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COVID-19 Borrower Protection Program Launched by FHFA & CFPB

Today, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a joint program to assist borrowers experiencing financial hardship in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Borrower Protection Program (BPP) augments a number of prior actions taken by the regulators in connection with and relating to the CARES Act. 

According to the announcement, the BPP “enables CFPB and FHFA to share servicing information to protect borrowers during the coronavirus national emergency.” FHFA Director Mark Calabria added “Borrowers are entitled to accurate information about their forbearance options. This partnership with CFPB ensures FHFA can address misconceptions stemming from consumer complaints by working with Fannie and Freddie servicers.” This may be an early attempt to avoid confusion, consternation and often delay which impacted consumers as well as servicers seeking to understand what specific relief was available to which borrowers. Consumers and servicers alike will recall these challenges plagued the roll out of the TARP HAMP processes following the 2008 Financial Crisis, often exacerbated by media soundbites that did not communicate detail regarding program relief requirements. Even today’s press release reflects additional detail from FHFA: “The missed payments will have to be paid back by the borrower. The missed payments can be added to the normal monthly payments, paid back all at once, tacked on to the end of the loan, or the borrower can have the term of the loan extended.”

Analytical Tools and Complaint Information: The program itself will involve sharing of data between the two agencies: “CFPB will make complaint information and analytical tools available to FHFA via a secure electronic interface; and FHFA will make available to the Bureau information about forbearances, modifications and other loss mitigation initiatives undertaken by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises).” CFPB Director Kraninger has noted previously that she sees data analysis as a key focus of the Bureau.

In her testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in February 2020, Kraninger stated: “Complaints, along with other inputs, give us insight into people’s experiences in the marketplace that we analyze and use to improve our mission execution. The analysis helps us regulate consumer financial products and services under existing Federal consumer financial laws, enforce those laws judiciously, and educate and empower consumers to make informed financial decisions. The Bureau also publishes complaint data and reports on complaint trends annually in Consumer Response’s Annual Report to Congress.”

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Introduction to the Main Street Lending Program

On April 9, 2020, the Federal Reserve announced that it is taking additional action to provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans to support the economy through various programs, including the Main Street Lending Program (“MSLP”).  The Fed intends that the MSLP will ensure credit flow to small and mid-sized businesses by providing support to businesses that were in good financial standing prior to the COVID-19 crisis, on terms and conditions to be set by the Federal Reserve. 

The MSLP consists of two facilities:

  • The Main Street New Loan Facility (“MSNLF”) for unsecured term loans originated on or after April 8, 2020; and
  • The Main Street Expanded Loan Facility (“MSELF”) for upsize tranches of secured or unsecured term loans originated before April 8, 2020 (provided the upsize is on or after April 8, 2020). 
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COVID-19 and Executing Contracts at Home, Force Majeure Considerations, and MAE Clauses in M&A Transactions

The devastating impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) needs no introduction.  BCLP has consolidated all of its client alerts regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) as one page of resources. On that page, you can also limit by topic area, jurisdiction and areas of practice.

In this post, we have highlighted some of the client alerts that we believe may be of specific importance to our community bank clients.

Executing U.S. Contracts While Working from Home

Now that many of us are working from home and social distancing, can we still close deals in the US with signed agreements? Are electronically signed contracts really enforceable? Fortunately, most contracts can be entered into electronically without the need to print the agreement and sign it with a pen. This alert discusses the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, the Federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, and advises parties how to use readily available services to create legally enforceable contracts with electronic signatures. 

Force Majeure and COVID-19: Considerations for Businesses in the U.S.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parties are questioning whether their performance of a contract may be excused under a force majeure clause. Force majeure refers to a contractual defense under which a party may be relieved from liability for non-performance if unforeseeable circumstances beyond the party’s control prevent or delay the party from fulfilling its obligations under a contract. This alert outlines the key questions for a force majeure analysis, analyzes the implications of invoking force majeure, and discusses its interaction with insurance coverage.

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COVID-19 and Emergency Leave Plans, Retirement Saving, and Insider Trading

The devastating impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) needs no introduction.  BCLP has consolidated all of its client alerts regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) as one page of resources. On that page, you can also limit by topic area, jurisdiction and areas of practice.

In this post, we have highlighted some of the client alerts that we believe may be of specific importance to our community bank clients.

