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  • President Trump Releases 2018 Budget Proposal; Key Areas of Reform Target Financial Regulators, Cybersecurity, and Student Loans

    Federal Issues

    On May 23, the White House released its fiscal 2018 budget request, A New Foundation for American Greatness, along with Major Savings and Reforms, which set forth the President’s funding proposals and priorities. The mission of the President’s budget is to bring spending under control by proposing savings of $57.3 billion in discretionary programs, including $26.7 billion in program eliminations and $30.6 billion in reductions.

    Financial Regulators. The budget stresses the importance of reducing the cost of complying with “burdensome financial regulations” adopted by independent agencies under the Dodd-Frank Act. However, the proposal provides few details about how the reform applies to federal financial services regulators. Identifying the CFPB specifically, the budget states that restructuring the Bureau is necessary in order to “ensure appropriate congressional oversight and to refocus [the] CFPB’s efforts on enforcing the law rather than impeding free commerce.” Major Savings and Reforms assert that subjecting the Bureau to the congressional appropriations process would “impose financial discipline and prevent future overreach of the Agency into consumer advocacy and activism.” The budget projects further savings of $35 billion through the end of 2027, resulting from legal, regulatory, and policy changes to be recommended by the Treasury once it completes its effectiveness review of existing laws and regulations in collaboration with the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The Treasury review is being performed as a result of the Executive Order on Core Principals.

    Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. As previously reported in InfoBytes, the budget proposes that funding be eliminated for the following: (i) small grant programs such as the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, which includes, among others, the Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Program (a savings of $56 million); (ii) the CHOICE Neighborhoods program (a savings of $125 million), stating state and local governments should fund strategies for neighborhood revitalization; (iii) the Community Development Block Grant (a savings of $2.9 billion), over claims that it “has not demonstrated results”; and (iv) the HOME Investment Partnerships Programs (a savings of $948 million). The budget also proposes reductions to the Native American Housing Block Grant and plans to reduce costs across HUD’s rental assistance programs through legislative reforms. Rental assistance programs generally comprise about 80 percent of HUD’s total funding.

    Cybersecurity. The budget states that it “supports the President’s focus on cybersecurity to ensure strong programs and technology to defend the Federal networks that serve the American people, and continues efforts to share information, standards, and best practices with critical infrastructure and American businesses to keep them secure.” Law enforcement and cybersecurity personnel across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense, and the FBI will see budget increases to execute efforts to counter cybercrime. Furthermore, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center—which DHS uses to respond to infrastructure cyberattacks—will receive an increase under the budget.

    Student Loan Reform. Under the proposed budget, a single income driven repayment plan (IDR) would be created that caps monthly payments at 12.5 percent of discretionary income—an increase from the 10 percent cap some current payment plans offer. Furthermore, balances would be forgiven after a specific number of repayment years—15 for undergraduate debt, 30 for graduate. In doing so, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and subsidized loans will be eliminated, and reforms will be established to “guarantee that borrowers in IDR pay an equitable share of their income.” These proposals will only apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2018, with the exception of loans provided to borrowers in order to finish their “current course of study.”

    Dept. of the Treasury. The budget proposes to, among other things: (i) eliminate funding for new Community Development Financial Institutions Fund grants (a savings of $220 million); and (ii) reduce funding for the Troubled Asset Relief Program by 50 percent, “commensurate with the wind-down of TARP programs” (a savings of $21 million).

    Response from Treasury. In a statement released by the Treasury, Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said the budget “prioritizes investments in cybersecurity, and maintains critical funding to implement sanctions, combat terrorist financing, and protect financial institutions from threats.” Furthermore, it also would “achieve savings through reforms that prevent taxpayer bailouts and reverse burdensome regulations that have been harmful to small businesses and American workers.”

    Federal Issues Treasury Department POTUS HUD budget Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Student Lending Bank Regulatory FSOC

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  • Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Testifies Before Senate Banking Committee, Provides Overview of Policies and Goals

    Federal Issues

    On May 18, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing entitled “Domestic and International Policy Update” with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin—his first hearing since being sworn in. Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the full committee hearing asserting that “[w]e want our nation’s banks to be well-capitalized and well-regulated, without being drowned by unnecessary compliance costs. Undue regulation chills innovation and imposes significant and unnecessary costs and burdens on financial institutions and companies, often disproportionately on smaller ones.” Sen. Crapo further stressed that “[h]ousing finance reform remains the most significant piece of unfinished business following the crisis, and it is important to build bipartisan support for a path forward.” Ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) likewise delivered opening remarks. Sen. Brown stated that regulation improvements for banks, shadow banks, and the financial services industry must be “based on facts” and that a better way to improve the economy and create jobs would be through “an effective means like infrastructure investment” rather than the “thoroughly discredited” trickle down approach.

    Mnuchin was the only witness at the May 18 hearing, offering testimony and answering questions concerning, among other things, (i) currency manipulation; (ii) the establishment of a “Monitoring List” of closely watched economies; (iii) comprehensive tax reform (stating that a goal of 3 percent GDP or higher is “achievable if we make historic reforms to both taxes and regulation”); (iv) regulatory reform (noting that the Treasury’s initial report will offer “recommendations to provide relief for community banks and make regulations more efficient and effective and appropriately tailored”); (v) imposing sanctions and efforts to combat terrorist activities and financing; and (vi) housing finance reform (maintaining that Treasury plans to work with Congress to ensure both ample credit for housing and that taxpayers are not put at risk).

    Mnuchin faced questions from several Senators after he testified, including Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn). In response Sen. Tester’s question as to whether Mnuchin could commit that the President’s tax relief plan would not add to the debt, Mnuchin replied that “any plan that we put forward we believe should be paid for with economic growth.” Sen. Cortez Masto asked what the Treasury was doing about the Trump Administration’s lack of focus on policies supporting American consumers and homeowners, questioning, “Why doesn’t President Trump’s Executive Order that rolls back Wall Street reforms mention consumer or investor protection even once? Why doesn’t it direct you to consider the financial needs of borrowers, students, service-members, seniors, homeowners?” Accordingly, Sen. Corker asked whether Mnuchin is "strongly committed to finally dealing with housing finance reform in an appropriate way,” to which Mnuchin replied, “My strong preference is to do it through congressional action.”

    Federal Issues Treasury Department Senate Banking Committee

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  • Florida Attorney General Rolls Out Military Consumer Protection Program; CFPB Publishes Annual Servicemember Report

    Consumer Finance

    On May 17, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a new consumer protection program designed to spread awareness and help prevent deceptive business practices affecting military and veteran communities. The Military and Veterans Assistance Program (MVAP) will provide resources and information to consumers on emerging scams and other consumer protection related issues, as well as encourage open communication among local, state, and federal partners to help ensure complaints are handled appropriately.

    On May 16, the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs (OSA) published its fifth annual servicemember report, The Office of Servicemember Affairs: Charting our course through the military lifecycle, and a follow-up blog post outlining the work the office has conducted over the past five years and the work it intends to do in the future. The structure of the report—designed to be presented within the construct of the “military lifecycle”—presents the ways that “many common and some uniquely-military consumer issues . . . fit within that continuum.” Under the Dodd-Frank Act, OSA monitors servicemember complaints about consumer financial products or services and coordinates with the efforts of federal and state agencies to improve measures and provide assistance. As of April 1, 2017, the OSA reports that it has handled approximately 74,800 complaints submitted by servicemembers, veterans, and their families since July 2011, of which 42 percent related to debt collection, 18 percent to mortgages, and 11 percent to credit reporting. In total, the OSA claims it has provided approximately $3.3 million in monetary relief to military consumers who submitted complaints to the CFPB.

    Consumer Finance State AG Consumer Education Servicemembers

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  • OIG Recommends CFPB Improve Enforcement Data Security

    Consumer Finance

    On May 15, the Office of Inspector General for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued findings in a report entitled The CFPB Can Improve Its Practices to Safeguard the Office of Enforcement’s Confidential Investigative Information (the Report), stemming from an evaluation to determine whether the Bureau has effective controls to manage and safeguard access to Confidential Investigative Information (CII). The Report found that the Bureau’s practices could be improved. According to the findings, the Bureau’s Office of Enforcement (Office) allowed 113 unique users to have access to databases in which there was CII—which may include personally identifiable information—about companies that were subject to reviews by enforcement staff. Of those 113 users, 72 were still employed by the CFPB but did not have a need for access to that information, the report said.

    Specifically, the OIG determined users continued to have access to at least one electronic application when it was no longer relevant to the performance of the users’ assigned duties. The OIG also cited instances of improper handling and safeguarding of sensitive information and inconsistent naming conventions for matters across its four electronic applications and two internal drives, which impeded the Office’s ability to verify, maintain, and terminate access to files. The OIG noted in the report that during its assessment the Office took several steps to correct these issues.

    The OIG presented the following recommendations: (i) enhance practices for managing access rights to matter folders; (ii) improve the handling of printed sensitive information; and (iii)establish a standard naming convention for electronically stored information.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Federal Reserve OIG

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  • Senators Reintroduce Truth in Settlements Act to Increase Transparency of Agency Settlements

    Federal Issues

    On May 17, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) reintroduced a bipartisan bill entitled the Truth in Settlements Act of 2017 (S. 1145) to increase the transparency of major settlements reached by federal enforcement agencies. The bill—which was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs—seeks to inform the public and hold federal regulators accountable for the true value of these settlements by requiring more accessible, detailed disclosures and “adequate information regarding the tax treatment of payments” made by companies and individuals under settlements with federal agencies. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the bill was first introduced in 2014. Sen. Warren commented that “more transparency means Congress, citizens and watchdog groups can better hold regulatory agencies accountable for enforcing laws so that everyone—even corporate CEOs—are equal under the law.” Similarly, Sen. Lankford remarked, “Taxpayers deserve an open and transparent government that is accountable to the American people.”

    Notably, the proposed bill would demand more specificity and transparency by requiring federal agencies to post online, in a searchable format, a list of each covered settlement agreement, criminal or civil, with payments totaling $1 million or more. Furthermore, agencies will be required, among other things, to justify confidentiality provisions and explain whether any portion of the settlement amount is potentially tax deductible. The Senators also released a fact sheet detailing past settlements by federal agencies that have allowed tax deductions, offset credits, or designated agreements as confidential.

    Federal Issues U.S. Senate

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  • FDIC Announces Nationwide Seminars for Bank Officers and Employees

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On May 18, the FDIC issued FIL-18-2017 announcing that, between June 6, 2017 and December 4, 2017, it will conduct four identical live seminars regarding FDIC deposit insurance coverage for bank employees and bank officers. The seminars will include an overview of popular topics such as (i) the Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator—an interactive tool used to calculate deposit insurance coverage; (ii) the BankFind Directory, which allows users to confirm if a bank is FDIC-insured; and (iii) the Financial Institution Employee’s Guide to Deposit Insurance developed to help bankers provide detailed information about deposit insurance coverage to their depositors. In addition to the live seminars, the FDIC posted to its YouTube channel three separate seminars, entitled (i) Fundamentals of Deposit Insurance Coverage; (ii) Deposit Insurance Coverage for Revocable Trust Accounts; and (iii) Advanced Topics in Deposit Insurance Coverage. Both the live seminars and the YouTube seminars will provide bank employees and officers with an understanding of how to calculate deposit insurance coverage. Bankers interested in attending the seminars should visit the FDIC’s website.

