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The Federal Reserve Board recently updated sections of the Bank Holding Company Supervision Manual. (Changes to the manual were last made in November 2021.) The manual provides guidance for conducting inspections of bank holding companies and their nonbank subsidiaries, as well as savings and loan holding companies. “The supervisory objectives of the inspection program are to ascertain whether the financial strength of the bank holding company is being maintained on an ongoing basis and to determine the effects or consequences of transactions between a holding company or its nonbanking subsidiaries and its subsidiary banks,” the Fed explained. Included among the changes are updates to sections on the supervision of savings and loan holdings companies; supervision of holding companies with less than $10 billion in total consolidated assets; liquidity planning and positions applicable to large financial institutions; holding company ratings applicability and inspection frequency; supervision of subsidiaries related to nondeposit investment products; control and ownership of bank holding company formations; asset securitization risk management and internal controls; retail-credit classification; supervision of savings and loan holding companies; and Bank Holding Company Act exemptions. A new section—“Formal Corrective Actions”—revises previous guidance to include entities against which the Fed has statutory authority to take formal enforcement actions. The section also provides additional information on enforcement actions for Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering compliance failures, as well as details on interagency enforcement coordination. The section further clarifies that the Fed “does not issue an enforcement action on the basis of a ‘violation’ of or ‘non-compliance’ with supervisory guidance.” Minor technical changes were made throughout the manual as well. A detailed summary of changes is available here.
On September 29, the SEC announced a cease and desist order against a London-based bank holding company and its subsidiary (collectively, “respondents”) for engaging in unregistered offers and the sale of securities as a result of a failure to implement internal controls to track such transactions. According to the SEC’s order, after the SEC settled an action against an affiliate of the subsidiary, the subsidiary lost its status as a well-known seasoned issuer. As a result, it had to quantify the total number of securities that it anticipated offering and selling and pay registration fees for those offerings upon the filing of a new registration statement. The SEC further noted that, given this requirement, the subsidiary’s “personnel understood the consequences of this status change, including that they should consider implementing a mechanism to track offers and sales of securities off any shelf, relative to the registered amount of securities available to be offered or sold off that shelf, in order to ensure that no securities in excess of the amount registered were offered or sold.” However, according to the SEC, no internal controls were established. According to the SEC’s order, as a result of this failure, the subsidiary allegedly offered and sold approximately $17.7 billion of securities in unregistered transactions. The SEC noted that the subsidiary self-reported its over-issuances to regulators, voluntarily provided documents during the SEC investigation, and subsequently commenced a rescission offer. The SEC found that the subsidiary violated provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 and that both respondents violated provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, the respondents agreed to cease-and-desist from violating the charged provisions and to comply with certain undertakings designed to effect compliance with Section 5 of the Securities Act, in addition to paying the $200 million civil penalty. The subsidiary also agreed to pay disgorgement of $149 million and prejudgment interest of $11 million deemed satisfied by its offer of rescission.
On December 3, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) released its 2020 annual report. The report reviews financial market developments, identifies emerging risks, and offers recommendations to enhance financial stability. The report also highlights the impact of Covid-19 on the economy and the financial system. The report notes that although “policy actions to minimize the effects of the pandemic have been effective at improving market conditions, risks to U.S. financial stability remain elevated compared to last year” and that “the global outlook for economic recovery is uncertain, depending on the severity and the duration of the ongoing pandemic.” Highlights include:
- Nonbank mortgage origination and servicing. FSOC notes that disruptions in mortgage payments due to the pandemic have focused attention on the nonbank sector. In particular, FSOC states that due to a surge in refinancing due to low rates, nonbank servicers have an additional source of liquidity to help sustain operations. However, FSOC cautions that “an increase in forbearance and default rates . . . has the potential to impose significant strains on nonbank servicers.” FSOC recommends federal and state regulators coordinate and share data and information, identify and address potential risks, and strengthen oversight of nonbank companies originating and servicing residential mortgages.
- Alternative Reference Rates. FSOC recommends that the Alternative Reference Rates Committee continue to work to facilitate an orderly transition to alternative reference rates following the anticipated cessation of LIBOR at the end of 2021, and encourages federal and state regulators to “determine whether further guidance or regulatory relief is required to encourage market participants to address legacy LIBOR portfolios.”
