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  • President Trump Releases 2018 Budget Proposal; Key Areas of Reform Target Financial Regulators, Cybersecurity, and Student Loans

    Federal Issues

    On May 23, the White House released its fiscal 2018 budget request, A New Foundation for American Greatness, along with Major Savings and Reforms, which set forth the President’s funding proposals and priorities. The mission of the President’s budget is to bring spending under control by proposing savings of $57.3 billion in discretionary programs, including $26.7 billion in program eliminations and $30.6 billion in reductions.

    Financial Regulators. The budget stresses the importance of reducing the cost of complying with “burdensome financial regulations” adopted by independent agencies under the Dodd-Frank Act. However, the proposal provides few details about how the reform applies to federal financial services regulators. Identifying the CFPB specifically, the budget states that restructuring the Bureau is necessary in order to “ensure appropriate congressional oversight and to refocus [the] CFPB’s efforts on enforcing the law rather than impeding free commerce.” Major Savings and Reforms assert that subjecting the Bureau to the congressional appropriations process would “impose financial discipline and prevent future overreach of the Agency into consumer advocacy and activism.” The budget projects further savings of $35 billion through the end of 2027, resulting from legal, regulatory, and policy changes to be recommended by the Treasury once it completes its effectiveness review of existing laws and regulations in collaboration with the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The Treasury review is being performed as a result of the Executive Order on Core Principals.

    Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. As previously reported in InfoBytes, the budget proposes that funding be eliminated for the following: (i) small grant programs such as the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, which includes, among others, the Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Program (a savings of $56 million); (ii) the CHOICE Neighborhoods program (a savings of $125 million), stating state and local governments should fund strategies for neighborhood revitalization; (iii) the Community Development Block Grant (a savings of $2.9 billion), over claims that it “has not demonstrated results”; and (iv) the HOME Investment Partnerships Programs (a savings of $948 million). The budget also proposes reductions to the Native American Housing Block Grant and plans to reduce costs across HUD’s rental assistance programs through legislative reforms. Rental assistance programs generally comprise about 80 percent of HUD’s total funding.

    Cybersecurity. The budget states that it “supports the President’s focus on cybersecurity to ensure strong programs and technology to defend the Federal networks that serve the American people, and continues efforts to share information, standards, and best practices with critical infrastructure and American businesses to keep them secure.” Law enforcement and cybersecurity personnel across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense, and the FBI will see budget increases to execute efforts to counter cybercrime. Furthermore, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center—which DHS uses to respond to infrastructure cyberattacks—will receive an increase under the budget.

    Student Loan Reform. Under the proposed budget, a single income driven repayment plan (IDR) would be created that caps monthly payments at 12.5 percent of discretionary income—an increase from the 10 percent cap some current payment plans offer. Furthermore, balances would be forgiven after a specific number of repayment years—15 for undergraduate debt, 30 for graduate. In doing so, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and subsidized loans will be eliminated, and reforms will be established to “guarantee that borrowers in IDR pay an equitable share of their income.” These proposals will only apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2018, with the exception of loans provided to borrowers in order to finish their “current course of study.”

    Dept. of the Treasury. The budget proposes to, among other things: (i) eliminate funding for new Community Development Financial Institutions Fund grants (a savings of $220 million); and (ii) reduce funding for the Troubled Asset Relief Program by 50 percent, “commensurate with the wind-down of TARP programs” (a savings of $21 million).

    Response from Treasury. In a statement released by the Treasury, Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said the budget “prioritizes investments in cybersecurity, and maintains critical funding to implement sanctions, combat terrorist financing, and protect financial institutions from threats.” Furthermore, it also would “achieve savings through reforms that prevent taxpayer bailouts and reverse burdensome regulations that have been harmful to small businesses and American workers.”

