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On November 29, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing entitled “Combating Money Laundering and Other Forms of Illicit Finance: Regulator and Law Enforcement Perspectives on Reform” to discuss efforts to improve the Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) regulatory, supervisory, and enforcement regime. Committee Chairman Mike Crapro, R-Idaho, opened the hearing by emphasizing the need for a continued dialogue on modernizing the BSA/AML regime to “encourage the innovation necessary to combat illicit financing while also encouraging regulators to focus on more tangible threats, and law enforcement to increase interagency cooperation and improve information sharing throughout the process.”
Among other things, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth A. Blanco highlighted the following three key priorities as part of FinCEN’s “multi-prong approach” to the regulatory reform process: (i) examining and understanding the value and effectiveness of the BSA through data-driven analysis in conjunction with both considering changes to enhance efficiency (such as evaluating suspicious activity and currency transaction reporting requirements) and engaging with regulators through, for example, monthly meetings with the FFIEC’s Anti-Money Laundering Working Group; (ii) “promot[ing] responsible innovation and creative solutions to combat money laundering and terrorist financing” by exploring ways to collaborate with financial institutions to improve AML/countering the financing of terrorism compliance, fostering innovation, and leveraging technology while also minimizing vulnerabilities; and (iii) “[e]nhancing public-private partnerships that reveal and mitigate vulnerabilities” and sharing information with the private sector to help identify suspicious activity.
OCC Compliance and Community Affairs Senior Deputy Comptroller Grovetta N. Gardineer discussed the agency’s efforts to enhance the efficiency of its current supervisory practices, and commented on how new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning provide opportunities for banks to cut costs and identify suspicious activity. Gardineer also highlighted the OCC’s Money Laundering Risk System, which allows for the identification of potentially higher-risk community bank areas by “identifying the products and services offered by these institutions, as well as the customers and geographies they serve.” In addition, Gardineer offered recommendations for BSA amendments to improve supervisory efforts, such as (i) requiring a periodic review of BSA/AML regulations to identify those that may be outdated or burdensome; (ii) amending BSA safe harbor rules to clarify that a financial institution can file a suspicious activity report without being exposed to civil liability; and (iii) expanding safe harbor to permit information sharing beyond money laundering and terrorism financing between financial institutions without incurring liability. Moreover, Gardineer stated that FinCEN’s notice requirement with respect to information-sharing under section 314(b) of the USA Patriot Act should be eliminated or modified in order to enhance institutions’ ability to share information.
FBI Criminal Investigative Division Section Chief Steven M. D'Antuono also discussed, among other things, the Treasury Department’s recent Customer Due Diligence Final Rule (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), and stated that the Rule is “a step toward a system that makes it difficult for sophisticated criminals to circumvent the law through use of opaque corporate structures.”
On November 9, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) released the inaugural issue of a new publication, Supervision and Regulation Report (Report), which summarizes banking system conditions, Board supervisory and regulatory activities, trends dating back to the financial crisis, and differing approaches for large financial institutions and regional/community banking organizations. The Report discusses the safety and soundness of the banking industry, and states that the “strong economy” has had a positive effect on the return on equity and return on average assets for banks, with figures showing that industry profitability ratios in the second quarter of 2018 are at a 10-year high.
However, the Board also discusses several areas of concern including, among other things, that firms assigned “less-than-satisfactory-ratings generally exhibit weaknesses in one or more areas such as compliance, internal controls, model risk management, operational risk management, and/or data and information technology  infrastructure.” The Board also cites weaknesses in Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) programs. The Report outlines future supervisory priorities, which continue to address risk management controls and cyber-related risks, and also include (i) a focus on four specific components: capital; liquidity; governance and controls; and recovery and resolution planning for the largest firms; and (ii) a focus on credit risk, operational risk, sales practices and incentive compensation, and BSA/AML compliance for regional and community banks. In addition, the report discusses plans to minimize regulatory burdens, tailor bank examinations to risk, and optimize supervision resources.
On October 31, the Federal Reserve announced a proposed rulemaking to more closely match certain regulations for large banking organization with their risk profile. The proposal would establish four risk-based categories for applying the regulatory capital rule, the liquidity coverage ratio rule, and the proposed net stable funding ratio rule for banks with $100 billion or more in assets. Specifically, the Federal Reserve proposes to establish the four categories using risk-based indicators, such as size, cross-jurisdictional activity, weighted short-term wholesale funding, nonbank assets, and off-balance sheet exposure. According to the proposal, the most significant changes will be for banks are in the two lowest risk categories:
- Banks with $100 billion to $250 billion in total consolidated assets would generally fall into the lowest risk category and would (i) no longer be subject to the standardized liquidity requirements; (ii) no longer be required to conduct company-run stress tests, and (iii) be subject to supervised stress tests on a two-year cycle.
- Banks with $250 billion or more in total consolidated assets, or material levels of other risk factors, that are not global systemically important banking institutions (GSIBs), would (i) have reduced liquidity requirements; and (ii) only be required to perform company run stress tests on a two-year cycle. These banks would still be subject to annual supervised stress tests.
Banks in the highest two risk categories, including GSIBs, would not see any changes to capital or liquidity requirements. A chart of the proposed requirements for each risk category is available here.
Comments on the proposal must be received by January 22, 2019.
Additionally, the Federal Reserve released a joint proposal with the OCC and FDIC that would tailor requirements under the regulatory capital rule, the Liquidity Coverage Ratio and the proposed Net Stable Funding Ratio to be consistent with the prudential standard changes.
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.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Trends in regulatory enforcement" at the American Bar Association Banking Law Committee Meeting
- Jessica L. Pollet to discuss "Your career is impacting your life..." at the Ark Group Women Legal Conference
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Successors in interest updates" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "Keeping your head above water in flood insurance compliance" at the Mortgage Bankers Association National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo