Loan Officer Compensation Rules Finalized

The fourth and last of the final regulations
coming from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the Dodd-Frank Wall
Street Reform and Financial Protection Act was released Friday afternoon.  This rule addresses the causes of what CFPB
Director Richard Cordray said was one of the reasons for the collapse of the
mortgage industry, the steering of consumers to high-priced loans.

It was common for at least a portion of
the compensation paid to loan officers and mortgage originators to be tied to
their success in writing specific types of loans.  These loans were usually those that were most
profitable for the lenders and thus more expensive for the borrowers.  Thus the loan officers were being compensated
for steering consumers toward the loans that were probably the most costly and
possibly the least suitable for them.

After the collapse the Federal Reserve
took steps to change the model under which loan officers, originators, and
brokers were compensated
.  Richard
Cordray, Director of CFPB, said that the rules released today, mandated by the
Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act build on those
developed by the Fed.

“Before the financial crisis,”
Cordray said, “many mortgage borrowers were steered towards risky and high-cost
loans because it meant more money for the loan originator.  These rules will hold loan originators more
accountable by banning the incentives that led so many of them to direct
consumers toward disaster.”

The rule has undergone several
iterations and periods of public comment. 
One notable change in the final rule from the most recent version
released last August is that originators are no longer required to provide a
consumer with a no-fee or flat loan quote when they quote a loan with
fees.  This was intended to give
consumers a concrete way to compare the cost advantages or disadvantages of
paying upfront fees or costs.  Cordray
said numerous public comments convinced CFPB that the flat price example would
merely be confusing to consumers.

The new rule prohibits steering
incentives
.  A loan officer or broker
cannot be paid more if the consumer takes a loan with a higher interest rate, a
prepayment penalty, or higher fees.  Nor
can the LO be paid for convincing the consumer to buy additional services from
the lender, broker, or an affiliate such as title insurance or mortgage life
insurance.  The loan officer or broker can be compensated by way of other
models such as on the number or size of loans or the aggregate dollar volume of
loans written within a stated time period. 

The rule also prohibits the loan
officer or broker from being paid by both the consumer and another person such
as the creditor, i.e. dual compensation
CFPB said that in the run-up to the mortgage crisis consumers often
incorrectly assumed that because they were paying their loan originators they were
looking out for the consumer’s interest.  However, the Final Rule issued today includes an exception to allow mortgage brokers to pay their employees or contractors commissions, although the commissions cannot be based on the terms of loans they originate”

While the Dodd-Frank act prohibits consumers from paying upfront points or fees on the same loan where the originator is compensated by someone other than the consumer,  it also authorizes the CFPB to waive or make exceptions to the prohibition.  Such a waiver was proposed in order to facilitate consumer shopping and preserve consumer choice.  Although the proposal wasn’t finalized today, the CFPB decided to issue a COMPLETE EXEMPTION to the ban on upfront fees.  

In the meantime, the bureau says it will be scrutinizingseveral crucial issues relating to the proposal’s design, operation, and possible effects
in a mortgage market undergoing regulatory overhaul. The Bureau is planning consumer
testing and other research to understand how new Dodd-Frank Act requirements affect
consumers’ understanding of and choices with respect to points and fees, so that the Bureau can
determine whether further regulation is appropriate to facilitate consumer shopping and
enhanced decision-making while protecting access to credit.”

The rule also sets uniform standards
for qualifying and screening loan originators

Under current rules loan originators have different sets of qualifying standards
depending on whether they work for a bank, thrift, mortgage brokerage, or
nonprofit organization. The new rule provides a more level playing field so
consumers can be confident that originators are ethical and knowledgeable. The
final rules generally require:

  • That loan
    originators meet character, fitness, and
    financial responsibility reviews;
  • That they be screened for felony
    convictions; and,
  • That they are required to undertake training
    to ensure they have the knowledge about the rules governing the types of loans
    they originate.

Mandatory arbitration of disputes
involving mortgage and home equity loans are generally prohibited by the new
rule as is the practice of increasing loan amounts to cover credit insurance premiums.
 These two sections of the law will take
effect in June 2013 while the balance of the rule will go into effect in
January 2014.

In a press conference accompanying
the release of the new rule senior CFPB staff said they will be doing baseline
reviews of the effects of the new rules over the next year and will be working
with the affected parties to implement them, watching closely as they are
implemented, and following up with stakeholders.  They will also be watching the interaction of
rules issued by CFPB and those issued by other regulatory agencies.

The final rules will be available on
Sunday, January 20 at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/regulations

Article source: http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/01182013_financial_reform.asp

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