Across the country, states continue to grapple with whether — and how — to allow e-notarizations, a critical step in achieving the goal of widespread adoption of end-to-end digital real estate transactions.

Currently, e-notarizations can take one of two forms: an in-person electronic notarization (IPEN) that is conducted in person with an electronic seal or remote online notarization (RON) where audio-visual technology is utilized with an electronic seal and the parties in separate physical locations.

Multiple organizations have stepped up to help support the adoption of both e-notarization forms.

In July 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department report recommended that states pursue RON legislation. Additionally, it also recommended that Congress consider legislation to provide a minimum uniform national standard for electronic and RON notarizations. In November, the Uniform Law Commission approved a RON update to the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts. Similarly, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the American Land Title Association have also teamed up to draft model legislation for remote online notarizations that states can adapt, adopt or leverage in other ways.

This should be a quiet end of the year for banks.

The system is arguably safer than it’s ever been. Consumer lending is up, capital and liquidity are high, and while there are a few worrying signs on the horizon, none appear to be an imminent threat.

Or at least that was true until this weekend.

In the past few days, the Trump administration has made a series of unforced errors that are threatening to create a systemic problem where one did not exist before.

The most recent was Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s bizarre press release on Sunday saying that he’d talked to the CEOS of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and three other large institutions and determined there was no credit crunch.

“The CEOs confirmed that they have ample liquidity available for lending to consumer, business markets, and all other market operations,” Treasury said in a press release on Sunday. “He also confirmed that they have not experienced any clearance or margin issues and that the markets continue to function properly.”

The nominee to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency appeared to lean toward having Congress reform the government-sponsored enterprises, despite recent speculation that the Trump administration was readying a plan that could be carried out without legislation.

Mark Calabria, now an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, told Senate Banking Committee members he would “carry out the clear intent of Congress” should lawmakers enact GSE reform, rather than impose his own vision. He also said he was unaware of a White House plan discussed by acting FHFA Director Joseph Otting.

“The very broad changes that I think need to happen in mortgage finance system have to be done by Congress and I would pledge to work in consultation and in partnership with this committee moving forward,” he said at his nomination hearing Thursday.

“The very broad changes that I think need to happen in mortgage finance system have to be done by Congress and I would pledge to work in consultation and in partnership with this committee moving forward,” Mark Calabria said at his nomination hearing.
Calabria, who was nominated to succeed former Director Mel Watt, would take the helm of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac more than 10 years after the mortgage giants were put in conservatorship.

Twenty-Two Democratic state attorneys general said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lacks sweeping authority to create a fintech sandbox that provides immunity from state law.

The CFPB in December proposed two draft policies initiated by former Director Mick Mulvaney to further remove the threat of legal liability for fintech companies that test products benefiting consumers.

But in a letter to the bureau commenting on the proposals, the state AGs said the consumer agency cannot give applicants such a blanket safe harbor protecting them from enforcement actions by state and federal authorities. The AGs also urged the bureau to rescind both proposals and reissue them as more formal rulemakings subject to a notice and comment period.

“The CFPB has no authority to issue such sweeping immunity absent formal rulemaking,” they said in the letter.

Under one draft policy, the CFPB would expand its "no-action letters" awarded to qualified fintech applicants. The letters convey that the agency will not begin a supervisory or enforcement proceeding against a firm, but the policy developed under the Obama administration has been criticized as overly restrictive. The second proposal would create a CFPB sandbox for participating firms to test products.

The state AGs — led by New York's Letitia James and California's Xavier Becerra — said the CFPB has no basis to shield companies from enforcement actions brought by other jurisdictions.

“Under the Proposed Sandbox Policy, approvals or exemptions granted by the CFPB would purportedly confer on the recipient immunity not only from a CFPB enforcement action, but also from 'enforcement actions by any Federal or State authorities, as well as from lawsuits brought by private parties,'” the letter stated.

WASHINGTON — All eyes will soon be on Mark Calabria.

The Trump administration’s nominee to serve as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Calabria is set to testify Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee. The nomination hearing could provide an important window into the White House's plans for a future housing finance system, including how reforms might be carried out.

Senators almost certainly will grill Calabria on what he knows about an administrative framework that acting FHFA Director Joseph Otting has promised is forthcoming, but he will likely have to convince lawmakers that Congress still has a role in reforming the government-sponsored enterprises if he hopes to secure his confirmation.

Calabria will also have a tall order in tempering past criticisms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, especially if the administration ultimately seeks to recapitalize the GSEs under his watch. Before joining the Trump administration as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief economist, Calabria was the director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, where he regularly advocated for constraining the footprint of Fannie and Freddie.

"As the members of the Committee are perhaps aware, I have an extensive record of writings in the area of mortgage finance. I have on a few occasions expressed strong opinions on the history and future of our mortgage finance system," Calabria said in his written testimony, published on Wednesday in advance of the hearing. "I have most definitely expressed, and express here today, a frustration with the current state of our mortgage system and the need for reform."