Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

November 4, 2013

Balancing Consumer Protection and Access to Credit

By David Reiss

S&P posted U.S. RMBS Roundtable: Originators, Aggregators, and Counsel Discuss New Qualified Mortgage Rules. In summarizing the roundtable, S&P notes that

The ability-to-repay rule, ostensibly to prevent defaults and another housing crisis, is still very much open to interpretation. To that end, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services recently held a private roundtable with several market participants. The confidential discussion offered the attendees an opportunity to share their views and interpretations of these rules, offer opinions on how to operate efficiently within the scope of the rules, and highlight perceived conflicts the rules still present.

In our view, the discussion identified some common themes, notably:

    • Most originators will focus on QM-Safe Harbor loans to avoid liability and achieve the best execution.
    • Many originators will also find attractive opportunities to originate non-QM loans.
    • Non-agency originations of QM or non-QM loans will continue to focus on super-prime borrowers as lenders find that the best defense is to limit the potential for default.
    • The documentation standards used by originators will be the key to compliance with the rule. (2)

There are a lot of interesting tidbits in this document, including speculation about the role of technology in the brave new world of mortgage lending.  The summary ended on a guardedly optimistic note:

While the rule leaves significant room for interpretation, originators generally felt that the final rule to be implemented in January 2014 is better than expected. They expressed hope that regulators will be vigilant in pursuing violations that are reasonable. Originators still see challenges for originations of non-QM loans, but they don’t believe they are insurmountable, and many expect that non-QM loans will be represented in origination volume throughout 2014. The challenges that remain are the market’s pricing of QM safe harbor, rebuttable presumption, and non-QM loans; required credit enhancement levels; the effects of risk retention rules, which have yet to be finalized; and the ultimate costs associated with the assignee liability provisions in the rule. (7)

If these industry participants are right, it will look like regulators did a pretty good job of balancing consumer protection and access to credit. Let’s hope!

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