Emergency Leave-Sharing Plans for U.S. Employers

In addition to the paid sick leave and family leave U.S. employers must provide under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, some employers are seeking additional ways to support employees affected by COVID-19. This alert reviews IRS guidance and details how employers can implement an emergency leave-sharing plan in response to the crisis.

Unraveling U.S. Retirement Savings – How a Global Pandemic Threatens to Undo Decades of Planning

With the economy in a free-fall and the U.S. government scrambling to create a financial safety net for citizens, giving access to tax-qualified retirement savings was a natural piece of Congress’ plan to loosen the grip on needed funds. Implementing a thoughtful, needs-based, COVID-19 withdrawal/loan policy could protect employees’ financial security for decades to come. This alert covers the options available to plan sponsors to combat the economic impact of COVID-19.

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COVID-19 and the CARES Act; Financial Services Regulators Respond to the Crisis

The devastating impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) needs no introduction.  BCLP has consolidated all of its client alerts regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) as one page of resources. On that page, you can also limit by topic area, jurisdiction and areas of practice.

In this post, we have highlighted some of the client alerts that we believe may be of specific importance to our community bank clients.

U.S. Congress CARES: Legislative Overview of Tax Provisions

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act” or “Act”) was signed into law by President Trump on Friday, March 27, 2020.  The Act provides tax benefits to businesses and individuals and includes a number of changes to the Internal Revenue Code. This alert summarizes the tax provisions in the Act and details how businesses can take advantage of the benefits.

The U.S. Shows it CARES by Enacting Taxpayer-Friendly Modifications to Rules for Deducting NOLs

This alert also focuses on the tax provisions of the CARES Act, but specifically analyzes the taxpayer-friendly modifications to the restrictions placed on the deductibility of net operating losses pursuant to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

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COVID-19 and Economic Stabilization Act, Foreclosures, Disaster Assistance Loans, and Consumer Class Actions

The devastating impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) needs no introduction.  BCLP has consolidated all of its client alerts regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) as one page of resources. On that page, you can also limit by topic area, jurisdiction and areas of practice.

In this post, which is the second of many, we have highlighted some of the client alerts that we believe may be of specific importance to our community bank clients.

Economic Stimulus under the U.S. Coronavirus Economic Stabilization Act of 2020

The Coronavirus Economic Stabilization Act of 2020, Title IV of the CARES Act provides, among other things, $500 billion to the U.S. Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund to provide loans, loan guarantees, and other investments in support of eligible businesses, States and municipalities and subsidies necessary for such loans, loan guarantees and other investments. This alert summarizes what impact the Stabilization Act may have on businesses and whether those businesses may be eligible for assistance.

Foreclosure and Receiver Issues in the United States during COVID-19

This alert provides an overview of the responses of courts and local and state governments of certain jurisdictions, as well as of the federal government, to the COVID-19 outbreak. The analysis has a particular focus on mortgage foreclosures and evictions, particularly in the commercial context, although information and guidance remains limited. Effects on residential foreclosures and evictions have been included as governments have tended to provide protection to residential properties first. Eventually, more state and local governments may provide guidance as to commercial foreclosures and evictions

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COVID-19 and Mortgage Lenders and Services, MAC Clauses in Loan Agreements, Fair Credit Reporting Act Changes, and Employee Benefit Considerations

The devastating impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) needs no introduction.  Community banks across the country are feeling the impact, both as small business themselves, and as providers of credit to so many other small businesses. The impacts of COVID-19 and the legislative responses to COVID-19 are increasingly broad, and affecting almost every aspect of American life. The lawyers of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) are working to address those issues for companies of all sizes and industries, throughout the word.

As we collectively respond to the developing COVID-19 outbreak, the well-being of our clients and colleagues remains our paramount concern. We continue to closely monitor governmental, CDC, and WHO guidelines on travel, exposure and preventative measures and our firm has instituted a number of internal measures to ensure that BCLP is able to continue to consistently serve our clients’ business needs.  You can read more about the steps we have taken here.

In addition, BCLP has consolidated all of its client alerts regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) as one page of resources. On that page, you can also limit by topic area, jurisdiction and areas of practice.

In this post, which is the first of many, we have highlighted some of the client alerts that we believe may be of specific importance to our community bank clients.

COVID-19: The New Frontier for Mortgage Lenders and Servicers in the U.S.

