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The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs recently released the CFPB’s spring 2023 regulatory agenda. Key rulemaking initiatives that the agency expects to initiate or continue include:
- Overdraft fees. The Bureau is considering whether to engage in pre-rulemaking activity in November to amend Regulation Z with respect to special rules for determining whether overdraft fees are considered finance charges.
- FCRA rulemaking. The Bureau is considering whether to engage in pre-rulemaking activity in November to amend Regulation V, which implements the FCRA. In January, the Bureau issued its annual report covering information gathered by the Bureau regarding certain consumer complaints on the three largest nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). CFPB Director Rohit Chopra noted that the Bureau “will be exploring new rules to ensure that [the CRAs] are following the law, rather than cutting corners to fuel their profit model.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- Insufficient funds fees. The Bureau is considering whether to engage in pre-rulemaking activity in November regarding non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees. The Bureau commented that while NSF fees have been a significant source of fee revenue for depository institutions, recently some institutions have voluntarily stopped charging such fees.
- Amendments to FIRREA concerning automated valuation models. On June 1, the Bureau issued a joint notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) with the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA to develop regulations to implement quality control standards mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act concerning automated valuation models used by mortgage originators and secondary market issuers. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Previously, the Bureau released a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) outline and report in February and May 2022 respectively. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
- Section 1033 rulemaking. Section 1033 of Dodd-Frank provides that covered entities, such as banks, must make available to consumers, upon request, transaction data and other information concerning consumer financial products or services that the consumer obtains from the covered entity. Over the past several years, the Bureau has engaged in a series of rulemaking steps to prescribe standards for this requirement, including the release of a 71-page outline of proposals and alternatives in advance of convening a panel under the SBREFA and the issuance of a final report examining the impact of the Bureau’s proposals to address consumers’ personal financial data rights. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Proposed rulemaking may be issued in October.
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. The Bureau issued an NPRM last month to extend TILA’s ability-to-repay requirements to PACE transactions. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The proposed effective date is at least one year after the final rule is published in the Federal Register (“but no earlier than the October 1 which follows by at least six months Federal Register publication”), with the possibility of a further extension to ensure compliance with a TILA timing requirement.
- Supervision of Larger Participants in Consumer Payment Markets. The Bureau is considering whether to engage in pre-rulemaking activity next month to define larger participants in consumer payment markets and further the scope of the agency’s nonbank supervision program.
- Nonbank registration. The Bureau announced its intention to identify repeat financial law offenders by establishing a database of enforcement actions taken against certain nonbank covered entities. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The Bureau anticipates issuing a final rule later this year.
- Terms and conditions registry for supervised nonbanks. At the beginning of the year, the Bureau issued an NPRM that would create a public registry of terms and conditions used in non-negotiable, “take it or leave it” nonbank form contracts that “claim to waive or limit consumer rights and protections.” Under the proposal, supervised nonbank companies would be required to report annually to the Bureau on their use of standard-form contract terms that “seek to waive consumer rights or other legal protections or limit the ability of consumers to enforce or exercise their rights” and would appear in a publicly accessible registry. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The Bureau anticipates issuing a final rule later this year.
- Credit card penalty fees. The Bureau issued an NPRM in February to solicit public feedback on proposed changes to credit card late fees and late payments and card issuers’ revenue and expenses. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Under the CARD Act rules inherited by the Bureau from the Fed, credit card late fees must be “reasonable and proportional” to the costs incurred by the issuer as a result of a late payment. A final rule may be issued later this year.
