Lenders Announce They Will Control More of the Residential Closing Process

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Regional bank will require third-party BP certifications on a short time frame!

work in progressLet’s take the big bank first. Bank of America recently shared more details about changes in its closing processes after August 1, 2015.  In addition to delivering Closing Disclosures, BofA will take the responsibility for complying with the three-business day waiting period. It will not require closing attorneys to monitor the timing of the delivery of the initial CD or any required re-disclosures.

BofA stated that close collaboration will be needed with closing attorneys for requests of information and notices of all loan and fee changes through its selected platform, RealEC® Technologies Closing Insight™. Closing attorneys will be notified of re-disclosure requirements and new closing dates through Closing Insight™.

BofA said it expects to engage closing attorneys to begin fee collaboration a minimum of ten calendar days prior to closing, and it intends to generate and send the CD six business days prior to closing.*

Now let’s look at an interesting announcement from a small bank, and please pay attention to the short time frame.

Mississippi based regional BancorpSouth announced in early March that its approved closing must comply with ALTA’s Best Practices through a certification from an independent third party vendor acceptable to the bank. Self-certifications will not be accepted.certified - blue (small)

The announcement stated that Memphis Consumer Credit Association and many of the large accounting firms have agreed to provide the certification. The bank asked closing attorneys to advise by March 23 whether they intend to obtain the certification. And the deadline for obtaining the certification was stated to be July 31.

*In almost all South Carolina transactions, we expect the “consummation date” to be the same as the closing date and the same as the date BofA refers to in this memorandum as the signing date.

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Three Lenders Make CFPB Announcements

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Two additional lenders will deliver the borrower’s Closing Disclosure

extra extra kid- citi chaseCiti and Chase have joined Well Fargo and Bank of America by announcing that they will deliver borrowers’ Closing Disclosures after the CFPB rules take effect on August 1, 2015.

Citi’s announcement was made on January 28, 2015, followed by Chase’s announcement on February 26. Both lenders stated that closing attorneys will continue to be responsible for sellers’ Closing Disclosures in purchase transactions. Closing attorneys will be required to deliver copies of sellers’ Closing Disclosures to the respective lender.

Citi’s announcement shared some information with its settlement agents that has previously been made clear by the rule itself. That is, there will be several weeks or months after August 1 when the old forms will be used because it is the application date as of August 1 that triggers the use of the new forms, and early use of the Closing Disclosure is not allowed. Citi also pointed out that the new rules do not apply to home equity loans.

Closing attorneys should note that their software systems will have to accommodate old and new versions of the forms because of the transition and because all loans will not be subject to the new rules.bandwagon - one way (smaller)

Union Bank announced on February 26 that it will use the web-based tool Closing Insight™ to simplify the multi-party closing process and support efforts to ensure regulatory compliance. The announcement stated that no other means of communication or document delivery will be accepted.

We will continue to read and keep you informed!

Closing Attorneys and Paralegals: Want to toss and turn at night?

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Read about this costly law firm mistake.

(This case makes my stomach hurt because a developer client of mine once declared bankruptcy. Everything I had done for that client for the prior three years was scrutinized, and I spent some sleepless nights!)

On January 21, 2015, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals Pepto in Manhattan decided a direct appeal from a U.S. Bankruptcy Court involving a mistaken UCC-3 termination statement.* This case involves the General Motors bankruptcy.

The facts concern a 2008 payoff by GM to JP Morgan Chase of a $300 million synthetic lease. GM contacted its outside counsel to prepare the necessary documents. A partner assigned the work to an associate and instructed him to prepare a closing checklist and drafts of the necessary documents. The associate asked a paralegal who was unfamiliar with the transaction to perform a UCC search that search identified three UCC-1s. Two of the UCC-1s related to the subject loan. The third, however, was related to a term loan between the same parties. The law firm prepared UCC-3 terminations for all three financing statements.

No one at GM, its law firm, JP Morgan or its law firm noticed the error. When the loan was paid, all three
UCC-3s were filed.

The mistake was not noticed until GM filed bankruptcy in 2009.

