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Crestico Funding

Are Loan Officers (LO) legally liable for their company's comp plan?

Friday, August 2, 2013 - Article by: Crestico Funding - Message

Section 129B(d) of TILA, as added by the Dodd-Frank Act, permits consumers to bring actions against individual mortgage loan originators for violations of certain provisions of TILA. For example, while LO's can be held personally liable for receiving compensation in violation of the Rule, they are not personally liable under TILA/LO Comp for failing to maintain the records of compensation required by the rule.

The LO Comp Rule, which implements the DFA's statutory authority confirms this personal liability through its changes to Reg. Z's definitions. Specifically, the change to ? 1026.36 (a)(1)in the LO Comp Rule clarifies the definition of "loan originator" to mean either the individual LO or the company.

The following is from the CFPB's small business compliance guide which seeks to use plain language explanations for the Rule (although it still warns you that you need to see the actual Rule for details): "A "loan originator" is either an "individual loan originator" or a "loan originator organization." "Individual loan originators" are natural persons, such as individuals who perform loan origination activities and work for mortgage brokerage firms or creditors. "Loan originator organizations" are generally loan originators that are not natural persons, such as mortgage brokerage firms and sole proprietorships"

TILA is confusing for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest areas of confusion in the LO Comp and Ability to Repay rules are the differing obligations imposed on "Creditors", "Loan Originators", and "Loan Originator Organizations". These definitions are critical in determining who is responsible for any obligation under TILA. LO comp is one of the few times where the obligation extends all the way down to the individual LO, but the liability is potentially huge. I don't know about the issue from the LO's perspective (ask an attorney; see below) - does the borrower have a life of loan defense? As best I understand it, the life of loan defense is true as it relates to foreclosure but the remedy is not a free house, it is three years of interest and other fees (loan, attorney) - a monetary judgment. So there shouldn't be any runs on any particular company.

Attorney Brad Hargrave (MedlinHargrave) writes, "Loan originator compensation is one area of Truth in Lending and Regulation Z wherein someone other than a creditor; namely, the loan originator, can also be held liable for a violation. The citation in support of this proposition is found at 15 USC ?1639b(d)(1) which provides, in pertinent part, that 'for purposes of providing a cause of action for any failure by a mortgage originator, other than a creditor, to comply with any requirement under this section, and any regulation prescribed under this section, section 1640 shall be applied with respect to any such failure by substituting 'mortgage originator' for 'creditor' each place such term appears in each such subsection.' And, ?1640 is that section of TILA that imposes civil liability for various TILA violations, including those sections regarding LO Compensation. (I have not addressed the recoupment and setoff issues in the event of foreclosure in the context of the LO, given that an LO would not be the party initiating the foreclosure; and thus, this section really isn't applicable to an LO)."

Mr. Hargrave's note continues, "The penalties are potentially severe. In an individual civil action brought by a consumer, the creditor who paid the violative compensation could be liable to the borrower for actual damages, plus twice the amount of any finance charge in the transaction (capped at $4,000), plus an amount equal to the sum of all finance charges and fees paid by the consumer (unless the creditor can demonstrate that the failure to comply is not material), plus reasonable attorneys' fees and court costs if the borrower were to prevail. The loan originator's exposure to such a claim (per 15 USC ? 1639b(d)(2))is the greater of actual damages to the consumer or three times the total amount of direct and indirect compensation paid to the LO in connection with the subject loan, plus the costs to the consumer of the action, including reasonable attorneys' fees. In addition, the CFPB could sue the creditor and the loan originator in Federal District Court and seek any one of a number of remedies, including restitution and/or disgorgement, and appropriate injunctive relief, as to all loans wherein the LO received unlawful compensation. It is also possible that the matter could be referred to another agency for enforcement."

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