WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mortgage loan originators will have to be fingerprinted and sign up to a central registry to do business in future, according to final rules issued on Wednesday by the Federal Reserve and other regulators.
The rules are part of the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008, also called the S.A.F.E. Act.
They were issued by the Fed, Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, Office of Thrift Supervision, Farm Credit Administration and National Credit Union Administration.
Mortgage brokers came under tough scrutiny in the wake of the 2007-09 financial crisis, with some lawmakers and regulators sharply critical of underwriting standards and practices that were seen as so loose they helped foster a housing price bubble.
The S.A.F.E. Act specifies that mortgage brokers who are employees of agency-regulated institutions must register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry,
“As part of this registration process, residential mortgage loan originators must furnish to the registry information and fingerprints for background checks,” a joint release from regulators said.
The final rules take effect on October 1 and it is anticipated that the registry could start accepting registrations as early as January 28, 2011.
Industry sources say that thousands of brokers have gone through mandatory education, credit checks and state and federal testing in order to retain the right to handle mortgage originations.
The process has thinned the ranks of brokers, who may be even fewer soon given talk of a 30 percent fail rate on testing, said Bob Moulton, president of Americana Mortgage Group in Manhasset, New York.
“It cleaned up the industry,” said Moulton, who nonetheless cautioned that he felt credit availability for mortgage lending has been reduced as a result of uncertainty caused by U.S. financial regulatory reform.