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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

OCC to move ahead with CRA modernization proposal; Senate Democrats request new proposal

Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC FDIC U.S. Senate CRA Covid-19

Federal Issues

On April 9, OCC Comptroller Joseph M. Otting issued a statement thanking stakeholders for commenting on the joint notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) issued by the OCC and FDIC last December. (See Buckley Special Alert discussing the NPR.) Otting emphasized that the OCC anticipates releasing a final rule during the first half of the year, explaining that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted communities’ need for even greater access to lending, capital, and services. “It is our intention to craft a final rule that will encourage banks to lend and invest more in the communities they serve, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods,” Otting stated. “Further delay would only prevent these valuable resources from reaching those who need them most in this time of national emergency.”

However, 42 Senate Democrats, led by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), sent a letter the same day asking the agencies to rescind the NPR, which, according to the lawmakers, currently “threatens to undermine more than 40 years of access to sustainable mortgage credit, small business loans, community development, and partnerships between financial institutions and the communities they serve.” According to the Senators, the NPR’s proposal to give banks a presumptive CRA grade based mainly on the ratio of the dollar value of all CRA activity to deposits is “inconsistent with the clear Congressional intent of the CRA,” in that it would force “dollar values onto activities that are not easily measured in monthly balance sheet totals,” and would also, among other things, encourage “banks to meet their CRA obligations with activities that produce the maximum dollar figure with the least effort.” Additionally, the Senators stressed that the NPR fails to address the lack of investment in rural areas, Indian Country, and currently underserved CRA markets, despite Otting noting in his statement that the OCC seeks “to increase support to small businesses, small and family-owned farms, Indian country, and distressed areas.” The Senators urged the agencies “to develop a new proposal that reflects evidence, community input, and Congressional intent.”

As previously covered by InfoBytes, on April 8, NYDFS Superintendent Linda Lacewell also sent a letter to the OCC expressing “strong opposition” to the NPR. A coalition of state attorneys general submitted a comment letter urging the agencies to withdraw the NPR as well.

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