    Agency Rulemaking & Guidance FDIC

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  • Acting FTC Chairman Ohlhausen Welcomes New FCC Approach to Internet Openness

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On May 18, Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen issued a statement on the FCC’s publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to “reinstate a light-touch regulatory approach protecting Internet openness.” The Notice proposes the following actions: (i) returning to the framework under Title I of the Communications Act instead of following Title II regulatory guidance; (ii) classifying mobile broadband Internet access service as “private mobile service”; and (iii) eliminating Title II’s “vague and expansive” Internet conduct standard, thus eliminating regulatory uncertainty. “I welcome the adoption of this NPRM as further progress toward restoring the FTC’s ability to protect broadband subscribers from unfair and deceptive practices, including violations of their privacy. Those consumer protections were an unfortunate casualty of the FCC’s 2015 decision to subject broadband to utility-style regulation. This new proceeding offers an opportunity to undo that decision and thereby return broadband consumers to the expert protection of the FTC,” stated Chairman Ohlhausen.

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security FTC FCC

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  • CFTC Announces Initiative for Fintechs

    Securities

    On May 17, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced an initiative called “LabCFTC” designed to engage innovators in the financial technology industry and “promot[e] responsible [fintech] innovation to improve the quality, resiliency, and competitiveness of the markets the CFTC oversees.” Located in New York, LabCFTC will address the regulatory challenges of increasingly automated trading and foster a regulatory environment more receptive to emerging fintech companies. The initiative will consist of two major components:

    • GuidePoint will offer opportunities for fintech companies to engage with the CFTC on how to implement innovative technology into existing regulatory framework and navigate the regulatory process.
    • CFTC 2.0 will initiate the adoption of emerging technologies in order to improve the CFTC's effectiveness and efficiency.

    In prepared remarks issued before the New York FinTech Innovation Lab, CFTC Acting Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo stated that LabCFTC is “[t]wenty-first century regulation for 21st century digital markets and will help the CFTC cultivate a regulatory culture of forward thinking . . . , become more accessible to emerging technology innovators . . . , discover ways to harness and benefit from [fintech] innovation . . ., and become more responsive to our rapidly changing markets.”

    Securities Fintech Agency Rulemaking & Guidance CFTC

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  • National Fair Housing Alliance Settles Lending Discrimination Claims Brought Against National Bank

    Lending

    On May 19, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced it had reached an agreement with a major national bank (Bank) related to a housing discrimination complaint the NFHA filed with HUD in 2014. The complainant alleges that NFHA conducted a series of tests over a period of several months revealing a “pattern of discriminatory conduct.” Latino prospective qualified borrowers were often quoted higher monthly payment and closing costs and were denied opportunities to speak with loan officers. The complainants also cited data showing that the number of purchase loan applications received from Latinos had declined over the past few years. While the Bank denied all allegations in the complaint, it agreed to contribute more than $400,000 towards fair housing efforts in South Carolina and nationwide. Separately, the original complaint led to HUD filing charges against the Bank last December on behalf of the NFHA for lending discrimination—citing, in particular, that prospective Latino borrowers were treated less favorably than non-Latinos, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

    Lending HUD Enforcement Fair Lending Mortgage Lenders

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  • U.S. and Saudi Arabia Agree to Enhance Counter Terrorist Financing Capabilities

    Financial Crimes

    On May 21, the Treasury Department announced an agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to establish a Terrorist Financing Targeting Center as a collaborative effort between the two countries and several Persian Gulf nations, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The new center is intended to (i) enhance information-sharing regarding terrorist financial networks; (ii) coordinate action on sanctions; and (iii) facilitate technical assistance for participating countries that need support developing their counter terrorist programs and provide best practices guidance “in line with Financial Action Task Force standards.” The participants intend to implement the outlined activities immediately.

    Financial Crimes Combating the Financing of Terrorism FATF

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