James W. Wright Jr.

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Jay Wright’s practice focuses on financial services litigation and regulation and asbestos litigation. Jay is actively involved in lawsuits and disputes across the country, including Alabama, New Jersey, Texas, and Pennsylvania, in which he represents companies involved in a wide array of state and federal law claims. View articles by Jay

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HUD Acts to Revive Two Fair Housing Policies

Roughly three months ago, President Biden signed an executive order that, among other things, directed HUD to reevaluate earlier agency decisions perceived to weaken the Fair Housing Act. In response to this directive, HUD has submitted draft rules to the Office of Management and Budget that would roll back two significant changes made by the … Continue Reading

New York Enacts New Reverse Mortgage Foreclosure Law

On December 15, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that, among other things, requires reverse mortgage lenders in the state to notify the state’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) and mortgagors of an impending foreclosure action on reverse mortgage borrowers. The legal and regulatory regime governing reverse mortgages rapidly evolved … Continue Reading

Hemp Banking – FinCEN Issues New Guidance Regarding AML/BSA Obligations

This article was written in collaboration with Jake Fanella and Jessica Caballero at VeriLeaf.  VeriLeaf is a modern RegTech platform that optimizes the onboarding, review and ongoing compliance required for high-risk banking markets. VeriLeaf leverages state-specific requirements and the financial institution’s compliance program to streamline qualification, risk assessment, and onboarding of high-risk businesses in markets … Continue Reading

Ginnie Mae Announces PTAP Assistance for Issuers

In an All Participants Memo dated April 10, 2020 (APM 20-03), Ginnie Mae announced that it revised and expanded its issuer assistance programs in Chapter 34 of the Mortgage Backed Securities Guide (MBS Guide) to include a Pass-Through Assistance Program (PTAP) in response to the COVID-19 national emergency declaration. The program announced in APM 20-03 … Continue Reading

HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac Suspend Foreclosures and Evictions for 60 Days

During a COVID-19 press briefing at the White House on March 18, 2020, President Donald Trump announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will temporarily suspend “all foreclosures and evictions.” The president made this announcement to provide “immediate relief” to homeowners and renters struggling to make rent and mortgage payments. The president’s … Continue Reading

Is the Bank Open? Federal Agencies Clarify Regulatory Requirements for Banking Hemp

On December 3, several federal agencies issued guidance (Guidance) that, by its terms, “provide[s] clarity” regarding “the regulatory requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) for banks providing services to hemp-related businesses.” Hemp proponents hope this additional clarity will encourage hesitant financial institutions to begin serving the hemp industry. The key takeaway from the Guidance … Continue Reading

HUD and DOJ Release Memorandum on the Application and Enforcement of FHA Violations Involving the False Claims Act

In an effort to provide clarity and certainty to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) approved lenders, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) jointly issued a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on October 28, 2019, describing broad guidelines about how HUD and DOJ will coordinate using the False … Continue Reading

House Financial Services Committee Meets to Discuss Improvements to FHA HECM Program

The U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance convened a hearing on September 25, 2019, to discuss the federal Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program, including recently proposed HECM legislation. The subcommittee hearing, titled “Protecting Seniors: A Review of the FHA’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage Program,” included testimony from … Continue Reading

FHA Tasked With Improving Reverse Mortgage Oversight

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published two reports on September 25 identifying several weaknesses in the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) oversight of reverse mortgages made under the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program (see GAO-19-702 titled “FHA Needs to Improve Monitoring and Oversight of Loan Outcomes and Servicing”; GAO-19-721T titled “FHA’s Oversight of Loan … Continue Reading

FHA Extends Non-Borrowing Spouse Protections

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued Mortgagee Letter 2019-15, in which it announced several modifications to the Mortgagee Optional Election (MOE) Assignment claim process for Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) with FHA case numbers assigned before August 4, 2014. As background, the MOE is a foreclosure deferral program that provides … Continue Reading

National Credit Union Administration Encourages Banking Hemp Businesses — With Some Caveats

In December 2018, Congress gave the hemp industry a significant boost by passing the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp (i.e., cannabis with a THC content of less than .3%).  The 2018 Farm Bill tasked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with formulating the regulations to govern this burgeoning … Continue Reading

FHA Rule Reduces Barriers to Reverse Mortgages for Condominium Owners

After a nearly three-year delay, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has finally released an update to its FHA condominium rules. The new rules, which take effect October 15, 2019, allow for FHA insurance approval on individual condominium units and ease burdensome FHA-insured reverse mortgage application requirements on condos, expanding access to … Continue Reading

Some of Florida’s Regulatory Restrictions on the Cannabis Industry Could Soon Be a Thing of the Past

On January 17, 2018, Florida’s new governor, Ron DeSantis, delivered news that could supercharge the growth of Florida’s medical-cannabis industry. Governor DeSantis indicated he may drop the State’s appeal from a trial court’s ruling that the statutory cap on the number of licenses for “medical marijuana treatment centers” (MMTCs), and the requirement that MMTCs be … Continue Reading

Safe Streets Alliance v. Hickenlooper Provides Good News, Bad News, and Instructions to the Cannabis Industry and the Financial Institutions Serving It

For years, the “legal” cannabis industry – operating in states that have legalized cannabis under state law despite its long-standing prohibition under federal law – and the financial institutions that serve the industry have closely watched Safe Streets Alliance v. Hickenlooper. In Hickenlooper, Safe Streets Alliance, a “nonprofit organization devoted to reducing crime and illegal … Continue Reading

O Canada! What Canada’s Nationwide Legalization of Cannabis Means for American Financial Institutions

Today marks a significant shift in cannabis policy, both domestically and internationally, as Canada becomes the first industrialized nation in the world, and only the second nation overall, to legalize cannabis. This follows the passage of The Cannabis Act in June of this year, which legalized cannabis at all levels of government. With this blessing … Continue Reading

Eleventh Circuit Rules Reverse Mortgage Companies Not Prohibited from Foreclosing on Non-Borrowing Spouses

Mortgagees of Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (“HECMs,” more commonly known as reverse mortgages) obtained a significant victory in an important federal appellate court, which ruled last month that non-borrowing spouses are not protected from foreclosure by the statute authorizing the HECM program. In Estate of Jones v. Live Well Financial, Inc., the United States Court … Continue Reading

HUD OIG Report Could be Precursor to Increased Partial Claim Reimbursement Demands

On September 21, 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”)’s Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) completed a review of HUD’s partial claims program. In many ways, the title of the OIG audit report, “HUD Did Not Have Adequate Controls To Ensure That Partial Claim Notes for FHA Loans Were Properly Tracked for Future … Continue Reading

Providing Banking Services to the Legal Marijuana Industry: Mitigating Risks to Maximize Potential Rewards

Since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize marijuana (at the time, for medicinal purposes only), 28 additional states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana to some extent. Public support for legalization continues to rise as more and more jurisdictions loosen their marijuana laws, with 64 percent of Americans in favor … Continue Reading

Florida Third District Court of Appeal’s Ruling in Favor of Reverse Mortgage Lender Signals New Positive Outlook for Non-Borrowing Spouse Issue

Reverse mortgage lenders received a significant victory in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal last week when the court issued its decision in OneWest Bank, FSB v. Palmero. After previously ruling in Smith v. Reverse Mortgage Solutions, Inc. and Edwards v. Reverse Mortgage Solutions, Inc. that the surviving spouses of borrowers who had taken out reverse mortgage … Continue Reading

Oregon Regulates Home Equity Conversion Mortgage Originators and Servicers in New Law

Oregon’s legislature continues to add state level regulations to the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (“HECM,” more commonly known as a reverse mortgage) marketplace. In 2015, the state imposed a series of content and presentation requirements on any “advertisement, solicitation, or communication” HECM lenders used to induce potential borrowers to apply for a HECM loan. When … Continue Reading

HUD Publishes Final HECM Rule

Last year, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released a set of proposed rules affecting Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) for notice and comment. After receiving 83 comments and responses, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its final rule on January 19, 2017. The final rule, entitled “Strengthening the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage … Continue Reading

HUD Proposes Mandatory Assignment of HECMs

As part of a broader push to update its regulations regarding Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs, more commonly known as reverse mortgages), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on August 11, 2016. HUD is seeking comments on a regulatory change that would require mortgagees to assign HECMs … Continue Reading

FHA Issues Proposed Rules Related to Home Equity Conversion Mortgages

Last week, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released for notice and comment a set of proposed rules affecting Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), more commonly known as reverse mortgages. Below are highlights of the major changes. On the origination side, the proposed rules revise the definitions of expected average mortgage interest rate and Initial Disbursement … Continue Reading

HUD Announces Another Delay in Implementation of Property Charge Default Rules

On January 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published its first Mortgagee Letter of the year, in which it again delayed the implementation of the sweeping changes related to Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) borrowers in default for failing to pay taxes and insurance (together, “property charges”) that it first … Continue Reading
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