In litigation with the unsecured creditors, JP Morgan argued that the third UCC-3 was unauthorized and ineffective because it intended to terminate only the liens that related to the synthetic lease. The Bankruptcy Court agreed on the grounds that no one at JP Morgan or its law firm intended to terminate the third UCC-1.

The Second Circuit certified a question to the Delawarecourt money 4 Supreme Court, asking, basically, whether a termination is effective when a lender reviews and knowingly approves a termination statement for filing or whether the lender must intend to terminate the particular security interest. The Delaware Court replied that intent is not necessary, stating, “If parties could be relieved from the legal consequences of their mistaken filings, they would have little incentive to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in their UCC filings.”

The Second Circuit agreed, indicating JP Morgan authorized the termination even though it never intended to.

Lawyers and paralegals: be careful, be careful, be careful! And now try to get a good night’s sleep!

* Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of Motors Liquidation Company v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.,U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit,  Docket No. 13-2187, January 21, 2015.

Good News for Small Lenders

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changes comingCFPB proposed rule change may also benefit South Carolina closing attorneys.

On January 29, the CFPB proposed its ability to repay and qualified mortgage rules to facilitate additional mortgage lending by credit unions and community banks. South Carolina closing attorneys who handle transactions for small lenders could benefit from these proposed rule changes because the business coming from these lenders would increase in volume.

Comments are due on the proposals by March 30. South Carolina closing attorneys should consider commenting positively on this proposal.

“Responsible lending by community banks and credit unions did not cause the financial crisis, and our mortgage rules reflect the fact that small institutions play a vital role in many communities,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

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Credit unions and other small lenders have been lobbying for flexibility under the new rules, and this development is considered to be a victory for them.

The proposed rules would expand the definition of “small creditor” by raising the limit on first lien-mortgages from 500 to 2,000, excluding the mortgages held in the portfolios of the creditor and their affiliates. The CFPB said that this change would increase the approximate number of small lenders from 9,700 to 10,400.

Small lender status allows these lenders to make loans where the homeowner’s total debt payments exceed 43 percent of pretax income.

The proposal would also extend the ability of small creditors in rural or underserved areas to issue loans with balloon payments and still have them qualify as qualified mortgage loans. The definition of “rural” was extended to any census block that is not in an urban area as defined by the Census Bureau.stay tuned

A copy of the proposal can be found at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s  website, or by clicking here.

Don’t Expect Uniform Closing Procedures in 2015

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And … Bank of America makes a big announcement.

changes comingLenders will not collaborate on a standard and consistent process for closings under the new CFPB rules effective August 1, 2015, at least not according to Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo’s December 10, 2014 Settlement Agent Communication answered nine FAQs from settlement agents, the first of which sought confirmation on whether to expect standard closing procedures from lenders. Wells responded with a “no,” and stated that each lender is accountable and must determine its own method for achieving compliance.

This mega lender had announced on September 24 that it will control the generation and delivery of the buyer/borrower Closing Disclosure (“CD”), the form that will replace the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The stated rationale was that the new CD is governed by the Truth-in-Lending Act (“TILA”), not the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), and the risks and penalties for lenders are more severe under TILA.

Bank of America announced on December 17 that it will follow suit by generating and delivering the buyer/borrower CD.  Both banks have indicated settlement agents will generate the seller’s CD. Other lenders have not announced whether they will follow this procedure. It is entirely possible that settlement agents (closing attorneys in South Carolina) will prepare the CDs for other lenders.

The December 10 memo did state that Wells will work closely with settlement agents to determine fees, prorations, and other content required for the CD and, importantly, Wells will not assume the responsibility for disbursing loans. This quote from the Communication provides some comfort with regard to Wells’ attitude about keeping local settlement agents involved in the closing process:

“The settlement agent is critical and continues to be responsible for executing the closing including document signing, notarization, disbursement of funds, document recordation and delivery of final documents post-closing.”

Also comforting was the promise of training plans for settlement agents in collaboration with American Land Title Association, title underwriters and other service providers. The plans are said to include many educational communications and an information guide.

Bank of America stated that it will use Closing Insight™, an industry tool developed by Real EC Technologies®. All documents, date and information will be exchanged through Closing Insight™, discontinuing the use of e-mail, fax and other document delivery methods.

