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  • House Financial Services Committee holds hearing on FinCEN’s CDD rule

    Federal Issues

    On April 27, the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit held a hearing entitled “Implementation of FinCEN's Customer Due Diligence Rule—Financial Institution Perspective” to discuss challenges facing financial institutions when complying with FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule (CDD Rule). As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CDD Rule takes effect May 11, and imposes standardized customer due diligence (CDD) requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) for covered financial institutions, including the identification and verification of the beneficial owners of legal entity customers. The hearing’s four witnesses expressed certain concerns regarding the effects of implementation on financial institutions, as well as the timing of additional guidance released April 3 in the form of frequently asked questions.

    In prepared remarks, Executive Director of The Financial Accounting and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition, Gary Kalman, commented that the CDD Rule, which calls for additional AML requirements, is a “positive step forward but falls short of what is needed to protect the integrity of [the] financial system”—particularly in terms of what defines a “beneficial owner.” Greg Baer, President of The Clearing House Association, expressed concerns that the CDD Rule (i) requires financial institutions to verify beneficial owners for each account that is opened, instead of verifying on a per-customer basis; and (ii) does not explicitly state in its preamble that FinCEN possesses sole authority to set CDD standards, which may present opportunities for examiners to make ad hoc interpretations.

    Additionally, Executive Vice President of the International Bank of Commerce Dalia Martinez, observed, among other things, that compliance with the CDD Rule is costly and burdensome, and that banks have not been provided with the tools or guidance to determine whether the information provided by legal entity customers is accurate when verifying beneficial owners. The “gray areas” within the CDD Rule, Martinez noted, present challenges for compliance. A fourth witness, Carlton Green, a partner at Crowell & Morning, expressed concerns with the relationship between FinCEN and the federal functional regulators, stating that because FinCEN has delegated examination authority to these regulators, there is a chance regulators will “create and enforce their own interpretations of or additions to BSA rules” that may “diverge from FinCEN’s priorities.”

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee FinCEN Customer Due Diligence Financial Crimes CDD Rule

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  • Twenty state Attorneys General oppose bill that would remove attorneys engaged in debt collection litigation from FDCPA purview

    Federal Issues

    On April 19, a coalition of twenty state Attorneys General issued a letter to leaders of Congress expressing opposition to the Practice of Law Technical Clarification Act, HR 5082, which would amend the FDCPA to exclude law firms and attorneys engaged in debt collection-related litigation activities from the scope of the FDCPA. The House Financial Services Committee passed HR 5082 on March 21 with a vote of 35-25. In the letter, the Attorneys General state, “debt collection lawsuits comprise the majority of many state-court dockets” and note numerous actions brought by the CFPB and state Attorneys General against debt collection law firms and attorneys for illegal collection practices. The letter argues that debt collection attorneys should be held accountable when using litigation for improper purposes and that HR 5082 would preclude Attorneys General from using the FDCPA to pursue improper behavior. Additionally, the letter notes, “the FDCPA is the only consumer protection tool available to State Attorneys General in a significant number of jurisdictions where state consumer protection law does not govern the conduct of attorneys.”

    Federal Issues State Attorney General House Financial Services Committee FDCPA CFPB Debt Collection

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  • Quarles testifies before House Financial Services Committee

