TopMortgage Compliance Update (1)

July 3, 2012


CFPB: Next Up, Reverse Mortgages!

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In a June 28, 2012 Report to Congress, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the CFPB or the Bureau) published its study of reverse mortgage transactions. This study was required by Section 1076 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank).

The Report surmised that reverse mortgages are not being used as Congress originally intended, because, rather than provide income for borrowers during retirement, reverse mortgages are being provided to consumers at younger ages, thereby increasing the risk that these borrowers will go broke later in life. The study found that almost half of reverse mortgage borrowers in fiscal year 2011 were younger than 70 years of age.

Furthermore, the Report concluded that 70% of reverse mortgage borrowers withdrew all the available funds at once in lump-sum payments, which the CFPB claims can be squandered quickly, leaving borrowers with the potential to face foreclosure due to the reduced ability to pay property taxes. According to the study, nearly 10% of reverse mortgagors (as of February 2012) were at risk of foreclosure.

In its 231 page Report, the CFPB stated the following "emerging concerns":

1. Reverse mortgages are complex products and difficult for consumers to understand.

2. Reverse mortgage borrowers are using the loans in different ways than in the past, which increase risks to consumers.

3. Product features, market dynamics, and industry practices also create risks for consumers.

4. Counseling, while designed to help consumers understand the risks associated with reverse mortgages, needs improvement in order to be able to meet these challenges.

5. Some risks to consumers appear to have been adequately addressed by regulation, but remain a matter for supervision and enforcement, while other risks still require regulatory attention.

The study identified four major topics "where additional research would help determine if additional consumer education or regulatory action is needed."

Those topics are:

(a) Factors influencing consumer decisions;
(b) consumer use of reverse mortgage proceeds;
(c) the longer-term outcomes of reverse mortgages; and
(d) the differences in market dynamics and business practices among the broker, correspondent, and retail channels.

On July 2, 2012, the CFPB began the process of investigating the consumer use of reverse mortgages. This procedure begins with a Notice and Request for Information. In effect, that CFPB now seeks comment and information from the public on the aforementioned topics.

In this review of reverse mortgages, the CFPB will undertake, among other things, to identify any practice as unfair, deceptive, or abusive, and may provide for an integrated disclosure standard and model disclosures.

Additionally, it will seek detailed information from the public on the factors that influence reverse mortgage consumers' decision-making, consumers' use of reverse mortgage loan proceeds, longer-term consumer outcomes of a decision to obtain a reverse mortgage, and differences in market dynamics and business practices among the broker, correspondent, and retail channels for reverse mortgages.

In this article, I will outline the scope of information that the CFPB is seeking from the public, including consumers, housing counselors, financial institutions, and others, regarding consumer use of reverse mortgages and consumer experiences during the reverse mortgage shopping process.

Best wishes,
Jonathan Foxx
President & Managing Director
The CFPB asks the following questions regarding the factors that influence consumer decisions:

1. What factors are most important to consumers in deciding whether to get a reverse mortgage?

2. What factors are most important to consumers in choosing among products? Among other things, comments could address the choice between fixed-rate, lump-sum reverse mortgages and adjustable-rate, line-of-credit or monthly disbursement reverse mortgages.

3. What factors are most important to consumers in choosing among potential lenders?
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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Consumer Use of Reverse Mortgages,
Notice and Request for Information, FR 77/ 127 (7/2/12)

Reverse Mortgages, Report to Congress (6/28/12)
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