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.

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.

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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

Thanks.

Nelson A. Locke, Esq.

Compliance Services

(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

CFPB annotates LE and CD – why?

This information came to me directly from the CFPB.

“In emails sent to CFPB email subscription holders, the CFPB announced the publication of new annotated versions of the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure that include citations to sections in Chapter 2 of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). The CFPB sent an original email on May 12, and then an updated email on May 13 that includes a direct link to the annotated forms. The emails provide that the citations are to TILA sections referenced in the Integrated Mortgage Disclosure final rule.

The use of the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure are required by the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule which became effective October 3, 2016. The rule incorporates both RESPA and TILA disclosure requirements, and the requirements are set forth in Regulation Z under TILA. Based on the varying nature of liability under RESPA and TILA, the CFPB addressed in the preamble to the TRID rule the sections of TILA, RESPA and/or the Dodd-Frank Act that it used as legal authority for the various TRID rule sections.

In a December 29, 2015 letter to the MBA, Director Cordray addressed TRID rule liability concerns. The Director noted that “As a general matter, consistent with existing [TILA] principles, liability for statutory and class action damages would be assessed with reference to the final closing disclosure issued, not to the loan estimate, meaning that a corrected closing disclosure could, in many cases, forestall any such private liability.” The industry took this to mean that in many cases errors in the Loan Estimate could be cured through a correct Closing Disclosure. However, by issuing a Loan Estimate with citations to TILA sections the CFPB appears to have raised the issue of whether there is TILA liability for Loan Estimate errors.

Also, the annotated disclosures provide that both the Adjustable Payment (AP) Table and Adjustable Interest Rate (AIR) Table were adopted based on TILA section 128(b)(2)(C)(ii). However, the preamble to the TRID rule reflects that only the AP Table was adopted based on such section, and that the AIR Table was adopted based on general CFPB rulemaking authority.

As we reported, recently the CFPB also announced its intention to re-open the rulemaking corresponding with the TRID rule. Perhaps the CFPB can use the rulemaking initiative to better address industry concerns regarding TRID rule liability.”

Compliance Manual Cover Image B 111914

Until such time as we see more clarity my advice to Compliance Services Clients is to promptly cure any discrepancy whether it is in the LE or the CD.  

For now, the fact that the CFPB is citing to the actual law tells me some big time auditing of your LE and CD may be coming soon.

Respectfully,

 Nelson A. Locke, Esq.

Compliance Expert and Attorney

Office (800) 656-4584

Cell (305) 951-2785

http://www.lockelaw.us

http://expertlenderservices.com

This is what should be on your Compliance Shelf.

Hi Folks,

We get asked a lot what we mean when we talk about the power of the Compliance Shelf. So I decided to tell you and show you a few pictures. These are from clients of ours.

When you are visited by your regulator it goes pretty far if he or she notices a dedicated area for your Compliance Manuals and Notes (the “Compliance Shelf”). The mere existence of this shelf creates an impression that your company takes compliance seriously. So you come out of the audit gate having impressed the regulator with your preparation. That good first impression.

What does a strong Compliance Shelf look like? It has your Audit Policies and Procedures, your MLO Policies and Procedures, your Regulatory Reference Book, an Advertising Log (back two years), a Customer Complaint Log (back two years), and finally, your QC Manual and Audit Report Log, with copies of all audits and management response. Here are two examples – the one on the right was recently audited by Texas and passed.

Books   WP_20160112_001

But please, don’t think for a moment that just making this impression will save your audit from disaster. You need to live by your policies and procedures. You need to know what they mean and you need to put them into practice.

Compliance is not a part time thing. You must form a “habit of compliance”. Every day, every file. That’s how you have good audit results. It has to be your company culture. Your “shelf” is just part of the big picture.

So, what’s on YOUR “Compliance Shelf”?

Want to learn more? Call us at (800) 656-4584. Over and out.

(Thanks to Eddie and Fred for providing us with these outstanding pictures.)

How to lose your Broker’s License

Hi People, We have two things of interest here we think you should read.

The first is a Consent Order from a state regulator.

What I would like you to see is on the bottom of page one and top of page two. Notice how vague items a and f were. Any good regulator could drive a truck through that open door and run right over you. This is public record but I redacted anyway. This likely could have been prevented by having a serious compliance program and actually following the guidance. How about you? Have you used the materials we have provided? Do you have a “Compliance Shelf” both physically and virtually? Actual Books for reference, with desktop links on key computers?

Redacted Final Order for Client Review 011116

That brings me to my second attachment. Congratulations to my client Eddie Lester. This is his Compliance Shelf. I visited his office yesterday and everything was good. Locks on files, posters and necessary policies on the wall, “Tool Kits” printed and ready for use, name and hours on the door, and more. How about you?

WP_20160112_001

If you are clients already let us hear your questions.

If you are not our client yet, what are you waiting for? Wait long enough, and you might end up like the broker that was shut down January 4th.

Pick up that 800 pound phone and call me. (800) 656-4584. Confidentiality will apply, tell me your problems and we will fix them!

Nelson A. Locke, Esq.

Compliance Services