On January 28, the House Financial Services Committee held a lengthy hearing with CFPB Director Richard Cordray in connection with the CFPB’s November 2013 Semi-Annual Report to Congress, which covers the period April 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013. The hearing came a day after the Committee launched a CFPB-like “Tell Your Story” feature through which it is seeking information from consumers and business owners about how the CFPB has impacted them or their customers. The Committee has provided an online submission form and also will take stories by telephone. Mr. Cordray’s prepared statement provided a general recap of the CFPB’s recent activities and focused on the mortgage rules and their implementation. It also specifically highlighted the CFPB’s concerns with the student loan servicing market.
The question and answer session centered on the implementation and impact of the CFPB’s mortgage rules, as well as the CFPB’s activities with regard to auto finance, HMDA, credit reporting, student lending, and other topics. Committee members also questioned Mr. Cordray on the CFPB’s collection and use of consumer data, particularly credit card account data, and the costs of the CFPB’s building construction/rehabilitation.
Mortgage Rule Implementation / Impact
Generally, Director Cordray pushed back against charges that the mortgage rules, in particular the ATR/QM rule, are inflexible and will limit credit availability. He urged members to wait for data before judging the impacts, and he suggested that much of the concerns being raised are “unreasoned and irrational,” resulting from smaller institutions that are unaware of the CFPB’s adjustments to the QM rule. He stated that he has personally called many small banks and has learned they are just not aware of the rule’s flexibility. He repeatedly stated that the rules can be amended, and that the CFPB will be closely monitoring market data.
The impact of the mortgage rules on the availability of credit for manufactured homes was a major topic throughout the hearing, On the substance of the issue, which was raised by Reps. Pearce (R-NM), Fincher (R-TN), Clay (D-MO), Sewell (D-AL), and others, Director Cordray explained that in his understanding, the concerns from the manufactured housing industry began with earlier changes in the HOEPA rule that resulted in a retreat from manufacture home lending. He stated that industry overreacted and now lenders are coming back into the market. Mr. Cordray has met personally with many lenders on this issue and will continue to do so while monitoring the market for actual impacts, as opposed to the “doomsday scenarios that are easy to speculate on in a room like this.” Still, he committed to work on this issue with manufacturers and lenders, as well as committee members.
Several committee members, including Reps. Sherman (D-CA), and Huizenga (R-MI) raised the issue of the requirement that title insurance from affiliated companies must be counted in the QM three percent cap. Mr. Cordray repeated that the CFPB believes Congress made a determination to include affiliate title protections in numerous places in the Dodd-Frank Act. That said, the CFPB is looking at the data on the impacts and meeting with stakeholders. Rep. Huizenga was most forceful, stating that while the CFPB has sought to limit the impact of the three percent cap, it is not enough. He raised again his bill, HR 1077, Rep. Meeks’ HR 3211, and ongoing work with Senators Vitter (R-LA) and Manchin (D-WV). He cited a survey conducted by the Real Estate Settlement Providers Council that found the inclusion of title charges causes 60 percent of loans under $60,000 to fail as qualified mortgages, and such loans actually become high-cost HOEPA loans. The survey also found that 45 percent of affiliated loans between $60,000 and $125,000 failed to qualify as qualified mortgages, and that 97 percent of the loans that failed as QMs were under $200,000 simply due to the inclusion of title insurance. He cited the need for relief for “major players” like Quicken and Flagstar. Director Cordray did not have time to respond in full, but indicated the CFPB is waiting to see data on the actual impact.
Rep. Capito focused on the QM rule impact on Habitat for Humanity and other 501(c)(3) entities. Director Cordray stated that he spoke with the Habitat CEO prior to the hearing and believes the CFPB can address all of that organization’s concerns through rule amendments. He added that the CFPB already amended the rule to address Habitat’s first set of concerns, and that its latest concerns are new.
HMDA Rule Amendments & Small Business Fair Lending Rule
As she has done several times in the past, Rep. Velazquez (D-NY) raised the status of rulemaking required by Dodd-Frank Act section 1071 regarding small and minority/women-owned business lending. As he has in the past, Director Cordray explained that the CFPB is having difficulty addressing this rule given it is the only area in which the CFPB is required to address business lending. He added that the CFPB has determined that as it moves forward with the rule to amend HMDA data collection, which is underway now, the Bureau will attempt to fold the small business lending element into that process. He stated that the CFPB is working with the Federal Reserve Board on “overhauling that whole [HMDA] database” and “it feels to me that the right spot for this, and we’ve talked to a number of folks both from industry and consumer side on this, is to make [the small business lending requirements] part of the later stages of that, so it’s coming, but not immediate.”
