Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

February 6, 2014

CFPB Highlights: Leviathan Heeled

By David Reiss

The CFPB issued its Winter 2013 Supervisory Highlights.  Here are some mortgage highlights from the Highlights:

  • CFPB examiners found that two servicers had engaged in unfair practices in connection with servicing transfers. Specifically, these servicers failed to honor existing permanent or trial loan modifications after a servicing transfer. . . . These servicers also engaged in deception in connection with this practice by communicating to borrowers that they should have made the payments required by the original note, instead of acknowledging that the borrowers were to make reduced payments set by their trial modification agreements with the prior servicer. (5-6)
  • The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) is intended to provide the public with loan data that can be used: (i) to help determine whether financial institutions are serving the housing needs of their communities, (ii) to assist public officials in distributing public-sector investment to help attract private investment to areas where it is needed, and (iii) to assist in identifying possible discriminatory lending patterns and enforcing antidiscrimination statutes, such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The CFPB considers accurate HMDA data and effective HMDA compliance management systems to be of great importance.  . . . However, several HMDA reviews at financial institutions found error rates over the resubmission thresholds and Supervision directed the financial institutions to resubmit their HMDA data and improve their HMDA compliance systems.In October, the CFPB entered into Consent Orders with two lenders to address violations of HMDA. One entity, Mortgage Master, Inc., is a nonbank headquartered in Walpole, Massachusetts. The other entity, Washington Federal, is a bank headquartered in Seattle, Washington. (10-11, footnote omitted)

I’d have to say that the CFPB enforcement actions described in the Highlights are relatively small potatoes. One can read that in a couple of ways:

  • The industry is taking consumer financial protection far more seriously than it had before the CFPB was created; or
  • the CFPB is looking in the wrong place for regulatory noncompliance in the industry.

I think that the evidence bears out the former explanation. But I think that these highlights also demonstrate that the CFPB is not behaving like some out of control Leviathan, destroying all of the financial institutions in its grasp. Rather, it is taking very discrete actions based on documented misbehavior. Seems like a reasonable approach.


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