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Blog: GSE reform remains elusive

Don’t expect comprehensive housing-finance reform this year, but do expect changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

That’s the message that emerged at separate banking conferences on Tuesday.

financereformIn a speech at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA's) National Advocacy Conference in Washington, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said housing reform “remained his highest priority.” Crapo mentioned that there is some “bipartisan cooperation,” but that “we do not have a final solution,” according to an MBA Newslink report on the speech.

Early in the year, it looked like housing-finance reform might have a shot. In January, a draft bill of a major reform effort authored by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, both members of the Senate Banking Committee, was leaked to the media. It envisioned a new system with several entities resembling smaller-scale versions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that would purchase and securitize loans. That bill was never formally introduced in the committee, however.

Crapo said the Trump administration could make some internal changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the secondary market, but added that “I have not seen anything from the administration that suggests this will happen any time soon.”

He also noted the bitter political climate in Washington now, calling it "mean and divided," MBA Newslink report said.

In a speech at the same conference, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, said housing-finance reform was an "uphill battle" in Congress. He also expressed concerns over efforts to "take an axe to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to provide no government backstop for conventional loans,” the MBA Newslink article reported.

Also Tuesday at a meeting sponsored by the American Bankers Association, interim CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney provided more fuel to speculation that the CFPB will soon announce an end to the public-complaint database.  

As reported by the New York Times and other media outlets, Mulvaney said that the Dodd-Frank law doesn’t require the bureau to keep a public database of complaints against financial-services companies. The mortgage lobby widely opposes the CFPB’s current practice of publishing unverified detailed narrative complaints.

“I don’t see anything in here [Dodd-Frank] that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government,” he said.

Mulvaney also said he has started referring to the CFPB by its more obscure official name, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Administration officials told the New York Times that the rebranding was an attempt to diminish the agency’s public profile. 


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