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On September 4, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, SEC, and CFTC (the Agencies) announced a 30-day extension to the public comment period for the Agencies’ joint revisions to the Volcker Rule. The comment period, which was previously scheduled to end on September 17, is now extended until October 17. The joint release notes that the extension will give interested parties “approximately four and a half months from the date the proposal was released to the public to submit comments,” as the Agencies’ first released the text of the proposal on May 30 (it was not published in the Federal Register until July 17). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Agencies’ joint revisions are designed to simplify and tailor obligations for compliance with Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act, known as the Volcker Rule, which restricts a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds. Specifically, according to a Federal Reserve Board memo, the proposed amendments will better align Volcker rule requirements with a bank’s level of trading activity and risks.
Buckley Sandler Special Alert: OCC announces it will accept fintech charter applications, following the release of Treasury report on nonbank financial institutions
On July 31, the OCC announced that nondepository financial technology firms engaged in one or more core banking functions may apply for a special purpose national bank (SPNB) charter. The announcement follows a report released the same day by the Treasury Department, which discusses a number of recommendations for creating a streamlined environment for regulating financial technology, and includes an endorsement of the OCC’s SPNB charter for fintech firms (fintech charter).
If you have questions about the report or other related issues, please visit our Fintech practice page, or contact a Buckley Sandler attorney with whom you have worked in the past.
On July 17, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, SEC, and CFTC (the Agencies) published their joint notice of proposed rulemaking designed to simplify and tailor compliance with Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act’s restrictions on a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds (the Volcker rule). As previously covered in InfoBytes, the Agencies’ announced the proposal on May 30, noting that the amendments would reduce compliance costs for banks and tailor Volcker rule requirements to better align with a bank’s size and level of trading activity and risks. Comments on the proposal are due by September 17.
FDIC FIL addendum: Federal banking agencies will not enforce Volcker rule for financial institutions exempt under S.2155
On June 4, the FDIC issued FIL-31-2018, which contains an addendum describing legislative changes to Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act (Volcker rule) under the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155/P.L. 115-174) that are applicable to FDIC-insured depository institutions with total assets under $10 billion. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on S.2155 here.) Effective immediately, any financial institution that “‘does not have and is not controlled by a company that has (i) more than $10,000,000,000 in total consolidated assets; and (ii) total trading assets and trading liabilities as reported on the most recent applicable regulatory filing filed by the institution, that are more than 5 percent of total consolidated assets’” is exempt from the rule. As result, the federal banking agencies will no longer enforce the Volcker rule for qualifying financial institutions in a manner inconsistent with the statutory amendments to the Volcker rule, and announced plans “to address these statutory amendments outside of the current notice of proposed rulemaking.”
The federal banking agencies responsible for developing the proposal (the Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, OCC, and SEC) also formally announced on June 5 a joint notice and request for public comment on the proposed revisions. Comments will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
Visit here for InfoBytes coverage on the federal banking agencies’ proposed revisions to the Volcker rule announced May 30.
On May 30, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) announced proposed revisions designed to simplify and tailor compliance with Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act’s restrictions on a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds (the Volcker rule). The proposal, subject to public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, was developed in coordination with the OCC, FDIC, SEC, and CFTC, and would modify regulations finalized in December 2013 to reduce compliance costs for banks. Two information collections were issued along with the proposal: Information Schedules and Quantitative Measurements Daily Schedule.
According to a Board memo, the proposed amendments would tailor Volcker rule requirements to better align with a bank’s level of trading activity and risks. The proposal would establish the following three categories based on trading activity: (i) “significant trading assets and liabilities,” which would consist of banks with gross trading assets and liabilities of at least $10 billion, and require a comprehensive compliance program tailored to reflect the Volcker rule’s requirements; (ii) “moderate trading assets and liabilities,” which would include banks with gross trading assets and liabilities of at least $1 billion but less than $10 billion, and impose reduced compliance obligations; and (iii) “limited trading assets and liabilities,” which would include banks with less than $1 billion in gross trading assets and liabilities, and subject them to the lowest level of regulatory compliance.
In addition, the proposal would, among other changes:
- provide more clarity by revising the definition of “trading account” to be an account used to buy or sell financial instruments recorded at fair value under commonly used accounting definitions;
- clarify that banks whose trades do not exceed appropriately developed internal risk limits are engaged in permissible market-making-related activity;
- streamline the criteria that applies when a bank relies on the hedging exemption from the proprietary trading prohibition, and remove a requirement that a trade “demonstrably reduces or otherwise significantly mitigates” a specific risk;
- ease the documentation requirement banks face when demonstrating trades are hedges, and eliminate requirements that a bank with only moderate or limited trading activity must develop “a separate internal compliance program for risk-mitigation hedging”;
- eliminate the 60-day rebuttable presumption for trades;
- expand the scope of the “liquidity management exclusion” in the Volcker rule to allow banks to use foreign exchange forwards, foreign exchange swaps, and physically settled cross-currency swaps as a part of liquidity management activities;
- limit the impact of the Volcker rule on foreign banks’ activity outside of the U.S.; and
- simplify the type of trading activity information that banks will be required to provide to the agencies.
Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell noted that after nearly five years of experience applying the Volcker rule, the proposed rule is a way to “allow firms to conduct appropriate activities without undue burden, and without sacrificing safety and soundness.”
Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard also commented that “[r]ather than requiring banking institutions to undertake specific quantitative analyses prescribed by the regulators, the proposed revisions would require banking institutions to establish internal risk limits to achieve the principle of not exceeding the reasonably expected near-term demands of customers, subject to supervisory review.”
Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair of Supervision Randal Quarles stated that while the regulatory relief bill signed into law on May 24 exempts banks with less than $10 billion in total assets from the Volcker rule (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), the “proposed rule, however, would recognize that small asset size is not the only indicator of reduced proprietary trading risk.” Furthermore, the proposed rule is a “best first effort at simplifying and tailoring the Volcker rule” and does not represent the “completion of [the Board’s] work.”
On May 23, the Federal Reserve Board issued a notice announcing it will meet on May 30 to consider a proposal to modify the Volcker Rule. Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act currently restricts banks from engaging in proprietary trading and restricts their ownership of certain funds. As previously discussed in InfoBytes, last month the House passed the “Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act,” which, among other things, would provide clear exemptions for banking entities with $10 billion or less in consolidated assets or those comprised of five percent or less of trading assets and liabilities. A similar exemption is also included in the bipartisan Senate financial regulatory reform bill, S.2155, which was signed by President Trump on May 24. (See InfoBytes coverage on S.2155 here.)
On April 13, the House passed H.R. 4790, the “Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act,” by a vote of 300-104. The bipartisan bill designates the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) as the exclusive regulatory authority to implement and amend rules under Section 13(b) of the Bank Holding Company Act. (Currently the Fed, the OCC, the FDIC, the SEC, and the CFTC share rulemaking authority under the rule.) H.R. 4790 also provides clear exemptions for banking entities with $10 billion or less in consolidated assets or those comprised of five percent or less of trading assets and liabilities. A similar exemption is included in the bipartisan Senate financial regulatory reform bill, S.2155, which passed the Senate in March (previously covered by InfoBytes here). According to a press release issued by the House Financial Services Committee, while H.R. 4790 does not repeal the Volcker Rule—which restricts banking entities from engaging in proprietary trading or entering into certain relationships with hedge and private equity funds—it does create a streamlined, efficient framework to provide increased regulatory clarity for entities required to comply with the rule.
On October 19, OCC Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith A. Noreika spoke at Georgetown University’s Institute of International Economic Law’s Fintech Week to discuss innovation within the financial technology sector and its impact on the evolution of the financial services marketplace. “[W]hat has allowed the business of banking to evolve so successfully is that we have remained open to change and created a framework of laws and regulation over time that allows banking activities to evolve,” Noreika remarked. “[W]e have to be careful to avoid defining banking too narrowly or in a stagnant way that prevents the system from taking advantage of responsible advances in technology and commerce.”
Noreika spoke about the OCC’s Office of Innovation (Office), which was created earlier this year to facilitate discussions related to fintech and financial innovation. A pilot framework is currently being developed by the Office to create a “controlled environment” for banks to develop and test products to provide insight into a “proposed product’s controls and risks” and how it might possibly impact OCC policies in the future.
Noreika also discussed the OCC’s position on issuing special purpose national bank charters to non-depository fintech companies seeking to expand into the banking sector—a concept currently being contested by both the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), and one which the OCC has not yet made a decision (See previous InfoBytes coverage of CSBS’ and NYDFS’ challenges here and here.) Addressing claims that fintech charters would inappropriately mix banking and commerce, Noreika refuted the argument and stated that his suggestion was to “talk to any company interested in becoming a bank and that commercial companies should not be prohibited from applying—if they meet the criteria for doing so.” Further, a “chartered entity, regulated by the OCC, would be a bank, engaged in at least one of the core activities of banking” as defined by the Bank Holding Company Act.