer subject to these illegal practices, the defendants have agreed to:

  • End unlawful compensation practices: Castle & Cooke must end compensation practices, such as giving loan officers bonuses that vary based on the interest rate of the loans they offered to consumers, that violate the Loan Originator Compensation Rule.
  • Pay $9,232,896 toward consumer redress: The defendants will pay $9,232,896 to administer redress to consumers for their actions. Any borrower who has obtained a home loan from a Castle & Cooke loan officer since April 6, 2011, and whose loan officer received a quarterly bonus from Castle & Cooke for that loan, will receive a check as a result of today’s action. The Bureau estimates that more than 9,400 consumers will receive checks.
  • Pay a $4 million civil money penalty: The defendants – Castle & Cooke, Pineda, and Hawkins – will pay $4 million to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund for their alleged violations.
  • Ensure that Castle & Cooke retain records of compensation: Castle & Cooke will abide by federal law that requires creditors to retain evidence of compliance, such as payroll records.

This case was originally referred to the CFPB by investigators with the Utah Department of Commerce, Division of Real Estate. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah, where the company is located and where the individual defendants reside.

A copy of the proposed consent order, which will not be final until approved by the court, can be found at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201311_cfpb_proposed-final-order_castle-cooke.pdf

A copy of the complaint filed in July can be found at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/f/201307_cfpb_complaint_Castle-and-Cooke-Complaint.pdf

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For more information about OnlineEd, their mortgage loan originator compliance training program and education compliance management system, please visit www.InlineEd.comwww.onlineed.com,  or contact Joseph Mikkelson at 1.866.519.9597.

This article was published on November 7, 2013. All information contained in this posting is deemed correct and current as of this date, but is not guaranteed by the author and was obtained by third party sources. Due to the fluid nature of the subject matter, regulations, requirements, laws, prices and all other information may or may not be correct in the future and should be verified if cited, shared or otherwise republished.

CFPB Releases Second Update Of Exam Procedures For Mortgage Rules

(CFPB – WASHINGTON, D.C.) On August 15, 2013 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a second update to its exam procedures in connection with the new mortgage regulations issued in January 2013. The interim exam procedures offer valuable guidance to financial institutions and mortgage companies on what the CFPB will be looking for as the rules become effective.

“We are committed to transparency around our examination process,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “So we have worked hard to provide industry with advance notice of what we will be expecting. That, in turn, will improve compliance and benefit consumers.”

The CFPB issued several new regulations reforming the mortgage market in January 2013. Many of the new rules were directed by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The rules cover the various stages of a consumer’s mortgage experience, from shopping for a loan to paying it off. Most of the CFPB’s new rules go into effect in January 2014.

Today’s updates cover the Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgages, high-cost mortgages, and appraisals for higher-priced mortgage loans, as well as new amendments related to the escrows rule. The updates also cover recent changes to credit card rules. With today’s release, the exam procedures now cover the Bureau’s mortgage origination rules issued through May 29, 2013, and mortgage servicing rules issued through July 10, 2013.

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Are you prepared for your CFPB exam?

Today’s release of exam procedures will help financial institutions and mortgage companies understand and prepare for how they will be examined for CFPB rules that, among other things:

  • Require lenders to evaluate a borrower’s ability to pay back the loan: Under the Ability-to-Repay rule, lenders must look at a consumer’s financial information and verify its accuracy. Lenders then must evaluate the information and conclude that the borrower can repay the loan. Lenders may not base their evaluation of a consumer’s ability to repay on teaser rates. They must determine the consumer’s ability to repay both the principal and the interest over the long term − not just during an introductory period when the rate may be lower.
  • Ban or limit certain points, fees, and risky features: Both the rule on Ability-to-Repay and the rule on high-cost mortgages ban or limit certain points, fees, and risky features. Under the Ability-to-Repay rule, a Qualified Mortgage is subject to limitations on points and fees and cannot have loan features such as terms that exceed 30 years or interest-only payments. Under the high-cost mortgages rule, balloon payments and fees for modifying loans are generally banned.
  • Require servicers to provide monthly statements and disclosures: Mortgage servicers must provide regular statements which include: the amount and due date of the next payment; a breakdown of payments by principal, interest, fees, and escrow; and recent transaction activity. For most adjustable-rate mortgages, they must also provide disclosures before the first interest rate adjustment, and before interest rate adjustments alter the payment amount.
  • Restrict dual-tracking: Under the Bureau’s rule on mortgage servicing, dual-tracking – when the servicer moves forward with foreclosure while simultaneously working with the borrower to avoid foreclosure – is restricted. Servicers cannot start a foreclosure proceeding if a borrower has already submitted a complete application for a loan modification or other alternative to foreclosure and that application is still pending review.
  • Require access to servicing personnel and a fair review process: Mortgage servicers must have policies and procedures in place to provide delinquent borrowers with direct, easy, ongoing access to employees responsible for helping them. If a foreclosure seems likely, the servicer must consider all alternatives available from the mortgage owners or investors to help the borrower retain the home.
  • Require creditors use a licensed or certified appraiser: The interagency rule from January 2013 on appraisal requirements for higher-priced mortgage loans requires that creditors use a licensed or certified appraiser to prepare a written appraisal report based on a physical inspection of the interior of the property. The rule also requires creditors to disclose to applicants information about the purpose of the appraisal and provide consumers with a free copy of any appraisal report.

