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On July 20, the OCC announced it will propose to rescind the agency’s May 2020 final rule overhauling the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), signaling the OCC’s intention to collaborate with the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC on a separate joint rulemaking. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the OCC’s final rule was intended to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the CRA by, among other things: (i) updating deposit-based assessment areas; (ii) mandating the inclusion of consumer loans in CRA evaluations; (iii) including quantitative metric-based benchmarks for determining a bank’s CRA rating; and (iv) including a non-exhaustive illustrative list of activities that qualify for CRA consideration.
The announcement follows the completion of a review undertaken by acting Comptroller Michael Hsu (covered by InfoBytes here). Hsu stated that although “the OCC deserves credit for taking action to modernize the CRA,” the adoption of the final rule was “a false start” in attempting to overhaul the regulation. According to Hsu, the OCC intends to work with the Fed and the FDIC to develop a joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and build on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Fed last September (covered by InfoBytes here). The federal agencies issued an interagency statement noting that they have “broad authority and responsibility for implementing the CRA” and that “[j]oint agency action will best achieve a consistent, modernized framework across all banks to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they do business, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.”
Recently, the Federal Reserve Board and the OCC issued reports pursuant to Section 367 of the Dodd-Frank Act generally detailing the health of Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) and the agencies’ efforts taken to assist MDIs as the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately affected low- and moderate-income communities and racial and ethnic minorities. The Fed’s report, “Promoting Minority Depository Institutions,” discussed, among other things, extra steps taken by the agency to support and assist MDIs over the past year, which included conducting individualized outreach on several topics like how to access the discount window and the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility (covered by InfoBytes here and here). The report also examined efforts taken by the Fed to preserve and promote MDIs through its Partnership for Progress program—“a national outreach effort to help MDIs confront unique business-model challenges, cultivate safe banking practices, and compete more effectively in the marketplace”—and covered the Fed’s unanimous approval last September to approve an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on modernizing the Community Reinvestment Act (covered by InfoBytes here).
The OCC outlined actions taken to preserve and promote MDIs in its “2020 Annual Report,” including the launch of the Roundtable for Economic Access and Change known as Project REACh (covered by InfoBytes here). OCC subject matter experts also provided regulatory technical assistance to MDIs on topics including safety and soundness, cybersecurity, compliance with Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering requirements, and current expected credit loss accounting methodology, among others. The OCC also noted that despite a seven-basis-points drop on the average return on assets for MDIs through the pandemic, the health of those institutions “remained satisfactory.”
On July 15, the OCC marked the one-year anniversary of Project REACh, an initiative launched by the agency last year to promote greater financial inclusion of underserved populations. As previously covered by InfoBytes, Project REACh (Roundtable for Economic Access and Change) brings together leaders from the banking industry, national civil rights organizations, and various businesses and technology organizations to identify and reduce barriers to accessing capital and credit. While the project’s scope in its first year included a national workstream and a regional effort centered on Los Angeles, acting Comptroller Michael Hsu announced that Project REACh will soon expand its regional focus to Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Detroit in order “to replicate the success of the project’s national workstream.” In prepared remarks, Hsu emphasized that addressing economic inequality needs to be “transformational, not transactional,” pointing out that “the financial system can perpetuate inequality” as “traditional credit scores, traditional overdraft practices, and predatory lending make it expensive to be poor, while wealthy clients can borrow and access a wide range of financial services at lower cost.” Hsu explained that Project REACh’s structure and approach allows for collaborative problem identification and problem solving and creates opportunities for business and community representatives to incubate ideas and pilots “that can later be implemented on a broader scale than possible by any one institution.”
On July 13, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC announced a request for public comments on proposed guidance designed to aid banking organizations manage risks related to third-party relationships, including relationships with financial technology-focused entities. The guidance also responds to industry feedback requesting alignment among the agencies with respect to third-party risk management guidance. The proposed guidance provides “a framework based on sound risk management principles for banking organizations to consider in developing risk management practices for all stages in the life cycle of third-party relationships that takes into account the level of risk, complexity, and size of the banking organization and the nature of the third-party relationship.” The proposal addresses key components of risk management, such as (i) planning, due diligence and third-party selection; (ii) contract negotiation; (iii) oversight and accountability; (iv) ongoing monitoring; and (v) termination. Comments on the proposal are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On July 9, President Biden issued a broad Executive Order (E.O.) that includes provisions related to the financial services industry.
- CFPB. The E.O. encourages the CFPB director to issue rules under Section 1033 of Dodd-Frank “to facilitate the portability of consumer financial transaction data so consumers can more easily switch financial institutions and use new, innovative financial products.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, last October, the Bureau issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on Section 1033, seeking comments on questions related to consumers’ access to their financial records. The E.O. also instructs the Bureau to enforce Section 1031 of Dodd-Frank, which prohibits unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in consumer financial products or services, “to ensure that actors engaged in unlawful activities do not distort the proper functioning of the competitive process or obtain an unfair advantage over competitors who follow the law.”
- Treasury Department. The E.O. calls on Treasury to submit a report within 270 days on the effects on competition of large technology and other non-bank companies’ entry into the financial services space.
- FTC. The E.O. tasks the FTC with establishing rules to address concerns about “unfair data collection and surveillance practices that may damage competition, consumer autonomy, and consumer privacy.” The FTC already commenced that process on July 1, when it approved changes to its Rules of Practice to amend and simplify the agency’s procedures for initiating rulemaking proceedings. According to Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, “[s]treamlined procedures for Section 18 rulemaking means that the Commission will have the ability to issue timely rules on issues ranging from data abuses to dark patterns to other unfair and deceptive practices widespread in our economy.”
- Bank Mergers. The E.O. encourages the Attorney General, in consultation with the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC, to “review current practices and adopt a plan, not later than 180 days after the date of this order, for the revitalization of merger oversight under the Bank Merger Act and the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956.”
On July 2, the CFPB announced its prioritization of resources to focus on the role of racial bias in home appraisals. According to the CFPB, undervaluation of homes based on race further drives the racial wealth divide and overvaluation of homes also puts family wealth at risk, leading to higher rates of foreclosure. On June 15, the CFPB hosted a home appraisal bias event where the NCUA, OCC, and HUD discussed insights on the role of racial bias in home appraisals, which led to conversations on how to collaborate with stakeholders in eliminating racial bias and other inequities in housing. The Bureau also noted it is “pleased to participate” in President Biden’s new interagency initiative to address inequity in home appraisals. The announcement offers numerous tools, among other resources, such as a joint housing website for those needing help paying their mortgage or rent, particularly in light of the CDC’s moratorium expiring on July 31, and a link to HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity office for victims of appraisal bias.
On June 30, President Biden signed S.J. Res. 15, repealing the OCC’s “true lender” rule pursuant to the Congressional Review Act. Issued last year, the final rule amended 12 CFR Part 7 to state that a bank makes a loan when, as of the date of origination, it either (i) is named as the lender in the loan agreement, or (ii) funds the loan. The final rule also provided that if “one bank is named as the lender in the loan agreement and another bank funds the loan, the bank that is named as the lender in the loan agreement makes the loan.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
On June 30, the Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council (FFIEC) published the “Architecture, Infrastructure, and Operations” booklet of the FFIEC Information Technology Examination Handbook, which provides guidance to examiners on assessing the risk profile and adequacy of an entity’s information technology architecture, infrastructure, and operations (AIO). According to FDIC FIL-47-2021, the booklet, among other things: (i) describes the principles and practices that examiners should review in order to assess an entity’s AIO functions; (ii) focuses on “enterprise-wide, process-oriented approaches regarding the design of technology within the overall enterprise and business structure, implementation of information technology infrastructure components, and delivery of services and value for customers”; and (iii) mentions “assessing an entity’s governance of common AIO-related risks, enterprise-wide IT architectural planning and design, implementation of virtual and physical infrastructure, and on assessing an entity’s related operational controls.” In addition, according to an OCC announcement, the booklet discusses how appropriate governance of the AIO functions and related activities can: (i) promote risk identification across banks, nonbank financial institutions, bank holding companies, and third-party providers; (ii) support implementation of effective risk management; (iii) assist management through the regular assessment of an entity’s strategies; and (iv) promote alignment and integration between the functions. The booklet replaces the Operations booklet issued in July 2004.
On June 24, the U.S. House passed S.J. Res. 15 by a vote of 218 - 208 to repeal the OCC’s “true lender” rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the U.S. Senate passed S.J. Res. 15 last month by vote of 52-47 to invoke the Congressional Review Act and provide for congressional disapproval and invalidation of the final rule. The measure now heads to President Biden who is expected to sign it. Issued last year, the final rule amended 12 CFR Part 7 to state that a bank makes a loan when, as of the date of origination, it either (i) is named as the lender in the loan agreement, or (ii) funds the loan. The final rule also clarified that if “one bank is named as the lender in the loan agreement and another bank funds the loan, the bank that is named as the lender in the loan agreement makes the loan.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu issued a statement after the vote saying the OCC respects Congress’ role in reviewing regulations under the Congressional Review Act. He reaffirmed the OCC’s position that predatory lending has no place in the federal banking system and noted that moving forward the OCC “will consider policy options, consistent with the Congressional Review Act, that protect consumers while expanding financial inclusion.”
On June 16, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered an order staying litigation in a lawsuit filed by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) challenging the OCC’s authority to issue Special Purpose National Bank Charters (SPNB). (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Earlier this year, the OCC responded to CSBS’s opposition to the agency’s alleged impending approval of an SPNB for a financial services provider (proposed bank), in which CSBS argued that the OCC was exceeding its chartering authority (covered by InfoBytes here). The OCC countered that the same fatal flaws that pervaded CSBS’s prior challenges, i.e., that its challenge is unripe and CSBS lacks standing, still remain (covered by InfoBytes here). Moreover, the agency argued, among other things, that the cited application (purportedly curing CSBS’s prior ripeness issues) is not for an SPNB (the proposed bank that has applied for the charter would conduct a full range of services, including deposit taking), but that even it if was an application for an SPNB charter, there are multiple additional steps that need to occur prior to the OCC issuing the charter, which made the challenge unripe.
According to CSBS’s unopposed motion to stay litigation, a “90-day stay would conserve the [p]arties’ and the [c]ourt’s resources by avoiding potentially unnecessary briefing and oral argument.” Further, in referring to acting Comptroller Michael Hsu’s testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives—in which he stated that “the OCC is currently reviewing various regulatory standards and pending actions, including the OCC’s framework for chartering national banks”—CSBS noted that the OCC has represented that it anticipates this review period will take approximately 90 days and that it does not intend to take any action towards granting a charter to the proposed bank during this period. Following the conclusion of the 90-day stay, the parties agreed to confer and submit to the court a joint status report on or before September 27 “addressing the status of the OCC’s plans with respect to processing applications for uninsured national bank charters, including the [proposed bank’s] charter application, and the [p]arties’ proposed schedule for proceeding with or resolving the present case.”
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to provide “Fair lending update” at the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association Operational and Compliance Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Justice for all: Achieving racial equity through fair lending” at CBA Live
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss “On the horizon for CRA modernization” at CBA Live
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “State law regulatory and enforcement trends” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Government investigations, and compliance 2021 trends” at the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference
- Max Bonici to discuss “BSA/AML trends: What to expect with the implementation of the AML Act of 2020” at the American Bar Association Banking Law Fall Meeting
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss “Modifications and exiting forbearance” at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute