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  • Senate Banking Committee: Sharpen the Focus of AML/BSA Enforcement and Oversight

    Financial Crimes

    On December 9, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing entitled, “Combating Money Laundering and Other Forms of Illicit Finance: Opportunities to Reform and Strengthen BSA Enforcement” to discuss anti-money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act (AML/BSA) enforcement and compliance. Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the hearing by stating that Congress and financial regulators must examine and address “decades-old” Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering requirements in order “to sharpen the focus, sustainability and enforcement of a modernized, more efficient U.S. counter-threat-finance architecture.” During the hearing, the Committee stressed the need to move towards a more targeted, strengthened AML framework so that banks, law enforcement, and regulators can focus on specific threats such as the financing of terrorism and sanctions evasions.

    The three witnesses offered numerous insights related to reforming AML/BSA enforcement and regulatory structures, including: (i) establishing an approach that would utilize and track intelligence and analysis rather than focusing primarily on quantifiable metrics; (ii) increasing inter-agency coordination and improving information sharing between financial institutions and regulators, and among financial institutions themselves; (iii) recognizing the importance of law enforcement participation, specifically related to the sharing of suspicious activity reports; (iv) encouraging the participation of entities outside of the banking sector, such as persons involved in real estate or those acting as proxies for financial system access; (v) supporting beneficial ownership legislation for companies formed in the United States; and (v) understanding the ways in which financial institutions are addressing the anonymity of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. The witnesses were:

    • Mr. Dennis Lormel, President and CEO, DML Associates and former Chief, FBI Financial Crimes Program (testimony);
    • Mr. Greg Baer, President, The Clearing House Association (testimony); and
    • Ms. Heather Lowe, Legal Counsel and Director of Government Affairs, Global Financial Integrity (testimony).

    Financial Crimes Senate Banking Committee Anti-Money Laundering Bank Secrecy Act SARs Cryptocurrency Virtual Currency Blockchain

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  • Senate Banking Committee Approves Financial Regulatory Relief Bill

    Federal Issues

    On December 5, the Senate Banking Committee approved bill S.2155, Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which would alter certain financial regulations under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. While not as sweeping as previous legislative relief proposals (see previous InfoBytes coverage on House Financial CHOICE Act of 2017), the bill was introduced and passed the Committee with bipartisan support. The bill’s highlights include, among other things:

    • Consumer Access to Credit. The bill deems mortgage loans held in portfolios by insured institutions with less than $10 billion in assets to be “qualified mortgages” under TILA, and removes the three-day waiting period for TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures if the second credit offer is a lower rate. The bill also instructs the CFPB to provide “clearer, authoritative guidance” on certain issues such as the applicability of TRID to mortgage assumptions and construction-to-permanent loans. Additionally, the bill eases appraisal requirements on certain mortgage loans and exempts small depository institutions with low mortgage originations from certain HMDA disclosure requirements.
    • Regulatory Relief for Certain Institutions. The bill exempts community banks from Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act if they have, “[i] less than $10 billion in total consolidated assets, and [ii] total trading assets and trading liabilities that are not more than five percent of total consolidated assets” – effectively allowing for exempt banks to engage in the trading of, or holding ownership interests in, hedge funds or private equity funds. Additionally, the bill raises the threshold of the Federal Reserve’s Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement and the qualification for certain banks to have an 18-month examination cycle from $1 billion to $3 billion.
    • Protections for Consumers. Included in an adopted “manager’s amendment,” the bill requires credit bureaus to provide consumers unlimited free security freezes and unfreezes. The bill also limits certain medical debt information that can be included on veterans’ credit reports.
    • Changes for Bank Holding Companies. The bill raises the threshold for applying enhanced prudential standards from $50 billion to $250 billion.

    The bill now moves to the Senate, which is not expected to take up the package before the end of this year.

    Federal Issues Senate Banking Committee Dodd-Frank Federal Legislation TILA RESPA TRID Federal Reserve OCC FDIC Mortgages HMDA Credit Reporting Agency

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  • OFAC Imposes Additional North Korean Sanctions; Senate Banking Committee Hearing Discusses Multi-Department Efforts

    Financial Crimes

    On September 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on an additional eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals connected to North Korean financial networks across the globe. The individuals sanctioned are North Korean nationals who represent North Korean banks operating in China, Russia, Libya, and the UAE, and have been designated “in response to North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction and continued violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.” OFAC’s action complements the United Nations Security Council’s resolution UNSCR 2375, adopted September 11, 2017. As a result, property or interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdictions are blocked.

