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On October 15, the OCC issued Bulletin 2018-38, which updates, among other things, the “Trade Finance and Services” booklet of the Comptroller’s Handbook previously issued in April 2015. The booklet provides guidance for OCC examiners to use in connection with the examination and supervision of national banks and federal savings associations that engage in international trade finance and services activites, including “letters of credit, guarantees, acceptances, open account financing, other specialized trade financing, financial supply chain solutions, prepayment, advising, trade collections, bank-to-bank reimbursement services, insourcing/outsourcing trade processing, and hedging services.”
The updated booklet (i) incorporates references to relevant OCC issuances published since April 2015; (ii) reflects the integration of federal savings associations into certain regulations; and (iii) makes “clarifying edits regarding supervisory guidance, sound risk management practices, legal language, or the roles of the bank’s board or management.”
On August 22 and 23, the OCC, Federal Reserve, and FDIC (Agencies) jointly issued two interim final rules to comply with the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) (previously Senate bill S.2155).
On August 22, the Agencies issued an interim final rule amending the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) rule to treat certain eligible municipal securities as high-quality liquid assets. The LCR rule applies to banking organizations that have $250 billion or more in total assets or that have $10 billion or more in foreign exposures, and to their subsidiaries that have assets of $10 billion, as required by Section 403 of EGRRCPA. According to the FDIC’s Financial Institution Letter, FIL-43-2018, the interim final rule amends the LCR rule to (i) add liquid, readily-marketable, and investment grade municipal obligations to the list of assets eligible for treatment as level 2B liquid assets; (ii) include a definition for “municipal obligations”; and (iii) add a reference to the Federal Reserve’s definition of “liquid and readily-marketable.” The rule takes effect upon publication in the Federal Register and comments are due within 30 days of publication.
On August 23, the Agencies issued an additional interim final rule allowing a lengthened examination cycle for an expanded number of qualifying insured depository institutions and U.S. branches and agencies of foreign banks. Specifically, as authorized by EGRRCPA, the interim final rule would allow qualifying insured depository institutions with less than $3 billion in total assets (an increase from the previous threshold of $1 billion) to be eligible for an 18-month on-site examination cycle. The rule takes effect upon publication in the Federal Register and comments are due within 60 days of publication.
On July 26, the Federal Reserve Board released its inaugural Consumer Compliance Supervision Bulletin (Bulletin) to share information about the agency’s supervisory observations and other noteworthy developments related to consumer protection, and provide practical steps for banking organizations to consider when addressing consumer compliance risk. The first Bulletin focuses on fair lending issues related to the practice of redlining and outlines key risk factors the Fed considers in its review, such as (i) whether a bank’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) assessment areas inappropriately exclude minority census tracts; (ii) whether a bank’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act or CRA lending data show “statistically significant disparities in majority minority census tracts when compared with similar lenders”; or (iii) whether the bank’s branches, loan production offices, or marketing strategies appear to exclude majority minority census tracts. Practical steps for mitigating redlining risk are also provided. The Bulletin also discusses fair lending risk related to mortgage pricing discrimination against minority borrowers, small dollar loan pricing that discriminates against minorities and women, disability discrimination, and maternity leave discrimination.
The Bulletin additionally addresses unfair or deceptive acts or practices risks related to overdrafts, misrepresentations made by loan officers, and the marketing of student financial products and services. The Bulletin also highlights regulatory and policy developments related to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s updated Uniform Interagency Consumer Compliance Rating System along with recent changes to the Military Lending Act.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (New York Fed) released a June 2018 Staff Report titled “Does CFPB Oversight Crimp Credit?” which concludes that there is little evidence that CFPB oversight significantly reduces the overall volume of mortgage lending. The report compared the lending outcomes of companies subject to CFPB oversight with smaller institutions below $10 billion in total assets that are exempt from CFPB supervision and enforcement activities, as well as lending outcomes before and after the CFPB’s creation in July 2011. Using HMDA data, bank balance sheets, and bank noninterest expenses, the report concluded, among other things, that (i) CFPB oversight may have changed the composition of lending—supervised banks originated fewer loans to lower-income, lower-credit score borrowers; (ii) there has been a drop in lending to borrowers with no co-applicant by CFPB supervised banks; and (iii) there has been an increase in origination of “jumbo” mortgage loans by CFPB supervised banks. The report noted that its results do not speak to the effect of the CFPB’s rulemaking, such as the TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure rule.