    Federal Issues

    On April 17, Vice Chairman for Supervision of the Federal Reserve Board, Randal Quarles, testified at a hearing with the House Financial Services Committee entitled “Semi-Annual Testimony on the Federal Reserve’s Supervision and Regulation of the Financial System.” Quarles’ prepared testimony covered (i) the current condition of U.S. bank institutions; (ii) the Fed’s supervisory and regulatory agenda; and (iii) the Fed’s engagement with foreign regulators. During the hearing, Quarles emphasized transparency and simplicity, specifically highlighting the Fed’s recent proposed changes to the capital rules for large banks (previously covered by InfoBytes here). With regard to the global systemically important banks (GSIB) surcharge, Quarles responded to committee member concerns that the surcharge calculation may be seen as a penalty based on a growing economy and acknowledged that the Fed will look into the calculation with respect to those concerns. However, Quarles also emphasized that, “it is generally accepted that [the calculation] has resulted in improvement in the resolvability of the firms.” With regard to the Volker Rule, Quarles stated it is “unarguable” that the rule is detrimental to capital markets, and while the rule cannot be repealed by the Board because of statutory limitations, “there is a lot that [the Fed] can do to increase the certainty of application, to reduce the burden of application.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the House passed a bill granting the Federal Reserve exclusive authority to implement the Volker Rule (currently the Fed, the OCC, the FDIC, the SEC, and the CFTC share rulemaking authority under the Rule). Quarles also discussed the Treasury Department’s recommendations (previously covered by InfoBytes here) to regulators regarding suggestions to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), calling the CRA “a little formulaic and ossified,” commending Treasury’s efforts to review the CRA, and stating that regulators should “think about ways to apply [the CRA] more effectively.”

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Federal Reserve CRA Volcker Rule Department of Treasury

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  • CFPB Succession: Mulvaney pleads for Congress to restructure the CFPB; oral arguments held in English litigation

    Federal Issues

    On April 11 and 12, acting Director of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney, testified before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee regarding the Bureau’s semi-annual report to Congress. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here). Mulvaney’s prepared testimony, which was submitted to both committees, covers the salient points of the semi-annual report but also includes the same request to Congress that he made in the report: change the law “in order to establish meaningful accountability for the Bureau.” This request, which includes four specific changes (such as, subjecting the Bureau to the Congressional appropriations process and creating an independent Inspector General for the Bureau), was the focus of many of Mulvaney’s responses to questions posed by members of each committee. Specifically, during the House Financial Services hearing, Mulvaney encouraged the members of the committee to include the CFPB restructure in negotiations with the Senate regarding the bipartisan regulatory reform bill, S.2155, which passed the Senate last month. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here).

    Mulvaney also fielded many questions regarding the Bureau’s announcement that it plans to reconsider the final rule addressing payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other extensions of credit (Rule); however, his responses gave little indication of what the Bureau’s specific plans for the Rule are. As previously covered by InfoBytes, resolutions have been introduced in the House and the Senate to overturn the rule under the Congressional Review Act. Additionally, on April 9, two payday loan trade groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas asking the court to set aside the Rule because, among other reasons, the CFPB is unconstitutional and the Bureau’s rulemaking failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint alleges that the Rule is “outside the Bureau's constitutional and statutory authority, as well as unnecessary, arbitrary, capricious, overreaching, procedurally improper and substantially harmful to lenders and borrowers alike.” The complaint also argues that the rule is a product of an agency that violates the Constitution’s separation of powers due to the Bureau’s structure of a single director who may only be removed by the president “for cause.” A similar argument in CFPB v. PHH Corporation was recently rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert).

    Additionally, on April 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in English v. Trump. In this suit, Leandra English, the current deputy director of the CFPB, challenges Mulvaney’s appointment as acting director. Unlike previous arguments, which focused on the president’s authority to appoint Mulvaney under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA), the court spent considerable time discussing Mulvaney’s concurrent role as head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and whether that dual role is inconsistent with the independent structure of the Bureau, as established by the Dodd-Frank Act.

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession Payday Lending Senate Banking Committee House Financial Services Committee Appellate D.C. Circuit CFPB

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  • House Financial Services Committee holds hearing on potential regulation of cryptocurrencies and ICOs

    Federal Issues

    On March 14, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities, and Investment held a hearing entitled “Examining Cryptocurrencies and ICO Markets” to discuss recommendations for Congress concerning the regulation of cryptocurrencies and initial coin offering ("ICO") markets. Subcommittee Chairman Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., opened the hearing by stating that “[c]ryptocurrencies and ICOs provide an innovative vehicle for startups to potentially access capital and grow their businesses,” and emphasized that potential regulation of this market should not stifle innovation in the area of digital currencies and capital formation.

    The hearing’s four witnesses offered numerous insights into the shaping of regulation in the crytopcurrency and ICO markets. The witnesses discussed emphasizing the potential of ICOs for U.S. investors, disclosures in the ICO market, and the need for regulation to be clear with definitive classification guidelines. Additionally, witnesses commented on the unanticipated negative consequences of regulation, including the risk associated with developing a regulatory framework around the cryptocurrency market since the market is still emerging. The hearing included discussion on the functions of cryptocurrency and the ICO market, including distinguishing an ICO offering from a traditional Initial Public Offering (IPO) and the different uses of “scarce tokens,” such as bitcoin, which would impact whether cryptocurrencies were regulated as commodities or securities. 

    Federal Issues Virtual Currency House Financial Services Committee Fintech Cryptocurrency Bitcoin Initial Coin Offerings

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  • House passes two bipartisan bills to increase transparency for regulatory appeals process and tailor regulations based on size and complexity

    Federal Issues

    On March 15, the House passed H.R. 4545, the “Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act,” which would amend the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council Act of 1978 to increase transparency and accountability for financial institutions. Among other things, the bill will require federal financial regulatory agencies to comply with deadlines established in the bill to improve the timeliness of examination reports and exit interviews, and will establish the Office of Independent Examination Review to adjudicate financial institutions’ appeals and complaints concerning examination reports. The bill further “requires the establishment of an independent internal agency appellate process at the CFPB for the review of supervisory determinations made at institutions supervised by the CFPB.”

    Separately, on March 14, the House passed H.R. 1116, the “Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk Act of 2017” (TAILOR Act), which would require federal financial regulatory agencies to tailor regulations to a financial institution’s size and complexity. The TAILOR Act would apply not only to future regulatory guidance and rulemaking but also to regulations adopted seven years prior from February 16, 2017. According to a press release issued by the House Financial Services Committee, the TAILOR Act “moves financial regulatory agencies away from the current one-size-fits-all approach to instead consider additional factors such as an institution's risk profile, unintended potential impact of implementation of such regulations, and underlying policy objectives of the statutory scheme which led to the regulation.” In registering her opposition to the bill, Ranking Member of the Committee, Representative Maxine Waters, D-CA, argued that it would “weaken important safeguards established since the financial crisis” and “provide all financial institutions, including the largest banks, with opportunities to challenge any and every regulation in court if they felt it was not 'uniquely tailored' to their business needs.”

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation Bank Regulatory FFIEC CFPB House Financial Services Committee

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  • House Financial Services Committee holds hearing on data security, breach notifications

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On March 7, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit held a hearing entitled “Legislative Proposals to Reform the Current Data Security and Breach Notification Regulatory Regime” to discuss data security and breach notification rules and cybersecurity supervision and examination standards for reporting agencies. Subcommittee Chairman Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., opened the hearing by stating that “[f]orty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have all enacted differing laws requiring private companies to notify individuals of breaches of personal information,” and emphasized the need for a “national solution” to create data security safeguards and responsible notification processes.

    Legislation. The hearing discussed two legislative proposals sponsored by Representatives Luetkemeyer and Patrick McHenry, R-NC, respectively: the “Data Acquisition and Technology Accountability and Security Act” (DATAS Act) and the “Promoting Responsible Oversight of Transactions and Examinations of Credit Technology Act of 2017” (PROTECT Act). The DATAS Act would, among other things, (i) establish broad standards for data protection across industries; (ii) create new federal post-data breach notification requirements; and (iii) establish steps that covered entities must take to notify regulators, law enforcement, and victims after certain types of data breaches. Included within the PROTECT Act are provisions that would (i) subject large consumer reporting agencies to cybersecurity supervision and examination measures; (ii) amend the FCRA to allow consumers to request security freezes be placed, removed, or temporarily lifted on their credit reports; (iii) provide provisions for fees and exceptions from such fees; and (iv) prohibit consumer reporting agencies from including a consumer’s Social Security number in a credit report or being used as a method to identify a consumer.

