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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Fed agencies encourage flexibility in light of Covid-19 crisis

Federal Issues FDIC OCC NCUA Consumer Finance Covid-19

Federal Issues

On March 13, the OCC, FDIC, and NCUA issued guidance on March 13 that borrows heavily from the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Guidance SR 13-6 / CA 13-3: Supervisory Practices Regarding Banking Organizations and Their Borrowers and Other Customers Affected by a Major Disaster or Emergency to address how institutions can work prudently with affected customers and how the agencies can provide regulatory relief in a safe and sound manner to institutions.

Releases by the FDIC (FIL-17-2020, OCC (Bulletin 2020-15, and NCUA (Letter 20-CU-02, along with the Fed’s 2013 Guidance all encourage financial institutions to be flexible in working with all borrowers affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with the FDIC especially calling out customers in vulnerable industry sectors such as airlines, energy, travel, tourism, shipping, and small businesses.The guidance suggests the following efforts to aid customers: (i) waiving certain fees (e.g. ATM, overdraft, and late payments); (ii) increasing ATM daily withdrawal limits; (iii) easing restrictions on check-cashing; (iv) increasing credit card limits for creditworthy borrowers; (v) offering payment accommodations (e.g. extending due dates and allowing deferrals); and (vi) working with consumers temporarily unable to work due to business closures, slowdowns, or sickness. The regulators also encourage prudent efforts to modify terms of existing loans, and in the OCC’s guidance, to consider easing terms on new loans in a manner consistent with prudent banking practices.

The regulators stated their intent to work with institutions to reduce the burden of examinations, including making greater use of off-site reviews, and not to assess penalties or take other supervisory actions if institutions are unable to comply with reporting requirements despite reasonable and prudent efforts. The guidance also encourages institutions that need to temporarily close physical locations to offer alternative service options when practical and to notify their primary federal or state regulator and customers about temporary closures and alternative service options as soon as practical.