On June 13 and 14, Comptroller of Currency Joseph Otting appeared before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to discuss his priorities as Comptroller. As highlighted in the identical press releases for both House and Senate hearings, Otting testified about the OCC’s achievements and efforts since being sworn in as Comptroller in November 2017. Among other things, Otting discussed the agency’s efforts to (i) modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA); (ii) promote compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering regulations (BSA/AML); and (iii) simplify the Volcker Rule, particularly for small and mid-size banks. Otting emphasized in his written testimony that his priority is to reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions, specifying that the CRA requirements have become "too complex, outdated, cumbersome, and subjective." To that end, Otting stated that the OCC, in coordination with other federal agencies, is preparing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to gather information on potential CRA updates, which, in Otting’s view, should include (i) expanding the types of activities that are eligible for CRA credit; (ii) changing assessment areas so they are not based solely on where the bank has a physical presence; and (iii) providing clearer metrics. As for BSA/AML, Otting noted this was his “number two issue” behind reforming the CRA and the working group—the OCC, FinCEN, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and NCUA— will likely address key issues like de-risking and improvement of transparency over the next three to six months. Otting noted his pleasure with the Volcker Rule changes in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155/ P.L. 115-174) but cautioned that fine-tuning may be necessary as the OCC proceeds with implementation.
On June 15, the OCC issued Bulletin 2018-17, which clarifies the agency’s supervisory policies and processes regarding how examiners evaluate and communicate the performance of national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The OCC issued these clarifications as part of its ongoing modernization efforts and explained that they are intended to promote the consistency and effectiveness of CRA performance evaluations. The Bulletin addresses policy clarifications for several areas of CRA evaluations, which are effective immediately, such as (i) implementation of full-scope and limited-scope reviews; (ii) consideration of activities that promote economic development; (iii) use of demographic, aggregate, and market share data; and (iv) evaluation frequency and timing. The Bulletin also provides clarifications on standard processes which became effective in May 2017, including, among other things, (i) factors considered when evaluating bank performance under small- and large-bank lending tests; and (ii) information considered and included in the written performance evaluation. The OCC noted that “[t]hese policies and processes apply to the evaluations of all OCC-supervised banks subject to the CRA, regardless of the bank’s asset size or CRA evaluation type.”
On February 27, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) published proposed amendments to its guidelines on the internal appeals process for institutions that receive an adverse material supervisory determination. According to the proposal, the goal of the amendments is to improve and expedite the appeals process, which was established in 1995 and applies to any material supervisory determination, including matters related to an examination or inspection, which does not have an alternative, independent appeals process. The current guidelines allow for an institution to file a written appeal, which will be reviewed by a panel selected by the Federal Reserve Bank (Bank). The panel is made up of persons who are not employed by the Bank and have no affiliation with the material supervisory determination in question. Institutions also have further appeal rights to the Bank’s president and then a member of the Board. Proposed changes to the process include:
- reducing the number of appeal levels to two and providing a separate independent review at both appeal levels;
- establishing an accelerated process for appeals that relate to institutions becoming “critically undercapitalized” under the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework as a result of the material supervisory determination, in order to ensure the review occurs within the required PCA timeframe; and
- instituting specific standards of review at both appeals stages. The first panel of review would be required to review the documentation “as if no determination had previously been made.” The final panel, made up primarily of Board staff, would review whether the initial appeals determination is “reasonable and supported by a preponderance of the evidence in the record,” and the decision of the final review panel would be made public.
