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Economic Impacts of a Moratorium on Consumer Credit Reporting

Two bills introduced in Congress, H.R. 6370 and S. 3508, ‘‘Disaster Protection for Workers’ Credit Act of 2020’’ would impose a moratorium on credit reporting of “adverse information” for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. Credit scores are an integral part of the consumer credit underwriting process as their power to predict the likelihood of borrower default is well-established empirically. Consequently, lenders have come to heavily rely on the integrity and information content of credit scores as a critical measure of a borrower’s creditworthiness.

Economic theory suggests that in the absence of viable mechanisms to effectively distinguish between high and low risk borrowers, lenders will ration credit. Under a credit reporting moratorium, the reliability of credit scores to distinguish between borrower risks would come into question. Lenders would respond to the proposed credit reporting moratorium by raising minimum credit score requirements and/or raising borrowing rates as a credit uncertainty premium to offset the risk they face from the moratorium. During the 2008 financial crisis, lenders raised credit score minimums on FHA loans, for example, beyond those set by the agency as a response to uncertainty over indemnification provisions that posed significant costs to lenders. And today, during the coronavirus, a number of Ginnie Mae originators have raised credit scores to blunt some of the risk they face due to requirements to pass-through mortgage payments to investors, including those in default or subject to forbearance.

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This piece was originally published on Chesapeake Risk Advisors, LLC by Clifford Rossi on June 17, 2020.

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