I want to go back to the beginning. In early 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices of service providers. They were created as an answer to the 2007 mortgage melt down which occurred as a result of the deceptions to borrowers by lenders, banks, mortgage brokers and loan officers, etc.
The following is an excerpt from a bulletin published by the CFPB. To read the entire bulletin please click here.
In April, 2012 the following was announced: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today released a bulletin clarifying that financial institutions under Bureau supervision may be held responsible for the actions of the companies with which they contract. The Bureau will take a close look at service providers’ interactions with consumers. It will hold all appropriate companies accountable when legal violations occur.
Many people, including myself, believe that this endeavor was never meant to include Notary Signing Agents who are independent contractors.
Upon learning about the formation of the CFPB and the new requirements which would be placed on financial institutions, the National Notary Association assisted a group of lenders and title companies to put together a “Signing Professionals Workgroup” (SPW). These financial institutions could not come together as a group themselves because they may be accused of breaking Anti-Trust laws.
To avoid any Anti-Trust issues the NNA used their association to allow commercial members of the NNA to form this group. The NNA purchased the domain name, created their website and act as “advisors” to the SPW. The cost to belong to the SPW was $2,000.00 each.
Since the information was released by the National Notary Association (NNA) about the creation of the Signing Professionals Workgroup (SPW) many Notary Signing Agents have been frantically reaching out for information about how the creation of this group would impact them.
I believe that the NNA and the members of the SPW put their own interpretation on the CFPB bulletin and decided to run with it. They have created the misleading perception that these guidelines are going to require banks and lending institutions to be responsible for your behavior as an NSA. They want to check everything you do from the way you control your personal finances to exactly what you should be saying to each and every borrower when you enter their home or business. I think that there is definitely an element of fear and that many NSAs are intimidated by the prospect of not being prepared for this new requirement.
The SPW created several documents outlining their new demands of NSAs, including a “Code of Conduct” and a “Signing Script”, etc. In order to be hired by any member of this group the NSA must agree to meet these demands. They must also have additional training and would be required to have a specific certification and bear the title of “Certified Signing Specialists” (CSS). All of this was decided by the SPW and there has been no representation by Notary Signing Agents at any of the SPW meetings.
When the NNA and the SPW released the information regarding these demands, many NSAs were under the impression that this was soon to be law. They flocked to the NNA to make sure they were going to be “legal”. Many of you are under the impression that if you do not fulfill the demands of the SPW, you will be breaking the law.
So I want to be very clear. These demands are being placed upon you by members of the SPW only. Neither the NNA nor the SPW has the ability to create laws. Some of the demands that this group has created, in my opinion, are so restrictive and self-serving to this group that as an NSA myself I would refuse to follow them. Many people and so far a number of State officials have determined that these demands are actually putting NSAs into the realm of an employee without benefits, rather than the independent contractors we are.
The members of the SPW are comprised of a few of the major lenders and/or title companies. They are certainly not even close to being the majority of lenders and title companies who keep NSAs working. So if you are afraid you will never get work if you do not comply, keep in mind that there are a number of lenders and title companies who are not members of this group.
And do not forget. You are commissioned and are a public servant of your State. I believe that each state will have something to say about the demands being placed upon you by the SPW.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Here are the things you need to do to make sure you can continue to work as a Professional Signing Agent:
· Maintain a current commission issued by your State.
· Adhere to the Rules and Regulations of your State.
· Properly educate yourself for the protection of both the borrowers and yourself.
· Provide a background check which is compliant with the law. (This is another topic).
· Provide information to hiring companies which fulfill their requirements.
Another element, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) who issued a bulletin on October 30, 2013. I read every word of this extremely lengthy release regarding Guidance to national banks and federal savings associations and do not see how Notary Signing Agents will be involved in their roles as independent contractors. I think the intent in this guidance is yet to be determined. Until we learn of our involvement I would suggest that you do not panic and don’t let people lead you to believe that you need to spend money to be approved. Just take a “wait and see” attitude.
I want all of my current and future students and graduates to know, that whatever the outcome is, I will make sure that one way or another Notary2Pro will do it’s best to provide you with the tools you need to fulfill whatever educational requirements are demanded of you.