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On June 25, the OCC, together with the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, released the 2018 list of distressed or underserved communities where revitalization or stabilization efforts by financial institutions are eligible for Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) consideration. According to the joint release from the agencies, the list of distressed nonmetropolitan middle-income geographies and underserved nonmetropolitan middle-income geographies are designated by the agencies pursuant to their CRA regulations and reflect local economic conditions, including changes in unemployment, poverty, and population. For any geographies that were designated by the agencies in 2017 but not in 2018, the agencies apply a one-year lag period, so such geographies remain eligible for CRA consideration for another 12 months.
On June 13 and 14, Comptroller of Currency Joseph Otting appeared before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to discuss his priorities as Comptroller. As highlighted in the identical press releases for both House and Senate hearings, Otting testified about the OCC’s achievements and efforts since being sworn in as Comptroller in November 2017. Among other things, Otting discussed the agency’s efforts to (i) modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA); (ii) promote compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering regulations (BSA/AML); and (iii) simplify the Volcker Rule, particularly for small and mid-size banks. Otting emphasized in his written testimony that his priority is to reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions, specifying that the CRA requirements have become "too complex, outdated, cumbersome, and subjective." To that end, Otting stated that the OCC, in coordination with other federal agencies, is preparing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to gather information on potential CRA updates, which, in Otting’s view, should include (i) expanding the types of activities that are eligible for CRA credit; (ii) changing assessment areas so they are not based solely on where the bank has a physical presence; and (iii) providing clearer metrics. As for BSA/AML, Otting noted this was his “number two issue” behind reforming the CRA and the working group—the OCC, FinCEN, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and NCUA— will likely address key issues like de-risking and improvement of transparency over the next three to six months. Otting noted his pleasure with the Volcker Rule changes in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155/ P.L. 115-174) but cautioned that fine-tuning may be necessary as the OCC proceeds with implementation.
On June 15, the OCC issued Bulletin 2018-17, which clarifies the agency’s supervisory policies and processes regarding how examiners evaluate and communicate the performance of national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The OCC issued these clarifications as part of its ongoing modernization efforts and explained that they are intended to promote the consistency and effectiveness of CRA performance evaluations. The Bulletin addresses policy clarifications for several areas of CRA evaluations, which are effective immediately, such as (i) implementation of full-scope and limited-scope reviews; (ii) consideration of activities that promote economic development; (iii) use of demographic, aggregate, and market share data; and (iv) evaluation frequency and timing. The Bulletin also provides clarifications on standard processes which became effective in May 2017, including, among other things, (i) factors considered when evaluating bank performance under small- and large-bank lending tests; and (ii) information considered and included in the written performance evaluation. The OCC noted that “[t]hese policies and processes apply to the evaluations of all OCC-supervised banks subject to the CRA, regardless of the bank’s asset size or CRA evaluation type.”
On May 18, Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard spoke before a community development conference in New York City to discuss the Community Reinvestment Act’s (CRA) role in supporting low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods and the importance of “refreshing” CRA regulations to accommodate for, among other things, technology-driven changes that have made banking accessible via online and mobile platforms. Brainard covered five principles for CRA modernization, including (i) updating CRA regulations to accommodate different business models that serve the needs of LMI communities while still sustaining branches; (ii) clarifying performance measures for productive CRA investment activities and finding ways to “reduce the distortions that lead to some areas becoming credit ‘hot spots’ and others credit deserts”; (iii) tailoring CRA regulations and evaluation methods to take into account banks of different sizes and business models; (iv) improving and promoting consistency and predictability across and within agencies; and (v) ensuring that the revised CRA regulations continue to “mutually reinforce[e] laws designed to promote an inclusive financial services industry” as well as “fair access to credit.”
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
On May 16, the Department of Veterans affairs released Circular 26-18-10, requesting relief for veterans impacted by Hawaii’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Among other things, the Circular (i) encourages loan holders to extend forbearance to borrowers in distress because of the storms; (ii) requests that loan holders establish a 90-day moratorium on initiating new foreclosures on loans affected by the major disaster; and (iii) waives late charges on affected loans. Previously on May 14, the VA released Circular 26-18-08 and Circular 26-18-09, which provide for similar relief in areas affected by severe storms and flooding in Hawaii and North Carolina.
On May 16, the FDIC issued FIL-28-2018 to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and facilitate recovery in areas of Indiana affected by severe storms and flooding from February 14 through March 4. The FDIC is encouraging institutions to consider, among other things, extending repayment terms and restructuring existing loans that may be affected by the natural disasters. Additionally, the FDIC notes that institutions may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) consideration for certain development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery. The FDIC also issued FIL-29-2018, which provides similar guidance for financial institutions for areas of North Carolina affected by tornadoes and severe storms on April 15.
Find more InfoBytes disaster relief coverage here.
FDIC issues regulatory relief guidance for financial institutions in areas of Alabama affected by severe storms
On May 4, the FDIC issued a Financial Institution Letter, FIL-24-2018, to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions and facilitate recovery in areas of Alabama affected by severe storms and tornados. The FDIC is encouraging institutions to consider, among other things, extending repayment terms and restructure existing loans that may be affected by the natural disasters. Additionally, the FDIC notes that institutions may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) consideration for certain development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery. The FDIC letter also contemplates regulatory relief for banks located in the affected areas.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on Disaster Relief here.
