On December 1st, the FLSA “Overtime Rule” is being updated. Who does this affect?

Back in May 2016 the Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced that effective December 1st, 2016 employers would have to raise the salary level of exempt employees to $47,476 per year for the employee to still be considered exempt. That is about $900 a week.

Now I am getting panic calls and emails asking me if this means you should increase your mortgage loan originator hourly wages to keep the exemption. So here comes the shocker.  

Folks, your mortgage loan originators are NOT exempt. This December 1st rule applies to true administrative employees and managers. Based on last years DOL ruling, this new ruling does NOT apply to mortgage loan originators. MLOs have not been exempt since May of 2015. The MB had sued the DOL to make them exempt, but SCOTUS agreed with the DOL regarding the DOL ruling that MLOs were not exempt because MLOs were involved in sales.

Let’s start out with the history behind the rule.

Under the old administrative exemption of the FLSA, employees who are paid on a salary basis of at least $455 per week (pre-December 1st 2016) may be exempt from overtime compensation if the employee’s primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers, and their primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance. Employees in the financial services industry generally meet the duties requirements for this exemption if their duties include work such as collecting and analyzing information regarding the customer’s income, assets, investments, or debts; determining which financial products best meet the customer’s needs and financial circumstances; advising the customer regarding the advantages and disadvantages of different financial products; and marketing, servicing, or promoting the employer’s financial products; provided, however, that their primary duty is not selling financial products.

There’s the rub: provided their primary duty is NOT selling financial products.

So, pretty much, any MLO who is originating cannot be considered exempt any longer. So December 1st does not affect them. It affects non-selling managers and administrative staff. The new level of over $900 a week is real. That is what you should review.  

Back to your MLOs. What can you do to protect yourself from being sued for overtime by a disgruntled or opportunistic former MLO?

  • Don’t fight the rule but rather have a policy in writing that prohibits any non-exempt employee (which is what the DOL calls your MLO staff) work beyond 35 hours a week unless approved in writing.
  • If you enforce this strongly I think this creates a rebuttable presumption for the DOL that you may have used your best reasonable efforts to comply.
  • You may experience an MLO who stepped outside his job description if he worked more hours than 35 hours a week without written approval. If you kept an eye on him or her and then they raise this issue, you can counter with an “ultra vires” or “frolic and detour” argument. The key to this is to enforce your policy and keep an eye on your non-exempt employees.
  • You would need a procedure in place that creates and monitors regular non-exempt employee time sheets and has your non-exempt employee sign a certification about hours worked under penalty of perjury every pay period, whether they have commission due or not. And you would need to demonstrate you enforce your rule and send people home when appropriate.

SUMMARY: Mortgage Loan Originators are non-exempt employees. As such they are subject to the protections of the overtime rule of the FLSA. If you don’t monitor and manage their hours worked, you can end up in a very bad place. Don’t prohibit overtime; rather require they obtain your pre-approval in writing. Next, monitor every pay period with non-exempt employee certification regarding hours reported. Keep these records carefully. When you find a violator, be able to show you enforce your own rules.

ONE FINAL COMMENT. We are still engaging with plenty of loan originators who think they can be paid as a 1099 contractor. The DOL decision applies the common law definition of employee.

Here you go, compliments of Black’s Law Dictionary. “Black Letter Law”.

“An employee is a person who works in the service of an employer under an express or implied contract of hire, under which the employer has the right to control the details of the work performed.”  

So you have a license that requires a sponsor who is paid instead of you, who provides you with documents, compliance overview, and training, and maybe even leads. And you must originate and process your loans under his or her direction. And then, your employer has to pay you from what he is paid, because you cannot be paid directly under the current rules.

If you still think you are independent, you are just not listening.  You are an employee.

 Respectfully,

 Nelson A. Locke, Esq.

Mortgage Industry Compliance Expert

Attorney and Expert Witness

Office (800) 656-4584

Cell (305) 951-2785

http://www.lockelaw.us

http://expertlenderservices.com

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.

Commercial Loans and Private Lenders

Commercial

 

January 2nd, 2016

Because of the aggressive nature of the CFPB audit practice and the predictable fear that it creates among brokers and lenders, some of you have chosen to focus on the commercial niche. The mistaken belief is that by switching to commercial, you avoid the risks associated with RESPA, TRID, and the usual compliance requirements of a mortgage broker or lender. Some of you even think you are exempt from the SAFE Act and can let your licenses lapse.

Folks, don’t do this. You can run from compliance but you can’t hide, and they will get around to you eventually. Even if your business model changes to full commercial lending, you still have a healthy list of rules and regulations you MUST comply with in order to pass an audit. And in 99% of the situations I have investigated a license is required.

I drafted a compilation of some Q&A I searched out. It is informative and can be helpful to you. Download this and read it before you make any decisions about reducing or eliminating your compliance efforts.

Commercial Loans and RESPA TRID FAQ 123115

Thanks for reading, call us at (800) 656-4584 and request information about how to engage Compliance Services. You will be amazed at how easy we will make the process for you. Hundreds of clients  and all of them happy.

Nelson A. Locke, Esq

(800) 656-4584

Foreign Nationals and RESPA TRID

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January 2nd 2016,

Yes it is true, I cannot stay away from the office for very long. Good for you, huh.