Bank of America also indicated that the requirement for the buyer/borrower to receive the CD three business days prior to closing will intensify the need for the bank to work very closely with the settlement agent to schedule the details of the closing.

stay tunedFor more information about Real EC ® Technologies and Closing Insight™, Bank of America invited settlement agents to visit their website at www.bkfs.com/realec.  The December 17 memo indicated that many title and escrow production systems are working with RealEC® Technologies to enhance current integrations in support of Closing Insight™. The bank suggested that settlement agents reach out to their title and escrow production system provider directly.

Stay tuned!

Lions, and Tigers and Seller Financing, Oh My!

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If you are closing seller financed transactions on primary residences including contracts for deed (hereafter referred to as seller financing), or if you have clients who are accepting seller financing, you should take the time to educate yourself and your clients on the current pitfalls.  Please refer to Martha McConnell’s excellent article entitled Seller Financing – the New ‘Jabberwocky’!” in the Summer 2014 issue of Chicago Record Title for a detailed report on what has led to this serious concern.

lions1 Because it is a complicated issue, I am not sure I can express a bottom line in any kind of succinct manner, but I will attempt to do so here.

The CFPB has been given the power to supervise and regulate laws that impact seller financing, including the SAFE Act, TILA, the Ability to Repay and Qualified Mortgage Rule, HOEPA and the Loan Originator Rule.

Under the applicable federal rules, it is possible that sellers engaging in seller financing may have to become licensed as “loan originators” or “mortgage brokers”.  The loans may have to be fully amortized, and it is possible that these seller/lenders may have to make determinations and disclosures that have not previously been required. Certain exclusions are available, but the rules are complex and detailed, and should be handled with care.

Inconsistencies between the federal and state versions of the SAFE Act, both of which require licensing and registration of loan originators, is another area of concern.

Clients who fail to become licensed or to fall into an exclusion may find they are unable to foreclose, and may, along with the attorneys who closed the transactions and the title policies that insured them, be subject to claims and litigation. In addition, the CFPB has broad enforcement powers including the power to impose civil monetary penalties ranging from $5,000 to $1 million per day.

This is an area of the law that is going to require monitoring and thought in the coming months. Legislation in South Carolina to address the inconsistencies in our version of the SAFE Act may be one avenue for improvement. In the meantime, please take great care if you or your clients venture into seller financing.

Who Will Get On the Wells Fargo Wagon?

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Wells Fargo announces it will generate and deliver the Closing Disclosure

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Wells Fargo announced on September 24, 2014 that it will generate and deliver the borrower’s Closing Disclosure when the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule becomes effective on August 1, 2015.

Software companies, title insurance companies and closing attorneys have been speculating about this for many months. Now we have an answer, at least as to this mega-lender. Whether other lenders will fall in line remains to be seen.  The stated rationale is that the process will allow Wells Fargo to consistently meet compliance and regulator expectations.

The announcement stated that Wells will continue to collaborate with closing attorneys to determine fees and other content required for the Closing Disclosure and to ensure that the lender has accurate information.

For purchase transactions, the closing attorney will continue to be responsible for the seller’s information and will prepare and deliver the seller’s Closing Disclosure. A copy must be provided to Wells Fargo.

The Closing Disclosure must be delivered three business days prior to the closing, and Wells Fargo anticipates this requirement will require that all the parties work together more than ever on scheduling closings.

Conducting closings will continue to be the responsibility of closing attorneys, but with increasing focus on compliance with the lender’s closing instructions, according to this announcement.

This announcement has a huge impact on the closing process. The closing attorney will continue to be responsible for gathering information required to generate the document that replaces the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, but Wells Fargo, not the closing attorney’s office, will actually generate and deliver the form.

Please recall that Wells Fargo is the lender that endorsed ALTA’s Best Practices. My best advice for residential closing attorneys in South Carolina who want to remain in the game after August, 2015?  Get your office in compliance with Best Practices now so you will be prepared to implement the hardware/software changes this announced “collaborating” with lenders will require.

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