HOLA Preemption

HOLA Preemption (Home Owners' Loan Act (12 U.S.C. 1461 et seq.) ? Between 1933 and 1989, federal savings and loan associations (also referred to as thrift institutions or thrifts) were regulated under the HOLA by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB). (Washington Mutual Bank v. Superior Court (2002) 95 Cal.App.4th 606, 613-614 115 Cal. Rptr. 2d 765.) The FHLBB was given "plenary authority to issue regulations governing" thrift institutions and superseding state law. (Fidelity Federal Sav. & Loan Assn. v. de la Cuesta (1982) 458 U.S. 141, 160, 162 73 L.Ed.2d 664, 102 S.Ct. 3014.) Over the years, the FHLBB comprehensively regulated their operations, "including their lending practices and, specifically, the terms of loan instruments." (Id. at pp. 166-167 & fn. 20 citing regulations on "fair credit requirements, the types and amount of loans, collateral required, repayment schedules, initial loan charges, assignment of rents, escrow accounts and interest paid on those accounts, late charges, servicing of loans, and loan payments and prepayments".) In addition, the FHLBB adopted a general regulation (12 C.F.R. 545.2) preempting "any state law purporting to address the subject of the operations of a Federal association." (48 Fed.Reg. 23032, 23058 (May 23, 1983).) In 1989, the FHLBB was replaced by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), which was given the same plenary power to regulate federal savings associations. (Washington Mutual Bank v. Superior Court, supra, 95 Cal.App.4th at pp. 614-615, citing 12 U.S.C. 1464(a).) In 1996, the OTS adopted its now superseded lending preemption regulation (12 C.F.R. 560.2), which is at issue in this case.10 (61 Fed.Reg. 50951, 50952 (Sept. 30, 1996).) In paragraph (a) of the regulation, the OTS announced its intent to preempt "the entire field of lending regulation for federal savings associations," in order to give them "maximum flexibility to exercise their lending powers in accordance with a uniform federal scheme of regulation. Accordingly, federal savings associations may extend credit as authorized under federal law ... without regard to state laws purporting to regulate or otherwise affect their credit activities ... ." (12 C.F.R. 560.2(a).) Illustrative examples of the types of state laws preempted by paragraph (a) were listed in paragraph (b). Included in the list were "state laws purporting to impose requirements regarding: ... ... loan-related fees, including ... late charges ... ," as well as the "processing, origination, servicing, sale or purchase of, or investment or participation in, mortgages." (12 C.F.R. 560.2(b)(5) & (10).) Paragraph (c) saved from preemption certain state laws, such as contract law, "to the extent that they only incidentally affect the lending operations of Federal savings associations or are otherwise consistent with the purposes of paragraph (a) ... ." (12 C.F.R. 560.2(c)(1).) 10 After the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2011, the OTS was merged into the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which regulates national banks under the NBA. Field preemption under the HOLA was eliminated, and the conflict preemption standards in Barnett Bank of Marion Cty., N.A. v. Nelson (1996) 517 U.S. 25 134 L. Ed. 2d 237, 116 S. Ct. 1103 (Barnett Bank) now apply to both federal savings associations and national banks. (Brown v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., supra, 869 F.Supp.2d at p. 56, fn. 5.) Because it occupied the field of lending regulation, the OTS presumed that preemption applies to state lending laws. "This presumption can be reversed only if the law can clearly be shown to fit within the confines of the savings clause, 12 C.F.R. 560.2(c). For these purposes, paragraph (c) is intended to be interpreted narrowly. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of preemption." (61 Fed.Reg. 50951, 50966-50967 (Sept. 30, 1996).) In Gibson v. World Savings & Loan Assn. (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 1291, the Court reasoned that HOLA preemption did not apply to contractual duties voluntarily assumed by a federal savings association since such duties were not "designed to regulate federal savings associations more than any other type of business," and did not "have a disproportionate impact on lending institutions." (Gibson, at p. 1302.) The court declined to apply preemption to claims that a federal savings association engaged in unfair business practices when it charged higher insurance premiums than necessary to protect its security under the express terms of the deeds of trust. (Id. at p. 1301.)