- Cybersecurity. FSOC “recommends that federal and state agencies continue to monitor cybersecurity risks and conduct cybersecurity examinations of financial institutions and financial infrastructures to ensure, among other things, robust and comprehensive cybersecurity monitoring, especially in light of new risks posed by the pandemic.” FSOC also supports “efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of cybersecurity examinations across the regulatory authorities.”
- Large bank holding companies. FSOC recommends that financial regulators “continue to monitor and assess the impact of rules on financial institutions and financial markets—including, for example, on market liquidity and capital—and ensure that [bank holding companies] are appropriately monitored based on their size, risk, concentration of activities, and offerings of new products and services.”
Additional topics also addressed include short-term wholesale funding markets, nonfinancial business borrowing, and commercial real estate asset valuations.
On April 1, the Federal Reserve (Fed) released an interim final rule, which provides a short-term change to the calculation of the supplementary leverage ratio for holding companies (banks). This change temporarily allows banks to exclude their Treasury securities and Federal Reserve Bank deposits from the computation of the banks’ total assets, thus reducing the amount of capital the banks must maintain. The Fed suggested that the move will reduce the banks’ tier 1 capital requirements by around two percent, allowing them to take on more debt, resulting in an increase in available credit to households and businesses. The Fed stressed that it made this change to allow the banks to increase the flow of credit, and not to increase the banks’ capital distributions. The temporary change is effective immediately and will automatically revert on March 31, 2021. Comments on the rule must be submitted within 45 days of the announcement.
On March 26, the Federal Reserve (Fed) announced that it will not take action against small financial institutions that miss the deadline for filing their March 31 “Consolidated Financial Statements for Bank Holding Companies (FR Y-9C) or Financial Statements of U.S. Nonbank Subsidiaries of U.S. Bank Holding Companies (FR Y-11).” Pursuant to the Fed’s guidance, small financial institutions with $5 billion or less in assets must file their financial statements within 30 days of the official deadline. The Fed also encouraged institutions to communicate with their Reserve Bank if they anticipate the need for additional time to file their statements. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the federal regulatory agencies issued a similar 30-day grace period for institutions that must submit call reports.
On January 13, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) issued SR 20-2, “Frequently Asked Questions on the Tailoring Rules” (FAQs) applicable to bank holding companies, savings and loan companies, U.S. intermediate holding companies with $100 billion or more in total assets, and certain depository institutions. In October, as previously covered by InfoBytes, the Fed and the OCC released a jointly developed framework that set out four categories to be used to classify these banking entities for the purposes of determining regulatory capital and liquidity requirements based on risk. The FAQs provide guidance on the tailoring rules, including answers to questions about Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) requirements, recognition of Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income, compliance requirements for foreign banking organizations with less than $100 billion in U.S. assets, and the interpretation of “quarterly” in relation to stress testing frequency.
On February 28, the Federal Reserve Board announced an enforcement action against a bank holding company for alleged internal control deficiencies, resulting in unsafe and unsound practices in violation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act that caused a financial loss to the company. The consent order acknowledges that the company has since addressed the deficiencies that contributed to the loss and implemented additional improvements in its internal controls and audit programs. The Federal Reserve Board assessed a civil money penalty of $1,012,500.
On August 28, the Federal Reserve Board issued an interim final rule to raise the asset threshold from $1 billion to $3 billion under the agency’s Small Bank Holding Company and Savings and Loan Holding Company Policy Statement. The interim final rule implements a provision in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (previously Senate bill S.2155), and applies to savings and loan holding companies with total consolidated assets of less than $3 billion. Under the interim final rule, small bank holding companies will be permitted to operate with higher levels of debt, making it easier to facilitate ownership transfers. However, the Fed noted that exempt holding companies’ depository institutions will still be required to meet minimum capital requirements. Comments are due by October 29.
On March 14, by a vote of 67-31, the Senate passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) (the bill)—a bipartisan regulatory reform bill crafted by Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho—that would repeal or modify provisions of Dodd-Frank and ease regulations on all but the biggest banks. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The bill’s highlights include:
- Improving consumer access to mortgage credit. The bill’s provisions state, among other things, that: (i) banks with less than $10 billion in assets are exempt from ability-to-repay requirements for certain qualified residential mortgage loans; (ii) appraisals will not be required for certain transactions valued at less than $400,000 in rural areas; (iii) banks and credit unions that originate fewer than 500 open-end and 500 closed-end mortgages are exempt from HMDA’s expanded data disclosures (the provision would not apply to nonbanks and would not exempt institutions from HMDA reporting altogether); (iv) amendments to the S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act will provide registered mortgage loan originators in good standing with 120 days of transitional authority to originate loans when moving from a federal depository institution to a non-depository institution or across state lines; and (v) the CFPB must clarify how TRID applies to mortgage assumption transactions and construction-to-permanent home loans, as well as outline certain liabilities related to model disclosure use.
