Cyber Incident Preparedness for Closing Attorneys

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And what to do if you suspect a compromise

With the increase in wire fraud that is happening in closing offices around the country, our company recently shared two documents that I thought would be beneficial to pass along to all South Carolina dirt lawyers .

The first document is a Public Service Announcement from the FBI dated August 27, 2015 concerning Business Email Compromise (BEC). BEC is defined as a sophisticated scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and businesses that regularly perform wire transfers. Legitimate e-mail accounts are compromised through social engineering and computer intrusion to conduct unauthorized wire transfers.

We have seen this happen in more than one law firm in South Carolina!

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This PSA states that the total number of victims from October 2013 through August 2015 was 8,179 and the total exposed dollar loss was $798,897,959!

The second document was prepared by Linda Grahovec, the Director of Education and Marketing for our company. This document provides two cyber incident checklists, one for use in preparing, and the other for use if your office is attacked.

Here are three pieces of advice for all closing attorneys:

  1. Use an e-mail system that requires two-factor authentication;
  2. Never wire funds based on the content of an e-mail. Always assume e-mail has been compromised, and validate the information by phone. A good practice would be to refrain from sending wiring instructions by e-mail.
  3. If you suspect fraud, contact the bank immediately.

Please remain vigilant! Read everything you can on this topic, and continue to update and guard your systems. One incident could easily put a law firm out of business. Title insurance companies are excellent sources of information and training on these topics! Call on them!

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FHA Settlement Certification Will Require Tweaking After October 3

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FHA answers a FAQ; it doesn’t officially change the certification

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released a new settlement certification this summer in anticipation of the implementation of the TRID rules on October 3. The new certification is intended to replace FHA’s current addendum to the HUD-1 Settlement Statement and will be used for the new Closing Disclosures once the TRID rules become effective.

The new certification reads:

“To the best of my knowledge, the Closing Disclosure which I have prepared is a true and accurate account of the funds which were (i) received, or (ii) paid outside closing, and the funds received have been or will be disbursed by the undersigned as part of the settlement of this transaction. I further certify that I have obtained the above certifications which were executed by the borrower(s) and seller(s) as indicated.”

Please note that the new certification contains the language “which I have prepared”.  As we have all heard by now, many of the large lenders have indicated that settlement agents will not prepare the Closing Disclosures to be delivered to borrowers. Because of the perceived liability, several of the larger lenders have announced that they will prepare the deliver borrowers’ Closing Disclosures.

frustrated man paperworkSettlement agents (closing attorneys in South Carolina) will prepare and deliver sellers’ Closing Disclosures in all cases and will prepare the borrowers’ forms for the smaller lenders who are not taking the responsibility internally.

American Land Title Association reached out to FHA, the Mortgage Bankers Association and individual lenders to inform them that the new certification would be inaccurate in the cases where the lender prepares the Closing Disclosure.  FHA did not revise its certification, but, in connection with issuing an additional 120 new FAQs to its Single-Family Handbook Frequently Asked Questions, it answered the following question this month:

FAQ 347:

Q: “The Model Settlement Certification requires the Settlement Agent certifying that he or she has prepared the Closing Disclosure but the CFPB’s requirements for issuing the new TRID Closing Disclosure will make this unlikely to be the case. Should the Settlement Agent sign the form anyway?”

A: “FHA does not wish for anyone to make a false certification. Because this is a model component, FHA will accept the tailoring of this phrase to the actual circumstances. This if the Settlement Agent does not prepare the closing disclosure, he or she should remove or strike through the statement ‘which I have prepared’ before executing the Settlement Certification.

FHA is only providing this guidance through the FAQ. It is neither revising the certification nor clarifying the instructions on the certification itself.  As a result, closing attorneys will be required to educate their staff members about the necessity to revise the certification for FHA closings after the new rules take effect.

Another Lender Communication to Settlement Agents…

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… And a denial from the CFPB.

newsBank of America answered several frequently asked questions from settlement agents by memo dated June 9.

Significantly, BofA indicated that agents will not be allowed to accept its title or closing orders if they are not registered with Closing Insight™. Because BofA and several other lenders will require Closing Insight™,  South Carolina closing attorneys who have not yet registered should follow this link to do so.

Asked whether BofA will require the use of ALTA model settlement statements, the bank responded that it prefers the ALTA model form if a closing attorney chooses to use a settlement statement to supplement the Closing Disclosure (“CD”), but specified that the settlement statement figures must reconcile to the CD and a copy of the settlement statement must be provided to BofA. The memo also stated that all revised fees and costs will require both bank approval and an amended CD. In other words, fees and costs cannot be revised by simply supplementing the CD with a settlement statement.

ALTA’s settlement statements are available for review and use at this link.

The memo confirmed our thinking that separate CDs will be provided to the buyer and the seller. BofA added that the buyer and seller will not sign the same form nor see the contents of the other party’s CD. Further, BofA will instruct the closing attorney to prepare and deliver the seller’s CD and to provide copies of CDs to the real estate agents.

Finally, the bank clarified its process for making post-disbursement fee modifications. If the closing attorney identifies the need for a change in the numbers reflected on the CD, the attorney must request that the “collaboration session” be reopened in Closing Insight™, and the bank will review the update made by the attorney to determine whether a revised CD is necessary. The party in possession of any excess funds will be responsible for sending the funds to the buyer/borrower, while BofA will prepare and send the revised CD to the buyer/borrower. The closing attorney will be responsible for revising and delivering the seller’s revised CD, if necessary.

cfpb-logoIn related news, on June 3, the CFPB released a fact sheet in response to “much information and mistaken commentary” surrounding perceived closing delays that will be caused by the implementation of the new rules. The CFPB denied that the new CDs will delay closings “for just about everybody.” In response to the belief that any change in the CD will cause a new 3-day review period, the CFPB clearly stated that only the following matters will trigger an additional 3- day wait:

  1. The new APR (annual percentage rate) increases by more than 1/8 of a percent for fixed-rate loans or ¼ of a percent for adjustable loans. A decrease in the APR will not require a new 3-day review if it is based on changes to interest rate or other fees.
  2. A prepayment penalty is added, making it expensive to refinance or sell.
  3. The basic loan product changes, such as a switch from fixed rate to adjustable interest rate or to a loan with interest-only payments.

The following circumstances will not require a new 3-day review, according to the fact sheet:

  1. Unexpected discoveries on a walk-through such as a broken refrigerator or a missing stove, even if they require seller credits to the buyer.
  2. Most changes to payments made at closing, including the amount of the real estate commission, taxes and utilities proration, and the amount paid into escrow.
  3. Typos found at the closing table.

The CFBP’s denial notwithstanding, we are all naturally concerned about other matters that will cause delays during the transition period, particularly the steep learning curve that must be overcome by everyone involved in closings. But we will all work hard to get through the transition period together! We’re predicting that closings will be much smoother by the beginning of 2016.

Heads Up Residential Dirt Lawyers: Use Engagement Letters!

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August 1 changes will make them even more important.

Lenders will no doubt be more in control of the closing process when the CFPB rules take effect in August. Several major lenders have announced that they will produce and deliver the borrower’s Closing Disclosure, the form that will replace the HUD-1. This form will be delivered to borrowers at least three business days prior to closing. This change may limit the closing attorney’s involvement with clients early in the closing process.

house parachuteResidential real estate lawyers will need to use engagement letters more than ever to establish that important attorney-client relationship, to explain the new closing environment and to quote fees and costs. These matters are too crucial to leave in the hands of lenders!

Also, a major change in the treatment of owner’s title insurance by the CFPB will require that attorneys explain the importance of the one document in the stack of closing papers that protects the purchaser. An engagement letter sent early in the process is the ideal place for this essential explanation. The closing table may be too late!

The CFPB will require that the full premium, not the discounted simultaneous issue premium, must be disclosed for the loan policy on the CD. The owner’s policy premium will be shown in the “Other” section of the CD and will be reflected as “Optional”.  The cost of the owner’s policy will be the total premium discounted by the cost of the loan policy and adding the simultaneous issue premium.  Some lenders may even show the full premium for the owners and loan policies on page two of the CD and a “rebate” for the discount on page 3. Confusing?  Definitely!

