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On March 11, FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams spoke at the Institute of International Bankers Annual Washington Conference about Volcker Rule reform, emphasizing that federal agencies need to provide greater clarity about the types of prohibited trading and the types of funds that fall within the scope of the rule. McWilliams noted that compliance with the Volcker Rule (Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act), which restricts a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds, has been challenging for institutions and that many of the rule’s requirements are “extremely complex and overly subjective.” Emphasizing that there appears to be a broad consensus for reform, McWilliams stated that—after considering a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing significant changes to the Volcker Rule’s trading and compliance elements issued last May (covered by InfoBytes here), along with comment letters, and stakeholder input—it remains clear that certain elements of the rule and proposal still require work. Concerning the Volcker Rule’s effect on banks engaged in international activity, McWilliams noted that “[w]e need to right size the rule’s extraterritorial scope while also minimizing competitive inequities between the U.S. banking entities and their foreign counterparts,” adding that the Volcker Rule should not prohibit activities clearly not governed by U.S. rules, and that the FDIC will consider options for simplifying the current rule’s scope and requirements for foreign funds.
McWilliams’ prepared remarks also highlighted proposed changes to the regulatory capital and liquidity requirement threshold; the soon-to-be-opened FDIC Tech Lab, which will “work to eliminate regulatory uncertainty and unnecessary restrictions that might otherwise prevent banks from fielding new technologies by working with innovators both in the banking sector and outside of it”; and cross-border information sharing arrangements.
On December 18, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, the SEC, and the CFTC (collectively, the Agencies) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend regulations implementing Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act (known as, the “Volcker Rule”) to be consistent with Sections 203 and 204 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act). (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.) Consistent with Section 203 of the Act, the proposal would exempt community banks from the restrictions of the Volcker Rule if they, and every entity that controls them, have (i) total consolidated assets equal to or less than $10 billion; and (ii) total trading assets and liabilities that are equal to or less than five percent of their total consolidated assets.
The proposal also, consistent with Section 204 of the Act, would permit a hedge fund or private equity fund organized and offered by a banking entity to share a name with a banking entity that is its investment advisor, if (i) the advisor is not an insured depository institution, does not control a depository institution, and is not treated as a bank holding company under the International Banking Act; (ii) the advisor does not share a name with any such entities; and (iii) the shared name does not include "bank."
Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On September 4, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, SEC, and CFTC (the Agencies) announced a 30-day extension to the public comment period for the Agencies’ joint revisions to the Volcker Rule. The comment period, which was previously scheduled to end on September 17, is now extended until October 17. The joint release notes that the extension will give interested parties “approximately four and a half months from the date the proposal was released to the public to submit comments,” as the Agencies’ first released the text of the proposal on May 30 (it was not published in the Federal Register until July 17). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Agencies’ joint revisions are designed to simplify and tailor obligations for compliance with Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act, known as the Volcker Rule, which restricts a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds. Specifically, according to a Federal Reserve Board memo, the proposed amendments will better align Volcker rule requirements with a bank’s level of trading activity and risks.
House passes appropriations bill that includes several financial services provisions, brings CFPB into the appropriations process
On July 19, the House passed H.R. 6147, the “Interior, Environment, Financial Services, and General Government Appropriations Act, 2019” by a vote of 217 to 199. Under the appropriations bill, the CFPB would be brought into the appropriations process, and a change to Dodd-Frank would strike the “for-cause” provision on the president’s authority to remove the director, which has been the subject of significant litigation. (See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage on legal challenges to the CFPB’s constitutionality.) Several other financial services provisions would, among other things, (i) amend the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council Act of 1978 to create an independent examination review director to evaluate bank examination procedures to ensure consistency; (ii) authorize the Federal Reserve to make Volcker Rule exemption determinations and issue and amend rules under Section 13 of the Banking Holding Company Act; (iii) allow the appropriate federal banking agencies to make process improvements for living will submissions; (iv) amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to allow the furnishing of positive credit reporting related to a consumer’s performance when making payments under a lease agreement with respect to a dwelling or pursuant to a contract for utility or telecommunications services; and (v) require the Comptroller General of the United States to submit a report on the impact of furnishing consumer information, pursuant to the amendments of the FCRA, to Congress no later than two years after the date of the enactment of this Act. As previously covered in InfoBytes, a similar measure concerning the furnishing of consumer data was also introduced as part of S. 488, which passed the House on July 17 as part of a larger package of securities and banking bills. H.R. 6147 now heads to the Senate.
