REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

February 21, 2017

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development created a disaster relief program for the victims of the Louisiana Tornado. This relief program helps families with foreclosures, providing mortgage insurance, and offering section 108 loan guarantee assistance.
  • The Federal Housing and Finance Agency recently reported that over 13,000 homes were refinanced in the last quarter of 2016. The program began in 2009 and since has helped over 3 million homeowners.

Read More

February 21, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

February 20, 2017

Washington’s Farewell Address

By David Reiss

Bust of George Washington by Jean-Antoine Houdon

In honor of President’s Day, a selection from President Washington’s Farewell Address:

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

Read More

February 20, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

February 17, 2017

Kushner Conflicts with Fannie & Freddie

By David Reiss

photo by Lori Berkowitz

Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Trump

Bloomberg quoted me in Kushner’s Use of U.S.-Backed Apartment Loans Poses Conflict Risk. It opens, 

Jared Kushner relinquished control of his family’s multibillion-dollar real-estate business in January to eliminate conflicts of interest when he became a top White House adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

Yet Kushner Cos. has apartment buildings from New Jersey to Maryland with more than $500 million in government-backed mortgages financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That could put officials at those agencies in an awkward spot: If Kushner Cos. applies for a new loan, or wants to refinance, would Freddie turn them down? If Kushner Cos. fails to comply with the terms of a loan, will Fannie seek to foreclose on a property owned by the president’s in-laws?

“It clearly represents a conflict-of-interest because the government or the president can take actions that would benefit his family,” said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who has written about issues related to Fannie and Freddie.

Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, said Kushner would comply with applicable ethics rules and would recuse himself from any discussions about overhauling Fannie and Freddie, which lawmakers have sought to do in recent years. Jamie Gorelick, an attorney who has represented Jared Kushner, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Kushner Cos. says Jared’s White House position won’t have any effect on the family business. “The election has not changed Kushner Companies’ relationship with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Kushner Cos. spokesman James Yolles. “And we will respond to policy changes like any other private company in the marketplace.”

The federal government took over Fannie and Freddie in 2008, amid the financial crisis, putting them under the control of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, an independent regulator.

Read More

February 17, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Robert Engelke

Read More

February 17, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

February 16, 2017

Return to the Great Recession?

By David Reiss

US News & World Report quoted me in What Happens if Trump Dismantles the Financial Regulations of the Great Recession? It opens,

On Feb. 3, 2017, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders that will affect the financial sector. That change will come to consumers is undeniable. But exactly what change is coming is, naturally, up for debate.

One of the orders requires the Treasury secretary to review the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2010 and designed to address some of the shortcomings in the financial system that led to the Great Recession. The other executive action mandates that the Labor Department review its Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule and look at its probable economic impact. As it stands now, the fiduciary rule is supposed to be phased in from April 10, 2017 to Jan. 1, 2018. The rule requires financial professionals who work with retirement plans or provide retirement planning advice to act in a way that’s only based on the client’s best interests.

What do these executive orders portend for consumers? Nobody knows, but what follows are some educated guesses – with best-case and worst-case outcomes.

How the housing market might be affected. There’s potential good news and bad news here, according to Francesco D’Acunto, a finance assistant professor at the University of Maryland. In a study performed by D’Acunto and faculty colleague Alberto Rossi, in the wake of Dodd-Frank, banks decreased mortgage lending to middle class families by about 15 percent in 2014.

“Title XIV, which regulates the mortgage market, could be in for a full-scale renovation that might ultimately improve the fortunes of potential homebuyers from the middle class,” D’Acunto says.

So if you’ve been having trouble getting a mortgage for a house, you may have less trouble – provided you find a reputable lender. Because the downside, according to D’Acunto, is that “such a move risks bringing a return of predatory behavior in lending and mortgage cross-selling, especially by large banks and by non-bank mortgage originators.”

To avoid that, D’Acunto hopes that Congress intervenes “surgically on Title XIV” and only reduces the regulatory costs imposed by the new Qualified Mortgage classification. Created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Qualified Mortgage category of loans includes features designed to make it more likely that a consumer will be able to pay it back.

But if they don’t intervene with the careful attention to detail D’Acunto advises, then expect “big changes, most of them negative,” says David Reiss, a Brooklyn Law School professor whose specialty is in real estate finance.

Potential best-case scenario: After being denied a mortgage for some time, you finally get your house.

Potential worst-case scenario: Because you were steered to a high-interest loan you can’t afford, you lose your house.

How credit cards, auto loans and student loans might be affected. There has been a lot of talk that the CFPB could be a casualty in the executive order that asks the Treasury secretary to review Dodd-Frank. But will it be ripped to shreds or have its power diminished?

The latter seems to already be happening. For instance, lawmakers, led by Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), are in the midst of trying to repeal a rule that is scheduled to go into effect this fall. The rule, among other things, would mandate prepaid-card companies to disclose detailed information about their fees, make it easier to access account information and would curb a consumer’s losses if the cards are lost or stolen.

A little weakening might not be so bad, Reiss says. He thinks the CFPB has tightened “the credit box too much, meaning that some people who could manage more credit are not getting access to it.”

But he also thinks if the CFPB were dismantled, the negatives would far outweigh the positives.

Potential best-case scenario: Easier access to loans and more choices. And for some consumers who can now get that car or credit card, their quality of life improves.

Potential worst-case scenario: Thanks to that easier access, some consumers end up stuck with high-interest loans with a lot of hidden fees and rue the day they applied for them.

Read More

February 16, 2017 | Permalink | 1 Comment

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Robert Engelke

Read More

February 16, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

February 15, 2017

Impact on Consumers of Dodd-Frank Repeal

By David Reiss

TheStreet.com quoted me in What Would a Repeal of Dodd-Frank Mean to Consumers? It reads, in part,

With the political atmosphere unsettled at best, much of the current talk out of Washington, D.C. centers on unraveling the Dodd-Frank Act.

But what would such a move mean to the normal Main Street consumer?

“Consumers should not get too freaked out in the short term,” said David Reiss, a professor of law at the Brooklyn Law School. “The rollback is not going to happen overnight and we don’t yet know how far it will go.”

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2010, as a response to the financial crisis the country saw in 2007 and 2008. However, with a new administration in the White House, some now see it as too restrictive to banks.

“Consumers should focus on the fundamentals — what are their short- and medium-term goals and how can they best achieve them?” Reiss said.

Reiss said homebuyers, for instance, should stay focused on identifying a home that is affordable for the long-term, and educate themselves about how mortgages work. And homeowners should evaluate whether their current mortgage is right for them — or should they refinancing with a mortgage that has a lower interest rate?

Repealing the act could affect more than mortgages, with many pointing to the credit card industry as being impacted the most. Ben Woolsey, president of CreditCardForum.com, said many of the protections afforded in Dodd-Frank were intended to roll back abusive practices by the financial services industry, often triggered when consumers occasionally strayed — such as by paying their card late or exceeding their credit limits. These consumer errors resulted in interest rate hikes and penalty fees.

*     *     *
The good news likely is consumers still have time to prepare.
“People have plenty of time to act, but they should also not be putting off until tomorrow the things they should be doing today,” Reiss said. “We don’t know where interest rates are heading, so it makes sense to be on top of things while rates are still at historically low levels, notwithstanding the bump we saw after the election.”

Read More

February 15, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments