Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

July 27, 2016

Regulating Small Lenders

By David Reiss

photo by Doug Kerr

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is often subject to a lot of criticism for imposing a heavy regulatory burden on small community banks and credit unions (together, community lenders). A recent Government Accountability Office report, Community Lenders Remain Active under New Rules, but CFPB Needs More Complete Plans for Reviewing Rules, undermines that critique.

The GAO did this report at the request of Representative Hensarling (R-TX), the Financial Services Committee Chair, who sought to understand the impact of various rules promulgated under Dodd-Frank on community lenders and their customers. The report studied the impact of mortgage servicing and regulatory capital rules on community lenders’ participation in the mortgage servicing market. (Mortgage servicing refers to the business of receiving monthly mortgage payments and providing other services relating to outstanding mortgages on behalf of the owner of the mortgage, which in some cases may also be the servicer itself).

The GAO found that community lenders “remained active in servicing mortgage loans under the” CFPB’s new mortgage-servicing rules. (n.p., front matter)

The report also described the small lender business model in some detail. Servicing activities

generated income and allowed them to maintain strong relationships with their customers. Some of these community lenders and industry associations noted that holding mortgage loans in portfolio and servicing these mortgage loans helped with overall profitability. For example, the servicing revenue can offset a reduction in income from originating loans when interest rates rise. Conversely, when interest rates decline, borrowers are more likely to prepay or refinance their mortgage loans, and servicing revenue may decline, while income from new mortgage loan originations might increase. (15)

Community lenders also claimed that ” they and their customers benefit from the close relationship maintained when these institutions service mortgages. . . . For example, representatives at one community bank told us that a customer who could not make a mortgage payment could meet directly with a bank representative to develop a payment plan.”  (16)

We often romanticize the small lenders (think, Bailey Brothers’ Building and Loan) and demonize the big banks (think, The Big Short). This report shows that the little guy is doing okay under Dodd-Frank, at least when it comes to servicing. It remains to be seen whether borrowers in the aggregate are better off with small lenders and their personal touch, but we will leave that discussion for another day.


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