- Regulatory relief for certain institutions. Among other things, the bill simplifies capital calculations and exempts community banks from Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act if they have less than $10 billion in total consolidated assets. The bill also states that banks with less than $10 billion in assets, and total trading assets and liabilities not exceeding more than five percent of their total assets, are exempt from Volcker Rule restrictions on trading with their own capital.
- Protections for consumers. Included in the bill are protections for veterans and active-duty military personnel such as: (i) permanently extending the protection that shields military personnel from foreclosure proceedings after they leave active military service from nine months to one year; and (ii) adding a requirement that credit reporting agencies provide free credit monitoring services and credit freezes to active-duty military personnel. The bill also addresses general consumer protection options such as expanded credit freezes and the creation of an identity theft protection database. Additionally, the bill instructs the CFPB to draft federal rules for the underwriting of Property Assessed Clean Energy loans (PACE loans), which would be subject to TILA consumer protections.
- Changes for bank holding companies. Among other things, the bill raises the threshold for automatic designation as a systemically important financial institution from $50 billion in assets to $250 billion. The bill also subjects banks with $100 billion to $250 billion in total consolidated assets to periodic stress tests and exempts from stress test requirements entirely banks with under $100 billion in assets. Additionally, certain banks would be allowed to exclude assets they hold in custody for others—provided the assets are held at a central bank—when computing the amount such banks must hold in reserves.
- Protections for student borrowers. The bill’s provisions include measures to prevent creditors from declaring an automatic default or accelerating the debt against a borrower on the sole basis of bankruptcy or cosigner death, and would require the removal of private student loans on credit reports after a default if the borrower completes a loan rehabilitation program and brings payments current.
The bill now advances to the House where both Democrats and Republicans think it is unlikely to pass in its current form.
On February 1, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) published stress testing scenarios to be used when conducting the 2018 Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) evaluations and stress test exercises for large bank holding companies and large U.S. operations of foreign firms. Instructions for participating banks also were released. According to the Fed, in an effort designed to “support the transition to stress testing,” foreign banks will only be required to participate in a “simplified global market shock” portion of the CCAR evaluation. As previously covered in InfoBytes, last December the Fed issued a request for comments on three proposals designed to increase stress testing transparency and resiliency of large, complex banks. This included a proposal to publicly release, for the first time, information concerning the models and methodologies used during supervisory stress tests, including those applied in the CCAR. According to the Fed’s press release, the qualitative and quantitative evaluations will be used to evaluate a bank’s ability to survive in times of economic stress and are broken into three scenarios with varying degrees of stress: baseline, adverse and severely adverse. The Fed reminded participating banks that capital plan and stress testing submissions are due by April 5.
The same day, the OCC issued its own stress testing scenarios for required OCC-supervised institutions with more than $10 billion in assets, and on February 2, the OCC released a notice and request for comments (notice) on revised templates to be used for stress test exercises performed by covered institutions with total consolidated assets of $50 billion or more. According to the notice, revisions would reduce the number of data items in the Supplemental Schedule by approximately half, and include (i) the elimination of two reporting schedules—the Regulatory Capital Transitions Schedule and the Retail Repurchase Exposures Schedule; (ii) the addition of new criteria for institutions subject to the global market shock evaluation; and (iii) clarification on how “Credit Loss Portion” and “Non-Credit Loss Portion” are reported in the summary schedule worksheets. Furthermore, under the revisions, savings associations would be eligible to use the simplified reporting requirements already available to other large, non-complex holding companies. The notice was published in the Federal Register on February 2 and comments are due by March 5.
Additionally, on February 6, the FDIC released economic scenarios developed in coordination with the Fed and the OCC for certain supervised financial institutions. According to the FDIC, the scenarios “include key variables that reflect economic activity, including unemployment, exchange rates, prices, income, interest rates, and other salient aspects of the economy and financial markets.”