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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Fed’s Bowman speaks on current trends in banking regulation

    On February 27, Michelle Bowman, a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, gave a speech reflecting on the state of the broader U.S. economy and banking regulation in Tampa, Florida. Bowman highlighted the need for the Fed to focus on “efficiency in how we deliver on our safety and soundness goals.” On capital reform, Bowman noted that since the closure of the comment period for the Basel III “Endgame” reforms, the federal banking agencies have been reviewing the feedback and identifying areas of concern: she hopes that the agencies will take this opportunity to revise the proposal in a way that addresses the concerns raised by the public. After voicing her non-support for the recently adopted Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) final rule, Bowman shared that while the new rule provided some positive changes, the changes are still “unnecessarily complex, overly prescriptive,” and have greater costs than benefits.  Bowman highlighted that the final rule treats a wide range of community banks with more than $2 billion in assets as “large banks, and would have resulted in a “nearly tenfold increase in banks with a ‘Need to Improve’ CRA rating” if applied to the period from 2018 to 2020. On Regulation II and debit card interchange fees, Bowman noted that the comment period has been extended until May 12, adding that the proposed permanent decrease in debit card interchange fees will have “consequences for banks of all sizes.” Bowman ended with discussion on bank mergers, climate change, and liquidity.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Reserve Federal Issues CRA Discount Window Basel

  • Trade associations sue OCC, FDIC, and Federal Reserve on their Proposed Rules for the CRA

    Courts

    On February 5, a group of trade, banking, and business associations filed a class-action complaint for injunctive relief against the OCC, Federal Reserve, and FDIC (the Agencies) for their enforcement of the new rulemaking (the Rule) implementing the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (CRA). The plaintiffs argued that the Rule creates a “wholesale and unlawful change” to a successful fifty-year-old statute. After listing several problems, the plaintiffs requested the Court to “enjoin, hold unlawful, vacate, and set aside” the Rule; additionally, plaintiffs requested the Court declare that the Rule violates the CRA and the Administrative Procedures Act. 

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Rule was approved by the Agencies on October 24, 2023, published in the Federal Register on February 1, 2024, and would take effect on April 1, 2024. The plaintiffs state that the new regulatory rules are “extraordinarily and unnecessarily complex” since they require a “staggering” 649 pages. (An FDIC Vice Chairman was quoted as labeling the rules as “by far the longest rulemaking the FDIC has ever issued.”) In detail, the plaintiffs support their claims by pointing out the Rule creates different performance tests that differ “radically” from the previous regulatory framework, e.g., the Retail Lending Test is a two-part test, and that each of these tests includes “multiple sub-parts and sub-parts of sub-parts” that create complexity in the Rule. Banks will be given two years (until January 1, 2026) to comply with the Rule. Plaintiffs argue that banks must act immediately, citing the OCC’s own words that the estimated compliance costs are over $90 million during the first year. 

    The plaintiffs argue the Rule violates the APA by exceeding the Agencies’ statutory authority by “assessing banks on their responsiveness to credit needs outside of their geographic deposit-taking footprint” (Count I), and by issuing a rule that is arbitrary and capricious by failing to give reasonable notice of the areas and products that will be assessed and the market benchmarks against which performance will be evaluated; failing to conduct an adequate cost benefit analysis; and failing to consider the implications of the Rule (Count II). 

    Courts OCC FDIC Federal Reserve CRA Administrative Procedure Act

  • 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

  • Illinois proposes rule to evaluate mortgage community reinvestment

    State Issues

    Recently, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued a proposed rule pursuant to the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act (ILCRA). The ILCRA is modeled off the Community Reinvestment Act but expands its scope of covered financial institutions to include credit unions and licensed entities. The proposed rule will help the Department administer and enforce the ILCRA in an equitable manner. The rule establishes a framework and criteria by which the Department will evaluate a covered mortgage licensee’s record of helping to meet the mortgage credit needs of Illinois, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and individuals, through different tests and performance standards depending on the number of loans made by a covered mortgage licensee. Tests and considerations for evaluating licensees’ record include a lending test, service test, performance record, data collection and reporting, and content and recordkeeping of information received from the public.

