Grab a flotation device – the final decision recently issued by Director Richard Cordray of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) in the administrative enforcement proceedings against PHH Corp. (“PHH”) has rocked the boat for the real estate settlement services industry as portions of the decision run directly counter to decades of legal precedent, and the prior writings and Policy Statements issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) – the federal agency previously tasked with interpreting the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) and enforcing its provisions. As K&L Gates summarized in its June 22, 2015 Alert, the decision addresses a number of topics, including Director Cordray’s interpretation of several provisions of the federal RESPA. And while many of the CFPB’s views and interpretations attempt to expand the scope of RESPA’s reach and are subject to criticism, one of the most significant developments is Director Cordray’s conclusion that Section 8(c)(2) of RESPA is not the type of safe harbor that has long been widely accepted.
The CFPB once again has taken aim at affiliated business arrangements (“AfBAs”), only this time, it is targeting AfBA disclosures. In prior enforcement actions, the CFPB focused on the validity of the AfBA, bringing actions against alleged “sham” AfBAs. However, in its most recent enforcement action, the CFPB entered into a consent order with a real estate brokerage company, alleging that it referred consumers to its affiliate, but failed to provide an adequate AfBA disclosure. The CFPB also alleged that the brokerage company improperly required the use of its affiliate title insurance agency.
Have you been wondering whether the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is focusing its enforcement efforts on the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA” or “Act”)? After the public announcement of two RESPA-related consent orders, the answer is yes. And, given the alleged facts of the most-recent settlement, that focus is on a familiar topic – affiliated business arrangements.
To read the full alert, click here.