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  • Agencies release annual CRA asset-size threshold adjustments

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On December 17, the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC announced the joint annual adjustments to CRA asset-size thresholds used to define small and intermediate small banks, which are subject to streamlined CRA evaluations and not subject to the reporting requirements applicable to large banks unless they choose to be evaluated as one. A “small” bank is defined as an institution that, as of December 31 of either of the prior two calendar years, had less than $1.322 billion in assets. An “intermediate small” bank is defined as an institution that, as of December 31 of both of the prior two calendar years, had at least $330 million in assets, and as of December 31 of either of the past two calendar years, had less than $1.322 billion in assets. This joint final rule became effective on January 1.

    The OCC did not join in this announcement. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, on May 20, the OCC announced the final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the CRA. Its new CRA rule defines a small bank as an institution with $600 million or less in assets in four of the last five calendar quarters and an intermediate small bank as having $2.5 billion or less in assets in four of the last five calendar quarters.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CRA FDIC Federal Reserve Supervision

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  • OCC proposes CRA performance standards

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 24, the OCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking (and accompanying Bulletin 2020-103) covering evaluation measure benchmarks, retail lending distribution test thresholds, and community development (CD) minimums under the new general performance standards outlined in the Community Reinvestment Act’s (CRA) final rule issued earlier this year. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, on May 20, the OCC announced the final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the CRA. The final rule was technically effective on October 1, but provides for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model. Large banks and wholesale and limited purpose banks will have until January 1, 2023 to comply, and small and intermediate banks that opt-in to the final rule’s performance standards will have until January 1, 2024. In the preamble to the final rule, the OCC noted a future proposal would provide details of the calibration process of the requirements for each of the three components (the CRA evaluation measure benchmarks, retail lending distribution test thresholds, and CD minimums) of the objective performance standards. Highlights of the proposal include:

    • Requirements for each of the three components such that the proportion of banks that would have received presumptive ratings of outstanding and satisfactory would be no greater than the historical proportion of banks that received the same ratings under the previous CRA regulations.
    • The OCC would issue an information survey to institutions subject to the general performance standards to obtain bank-specific information and would use this information to calculate CRA evaluation measures and CD minimum calculations for each bank’s assessment areas, as well as a bank-level CRA evaluation measure and CD minimum calculation for each bank.
    • For each major retail lending product line, the OCC proposes to calculate the numerator used in determining each bank’s retail lending distribution test ratios for each bank’s assessment areas. Each bank’s numerators under the borrower and geographic distribution tests would be divided by the applicable demographic and peer comparators to calculate each bank’s retail lending distribution test ratios for each bank’s assessment areas.
    • The retail lending distribution tests would yield up to 18 different threshold values. The CRA evaluation measure would involve six different benchmark values (one at the bank level and one at the assessment area level for needs to improve, satisfactory, and outstanding presumptive ratings, respectively), while the CD minimum would involve two values, one at the bank level and one at the assessment area level.
    • The OCC would consider a decline of 10 percent or greater in a bank’s performance on the general performance standards that could not be explained by market conditions or other performance context factors, as “precipitous,” which may warrant a downward adjustment in the OCC’s determination of the bank’s assigned rating.

    Once the proposal is finalized, the OCC stated that it will take the necessary steps to publicize the specific benchmarks, thresholds, and minimums, and will periodically review and adjust these benchmarks, thresholds, and minimums, as necessary.

    Comments on the proposal are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC CRA

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  • OCC addresses CRA provisions and FAQs

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 9, the OCC released Bulletin 2020-99, which discusses key provisions of the June 2020 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Rule and includes FAQs. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, on May 20, the OCC announced the final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the CRA. The final rule was technically effective on October 1, but the final rule provides for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model. Large banks and wholesale and limited purpose banks will have until January 1, 2023 to comply, and small and intermediate banks that opt-in to the final rule’s performance standards will have until January 1, 2024. The Bulletin details the key provisions of the final rule, including the (i) new criteria for designating bank assessment areas, and (ii) varying performance standards by bank type. The Bulletin’s FAQs cover a range of topics including (i) the transition period; (ii) qualifying activities; (iii) activities outside bank assessment areas; (iv) examination administration; and (v) data collection and reporting.

    The Bulletin notes that the OCC is conducting outreach to provide banks with more information regarding how the agency will administer the transition to the final rule. Additionally, the Bulletin notes the OCC will issue guidance addressing how the July 2016 Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment will apply to activities conducted under the final rule.