    These actions closely follow President Trump’s recent issuance of sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Committee) held an open session hearing on September 28 entitled “Evaluating Sanction Enforcement and Policy Options on North Korea: Administration Perspectives.” Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the hearing to stress that “[m]any Members of Congress, including on this committee, have a keen interest in knowing more about how and when enforcement of these new measures will occur, wondering if last week’s executive order and earlier UN sanctions will be sufficient to achieve U.S. policy goals.” Sen. Crapo also mentioned the Committee’s legislative efforts to “maximize pressure against North Korea.”

    The September 28 hearing—a video of which can be accessed here—included testimony from the following witnesses concerning North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and the need to curtail the country’s access to revenue, trade, and financial systems.

    • The Honorable Sigal Madelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of the Treasury (testimony)
    • Ms. Susan A. Thornton, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State (testimony)

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Department of Treasury Senate Banking Committee Department of State

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  • SEC Chairman Releases Statement Discussing Internal Cybersecurity Assessment, Announces EDGAR Vulnerability May Have Led to Illicit Gain

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On September 20, the SEC released a statement issued by Chairman Jay Clayton regarding the Commission’s approach to cybersecurity and its impact on market participants. Topics discussed in the statement, which is part of the SEC’s ongoing assessment of its cybersecurity risk profile, include:

    • the collection and use of data by the SEC;
    • the management of, and responses to, internal cybersecurity risks;
    •  the integration and incorporation of cybersecurity considerations into the SEC’s supervision of regulated entities;
    • coordinated efforts with other regulations to identify and mitigate risk; and
    • oversight and enforcement efforts related to cybersecurity activities.

    The Chairman also discussed the SEC’s discovery in August that a 2016 security incident involving a software vulnerability within the Commission’s EDGAR system “may have provided the basis for illicit gain through trading” by providing access to nonpublic information. However, the SEC also stated its belief that “the intrusion did not result in the unauthorized access to personally identifiable information, jeopardize the operations of the Commission, or result in systemic risk.” According to the SEC, the vulnerability was patched promptly after discovery, and the SEC commenced an internal investigation, which is ongoing.

    Chairman Clayton is scheduled to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on September 26 at a hearing titled, “Oversight of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.”

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security SEC Senate Banking Committee EDGAR Data Breach

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  • Senate Banking Committee’s Fintech Hearing Discusses Regulatory Challenges and Innovation Risks

    Fintech

    On September 12, the full Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing entitled “Examining the Fintech Landscape” to discuss topics concerning fintech innovation and the regulatory landscape. Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the hearing by asserting that while fintech firms provide “new and innovative products and services in areas such as marketplace lending, digital payments and currencies, wealth management, insurance and more . . . [u]ncertainty remains around questions like data security and the proper regulatory treatment to ensure consumers and the financial system are safeguarded.” Sen. Crapo said that he welcomes the opportunity to learn more about fintech innovations, the impact on the financial system, and the current regulatory approach to this sector.

    Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), ranking member of the Committee, also released an opening statement in which he called for the need to “improve federal oversight of data collection and data security,” especially in light of the recent credit reporting data breach. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) Sen. Brown noted that he is interested in understanding “how Congress can encourage fintech innovation to make it easier for community banks to serve their customers, comply with important safety and soundness and anti-money laundering rules.”

    The three witnesses offered numerous insights related to the fintech industry, including (i) the need to manage risk without stifling fintech innovation; (ii) the importance of creating consistent standards and a regulatory framework; (iii) the need to clearly outline the definition of fintech firms and digital lenders; (iv) challenges when using algorithms and alternative data to assess creditworthiness; and (v) concerns regarding state preemption in the fintech space. The witnesses also answered questions concerning the concept of utilizing a regulatory sandbox to allow fintech firms to operate on a limited basis to test new ideas, and offered support for an innovation office, which would help fintech firms and regulators understand the emerging landscape.

    • Mr. Lawrance Evans, Director, Financial Markets, U.S. Government Accountability Office (testimony);
    • Mr. Eric Turner, Research Analysis, S&P Global Market Intelligence (testimony); and
    • Mr. Frank Pasquale, Professor of Law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (testimony).

    Fintech Federal Issues Senate Banking Committee Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Data Collection / Aggregation

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  • Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to Hold Fintech Hearing

    Fintech

    On September 12, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will hold an open session hearing entitled “Examining the Fintech Landscape.” The hearing will feature witnesses from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, S&P Global Market Intelligence, and the University of Maryland School of Law. The hearing will take place at 10:00 am EDT and be made available via webcast.

    Fintech Federal Issues Senate Banking Committee

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  • House Votes to Repeal CFPB Arbitration Rule

    Federal Issues

    On July 25, the House voted along party lines to strike down the CFPB’s final arbitration rule by a vote of 231 to 190, exercising its authority under the Congressional Review Act to overturn a new agency rule within 60 days of its publication. H.J. Res. 111, sponsored by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.), invalidates the recently adopted rule that prohibits the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in certain contracts for consumer financial products and services. A similar measure was introduced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). A date for the Senate vote has not yet been set.

    American Bankers Association. President and CEO Rob Nichols applauded the action: “Today’s action is critical to ensuring the Bureau doesn’t provide trial lawyers with a regulatory windfall at consumers’ expense. In class-action lawsuits, the spoils go overwhelmingly—and sometimes exclusively—to a small group of highly motivated trial lawyers who specialize in filing a large volume of often frivolous litigation.”

    Consumer Bankers Association. President and CEO Richard Hunt supported the action: “Consumers' access to arbitration, which has long provided a faster, more cost-effective, and higher recovery alternative to class action lawsuits, should not be undermined by a harmful rule resulting from an incomplete study by the CFPB. The Bureau's own study shows the average consumer receives $5,400 in cash relief when using arbitration and just $32 through a class action suit.”

    U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a key vote letter sent to the House before Tuesday’s vote, the Chamber of Commerce stated, “Even though this regulation is directed at financial firms, the CFPB’s rule impacts businesses of all types that the Bureau believes touch consumer finance – even mobile telephone service providers and website operators.” Furthermore, the CFPB “decided to issue a regulation that interferes with freedom of contract, imposes new burdensome regulations, hurts consumers, and rewards class action lawyers. Congress should assert its prerogatives and overturn this illegitimate rule.”

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Arbitration CFPB Senate Banking Committee CRA

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  • Senate and House Committees File Separate Resolutions Disapproving of CFPB Arbitration Rule

    Federal Issues

    On July 20, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and the House Financial Services Committee each announced Congressional Review Act Joint Resolutions of Disapproval against the CFPB’s Arbitration Agreements final rule issued July 10. In a press release issued by the Senate Committee, 24 Republican senators—including Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)—expressed concern that the anti-arbitration measure will discourage cost-effective dispute resolution and push consumers into class action lawsuits causing more harm than good. House Republicans outlined similar concerns in a press release issued the same day. H.J. Res. 111, co-sponsored by all 34 Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee, will seek to nullify the rule, which they believe “punish[es] consumers with decreased access to financial products, increased costs for such products, or both.”

    The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to overturn agency rules by a simple majority if moved within 60 days from the rule’s publication.

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Arbitration CFPB Senate Banking Committee CRA House Financial Services Committee Congress Class Action

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  • Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Releases Flood Insurance Bill

    Federal Issues

    On July 17, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) released the text of the National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2017, which would reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and extend it another six years. Among the provisions covered in the bill are: (i) risk mitigation, particularly in repeatedly flooded communities; (ii) compliance cost increases; (iii) predisaster hazard mitigation programs; (iv) flood risk disclosure requirements for sellers or lessors of real estate; (v) flood mapping program improvements; and (vi) various program improvements, including requirements for federal banking regulators to conduct annual compliance studies on mandatory purchase requirements in special flood hazard areas, and directions for “FEMA to annually study NFIP participation in areas outside of special flood hazard areas.”

    “We have held multiple hearings and worked on a bipartisan basis to hear thoughts and concerns from the Program's stakeholders, regulators and from Banking Committee members,” Crapo and Brown stated in a joint release. “This bill represents the many areas where we have found agreement, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to address outstanding issues.”

    The bill is one of many introduced this year in both the Senate and the House as the NFIP is set to expire at the end of September. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here and here.)

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation National Flood Insurance Program Congress Senate Banking Committee Flood Insurance

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  • Senate Banking Committee to Host July 20 Hearing on Mortgage Reform

    Federal Issues

    On July 20, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on mortgage reform for small lenders. The hearing, entitled “Housing Finance Reform: Maintaining Access for Small Lenders,” will feature witnesses from the American Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America, the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, the Community Mortgage Lenders of America, and the Community Home Lenders Association.

    Federal Issues Senate Banking Committee Mortgages ABA NCUA CUNA ICBA Mortgage Lenders

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