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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

OCC defends fintech charter authority in NYDFS challenge

Courts Appellate Second Circuit Fintech Charter OCC NYDFS National Bank Act


On August 13, the OCC filed its reply brief in its appeal of a district court’s 2019 final judgment, which set aside the OCC’s regulation that would allow non-depository fintech companies to apply for Special Purpose National Bank charters (SPNB charter). As previously covered by InfoBytes, last October, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered final judgment in favor of NYDFS, ruling that the SPNB regulation should be “set aside with respect to all fintech applicants seeking a national bank charter that do not accept deposits,” rather than only those that have a nexus to New York State. 

As discussed in its opening brief filed in April appealing the final judgment (covered by InfoBytes here), the OCC reiterated that the case is not justiciable until it actually grants a fintech charter, that it is entitled to deference for its interpretation of the term “business of banking,” and that the court should set aside the regulation only with respect to non-depository fintech applicants with a nexus to New York. Following NYDFS’s opening brief filed last month (covered by InfoBytes here), the OCC argued, among other things, that the case is not ripe and NYDFS lacks standing because its alleged injuries are speculative and “rely on a series of events that have not occurred: OCC receiving and approving an SPNB charter application from a non-depository fintech that intends to conduct business in New York, and then does so in a manner that causes the harms [NYDFS] identifies.”

The OCC further argued that NYDFS “cannot show the statutory term ‘business of banking’ is unambiguous, or that it requires a bank to accept deposits to receive an OCC charter.” Highlighting the evolution of the “business of banking” over the last 160 years, the OCC contended that the National Bank Act does not contain a requirement “that an applicant for a national bank charter accept deposits if it can present the OCC with a viable business model that does not require it,” and that its regulation interpreting the ambiguous phrase “business of banking” is reasonable as it is consistent with U.S. Supreme Court case law. Lastly, the OCC argued that NYDFS’s claim that it is entitled to nationwide relief afforded under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is inconsistent with another 2nd Circuit decision, “as well as principles of equity and the APA’s text and history.” The OCC stated that even if the appellate court were to conclude that NYDFS’s claims are justiciable, the regulations should be set aside only with respect to non-depository fintech applicants with a nexus to New York.

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