On April 17, Vice Chairman for Supervision of the Federal Reserve Board, Randal Quarles, testified at a hearing with the House Financial Services Committee entitled “Semi-Annual Testimony on the Federal Reserve’s Supervision and Regulation of the Financial System.” Quarles’ prepared testimony covered (i) the current condition of U.S. bank institutions; (ii) the Fed’s supervisory and regulatory agenda; and (iii) the Fed’s engagement with foreign regulators. During the hearing, Quarles emphasized transparency and simplicity, specifically highlighting the Fed’s recent proposed changes to the capital rules for large banks (previously covered by InfoBytes here). With regard to the global systemically important banks (GSIB) surcharge, Quarles responded to committee member concerns that the surcharge calculation may be seen as a penalty based on a growing economy and acknowledged that the Fed will look into the calculation with respect to those concerns. However, Quarles also emphasized that, “it is generally accepted that [the calculation] has resulted in improvement in the resolvability of the firms.” With regard to the Volker Rule, Quarles stated it is “unarguable” that the rule is detrimental to capital markets, and while the rule cannot be repealed by the Board because of statutory limitations, “there is a lot that [the Fed] can do to increase the certainty of application, to reduce the burden of application.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the House passed a bill granting the Federal Reserve exclusive authority to implement the Volker Rule (currently the Fed, the OCC, the FDIC, the SEC, and the CFTC share rulemaking authority under the Rule). Quarles also discussed the Treasury Department’s recommendations (previously covered by InfoBytes here) to regulators regarding suggestions to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), calling the CRA “a little formulaic and ossified,” commending Treasury’s efforts to review the CRA, and stating that regulators should “think about ways to apply [the CRA] more effectively.”
On April 3, the U.S. Treasury Department released recommendations to the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the OCC (CRA regulators) on suggestions for modernizing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). As previously covered in a Buckley Sandler Special Alert, Treasury released a report last June indicating that the CRA should be modernized to better target statutory and regulatory responses to financial risks faced by U.S. consumers and ensure that the benefits of the CRA investments are aligned with the needs of the communities being served. Last month the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report recommending Treasury consider GAO’s findings when conducting its review. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)
The April memorandum of recommendations addresses findings from Treasury’s comprehensive assessment of the CRA framework and focuses on four key areas: assessment areas, examination clarity and flexibility, the examination process, and bank performance. Specifically, the recommendations include (i) updating the definitions of “geographic assessment areas to reflect the changing nature of banking arising from changing technology, customer behavior, and other factors”; (ii) improving the flexibility of the CRA examination process to increase clarity in examiner guidance and improve evaluation criteria to increase CRA rating determination transparency and effectiveness; (iii) addressing the timing and issuance of performance evaluations to increase banks’ accountability when planning CRA activity; and (iv) identifying performance incentives to encourage banks to meet the credit and deposit needs of their entire communities, including low- and moderate-income areas. The memorandum solicited input from stakeholders such as consumer advocacy groups, financial industry members, and the CRA regulators.
On March 16, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report identifying incentives to encourage financial institutions to provide banking services and small-dollar consumer loans in lower- and middle-income (LMI) communities. The report—issued in response to concerns raised by a 2015 FDIC survey, which found that “unbanked” or “underbanked” households tended to be located in LMI communities—assessed services provided by financial institutions in these areas, reviewed how regulators performed Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) evaluations, and solicited input from stakeholders such as consumer advocacy groups and financial industry members.
Currently, CRA evaluation procedures do not consistently require an assessment of banks’ provision of retail banking services or small-dollar, non-mortgage consumer lending. Rather, banks are evaluated for these criteria typically only “if consumer lending is a substantial majority of the lending or a major product of the institution, which generally is not the case across all institution types.” According to GAO’s report, a June 2017 Treasury report (previously covered in a Buckley Sandler Special Alert), indicated that the CRA should be modernized to better target statutory and regulatory responses to financial risks faced by U.S. consumers. Treasury announced plans to review the CRA, but a timeline is yet to be released. Meanwhile, GAO recommended—and Treasury concurred—that Treasury should consider the findings in this report when conducting its review. GAO also proposed several incentives for financial institutions, including the following:
- modifying lending and service tests conducted as part of the CRA examination process to focus more on how institutions are offering basic banking services and small-dollar, non-mortgage loans;
- expanding the scope of areas and entities assessed as part of the CRA examinations to capture more types of institutions, including all bank affiliates and nonbanks; and
- providing clarifying guidance about the examination process.
On February 27, the OCC published a new edition of its Community Developments Investments newsletter entitled, “Expanding Housing Opportunities: Single-Family Rehabilitation Financing Programs.” The publication provides resources and programs for national banks and federal savings associations to utilize to assist in community revitalization efforts. Highlighted is program guidance set forth previously in OCC Bulletin 2017-28, “Mortgage Lending: Risk Management Guidance for Higher-Loan-to-Value Lending Programs in Communities Targeted for Revitalization,” which outlines criteria geared towards residential rehabilitation loan financing. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The publication also covers significant revitalization initiatives in communities across America, explains the ways in which loan programs sponsored by the Federal Housing Administration and Fannie Mae are supporting single-family rehabilitation financing initiatives, and notes that banks participating in such programs may qualify for Community Reinvestment Act consideration during evaluation.
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable