The CFPB issued a bulletin providing guidance to the mortgage industry regarding marketing services agreements. The bulletin offers an overview of the federal prohibition on mortgage kickbacks and referral fees, and describes examples from the Bureau’s enforcement experience as well as the risks faced by lenders entering into these agreements. During the course of supervising mortgage lenders and enforcing federal law, the Bureau has found that marketing services agreements carry legal and regulatory risk for lenders.
The bulletin explains that while marketing services agreements are usually framed as payments for advertising or promotional services, in some cases the payments are actually disguised compensation for referrals. Any agreement that entails exchanging a thing of value for referrals of settlement service business likely violates federal law, regardless of whether a marketing services agreement is part of the transaction.
The bulletin describes a number of legal violations the Bureau has encountered in investigations involving kickbacks and referral fees. For example, the CFPB found a title insurance company that entered into marketing services agreements where the fees paid by the company were based in part on the number of referrals it received, as well as the revenue generated by those referrals. In another case, a settlement service provider did not disclose its affiliate relationship with an appraisal management company and did not tell consumers that they had the option of shopping for services before directing them to the affiliate.