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  • Fannie, Freddie to Allow Electronically Recorded Mortgage Copies


    On May 10, Fannie Mae announced it would begin accepting copies of electronically recorded mortgages rather than original wet-signed documents. This follows a prior September 2016 announcement from Freddie Mac, which changed its policy on the electronic recording of paper closing documents.

    Fannie Mae. As set forth in Section A2-5.2-01 of its Servicing Guide, Fannie Mae says that electronic records may be delivered and retained as part of an electronic transaction by the seller/servicer to the servicer, document custodian or Fannie Mae, or by a third party, as long as the methods are compatible with all involved parties. Additionally, the electronic records must be in compliance with the requirements and standards set forth in ESIGN and, when applicable, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, as “adopted by the state in which the subject property secures by the mortgage loan associated with the electronic record is located.”

    Freddie Mac. A bulletin released last September updated Sections 1401.14 and 15 of Freddie Mac’s Servicing Guide by removing the requirement that a seller/servicer retain the original paper security instrument signed by the borrower if an electronic copy of the original security instrument is electronically recorded at the recorder’s office, provided the following conditions are met:

    • The seller securely stores along with the other eMortgage documents either (i) “the electronically recorded copy of the original security instrument,” or (ii) “the recorder’s office other form of recording confirmation with the recording information thereon”; and
    • Storage of the original security instrument signed by the borrower is not required by applicable law.

    According to Freddie Mac, “Removing this requirement addresses one of the barriers for eMortgage adoption in the industry, permitting more [m]ortgage file documents to be [e]lectronic and reducing some storage costs for [s]eller/[s]ervicers.”

    Fintech Electronic Signatures Fannie Mae Freddie Mac ESIGN

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  • NYDFS Files Independent Lawsuit Against OCC Fintech Charter


    Following the April 26 lawsuit filed by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) opposing the OCC’s fintech charter (see previous InfoBytes post), the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) filed its own lawsuit on May 12, asking the court to block the OCC from creating a new special purpose fintech charter. “The OCC’s charter decision is lawless, ill-conceived, and destabilizing of financial markets that are properly and most effectively regulated by New York and other state regulators,” NYDFS Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “This charter puts New York financial consumers . . . at great risk of exploitation by newly federally chartered entities seeking to be insulated from New York’s strong consumer protections.” NYDFS’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the OCC’s charter would include “vast preemptive powers over state law.” Specific concerns include the risk of (i) weakened regulatory controls on usury, payday loans, and other predatory lending practices; (ii) consolidation of multiple non-depository business lines under a single federal charter, thus creating more “too big to fail” institutions; and (iii) creating competitive advantages for large, well-capitalized fintech firms that could overwhelm smaller market players and thus restrict innovation in financial products and services. The complaint also asserts that the “OCC’s action is legally indefensible because it grossly exceeds the agency’s statutory authority.” Finally, the complaint claims that the proposed fintech charter would injure NYDFS monetarily because the regulator’s operating expenses are funded by assessments levied by the OCC on New York licensed financial institutions. According to NYDFS, every non-depository financial firm that receives a special purpose fintech charter from the OCC in place of a New York license deprives NYDFS of crucial resources that are necessary to fund its regulatory function.

    Citing violations of the National Bank Act and conflicts with state law in violation of the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, NYDFS seeks declaratory and injunctive relief that would declare the fintech charter proposal to be unlawful and prohibit the OCC from taking further steps toward creating or issuing the charter without express Congressional authority.

    In a press release issued the same day, the CSBS said it “strongly supports the [NYDFS] lawsuit” and reiterated that the OCC “does not have the authority to issue federal charters to non-banks, and its unlawful attempt to do so will harm markets, innovation and consumers.”

    Fintech OCC NYDFS CSBS Licensing Agency Rulemaking & Guidance

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  • Sens. Portman, Bennet Introduce Bipartisan Electronic Signature Standards Act


    On May 9, Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced legislation that would make it easier for taxpayers to be represented in disputes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As set forth in a press release issued by Sen. Portman’s office, the Electronic Signature Standards Act (S. 1074) would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 by providing uniform standards for the use of electronic signatures for third-party disclosure authorizations, and thereby would “make it easier, and faster, for professional tax experts to represent taxpayers before the IRS by instituting electronic signature standards for third party disclosure authorization forms.” Notably, the IRS already uses electronic signatures for Form 4506-T (Request for a Transcript of Tax Return), which is commonly used in the mortgage industry. The use of electronic signatures on these forms has allowed the IRS to process over 20 million of these forms a year, and the Electronic Signature Standards Act would extend similar electronic signature requirements to Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative) and Form 8821 (Tax Information Authorization). These forms are required before a professional tax expert can begin representing a taxpayer before the IRS. “Taxpayers deserve quick access to the IRS, and this bill makes that access possible,” said Sen. Portman.