- LIBOR transition. In April, the Bureau issued an interim final rule, amending Regulation Z, which implements TILA, to update various provisions related to the LIBOR transition. Effective May 15, the interim final rule further addresses LIBOR’s sunset on June 30, by incorporating references to the SOFR-based replacement—the Fed-selected benchmark replacement for the 12-month LIBOR index—into Regulation Z. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
On May 2, FHA published Mortgagee Letter (ML) 2023-09 to implement provisions of the Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM): Transitioning from LIBOR to Alternative Indices final rule that was published in the Federal Register at the beginning of March. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The final rule replaces LIBOR with the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as the approved index for newly-originated forward ARMs, codifies HUD’s approval of SOFR as an index for newly-originated home equity conversion mortgages (HECM) ARMs, and establishes “a spread-adjusted SOFR index as the Secretary-approved replacement index to transition existing forward and HECM ARMs off LIBOR.” The ML provides interest rate transition directions for mortgagees and announces the availability of updated HECM model loan documents, which have been revised to be consistent with the final rule and the ML. The provisions in the ML have various effective dates.
On April 26, the CFPB joined the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC in issuing a joint statement on the completion of the LIBOR transition. (See also FDIC FIL-20-2023 and OCC Bulletin 2023-13.) According to the statement, the use of USD LIBOR panels will end on June 30. The agencies reiterated their expectations that financial institutions with USD LIBOR exposure must “complete their transition of remaining LIBOR contracts as soon as practicable.” Failure to adequately prepare for LIBOR’s discontinuance may undermine financial stability and institutions’ safety and soundness and could create litigation, operational, and consumer protection risks, the agencies stressed, emphasizing that institutions are expected to take all necessary steps to ensure an orderly transition. Examiners will monitor banks’ efforts throughout 2023 to ensure contracts have been transitioned away from LIBOR in a manner that complies with applicable legal requirements. The agencies also reminded institutions that safe-and-sound practices include conducting appropriate due diligence to ensure that replacement alternative rate selections are appropriate for an institution’s products, risk profile, risk management capabilities, customer and funding needs, and operational capabilities. Institutions should also “understand how their chosen reference rate is constructed and be aware of any fragilities associated with that rate and the markets that underlie it,” the agencies advised. Both banks and nonbanks should continue efforts to adequately prepare for LIBOR’s sunset, the Bureau said in its announcement, noting that the agency will continue to help institutions transition affected consumers in an orderly manner.
The Bureau also issued an interim final rule on April 28 amending Regulation Z, which implements TILA, to update various provisions related to the LIBOR transition. The interim final rule updates the Bureau’s 2021 LIBOR Transition Rule (covered by InfoBytes here) to reflect the enactment of the Adjustable Interest Rate Act of 2021 and its implementing regulation promulgated by the Federal Reserve Board (covered by InfoBytes here). Among other things, the interim final rule further addresses LIBOR’s sunset on June 30, by incorporating references to the SOFR-based replacement—the Fed-selected benchmark replacement for the 12-month LIBOR index—into Regulation Z. The interim final rule also (i) makes conforming changes to terminology used to identify LIBOR replacement indices; and (ii) provides an example of a 12-month LIBOR tenor replacement index that meets certain standards within Regulation Z. The Bureau also released a Fast Facts summary of the interim final rule and updated the LIBOR Transition FAQs.
The interim final rule is effective May 15. Comments are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On April 21, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) announced the endorsement of the CME Group’s Term SOFR rates, which ARRC formally recommended in 2021 (covered by InfoBytes here). The ARRC endorsement recommended that use of Term SOFR rates be limited to specific purposes, including as a fallback rate for legacy LIBOR cash products, for new use in business loans and certain securitizations, and for use in derivatives issued to end-users to hedge cash products that reference the Term SOFR rate. ARRC stated that, while it recognizes the usefulness of Term SOFR in certain business lending transactions, it continues to recommend the use of overnight SOFR and SOFR averages for all products. ARRC further encouraged market participants “to continue to monitor use of Term SOFR over time given the importance that such use continues to be proportionate to the base of transactions underlying the Term SOFR rate, and does not materially detract from those transactions in a way that compromises the robustness of the Term SOFR rate itself as the market evolves, as outlined in the ARRC’s principles.” Additionally, ARRC stated that the recommended uses outlined within the document regarding the use of Term SOFR will not change and “are meant to apply as permanent recommendations for the market.”
On March 1, FHA published a final rule in the Federal Register removing LIBOR as an approved index for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and replacing it with the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as the approved index for newly-originated forward ARMs. The final rule also codifies HUD’s removal of LIBOR and approval of SOFR as an index for newly-originated home equity conversion mortgages (HECM) ARMs, and establishes “a spread-adjusted SOFR index as the Secretary-approved replacement index to transition existing forward and HECM ARMs off LIBOR.” Additionally, the final rule makes several clarifying changes and establishes a 10 percentage points maximum lifetime adjustment cap for monthly adjustable rate HECMs. The agency considered comments received to its proposed rule published last October (covered by InfoBytes here), and said the updated policy will now “generally align with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae's policies replacing LIBOR with the SOFR index.” The final rule is effective March 31.
On February 7-8, EU and U.S. participants, including officials from the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, SEC, and OCC, participated in the U.S.-EU Joint Financial Regulatory Forum to continue their ongoing financial regulatory dialogue. According to a joint statement issued by the participants, the matters discussed focused on six themes: “(1) market developments and financial stability risks; (2) sustainable finance and climate-related financial risks; (3) regulatory developments in banking and insurance; (4) operational resilience and digital finance; (5) regulatory and supervisory cooperation in capital markets; and (6) anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).”
The joint statement acknowledged that the Russia/Ukraine conflict, coupled with global economic uncertainty and inflationary pressures, have exposed “the financial system to downside risk both in the EU and in the U.S,” with participants stressing the importance of international coordination in monitoring vulnerabilities and building resilience against stability risks. During the forum, participants discussed recent developments related to sustainability-related financial disclosures, climate-related financial risks, cross-border bank resolution coordination, the transition away from LIBOR, digital finance operational resilience, and progress made in strengthening their respective AML/CFT frameworks.
On December 22, GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced replacement indices based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) for their legacy LIBOR indexed loans and securities (see here and here). The announcement follows the Federal Reserve Board’s final rule setting forth recommended replacement rates for financial contracts based on LIBOR (covered by InfoBytes here). For single-family mortgage loans and related mortgage-backed securities, the GSEs selected the relevant tenor of CME Term SOFR plus the applicable tenor spread adjustment, as published and provided by Refinitiv Limited (also known as “USD IBOR Cash Fallbacks” for “Consumer” products). The transition to the replacement indices will occur the day after June 30, 2023, which is the last date on which the Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. Benchmark Administration Limited will publish a representative rate for all remaining tenors of U.S. dollar LIBOR. The GSEs also published replacement indices for multifamily mortgage loans and related mortgage-backed securities, single family and multifamily collateralized mortgage obligations and credit risk transfer securities, and derivatives.
On December 16, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC or the Council) released its 2022 annual report. The report reviewed financial market developments, identified emerging risks, and offered recommendations to mitigate threats and enhance financial stability. The report noted that “amid heightened geopolitical and economic shocks and inflation, risks to the U.S. economy and financial stability have increased even as the financial system has exhibited resilience.” The report also noted that significant unaddressed vulnerabilities could potentially disrupt institutions’ ability to provide critical financial services, including payment clearings, liquidity provisions, and credit availability to support economic activity. FSOC identified 14 specific financial vulnerabilities and described mitigation measures. Highlights include:
- Nonbank financial intermediation. FSOC expressed support for initiatives taken by the SEC and other agencies to address investment fund risks. The Council encouraged banking agencies to continue monitoring banks’ exposure to nonbank financial institutions, including reviewing how banks manage their exposure to leverage in the nonbank financial sector.
- Digital assets. FSOC emphasized the importance of enforcing existing rules and regulations applicable to the crypto-asset ecosystem, but commented that there are gaps in the regulation of digital asset activities. The Council recommended that legislation be enacted to grant rulemaking authority to the federal banking agencies over crypto-assets that are not securities. The Council said that regulatory arbitrage needs to be addressed as crypto-asset entities offering services similar to those offered by traditional financial institutions do not have to comply with a consistent or comprehensive regulatory framework. FSOC further recommended that “Council members continue to build capacities related to data and the analysis, monitoring, supervision, and regulation of digital asset activities.”
- Climate-related financial risks. FSOC recommended that state and federal agencies should continue to work to advance appropriately tailored supervisory expectations for regulated entities’ climate-related financial risk management practices. The Council encouraged federal banking agencies “to continue to promote consistent, comparable, and decision-useful disclosures that allow investors and financial institutions to consider climate-related financial risks in their investment and lending decisions.”
- Treasury market resilience. FSOC recommended that member agencies review Treasury’s market structure and liquidity challenges, and continue to consider policies “for improving data quality and availability, bolstering the resilience of market intermediation, evaluating expanded central clearing, and enhancing trading venue transparency and oversight.”
- Cybersecurity. FSOC stated it supports partnerships between state and federal agencies and private firms to assess cyber vulnerabilities and improve cyber resilience. Acknowledging the significant strides made by member agencies this year to improve data collection for managing cyber risk, the Council encouraged agencies to continue gathering any additional information needed to monitor and assess cyber-related financial stability risks.
- LIBOR transition. FSOC recommended that firms should “take advantage of any existing contractual terms or opportunities for renegotiation to transition their remaining legacy LIBOR contracts before the publication of USD LIBOR ends.” The Council emphasized that derivatives and capital markets should continue transitioning to the Secured Overnight financing Rate.
CFPB Director Rohit Chopra issued a statement following the report’s release, flagging risks posed by the financial sector’s growing reliance on big tech cloud service providers. “Financial institutions are looking to move more data and core services to the cloud in coming years,” Chopra said. “The operational resilience of these large technology companies could soon have financial stability implications. A material disruption could one day freeze parts of the payments infrastructure or grind other critical services to a halt.” Chopra also commented that FSOC should determine next year whether to grant the agency regulatory authority over stablecoin activities under Dodd-Frank. He noted that “[t]hrough the stablecoin inquiry, it has become clear that nonbank peer-to-peer payments firms serving millions of American consumers could pose similar financial stability risks” as these “funds may not be protected by deposit insurance and the failure of such a firm could lead to millions of American consumers becoming unsecured creditors of the bankruptcy estate, similar to the experience with [a now recently collapsed crypto exchange].”
On December 16, the Federal Reserve Board adopted a final rule to implement the Adjustable Interest Rate Act by identifying benchmark rates based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) that will replace LIBOR in certain financial contracts after June 30, 2023. The final rule ensures that LIBOR contracts adopting a benchmark rate selected by the Fed will not be interrupted or terminated following LIBOR’s replacement. Among other things, the final rule identifies: (i) SOFR-based Fed-selected benchmark replacements for LIBOR contracts that will not mature prior to the LIBOR replacement date and do not contain clear and practicable benchmark replacements; (ii) different SOFR-based Fed-selected benchmark replacements for different categories of LIBOR contracts, including overnight, one-month, three-month, six-month, and 12-month LIBOR contracts subject to the Act; and (iii) certain benchmark replacement conforming changes related to the implementation, administration, and calculation of the Fed-selected benchmark replacement. The Fed noted that in response to comments, the final rule restates safe harbor protections contained in the Act for selection or use of the replacement benchmark rate selected by the Fed, and clarifies who would be considered a “determining person” able to choose to use the replacement benchmark rate.
On October 19, FHA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register seeking public comment on transitioning existing FHA-insured forward and home equity conversion mortgage (HECM) adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) from LIBOR to a spread-adjusted Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) index, after the one-year and one-month LIBOR indices cease to be published on June 30, 2023. The proposed rule also mentioned removing LIBOR and adding SOFR as an approved index for newly originated forward ARMs. According to the proposed rule, this change was made for HECM ARMs in Mortgagee Letter 2021- 08 and added to this proposed rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in March 2021, FHA issued ML 2021-08 announcing changes for adjustable interest rate HECMs as the market transitions away from LIBOR. Comments are due by November 18.