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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • FFIEC highlights the importance of property valuation practices

    On February 12, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) released a statement on examination principles related to ensuring fair and creditable residential property valuation practices among supervised institutions. The FFIEC underscored the necessity for institutions to comply with anti-discrimination laws and regulations, such as the ECOA and the Fair Housing Act, while also adhering to safety and soundness regulations outlined in statutes like the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989. According to the statement, effective valuation review programs are essential for identifying and addressing deficiencies, ensuring compliance with appraisal regulations, and promoting fair lending practices. Through examination processes, both in consumer compliance and safety and soundness assessments, the FFIEC aimed to mitigate risks associated with valuation discrimination or bias.

    Bank Regulatory FFIEC Fair Housing ECOA OCC Fair Housing Act

  • Hsu notes a “trip wire approach” for FSOC review of payments, private equity systemic risk

    On February 21, Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu delivered remarks at Vanderbilt University, discussing banking and commerce, regulatory effectiveness, and financial stability. Hsu further discussed the “blurring of the line” between banking and private credit/equity, its relevance to different market crashes, and how it can create risk. Hsu mentioned the potential to fill a regulatory gap regarding payments.

    Hsu highlighted that the FSOC’s recent analytic framework indicated vulnerable points that can commonly contribute to financial stability risks and discussed how FSOC may address the risks. The framework also established how the council determines whether a given nonbank should be under the Fed’s supervision and prudential standards (covered by InfoBytes here). In his speech, Hsu defines banking as “institutions that take deposits, make loans, and facilitate payments” and commerce as “everything else” including nonbank finance. 

    He added that the FSOC should use its macro-prudential tools to address risk and develop metrics and thresholds to identify when a payments or private equity firm may need an assessment of systemic risk. This “trip wire approach” would leverage the FSOC’s framework, moving a firm from the identification phase to the assessment phase of the FSOC’s analytic framework, and the assessment would inform if there was a need for FSOC response. Because of the rise in cash managed by nonbanks on behalf of consumers, Hsu said that could serve as a metric for the trip wire for payments-focused fintechs and other nonbank companies. “The standardization, scalars, and level at which an FSOC assessment would be triggered would be informed by public comment,” he added. Finally, Hsu highlighted how the trip wire approach offered a transparent and proactive method for identifying and addressing systemic risks before they escalate. 

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues FSOC OCC Payments Nonbank Risk Management

  • New York Fed Bank analyzes BNPL usage

    On February 14, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (NY Fed) published a blog post evaluating different households’ use of buy now pay later (BNPL) products, which it generally described as “loans that are payable in four or fewer installments and carry no finance charges.” To understand BNPL usage and its relationship with consumers’ financial situations, the NY Fed conducted a study which revealed distinct usage patterns between the financially fragile and the financially stable.

    The study revealed that financially fragile individuals, or individuals who have a credit score below 620, who have been declined for a credit application in the past year, or who have fallen 30 or more days delinquent on a loan in the past year, typically use BNPL to make frequent small purchases when compared to financial stable individuals. The study also found that using BNPL often leads to repeat transactions, indicating a potential trend towards repeat use of the product, particularly among those facing credit challenges.

    The study also found that consumers’ motivations for using BNPL differ. Financially stable individuals often cite zero interest as a key advantage, while the financially fragile prioritize ease of access and convenience. The NY Fed summarized that BNPL usage among financially fragile individuals resembles using a credit card for medium-size, out-of-budget purchases, while financially stable users tend to make fewer purchases with a focus of avoiding interest on high-priced items. The NY Fed noted, however, that there is evidence of misunderstanding among users, such as the belief that BNPL helps build credit, concluding that “those with this view may be better off using a credit card.” 

     

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Buy Now Pay Later Federal Reserve New York Consumer Finance

  • Fed, FDIC, and OCC release stress test scenarios for 2024

    On February 15, the Fed, OCC, and the FDIC released their annual stress test scenarios for 2024 to assist the agencies in evaluating their respective covered institution’s risk profile and capital adequacy. The Fed released its “2024 Stress Test Scenarios” to be used by banks and supervisors for the 2024 annual stress test. The scenarios include hypothetical sets of conditions to evaluate the banks under baseline and severely adverse scenarios. The OCC similarly released economic and financial market scenarios to be used by national banks and federal savings associations and include both baseline and severely adverse scenarios as mandated by the stress testing requirements under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The FDIC also released its stress test scenarios for certain state nonmember banks and state savings associations in conjunction with the OCC and the Fed.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Federal Reserve OCC Stress Test Bank Supervision

  • Fed finds CEO engaged in crypto “pig butchering” scam which led to bank failure

    On February 7, the Federal Reserve issued an evaluation report, as required by the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (where a loss to the deposit insurance fund is considered material), on a recently failed bank; the Fed concluded the bank failed due to alleged fraudulent activity by the bank’s CEO. In particular, the Fed found that the CEO initiated a series of wire transfers over the course of three months totaling about $47.1 million of the bank’s money as part of a cryptocurrency scam known as “pig butchering.” According to a FinCEN alert, “pig butchering” occurs when a scammer convinces its victims to invest in purportedly legitimate cryptocurrency investments but then steals the victim’s money.

    The Fed found that the bank’s employees neglected to follow proper internal controls and policies that could have “prevented or detected” the alleged fraudulent activity, attributing the failure to a reluctance to challenge the CEO given the CEO’s “dominant role in the bank and prominent role in the community.” Specifically, the employees did not comply with the bank’s BSA/AML policy or file suspicious activity reports as outlined under the policy. As a result, the Fed recommended (i) increasing the awareness among state member banks of cryptocurrency scams; and (ii) providing training to examiners on cryptocurrency scams.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Cryptocurrency FinCEN Federal Reserve Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering

  • OCC’s Hsu discusses appraisal bias

    On February 13, Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu discussed eliminating appraisal bias in the financial industry at a public hearing held by the Appraisal Subcommittee of the FFIEC. In his remarks, Hsu highlighted the importance of addressing bias in the existing standards for appraisal reports to aid in the OCC’s efforts to expand access to homeownership. Hsu noted that the OCC is taking steps to increase access to homeownership by improving supervisory methods used to identify potential discrimination in lending and housing valuations and encouraging banks to expand affordable housing financing and access to credit.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC Appraisal FFIEC

  • Senate Banking Committee hearing on P2P payment scams calls for updates to EFTA definitions

    On February 1, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing on “Examining Scams and Fraud in the Banking System and Their Impact on Consumers,” and invited three panelists to testify, including an attorney from a consumer law center and two vice presidents from banking associations. Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) led the hearing by noting that peer-to-peer (P2) apps are a rising target among scammers, alongside a rise in check fraud. The Chairman noted a 2023 alert from FinCEN warning (as covered by InfoBytes here) of a surge in check fraud after a “drastic” rise in scams, and concluded with a statement that the P2P companies need “rules to make them” do better. Next, Ranking Member Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) called for the companies to spend more money developing security technologies to protect consumers from fraud. Sen. Scott then called for better education in financial literacy to learn about scams and methods. 

    At the hearing, Mr. John Breyault noted that reported losses from P2P payment platforms nearly doubled from $87 million in 2020 to $163 million in 2022. Mr. Breyault asked Congress to play a larger role in preventing fraud on P2P platforms and urged the passage of the Protecting Consumers from Payment Scams Act (which would expand EFTA’s definition of unauthorized electronic fund transfer to cover fraudulently induced payments). Ms. Carla Sanchez-Adams, in her testimony, asserted the entire burden of payment fraud should not fall on the customers and advocated for an updated Electronic Funds Transfer Act that protects consumers from fraudulently-induced transactions. She testified that receiving institutions should have more responsibility, and called for anti-fraud policies that protect consumers from having their accounts frozen, among others. Mr. Paul Benda testified to similar points: he called for an increase in consumer education and the closure of regulatory loopholes to stop impersonation scams. He testified in favor of improved information sharing and enhanced collaboration with law enforcement and regulators.  

    Bank Regulatory Peer-to-Peer Fraud Senate Banking Committee EFTA U.S. Senate Federal Issues

  • UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority imposes its second highest fine against a bank

    On January 30, UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) fined a large bank £57,417,500, the second highest fine ever imposed by the PRA, for allegedly failing to properly implement Depositor Protection Rule requirements. The bank allegedly exhibited shortcomings in depositor protection like maintaining information integrity, which is relied upon by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) to make payments to depositors in the event of a firm failure. In addition, the PRA alleged that the bank did not identify eligible deposits for FSCS protection from 2015 to 2022. The bank also allegedly failed to notify the PRA of inaccuracies in its account of eligible FSCS-protected accounts in a timely manner or to appoint a senior manager responsible for ensuring compliance with Depositor Protection Rules. The bank agreed to settle this matter at an early stage of the PRA’s investigation.  

    Bank Regulatory Of Interest to Non-US Persons UK PRA Enforcement Deposits

  • OCC and FDIC announce their CRA evaluations

    On February 2, OCC and the FDIC released their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) evaluations. The OCC disclosed a list of evaluations of national banks, federal savings associations, and insured federal branches of foreign banks that became public in January 2024. Out of the 18 evaluations, six were rated “outstanding,” nine were rated “satisfactory,” and three were rated as “needs to improve.” The evaluations can be accessed on the OCC’s website, including a searchable list of all public CRA evaluations. Simultaneously, the FDIC released its list of state nonmember banks that were evaluated for CRA compliance in November 2023. Out of 57 evaluations, 56 were rated as “satisfactory” and one bank was rated as “outstanding.”  

    Bank Regulatory CRA OCC FDIC Bank Supervision Federal Issues Compliance

  • Federal Reserve releases January SLOOS report on bank lending practices from Q4 2023

    On February 5, the Federal Reserve Board released the results from their January 2024 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey (SLOOS) on bank lending practices. The SLOOS addressed changes in standards, terms, and the demand over bank loans over the past three months (i.e., Q4 of 2023). The SLOOS’s topics included commercial and industrial lending, commercial and residential real estate lending, and consumer lending. The SLOOS included questions on banks’ expectations for changes in lending standards, borrower demand and asset quality over 2024. 

    The SLOOS provided specific findings for each of its topics. On loans to businesses, banks generally reported tighter standards and weaker demand for commercial and industrial loans, as well as all commercial real estate loan categories. Demand weakened for all residential real estate loans. On loans to households, banks generally reported tighter lending standards for residential real estate loans, but the standards were unchanged for government-sponsored enterprise-eligible residential mortgages. For home equity lines of credit, banks reported tighter standards and weaker demand; this falls in line with credit card, auto, and other consumer loans, generally. Last, on the banks’ 2024 expectations, they expect lending standards to remain unchanged for commercial and industrial loans, and residential real estate loans, but to tighten further for commercial real estate, credit card, and auto loans. Banks also reported that they expect demands for loans to strengthen, but loan quality to weaken, across all categories. The SLOOS includes 67 pages of data gleaned from its questions. 

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Loans Banking Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

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