During the past quarter we were engaged by several mortgage companies that  specialize in loans to Foreign Nationals. they also offer federally related loans, but foreign national loans are a specialty.

So I decided to create a one  page summary of when you need to apply RESPA and TRID, and when you can revert to the old way of using a HUD-1 and maybe a classic GFE.

Foreign National Guidelines 100315

Happy New Year everybody!

Nelson A Locke, Esq.

(800) 656-4584

http://www.expertlenderservices.com

 

CFPB Identifies four special audit areas for 2016.

Well, folks, I think you all should read the attached. The CFPB went public with its four primary audit areas, beyond the normal ones disclosed in our Books One, Two, and Three.

  1. COMP PLANS, and yes, looking backwards two or three years as well.
  2. TRID, with no grace period.
  3. MSAs, nothing here to be said. They can be done legally, but it takes a lot of work and commitment by all involved to steer clear of RESPA Violations.
  4. ATR – yes, that pesky part of your QM Policy in Book One. They will evaluate your use of some form of proper ATR test.

No where did they mention exempting anyone from these four areas. No special favors for private money lenders who lend against 1-4 family etc. So, please read the attached.

We still have time to get you set up for the end of this year. Where compliance is involved, sooner is better. Later is foolish. You can reach us at  (800) 656-4584 and we will get to work right away!

CFPB Agenda for 2016 120915

(800) 656-4584 or nl@lockelaw.us

http://www.expertlenderservices.com

 

 

More on QM/ATR and Investment/Commercial Loans

Hello all,

One of my valued clients asked me about the applicability of the Qualified Mortgage Rule and the Ability to Repay Rule ……did they apply to loans securing investment or commercial properties. Apparently there are some attorneys and compliance people out there who think they do. As a mortgage guy, I think they do not.

It was a great question and something I think you all should read. Even though many of you do not work in the commercial or investment property arena, you must know the rules. Because a deal might come through your door and you want to handle it correctly.

This question demonstrated how complex things have become. Here we have one question where the answer involves careful study of QM, ATR, RESPA and TILA.

Keep Calm and ask questions! If you are not my client, you probably should be. I still have a few openings.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Transactions Covered by QM and ATR Rules

QM and ATR rules apply to the following:

  • Purchase and refinance transactions secured by owner-occupied and second homes.

QM and ATR rules do not apply to the following:

  • Investment property*

NOTE:   Investment properties that are for business purposes are exempt from QM rules.

If the borrower occupies any investment property for > 14 days in any given year the investment property is no longer considered for business purposes only and would be subject to QM and ATR rules.

Additionally, there can be no evidence that the borrower purchased/refinanced the investment property for personal rather than business reasons (e.g. property purchased for a family member).

This statement is derived from the ABA Opinion http://www.americanbar.org/publications/blt/2013/04/02_shatz.html published in part below.  The author is well known and reliable.

Ability-to-Repay Rule

The Ability-to-Repay Rule, Regulation Z Section 1026.43, requires that a creditor make a “reasonable and good faith determination at or before consummation that the consumer will have a reasonable ability to repay the loan according to its terms.” The creditor must follow underwriting requirements and verify the information by using reasonably relied upon third-party records. The rule applies to all residential mortgages including purchase loans, refinances, home equity loans, first liens, and subordinate liens. In short, if the creditor is making a loan secured by a principal residence, second or vacation home, condominium, or mobile or manufactured home, the creditor must verify the borrowers’ ability to repay the loan. The section does not apply to commercial or business loans, even if secured by a personal dwelling. It also does not apply to loans for timeshares, reverse mortgages, loan modifications, and temporary bridge loans.

Any questions, call me at (800) 656-4584

Hard Money Business Purpose Loans against Principal Residences

This is “risky business”. While there are exceptions in Reg Z that will allow you to make this kind of loan and stay outside of HOEPA and non-qualified mortgage areas, it is by no means crystal clear that this is something you should happily do again and again.

Here’s the issue. The Dodd Frank Act and the subsequent CFPB rules and interpretations are pretty crystal clear in their primary intent, to protect a borrower’s principal residence, his homestead. I don’t think any of us would argue that point, after all it is called the “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

This is a classic situation of ambiguity. If you take Reg Z’s exception at face value, you might end up OK. The operative word is “might”.

You can protect yourself and improve your chances of surviving a regulator challenge to this type of loan by following this simple procedure.

  • Require the borrower to sign an affidavit at application, acknowledging that they intend for this loan to be for a proper business purpose, and that none of the proceeds will be used for anything other than that.
  • Then, at your closing, have them execute the same disclosure again, this time with a notary present.
  • If you retain these two documents in your files, and the customer’s business fails, and he then says that you steered him into putting his residence at risk, you have an argument.

It may be persuasive enough to keep you out of trouble.

If you just make the loan, and rely on the exception, it may imply you really did not investigate and thus failed some duty of care.

Look, like some of my policies I offer you, this is an optional one. But no one ever failed an audit for being too concerned with protecting consumers. That is exactly what this policy does.

If you want to learn more, call me at the number below. If you are not my client, perhaps you should think about it.

That’s it for now.

Nelson A. Locke, Esq.

Compliance Expert

(800) 656-4584