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  • 9th Circuit holds California's interest on escrow requirements is not preempted by federal law


    On March 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that a national bank must comply with a California law that requires mortgage lenders to pay interest on the funds held in a consumer’s escrow account because the law does not “prevent or significantly interfere” with the national bank’s exercise of its power. The case results from a 2014 lawsuit in which a consumer sued the national bank for refusing to pay interest on the funds in his mortgage escrow account as required by a California state law. The district court dismissed the action, holding that the California state law interfered with the bank’s ability to perform its business making mortgage loans and therefore, was preempted by the National Bank Act (NBA).

    In reversing the district court’s decision, the 9th Circuit held that the Dodd-Frank Act of 2011 (Dodd-Frank) essentially codified the existing NBA preemption standard from the 1996 Supreme Court decision in Barnett Bank of Marion County v. Nelson. The panel cited to Section 1639d(g)(3) of Dodd-Frank (“if prescribed by applicable State or Federal law, each creditor shall pay interest to the consumer on the amount held in any . . . escrow account that is subject to this section in the manner as prescribed by that applicable State or Federal law”), which, according to the opinion, expresses Congress’ view that the type of law at issue does not “prevent or significantly interfere with a national bank’s operations.” Moreover, the panel disagreed with the national bank’s reliance on the OCC’s 2004 preemption regulation, which interpreted the standard more broadly, by concluding that the regulation had no effect on the preemption standard. This decision could have significant implications for the rise of preemption by federally chartered banks.

    Courts U.S. Supreme Court Appellate Ninth Circuit Mortgages Escrow Preemption National Bank Act Dodd-Frank OCC

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  • OCC announces enforcement action against Washington-based bank citing BSA/AML compliance deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On February 28, the OCC issued a consent order against a Washington-based bank for deficiencies related to its Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) compliance program. The consent order requires the bank to, among other things, (i) maintain a Compliance Committee responsible for ensuring the bank adheres to the consent order’s provisions; (ii) appoint a BSA officer who will ensure compliance with the requirements of the BSA and the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s rules and regulations; (iii) implement an enhanced BSA/AML Risk Assessment Program, including the adoption of written policies to ensure the timely review of BSA/AML suspicious activity alerts and the implementation of an automated suspicious activity monitoring system; (iv) conduct a risk-based “Look-Back” to determine whether suspicious activity was timely identified and reported by the bank; (v) develop policies and procedures for enhanced customer due diligence to monitor information for risk; (vi) implement an independent BSA/AML audit program; and (vii) create a comprehensive training program for appropriate bank personnel. The bank did not admit to any wrongdoing in the consent order.

    Financial Crimes OCC Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement OFAC SARs

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  • OCC provides banks with resources for community revitalization efforts

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On February 27, the OCC published a new edition of its Community Developments Investments newsletter entitled, “Expanding Housing Opportunities: Single-Family Rehabilitation Financing Programs.” The publication provides resources and programs for national banks and federal savings associations to utilize to assist in community revitalization efforts. Highlighted is program guidance set forth previously in OCC Bulletin 2017-28, “Mortgage Lending: Risk Management Guidance for Higher-Loan-to-Value Lending Programs in Communities Targeted for Revitalization,” which outlines criteria geared towards residential rehabilitation loan financing. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The publication also covers significant revitalization initiatives in communities across America, explains the ways in which loan programs sponsored by the Federal Housing Administration and Fannie Mae are supporting single-family rehabilitation financing initiatives, and notes that banks participating in such programs may qualify for Community Reinvestment Act consideration during evaluation.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Mortgages CRA

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  • OCC updates Comptroller’s Licensing Manual to revise background investigation guidance

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On February 23, the OCC released Bulletin 2018-5 announcing a revised version of its “Background Investigations (Version 1.1)” booklet, which is part of the Comptroller’s Licensing Manual. The revised booklet replaces a November 2017 booklet of the same name, and reflects minor technical corrections and one process update. The booklet outlines the OCC’s procedures for carrying out background investigations of individuals, companies, and other organizations who file applications or notices seeking to acquire control of or influence a national bank or a federal branch or agency of a foreign bank. Specifically, the changes made under the heading “Application Process” (i) removes enforcement actions and 12 USC §1818 approval conditions from a list of filers subject to OCC background investigations; and (ii) adds a description of language the OCC may use should the agency decide to allow an individual to assume his duties before the background investigation has been completed.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Comptroller's Licensing Manual

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  • OCC makes technical changes to stress testing rule; regulators submit unified stress test report for OMB approval