On July 17, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, SEC, and CFTC (the Agencies) published their joint notice of proposed rulemaking designed to simplify and tailor compliance with Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act’s restrictions on a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds (the Volcker rule). As previously covered in InfoBytes, the Agencies’ announced the proposal on May 30, noting that the amendments would reduce compliance costs for banks and tailor Volcker rule requirements to better align with a bank’s size and level of trading activity and risks. Comments on the proposal are due by September 17.
Agencies issue statement on the impact of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act
On July 6, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC issued an interagency statement regarding the impact of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act), S.2155/P.L. 115-174, which was signed into law by President Trump on May 24. The joint statement describes the interim positions the federal agencies will take with regard to amendments within the Act, including, among other things, (i) extending the deadline to November 25 for all regulatory requirements related to company-run stress testing for depository institutions with less than $100 billion in total consolidated assets; (ii) enforcing the Volcker Rule consistently with the Act’s narrowed definition of banking entity; and (iii) increasing the total asset threshold for well-capitalized insured depository institutions to be eligible for an 18-month examination cycle. The agencies intend to engage in rulemakings to implement certain provisions at a later date. The accompanying OCC and the FDIC releases are available here and here.
The Federal Reserve Board also issued a separate statement describing how, in accordance with the Act, the Board will no longer subject certain smaller, less complex banking organizations to specified regulations, including stress test and liquidity coverage ratio rules. The Act raised the threshold from $50 billion to $100 billion in total consolidated assets for bank holding companies to be subject to Dodd-Frank enhanced prudential standards. The Board intends to collect assessments from all assessed companies for 2017 but will not collect assessments from newly exempt companies for 2018 and going forward. Additionally, the statement provides guidance on implementation of certain other changes in the Act, including reporting high volatility commercial real estate exposures.
On June 13 and 14, Comptroller of Currency Joseph Otting appeared before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to discuss his priorities as Comptroller. As highlighted in the identical press releases for both House and Senate hearings, Otting testified about the OCC’s achievements and efforts since being sworn in as Comptroller in November 2017. Among other things, Otting discussed the agency’s efforts to (i) modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA); (ii) promote compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering regulations (BSA/AML); and (iii) simplify the Volcker Rule, particularly for small and mid-size banks. Otting emphasized in his written testimony that his priority is to reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions, specifying that the CRA requirements have become "too complex, outdated, cumbersome, and subjective." To that end, Otting stated that the OCC, in coordination with other federal agencies, is preparing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to gather information on potential CRA updates, which, in Otting’s view, should include (i) expanding the types of activities that are eligible for CRA credit; (ii) changing assessment areas so they are not based solely on where the bank has a physical presence; and (iii) providing clearer metrics. As for BSA/AML, Otting noted this was his “number two issue” behind reforming the CRA and the working group—the OCC, FinCEN, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and NCUA— will likely address key issues like de-risking and improvement of transparency over the next three to six months. Otting noted his pleasure with the Volcker Rule changes in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155/ P.L. 115-174) but cautioned that fine-tuning may be necessary as the OCC proceeds with implementation.
FDIC FIL addendum: Federal banking agencies will not enforce Volcker rule for financial institutions exempt under S.2155
On June 4, the FDIC issued FIL-31-2018, which contains an addendum describing legislative changes to Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act (Volcker rule) under the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155/P.L. 115-174) that are applicable to FDIC-insured depository institutions with total assets under $10 billion. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on S.2155 here.) Effective immediately, any financial institution that “‘does not have and is not controlled by a company that has (i) more than $10,000,000,000 in total consolidated assets; and (ii) total trading assets and trading liabilities as reported on the most recent applicable regulatory filing filed by the institution, that are more than 5 percent of total consolidated assets’” is exempt from the rule. As result, the federal banking agencies will no longer enforce the Volcker rule for qualifying financial institutions in a manner inconsistent with the statutory amendments to the Volcker rule, and announced plans “to address these statutory amendments outside of the current notice of proposed rulemaking.”