Rep. Bachus (R-AL) asked Director Cordray to specify appropriate dealer compensation alternatives. Mr. Cordray responded that the CFPB does not know all the mechanisms yet that would be satisfactory. It is “open to auto lenders and others bringing those to [the CFPB’s] attention, but [the CFPB] did say flat fees are one possibility. A flat percentage of the loan might be a possibility. Some combination of that with different durations of the loan, different levels, and potentially other things that [the CFPB has not] thought of but others in the industry may think of and bring to [its] attention. So [the CFPB is] open-minded on that.”
Reps. Scott (D-GA) and Barr (R-KY) also were critical of the CFPB’s auto finance guidance and suggested the CFPB should have met with industry stakeholders in advance or should have conducted a rulemaking. Mr. Scott asserted that auto credit is tighter and more expensive now. Mr. Cordray defended the guidance, as he has in the past, as a restatement of existing law. He does not believe the guidance has impacted or will impact the health of the auto market.
Rep. Beatty (D-OH) raised a recent proposal from the National Association of Auto Dealers on alternative dealer compensation models. Mr. Cordray acknowledged having seen it, and said that as long as all parties agree that the CFPB is respecting its jurisdictional lines in the auto context, the Bureau is willing to sit down with dealers and others to work on a “broader solution.”
Rep. Velazquez (D-NY) asked for an update on the CFPB’s efforts to regulate consumer credit reporting agencies. Director Cordray described the CFPB’s efforts to, for the first time, provide federal supervision of the major credit reporting agencies. He stated that those agencies are not used to such supervision and that, in his view, it has been an adjustment for them. The CFPB has had examination teams into each of the three largest credit reporting agencies and is discussing “various issues” with them and areas of concern. He informed the committee that as a result of the CFPB’s efforts the credit reporting agencies, for the first time, are forwarding the documentation that consumers send them about problems and potential errors in their credit reports to the furnishers to be evaluated. The CFPB still is concerned about errors and error resolution.
Prepaid & Overdraft
In response to an inquiry from Rep. Maloney (D-NY), Mr. Cordray stated that the CFPB is continuing to work on the prepaid card proposed rule to address “a hole in the fabric” of consumer protection. He said the rule likely will address disclosures and add new protections. On overdraft, he acknowledged the CFPB is not as far along—the agency is still studying the market.
Payday & Internet Lending
Rep. Luetkemeyer (R-MO) stated the FDIC and DOJ have admitted to working to shut down online lending. He confirmed that the Oversight Committee is considering investigating DOJ on Operation Choke Point (its payment processor investigations). He asked Director Cordray to support, perhaps with a letter of some sort, legitimate online lending businesses and processors. Mr. Cordray agreed that there is plenty of appropriate online lending, but declined to offer specific help absent further context.
Rep. Murphy (D-FL) later suggested that the CFPB look at the “good regulation and great enforcement” in Florida. Director Cordray responded that the CFPB is looking at “a number of states that have developed different provisions on short-term, small-dollar payday lending” including Florida, Colorado, and Washington.
Rep. Heck (D-WA) inquired as to the status of proposed Military Lending Act regulations. Director Cordray explained that the CFPB has been “actively engaged” on writing new rules with the Department of Defense, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the OCC, Treasury Department, and the FTC. It stated that it has been difficult to get multiple agencies to work together, and asked Congress to “keep our feet to the fire and make it clear that you want to see that quickly.”
Mobile Payments & Emerging Products/Providers
Rep. Ellison (D-MN) asked about the CFPB’s views on emerging financial service providers, citing recent reports about T-Mobile’s efforts. Mr. Cordray stated that the CFPB is watching very closely and trying to keep up with the rapidly changing products and markets. He stated that it will present challenges to the current regulatory structure, particularly when phone companies are involved, and that the CFPB will need to coordinate with other regulators and probably will need legislation from Congress. Rep. Heck asked the CFPB to conduct a front-end in-depth analysis of consumer protection issues across various emerging mobile payments platforms. Mr. Cordray did not commit.
Rep. Peters (D-MI) raised his FAIR Student Credit Act bill, HR 2561. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Bachus (R-AL), Capito (R-WV), and seven other Republicans and 11 Democrats, would amend FCRA with respect to the responsibilities of furnishers of information to consumer reporting agencies. It would provide for the removal of a previously reported default regarding a qualified education loan from a consumer report if the consumer of the loan meets the requirements of a loan rehabilitation program, where the number of consecutive on-time monthly payments are equal to the number of payments specified in a default reduction program under the Higher Education Act of 1965. The bill would limit such rehabilitation benefits to once per loan. Rep. Peters indicated the Committee will consider the legislation, and that he has met with lenders who stated they could start offering rehabilitation immediately after the bill is enacted. Director Cordray stated that without having read the bill, it sounded promising, and that he would ask Rohit Chopra to work with the Congressman.