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The Completed Text of FinReg

It’s out. Here is the full text, and here is a detailed 10-page summary. The bill reforms virtually every facet of the national financial system in one way or another — everything from debit card fees to mortgage lending restrictions to hedge fund regulation to the path for bank bankruptcy to the structure of bank regulation.

Here are the summarized provisions impacting homeowners and consumers, via the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. For homeowners:

  • Require Lenders Ensure a Borrower’s Ability to Repay: Establishes a simple federal standard for all home loans: institutions must ensure that borrowers can repay the loans they are sold.
  • **Prohibit Unfair Lending Practices: Prohibits the financial incentives for subprime loans that encourage lenders to steer borrowers into more costly loans, including the bonuses known as “yield spread premiums” that lenders pay to brokers to inflate the cost of loans. Prohibits pre-payment penalties that trapped so many borrowers into unaffordable loans.

**

  • Establishes Penalties for Irresponsible Lending: Lenders and mortgage brokers who don’t comply with new standards will be held accountable by consumers for as high as three-years of interest payments and damages plus attorney’s fees (if any). Protects borrowers against foreclosure for violations of these standards.
  • Expands Consumer Protections for High-Cost Mortgages: Expands the protections available under federal rules on high-cost loans — lowering the interest rate and the points and fee triggers that define high cost loans.
  • Requires Additional Disclosures for Consumers on Mortgages: Lenders must disclose the maximum a consumer could pay on a variable rate mortgage, with a warning that payments will vary based on interest rate changes.
  • ** Housing Counseling:** Establishes an Office of Housing Counseling within HUD to boost homeownership and rental housing counseling.

And for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency:

  • Independent Rule Writing: Able to autonomously write rules for consumer protections governing all financial institutions — banks and non-banks — offering consumer financial services or products.
  • Examination and Enforcement: Authority to examine and enforce regulations for banks and credit unions with assets of over $10 billion and all mortgage-related businesses (lenders, servicers, mortgage brokers, and foreclosure scam operators), payday lenders, and student lenders as well as other non-bank financial companies that are large, such as debt collectors and consumer reporting agencies. Banks and Credit Unions with assets of $10 billion or less will be examined for consumer complaints by the appropriate regulator.
  • Able to Act Fast: With this Bureau on the lookout for bad deals and schemes, consumers won’t have to wait for Congress to pass a law to be protected from bad business practices.
  • Educates: Creates a new Office of Financial Literacy.
  • Consumer Hotline: Creates a national consumer complaint hotline so consumers will have, for the first time, a single toll-free number to report problems with financial products and services.
  • Accountability: Makes one office accountable for consumer protections. With many agencies sharing responsibility, it’s hard to know who is responsible for what, and easy for emerging problems that haven’t historically fallen under anyone’s purview, to fall through the cracks.

That said, there are major loopholes regarding consumer protection — among the most glaring, the exemption for auto dealers. And dozens of little-noticed provisions that might improve the lives of regular folks. For instance, the $3 billion to help unemployed homeowners squeaked in, on page 2261 of 2315.

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