I’m not changing my mind on this one. An NMLS sponsored MLO is an employee. Period.

October 18th, 2016

The debate rages on. Unfortunately, most of those who have challenged our position that an MLO must be a W-2 – are either asking the wrong people for advice, or are not asking the question in an open and honest way.

If you have found an attorney who is telling you your 1099 practice is just fine, ask him for his written legal opinion. You will need that to show to the regulator that makes this an issue. While it won’t guarantee you won’t have a finding or fine, it is a defense of sort. Except I warned you, didn’t I. And the attorney won’t pay your fine for you.

The only reasonable conclusion is that a sponsored MLO is an employee.

We include the attachment titled 22-mlo-w2-discussion-021015 to our clients at the front of our MLO Policy Manual – Book Two. You should read this first. Let’s set the stage.  

Now, if you are saying your state regulator is ignoring this issue their misfeasance does not mean you are not at personal risk for violating Safe Act, CFPB, IRS, and DOJ rules. The facts are clear – the CFPB has asked the states to look for violations of federal regs when auditing. When the CFPB issued its updated exam guidance, it again asked the states to assist.

Now see attached pdf extractions, highlighted sections. The cfpb-exam-manual-irs-references-and-employee-definition-101816 is a 924 page “guide”. I saved you some time and copied the three pages that matter for you. Next, look at originatorcompensation-and-thefedrule_q-a. This is a transcript from an Industry Legal Webinar held in 2011.

Note the reference to the common law test – the common law definition of employee. Not YOUR definition, but what the IRS test uses to determine if a MLO is independent, or not. Let me give it to you here.

Directly from the IRS:

Under common-law rules, anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even when you give the employee freedom of action. What matters is that you have the right to control the details of how the services are performed.

You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if you are given freedom of action. What matters is that the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed.

NOW about the Fair Labor Standards Act:

In an attempt to interpret provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and discern between employee and independent contractor status, courts and federal agencies have come up with the “economic realities test.” It looks at the dependence of the worker on the business for which he or she works. If a person gains a large portion of their salary or commission from that business, chances are that person qualifies as an employee.

These courts also use the “right to control” test. When the hiring party controls the way work is carried out and a product is delivered, the relationship between the parties is employer/employee. If you are sponsored and your Broker has to answer for your work, you are an employee.

If an employer does not have any authority over how a party accomplishes his or her work the relationship between the parties is that of independent contractor. But that can’t be: you are sponsored, right? And can only “work” at one place at a time, right?

We are always looking for new clients. If you need to tighten up your compliance efforts, call us at (800) 656-4584.

More about your Corporate Governance Book….

Man, this is a mess out there. As part of our Compliance Program we started reviewing the condition of corporate records. We never realized how many people have no idea WHAT should be in their corporate records.  We do think everybody knows WHY you need to do this (shields you from personal liability)  but we have been reviewing different Secretary of State Filings and the typical mortgage broker is all over the place. No one passed with flying colors.


So let’s make a list. Because this is important.

If you are a Corporation, either a C corp (for profit and pays its own taxes ) or an S corp (pass-through to you where you pay the taxes on your return):

  • Articles of INCORPORATION
  • By-Laws
  • Annual Reports to your Secretary of State
  • Annual Meeting Minutes – the report to your Shareholders
  • Anything in-between where the Corporation took action that should be properly recorded and approved in your Book.
  • This is the same list whether one shareholder or 1000 shareholders.

If you are a Limited Liability Company it is a bit different.

  • Articles of ORGANIZATION
  • Operating Agreement
  • Annual Reports to your Secretary of State
  • Member’s Minutes from meetings with your members
  • And, anything in-between where the LLC took action that should be properly recorded and approved in your Book
  • If you are a “single member LLC” the rules are a little looser but those of you who know me, know I think that more is better. Have meetings with yourself. Keep records with yourself. You get the picture.

Hope this helps. If you are unsure of your “condition”, email me at nl@lockelaw.us


Nelson A. Locke, Esq.

Compliance Services

(800) 656-4584


Don’t get excited, not gonna happen.

By a vote of 30-26 earlier this week, the House Financial Services Committee approved the “The Financial CHOICE Act of 2016” (H.R. 5983), the bill released in July 2016 by Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling to replace the Dodd-Frank Act.  All Democrats on the Committee voted against the bill as did one Republican member.  No amendments were offered by Democratic members.