The CFPB is sharing with industry what it will be looking for in its examinations under the new rules by updating the applicable sections of the exam procedure manuals for the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). These documents are intended for use by CFPB examiners in examining the mortgage companies and other financial institutions subject to the new regulations.

The CFPB is committed to ensuring that the mortgage industry complies with the new consumer protections. Throughout 2013, the CFPB has been working for a smooth transition. It has published plain-language guides. It plans to educate the public about their protections under the new rules. The CFPB is also coordinating with other federal government regulators that also conduct examinations of mortgage companies and financial institutions to ensure all regulators have a shared understanding of the CFPB’s new rules.

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 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.

OnlineEd is a provider of mortgage and real estate continuing and pre-license education and developer of InlineEd a compliance and learning management tracking system for the mortgage industry.

CFPB Takes Action Against Castle & Cooke for Paying Employees to Steer Consumers into Expensive Mortgages

(CFPB – WASHINGTON, D.C.) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today filed a complaint in federal district court against a Utah-based mortgage company, Castle & Cooke Mortgage LLC, and two of its officers for illegally giving bonuses to loan officers who steered consumers into mortgages with higher interest rates. The Bureau is seeking an end to this unlawful practice, restitution for those consumers who were upcharged, and civil money penalties.

“Today we are taking action against the type of practices that precipitated the financial crisis,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Consumers should be able to get a mortgage without worrying about how the financial incentives of their loan officers may cause them to pay higher rates than they actually qualify for.”

Castle & Cooke is a mortgage company that originated approximately $1.3 billion in loans in 2012. The company does business in approximately 22 states and maintains approximately 45 branches across the country.

The CFPB alleges that Castle & Cooke, through the actions taken by its president, Matthew A. Pineda, and senior vice-president of capital markets, Buck L. Hawkins, violated the Federal Reserve Board’s Loan Originator Compensation Rule that had a mandatory compliance date of April 6, 2011. That rule banned compensation based on loan terms such as the interest rate of the loan.

The CFPB alleges that the company violated the rule with its quarterly bonus program, which paid more than 150 Castle & Cooke loan officers greater bonus compensation when they persuaded consumers to take on more expensive loans. The average quarterly bonus ranged from $6,100 to $8,700. By contrast, those loan officers who did not charge consumers higher interest rates did not receive quarterly bonuses. The CFPB estimates that more than 1,100 illegal quarterly bonuses were paid and that tens of thousands of customers may have been upsold since April 2011. By tying bonuses to the interest rate of the loans in this manner, the CFPB alleges that Castle & Cooke was in direct violation of the law.

The CFPB also believes Castle & Cooke violated laws that require companies to retain their compliance records for a certain period of time. Creditors are required to retain evidence of compliance with the rule. The complaint alleges that Castle & Cooke did not record what portion of each loan officer’s quarterly bonus was attributable to a particular loan and did not reference its quarterly bonus program in each loan originator’s compensation agreement, in violation of federal consumer financial law.

