CFPB Bulletin 2012-03 addressing Service Provider Relationships sets forth the Bureau’s expectation that supervised banks and nonbanks [including mortgage lenders] must oversee their business relationships with service providers [including title (settlement) agents] in a manner that ensures compliance with Federal consumer financial law in order to protect consumers’ interests and avoid consumer harm.
Note: The Bulletin was reissued as CFPB Bulletin 2016-02 to clarify that the depth and formality of the risk management program for service providers may vary depending upon the service being performed [its size, scope, complexity, importance and potential for consumer harm] and the performance of the service provider in carrying out its activities in compliance with Federal consumer financial laws and regulations. The amendment is needed to clarify that supervised entities have flexibility and to allow appropriate risk management.
In the Bulletin, the CFPB warns that service providers [title (settlement) agents] who are unfamiliar with applicable federal laws, who do not implement compliance measures carefully and effectively, or who exhibit weak internal controls can harm consumers and create potential liabilities for themselves as well as the entities [mortgage lenders] with whom they have business relationships.
To that end, the CFPB expects [mortgage lenders] to have an effective process for managing the risks of [title (settlement) agent] relationships. To limit the potential for statutory or regulatory violations and related consumer harm [mortgage lenders] should take steps to ensure that their business arrangements with [title (settlement) agents] do not present unwarranted risks to consumers. These steps should include, but are not limited to:
As noted above, the Federal Compliance Risk Management Manual and the Multi-State Study Manual for Closing Agents were designed to assist title agencies, law firms, and settlement/escrow companies meet or exceed Federal laws, rules, and regulations. The Federal Compliance Risk Management Manual provides 550 pages of CFPB examination checklists, sample risk management policies and procedures, sample disaster recovery [business interruption] plan, and sample employee handbook giving small to midsize companies the assistance they need in drafting risk management policies, procedures, and internal controls. The Multi-State Study Manual for Closing Agents provides 600+ pages of employee training materials in a self-study format as well as a single-load Interactive Test CD which employers can use to test employee comprehension of the training materials.
The title insurance industry as a whole—and title (settlement) agents in particular—have not been treated well under the Final Rule. Owner’s title insurance coverage is required to be shown as “Optional” on the new federally-mandated disclosures, while the title insurance premium on the new Loan Estimate is required to be calculated and disclosed other than the actual rates are insurer-filed or state-promulgated. Both of these moves, by the CFPB, create myriad unintended consequences that have the potential to financially harm consumers [borrowers]. The Integrative TILA-RESPA Final Rule Implementation Study Manual contains an entire chapter [Impact of the Final Rule on Title Insurance] examining this issue.
At the same time, the one-two punch of CFPB Bulletin 2012-03 and the treatment of title (settlement) agents under the new Final Rule has equal potential for harming consumers by effectively placing title (settlement) agents under the thumb of mortgage lenders; rather than continuing to support them as the only independent party to stand in the middle of a purchase/sale/finance transaction owing co-equal duty to all parties by closing in compliance with three main transaction-governing documents – the real estate contract (sellers/buyers); loan closing instructions (lenders/borrowers); and the title commitment (insurer/insureds).
In the Final Rule, the integration of the Final TIL with the HUD-1 settlement statement to create the new Closing Disclosure has resulted in many, if not most, lenders opting to prepare and deliver the Closing Disclosure directly to consumers, rather than permit title (settlement) agents to do so. The Final Rule leaves it up to the discretion of the creditor [lender] to choose who will deliver the Closing Disclosure to the consumer [borrower] three business days in advance of consummation. Since the Closing Disclosure contains nonpublic personal [TIL] information – TILA being a more robust and punitive federal regulation than RESPA—it should not come as a surprise that many, if not most, lenders opt to prepare and deliver it themselves, as nonpublic personal information [NPI] is protected under the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and various state-specific laws pertaining to protection of personal or sensitive information.
The Integrative TILA-RESPA Final Rule Implementation Study Manual contains an entire chapter [The Impact of the Final Rule on Title (Settlement) Agents] examining this issue.