Commercial / Real Estate Lending

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

In the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, courts across the United States were inundated with litigation challenging the legitimacy of mortgages, notes, and the records purporting the transfer or assign them. Such claims included asserting that endorsements of promissory notes were not enforceable, claiming assignments of mortgages were executed without authority, and allegations that the note, mortgage, or associated disclosure documents were neither presented to nor signed by the borrowers. In recent years, as the economy appears to have improved, much of this litigation has died down. However, it does not take much imagination to assume that if and when the next economic downturn hits, some borrowers may again find themselves in default on their mortgage obligations, and in turn may seek to challenge the enforceability of those agreements. 
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It has been almost easy to forget that the PHH v. CFPB case started life as an appeal of an enforcement action taken by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for purported violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).  Technical RESPA issues quickly took a back seat in public discourse to the juicier issue in the case—whether the structure of the CFPB itself was unconstitutional. (Among the factors heightening the drama was the fact that, post-election, the new leadership at the Department of Justice reversed the Obama-era course in the litigation, directing its lawyers to argue against the CFPB and contend that the CFPB was unconstitutional.)

In the latest turn in the case, in a January 31 opinion, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit brought the RESPA issues back to the fore — ironically, in an opinion that does not substantively discuss the RESPA issues. 
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2018 has a tough act to follow, after a 2017 full of momentous developments—starting with a new Administration and wrapping up with a showdown over the right to serve as Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) (a fight that continues as of this writing, as discussed below).

But 2018 is unlikely to be a quiet year. In addition to developments in the CFPB leadership battle and other litigation, the year is expected to bring developments such as effective and compliance dates for major regulations on data protection, Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money-laundering (BSA/AML), mortgage servicing, and other topics, and could bring changes in supervisory focus at multiple federal agencies. 
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed Friday to temporarily relax the scope of upcoming changes to Regulation C, which implements the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), by raising one threshold for HMDA reporting. Under Regulation C amendments previously finalized and scheduled to take effect in 2018, HMDA reporting requirements would apply to any financial institution originating 100 or more open-end home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) per year over the prior two years. Under the new proposal, the HMDA reporting requirements would apply through calendar year 2019 to institutions that originated 500 or more HELOCs per year over the prior two years. In the meantime, the CFPB would conduct further studies to help determine whether to permanently change this threshold.
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On May 10, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced steps toward issuing regulations to impose data reporting requirements on the small business lending industry, a rulemaking required under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. To help it draft a proposed rule, the CFPB requested public feedback through a Request for Information (RFI) Regarding the Small Business Lending Market. At the same time, the CFPB released a white paper, Key Dimensions of the Small Business Lending Landscape, discussing the data currently available regarding small business lending.
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America’s infrastructure received an overall grade of “D+” in The American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, most recently published in 2013 (an updated Report Card is expected to be released on March 9, 2017). Grades for individual infrastructure categories ranged from a high of a “B-“ for solid waste to a low of “D-“ for inland waterways and levees. Other infrastructure sectors all received grades between a “D” and a “C+”. The infrastructure investment needed from 2013 through 2020 was estimated by the American Society of Civil Engineers to be approximately $3.6 Trillion, with a projected deficit of approximately $1.6 Trillion. Therefore, it is not surprising that during the presidential election campaign both major parties put forth programs to expand and repair infrastructure in the U.S.
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The House Financial Services Committee’s previous passage of the Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers, and Entrepreneurs” Act (“CHOICE Act”) provides a roadmap to potential financial regulatory reform early during the Trump administration, including reform of the Dodd-Frank Act’s and BASEL III’s bank capital requirements. House Committee on Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-5) has indicated a desire to introduce a “2.0” version of the bill early in 2017 when the new Congress convenes.
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Court Also Interprets RESPA Section 8 Anti-Kickback Provisions and Rules that the CFPB Is Subject to RESPA Statute of Limitations

RESPA issues may be the most relevant aspect of the October 11, 2016, ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in PHH Corp. v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 15-1177 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 11, 2016). While the opinion’s strongly worded 2-1 holding that the CFPB is unconstitutionally structured is quite noteworthy—to say the least—further consideration by the entire D.C. Circuit seems likely. And en banc consideration could result in the panel’s opinion on the unconstitutionality of the CFPB being vacated, if the court can avoid reaching that issue at this juncture. 
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