    Federal Issues Treasury Department POTUS HUD budget Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Student Lending Bank Regulatory FSOC

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  • President Trump Issues Two Memoranda to Treasury; Instructs Secretary to Review FSOC Processes for Designating Nonbank Financial Companies as SIFIs and Treasury’s Orderly Liquidation Authority under Dodd-Frank

    Federal Issues

    On April 21, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct a review of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) processes for determining whether nonbank financial companies are financially distressed and designating nonbank financial companies as “systemically important.” The memorandum explains that a review of these processes is needed because the designations “have serious implications for affected entities, the industries in which they operate, and the economy at large.” The memorandum requires the Secretary to report within 180 days on whether: 

    • the FSOC’s processes are sufficiently transparent and provide adequate due process protections;
    • a FSOC designation “give[s] market participants the expectation that the Federal Government will shield supervised or designated entities from bankruptcy”;
    • a determination regarding a nonbank’s systemic importance should include “specific, quantifiable projections of the damage that could be caused to the United States economy”;
    • the processes appropriately account for the costs of designation; and
    • potential designees receive adequate guidance on how to reduce their perceived risk and a “meaningful opportunity to have their determinations or designations reevaluated in a timely and appropriately transparent manner.” 

    The memorandum further directs the Secretary to include SIFI designation recommendations, including any proposed legislative measures, for improving the processes and opine on whether such processes are consistent with the Administration’s “Core Principles.” The secretary is also directed to make any recommendations for legislation or regulation that would further align FSOC’s activities with the Core Principles.

    The President issued a second Memorandum, directing the Secretary to review and report on the Orderly Liquidation Authority (OLA) under Dodd-Frank, with the goal of understanding the “OLA’s full contours and acknowledge the potentially adverse consequences of its availability and use.” Specifically, the memorandum requires that the Secretary assess the following: 

    • “the potential adverse effects of failing financial companies on the financial stability of the United States”;
    • whether the framework for employing OLA is consistent with the Core Principles;
    • whether “invoking OLA could result in a cost to the general fund of the Treasury”;
    • whether the use or availability of OLA could lead to excessive risk taking or . . . otherwise lead[] market participants to believe that a financial company is too big to fail; and
    • whether a new chapter in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code would be a “superior method of resolution for financial companies.” 

    The memorandum also requires that Secretary’s review include a quantitative evaluation of OLA’s “anticipated direct and indirect effects” as well as recommendations for improving OLA. The memo also directs the Treasury Department to refrain from making any systemic risk determination unless it determines, in consultation with the President, that the Doff-Frank criteria require otherwise.” 

    At the signing of the memo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin delivered prepared remarks, in which he assured the President and the Public that the Treasury will “work tirelessly” in its efforts to “provide a clear analysis of the extent to which the OLA encourages inappropriate risk-taking and the extent of potential taxpayer liability.”

    Federal Issues POTUS Treasury Department Dodd-Frank FSOC SIFIs Orderly Liquidation Authority

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  • Trump Administration Files Brief in PHH Corp. v. CFPB

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 17, the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice (“DOJ”) filed its amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit’s en banc review of the CFPB’s enforcement action against PHH Corporation for alleged violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”). In October 2016, a panel of the D.C. Circuit concluded that the CFPB misinterpreted RESPA and that its single-Director structure violated the constitutional separation of powers. The DOJ brief states that, “[w]hile we do not agree with all of the reasoning in the panel’s opinion,” the DOJ agrees with the panel’s conclusion that “a removal restriction for the Director of the CFPB is an unwarranted limitation on the President’s executive power” and that “the panel correctly concluded … that the proposed remedy for the constitutional violation is to sever the provision limiting the President’s authority to remove the CFPB’s Director, not to declare the entire agency and its operations unconstitutional.”

    Like the brief filed in this case by the Obama Administration DOJ before the change in administration, the current DOJ brief states that “[t]he United States takes no position on the statutory issues in this case, but in the event that the ultimate resolution of those issues results in vacatur of the CFPB’s order [against PHH], it is within this Court’s discretion to avoid ruling on the constitutional question.” However, the brief goes on to state that, because the issue is already before the en banc court and the “question is likely to recut in pending and future cases, it would be appropriate for the Court to provide needed clarity by exercising its discretion to resolve the separation-of-powers issue now.”