    Federal Issues

    On February 23, the OCC finalized technical changes to its annual stress testing rule. Specifically, the final rule (i) changes the range of possible “as-of” dates used in the global market shock component to conform to changes already made by the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) to its annual stress testing regulations; (ii) extends the transition process for covered institutions with $50 billion or more in assets (“a national bank or federal savings association that becomes an over $50 billion covered institution in the fourth quarter of a calendar year will not be subject to the stress testing requirements applicable to over $50 billion covered institutions until the third year after it crosses the asset threshold”); and (iii) makes certain technical clarifications to the requirements of the OCC’s stress testing rule. The final rule takes effect March 26.

    The same day, the Fed, the OCC, and the FDIC submitted a notice to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting approval of a new stress test report form (FFIEC 016) to be implemented for the stress test report due July 31. If approved, FFIEC 016 would replace the agencies’ three separate, yet identical, forms currently used to collect information from financial institutions and holding companies with total assets of more than $10 billion but less than $50 billion. Comments on the proposed change must be received on or before March 26.

    Federal Issues OCC Stress Test Federal Reserve FDIC OMB FFIEC

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  • FDIC releases 2017 annual report, among key issues are living wills, cybersecurity, and simplifying regulations

    Federal Issues

    On February 15, the FDIC released its 2017 Annual Report, which includes, among other things, the audited financial statements of the Deposit Insurance Fund and the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) Resolution Fund. The report also provides an overview of key FDIC initiatives, performance results, and other aspects of FDIC operations, supervision developments, and regulatory enforcement, including the following:

    • Living Wills. The report discusses the FDIC’s continued evaluation of resolution plans for Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFIs) and notes there remain “inherent challenges and uncertainties” associated with the plans, specifically within four areas: “intra-group liquidity; internal loss-absorbing capacity; derivatives; and payment, clearing, and settlement activities.” Further, the FDIC and Federal Reserve (who share joint responsibility for reviewing and assessing resolution plans) reviewed plans submitted by the eight largest U.S. SIFIs and noted that four of the firms’ plans had shortcomings—although no deficiencies were identified—and stipulated that the plans must be resubmitted by July 1, 2019. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here on recent comments by FDIC Chairman Martin concerning living will challenges.)
    • Cybersecurity. Among other initiatives, the report discusses a collaboration between the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and the OCC to update the interagency Cybersecurity Assessment Tool, which “helps financial institutions determine their cyber risk profile, inherent risks, and level of cybersecurity preparedness.” The report provides feedback from institutions currently using the tool.
    • Simplifying Regulation. In accordance with the requirements of the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act of 1996 (EGRPRA), the report discusses the FDIC’s, Federal Reserve Board’s, and OCC’s regulatory review process done in conjunction with the National Credit Union Administration and the members of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC). As previously covered in InfoBytes here and here, a report was issued in March outlining initiatives designed to reduce regulatory burdens, particularly on community banks and savings associations, and last September a proposed rule to simplify capital rule compliance requirements and reduce the regulatory burden was issued.

    Federal Issues FDIC SIFIs Living Wills Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Federal Reserve OCC NCUA FFIEC EGRPRA

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  • Agencies assess $613 million in total penalties against national bank and its parent for BSA/AML deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On February 15, a national bank and its parent corporation were assessed $613 million in total penalties by the OCC, DOJ, Federal Reserve, and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as part of a deferred prosecution agreement over Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money laundering (AML) compliance program deficiencies. According to the announcement by the DOJ, the agency’s settlements cover a range of alleged AML deficiencies back to 2009, including an alleged effort not to disclose known Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) deficiencies to the OCC. Additionally, the DOJ cited the bank for failing to timely file SARs related to the banking activity of a customer who used the bank to launder proceeds from a fraudulent payday lending scheme, when the bank was allegedly on notice of the activity (previously covered by InfoBytes here).

    The $613 million in penalties include: a $453 million forfeiture as part of the deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ; a $75 civil money penalty from the OCC; a $15 million civil money penalty from the Federal Reserve; and a $70 million civil money penalty from FinCEN.

    Financial Crimes Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering OCC Federal Reserve FinCEN DOJ

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  • $368 million penalty assessed against California branch for BSA/AML deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On February 7, the OCC and DOJ announced settlements with a Netherlands-based lender’s California branch, in which the branch pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government for impeding and obstructing a 2012 OCC examination when it concealed deficiencies in its Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) compliance programs. According to the DOJ’s press release, the branch will pay over $368 million as a result of allowing “hundreds of millions of dollars in untraceable cash, sourced from Mexico and elsewhere, to be deposited into its rural bank branches” without conducting adequate BSA/AML review, and for conspiring with several former executives to hide information from OCC officials during the 2012 examination. Among other things, the plea agreement states that the branch “created and implemented a number of policies and procedures that prevented adequate investigations into suspicious customer activity,” which included (i) creating a “Verified List” of customers whose transactions needed no further review even if there was a change in the customer’s activity from when it was verified; and (ii) instructing BSA/AML staff to “aggressively increase the number of bank accounts on the Verified List.” Further, the branch admitted it failed to both monitor and conduct adequate investigations into these transactions and submit suspicious activity reports to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, as required by the BSA. Additionally, in an effort to conceal deficiencies in its BSA/AML program, the branch demoted or terminated two employees who risked “contradicting” the branch’s findings. Two months before the branch's guilty plea, a former executive entered into a deferred prosecution agreement for his role in the misconduct, and agreed to cooperate with the DOJ's continuing investigation.

    As part of the plea agreement, the OCC announced it had terminated a December 2013 consent order entered into with the branch over its BSA/AML failures and stated, “the OCC has determined that the bank has implemented all of the corrective actions required by the 2013 consent order and has achieved compliance with the requirements set forth in that order.” On February 6, the branch agreed to pay $50 million civil money penalty to the OCC, which will be credited towards the overall amount assessed by the DOJ.

    Financial Crimes OCC DOJ Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering SARs FinCEN Settlement

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  • OCC requests comments on registration of mortgage loan originators


    On February 6, the OCC published a notice and request for comment in the Federal Register concerning its information collection entitled, “Registration of Mortgage Loan Originators.” Under the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act), any person employed by a regulated entity, who is engaged in the business of residential mortgage loan origination, must register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLS), obtain a unique identifier, and adopt policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the SAFE Act’s requirements. The NMLS is structured to, among other things, (i) improve information sharing between regulators; (ii) increase mortgage loan originator accountability; and (iii) provide consumers easy access to background information on mortgage loan originators, including publicly adjudicated disciplinary and enforcement actions. The OCC retains enforcement authority under the SAFE Act for financial institutions (including federal branches of foreign banks) with total assets of $10 billion or less. Comments on the notice must be received by April 9.

    Lending OCC Loan Origination NMLS Mortgages SAFE Act

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  • Federal Reserve blocks national bank’s growth, cites internal governance and risk management oversight failures

    Federal Issues

    On February 2, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) cited compliance breakdowns and widespread consumer abuses as the primary factors behind its decision to issue an order to cease and desist against a national bank. In addition to blocking the bank from growing beyond $1.95 trillion in assets until the Fed approves internal governance and risk management reforms, the order also requires the bank to take actions in the areas of board effectiveness, risk management program improvement, third party reviews of plans and improvements, and reports on progress. The bank must, among other things, (i) create “separate and independent reporting lines” to the chief risk officer and the board, and (ii) enhance risk management oversight and functions, which includes creating “an effective risk identification and escalation framework.” The bank concurrently agreed to replace four current board members in 2018, with three replaced by April. Notably, the order does not require the bank to cease current activities such as accepting customer deposits or making consumer loans.

    The Fed also sent letters to the bank’s former lead independent director and former chair of the board of directors (see letters here and here) to address the “many pervasive and serious compliance and conduct failures” that occurred during their tenures. Citing ineffective oversight following awareness of alleged consumer abuses, the Fed stated that the former directors failed to initiate any serious inquiry or request that the board do so. Further, the Fed asserted that the former chair of the board continued to support the sales goals that were a major cause of the identified sales practice problems and failed to initiate a serious investigation or inquiry. A third letter sent to the current board of directors outlines steps the board must take to improve senior management reporting, maintain an effective risk management structure, and ensure compensation and other incentive programs are “consistent with sound risk management objectives and promote . . . compliance with laws and regulations.” (See here and here for previous InfoBytes coverage on the alleged improper sales practices.)

    In response, the bank issued a press release stating it will commit to the Fed’s requirements and will provide a compliance plan for oversight, compliance, and operational risk management to the Fed within 60 days. The plan will also outline measures already completed by the bank, and if approved by the Fed, the bank will engage independent third parties to review its adoption and implementation of the plan.

    Federal Issues Federal Reserve Bank Regulatory CFPB OCC Consumer Finance Risk Management

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