After much ado our political "leaders" have finally come to an agreement on the broadest regulatory overhaul since the Glass Steagal Act of 1933.

By a vote of 60-39, the Senate yesterday passed HR 4173: WALL STREET REFORM AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT.  The House already gave their seal of approval so the legislation heads to President Obama's desk where he is expected to sign it into law next week.

The bill includes several reforms aimed directly at the housing and mortgage industries. Instead of trying to translate the text into comprehensible English I chose to rely on the Mortgage Bankers Association's outlines. Once again they came through in the clutch...

HERE is an indepth summary of the text. Below are some excerpts from the MBA's overview.

Credit Risk Retention (Section 941) – Requires federal banking agencies and SEC to jointly prescribe rules requiring securitizers to retain economic interest of at least five percent of credit risk of assets they securitize. Regulations must include separate requirements for different asset classes, and may allocate the retention amount between originator and securitizer. HUD and the Federal Housing Finance Agency must participate in joint rulemaking process for residential mortgage backed securities (MBS) risk retention requirements. The statute requires an exemption for “qualified residential mortgages” which shall be defined by regulators based on statutory criteria to ensure sound underwriting and lower risk of default such as:

  • Documentation of borrower’s financial resources;
  • Debt- to-income standards;
  • Mitigating potential for payment shock on adjustable rate mortgages through product features and underwriting standards;
  • Mortgage insurance or other credit enhancements to reduce risk of default; and
  • Prohibiting use of loan features that have been demonstrated to exhibit a higher risk of borrower default.

Exempts loans insured or guaranteed by U.S. from risk retention requirements. For commercial MBS, regulators must give consideration to other types, forms and amounts of risk retention such as representations and warranties, underwriting criteria and first-loss positions. Within 90 days of enactment, requires FRB to complete study on combined impact of risk retention and accounting standards requiring securitizations to be brought on balance sheet.

Prohibition on Steering Incentives (Section 1403)

  • Prohibition: Prohibits mortgage originator from receiving from any person, or any person from paying mortgage originator, directly or indirectly, compensation that varies based on terms of loan (other than amount of the principal). With the exceptions below, generally prohibits a mortgage originator from receiving from any person other than consumer and any person other than consumer, who knows or has reason to know that a consumer has directly compensated or will directly compensate mortgage originator, from paying mortgage originator any fee or charge except bona fide third-party charges not retained by creditor, mortgage originator, or affiliate of creditor or mortgage originator. Intended to prohibit yield spread premiums or other similar compensation based on terms including rate that would cause originator to “steer” borrower to particular mortgage products.
  • Exceptions: Does not limit compensation to originator based on principal amount of loan. Also, does not restrict person other than consumer from receiving, or person other than consumer from paying, origination fee or charge if: (1) originator does not receive any compensation directly from consumer; and (2) consumer does not pay discount points, origination points or fees however denominated (other than bona fide third-party charges not retained by originator, creditor or affiliate of creditor or originator), except that Board may, by rule, waive or provide exemptions to restriction if Board determines waiver is in interest of consumers and public.
  • Regulations: Requires CFPB to prescribe regulations prohibiting mortgage originators from: (1) steering any consumer to loan that (a) consumer lacks reasonable ability to repay, or (b) has predatory characteristics or effects such as equity stripping, excessive fees or abusive terms; (2) steering any consumer from a “qualified mortgage” to “not qualified” mortgage when consumer qualifies for ”qualified mortgage;” (3) abusive or unfair lending practices that promote disparities among consumers of equal creditworthiness but of different race, ethnicity, gender, or age; (4) mischaracterizing the credit history of consumer or residential loans available to consumer, (5) mischaracterizing or inducing mischaracterization of appraised value of property securing extension of credit; or (6) if unable to suggest, offer or recommend to consumer loan that is not more expensive than loan for which consumer qualifies, discouraging consumer from seeking mortgage from another originator.
  • Rules of Construction: While expressly prohibiting any yield spread premium or similar compensation that would permit total amount of direct and indirect compensation from all sources to originator to vary based on loan terms other than amount of principal, expressly permits compensation to a creditor upon the sale of a consummated loan to a subsequent purchaser, i.e. compensation to lender from secondary market for sale of consummated loan. Also does not restrict: (1) consumer’s ability to finance at option of consumer through principal or rate, any origination fees or costs as long as fees or costs do not vary based on terms of loan or consumer’s decision to finance such fees; or (2) incentive

Definitions of Mortgage Originator (Section 1401) – Means any person who for direct or indirect compensation or gain: (i) takes residential mortgage loan application, (ii) assists consumer in obtaining or applying to obtain residential mortgage loan; or (iii) offers or negotiates terms of residential mortgage loan as well as any person who represents to the public that it will provide any of services in (i)-(iii). Does not include any person who: (1) performs purely administrative or clerical tasks; (2) is employee of manufactured home retailer who does not advise consumer on loan terms; (3) only performs real estate brokerage activities and is licensed or registered in accordance with applicable state law, unless such person or entity is compensated by lender, mortgage broker, or other originator or their agents; (4) person, estate or trust that provides mortgage financing for sale of 3 properties in any 12 month period provided loan is fully amortizing, where borrower has ability to repay and is either fixed or adjustable only after five years and meets other conditions; (5) is servicer or servicer employee, agent or contractor, including but not limited to those who offer or negotiate terms of residential mortgage loan for purposes of renegotiating, modifying, replacing and subordinating principal of existing mortgage where borrower is behind in payments, in default, or has reasonable likelihood of being in default or falling behind; and (6) Excludes creditor except the creditor in a table funded transaction under anti-steering provisions.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Established – Establishes CFPB as independent entity housed within FRB. Assigns CFPB broad authority to write rules to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive financial products, acts or practices and reassigns to CFPB responsibility for major consumer protection laws including RESPA, TILA, HOEPA, HMDA and more, detailed below.

Appraisals, AMCs and AVMs – Prohibits appraiser coercion and requires rulemaking by FRB, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, FHFA and the CFPB on appraiser independence. Requires: interim rules by CFPB within 90 days of enactment on appraiser independence to replace Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC); physical appraisal for every subprime mortgage and two appraisals for subprime mortgage when there has been purchase or acquisition of property at lower price within 180 days; Appraisal Subcommittee of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council to monitor state and federal efforts to protect consumers from improper appraisal practices and unlicensed appraisers; FRB, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, FHFA and the CFPB to prescribe minimum requirements for appraisers, appraisal management companies and standards for AVMs.

CFPB Authority – Assigns CFPB regulatory and supervisory authority to examine and enforce consumer protection regulations respecting all mortgage-related businesses, large non-bank financial companies, and banks and credit unions with greater than $10 billion in assets. Makes CFPB primary regulator for nondepository lenders. Exclusions from CFPB authority for real estate brokers, persons regulated by state insurance regulators, auto dealers, accountants, tax preparers, and others.

CFPB Transfer Date
– Requires Treasury, in consultation with FRB, FDIC, FTC, NCUA, OCC, OTS, HUD and OMB, to designate date for transfer of functions to CFPB within 60 days after enactment. Date generally must be between 180 days and 12 months of enactment. Authorizes Treasury to revise date after further consultation with agencies. If determined transfer of functions is not feasible within 12 months, Treasury must report to Congress.

Coverage of Mortgage Lending Provisions
– Includes mortgage originators who take or assist applications and negotiate terms of mortgages. Excludes creditors (except creditor in table funded transaction for anti-steering provisions) servicer employees, agents and contractors, persons or entities performing real estate brokerage activities and certain employees of manufactured home retailers from “originator” definition.

Duty of Care – Requires loan originators to be qualified and licensed and registered, when required, and include on all loan documents the unique identifier of mortgage originator provided by the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLSR).

