CFPB Issues Guidance On Loan Originator Compensation

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In response to questions it has received from loan originators and their firms seeking to comply with compensation rules issued under TILA Regulation Z, the CFPB today issued Bulletin 2012-02. The Bulletin states that employers of loan originators may make contributions to employees’ qualified profit sharing, 401(k), and stock ownership plans (qualified plans) out of a profit pool derived from loan originations. The Federal Reserve Board previously had indicated that any compensation—even contributions to a qualified retirement plan—to a loan originator that derived from the profits of mortgage loan originations was “problematic” and likely prohibited by Regulation Z.

While the Bulletin expands the ability of lenders to contribute to their employees’ qualified plans, the Bulletin does not provide guidance about other types of profit-sharing arrangements, noting that such issues are “fact-specific.” According to the Bulletin, the CFPB will address these and other loan originator compensation issues in more detail in a proposed rule, which it plans to release in the “near future.” Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB is required to finalize loan originator compensation rules by January 21, 2013, and these rules must take effect by January 21, 2014.

Pursuant to rules issued by the Federal Reserve Board in September 2010 that became effective April 6, 2011, loan originators may not receive, either directly or indirectly, compensation that is based on any terms or conditions of a mortgage transaction, subject to certain limited exceptions. Commentary issued as part of that rulemaking describes compensation to include salaries, commissions, and annual or periodic bonuses, while covered transaction terms and conditions include the interest rate, loan-to-value ratio, or prepayment penalty. Moreover, compensation may not be tied to proxies for such transaction terms, such as credit scores.

In July 2011, administration of TILA Regulation Z was transferred to the CFPB, and employers have since been expressing their concern to the CFPB and asking for clarification. This CFPB guidance, issued almost exactly one year after the loan originator compensation rules became effective, signals a shift from the Federal Reserve’s guidance, and employers should now be able to make contributions to qualified plans, even if the contributions derive from mortgage-origination profits. Originators and their employers also should look for the CFPB’s planned loan origination compensation rule, which may provide further clarification and guidance on these issues, but likely also will provide new general requirements for originator compensation.