    Agency Rulemaking & Guidance Consumer Finance Federal Issues CFPB PHH v CFPB DOJ POTUS

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  • White House Calls for “Regulatory Reform Task Forces”; OMB Sends Guidance Memorandum to Heads of Departments and Agencies

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On February 24, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the “head of each agency” to establish a “Regulatory Reform Task Force,” led by a designated “Regulatory Reform Officer,” who is responsible for reviewing existing regulations and making “recommendations to the agency head regarding their repeal, replacement, or modification.” Specifically, the Regulatory Reform Task Forces are charged with identifying regulations that: (i) “eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation”; (ii) are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; (iii) “impose costs that exceed benefits”; (iv) create a “serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies”; (v) are inconsistent with OMB’s “Information Quality Guidelines”; or (vi) implement Executive Orders or Presidential directives that have been repealed or substantially modified.

    Among other things, the Order instructs the OMB Director to issue guidance outlining requirements for the incorporation of regulatory reform “performance indicators” into agencies’ annual performance plans and potentially “address[ing] how agencies not otherwise covered under this subsection should be held accountable for compliance with this order. The Order requires that the task forces solicit input from “entities significantly affected by Federal regulations, including state, local, and tribal governments, small businesses, consumers, non-governmental organizations, and trade associations,” and submit a report to the agency head within 90 days.

    Thereafter, on February 28, recently-confirmed Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney released a memorandum and attachment for the heads of all offices in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and Executive agencies, which summarizes the major elements of the legislative clearance function that the OMB, working with other offices, carries out on behalf of the President. The memorandum (OMB Circular No. A-19) details the requirements and procedures for legislative coordination and clearance, while the attachment summarizes the major elements and the essential purposes of the clearance process.

    Among other things, the memorandum recommends that, in supporting the “President’s Program,” agencies within the Administration should: (i) submit to Congress legislative proposals needed to carry out the President’s Program; (ii) convey the Administration’s views on legislation that Congress has under consideration; and (iii) recommend approval or disapproval of bills passed by Congress. According to the memorandum, the primary goals of the clearance process are twofold: (i) to ensure that an agencies’ legislative communications with Congress are consistent with the President’s policies and objectives; and (ii) to allow for the Administration to “speak[] with one voice” regarding legislation.

    Agency Rulemaking & Guidance Federal Issues POTUS Executive Order OMB Trump

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  • President Issues Executive Order to Study the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule

    Federal Issues

    On February 3, President Trump issued an Executive Memorandum directing the Department of Labor (DOL) to examine the Fiduciary Rule—an April 2016 DOL rule that expands the circumstances in which a person will be treated as a fiduciary under both ERISA and Section 4975 of the Internal Revenue Code by reason of providing investment advice to retirement plans and IRAs. In the memorandum, President Trump calls for an examination of the Fiduciary Rule to determine whether it (i) has harmed or is likely to harm investors; (ii) has resulted in dislocations or disruptions within the retirement services industry; and (iii) is likely to cause an increase in litigation and an increase in the prices that investors and retirees must pay to gain access to retirement services. If the Secretary of Labor makes any of these findings, the memorandum directs the Secretary of Labor to publish a proposed rule rescinding or revising the Fiduciary Rule. Initial compliance with the Fiduciary Rule is currently required by April 10, but the DOL has announced that it “will now consider its legal options to delay the applicability date as we comply with the President’s memorandum.”

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance POTUS Trump fiduciary rule Department of Labor Executive Order

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  • Special Alert: Trump Administration Initiates “Regulatory Freeze”

    Consumer Finance

    On January 20, Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff to President Trump, issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies initiating a regulatory review to be headed by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”).  Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) has been nominated to fill that position.

    On behalf of the President, the memorandum asks the following of the agency and department heads:

    • No new regulations: “[S]end no regulation to the Office of the Federal Register (the ‘OFR’) until a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President after noon on January 20, 2017, reviews and approves the regulation.”
    • Withdraw final but unpublished regulations: “With respect to regulations that have been sent to the OFR but not published in the Federal Register, immediately withdraw them from the OFR for review and approval.”
    • Delay the effective date of published but not yet effective regulations: “With respect to regulations that have been published in the OFR but have not taken effect, as permitted by applicable law, temporarily postpone their effective date for 60 days from the date of this memorandum” and consider notice and comment to further delay the effective date or to address “questions of fact, law, or policy.”  Following the delay, regulations that “raise no substantial questions of law or policy” would be allowed to take effect.  For those regulations that do raise such questions, the agency or department “should notify the OMB Director and take further appropriate action in consultation with the OMB Director.”

    Rulemakings subject to statutory or judicial deadlines are exempt, and the OMB Director has the authority to grant further exemptions for “emergency situations or other urgent circumstances relating to health, safety, financial, or national security matters, or otherwise.”

     

    Click here to read full special alert

     

     

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    If you have questions about the “freeze” or other related issues, visit our Consumer Financial Protection Bureau practice for more information, or contact a BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have worked in the past.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Special Alerts POTUS Trump Federal Register OFR

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  • State Attorneys General Seek to Intervene in PHH v. CFPB Case

    State Issues

    On January 23, the Attorneys General of 16 states and the District of Columbia (the State Attorneys General) filed a motion requesting the permission of the D.C. Circuit to intervene in the CFPB’s petition for en banc reconsideration in PHH Corp. v. CFPB.  In the motion, the State Attorneys General argue that they have a vital interest in the matter because the October 2016 panel decision subjecting the CFPB Director to “at will” removal by the President “threatens to undermine the ability of the State Attorneys General [to work with the CFPB] to bring effective civil enforcement and coordinated regulatory actions free from political influence and interference.”

    Noting the possibility that President Trump may seek to remove CFPB Director Cordray before the petition for rehearing is resolved or refuse to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court if the panel decision stands, the State Attorneys General raise the concern that “[t]he incoming administration … may not continue an effective defense of the statutory for-cause protection of the CFPB director.”  Therefore, because “[a] significant probability exists that the pending petition for rehearing will be withdrawn, or the case otherwise rendered moot,” the State Attorneys General argue that the D.C. Circuit should allow them to intervene to protect their interests.

    In addition to the District of Columbia, the motion was filed on behalf of the Attorneys General for the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.  The filing of the motion was announced by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, whose office prepared the initial draft.

    State Issues Consumer Finance CFPB State AG POTUS Trump President-Elect PHH v CFPB Cordray

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  • FTC Chief Ramirez Announces Resignation

    Federal Issues

    On January 13, the FTC announced that Chairwoman Edith Ramirez will be stepping down effective February 10. Chairwoman Ramirez was appointed by President Barack Obama and has served as a commissioner since April 2010. She became chairwoman in March 2013, after former FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz resigned. Her departure means that President-elect Donald Trump will have the chance to fill three vacancies at the agency.

    Federal Issues FTC POTUS President-Elect Agency Rulemaking & Guidance

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  • Obama Signs Into Law SEC Small Business Advocate Act

    Federal Issues

    On December 16, President Obama signed into law H.R. 3784, the SEC Small Business Advocate Act of 2016. The legislation, which had broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate, establishes (within the SEC) an Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and a Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee. Both the Office of the Advocate and the Advisory Committee will be tasked with the dual role of helping small businesses navigate the securities laws and advocate against the application of overly burdensome regulations to small businesses. The small-business advocate is modeled after the SEC’s office of the investor advocate, which was created under the Dodd-Frank Act as a voice for investors.

    Federal Issues Securities Dodd-Frank SEC POTUS

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  • Senate Approves Law Facilitating Punishment of Corrupt Foreign Officials

    Federal Issues

    On December 8, Congress passed the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, which now awaits President Obama's signature. Championed by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the bill gives the President of the United States the authority to deny human rights abusers and corrupt officials entry into the United States or access to our financial institutions. The bipartisan legislation builds on the Russia-specific Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2013 to apply sanctions globally, and makes significant acts of corruption sanctionable offenses.

    Federal Issues International U.S. Senate POTUS financial institutions

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