Minimum Standards for Mortgages/Ability to Repay – Prohibits creditors from making residential mortgage loans unless creditor makes good faith determination, based on verified and documented information that, at time loan was consummated, consumer had reasonable ability to repay loan according to its terms, and all applicable taxes, insurance and assessments.

Presumption/Safe Harbor for Qualified Mortgages – Allows any creditor and any assignee or securitizer of “qualified mortgage” to be presumed to meet “Ability to Repay” requirements, although presumption may be rebuttable.

Qualified Mortgages – Includes loans that meet several requirements including that the income relied on to qualify borrowers is verified and documented, underwriting and ratios are consistent with statutory and regulatory requirements, and total points and fees payable in connection with loan do not exceed 3 percent of total loan amount.

3 Percent Limit
– Applies definition in TILA with following exclusions: (1) up to and including 2 bona fide discount points depending on interest rate; (2) any government insurance premium and any private mortgage insurance (MI) premium up to amount of the FHA insurance premium, provided the MI premium is refundable on pro rata basis, and (3) any MI premium paid by the consumer after closing, e.g., monthly.

Liability for Mortgage Originators
– Establishes mortgage originators are liable for violations of duty of care and anti-steering prohibitions up to greater of actual damages or amount equal to 3 times total amount of direct and indirect compensation or gain accruing to mortgage originator for loan involved, plus costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Discretionary Regulatory Authority
– Grants broad discretionary regulatory authority to CFPB to prohibit or condition terms, acts or practices relating to residential mortgage loans found abusive, unfair, deceptive, predatory.

Prepayment Penalties
– Prohibits prepayment penalties for “not qualified mortgages.” Restricts prepayment penalties to loans that are not adjustable and do not have APR that exceeds Average Prime Offer Rate (APOR) by 1.5 or more percentage points for first lien loans, 2.5 or more percentage points for jumbo loans, or 3.5 or more percentage points for subordinate lien loans. Also, requires three-year phase-out of prepayment penalties for qualified mortgages and prohibits offering loan with a prepayment penalty without offering loan that does not have prepayment penalty.

Average Prime Offer Rate (APOR)
– Means the average prime offer rate for a comparable transaction as of the date on which the interest rate for the transaction is set, as published by FRB.

– Prohibits mandatory arbitration for residential mortgages and open-end consumer credit secured by principal dwellings, except on reverse mortgages.

HOEPA Expansion – Expands coverage of HOEPA and its restrictions governing high-cost mortgages to purchase mortgages. Also lowers the APR triggers to cover loans with an APR more than 6.5 percent above comparable APOR for first lien loans (8.5 percent if the dwelling is personal property and transaction is less than $50,000) and 8.5 percent above for subordinate loans. Also, lowers point and fees trigger from 8 percent of the total loan amount to 5 percent (the lesser of 8 percent or $1000 for loans under $20,000).

Servicing – Requires escrows for certain mortgages and new escrow disclosures, shortens time frames for qualified written requests, establishes timelines for pay-off statements and crediting of payments, and limits late fees for high-cost mortgages. Requires monthly statements on ARM loans. Establishes new requirements for force-placed insurance including notices to borrower. Expands scope of Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act.

Counseling – Establishes Office of Housing Counseling within HUD headed by Director to carry out wide range of counseling related activities including research, public outreach and policy development as well as coordinating and administering HUD counseling related programs.

Reach of Bill
– The bill directs certain provisions to all residential mortgage loans and other provisions to specified categories of mortgages, defined below, which include “qualified mortgages,” “not qualified mortgages,” “higher risk mortgages,” and “high-cost” or “HOEPA mortgages.”

Regulatory Authority
– Provisions assign regulatory authority to FRB, CFPB, federal banking agencies – FRB, OCC, FDIC and NCUA--and other agencies under various sections of bill. Provisions assigned to FRB under title XIV are reassigned to CFPB, except for provisions relating to housing counseling and certain appraisal-related matters. Assigns HUD regulatory responsibility for housing counseling provisions.

Now we wait and see how lenders interpret these reforms....