The CFPB’s complaint seeks to:

  • End unlawful compensation practices: The complaint seeks to prohibit Castle & Cooke from continuing its practice of incentivizing loan officers to upcharge consumers by distributing quarterly bonuses based on the interest rates of loans sold.
  • Ensure that Castle & Cooke retain records of compensation: The complaint seeks to ensure that Castle & Cooke complies with federal law that requires creditors to retain evidence of compliance.
  • Secure restitution for consumers: The CFPB is looking to secure restitution for consumers of Castle & Cooke who may have been upsold.
  • Obtain civil money penalties: The CFPB is looking to obtain civil money penalties for each bonus paid out. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act allows civil penalty amounts to be determined under a three-tiered framework: up to $5,000 for any violation; up to $25,000 for reckless violations; and up to $1,000,000 for knowing violations.

This case was referred to the CFPB by investigators with the Utah Department of Commerce, Division of Real Estate. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah, where the company is located and where the individual defendants reside.

A copy of the complaint filed today can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201307_cfpb_complaint_Castle-and-Cooke-Complaint.pdf

 

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 To learn more about InlineEd Compliance and Education Management System for the mortgage industry, visit www.InlineEd.com. For more about OnlineEd, visit www.OnlineEd.com

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.

CFPB Finalizes April Clarifications to Mortgage Rules

Rule Will Improve Consumer Protections in Qualified Mortgages and Mortgage Servicing

(CFPB, WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized corrections, clarifications, and amendments to its Ability-to-Repay and mortgage servicing rules. Today’s clarifications were first proposed in April 2013 and reflect the Bureau’s commitment to facilitating implementation in order to better protect consumers.

“We know that effective implementation helps our rules deliver their intended value to consumers,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are listening closely to feedback on our rules, and today’s clarifications show our willingness to make appropriate adjustments to achieve that goal.”

The CFPB finalized several mortgage rules in January 2013. Of those, today’s rule focuses on the Ability-to-Repay and Servicing rules. The Ability-to-Repay rule protects consumers from irresponsible mortgage lending by requiring that lenders make a reasonable, good-faith determination that prospective borrowers have the ability to repay their loans. The mortgage servicing rules establish strong protections for homeowners as they repay their loans, and especially for those facing foreclosure.

Among other things, today’s final rule:

  • Clarifies how to determine a consumer’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Under the Ability-to-Repay rule, a lender may make a Qualified Mortgage (QM), a loan for which certain features are prohibited and fees that can be charged are limited. The main type of Qualified Mortgage requires that a consumer’s monthly debt payments, including the mortgage, will not be more than 43 percent of the consumer’s monthly income. Today’s rule clarifies and amends how several factors can be used to calculate a consumer’s DTI ratio. Such factors include a consumer’s employment record and income, business credit reports and other documents relating to self-employed consumers, Social Security income, and non-employment related income such as from a trust or rental property.
  • Explains that CFPB’s RESPA rule does not preempt the field of servicing regulation by states: The preamble to the Bureau’s final mortgage servicing rules made clear that CFPB authority on servicing, from the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), does not preempt the field of possible mortgage servicing regulation by states. In today’s final rule, the Bureau is adding a comment to expressly state this point and explain how RESPA preemption works.
  • Establishes which mortgage loans to consider in determining small servicer status: The servicing rules issued in January included an exemption from some requirements for small servicers. Today’s changes clarify which mortgage loans will be considered in determining whether a servicer qualifies as small. For example, loans serviced on a charitable basis will not be considered in making that determination.
  • Clarifies the eligibility standard of the temporary QM provision: Under the Ability-to-Repay rule, a loan can be a Qualified Mortgage if it is eligible for purchase, guarantee, or insurance by government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) or by certain federal agencies, provided the loan does not contain certain risky loan features and meets certain limitations on points and fees. Today’s rule clarifies the standards that a loan must meet if the creditor is underwriting it based on GSE or agency guidelines. For example, where a loan is eligible for GSE or agency purchase, guarantee, or insurance, creditors do not need to satisfy the types of procedural and technical requirements that are completely unrelated to the consumer’s ability to repay.

The CFPB is committed to facilitating the mortgage industry’s compliance with the new consumer protections. Throughout 2013, the CFPB has been working for a smooth transition to compliance with the rules. It has issued other clarifications and updates to the rules to help with implementation. The CFPB has published plain-language guides and plans to educate the public about their protections under the new rules. The Bureau plans to publish additional interim examination procedures. The CFPB will also soon publish its first round of exam procedures for the Ability-to-Repay and mortgage servicing rules.