    To mitigate the impact on small businesses, a licensee that has made less than 200 home mortgage loans in Illinois in the last calendar year will not be subject to the service test. Furthermore, licensees that made less than 100 home mortgage loans in Illinois in the previous calendar year will have less frequent examinations than those with more than 100. Based on the licensee’s performance under the lending and service tests, the proposed rule specifies that a licensee’s rating of “outstanding”; “satisfactory”; “needs to improve”; or “substantial noncompliance” will affect how frequent they are evaluated. Compliance with the proposed rule is required six months from its effective date, and comments are due by February 26. 

    State Issues Illinois Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Mortgage Origination CRA Consumer Finance

  • Fed’s Barr speaks at fireside chat, underscores the importance of public comment

    On January 9, Fed Vice Chair of Supervision Michael S. Barr delivered remarks at an event held by Women in Housing and Finance, during which he discussed consumer credit, bank supervision, DEI issues, capital issues, bank regulation and more. Barr began by addressing current risks that the Fed is focused on mitigating, which included efforts surrounding the Community Reinvestment Act final rule and the Basel III Endgame proposal. The Fed, he said, has been receiving many comments on the proposal, which will help ensure the “balance” is right on the final capital rule. There is one more week before the comment period closes, he added.

    Barr also discussed the second quantitative impact study the Fed is conducting to ensure accuracy and help shape the final version of the Basel III proposal. He noted that the Fed conducted the first study a “few years ago” to inform the first proposal. He mentioned that the Fed is collecting information and will be publishing their aggregated analysis for public comment.  Barr also discussed comments considering whether the Fed should adjust for historical losses based on particular firms, or if there should be standardized accountability for all risk.

    In response to questions from the moderator, Barr opined that the capital rules in the Basel III proposal would have a modest impact on the affordability and accessibility of mortgage credit and consumer credit. He conceded that the proposal’s impact would create higher costs, but that the impacts on consumers would be “very very small.” Barr also invited commenters to inform the Fed about the impacts. On international competition, Barr also noted that the higher capital standards would not detrimentally impact the U.S. banking system.

    When asked about the Fed’s Bank Term Funding Program, made available by the Fed, FDIC, and Treasury last spring, Barr said banks and credit unions are still leveraging the program today. He explained that the “program was really designed in that emergency situation … to make sure that banks[,] and creditors of banks[,] and depositors [in] banks understand that banks have the liquidity they need.”

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Federal Reserve CRA Basel Capital Requirements Bank Supervision

  • OCC announces CRA bank asset-size threshold adjustments for 2024

    On December 26, 2023, the OCC announced revisions to the asset-size thresholds used to define small and intermediate small banks and savings associations under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Effective January 1, 2024, a small bank or savings association will mean an institution that, as of December 31 of either of the past two years, had assets of less than $1.564 billion. An intermediate small bank or savings association will mean an institution with assets of at least $391 million as of December 31 of both of the prior two years, and less than $1.564 billion as of December 31 of either of the prior two years. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Fed and the FDIC also announced joint annual adjustments to the CRA asset-size thresholds used to define “small bank” and “intermediate small bank.”

    Bank Regulatory OCC Federal Reserve FDIC Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CRA Bank Supervision

  • Banking regulators update “small bank” definitions

    On December 20, the Fed and the FDIC announced changes to the 2024 asset-size thresholds used to define “intermediate small bank” and “small bank” under the CRA. To qualify as an “intermediate small bank,” a bank must have assets of at least $391 million as of December 31 in both prior two calendar years, and less than $1.564 billion as of December 31 in either of the prior two calendar years. To qualify as a “small bank,” a bank must have had assets of less than $1.564 billion as of December 31 in either of the prior two calendar years. These increases are based on a 4.06% increase in the applicable consumer price index and the thresholds will take effect beginning January 1, 2024.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues CRA FDIC Federal Reserve

  • FFIEC agencies release 2022 CRA data

    Federal Issues

    On December 20, FFIEC members released the 2022 CRA data on small business, small farm, and community development lending. (See fact sheet here and data table here.) The 711 lenders that provided the data reported they originated or purchased 8.9 million small-business loans totaling $284.6 billion. The total number of loans originated or purchased by reporting lenders decreased by 5.8 percent and the dollar amount of these small business loans originated decreased by 24.8 percent from 2021. Concerning community development lending activity, the agencies reported that based on data compiled from 633 banks, lending activity decreased by 1% from 2021 in terms of total dollar amount.