Purchasers strapped for funds may be tempted to skip this “optional” charge. Attorneys will need to explain how title insurance protects their clients. Savvy attorneys realize that owner’s title insurance protects them, too. It has even been suggested that it may be malpractice for an attorney not to recommend owner’s title insurance.

In this environment, I’m providing my dirt lawyer friends with a couple of paragraphs that can be edited to explain the importance of owner’s title insurance in engagement letters:

house protection hands“Title insurance protects the ownership of your home. The purchase of a home may be the largest transaction you’ll make during your lifetime. For a relatively low, one-time premium of $____, you can be protected against legal problems over property rights that could cost thousands of dollars, and even result in the loss of your home.

Lender’s title insurance is required for this transaction, but it does not protect your equity. You must purchase owner’s insurance for that valuable protection. We will perform a title examination for you, but the most thorough and competent title examination cannot protect against loss from hidden title defects created by misfiling and misindexing in the public records. Risks not created in the public records, such as fraud and forgery, are also covered by title insurance. Dollar for dollar, an owner’s title insurance policy is one of the most cost effective forms of insurance available to homeowners. I highly recommend that you purchase an owner’s policy and will make it available to you unless you let me know otherwise.”

When the closing process changes, let’s make sure important relationships are established and clients are protected early in the closing process!

Five Things Dirt Lawyers Need to Know Before August 1

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Prepare now for a smooth transition to the new CFPB regulations and forms

Our company has put together some general information about the CFPB regulations that become effective on August 1. I’m sharing a few tips with the letstalkdirtsc.com audience in an effort to assist with a smooth transition.

1 HandWhat transaction types are affected and exempt? The new rules and forms apply to most closed-end consumer credit transactions secured by real property. The following types of loans are affected:

  • Purchase money mortgages;
  • Refinances;
  • Mortgages on 25 acres or less;
  • Mortgages on vacant land;
  • Mortgages for construction purposes only; and
  • Mortgages on timeshares.

Consumer loans exempted from the new rules and forms are:

  • Reverse mortgages;
  • Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs);
  • Loans on chattel-dwelling/mobile homes only; and
  • Loans by creditors who originate less than five loans in a calendar year.

Creditors will be required to use a TILA disclosure and Good Faith Estimate (GFE), and closing attorneys will be required to use a 2010 HUD-1 Settlement Statement on the exempt loans.

Loans in progress (applications submitted prior to August 1, 2015) are not subject to the new rules or the new forms.

2 HandWhat are the new rules and forms? On November 20, 2013, the CFPB announced the completion of the new integrated mortgage disclosure forms along with their regulations (RESPA Regulation X and TILA Regulation Z) for the proper completion and timely delivery to the consumer.

The Loan Estimate – Currently, borrowers receive two forms from their lender at the beginning of the transaction: the GFE and initial TILA disclosure. For loan applications taken on or after August 1, the creditor will instead use a combined Loan Estimate form.

The Closing Disclosure – The HUD-1 Settlement Statement and the final TILA disclosure form have been combined into a single Closing Disclosure form. This new five-page form contains many loan terms and provisions in addition to the closing figures. Several earlier letstalkdirtsc.com blogs discussed which lenders that have announced they will prepare and deliver the Closing Disclosure. It appears that in all cases, closing attorneys will prepare the seller’s Closing Disclosure and a separate closing or disbursement statement to facilitate disbursement.

forms in out

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How will the timing of a closing be impacted by Closing Disclosure delivery? The new rule requires borrowers to have three business days after receipt of the Closing Disclosure for review. The three-day review starts on the receipt of the form by the borrower. Absent some positive confirmation of receipt such as hand delivery, the form is “deemed received” three days after the delivery process is started (i.e., mailing). As a result, the combination of the delivery time period and the review time period results in six business days from mailing to closing.

After delivery of the initial Closing Disclosure, the following changes would require a re-disclosure and a new waiting period:

  • Increase of the APR by more than 1/8%;
  • Change in the loan program, for example, fixed rate to ARM; and
  • Addition of a pre-payment penalty.

Closing Disclosure Delivery Timeline Chart4 Hand

 

How will the communication of title and closing figures be handled? Lenders will continue to need accurate estimates of title and closing figures. Preparation of the Closing Disclosure will require a collaborative effort between lenders, closing attorneys and other vendors and may require fees to be submitted as early as two weeks prior to closing. Several lenders have announced that they will use electronic portals to send and receive information, eliminating the use of mail, e-mail and faxes between lenders and closing attorneys.