The Bureau recently published a new Regulatory Implementation web page, which consolidates all of the new 2013 mortgage rules and related implementation materials. The Regulatory Implementation web page can be found here:http://www.consumerfinance.gov/regulatory-implementation

A copy of today’s final rule can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201307_cfpb_final-rule_titlexiv.pdf

 

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For more information about OnlineEd and continuing education for mortgage license renewal, please visit their website. For more information about OnlineEd’s CFPB compliance and education management systems, please visit the InlineEd website.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.

Ten More States to Use Uniform Mortgage Test; 30 States Now Using the Test

(OnlineEd® – Portland, OR) The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS)  today announced that an additional 10 state mortgage loan originator licensing agencies will begin using the National SAFE MLO test. This brings the total number of state agencies to 30 who are using the test.  The test was first made available on April 1, 2013, and combines both the national and state testing requirements of the SAFE Act. Because the new test replaces the separate, state-specific test for the states who adopt it, it streamlines the process for mortgage originators who want to hold multiple state licenses.  Any mortgage loan originator who passes the test is compliant with the SAFE Act testing requirements in all thirty states. For a limited time, between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, there is also the short version, stand-alone UST available for anyone who has previously passed the retired national test.

Twenty state agencies initially adopted the National SAFE MLO test in April, and an additional 10 state agencies will adopt it today.  These 10 state agencies are:

• The Alabama State Banking Department;
• The Alaska Division of Banking and Securities;
• The Indiana Office of Secretary of State;
• The Kansas Office of the State Bank Commissioner;
• The Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions;
• The Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance;
• The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance;
• The Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions;
• The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation; and
• The Wyoming Division of Banking.

states adopting

 

An additional five state agencies are scheduled to adopt the test by Jan. 2014.

More information on the National SAFE MLO test is available here.

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About CSBS:
The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) is the nationwide organization of banking regulators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
About OnlineEd:
OnlineEd is a provider of mortgage and real estate broker pre-licensing and continuing education courses, as well as the developer of  InlineEd, an education and compliance management software for the mortgage industry.  For more information about OnlineEd please visit www.OnlineEd.com. For more information about InlineEd, please visit www.InlineEd.com.

CFPB Issues Proposed Modifications to Mortgage Rules

CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU ISSUES PROPOSED MODIFICATIONS TO MORTGAGE RULES

Proposal Would Resolve Implementation Issues and Clear Way for Better Consumer Protections

 (CFPB, WASHINGTON, D.C.)  Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed clarifications and some narrow revisions to its January 2013 mortgage rules. The proposal issued today would resolve questions that have been identified during the implementation process and would help the rules deliver their intended value for consumers.

“When we published our mortgage rules, we pledged to be attentive to issues that arose through the implementation process,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Today’s proposal revises and clarifies certain aspects of our rules to ease implementation and to pave the way for more effective consumer protections in the marketplace.”

The CFPB finalized several mortgage rules in January 2013 that are addressed by today’s proposal. The Ability-to-Repay rule protects consumers from irresponsible mortgage lending by requiring that lenders make a reasonable, good-faith determination that prospective borrowers have the ability to repay their loans. The mortgage servicing rules established strong protections for homeowners facing foreclosure, and the loan originator compensation rules address certain practices that incentivized steering borrowers into risky and/or high-cost loans. The CFPB also finalized rules that strengthened consumer protections for high-cost mortgages, and instituted a requirement that escrow accounts be established for a minimum of five years for certain higher-priced mortgage loans.

The proposal issued today involves clarifications and some narrow revisions to those mortgage rules. Among other things, today’s proposal would:

  • Outline procedures for obtaining follow-up information on loss-mitigation applications: According to the CFPB’s servicing rule, within five days of receipt of a loss mitigation application, a servicer must acknowledge receipt of the application and inform the borrower whether it deems the application complete or incomplete. If incomplete, the servicer must identify for the borrower what is needed to complete it. The proposal would outline procedures for servicers to follow, if, after conducting an initial review and sending the notice to the borrower, they discover that they do not have the information needed to complete an assessment.

o   The proposal clarifies that servicers are required to seek the additional information from the borrower if they cannot complete the assessment without it.

o   The proposal also requires that servicers ensure that the borrower does not lose certain protections under the rule, such as a foreclosure ban during the first 120 days of delinquency, until the borrower has had a reasonable time to supply the needed documents or information.

