US banks face tighter mortgage rules

Updated 10 January 2013
0

US banks face tighter mortgage rules

WASHINGTON: The US government’s consumer finance watchdog said it will force banks to use new criteria to determine whether a borrower can repay a home loan, in an effort to avert the kind of loose lending that helped push the economy into recession.
Banks will have to verify a potential borrower’s income, the amount of debt they have, and their employment.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said its new guidelines would also protect borrowers from irresponsible mortgage lending by providing some legal shields for lenders who issue safer, lower-priced loan products.
The industry, which has shelled out billons over the past year to settle lawsuits that it falsified loan documents and pushed borrowers toward mortgages they couldn’t afford, will likely lean toward the protections offered by making such “qualified mortgages.”
“When consumers sit down at the closing table, they shouldn’t be set up to fail with mortgages they can’t afford,” Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director, said in a statement.
With the sweeping changes, financial regulators are aiming to reform the housing finance market and give a jolt to lending, which has been sluggish since the credit crisis and the enactment of reforms that limit bank activity.
Lenders and consumer groups have anxiously awaited the new rules, which are among the most controversial the government watchdog is required to issue by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
Each had feared a narrow definition of a “qualified mortgage,” saying such an approach could limit the types of home loans offered.
Mortgage bankers said they were largely satisfied with the rules and noted the significance of the legal protections that come with offering “qualified mortgages.”
“This approach should allow lenders to offer sustainable mortgage credit to a great number of qualified borrowers without having to risk unreasonable and overly punitive litigation and penalties,” Debra Still, chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in statement.
Some consumer groups questioned whether the rules shield lenders too much from lawsuits but generally applauded the guidelines.
The Center for Responsible Lending President Mike Calhoun called them a “reasonable approach to mortgage lending, for the most part.”
“Applying these fair, understandable standards to the mortgage market will foster a more competitive and robust housing industry,” he said.
Dodd-Frank directed regulators to designate a category of “qualified mortgages” that would automatically be considered compliant with the ability-to-repay requirement. The rule was first set in motion by the Federal Reserve and then handed off to the consumer bureau in July 2011.
The CFPB said it would define “qualified mortgages” as those that have no risky loan features — such as interest-only payments or balloon payments — and with fees that add up to no more than 3 percent of the loan amount.
In addition, these loans must go to borrowers whose debt does not exceed 43 percent of their income.
These loans would carry extra legal protection for lenders under a two-tiered system that appears to create a compromise between the housing industry and consumer advocates.
Bank groups had lobbied the bureau to extend a full “safe harbor” to all qualified loans, preventing consumers from claiming in lawsuits that they did not have the ability to repay them. But consumer advocates wanted a lower form of protection that would allow borrowers greater latitude to sue.
Under the new rules, the highest level of protection would go to lower-priced, qualified mortgages. Such prime loans generally will go to less-risky consumers with sound credit histories, the bureau said.
Higher-priced loans would receive less protection. Lenders would be presumed to have verified the ability to repay the loan, but borrowers could sue if they could show that they did not have sufficient income to pay the mortgage and cover other living expenses.
Some lawmakers and mortgage lenders had warned against a draconian rule that could exacerbate the current credit crunch and set back a housing market that has become a bright spot in an otherwise tepid economic recovery.
CFPB officials said they were sensitive to concerns about credit tightening, and designed the rules with provisions meant to keep credit flowing and smooth the transition.
The new rules establish an additional category of loans that would be temporarily treated as qualified. These mortgages could be given to those who exceed the 43 percent debt-to-income ratio as long as they met the underwriting standards required by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or other US government housing agencies.
The provision would phase out in seven years, or sooner if housing agencies issue their own qualified mortgage rules or if the government ends its support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two housing finance giants it rescued in 2008.
Regulators also proposed creating a qualified mortgage category that would apply to community banks and credit unions.
Banks will have until January 2014 to comply with the new rules, the consumer bureau said.


Abu Dhabi, Shanghai plan exchange focusing on China trade

Updated 24 April 2018
0

Abu Dhabi, Shanghai plan exchange focusing on China trade

DUBAI: The emirate’s international financial center, has agreed in principle with the Shanghai Stock Exchange to cooperate in establishing an exchange focusing on China’s foreign trade and investment, ADGM said on Monday.
The partners signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the exchange in Abu Dhabi. It would cater to companies and investors involved in China’s Belt and Road initiative, a Beijing-backed drive to win trade and investment deals along routes linking China to Europe.
“At ADGM, we have the international platform to serve different kinds of enterprises and investors — global, regional and local — seeking exposure to the Middle East and North Africa and Belt and Road projects,” said Richard Teng, chief executive of ADGM’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
Teng said he could not give specifics of which instruments the new exchange would trade or when it might open, saying this would depend on demand among stakeholders in both ADGM and Shanghai.
Chinese financial institutions have approached ADGM to discuss the financial environment in Abu Dhabi and their development needs in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), he added.
Trade and investment ties between China and the GCC have been growing rapidly. The region is a big oil supplier to China, and Sino-United Arab Emirates trade exceeded $46 billion in 2016, according to Beijing’s official Xinhua news agency.
Ultimately, the new exchange will support not only the Belt and Road initiative but also the internationalization of the Chinese yuan in the region, Teng said.
Abu Dhabi is trying to build up ADGM, which opened in October 2015 and is smaller than the international financial center in neighboring Dubai, as part of a drive to develop its economy beyond oil exports.