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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CSBS: OCC’s proposed “non-branch” provisions undermine dual banking system

Federal Issues OCC CSBS Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Fintech National Bank Act CRA

Federal Issues

On August 3, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) issued its comment letter to the OCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) on national bank and savings association activities concerning “non-branch” offices. Specifically, CSBS wrote that the “non-branch” provisions in the NPR make “far-reaching” revisions without legal authority, undermine the dual banking system, conflict with National Bank Act (NBA) preemption limits, and would allow national banks to operate branches without complying with related Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) obligations. Additionally, CSBS contended that the OCC’s rulemaking process is “truncated and flawed,” and afforded a particularly brief period for public comments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to CSBS, the NPR, announced in June (covered by InfoBytes here), would “expand the scope of activities that may occur at non-branch offices purportedly without regard” to state restrictions.  These activities include: (i) performing loan approval and origination functions at a single, publicly accessible office; (ii) disbursing loan proceeds through an operating subsidiary; and (iii) establishing drop boxes and other unstaffed facilities. CSBS also contended that the NPR’s non-branch provisions would undermine Congressional intent and give national banks competitive advantages over state-charted banks. CSBS further argued that the non-branch provisions conflict with Congress’ clear intention that “NBA preemption does not apply to agents, affiliates or subsidiaries of national banks.” Finally, CSBS highlighted a distinction between the proposed non-branches (but de facto branches) and actual branch offices, arguing that the NPR creates a legal loophole allowing non-branch national banks to avoid CRA obligations associated with licensed branches.

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