  • Facilitate servicers’ offering of short-term forbearance plans: The proposal would make it easier for servicers to offer short-term forbearance plans for delinquent borrowers who need only temporary relief without going through a full loss mitigation evaluation process. For example, under the proposal, a servicer could provide a two-month forbearance to a borrower who is suffering a short-term hardship.
  • Facilitate lending in rural or underserved areas: Some of the Bureau’s mortgage rules contain provisions applicable to certain small creditors that operate predominantly in “rural” or “underserved” areas. The Bureau recently announced that it would reexamine the definitions of rural or underserved over the next two years. Today’s proposal would clarify how existing definitions may apply while that reexamination process is underway for purposes of two exceptions under the existing rules.

o   The proposal would extend an exception to a ban on high-cost mortgages featuring balloon payments – large, lump sum payments usually due at the end of the loan – to small creditors that do not operate predominantly in rural or underserved counties so long as the loans meet certain restrictions.

o   The proposal would revise an exemption from a requirement to maintain escrows on certain higher-priced mortgage loans for small creditors who operate predominantly in rural or underserved areas and that also meet other criteria. To prevent creditors from losing eligibility for the exemption in 2014 due to changes in which counties are defined as rural, the proposal would extend availability to small creditors that qualified in any of the previous three calendar years.

  • Make clarifications about financing of credit insurance premiums: The Dodd-Frank Act prohibition on creditors financing credit insurance premiums in connection with certain mortgage transactions was adopted in the Bureau’s loan originator compensation rule. Questions have arisen during the regulatory implementation process concerning the application of that prohibition. Today’s proposal seeks to answer those questions.

o   The proposal would clarify what constitutes financing of credit insurance premiums by a creditor – particularly as the rule applies to “level” or “levelized” premiums, where the monthly premium is the same each month rather than decreasing along with the loan balance.

o   The proposal would provide guidance on when credit insurance premiums are considered to be calculated and paid on a monthly basis for purposes of an exclusion from the statutory prohibition.

  •  Clarify the definition of a loan originator: Under the CFPB’s new rules, persons classified as loan originators are required to meet qualification requirements, and are also subject to certain restrictions on compensation practices. Creditors and loan originators have expressed concern that tellers or other administrative staff could be unintentionally classified as loan originators for engaging in routine customer service activities. Today’s proposal would clarify the circumstances under which a loan originator’s or creditor’s administrative staff acts as loan originators.
  • Clarify the points and fees thresholds for manufactured housing employees:  For retailers of manufactured homes and their employees, the proposal would clarify what compensation must be counted toward certain thresholds for points and fees under the ability-to-repay and high-cost mortgage rules.
  • Revise effective dates of Loan Originator rule and ban on financing of credit insurance: Currently, the 2013 Loan Originator Compensation Final Rule is scheduled to take effect on January 10, 2014.

o   The CFPB is seeking comment on whether to change the effective date to January 1, 2014 for portions of the loan originator rule. The Bureau believes that having the rule take effect at the beginning of a calendar year may help compliance since compensation plans, training, and licensing and registration are often structured on an annual basis.

o   The Bureau is also seeking comment on whether to adjust the effective date for the ban on financing credit insurance. The Bureau had previously delayed that date in order to provide additional guidance on the issues discussed above, and is now seeking comment on whether the rule should take effect on January 10, 2014, or earlier in light of how much time creditors would need to adjust billing practices.

 The CFPB is committed to assisting with the mortgage industry’s compliance with the new consumer protections. Throughout 2013, the CFPB has been working for a smooth transition. In addition to clarifying critical questions about the new mortgage rules, the Bureau has also published plain-language guides for each rule and some interim examination procedures. The CFPB also plans to educate the public about their protections under the rules.

The Bureau recently published a new Regulatory Implementation web page, which consolidates all of the new 2013 mortgage rules and related implementation materials, and can be found here:http://www.consumerfinance.gov/regulatory-implementation

 Comments on today’s proposal must be received on or before July 22, 2013.

A copy of today’s proposal can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201306_cfpb_proposed-modifications_mortgage-rules.pdf

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 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.ConsumerFinance.gov. For more information about OnlineEd, visit www.OnlineEd.com. For more information about mortgage compliance, visit www.InlineEd.com.