    Federal Issues OCC FFIEC CRA Federal Reserve

  • Regulators address concerns at Senate Banking Committee hearing, receive written concerns regarding Basel III

    Federal Issues

    On November 14, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing where regulators, Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr, FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg, NCUA Chair Todd Harper, and acting Comptroller of Currency Michael Hsu, testified regarding the Basel III Endgame proposal. Gruenberg’s prepared remarks noted that Basel III reforms are a “continuation of the federal banking agencies’ efforts to revise the regulatory capital framework for our nation’s largest financial institutions, which were found to be undercapitalized and over-leveraged during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.” The proposal would raise capital requirements for large banks (covered by InfoBytes here).

    Concerning Basel III, Senator Tester (D-MO) mentioned he has “some concerns about the proposed changes and how its impact will be on workers’ and households’ and small businesses’ access to credit and overall vibrancy of our capital markets.” “These rules don’t affect any banks in Montana, but they do affect the big guys that affect Montana,” he noted.

    Among other testimonies, Senator Warner (D-VA) expressed concerns regarding the timeline of the comment period and potential changes to the proposal. Specifically, Sen. Warner mentioned that comments may not be received until after the rule is close to finalization. Fed Vice Chair Barr noted that the regulators have yet to evaluate comments on the proposal, as most are expected to come through mid-January, and that depending on the substance of some comments, they are open to making appropriate changes to the proposal. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Hsu’s written testimony echoed Barr’s remarks, stating “[w]e will consider all comments, including alternative approaches.”

    Moreover, on November 12, a group of Republican lawmakers of the committee also sent a letter to the OCC, FDIC, and the Fed. In the letter, the senators argued that the proposal would restrict billions of dollars in capital, resulting in costlier and more limited access to credit for millions of consumers, impacting affordable housing, mortgage lending, small business lending, and consumer access to credit cards and home equity lines. The proposal was also criticized for its potential to disadvantage U.S. companies globally and harm middle-market private entities and small businesses. Moreover, the letter suggested that the proposal could negatively impact pension funds, increase fees for risk hedging, and decrease returns for retirees.

    Also on November 12, several banking industry groups sent a letter to the Fed, FDIC, and the OCC requesting them to issue a revised proposal. The letter alleges violations of the Administrative Procedures Act because the data used to inform the interagency proposal is not publicly available. The groups also argued that the proposed rule repeatedly utilizes non-public analyses based on the agencies’ “supervisory experience” to support different aspects of the rule. Regarding sensitive data, the groups say, “Nothing prevents the agencies from releasing such data and analyses in a manner that is anonymized or aggregated to the extent necessary to protect bank or other party confidentiality.” The senators also believe the proposal would impose “significant harm” throughout the economy “particularly in the face of current economic headwinds and tightening credit conditions.”

    Federal Issues OCC FDIC Federal Reserve Bank Supervision Capital Requirements Consumer Finance CRA Administrative Procedures Act

  • Fed Governor Michelle Bowman gives speech discussing banking regulatory reforms and concerns

    On November 9, Federal Reserve Governor Michelle W. Bowman delivered a speech on the economy and prioritization of bank supervision and regulation. Governor Bowman highlighted recent developments in banking regulatory framework reform. Governor Bowman began by highlighting the proposed reforms to capital requirements for banks with more than $100 billion in assets. She mentioned the central concern raised is the potential inadequacy of the quantitative and analytical foundations of these reforms. Governor Bowman questioned whether Basel III reforms effectively address regulatory deficiencies and emphasized the need for a thorough understanding of both the benefits and costs of implementing such changes. Governor Bowman discussed the actions taken by the agencies, including an extended comment period and efforts to gather more information on the proposal's potential impact. Several areas are identified as necessary to address, such as redundancy in the capital framework, calibration of the Market Risk Capital Rule, the inefficiency of two standardized capital stacks, and the punitive treatment of fee income. Governor Bowman also highlighted the missed opportunity to review leverage ratio requirements, which could have implications for market functioning in times of stress.

    Shifting the focus to the CRA, Governor Bowman acknowledged the importance of improving access to credit, especially in low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities. However, the Governor mentioned concerns raised about the new final rule implementing the CRA. She explained some criticism for it being unnecessarily complex, overly prescriptive, and disproportionately burdensome for banks, especially community banks. It applies the same regulatory expectations to small and large banks, failing to recognize the differences among banks in terms of size, risk, and business models, she added. Governor Bowman’s remarks underscore the need for a balanced, data-driven, and risk-focused approach to regulatory reforms. 

    Bank Regulatory CRA Basel Bank Supervision

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