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The five federal banking agencies (Federal Reserve, CFPB, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC – collectively Agencies) issued a proposed rule on October 20 on the role of supervisory guidance. The proposal codifies and expands upon a 2018 statement from the same agencies about which we previously reported. In November 2018, the Agencies (aside from the NCUA) received a petition for a rulemaking, as permitted under the Administrative Procedure Act, requesting that the Agencies codify the 2018 statement.

The main thrust of the 2018 statement was that supervisory guidance does not have the force and effect of law, and that the Agencies do not take enforcement actions based on supervisory guidance. The current proposal not only reaffirms and clarifies the 2018 statement but, in certain respects, goes further.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) on October 20 issued a final rule to extend the government-sponsored enterprises patch (GSE Patch), i.e., the “temporary qualified mortgage” exemption within the qualified mortgage/ability-to-repay rule.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued a policy statement on October 5 establishing a process to allow for early termination of consent orders. The policy statement is applicable on October 8, 2020.

The Dodd-Frank Act provides that the Bureau may enter into administrative consent orders where the Bureau has identified violations of federal consumer financial law. Consent orders, which generally have a five-year term, describe the Bureau’s findings and conclusions concerning the identified violations by an entity and generally impose injunctive relief, monetary relief, penalties, and reporting, recordkeeping, and cooperation requirements.

An August 31 memorandum issued by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), an arm of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Executive Branch, could dramatically change the way agencies handle civil and administrative enforcement proceedings. The memorandum directs covered agencies to provide greater due process to individuals and companies under investigation and reemphasizes the principle that the burden of proof of a violation rests solely with the government. The memorandum was issued to implement the directives contained in Section 6 of Executive Order 13924, Executive Order on Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery (issued May 19, 2020). In relevant part, the executive order directed agency heads to revise agency procedures and practices in light of “the principles of fairness in administrative enforcement and adjudication.”

Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act amended the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) to require financial institutions to compile, maintain, and submit to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) certain data on applications for credit for women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses. The Bureau took the next step to implement this mandate on September 15, 2020 by releasing its Outline of Proposals under Consideration and Alternatives Considered (Outline) regarding small business lending data collection and reporting. Coinciding with the issuance of the Outline, the Bureau also released a high-level summary.

The US Supreme Court on June 29 ruled in Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) structure unconstitutionally insulates the agency from presidential oversight and must be altered.

The Dodd-Frank Act sculpted the now-stricken structure, including protective provisions for the independent regulatory agency’s sole director that were known to be novel in that they allowed the president to oust the unitary director, who is appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate for a five-year term, only “for cause” (more specifically for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance”), while the vast majority of presidential appointees serve at the president’s pleasure alone and thus may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all. Prior to the CFPB’s creation, such “for cause” removal provisions typically were associated with independent regulatory agencies governed by multimember boards or commissions, rather than by a single director. Following the decision, the president may remove the agency’s director “at will.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued an interim final rule (IFR) on June 23, 2020 that temporarily permits mortgage servicers to offer to borrowers impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic certain loss mitigation options based on the evaluation of an incomplete loss mitigation application.

On June 18, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued a procedural rule to launch a new pilot advisory opinion (AO) program to publicly address regulatory uncertainty in the Bureau’s existing regulations. The pilot AO program will allow entities seeking to comply with regulatory requirements to submit a request where uncertainty exists, and the Bureau will then select topics based on the program’s priorities and make the responses available to the public. The Bureau states that it is establishing the pilot AO program in response to feedback received from external stakeholders encouraging the Bureau to provide written guidance in cases of regulatory uncertainty. For the pilot AO program, requestors will be limited to covered persons or service providers that are subject to the Bureau’s supervisory or enforcement authority.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced on April 21 that servicers’ obligation to advance scheduled monthly payments for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) backed single-family mortgage loans in forbearance will be limited to four months. After the four-month period, the Enterprises will stand ready to take over advancing payments to investors in mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced on March 18 that they have directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) national emergency. The foreclosure and eviction moratorium provides relief to homeowners with a GSE-backed single-family mortgage.