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How are title charges reflected on the new forms? The list of charges involving title insurance and closing activities must be grouped together and preceded by the word “Title”.

The CFPB requires that the full premium, not the discounted simultaneous issue premium, must be disclosed for the loan policy. The owner’s policy premium will be shown as “optional” and will be the total cost of the owner’s policy discounted by the cost of the loan policy and adding the simultaneous issue premium. Confusing?  Yes!

The line numbers have been removed from the HUD-1 form, and there are now seven fee areas:

  • Origination charges;
  • Services borrower did not shop for;
  • Services borrower did shop for;
  • Taxes and other government fees;
  • Pre-paids;
  • Initial escrow payment at closing; and
  • Other

Charges within each of these major groupings are listed alphabetically. Columns are provided to separate charges of the buyer, the seller, and others, as well as columns for payments both before and at closing.

Software and title insurance companies are doing extensive training in the form of seminars, webinars and written communications. If you intend to be a residential dirt lawyer after August 1, get yourself and your staff trained!

Five things lenders need to know before August

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Dirt lawyers: Educate your lender contacts!

Our company has developed resources to equip dirt lawyers to educate lenders about how the CFPB will impact them beginning August 1.  I’m sharing a few tips with the letstalkdirtsc.com audience because everyone will benefit if lenders are prepared.

As we have traveled the Palmetto state talking to lawyers, real estate agents and lenders, we have learned that many of the local folks are not familiar with the new rules, even the significant players in the market. We understand the corporate offices of national lenders may not have pushed this information down to the local level at this point. Any lawyer who will provide valuable information to local contacts now will be perceived as an important partner!

This is a primer, a very basic beginning point. As the software companies complete their updates, everyone involved will be trained on the details of the new rule and forms.  For now, let’s give our lender partners the following information:

1 flapWho will be responsible for preparing the Closing Disclosure? The lender will be ultimately responsible for preparing the CD (the document that replaces the HUD-1 and final TIL Disclosure). Four national lenders, Bank of America, CitiBank, Wells Fargo and Chase, have announced that they will prepare the CD. We anticipate that smaller banks may continue to rely on closing attorneys to prepare this important document. Closing attorneys will be responsible for preparing the seller’s side of the CD in all cases.

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Who will be responsible for delivering the Closing Disclosure? The rule requires that the borrower must receive the CD three days prior to closing. This actually translates to delivery six days prior to closing to accommodate transit time. The rule allows the closing attorney, at the lender’s discretion, to deliver the CD. The four banks who have announced that they will prepare the CD will also deliver it.

Closing Disclosure Delivery Timeline Chart

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How will closing attorneys and lenders communicate information contained in their respective systems? The big banks will most likely use some form of electronic communication. Some have already announced that they will use Real EC’s Closing Insight™ Most closing attorneys will work with settlement software companies (such as SoftPro) to connect with these systems. Regardless, information will have to be exchanged earlier to accommodate the delivery requirements of the CD.  Some experts have predicted that the numbers will have to be exchanged between lawyers and lenders no later than ten days prior to closing.

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Who will make changes to the CD? Changes to the CD may occur prior to closing, necessitating adjustments, re-printing, and delivery of the corrected CD at closing. Lenders and lawyers will have to discuss who will make the pre-closing changes. Changes to the settlement numbers on the CD may also occur after closing, requiring preparation and delivery of a revised CD. For example, if recording fees change, the CD will have to be revised. Previously, lawyers had the responsibility for these post-closing changes. Under the new rule, the lenders have primary responsibility, but they may delegate this responsibility to closing attorneys.

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How will closing attorneys communicate title and settlement fees for use in the new forms? Lenders will continue to need accurate estimates of title and settlement fees for the preparation of the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure. In addition, for transactions in which an owner’s policy will be issued, the rule prescribes special mathematical calculations for the disclosure of the owner’s and lender’s title insurance premiums, which may require receipt of rates for both a stand-alone and simultaneously issued lender’s policy, as well as the owner’s policy rate.

Good luck educating your referral sources!