The sections of the bill dealing with the CFPB are found in Title III, entitled “Empowering Americans to Achieve Financial Independence.”  Subtitles A and B entitled, respectively, “Separation of Powers and Liberty Enhancements” and “Administrative Enhancements,” contain provisions that would change the CFPB’s structure, funding, and operation. For example, such provisions would change the CFPB’s name to the “Consumer Financial Opportunity Commission,” replace the current single director with a bipartisan, five-member commission, fund the commission through the appropriations process, require the commission to verify consumer complaint information before making it publicly available, and require the commission to establish a procedure for issuing written advisory opinions.

Subtitle C, entitled “Policy Enhancements,” contains provisions directed at the CFPB’s regulatory authority.  For example, such provisions would repeal the CFPB’s authority to prohibit consumer financial services or products it deems “abusive” and to prohibit the use of arbitration agreements, repeal the CFPB’s indirect auto lending guidance and require use of the notice and comment process for any new proposed guidance, and authorize the commission to grant a 5-year waiver from a payday lending rule to any state or federally-recognized Indian tribe that requests such a waiver.

While the bill is not expected to be passed by Congress this year, depending on the outcome of the Presidential election, it could serve as a roadmap for future legislative change.

Thank you, CFPB. Nice job writing this press release. Written without bias, I am sure.

Give us a call to learn more about how we can serve you with an outstanding and affordable Compliance Program. (800) 656-4584

Compliance Services Web Site

Corporate and LLC Formalities

For the past two years, when I sign up a new client company for our services, I always inquire about the state of your corporate minutes book, or your member meeting book for an LLC. In an astonishing 30-40% of the cases, most clients don’t keep a current book and some have no idea why I am asking.

scalesOfJusticeHere is why I am asking.

Business entities must follow certain legal formalities in order to remain in effect. Courts, while not eager to invalidate a corporation status or an LLC, will do so when it becomes apparent to them that the entity is nothing more than an alter-ego for the organizer. That means, a sort of “shell” that keeps no records, takes no actions, and is only in existence as an extra layer of personal liability protection.

Most good attorneys will look at corporate status right away, if they represent a client who is suing an entity. Piercing the corporate veil (that s what this practice is commonly called) creates great fear in the mind of the defendant and moves them to settlement faster than they might have otherwise had their entity been robust in its creation and its maintenance.

Here is how to how to create and keep a robust liability shield in place.

A corporation’s Articles of Incorporation is a formal legal document that contains important information about the corporation, such as the corporate name, address of the main office, and—in some states—the names of the directors and the name and address of one person who will be a contact for the public. In some states these incorporation articles are known as a “Charter” or “Certificate of Incorporation.”

Your corporation’s bylaws are an internal document that outlines how the corporation will govern itself and manage its day-to-day activities. In your bylaws, you can address the frequency of board of directors’ meetings, the number and name of corporate officers (i.e. President, Secretary, etc.), personnel policies, etc. Though not usually submitted to the state, bylaws are important in proving the legitimacy of the corporation.

The board of directors typically make important decisions at the initial board of directors meeting. Some of the decisions and actions that usually take place at the initial board of directors meeting include: Selection of officers, Adoption of bylaws, Stock authorization and issuance, and Adoption of the official stock form and seal.

The board of directors is the decision-making body of a corporation. Directors make the financial decisions and determine major corporate policies and procedures. They’re the ones who choose the officers, approve the issuance of stock, and set the salaries. The owner(s) of the corporation can appoint themselves or other people to the board of directors. Most states require at least one director on the board no matter how many owners there are.

After completing all the necessary steps to structure your business as a corporate entity, you’ll comply with the other requirements of running a business in your state and locality. You’ll need to obtain a business license and an employment identification number (EIN), which is your federal tax number, before doing any business. You will also need an EIN to open a business bank account. There may also be other permits or licenses that may be required could include a seller’s permit or a zoning permit depending on your type of business. Check the federal, state, and local requirements to find out what your business will need. I suggest including copies of your NMLS Licenses in your corporate records.

