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  • CSBS Files Motion in Opposition to OCC’s Motion to Dismiss Fintech Charter Challenge

    FinTech

    On September 13, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) filed its response to the OCC’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the agency, which challenged its statutory authority to create a special purpose national bank (SPNB) charter for fintech companies. As previously discussed in InfoBytes, the OCC argued in its motion to dismiss that the CSBS lawsuit was premature because the agency has not reached a decision on whether it will make SPNB charters available to fintech companies or other nonbank firms. The OCC further asserted that under the National Bank Act (NBA), its interpretation of “the business of banking” deserves Chevron deference. In its response, CSBS disagreed and argued that in December 2016 the OCC “formally announced” its decision to begin chartering nonbanks, and that with the publication of a supplement to its Licensing Manual—which both stated its authority to issue SPNP charters to “institutions that neither take deposits nor are insured by the [FDIC]” and “invited interested parties to initiate the application process”—the OCC “crystalized its position.”

    In addressing other issues raised by the OCC in support of dismissal of the lawsuit, CSBS argued that:

    • CSBS has sufficient injury for standing because the OCC’s decision to grant charters interferes with states’ sovereignty and the ability to oversee and enforce state licensing and consumer protection laws;
    • the court must test the underlying legal premise, which is that the “OCC lacks the requisite statutory authority under the [NBA] to encroach upon the regulation of nonbanks by issuing national bank charters to institutions that do not take deposits, and therefore do not engage in the ‘business of banking’” because “there is no point in either [the] OCC or its charter applicants devoting resources to ultra vires charters that will be invalidated”;
    • the OCC’s position that CSBS has “failed to state a claim” concerning the interpretation of the “business of banking” is unsupported, and the court “must consider the statutory context of the term, including a regulatory regime that encompasses not only the NBA, but also other federal banking statutes” to conclude that the “business of banking” necessarily includes the taking of deposits; and
    • if the OCC seeks to expand its authority “into areas traditionally occupied by states, courts require a clear showing that Congress, acting through the agency, has approved such a result”—which the OCC has not shown.

    Fintech Courts CSBS OCC Litigation

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  • CFPB, Federal and State Banking Agencies Issue Guidance for Financial Institutions on Providing Disaster Relief to Consumers

    Consumer Finance

    As previously reported in InfoBytes, several federal banking agencies have already issued guidance and resources for national banks and federal savings associations aiding consumers affected by recent disasters. On September 1, the CFPB issued a statement for CFPB-supervised entities on ways to provide assistance to consumers who may be at financial risk. The list includes:

    • offering penalty-free forbearance or repayment periods with disclosed terms;
    • limiting or waiving fees and charges, including overdraft fees, ATM fees, or late fees;
    • restructuring or refinancing existing debt, including extending repayment terms;
    • easing documentation or credit-extension requirements;
    • increasing capacity for customer service hotlines, particularly those that serve consumers in languages other than English; and
    • increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits.

    The statement further suggests that supervised entities should utilize existing regulatory flexibility if doing so would benefit affected consumers. Included are examples from Regulations B, X, and Z. Additionally, the Bureau stated it will “consider the circumstances that supervised entities may face following a major disaster and will be sensitive to good faith efforts to assist consumers.”

    The CFPB separately published a blog post for consumers containing a financial toolkit that includes links to disaster relief organizations, ways to secure financial needs, and information on forbearance options, insurance settlements, and contractor evaluations. The CFPB also issued a warning to consumers of the increased risk of scams and fraud.

    In related news, on September 6, the Federal Reserve Board, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, FDIC, and OCC issued a joint press release for financial institutions that may be impacted by Hurricane Irma. The agencies encouraged constructive cooperation with borrowers, noting that “prudent efforts to adjust or alter terms on existing loans in affected areas should not be subject to examiner criticism.” Guidance was also issued on matters concerning Community Reinvestment Act considerations, investments, regulatory reporting requirements, publishing requirements, and temporary banking facilities.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Federal Reserve CSBS FDIC OCC CRA Lending Mortgages

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  • OCC Files Motion to Dismiss CSBS Suit Over Fintech National Bank Charter

    FinTech

    On July 28, the OCC filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) challenging the OCC’s fintech charter. See Conf. of State Bank Supervisors v. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Case 1:17-cv-00763-JEB (D.D.C. Jul. 28, 2017). In a memorandum supporting its motion to dismiss, the OCC argued that CSBS does not have standing to bring the case because the OCC has not yet come to a decision on whether it will make special purpose national bank charters available to fintech companies and other nonbank firms, and therefore, “[n]o tangible effect on CSBS or CSBS's members could even arguably occur until a 5.20(e)(1) Charter has been issued to a specific applicant.” For similar reasons, the OCC argued that the case was not ripe for judicial review.

    Addressing the merits, the OCC cited Independent Community Bankers Ass’n of South Dakota, Inc. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 820 F.2d 428 (D.C. Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1004 (1988), arguing that the ruling confirms its authority to issue special purpose bank charters and “illustrates that the legal concept of a special purpose national bank power is not novel or unprecedented, but rather follows a decades-old OCC practice.” The OCC further argued that under the National Bank Act, the OCC’s interpretation of “the business of banking”—in which a special purpose bank “must conduct at least one of the following three core banking functions: receiving deposits; paying checks; or lending money”—deserves Chevron deference.

    As previously discussed in a Special Alert, CSBS claimed the fintech charter violates the National Bank Act, Administrative Procedure Act, and the U.S. Constitution, and that the OCC has acted beyond the legal limits of its authority. Furthermore, CSBS asserts that providing special purpose national bank charters to fintech companies “exposes taxpayers to the risk of inevitable [fintech] failures.”

    However, shortly after the OCC’s motion was filed, a federal judge ordered that the OCC’s motion to dismiss be stricken based on excessive footnoting. The judge, in a minute order on the docket, cited that the excessive number of footnotes “appear[] to be an effort to circumvent page limitations.” On August 2, the OCC filed a renewed motion to dismiss.

    Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CSBS Courts OCC Litigation Licensing

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  • NYDFS Files Independent Lawsuit Against OCC Fintech Charter

    FinTech

    Following the April 26 lawsuit filed by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) opposing the OCC’s fintech charter (see previous InfoBytes post), the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) filed its own lawsuit on May 12, asking the court to block the OCC from creating a new special purpose fintech charter. “The OCC’s charter decision is lawless, ill-conceived, and destabilizing of financial markets that are properly and most effectively regulated by New York and other state regulators,” NYDFS Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “This charter puts New York financial consumers . . . at great risk of exploitation by newly federally chartered entities seeking to be insulated from New York’s strong consumer protections.” NYDFS’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the OCC’s charter would include “vast preemptive powers over state law.” Specific concerns include the risk of (i) weakened regulatory controls on usury, payday loans, and other predatory lending practices; (ii) consolidation of multiple non-depository business lines under a single federal charter, thus creating more “too big to fail” institutions; and (iii) creating competitive advantages for large, well-capitalized fintech firms that could overwhelm smaller market players and thus restrict innovation in financial products and services. The complaint also asserts that the “OCC’s action is legally indefensible because it grossly exceeds the agency’s statutory authority.” Finally, the complaint claims that the proposed fintech charter would injure NYDFS monetarily because the regulator’s operating expenses are funded by assessments levied by the OCC on New York licensed financial institutions. According to NYDFS, every non-depository financial firm that receives a special purpose fintech charter from the OCC in place of a New York license deprives NYDFS of crucial resources that are necessary to fund its regulatory function.

    Citing violations of the National Bank Act and conflicts with state law in violation of the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, NYDFS seeks declaratory and injunctive relief that would declare the fintech charter proposal to be unlawful and prohibit the OCC from taking further steps toward creating or issuing the charter without express Congressional authority.

    In a press release issued the same day, the CSBS said it “strongly supports the [NYDFS] lawsuit” and reiterated that the OCC “does not have the authority to issue federal charters to non-banks, and its unlawful attempt to do so will harm markets, innovation and consumers.”

    Fintech OCC NYDFS CSBS Licensing Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

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  • Conference of State Bank Supervisors Announce Initiatives to Obviate Need for Fintech Charter, New York Joins Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System for Fintechs

    FinTech

    On May 10, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced a “series of initiatives to modernize state regulation of non-banks, including financial technology [fintech] firms.” The raft of initiatives, branded “Vision 2020,” appear to be generally geared towards streamlining the state regulatory system so that it is capable of supporting business innovation, while still protecting  the rights of consumers. As explained by CSBS Chairman and Texas Commissioner of Banking Charles G. Cooper, the CSBS is “committed to a multi-state experience that is as seamless as possible,” and, to this end, “state regulators will transform the licensing process, harmonize supervision [and] engage fintech companies.”

    The initial set of actions that CSBS and state regulators are taking includes the following: 

    • Redesign the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS). CSBS plans to redesign the NMLS, which is a web-based system that allows non-depository companies, branches, and individuals in the mortgage, consumer lending, money services businesses, and debt collection industries to apply for, amend, update, or renew a license online. In particular, the CSBS’s redesign will “provide a more automated licensing process for new applicants, streamline multi-state regulation, and shift state resources to higher-risk cases.”
    • Harmonize multi-state supervision. CSBS has created “working groups to establish model approaches to key aspects of non-bank supervision,” to “enhance uniformity in examinations, facilitate best practices,” and “capture and report non-bank violations at the national level.” CSBS also intends to “create a common technology platform for state examinations.”
    • Form an industry advisory panelCSBS will “establish a fintech industry advisory panel to identify points of friction in licensing and multi-state regulation, and provide feedback to state efforts to modernize regulatory regimes.”
    • Assist state banking departments. CSBS intends to start “education programs” that “will make state departments more effective in supervising banks and non-banks.”
    • Make it easier for banks to provide services to non-banksCSBS is also “stepping up efforts to address de-risking—where banks are cautious about doing business with non-banks, due to regulatory uncertainty – by increasing industry awareness that strong regulatory regimes exist for compliance with laws for money laundering, the Bank Secrecy Act, and cybersecurity.”
    • Make supervision more efficient for third parties. CSBS also intends to “support[] federal legislation that would allow state and federal regulators to better coordinate supervision of bank third-party service providers.”

    By harmonizing the supervision and licensing system and working more closely together, state regulators appear to want to eliminate a key reason to seek the OCC charter, namely the ability to deal with one federal agency and follow a single set of rules. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CSBS and a number of individual stakeholders have fiercely opposed the OCC’s other main fintech initiative—the development of a special purpose national bank charter for payments processors, online lenders and other new entrants in the financial industry. CSBS sued the OCC last month, arguing it lacked the legal power to move forward. The overall initiative appears to be a response to the OCC’s own “responsible innovation” efforts, which—as previously covered in InfoBytes—culminated in the creation of a new office last year to correspond with fintechs and the banks interested in partnering with them.

    Concurrent with CSBS’s Vision 2020 initiatives, on May 11, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) announced that beginning July 1, 2017, it will transition to the NMLS to manage the license application and ongoing regulation of all nondepository financial institutions conducting business in the state, commencing with money transmitters. Specifically, on July 1, 2017, financial services companies holding New York money transmitter licenses will have the opportunity to transition those licenses to NMLS, and companies applying for new licenses will be able to apply through NMLS. As previously covered in InfoBytes, NMLS—a secure, web-based licensing system—will allow for easier on-line licensing renewal and enable NYDFS to “provide better supervision of the money transmitter industry by linking with other states to protect consumers.” Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo stressed that “[b]y working with the CSBS, which is leading the modernization of state regulation through Vision 2020, DFS is supporting the strong nationwide regulatory framework created by states to provide improved licensing and supervision by State regulators.”

    Additional information about NMLS can be accessed through the NMLS Resource Center.

    Fintech Licensing NYDFS NMLS Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CSBS OCC

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  • Special Alert: CSBS Sues OCC Over Fintech National Bank Charter

    On April 26, 2017, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) initiated a lawsuit against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the OCC’s statutory authority to create a special purpose national bank (SPNB) charter for financial technology (fintech) companies. 

    Prior to this lawsuit, CSBS had publicly opposed the fintech SPNB charter on numerous occasions, asserting last month that the OCC has acted beyond the legal limits of its authority and that providing SPNB charters to fintech companies “exposes taxpayers to the risk of inevitable FinTech failures.” 

    In the press release announcing the lawsuit, CSBS President John Ryan referred to the OCC’s action as “an unprecedented, unlawful expansion of the chartering authority given to it by Congress for national banks,” and stated that “if Congress had intended it to be used for another purpose, it would have explicitly authorized the OCC to do so.” 

    Citing violations of the National Bank Act (NBA), Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the U.S. Constitution, CSBS seeks declaratory and injunctive relief that would declare the fintech SPNB charter to be unlawful and prohibit the OCC from taking further steps toward creating or issuing an SPNB fintech charter, without express Congressional authority.

    ***
    Click here to read full special alert.

    If you have questions about the charter or other related issues, visit our Financial Institutions Regulation, Supervision & Technology (FIRST) and FinTech practice pages for more information, or contact a Buckley Sandler attorney with whom you have worked in the past.

    Fintech Financial Institutions OCC CSBS

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  • Conference of State Bank Supervisors Releases Statement to Congress on OCC Fintech Charters

    FinTech

    On March 15, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors released a statement from its president, John W. Ryan, in response to last December’s OCC white paper titled Exploring Special Purpose National Bank Charters for FinTech Companies (the Proposal). As previously covered in an InfoBytes Special Alert, the white paper outlines the authority of the OCC to grant national bank charters to FinTech companies and describes minimum supervisory standards for successful FinTech bank applicants. CSBS’s statement follows a comment letter submitted to the OCC in January (along with several other letters submitted by stakeholders—see previously posted InfoBytes summary) in which numerous concerns about the federal charters were raised. Ryan stated that the OCC’s Proposal "sets a dangerous precedent [by demonstrating that] the OCC has acted beyond the legal limits of its authority [and has] bypassed and ignored bipartisan objections from Congress, [thereby] creat[ing] new risks to consumers.” He asserted that the proposed charter would “preempt existing state consumer protections without a comparable mechanism to replace them. It also exposes taxpayers to the risk of inevitable [F]inTech failures." Furthermore, state regulators oversee "a vibrant system of non-depository regulation," he noted. Many mortgage, debt collection, and consumer finance companies operate under state charters, and non-banks have access to a streamlined process to obtain licenses to operate in more than one state via a nationwide licensing system. “State regulators continuously improve this process—having slashed approval times by half in recent years—and lead the way in developing model frameworks and consumer protections for cutting-edge areas like virtual currency. And by its very nature, state regulation limits systemic risk.”

    Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Bank Regulatory OCC CSBS State Regulators

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  • State Financial Regulators Release BSA/AML Compliance Tool

    Consumer Finance

    On February 1, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced the release of its BSA/AML Self-Assessment Tool—a new, voluntary tool to help banks and non-depository financial institutions better manage Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) risk. Building upon CSBS’s efforts to help banks understand their risk exposure to third-parties, the self-assessment tool—developed jointly by the CSBS and state regulators—aims to help institutions better identify, monitor, and communicate BSA/AML risk, thereby reducing some of the burden and uncertainty surrounding compliance and facilitating more transparency within the financial sector. The self-assessment tool is available for use by any institution and may be accessed here.  A narrated tutorial is also available here.  Last year, CSBS released a white paper that outlines state supervision of money services businesses.

    Banking State Issues Bank Secrecy Act CSBS Anti-Money Laundering

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  • State Regulatory Registry Proposes Policy Change Related to NMLS Public Comment Procedures

    Lending

    On August 30, the State Regulatory Registry LLC (SRR), a subsidiary of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the entity that operates the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System and Registry (NMLS), requested public comment on a proposal to adopt a formal policy that would govern procedures and processes for requesting comments on NMLS-related updates that impact outside parties. Proposed matters warranting public comment would include (i) major NMLS functionality updates; (ii) call report updates; (iii) impacts to NMLS usability; (iv) Uniform Form changes; and (v) fee changes. SRR proposes that the comment period for NMLS-related updates last for at least 60 days but no longer than 180 days unless, as determined by the SRR Senior Vice President of Policy, there is good cause for extending the comment period. Comments on SRR’s proposed policy change, which defines the roles and responsibilities of various persons and working groups that would be involved in considering proposed NMLS updates, are due by October 31, 2016.

    Mortgage Licensing NMLS CSBS SRR Licensing

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  • CSBS Announces Dates for Community Banking Research Conference

    State Issues

    On August 2, the CSBS announced that it will co-host with the Federal Reserve System the fourth annual “Community Banking in the 21st Century” research and policy conference on September 28 and 29. The two-day event will take place in St. Louis and will feature, among other things, the release of the 2016 Community Banking in the 21st Century national survey and a panel discussion of its findings. Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans are among the speakers scheduled to deliver keynote speeches.

    Federal Reserve CSBS Community Banks

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