    Lastly, the Bulletin rescinds OCC Bulletin 2020-3, “Community Reinvestment Act: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” and OCC Bulletin 2020-4, “Community Reinvestment Act: Request for Public Input.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC CRA Bank Compliance

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  • OCC issues CRA compliance resources

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 1, the OCC released three items in support of the implementation of the new Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) final rule. The three newly released items include: (i) a compliance guide for small banks; (ii) an initial illustrative list of qualifying activities; and (iii) a form to request consideration of items to be added to the list of qualifying activities. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the OCC’s rule, while technically effective October 1, provides for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model. Large banks and wholesale and limited purpose banks will have until January 1, 2023 to comply, and small and intermediate banks that opt-in to the final rule’s performance standards will have until January 1, 2024.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC CRA Compliance

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  • Fed issues ANPR on CRA modernization

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 21, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) inviting public comment on its approach for modernizing the regulations that implement the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The Fed’s ANPR follows a final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the CRA issued by the OCC in May (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), which was met by opposition from community coalitions and House Democrats (covered by InfoBytes here and here). Neither the FDIC nor the Fed joined in promulgating the OCC’s final rule, which is technically effective October 1, 2020, but provides for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model.

    According to the Fed, the ANPR’s objectives are to increase the clarity, consistency and transparency of CRA supervisory expectations and standards, while minimizing data collection burdens. The following are key takeaways from the ANPR:

    • Promoting financial inclusion. The ANPR seeks feedback on ways to strengthen regulations and evaluate how banks meet the needs of low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities and address inequities in credit access. The ANPR proposes, among other things, (i) ways to encourage more activities that support minority depository institutions (MDIs), Community Development Financial Institutions, as well as women-owned financial institutions and low-income credit unions outside of a bank’s assessment area; (ii) seeks feedback on additional incentives for investing in and partnering with MDIs; and (iii) requests input on expanding geographic areas for community development activities to allow banks to receive special CRA credit for activities in areas with high unmet needs.
    • Metrics. The ANPR introduces a metrics-based approach to bring greater clarity, consistency, and transparency to how banks are assessed and rated. The ANPR proposes assessing banks’ CRA performance using a Retail Test and a Community Development Test with options to be evaluated under certain subsets based on their size. According to the Fed’s fact sheet, the metrics would be “tailored to local market conditions and adjust[ed] automatically to reflect structural economic differences and changes over the business cycle.” Additionally, the proposed retail lending metrics formulas use the number of a bank’s loans, rather than the dollar amount of those loans, to avoid weighting larger loans more heavily than smaller ones.
    • Internet banks. The ANPR contemplates defining an internet bank for CRA purposes and allowing such internet banks to delineate nationwide assessment areas to “more holistically capture their banking activities.”
    • CRA deserts. The ANPR considers designating “CRA deserts”—“areas with little bank presence and corresponding lesser availability of banking products and services and community development activities”—and allowing banks to receive credit for community development activities in designated areas of need outside of their assessment areas. The ANPR also suggests providing additional consideration if a bank operates a branch in a designated banking desert within an assessment area.
    • CRA-approved activities. The ANPR proposes publishing an illustrative, non-exhaustive list of community development activities that qualify for CRA consideration and seeks feedback on an activity pre-approval process.
    • Small banks. The ANPR proposes eliminating the current intermediate small bank category and establishing an asset-size threshold of $750 million or $1 billion to distinguish between small and large retail banks. Currently, the asset threshold between small and intermediate small banks is $326 million, and the threshold between intermediate small and large banks is $1.305 billion. Small retail banks could continue to be evaluated under the current CRA framework but would have the option to be evaluated under certain of the new subtests. Small banks are also exempt from additional deposit and certain other data collection requirements.
    • Consistent approach. Fed Chair Jerome Powell released a statement stressing that the ANPR “is an important step forward in laying a foundation for the [Fed, OCC, and FDIC] to build a shared, modernized CRA framework that has broad support.”

    Comments on the ANPR are due 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve CRA OCC

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  • CSBS: OCC’s proposed “non-branch” provisions undermine dual banking system

    Federal Issues

    On August 3, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) issued its comment letter to the OCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) on national bank and savings association activities concerning “non-branch” offices. Specifically, CSBS wrote that the “non-branch” provisions in the NPR make “far-reaching” revisions without legal authority, undermine the dual banking system, conflict with National Bank Act (NBA) preemption limits, and would allow national banks to operate branches without complying with related Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) obligations. Additionally, CSBS contended that the OCC’s rulemaking process is “truncated and flawed,” and afforded a particularly brief period for public comments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    According to CSBS, the NPR, announced in June (covered by InfoBytes here), would “expand the scope of activities that may occur at non-branch offices purportedly without regard” to state restrictions.  These activities include: (i) performing loan approval and origination functions at a single, publicly accessible office; (ii) disbursing loan proceeds through an operating subsidiary; and (iii) establishing drop boxes and other unstaffed facilities. CSBS also contended that the NPR’s non-branch provisions would undermine Congressional intent and give national banks competitive advantages over state-charted banks. CSBS further argued that the non-branch provisions conflict with Congress’ clear intention that “NBA preemption does not apply to agents, affiliates or subsidiaries of national banks.” Finally, CSBS highlighted a distinction between the proposed non-branches (but de facto branches) and actual branch offices, arguing that the NPR creates a legal loophole allowing non-branch national banks to avoid CRA obligations associated with licensed branches.