Corporate Minutes: Keeping corporate minutes doesn’t mean recording every meeting, but rather recording meetings that involve key decisions or key company activities. Here are examples. Annual director and shareholder meetings, Employee hires and compensation plan changes, new company bank accounts, loans, company credit cards, etc. The CFPB wants to see evidence that the entity required and approved a formal compliance program. The minutes can be simple – keep the language straightforward and professional. And it is best to use the same type of format each time you convene a meeting.


  1. Articles of Incorporation
  2. By-Laws
  3. Organizational meeting minutes where Officers and Directors were elected
  4. Copies of Annual Meeting reports with your state.
  5. Copies of your Annual Shareholder Meetings where you ratify in reverse the prior actions of your Board.
  6. Copies of any Special Minutes necessary for those “special situations” that occur. Such as approving a formal Compliance Program.

If you follow these guidelines your corporation or LLC should survive any challenge, and you will usually not be subjected to personal liability as if you had no corporate veil.

We provide this service as part of our program. Call us at (800) 656-4584 if you want us to assemble your records for you.

Nelson A. Locke, Esq.

Compliance Services

(800) 656-4584






If in doubt, get a license.

Mortgage Industry Compliance Consulting

I am being barraged by questions regarding commercial lending and the need or not to be licensed. The area is not as grey as you may think. The problem is many commercial lenders disguise what would otherwise be a RESPA loan on a 1-4 family – by using LLCs. These lenders and brokers are completely ignoring the legal doctrine of beneficial ownership. And many times these lenders and brokers actually believe that no auditor or regulator has ever seen this scheme before. Really?

Auditor Auditee 022015I believe that the best business practice for any person originating any kind of mortgage residential or commercial – is to obtain the proper license first.

RESPA is applicable to all “federally related mortgage loans,” except as provided under 1024.5(b). “Federally related mortgage loans” are defined as:  1.A loan secured with a first or subordinate lien on residential property  2.Where a one to four family unit…

View original post 497 more words

If in doubt, get a license.

I am being barraged by questions regarding commercial lending and the need or not to be licensed. The area is not as grey as you may think. The problem is many commercial lenders disguise what would otherwise be a RESPA loan on a 1-4 family – by using LLCs. These lenders and brokers are completely ignoring the legal doctrine of beneficial ownership. And many times these lenders and brokers actually believe that no auditor or regulator has ever seen this scheme before. Really?

Auditor Auditee 022015

I believe that the best business practice for any person originating any kind of mortgage residential or commercial – is to obtain the proper license first.

RESPA is applicable to all “federally related mortgage loans,” except as provided under 1024.5(b). “Federally related mortgage loans” are defined as:  1.A loan secured with a first or subordinate lien on residential property  2.Where a one to four family unit is located  3.Where a properly qualified manufactured home is located or to be constructed 4. Where the loan is made by a proper creditor, lender, or dealer 5. If the loans are insured by an agency of the federal government 6. If the loan is intended to be sold to HUD, FNMA, FHLMC, USDA, or the VA 7. If the loan is a home equity conversion mortgage or reverse mortgage subject to federal regulations.

A true commercial loan is a mortgage loan made on a property that is NOT residential (a 1-4 family unit) and where there is NO possibility the true owner or beneficial owner might occupy the property either as a primary or as a secondary. That goes for citizens or legal aliens or consumers of any kind – if the property is a RESPA property that is going to be used by them it will not matter who you call the borrower or how you try to hide the true ownership. A 1-4 family might fall into an exception but the overwhelming position will be that if it is a 1-4, it is a RESPA loan requiring licensing.

To provide a resource for you that will put all this information on one blog entry, I am providing the following list of state requirements.

The following states may require licensing to originate commercial mortgage real estate loans.

One more time – commercial mortgage loans means a loan secured by real estate that is not a residential 1 to 4 family dwelling.

These states require licensing. Arizona California Illinois North Dakota Nebraska Nevada (Company and LO) South Dakota (Company and LO)

These states show that a license may be required. That means get a license. District of Columbia North Carolina

These states require a license to broker these types of loans. Michigan (Real Estate Broker) – Brokering Only Minnesota (Limited Real Estate Broker) – Brokering Only New York (Real Estate Broker)- Brokering Only New Jersey (Real Estate Broker)- Brokering Only

Regarding FLORIDA – “Most” commercial companies are exempt in Florida providing the property is not a 1-4 family unit or the entity is not a sham LLC. The word “most” is the issue. This is a regulator grey area.