Most mortgage lenders and servicers already have business continuity plans in place, but those plans may not fully address the dynamics of the COVID-19 crisis.  Typical contingency plans ensure operational effectiveness following events like natural disasters, cyberattacks, and the like.  They do not, in many respects, account for widespread quarantines, extended business closures, and mass job borrower job loss and income disruption, among other things.  Beyond business continuity, lenders and servicers must grapple with evolving regulatory requirements, the risk of downstream regulatory and litigation scrutiny for actions taken today, and management of reputational risk.  This alert details the key regulatory developments, issues and risk mitigation strategies lenders and servicers should consider.

Enforcement of MAC Clauses in Loan Agreements in Light Of COVID-19 and Related Business Disruption

Material adverse change clauses in loan agreements present important issues that borrowers and lenders alike need to consider carefully in this environment.  There are very few published decisions on enforcement of MAC clauses in the lending context and no published cases addressing a pandemic-type situation like the one we are currently facing. A lender that invokes a MAC clause may seek to declare a default under the loan as a prelude to an enforcement action or to avoid funding, or further funding, its loan to the borrower.  Lenders are often confronted with extreme time pressure when a funding request is involved, which makes these situations even more challenging. This alert addresses whether COVID-19 and the resulting business disruption may be reasonably considered a MAC in a typical commercial loan. 

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COVID-19: Due Date Not Extended for Federal Information Returns

In an effort to provide relief to individuals affected by the COVID-19 emergency, the Secretary of the Treasury extended the due date for filing Federal income tax returns and making Federal income tax payments from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020 in IRS Notices 2020-17 and -18. However, the Notices did not provide an extension for the filing of any Federal information returns.

Therefore, all Federal information returns, including Form 5498, Form 1099-INT, Form 1099-OID, Form 1099-R, and Form 1099-B, should be filed by their normal due dates.

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Bank Regulatory Provisions in the CARES Act

On March 25, 2020, senators released an updated draft of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (a.k.a the “CARES Act”) (the acronym is so much better than EGRRCPA!) to provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses.  Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s initial review of the overall Act is available here.

The current draft contains a number of bank regulatory provisions of potential interest to financial institutions of all sizes.

Section 4008 – Debt Guaranty Authority.  Authorizes FDIC to re-implement transaction account guarantee program, subject to cap on amounts insured.  In the 2008 financial crisis, the FDIC provided unlimited insurance for amounts held in noninterest-bearing transaction accounts (i.e. checking accounts that don’t pay interest).  Dodd-Frank prohibited the FDIC from every doing that again.  The CARES Act authorizes the FDIC to provide the program again through December 31, 2020.  Current draft of legislation limits coverage to “a maximum amount” without specifying the amount.  Effectiveness will require FDIC action.  Current draft of legislation also allows the NCUA to provide comparable insurance for credit unions, and permits the NCUA to provide insurance on an unlimited amount in such accounts.  Since its formation, no depositor has ever lost a penny of FDIC-insured funds.

Section 4014 – Optional Temporary Relief from Current Expected Credit Losses.  No financial institution or holding company shall be required to comply with FASB’s current expected credit loss methodology (i.e. CECL) (which otherwise is scheduled to become effective for the largest public bank holding companies for Q1 2020).  Effective from adoption of the Act and ending on the earlier of December 31, 2020 or the termination date of the national emergency. 

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Banking Regulators Clarify TDR Relief for COVID-19 Modifications

On March 18, 2020, the FDIC issued guidance in its Frequently Asked Questions for Financial Institutions Affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 indicating the potential for relief from the Troubled Debt Restructuring (TDR) reporting requirements.

Financial institutions should determine whether loans with payment accommodations made to borrowers affected by COVID-19 should separately be reported as TDRs in separate memoranda items for such loans in regulatory reports. A TDR is a loan restructuring in which an institution, for economic or legal reasons related to a borrower’s financial difficulties, grants a concession to the borrower that it would not otherwise consider. However, a loan deferred, extended, or renewed at a stated interest rate equal to the current interest rate for new debt with similar risk is not reported as a TDR.

FDIC FAQ published March 18, 2020

While appreciated, that guidance left a lot of discretion to the regulators to second guess the interpretations by financial institutions and essentially just repeated existing guidance. On Sunday, March 22, 2020, the federal banking regulators collectively issued an Interagency Statement on Loan Modifications and Reporting for Financial Institutions Working with Customers Affected by the Coronavirus. This new Interagency Statement fortunately goes further.

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