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Fed issues ANPR on CRA modernization

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve CRA OCC

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

On September 21, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) inviting public comment on its approach for modernizing the regulations that implement the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The Fed’s ANPR follows a final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the CRA issued by the OCC in May (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), which was met by opposition from community coalitions and House Democrats (covered by InfoBytes here and here). Neither the FDIC nor the Fed joined in promulgating the OCC’s final rule, which is technically effective October 1, 2020, but provides for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model.

According to the Fed, the ANPR’s objectives are to increase the clarity, consistency and transparency of CRA supervisory expectations and standards, while minimizing data collection burdens. The following are key takeaways from the ANPR:

  • Promoting financial inclusion. The ANPR seeks feedback on ways to strengthen regulations and evaluate how banks meet the needs of low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities and address inequities in credit access. The ANPR proposes, among other things, (i) ways to encourage more activities that support minority depository institutions (MDIs), Community Development Financial Institutions, as well as women-owned financial institutions and low-income credit unions outside of a bank’s assessment area; (ii) seeks feedback on additional incentives for investing in and partnering with MDIs; and (iii) requests input on expanding geographic areas for community development activities to allow banks to receive special CRA credit for activities in areas with high unmet needs.
  • Metrics. The ANPR introduces a metrics-based approach to bring greater clarity, consistency, and transparency to how banks are assessed and rated. The ANPR proposes assessing banks’ CRA performance using a Retail Test and a Community Development Test with options to be evaluated under certain subsets based on their size. According to the Fed’s fact sheet, the metrics would be “tailored to local market conditions and adjust[ed] automatically to reflect structural economic differences and changes over the business cycle.” Additionally, the proposed retail lending metrics formulas use the number of a bank’s loans, rather than the dollar amount of those loans, to avoid weighting larger loans more heavily than smaller ones.
  • Internet banks. The ANPR contemplates defining an internet bank for CRA purposes and allowing such internet banks to delineate nationwide assessment areas to “more holistically capture their banking activities.”
  • CRA deserts. The ANPR considers designating “CRA deserts”—“areas with little bank presence and corresponding lesser availability of banking products and services and community development activities”—and allowing banks to receive credit for community development activities in designated areas of need outside of their assessment areas. The ANPR also suggests providing additional consideration if a bank operates a branch in a designated banking desert within an assessment area.
  • CRA-approved activities. The ANPR proposes publishing an illustrative, non-exhaustive list of community development activities that qualify for CRA consideration and seeks feedback on an activity pre-approval process.
  • Small banks. The ANPR proposes eliminating the current intermediate small bank category and establishing an asset-size threshold of $750 million or $1 billion to distinguish between small and large retail banks. Currently, the asset threshold between small and intermediate small banks is $326 million, and the threshold between intermediate small and large banks is $1.305 billion. Small retail banks could continue to be evaluated under the current CRA framework but would have the option to be evaluated under certain of the new subtests. Small banks are also exempt from additional deposit and certain other data collection requirements.
  • Consistent approach. Fed Chair Jerome Powell released a statement stressing that the ANPR “is an important step forward in laying a foundation for the [Fed, OCC, and FDIC] to build a shared, modernized CRA framework that has broad support.”

Comments on the ANPR are due 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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