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  • Conference of State Bank Supervisors Announce Initiatives to Obviate Need for Fintech Charter, New York Joins Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System for Fintechs


    On May 10, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced a “series of initiatives to modernize state regulation of non-banks, including financial technology [fintech] firms.” The raft of initiatives, branded “Vision 2020,” appear to be generally geared towards streamlining the state regulatory system so that it is capable of supporting business innovation, while still protecting  the rights of consumers. As explained by CSBS Chairman and Texas Commissioner of Banking Charles G. Cooper, the CSBS is “committed to a multi-state experience that is as seamless as possible,” and, to this end, “state regulators will transform the licensing process, harmonize supervision [and] engage fintech companies.”

    The initial set of actions that CSBS and state regulators are taking includes the following: 

    • Redesign the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS). CSBS plans to redesign the NMLS, which is a web-based system that allows non-depository companies, branches, and individuals in the mortgage, consumer lending, money services businesses, and debt collection industries to apply for, amend, update, or renew a license online. In particular, the CSBS’s redesign will “provide a more automated licensing process for new applicants, streamline multi-state regulation, and shift state resources to higher-risk cases.”
    • Harmonize multi-state supervision. CSBS has created “working groups to establish model approaches to key aspects of non-bank supervision,” to “enhance uniformity in examinations, facilitate best practices,” and “capture and report non-bank violations at the national level.” CSBS also intends to “create a common technology platform for state examinations.”
    • Form an industry advisory panelCSBS will “establish a fintech industry advisory panel to identify points of friction in licensing and multi-state regulation, and provide feedback to state efforts to modernize regulatory regimes.”
    • Assist state banking departments. CSBS intends to start “education programs” that “will make state departments more effective in supervising banks and non-banks.”
    • Make it easier for banks to provide services to non-banksCSBS is also “stepping up efforts to address de-risking—where banks are cautious about doing business with non-banks, due to regulatory uncertainty – by increasing industry awareness that strong regulatory regimes exist for compliance with laws for money laundering, the Bank Secrecy Act, and cybersecurity.”
    • Make supervision more efficient for third parties. CSBS also intends to “support[] federal legislation that would allow state and federal regulators to better coordinate supervision of bank third-party service providers.”

    By harmonizing the supervision and licensing system and working more closely together, state regulators appear to want to eliminate a key reason to seek the OCC charter, namely the ability to deal with one federal agency and follow a single set of rules. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CSBS and a number of individual stakeholders have fiercely opposed the OCC’s other main fintech initiative—the development of a special purpose national bank charter for payments processors, online lenders and other new entrants in the financial industry. CSBS sued the OCC last month, arguing it lacked the legal power to move forward. The overall initiative appears to be a response to the OCC’s own “responsible innovation” efforts, which—as previously covered in InfoBytes—culminated in the creation of a new office last year to correspond with fintechs and the banks interested in partnering with them.

    Concurrent with CSBS’s Vision 2020 initiatives, on May 11, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) announced that beginning July 1, 2017, it will transition to the NMLS to manage the license application and ongoing regulation of all nondepository financial institutions conducting business in the state, commencing with money transmitters. Specifically, on July 1, 2017, financial services companies holding New York money transmitter licenses will have the opportunity to transition those licenses to NMLS, and companies applying for new licenses will be able to apply through NMLS. As previously covered in InfoBytes, NMLS—a secure, web-based licensing system—will allow for easier on-line licensing renewal and enable NYDFS to “provide better supervision of the money transmitter industry by linking with other states to protect consumers.” Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo stressed that “[b]y working with the CSBS, which is leading the modernization of state regulation through Vision 2020, DFS is supporting the strong nationwide regulatory framework created by states to provide improved licensing and supervision by State regulators.”

    Additional information about NMLS can be accessed through the NMLS Resource Center.

    Fintech Licensing NYDFS NMLS Agency Rulemaking & Guidance CSBS OCC

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  • Comptroller Curry Shares Departing Thoughts on the Fintech “Wave of Innovation” at Conference


    In prepared remarks delivered on April 28 at a fintech conference hosted by Northwestern University, Thomas J. Curry—who on May 5, will be stepping down from his role as Comptroller after completing his five-year term—took the opportunity to “share [his] perspective on where financial innovation is today,” as well as what he believes the OCC “is doing to encourage responsible innovation within the banking system.” In so doing, the departing Comptroller also addressed some of the criticism received by the OCC over its recent efforts to move forward with developing a special purpose national bank charter for fintech companies. (See related InfoBytes coverage here.) Among other things, Curry noted that, for him, “one of the most exciting parts of this [fintech] wave of innovation is the potential for technology to expand access to the unbanked and underserved, in the same way that the Internet helped democratize information.” On this point, he explained further that “[d]ata from the FDIC and others show that minorities and other traditionally underserved populations may embrace fintech at even higher rates than the general population.” The outgoing Comptroller also highlighted several ways the OCC’s Office of Innovation is already working to enhance the delivery of financial products and make banking more efficient, including, for instance, its recently-unveiled “Office Hours” initiative, which was created to provide a new means by which stakeholders can seek regulatory guidance. Curry did, however, caution the audience about the importance of proceeding “cautiously,” so as to avoid “compromis[ing] the integrity of the banking system” and/or “allow[ing] untested products to result in unintended consumer harm.”

    According to an OCC press release, Curry will be replaced by Keith Noreika, who is slated to become Acting Comptroller of the Currency on May 5, until President Trump appoints, and the Senate confirms, a new comptroller. Noreika began his career in private practice and has advised banks on Volcker Rule, Bank Secrecy Act, and consumer protection regulation compliance and has worked extensively with all of the federal bank regulatory agencies.

    Fintech Federal Issues OCC

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  • West Virginia Enacts Law Defining "Cryptocurrency" in Context of Money Laundering


    On April 26, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice approved new legislation (H.B 2585) that defines cryptocurrency in the context of money laundering. Specifically, “cryptocurrency” is defined as “digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, and which operate independently of a central bank.” Furthermore, the term “monetary instruments”—traditionally defined, for example, as coin, currency, checks, gift and prepaid credit cards—would now include cryptocurrency. With respect to the anti-money laundering clause, the legislation makes it unlawful to “conduct or attempt to conduct a financial transaction,” which would include cryptocurrency transactions, “involving the proceeds of criminal activity knowing that the property involved in the financial transaction represents the proceeds of, or is derived directly or indirectly from the proceeds of, criminal activity.” H.B. 2585 also outlines penalty structures for violations of the legislation—misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the severity of the crime—and allows for forfeiture or disgorgement of cryptocurrency.

    Fintech Anti-Money Laundering Payments State Issues

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  • Washington State Enacts Law Defining Licensing Requirements for Transmitters of Money and Virtual Currency


    On April 17, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a new piece of legislation (SSB 5031), which formally adds virtual currency to its money transmitter law. The legislation—introduced at the request of the Washington Department of Financial Institutions (DFI)—amends the definition of money transmission to include virtual currency, which is defined as “a digital representation of value used as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, or a store of value, but does not have legal tender status as recognized by the United States government.” The definition of virtual currency does not, however, include “the software or protocols governing the transfer of the digital representation of value or other uses of virtual distributed ledger systems to verify ownership or authenticity in a digital capacity when the virtual currency is not used as a medium of exchange.” The new law requires that applicants for a money transmitter license with business models that store virtual currency on behalf of others must provide a third-party security audit of all electronic information and data systems acceptable to DFI. Furthermore, licensees transmitting virtual currencies must now hold “like-kind virtual currencies” of the same volume as that held by the licensee but which is obligated to consumers in lieu of permissible investments. Among other disclosures, virtual currency licensees must disclose to consumers a schedule of fees and charges, whether the product or service is insured, that the transfer is irrevocable, and the licensee's liability for mistakes. Among other provisions, the law:

    • outlines new bond requirements for online currency exchange licensees;
    • expands supervisory powers allowing DFI to participate in joint or concurrent examinations with other state or federal agencies;
    • mandates that licensees report all licensee branch locations and all authorized delegates to the nationwide licensing system within 30 days of the contractual agreement with the licensee to provide money services in the state;
    • makes civil penalties $100 per violation per day for each day a violation is outstanding; and
    • excludes from its definition of “money transmission” the “provision solely of connection services to the internet, telecommunications services, or network access; units of value that are issued in affinity or rewards programs that cannot be redeemed for either money or virtual currencies; and units of value that are used solely within online gaming platforms that have no market or application outside of the gaming platforms.”

    The law goes into effect July 23, 2017.

    Fintech Virtual Currency

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  • OCC’s March Fintech Guidance Documents Draw Range of Comments, Reactions from Stakeholders


    Back in December of last year, the OCC announced its intention to move forward with developing a special purpose national bank charter for financial technology (fintech) companies. In an accompanying white paper the OCC outlined the basis for its authority to grant such charters to fintech companies and potential minimum supervisory standards for successful fintech bank applicants. And, as previously covered by InfoBytes, in March, the OCC released a Draft Licensing Manual Supplement for Evaluating Charter Applications From Financial Technology Companies (“Draft Fintech Supplement”) and a Summary of Comments and Explanatory Statement  (“March 2017 Guidance Summary”) (together, “March 2017 Guidance Documents”) in which it provided additional detail concerning application of its existing licensing standards, regulations, and policies to fintech companies applying for special purpose national bank charters. With the comment period for its March 2017 Guidance Documents closing earlier this month, the bank regulator drew a range of reactions from stakeholders, several of which are described below:

    Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). In its comment letter—submitted on behalf of a number of consumer, civil rights, small business, and community groups—the CRL argued, among other things, that “the OCC does not have the legal authority to charter non-depositories,” and “is not a substitute for critical safeguards that exist at the state level,” and that the existence of a national bank charter for non-depository fintech institutions would likely result in the preemption of strong state laws. The signers expressed concern that, in its approval process, the OCC “has completely failed to address critical consumer and small business protection requirements.” The letter adds that the chartering process, as it now exists, “seems more designed to pick winners and losers and grant special privileges to established players in the industry than to facilitate innovation.”

    Mercatus Center at George Mason University (Mercatus Center). In its comment letter, the Mercatus Center set forth its position and belief that the OCC’s current proposal “shows some improvement over its previous statements,” but “remains overly focused on the survival of the entity instead of the protection of customers.” According to Brian R. Knight, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, the proposal imposes requirements and conditions on special purpose national banks (SPNBs) “that many will find impossible to meet—without a sufficient countervailing benefit.” Knight recommends therefore, that the OCC, among other things: (i) reorient charter requirements away from insisting that SPNBs demonstrate survivability and toward ensuring that they can fail in an orderly manner that protects their customers; and (ii) clarify the requirements for SPNBs to obtain and maintain a charter consistent with the rights and responsibilities of national banks under relevant law.

    Consumer Bankers Association (CBA). In an April 14 comment letter, the CBA argued that the OCC "has not provided a clear rationale or justification for offering a national bank charter to fintech companies,” and that the standards for such banks are not yet fully developed.” The group urged the OCC to conduct an in-depth study of the fintech sector to determine whether or not the public would benefit from a fintech charter.

    Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the ICBA has been a vocal opponent of the OCC’s fintech charter efforts throughout the agency’s nearly yearlong process. Reiterating concerns raised in its January 17 comment letter, the ICBA submitted another comment letter on April 12, calling upon the OCC to rescind the proposed licensing manual supplement and request specific congressional authorization to grant fintech charters. Specifically, the ICBA asserted the need to spell out clearly the supervision and regulation that these chartered institutions and their parent companies would be subject to. The ICBA noted its observation that federal agencies “are inconsistent on how they define a ‘bank’ or what constitutes the ‘business of banking,’” and argued the benefits of giving Congress the “opportunity to define the business of banking and consider all the policy implications of issuing a fintech charter.” In particular, the ICBA insisted that the OCC publish liquidity and capital requirements for fintech firms that would be the same as those applied to depository institutions. The ICBA also issued a statement concerning a lawsuit filed April 26 by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors CSBS against the OCC (see related InfoBytes Special Alert), in which the organization “commend[ed] the CSBS for elevating this issue and remains deeply concerned with the OCC’s proposed fintech charter, which the agency has pursued without congressional authorization or a formal rulemaking process subject to public comment.”

    American Bankers Association. In an April 14 letter, the ABA expressed its support for the OCC’s proposed charter, so long as “the same rules and oversight are applied consistent with those for any national bank.” The ABA emphasized, among other things, the benefit of a bank charter as a “clear signal to customers that they are dealing with a trusted partner,” as “[t]he title of ‘bank’ carries significant weight in the mind of customers and should not be taken lightly.”

    Marketplace Lending Association (MLA). In its April 13 comment letter, the MLA called for the OCC to “consider developing metrics that are different from those used for traditional depository institutions.” Specifically, the MLA argues, “[i]instead of applying rigid capital and liquidity requirements across the board, the OCC should consider implementing requirements that are based on basic prudent operations, long-term profitability, and risk factors that would apply” to fintech firms with different business plans or structures.

    Financial Innovation Now (FIN). Finally, in a letter sent earlier this month to the Senate Banking Committee (FIN)—an “alliance of leading innovators promoting policies that empower technology to make financial services more accessible, safe and affordable for everyone”—offered several policy recommendations in response to the legislators’ request for proposals to grow the economy. Among the recommendations offered, was a call for a “Financial Innovation National Strategy” to foster innovation, job creation, and competition in the financial services sector. As part of that strategy, the FIN letter outlines six policy proposals: (i) statutory designation of an Undersecretary of Treasury for Technology; (ii) federal money transmitter laws; (iii) payment technology assessments under the Card Act; (iv) consumer data access protections; (v) better federal regulatory coordination; and (vi) flexible approaches to new tech entrants.

    Fintech Agency Rulemaking & Guidance OCC

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  • Credit Unions, Small Banks Encourage Fed Payments System Operational Role


    On April 18, three industry organizations representing community banks and credit unions—the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU)—sent a letter urging the Federal Reserve System (Fed) to provide central bank settlement services in support of private sector development of future payment systems, rules, and standards. The letter also urges the Fed to take on three operational roles in addition to settlement capabilities: (i) to serve as an “on-ramp” to real-time payments; (ii) to serve as a real-time payments operator, much as it currently is an operator for checks, automated clearinghouse payments, and wire transfers; and (iii) to maintain a “payments directory” that would link together financial institutions and private-sector payments directories. The organizations argue, among other things, that the Fed’s commitment to these operational roles is critically important to achieving the “much-needed goals of safety, equitable access, and ubiquity” in developing an improved payments system. The letter emphasizes that the organizations are not requesting that the Fed develop rules or standards for real-time payments, but rather take the position that such efforts “should be left for private sector rules and standards organizations.”

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Fed created the Faster Payments Task Force and the Secure Payments Task Force in June 2015 to lead industry efforts toward a speedier and better payments system. The CFPB also issued a set of guiding principles aimed to help private industry better protect consumers as new, faster electronic payment systems continue to emerge. (See InfoBytes coverage)  The April 18 letter “applaud[s] the formation of both [Task Forces]” and “strongly encourage[s] the ongoing commitment of the [Fed] to lead and catalyze payments industry activities until the desired outcomes stated in the 2015 Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payments System paper are achieved.”

    Fintech credit union Community Banks ICBA NAFCU CUNA Federal Reserve CFPB

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  • GAO Publishes Study Examining Fintech Industry Regulation


    On April 19, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a study examining four “subsectors” within the fintech industry—marketplace lenders, mobile payments, digital wealth management platforms, and distributed ledger technology (also known as blockchain)—and highlighting the types of products and services offered and how they are regulated. The report, Financial Technology – Information on Subsectors and Regulatory Oversight, is the first in a series of planned reports on fintech, following a request by Congress for a review of issues related to the industry. From July 2016 to April 2017, GAO reviewed agency publications, guidance, final rulemakings, initiatives, and enforcement actions, and also conducted interviews with representatives from the federal prudential regulators, state supervision agencies, and trade associations in order to compile the findings in the report. The report provides an overview of the technologies associated with each subsector, identifies primary users of the products and services, notes potential benefits and risks, and highlights industry trends and current regulations and oversight. Notably, GAO stated it made no recommendations in this report.

    Fintech GAO Examination Congress

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