March 18, 2014
Law360.com quoted me in Capital Rules To Spread Beyond Banks Under Housing Bill (behind a paywall). The story reads in part,
Mortgage servicers, aggregators and other actors in the U.S. housing finance market would for the first time be subject to the same capital requirements that apply to banks under a new bipartisan bill aimed at replacing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, potentially eliminating an advantage nonbank firms currently enjoy.
The elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is the centerpiece of S. 1217, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014, introduced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Wyo. The government-sponsored entities would be replaced by a proposed Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp. that would backstop the housing finance market in a manner similar to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s backing of the banking system.
Among the details in the 442-page bill released Sunday are provisions that would allow the FMIC to impose capital standards and other “safety and soundness” rules to mortgage servicers, firms that package mortgages into securities and guarantors that provide the private capital backing to mortgage-backed securities. Compliance with these standards would be required for access to a government guarantee.
Previously those types of institutions have not been subject to safety and soundness rules, unless they were part of a bank. If the Johnson-Crapo bill moves forward as currently written, those firms could be in for a big change, said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
“Historically, nonbanks have had a lot less regulation than banks. So, by giving them a safety and soundness regulator you are taking away a regulatory advantage – that is, less regulation – that they have had as financial institutions,” he said.
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“What it effectively does is create safety and soundness standards for guarantors, aggregators and servicers, as if they were banks. There’s been this long debate about what you do about the nondepository institutions, and this would empower FMIC to supervise private-party participants like banks,” said Laurence Platt, a partner with K&L Gates LLP.
Specifically, the potential rules would apply to aggregators, which serve to collect mortgages and pack them into securities, and guarantors, or firms that provide the private capital to back those securities. Mortgage servicers that process payments and provide other services to mortgages inside those securities would also be included under the FMIC’s regulatory umbrella, according to the bill.
The FMIC would also have the power to force the largest guarantors and aggregators to maintain higher capital standards than their smaller competitors as a way to mitigate the risk of any such market player becoming too big to fail, and will be able to limit such firms’ market share if they get too big, according to the bill.
Underwriting standards for mortgages that would be backed by the FMIC would match, as much as possible, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s qualified mortgage standards, which went into effect in January, according to the legislation.
Moreover, the FMIC would be able to write regulations for force-placed insurance that is applied to mortgages where borrowers do not purchase their own private mortgage insurance under the legislation. The CFPB and other regulators have tackled perceived problems in the force-placed insurance market in recent months.
Extending those capital and other safety and soundness requirements to nonbank firms would be akin to extending supervision authority of nonbank mortgage servicers and other firms to the CFPB, a power granted by the Dodd-Frank Act, Reiss said.
“It can be described as part of the effort since the passage of Dodd-Frank to regulate the breadth of the financial services industry instead of one part of it, the banking sector,” he said.| Permalink