    Federal Issues OCC CSBS Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Fintech National Bank Act CRA

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  • House approves resolution to reverse OCC’s CRA rule

    Federal Issues

    On June 29, the U.S. House of Representatives approved resolution H.J. 90, along party lines, which would reverse the OCC’s final rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). As previously covered by InfoBytes, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, Gregory Meeks (D-NY) introduced the resolution, with Waters criticizing the OCC’s decision to move forward with the rule “despite the Federal Reserve and the FDIC—the other regulatory agencies responsible for enforcing CRA—declining to join in the rulemaking.” While the resolution is unlikely to pass the Senate, the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy, which opposes the resolution and states that the President’s advisors will recommend he veto the action.

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee CRA Congressional Review Act OCC Agency Rule-Making & Guidance U.S. House White House

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  • NYDFS discusses state CRA exams and Covid-19 considerations

    State Issues

    On June 30, NYDFS issued two industry letters aimed at reminding New York regulated banking institutions of their responsibilities under New York State’s Community Reinvestment Act (NYCRA) with respect to minority-and women-owned businesses, as well as opportunities to receive NYCRA credit for Covid-19 pandemic activities.

    The first industry letter discusses the state’s recent amendments to the NYCRA, which were effective January 11, 2020, and require NYDFS to consider “several aspects of banking institutions’ activities with respect to minority- and women-owned businesses.” These include, among other things, (i) “‘the banking institution’s participation, including investments, … in technical assistance programs for small businesses and minority- and women-owned businesses’”; and (ii) “‘banking institution’s origination of … minority-_and women-owned business loans within its community or the purchase of such loans originated in its community.’” NYDFS notes that later this year, it will begin to request information regarding programs related to minority- and women-owned businesses in order to begin evaluating banks under the new amendments. NYDFS also provided a spreadsheet with sample requests for guidance.

    The second industry letter describes the circumstances in which regulated institutions may receive NYCRA credit for activities taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which the announcement notes is consistent with the guidance federal regulators have issued on the same topic (covered by InfoBytes here and here).

    State Issues State Regulators New York NYDFS CRA State Legislation Covid-19

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  • Community coalitions file complaint to block OCC CRA final rule

    Federal Issues

    On June 25, two community coalitions filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California asking the court to block the OCC’s final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The complaint claims that the OCC failed to provide for meaningful public input on key revisions to the agency’s final rule, and argues that the May 20 rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) failed to consider the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and is in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. Notably, neither the FDIC nor the Federal Reserve Board joined in promulgating the final rule, the complaint notes. Among other things, the complaint argues that the final rule “guts the [CRA] and eviscerates the backing it provides to the [low- and moderate-income (LMI)] communities and communities of color that have long suffered from discrimination by financial institutions,” and will dilute benefits for these communities. The complaint also alleges that the final rule “will allow banks to claim credit for massive projects that they undoubtedly would have financed anyway; whose benefit to LMI people is questionable and speculative; and that are so costly that they will allow banks to fill up their CRA credits without making real investments in LMI communities as the CRA intended.” Additional arguments include that the final rule limits the coalitions’ ability to advocate for greater access to credit for LMI communities, issue evidence-based reports on banks’ CRA activity, and negotiate CRA funding increases with banks for specific communities. The complaint further alleges that the final rule includes definitions of “CRA deserts”—areas where banking services are not available—that were not part of the proposal, and fails to provide supporting data for many of the provisions. The coalitions seek injunctive and declaratory relief that would block the final rule from taking effect.

    Federal Issues Courts OCC CRA Administrative Procedures Act Covid-19 FDIC Federal Reserve

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  • Waters and Meeks introduce Congressional Review Act resolution to reverse OCC’s CRA rule

    Federal Issues

    On June 11, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, Gregory Meeks (D-NY), introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution to reverse the OCC’s final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The OCC’s final rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), while technically effective October 1, provides for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model. However, Waters criticized the OCC’s decision to move forward with the rule “despite the Federal Reserve and the FDIC—the other regulatory agencies responsible for enforcing CRA—declining to join in the rulemaking.” Waters argued that the final rule “will result in disinvestment in many low- and moderate-income communities,” with Meeks stating that the OCC’s decision to “put forward a rushed, incomplete rule. . .will harm the very communities the CRA is meant to support.”

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee CRA Congressional Review Act OCC Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

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