The federal banking agencies responsible for developing the proposal (the Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, OCC, and SEC) also formally announced on June 5 a joint notice and request for public comment on the proposed revisions. Comments will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
Visit here for InfoBytes coverage on the federal banking agencies’ proposed revisions to the Volcker rule announced May 30.
On May 30, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) announced proposed revisions designed to simplify and tailor compliance with Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act’s restrictions on a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds (the Volcker rule). The proposal, subject to public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, was developed in coordination with the OCC, FDIC, SEC, and CFTC, and would modify regulations finalized in December 2013 to reduce compliance costs for banks. Two information collections were issued along with the proposal: Information Schedules and Quantitative Measurements Daily Schedule.
According to a Board memo, the proposed amendments would tailor Volcker rule requirements to better align with a bank’s level of trading activity and risks. The proposal would establish the following three categories based on trading activity: (i) “significant trading assets and liabilities,” which would consist of banks with gross trading assets and liabilities of at least $10 billion, and require a comprehensive compliance program tailored to reflect the Volcker rule’s requirements; (ii) “moderate trading assets and liabilities,” which would include banks with gross trading assets and liabilities of at least $1 billion but less than $10 billion, and impose reduced compliance obligations; and (iii) “limited trading assets and liabilities,” which would include banks with less than $1 billion in gross trading assets and liabilities, and subject them to the lowest level of regulatory compliance.
In addition, the proposal would, among other changes:
- provide more clarity by revising the definition of “trading account” to be an account used to buy or sell financial instruments recorded at fair value under commonly used accounting definitions;
- clarify that banks whose trades do not exceed appropriately developed internal risk limits are engaged in permissible market-making-related activity;
- streamline the criteria that applies when a bank relies on the hedging exemption from the proprietary trading prohibition, and remove a requirement that a trade “demonstrably reduces or otherwise significantly mitigates” a specific risk;
- ease the documentation requirement banks face when demonstrating trades are hedges, and eliminate requirements that a bank with only moderate or limited trading activity must develop “a separate internal compliance program for risk-mitigation hedging”;
- eliminate the 60-day rebuttable presumption for trades;
- expand the scope of the “liquidity management exclusion” in the Volcker rule to allow banks to use foreign exchange forwards, foreign exchange swaps, and physically settled cross-currency swaps as a part of liquidity management activities;
- limit the impact of the Volcker rule on foreign banks’ activity outside of the U.S.; and
- simplify the type of trading activity information that banks will be required to provide to the agencies.
Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell noted that after nearly five years of experience applying the Volcker rule, the proposed rule is a way to “allow firms to conduct appropriate activities without undue burden, and without sacrificing safety and soundness.”
Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard also commented that “[r]ather than requiring banking institutions to undertake specific quantitative analyses prescribed by the regulators, the proposed revisions would require banking institutions to establish internal risk limits to achieve the principle of not exceeding the reasonably expected near-term demands of customers, subject to supervisory review.”
Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair of Supervision Randal Quarles stated that while the regulatory relief bill signed into law on May 24 exempts banks with less than $10 billion in total assets from the Volcker rule (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), the “proposed rule, however, would recognize that small asset size is not the only indicator of reduced proprietary trading risk.” Furthermore, the proposed rule is a “best first effort at simplifying and tailoring the Volcker rule” and does not represent the “completion of [the Board’s] work.”
On May 23, the Federal Reserve Board issued a notice announcing it will meet on May 30 to consider a proposal to modify the Volcker Rule. Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act currently restricts banks from engaging in proprietary trading and restricts their ownership of certain funds. As previously discussed in InfoBytes, last month the House passed the “Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act,” which, among other things, would provide clear exemptions for banking entities with $10 billion or less in consolidated assets or those comprised of five percent or less of trading assets and liabilities. A similar exemption is also included in the bipartisan Senate financial regulatory reform bill, S.2155, which was signed by President Trump on May 24. (See InfoBytes coverage on S.2155 here.)
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