    Hearing Testimony. The hearing’s four witnesses provided testimony related to current issues with data beaches and protecting consumer information, and commented on the inconsistencies in data breach laws. Among the issues discussed were (i) the challenges of creating a “universal, unique identifier” separate from a Social Security number; (ii) efforts to establish streamlined, uniform, national data breach notification, security, and credit freeze standards; and (iii) the need for U.S. businesses that handle sensitive financial information to implement measures to protect the data and maintain consumers’ trust. Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General and Director of Data Privacy & Security for the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, Sara Cable, stated in her written testimony and during the hearing that the proposed DATAS Act’s consumer notice provisions would “leave consumers in a worse position than the status quo.” She also expressed concern that the bill “allows entities to push the cost of the data security crisis onto consumers without providing any meaningful remedy, strips the state Attorneys General of the authority they are presently and actively using to protect their consumers from breaches, and hamstrings efforts of the States to enact laws in response to future risks in an era of increasing and rapidly evolving technology.” 

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security House Financial Services Committee Data Breach FCRA Federal Legislation Security Freeze

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  • House passes bill to ease operational risk capital requirements for banks

    Federal Issues

    On February 27, in a bipartisan vote of 245-169, the House passed H.R. 4296, which would ease the operational risk capital requirements for banks based on several factors. Specifically, the bill would prohibit the establishment of such requirements unless they are based primarily on the risks posed by a bank's current activities and are determined by a forward-looking assessment of its potential losses and not solely on historic losses. The requirements must also allow for certain adjustments based on certain operational risk mitigants. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling stated in a press release issued by the Committee that “H.R. 4296 simply amends the method of how reserve capital is calculated” and that “banks would still retain sufficient reserves to weather an economic storm, but they would also be able to put the billions of dollars currently sitting on the sidelines to work to help fuel the economy.”

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation U.S. House House Financial Services Committee

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  • House Financial Services Committee holds hearing on current data security regulatory regime

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On February 14, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit held a hearing entitled “Examining the Current Data Security and Breach Notification Regulatory Regime” to discuss opportunities to reform data security regulations at the federal and state level in order to close gaps in the regulations and reduce vulnerabilities in the system. Subcommittee Chairman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) opened the hearing by stating that (1) technological advancements are paired with increasingly sophisticated threats to data security; and (2) data breaches seem to be increasing in number and severity. Luetkemeyer emphasized that the time has come to consider regulatory reform to address these complex issues.

    The hearing’s five witnesses offered numerous insights related to the current issues with data security. Among the issues discussed included highlighting the significance of the global data threats the U.S. faces today and the cost they have on the public’s trust in technology. Several witnesses commented on the inconsistencies in state data breach laws and offered suggestions for future regulatory reform, such as federal legislation that (i) requires companies to maintain reasonable data security policies; (ii) implements prompt consumer notification requirements of suspected breaches; and (iii) contains a safe harbor for compliance with federal data security standards. The hearing also had significant discussion regarding whether a new federal law should preempt current state laws in their entirety. The discussion recognized the challenges of pursuing a preemption approach. On one hand, partial preemption would not solve the inconsistencies that exist today, but total preemption may override state laws that currently provide strong protections with a weaker national standard.

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security House Financial Services Committee Data Breach

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  • House Financial Services Subcommittee conducts hearing on fintech opportunities and challenges

    Fintech

    On January 30, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit held a hearing entitled “Examining Opportunities and Challenges in the Financial Technology (“Fintech”) Marketplace.” The Subcommittee issued a press release following the hearing and presented the following key takeaways:

    • “Modern developments in digital technology are changing the way in which many financial services are offered and delivered”; and
    • “Congress and the federal prudential regulators must continue to examine this innovative marketplace to understand the opportunities and challenges it presents, and to ensure that financial services entities are allowed to use fintech to deliver new products and services while also protecting consumers.”

