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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

OCC formally rescinds CRA rule

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Bank Regulatory CRA FDIC Federal Reserve Underserved

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

On December 14, the OCC issued a final rule rescinding its 2020 Community Reinvestment Act Rule (2020 Rule) and replacing it with a rule based largely on the prior rules adopted jointly by the federal banking agencies in 1995, as amended (1995 Rules). (See also OCC Bulletin 2021-16.) According to the OCC, the “action is intended to facilitate the ongoing interagency work to modernize the CRA regulatory framework and promote consistency for all insured depository institutions.” As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the 2020 Rule was intended to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the CRA and provided for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model, among other things.

In September, the OCC solicited comments on a proposal to rescind the 2020 Rule (NPRM) and issued a series of frequently asked questions discussing the rulemaking process and providing a general timeline on the transition from the 2020 Rule (covered by InfoBytes here and here). The FAQs addressed questions including concerns related to the transition period for tracking activities that qualify under the 2020 Rule but would not qualify should the 1995 Rules be reinstated. The OCC announced that after reviewing transition issue comments received on the NPRM, the final rule had been adopted largely without modification. The final rule carries a compliance date of January 1, 2022, for all national banks and federal and state savings associations, with the exception of the final rule’s public file and public notice provisions, which have a delayed compliance date of April 1, 2022. According to the OCC, transitioning back to the 1995 Rules should carry a limited burden as the June 2020 Rule had only been partially implemented.

The OCC further noted that “strategic plans approved under the June 2020 Rule may remain in effect” but that “these plans must comply with the provisions of the final rule, as applicable.” Also, since the final rule stipulates that a bank’s record of helping to meet the credit needs of its assessment area(s) will be taken into consideration, “provisions in strategic plans that include goals for activities outside a bank’s assessment area(s) will no longer be applicable, and the OCC will no longer evaluate these activities when assessing the bank’s performance.” Additionally, the OCC stated that the new rule is intended to limit the CRA burden on banks, bank communities, and examiners while ensuring that insured depository institutions can “meet the credit needs of their entire communities, including low- and moderate-income [] neighborhoods,” consistent with safe and sound operations.