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On January 21, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) issued a statement presenting the results of the final phase of its Examination Modernization Project. The project, which was initiated to identify and assess measures to improve the community bank safety and soundness examination process, sought feedback on examination processes from select supervised institutions and examiners. FFIEC released previous project updates, which focused on meaningful supervisory burden reduction and tailoring examination plans and procedures based on risk (covered by InfoBytes here). The final phase addressed feedback related to examination requests and authentication requirements for FFIEC members’ supervision systems. Identified best practices include that: (i) information requests should be risk-focused and relevant to an examination; (ii) supervised institutions should be allowed sufficient time to produce requested information; (iii) examiners should coordinate information requests among the exam team to avoid duplication and redundancy; (iv) requests should be made through an institution’s designated regulatory examination point-of-contact; and (v) requests should be clearly articulated in writing. With respect to feedback received related to authentication requirements, FFIEC noted that its Task Force on Supervision has approved a common authentication solution to allow member agencies and supervised institutions “to securely authenticate to supervision systems, while eliminating the need for multiple credentials to access regulator systems.”
On January 19, the FDIC issued FIL-06-2022 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and facilitate recovery in areas of Tennessee affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, and tornadoes. The FDIC acknowledged the unusual circumstances faced by institutions and their customers affected by the weather and suggested that institutions work with impacted borrowers to, among other things, (i) extend repayment terms; (ii) restructure existing loans; or (iii) ease terms for new loans, so long as these measures are done “in a manner consistent with sound banking practices.” Additionally, the FDIC noted that institutions “may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery.” The FDIC will also consider regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements.
On January 18, the Federal Reserve Board issued a cease and desist order against two California-based bank holding companies (companies) and their jointly-owned bank, due to “additional safety and soundness deficiencies at the Bank, including with respect to unsecured loans,” following the termination of a February 2021 written agreement. According to the Fed’s order, “the Bank is currently operating without a permanent Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, and a sufficient number of board members, which are vital to the safe and sound operations of the Bank in light of the numerous remedial requirements of the Written Agreement.” The order requires, among other things, that the bank, within 60 days, submit written lending and credit administration policies and procedures and retain an independent third party to assess the adequacy of the bank’s compensation governance, policies, procedures, and internal controls. The order imposes no financial penalty.
On January 13, acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu spoke before the British American Business Transatlantic Finance Forum’s Executive Roundtable to discuss stablecoins and other crypto-assets regulations. In his remarks, Hsu described stablecoins as “the oxygen of the crypto ecosystem,” noting that they help link cryptocurrencies to fiat currencies. Hsu noted that crypto has “gone mainstream,” providing the example that “[s]ixteen percent of U.S. adults say that they have owned, traded or used some form of cryptocurrency.” In discussing the underbanked and minorities interested in crypto, Hsu quoted a survey finding that “37 percent of the underbanked indicated that they own cryptocurrency, compared to 10 percent of the fully banked.” Hsu argued that banking regulations are designed to mitigate run risks for stablecoins, stating that “[s]tablecoin issuers subject to bank regulation would give holders of those stablecoins confidence that those coins were as reliable and ‘money good’ as bank deposits,” and that “[s]trong, targeted federal regulation of money and banking can help establish a solid foundation for the economy enabling healthy innovation and growth.” While Hsu expressed his excitement for “the pace of innovation in crypto,” he warned that “a careful approach is warranted,” as a result of the “lack of standards and controls in the crypto space.” Hsu also expressed that “bank regulation would give credibility to the ‘stable’ part of stablecoins,” and stressed the need for a coordinated and collaborative regulatory approach “with regards to large crypto intermediaries, which are increasingly operating globally and across a wide range of activities.”
On January 14, President Biden nominated Sarah Bloom Raskin to serve as Vice Chair for Supervision for the Federal Reserve Board, and Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson to serve as Board Governors. Earlier on January 4, Biden also submitted new nominations for Jerome Powell to serve a second term as Chair of the Federal Reserve Board and for Fed Governor Lael Brainard to serve as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors, replacing current Vice Chair Richard H. Clarida. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) If all the nominees are confirmed by the Senate, the Board will include the first Black woman and the fourth Black man and will be majority women. Previously, Raskin served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury where she pursued innovative solutions related to climate risk, cybersecurity, and consumer safeguards in the financial marketplace. Raskin also served as a Fed Governor where she helped conduct the nation’s monetary policy and promoted financial stability. Additionally, Raskin served as the Commissioner of Financial Regulation for the State of Maryland where she and her agency regulated Maryland’s financial institutions, including all state-chartered depository institutions, banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers, and trust companies, among others.
Earlier on January 10, Clarida announced his intention to resign from the Federal Reserve Board effective January 14. Clarida has been a member of the Board since September 2018, and his statutory term was set to expire on January 31. Clarida’s announcement follows key regulatory nominations sent to the Senate by Biden on January 4 and 7 (see here and here). Among the recent nominations was a resubmission of Alvara Bedoya to serve as a Democratic commissioner at the FTC after the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation failed to report favorably on Bedoya’s 2021 nomination and it expired at the end of the December session of Congress. If confirmed, Bedoya would fill the FTC commissioner seat vacated by current CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
On January 11, the FDIC’s technology lab, FDiTech, and FinCEN announced the launch of a Tech Sprint challenging participants “to develop solutions for financial institutions and regulators to help measure the effectiveness of digital identity proofing—the process used to collect, validate, and verify information about a person.” According to the Tech Sprint program, Measuring the Effectiveness of Digital Identity Proofing for Digital Financial Services, solutions developed from this Tech Sprint will inform future FDIC, FinCEN, and industry-led efforts, plans, and programs to: (i) increase efficiency and account security; (ii) decrease fraud and other forms of identity-related crime, money laundering and terrorist financing; and (iii) foster customer confidence in the digital banking environment. According to the agencies, digital identity proofing is “challenged by the proliferation of compromised personally identifiable information, the increasing use of synthetic identities, and the presence of multiple, varied approaches for identity proofing.” The FDIC and FinCEN will open registration in the coming weeks, and stakeholders interested in participating will have approximately two weeks to submit applications.
On January 13, the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) published a request for comments on proposed amendments to provide greater transparency and clarity to the existing rules of practice and procedure governing temporary waiver proceedings. The existing temporary waiver proceedings, which were promulgated in 1992 under FIRREA, allow temporary waivers to be granted if a state appraiser regulatory agency makes a written determination that a scarcity of state-certified or licensed appraisers in a state or geographical area is causing significant delays in the performance of real estate appraisals utilized in connection with federally related transactions. Temporary waivers terminate once the ASC determines that the significant delays have been eliminated.
The FFIEC’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeks “to clarify the procedural differences in processing a Request for Temporary Waiver accompanied by a written determination as compared to a Petition requesting the ASC exercise its discretion to initiate a temporary waiver proceeding.” Among other things, the NPRM would allow the ASC to draw a clear distinction between: (i) a state appraiser regulatory agency’s request that is accompanied by a written determination (referred to in the NPRM as a “Request for Temporary Waiver”); and (ii) information received from other persons or entities, which could include a state appraiser regulatory agency (referred to as a “Petition”). As presented in the NPRM’s accompanying flowchart, the procedures will vary depending on whether the ASC has received a Request for Temporary Waiver or a Petition requesting the initiation of a temporary waiver proceeding. Comments on the NPRM must be received by March 14.
On January 10, the Federal Reserve announced a final rule regarding reporting requirements for member banks related to adjusting subscriptions to Federal Reserve Bank capital stock. Specifically, the Fed noted that the “technical rule” amends Regulation I to decrease the quarterly reporting burden for member banks by automating the application process for adjusting their subscriptions to Federal Reserve Bank capital stock, except in the context of mergers. Under the new process, Reserve Banks will adjust a member bank’s stock subscription each time the member bank files a Call Report, eliminating the need for member banks to file applications to adjust their stock subscriptions (except in the context of mergers). Additionally, the Fed codified its current practices of requiring a surviving member bank to apply to adjust its stock subscription prior to merging or consolidating with another bank. The final rule is effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Recently, the CFPB, CFTC, FDIC, FinCen, FHFA, and OCC provided notice in the Federal Register regarding adjustments to the maximum civil money penalties due to inflation pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. Each notice or final rule (see CFPB here, CFTC here, FDIC here, FinCen here, FHFA here, and OCC here) adjusts the maximum amounts of civil money penalties and provides a chart reflecting the inflation-adjusted maximum amounts associated with the penalty tiers for particular types of violations within each regulator’s jurisdiction. The OCC’s adjusted civil money penalty amounts are applicable to penalties assessed on or after January 12. The new CFPB, CFTC, FDIC, and FHFA civil money penalty amounts are applicable to penalties assessed on or after January 15. FinCEN's adjusted civil money penalty amounts are effective January 24.
On January 12, the FDIC issued FIL-05-2022 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Washington state affected by flooding and mudslides. The FDIC acknowledged the unusual circumstances faced by institutions and their customers affected by the severe weather events in certain counties of Washington and suggested that institutions work with impacted borrowers to, among other things, (i) extend repayment terms; (ii) restructure existing loans; or (iii) ease terms for new loans to those affected by the severe weather, provided the measures are done “in a manner consistent with sound banking practices.” The FDIC noted that it will consider the unusual circumstances when examining efforts to work with borrowers in affected communities and that institutions “may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery.” The FDIC will also consider regulatory relief from certain filing and publishing requirements. Earlier on January 5, the FDIC also issued FIL-01-2022 and FIL-02-2022 to provide the same regulatory relief to financial institutions and help facilitate recovery in areas of Arkansas and Colorado affected by severe storms, tornados, winds, and wildfires.