    Opening statements were presented by several members of the Subcommittee, including Subcommittee Vice Chair Keith Rothfus, R-PA, who noted that online lending, mobile banking, and other products could bring capital back to areas deserted by traditional banks. Subcommittee Chairman Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-MO, highlighted that loan originations passed through marketplace lenders accounted for nearly $40 billion over the past ten years, with online lenders often able to offer better lending terms. Luetkemeyer also discussed the rise of mobile banking and lending and raised the question presented by some states of whether fintech companies should be required to comply with current laws that apply to similar products. He stressed that understanding fintech’s capabilities “can better create an environment that fosters certainty and responsible innovation while maintaining consumer protections.” A broad range of topics were discussed at the hearing, including the following highlights:

    • Madden v. Midland / True Lender. Companies that have chosen to partner with banks have also run into regulatory and legal roadblocks, including the recent decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, which determined that a nonbank entity taking assignment of debts originated by a national bank is not entitled to protection under the National Bank Act from state-law usury claims. (See Buckley Sandler Special Alert here.) In prepared remarks, Andrew Smith, Partner at Covington and Burling, LLP, stated that because of varying outcomes in true lender court challenges, the lack of certainty means that “market participants will no longer be willing to enter into these types of transactions, thereby depriving consumers, banks, and the economy of the many benefits of bank partnerships with fintech providers while also hampering the liquidity necessary to support a robust lending market.” Smith went on to discuss H.R. 4439, the Modernizing Credit Opportunities Act, which was introduced to “reconfirm and reinforce existing federal law with respect to a bank’s identity as the true lender of a loan with the assistance of a third-party service provider.” Smith emphasized that the legislation would “resolve any uncertainty about a bank’s ability to use third-party service providers by confirming the principle that when a bank enters into a loan agreement, it is the bank that has made the loan.”
    • Marketplace Lending. During his testimony, witness Nathaniel Hoopes, Executive Director at the Marketplace Lending Association, highlighted the role marketplace lending platforms (MPPs) have had in delivering products to underserved consumers, but emphasized that a lot of work still needs to happen for more of the “broad American ‘middle class’ to fully realize and benefit from the potential of MPPs specifically and fintech more broadly.” He also expressed support for the Special Purpose National Bank charter currently under consideration by the OCC.
    • Regulatory Sandboxes. Witness Brian Knight, Director of the Program on Financial Regulation and Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, suggested in his prepared remarks various methods to improve the current regulatory environment, and opined that lawmakers could allow firms that participate in a regulatory sandbox program and comply with its requirements to avoid liability as long as the firm makes “customers whole if the firm causes harm owing to a violation of the law.” Knight added that states could be allowed to grant special non-depository charters similar to those offered by the OCC. And while witness Professor Adam J. Levitin of the Georgetown University Law Center agreed that sandboxes would allow companies to explore new ideas with the understanding that customers must be protected, he cautioned that the fragmentation of the regulatory system around fintech makes it hard for experimentation, and that risk would need to be regulated.
    • Virtual Currencies. Knight discussed his concerns with initial coin offerings (ICOs) and commented that while ICOs “may enable firms to access capital more effectively than traditional methods, there are significant concerns that they are being used by both outright frauds and well-meaning but ignorant firms to obtain capital in contravention of existing laws governing the sales of securities, commodities futures contracts, and products and services.” However, Knight testified that despite the potential for risk, peer-to-peer payments, cryptocurrencies, and other innovations demonstrate potential, and that innovative lenders are replacing banks in communities where it is no longer profitable for those banks to serve.
    • Inconsistent Regulations. During his testimony, witness Brian Peters, Executive Director at Financial Innovation Now, advocated for improved coordination among regulators and stressed that the “current structure is needlessly fragmented and inconsistent among federal regulators, and varies widely across state jurisdictions.” Peters also commented on the need to modernize the regulatory structure to keep pace with innovation and meet consumers’ needs.

    Fintech House Financial Services Committee Marketplace Lending True Lender Virtual Currency Bank Regulatory Usury Third-Party Madden

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