Back from the Dead: The D.C. Circuit Breaths Life Into RESPA Section 8 Safe Harbor

By Brian M. ForbesDavid D. Christensen and Matthew N. Lowe

Through its recent en banc decision in PHH Corp. v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the D.C. Circuit reinstated the holding of the three-judge panel regarding the safe harbor provision in Section 8(c) of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Specifically, the court reaffirmed that under Section 8(c), payments made by one settlement service provider to another do not violate Section 8(a), even if made in connection with a captive relationship or a referral, when the payments are reasonably related to the market value of the goods, services, or facilities provided. Although potentially overshadowed by the portion of the en banc court’s holding that the leadership structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is constitutional, the panel court’s reinstated holding regarding RESPA’s Section 8(c) safe harbor is notable and important for the simple confirmation that the safe harbor “is what it is.”

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