Business Purpose Residential Mortgage Loans – The famous Reg Z exemption 226.3: Brokers and Lenders often refer to non-owner occupied business purpose residential mortgage loans as commercial loans. The following states may require licensing: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Vermont.

Here’s my take. Get a license. It increases your credibility and avoids you being pulled into a situation where the regulator believes you needed a license to originate or make the loan. If the regulator believes it, you will lose the argument. Of course, this is just my opinion.


Nelson A. Locke, Esq.

Mortgage Industry Compliance Expert

Office (800) 656-4584






The CFPB, the CD, and the Realtors…….

Before you go any further, the key word is PROPOSED.
1.   The CFPB has issued a proposed rule with request for public comment containing both substantive amendments and technical corrections (collectively, Proposed Amendments) to the final TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule that became effective on October 3, 2015.  In a press release the CFPB advised that the Proposed Amendments are “intended to formalize guidance in the rule, and provide greater clarity and certainty.”  Comments are due on or before October 18, 2016.  The CFPB is proposing that the final rule based on the proposal would be effective 120 days after publication in the Federal Register, but is expressly requesting comment on the timeframe to implement the Proposed Amendments. THIS MEANS MOST LIKELY EARLY IN 2017.
2.   Four of the Proposed Amendments that are highlighted by the CFPB in the press release would (1) create a tolerance for the total of payment calculation; (2) exclude recording fees and transfer taxes from the one percent fee limit that applies to the TRID rule exemption for down payment assistance and similar subordinate lien loans often made by housing finance agencies, non-profits, and similar entities; (3) amend the scope of the TRID rule to cover units in a cooperative, whether or not they are considered real property; (4) clarify how a creditor may provide separate Closing Disclosures to the consumer and the seller through the removal of information that raises privacy concerns.THE REALTORS HAVE BEEN COMPLAINING ABOUT NOT RECEIVING THE CD – IF YOU HAVE BEEN GIVING IT TO THE REALTOR YOU MAY HAVE BEEN VIOLATING THE CURRENT PRIVACY RULES – AND IF THIS NEW PROPOSAL IS APPROVED THIS CHANGE WILL HAPPEN AFTER JANUARY, SO DON’T START PASSING OUT CDs LIKE CANDY UNTIL IT IS OK TO DO SO. 
3.   In addition to the CD/Realtor item, the CFPB proposal would make numerous other changes including a change that addresses the so-called “black hole” by providing creditors with greater flexibility to use the Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances.  Currently, only the Loan Estimate may be used to reset tolerances, subject to an exception that permits a creditor to use a Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances in a limited situation.  Essentially, the exception applies when the creditor would not have sufficient time after learning of a change to be able to issue a new Loan Estimate and also satisfy the pre-consummation waiting period requirements under the TRID rule.  The exception has proven to be too narrow in many cases resulting in creditors having to absorb increases in fees or require that the consumer reapply for a loan.  OR CHARGE THE BROKER A CURE FEE. To address these unintended consequences, the CFPB proposes to expand the exception to include both (1) the current situation that is based on the timeframe between when a creditor learns of a change requiring revised disclosures and the consummation of the loan, and (2) any situation in which a Closing Disclosure has already been issued.
4.   Other topics addressed by the Proposed Amendments include affiliate charges, the calculating cash to close table, construction loans, decimal places and rounding, escrow account disclosures, escrow cancellation notices, the treatment of gift funds, the written list of service providers (no surprise there), the distinction between model forms and sample forms, principal reductions, the summaries of transactions table, the total interest percentage calculation, and informational updates to the Loan Estimate.

5.  Now about us. We are attorney owned and our attorney has 24 years experience as a Mortgage Banker. That should speak for itself. Most of our competition does not have that combination of experience. They sell you “policies” and walk away. The CFPB recently identified this type of off the shelf no relationship compliance program as a red flag for examiners. We don’t do that. We offer annual engagements at one price and are with you all year for training, updates, and all your Q&A.

Request our Engagement Package today and we can have your Compliance Program  in really good shape within three weeks.
And you will feel much better about not having to face the regulators alone. But if you try to engage us after you have received your Audit Letter, the price will go up.

 (800) 656-4584