The proposed amendments also contain changes to the Board’s Ombudsman policy, which, among other things would allow the Ombudsman—if requested by the institution or Federal Reserve personnel—to attend hearings or deliberations relating to the appeal as an observer. The proposal also would formalize many of the Ombudsman’s current activities, including receiving all complaints related to the Board’s supervisory process and facilitating informal resolution of institution’s concerns.
On February 12, the CFPB released its five-year strategic plan, which establishes the agency’s long-term strategic goals with corresponding objectives and achievement strategies. The strategic plan also introduces a new stated mission for the CFPB, which is based on Sections 1011(a) and 1013(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act:
“To regulate the offering and provision of consumer financial products or services under the Federal consumer financial laws and to educate and empower consumers to make better informed financial decisions.”
The new mission focuses on regulation and education but is silent on enforcement, as compared to the Bureau’s previous mission:
“The CFPB helps consumer financial markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.”
In addition to the mission, with the exception of the achievement strategies, the plan’s goals and corresponding objectives are all also restatements of various sections of title X of the Dodd-Frank Act. According to the plan, the Bureau will act with “humility and moderation” in achieving the three stated goals, which are:
- “Ensure that all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services.”
- “Implement and enforce the law consistently to ensure that markets for consumer financial products and services are fair, transparent, and competitive.”
- “Foster operational excellence through efficient and effective processes, governance and security of resources and information.”
Notable, are the strategies the Bureau has outlined to achieve its goals and objectives. Among others, these strategies include, (i) reviewing individual regulations for clarification opportunities and considering alternative approaches to regulation; (ii) enhancing institutional regulatory compliance to protect consumers from discrimination and UDAAP violations; (iii) focusing enforcement resources on institutions and product lines that pose the greatest risk to consumers; (iv) promoting the development of compliance technology solutions. The strategic plan also focuses on internal strategies to achieve the Bureau’s mission, such as, maintaining a responsive cybersecurity program and promoting budget discipline.
The final strategic plan is a significant rewrite of the draft strategic plan published in October 2017 under the Bureau’s previous leadership (covered by InfoBytes here). The final plan represents a “more coherent strategic direction” compared to the draft version, according to a letter written by acting Director Mick Mulvaney, which accompanies the final plan.
On the same day as the strategic plan was released, President Trump issued his 2019 budget proposal which outlines a plan to place the CFPB under the congressional appropriations process, cut the Bureau’s budget by more than $6 billion over 10 years, and restrict the Bureau’s enforcement authority of federal consumer financial laws. More InfoBytes details about the budget proposal are available here.
On February 14, the CFPB released its fourth Request for Information (RFI) in a series seeking feedback on the Bureau’s operations. While prior RFIs have focused on various aspects of the Bureau’s enforcement process, this RFI solicits public comment on “how best to achieve meaningful burden reduction or other improvement to the processes used by the Bureau to supervise for compliance with Federal consumer financial law.” The RFI broadly requests feedback on all aspects of the supervision process but also highlights specific topics on which comment is requested, including (i) timing, frequency, and scope of examinations; (ii) timing and process of the pre-exam information request, including type and volume of information requested; (iii) effectiveness and accessibility of the CFPB exam manual; (iv) usefulness and content of the potential action and request for response (PARR) letter; (v) clarity and timing requirements associated with matters requiring attention (MRA), as well as the use of third parties to conduct assessments specified in MRAs; (vi) the Bureau’s provision of information about supervisory actions in its Supervisory Highlights publication; and (vii) how the Bureau should coordinate its supervisory activity with federal or state agencies with overlapping jurisdictions. The RFI is expected to be published in the Federal Register on February 20. Comments will be due 90 days from publication.
On January 19, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles spoke at the American Bar Association Banking Law Committee Annual Meeting to discuss his initial observations on the post-crisis regulation regime and provide a status update on the Fed’s key areas of focus for improving the “efficiency, transparency, and simplicity of regulation.” Quarles emphasized that there are a variety of means to improve efficiency, such as (i) addressing unintended adverse consequences of a regulation, or (ii) calibrating a regulation “more precisely to the risks in need of mitigation.” Transparency around rulemaking encourages a variety of perspectives, and simplifying regulations “promotes public understanding of regulation, promotes meaningful compliance by the industry with regulation, and reduces unexpected negative synergies among regulations,” he added.
According to Quarles, “small bank capital simplification, burden reduction in resolution planning, enhancements to stress testing, leverage ratio recalibration, and Volcker rule simplification” are common ground areas for improvement, efforts have progressed, and regulations have been proposed for changes, including extending the resolution planning cycle to reduce the reporting burden. Quarles also noted that the Fed expects to release a proposal on leverage ratio recalibration in the near future, and has started working with five banking agencies on a proposal to streamline the Volcker rule.
Another area of focus Quarles highlighted is the Fed’s plan to revisit the “advanced approaches” thresholds used to identify internationally active banks, including risk-based capital requirements as well as the supplementary leverage ratio. Quarles further noted that the current $250 billion-asset or $10 billion in on-balance-sheet foreign exposures thresholds were formulated more than a decade ago “and have not been refined since then.” Additionally, Quarles announced plans to work with his Fed colleagues to simplify the framework for loss absorbency requirements. According to Quarles, candidates for simplification include (i) eliminating the advanced approaches risk-based capital requirements; (ii) eliminating one or more stress testing ratios; and (iii) modifying the total loss-absorbing capacity requirements. The framework for making determinations of control under the Bank Holding Company Act—while not a post-crisis regulation—could also be improved to be less “burdensome and time-consuming,” Quarles added.
Finally, as previously covered in InfoBytes, Quarles commented on the Fed’s requests for comments issued last December on three proposals designed to increase stress testing transparency while also testing the resiliency of large, complex banks. “I believe that the disclosure we have provided does not go far enough to provide visibility into the supervisory models that often deliver a firm's binding capital constraint,” Quarles noted.
- Valerie L. Hletko to discuss "Forecasting litigation and settlement trends in the mortgage servicing and fair lending context" at the American Conference Institute National Forum on Residential Mortgage Regulatory Enforcement & Litigation
- Michelle L. Rogers and Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Building a govt affairs program; Government investigations” at the TechGC National Summit
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Foundation Montgomery Summer Research Diversity Fellowship 30th Anniversary Celebration
- Douglas F. Gansler to discuss "Privacy, security and protection of your assets in contracts; Security exercises and tactical measures" at the TechGC National Summit
- H Joshua Kotin will discuss federal regulatory developments in mortgage lending and servicing at the Mortgage Bankers Association of Arkansas Fall Conference
- Kate Shrout to discuss "Conducting workplace investigations" at the TechGC National Summit
- Kathryn R. Goodman to discuss "HECM servicing policies and updates" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Fredrick S. Levin to discuss "Reverse mortgage litigation trends" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to speak at the "Digital marketing compliance roundtable" at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Annual Meeting & Expo
- Hank Asbill to discuss "The role of the media in white collar criminal investigations and the Mueller probe" at the American Bar Association White Collar Crime Town Hall
- John C. Redding to discuss "Regulatory compliance update" at PowerSports Finance
- Matthew P. Previn to discuss "Enforcement trends: Who is doing what and how?" at the Cambridge Forums Inc. Forum on Consumer Finance Litigation & Enforcement
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Protect yourself from a CFPB investigation" at the National Association of Settlement Purchasers Conference
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Association Professional Success Summit
- Andrea K. Mitchell to discuss "Developments in fair lending law" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Summit on Diversity and Inclusion
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "New CDD Rule: Pitfalls in compliance" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference