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  • Small Business Economic Hearing on Financing Through Fintech

    FinTech

    On October 26, the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access (Subcommittee) held a hearing entitled, “Financing Through Fintech: Online Lending’s Role in Improving Small Business Capital Access” to understand how small businesses obtain capital, examine various industry business models, and discuss the impacts of online lending in the marketplace. In introductory remarks, Subcommittee Chairman, Dave Brat (R-VA), identified small business access to capital as a top priority for the Subcommittee and noted that small businesses are increasingly looking to online lending as a means to access credit instead of traditional sources.  The full list of witnesses and testimony is available here.

    Fintech Federal Issues House Small Business Committee

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  • CSBS Announces Membership of Fintech Advisory Panel

    FinTech

    On October 19, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced that 33 financial technology companies have agreed to serve on the CSBS Fintech Industry Advisory Panel. The goal of the panel is to identify ways to help modernize the state regulatory system.   According to CSBS, the 33 participating companies range from start-ups to national brands and represent differing industry sectors, as well as, geographic locations and business models. The advisory panel will have three working groups, (i) money transmission and payments; (ii) lending; and (iii) community banking and innovation.

    A complete list of the panel’s membership is here.

    Fintech State Regulators CSBS

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  • Federal Reserve Governor Calls for Collaboration Between Banks and Fintech Firms for Safe and Secure Payment System

    FinTech

    On October 18, Federal Reserve Board Governor, Jerome H. Powell, spoke at the 41st Annual Central Banking Seminar regarding the impact of technology on retail banking and payment services. Powell noted that rapidly changing technology for more timely and convenient payment methods, “should not come at the cost of a safe and secure payment system. . .” In doing so, he encouraged banks, fintech companies, and all other stakeholders in the industry to collaborate to achieve a payment system that is reliable, secure, and convenient.

    Powell went on to highlight the work of the Faster Payments Task Force (as previously covered by InfoBytes) and the Secure Payments Task Force. For secure payments, he discussed the Federal Reserve’s plan to launch a study analyzing payment security vulnerabilities in early 2018 and its plan to establish work groups focused on approaches for reducing the prevalence and cost of specific payment security vulnerabilities.

    As covered by InfoBytes, the OCC Acting Comptroller of Currency, Keith A. Noreika, also recently spoke about the continuing innovation of banks and fintech companies within the financial technology sector.

    Fintech Federal Issues Federal Reserve Payments Consumer Finance

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  • OCC Acting Comptroller Discusses Innovation and Technology in the Financial Services Industry

    FinTech

    On October 19, OCC Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith A. Noreika spoke at Georgetown University’s Institute of International Economic Law’s Fintech Week to discuss innovation within the financial technology sector and its impact on the evolution of the financial services marketplace. “[W]hat has allowed the business of banking to evolve so successfully is that we have remained open to change and created a framework of laws and regulation over time that allows banking activities to evolve,” Noreika remarked. “[W]e have to be careful to avoid defining banking too narrowly or in a stagnant way that prevents the system from taking advantage of responsible advances in technology and commerce.”

    Noreika spoke about the OCC’s Office of Innovation (Office), which was created earlier this year to facilitate discussions related to fintech and financial innovation. A pilot framework is currently being developed by the Office to create a “controlled environment” for banks to develop and test products to provide insight into a “proposed product’s controls and risks” and how it might possibly impact OCC policies in the future.

    Noreika also discussed the OCC’s position on issuing special purpose national bank charters to non-depository fintech companies seeking to expand into the banking sector—a concept currently being contested by both the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), and one which the OCC has not yet made a decision (See previous InfoBytes coverage of CSBS’ and NYDFS’ challenges here and here.) Addressing claims that fintech charters would inappropriately mix banking and commerce, Noreika refuted the argument and stated that his suggestion was to “talk to any company interested in becoming a bank and that commercial companies should not be prohibited from applying—if they meet the criteria for doing so.” Further, a “chartered entity, regulated by the OCC, would be a bank, engaged in at least one of the core activities of banking” as defined by the Bank Holding Company Act.

    Fintech OCC Bank Holding Company Act CSBS NYDFS Banking

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  • Pennsylvania Issues Reminder to Fintech Companies of Licensing Requirements

    FinTech

    On October 6, prompted by the “evolving technological innovations that impact the financial services sector” and the rise of “technology focused companies offering financial services via new delivery mechanisms,” the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities (Department) issued a reminder of the Department’s “long-standing position” that all persons offering financial services to the consumers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must be licensed by the Department and comply with consumer protection requirements before conducting business with Pennsylvania consumers. “The Department regulates financial transactions based upon the transaction offered or delivered, not the method of delivery,” and as a result, fintech companies must comply with all applicable statutes and regulations.

    Fintech State Issues Licensing Compliance Consumer Finance

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  • Russia Weighs Risks of Cryptocurrencies; President Putin Seeks Regulations

    FinTech

    On October 10, the First Deputy Governor of Russia’s Central Bank reportedly announced plans to block websites selling bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. Citing unreasonably high risks and the need to protect investors from the “dubious” currencies, the Central Bank’s concerns were echoed by President Vladimir Putin who reportedly stressed that risks associated with the use of cryptocurrencies include money laundering, tax evasion and funding for terrorism. However, President Putin issued a call for cryptocurrency regulation rather than a broad ban and stressed the need to utilize international experience when establishing rules.

    Last September, as previously reported in InfoBytes, several Chinese regulators reportedly announced plans to ban the commercial trading of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the country.

    Fintech Bitcoin Cryptocurrency International

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  • OCC Acting Comptroller Shares Thoughts on Agency’s Innovation Efforts

    FinTech

    On September 25, OCC Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika spoke before the 2017 Online Lending Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways the maturing banking industry can respond to changing market conditions through the adoption of new business models and adjustments to long-term strategies. “Some pundits see the growth of the online lending industry as a response to the nation’s banking industry. And some say that if the industry had been sufficiently agile and fully met the need for lending, alternative lenders would not have grown so rapidly,” Noreika stated. “I do not share that view. I see the growth of online lending and marketplace lenders as the natural evolution of banking itself.”

    According to Noreika, about $40 billion in consumer and small business loans in the United States have been originated by marketplace lenders during the past decade, and since 2010, online lending has doubled each year. In fact, Noreika noted, “some analysts suggest that the market will reach nearly $300 billion by 2020, and others suggest as much as $1 trillion by 2025.” However, the online industry faces certain challenges and “adapting to new market conditions and effectively managing evolving risks” is pertinent to their success. Noreika highlighted recent innovation efforts by the OCC, such as the agency’s Office of Innovation’s “Office Hours,” which was created to facilitate discussions related to fintech and financial innovation. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Another example is the OCC’s plan to develop “regulatory sandboxes” and bank pilot programs to “foster responsible innovation by OCC-supervised banks” as a means to expand the OCC’s own knowledge in this space. Importantly, Noreika addressed the OCC’s position concerning chartering of fintech companies that seek to expand into banking, along with the possibility of “offering special-purpose national bank charters to nondepository fintech companies engaged in the business of banking”—a concept currently being contested by both the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS). According to Noreika, the OCC has not yet decided whether it will exercise its authority to issue special purpose bank charters. (See previous InfoBytes coverage of CSBS’ and NYDFS’ challenges here and here.)

    Finally, Noreika offered support for a legislative approach that would clarify the “valid when made” doctrine central to Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC by reducing uncertainty in establishing that “the rate of interest on a loan made by a bank, savings association, or credit union that is valid when the loan is made remains valid after transfer of the loan” and serving to reestablish a legal precedent that had been in place prior to the Madden decision, in which an appellate panel held 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 previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Online Lending Department of Treasury Marketplace Lending Usury National Bank Act

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  • CSBS Files Motion in Opposition to OCC’s Motion to Dismiss Fintech Charter Challenge

    FinTech

    On September 13, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) filed its response to the OCC’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the agency, which challenged its statutory authority to create a special purpose national bank (SPNB) charter for fintech companies. As previously discussed in InfoBytes, the OCC argued in its motion to dismiss that the CSBS lawsuit was premature because the agency has not reached a decision on whether it will make SPNB charters available to fintech companies or other nonbank firms. The OCC further asserted that under the National Bank Act (NBA), its interpretation of “the business of banking” deserves Chevron deference. In its response, CSBS disagreed and argued that in December 2016 the OCC “formally announced” its decision to begin chartering nonbanks, and that with the publication of a supplement to its Licensing Manual—which both stated its authority to issue SPNP charters to “institutions that neither take deposits nor are insured by the [FDIC]” and “invited interested parties to initiate the application process”—the OCC “crystalized its position.”

    In addressing other issues raised by the OCC in support of dismissal of the lawsuit, CSBS argued that:

    • CSBS has sufficient injury for standing because the OCC’s decision to grant charters interferes with states’ sovereignty and the ability to oversee and enforce state licensing and consumer protection laws;
    • the court must test the underlying legal premise, which is that the “OCC lacks the requisite statutory authority under the [NBA] to encroach upon the regulation of nonbanks by issuing national bank charters to institutions that do not take deposits, and therefore do not engage in the ‘business of banking’” because “there is no point in either [the] OCC or its charter applicants devoting resources to ultra vires charters that will be invalidated”;
    • the OCC’s position that CSBS has “failed to state a claim” concerning the interpretation of the “business of banking” is unsupported, and the court “must consider the statutory context of the term, including a regulatory regime that encompasses not only the NBA, but also other federal banking statutes” to conclude that the “business of banking” necessarily includes the taking of deposits; and
    • if the OCC seeks to expand its authority “into areas traditionally occupied by states, courts require a clear showing that Congress, acting through the agency, has approved such a result”—which the OCC has not shown.

    Fintech Courts CSBS OCC Litigation Licensing

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

    FinTech

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Legislation Introduced to Make Bitcoin Purchases up to $600 Tax-Exempt

    FinTech

    On September 7, Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)—co-chairs of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus—introduced the Cryptocurrency Tax Fairness Act of 2017 to allow for tax and IRS reporting requirements exemptions on cryptocurrency transactions of up to $600. The bill is in response to an IRS notice issued in 2014 that held that virtual currency, such as bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency, must be treated as property for U.S. federal tax purposes. According to a press release issued by Rep. Polis’ office, this “outdated guidance classifies even the smallest of cryptocurrency transactions the same as buying or selling stock, which dis-incentivizes consumers from using virtual currencies to pay for goods and services.” The bill proposes amending the Internal Revenue Code to exclude up to $600 of “gain from the sale or exchange of virtual currency for other than cash or cash equivalents” from gross income and ordering the Treasury Department to create “regulations providing for information returns on virtual currency transactions for which gain or loss is recognized.”

    Fintech Federal Issues Federal Legislation Bitcoin Cryptocurrency

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