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On January 9, the Federal Reserve Board announced that it entered into a cease and desist order on December 30 with a Texas state-chartered bank due to “significant deficiencies” in the bank’s Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money laundering (AML) compliance program that were discovered in its latest examination of the bank. The requirements set out for the bank in the order include:
- Board oversight. The bank must submit a board-approved, written plan to improve oversight of BSA/AML requirements.
- BSA/AML compliance program. The bank must submit a written BSA/AML compliance program that includes BSA/AML training; independent testing of the compliance program; management of the program by a qualified compliance officer with adequate staffing support; BSA/AML compliance internal controls; and a BSA/AML risk assessment of the bank, its products and services, and its customers.
- Customer due diligence. The bank must submit a revised customer due diligence program that includes policies and procedures to ensure accurate client account information; a plan to bring existing accounts into compliance with due diligence requirements; a method to assign risk ratings to account holders; policies and procedures to ensure proper customer information is obtained according to the risk of the account holder; and risk-based monitoring procedures and updates to accounts.
- Suspicious activity monitoring and reporting. The bank must submit a written suspicious activity monitoring and reporting program that includes a documented process for establishing monitoring rules; policies and procedures for review of monitoring rules; customer and transaction monitoring; and policies and procedures for the review of suspicious activity.
On December 9, the OCC released its Semiannual Risk Perspective for Fall 2019, identifying and reiterating key risk areas that pose a threat to the safety and soundness of national banks and federal savings associations, including credit, operational, and interest rate risks. While the OCC commented that “bank financial performance is sound,” it also advised that “[b]anks should prepare for a cyclical change while credit performance is strong,” emphasizing that “[c]redit risk has accumulated in many portfolios.” The OCC also highlighted that competition with nonbank mortgage and commercial lending could pose a risk as well.
Specific areas of concern that the OCC described include: elevation of operational risk as advances in technology and innovation in core banking systems result in a changing and increasingly complex operating environment; increased use of third-party service providers that contribute to continued threats of fraud; need for prudent credit risk management practices that include “identifying borrowers that are most vulnerable to reduced cash flows from slower than anticipated economic growth”; “volatility in market rates [leading] to increasing levels of interest rate risk”; LIBOR’s anticipated cessation and whether banks have started to determine the potential impact of cessation and develop risk management strategies; and strategic risks facing banks as non-depository financial institutions (NDFI) use evolving technology and expand data analysis abilities (the OCC commented that NDFIs “are strong competitors to bank lending models”). The OCC also noted that there is increased interest from banks in sharing utilities with NDFIs to implement Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering compliance programs and sanctions processes and controls.
On November 9, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) released the inaugural issue of a new publication, Supervision and Regulation Report (Report), which summarizes banking system conditions, Board supervisory and regulatory activities, trends dating back to the financial crisis, and differing approaches for large financial institutions and regional/community banking organizations. The Report discusses the safety and soundness of the banking industry, and states that the “strong economy” has had a positive effect on the return on equity and return on average assets for banks, with figures showing that industry profitability ratios in the second quarter of 2018 are at a 10-year high.
However, the Board also discusses several areas of concern including, among other things, that firms assigned “less-than-satisfactory-ratings generally exhibit weaknesses in one or more areas such as compliance, internal controls, model risk management, operational risk management, and/or data and information technology  infrastructure.” The Board also cites weaknesses in Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) programs. The Report outlines future supervisory priorities, which continue to address risk management controls and cyber-related risks, and also include (i) a focus on four specific components: capital; liquidity; governance and controls; and recovery and resolution planning for the largest firms; and (ii) a focus on credit risk, operational risk, sales practices and incentive compensation, and BSA/AML compliance for regional and community banks. In addition, the report discusses plans to minimize regulatory burdens, tailor bank examinations to risk, and optimize supervision resources.
Federal Reserve vice chairman discusses tailoring prudential standards to account for complexity and risk
On July 18, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal K. Quarles spoke before the American Bankers Association’s conference in Salt Lake City to discuss ways the Fed can tailor the supervision and regulation of prudential standards for financial institutions with assets between $100 billion to $250 billion. According to Quarles, U.S. regulators should consider scaling back resolution plan requirements and tailor regulation to risk. In discussing resolution plans, also known as living wills, Quarles noted, among other things, that the Fed “should consider limiting the scope of application of resolution planning requirements to only the largest, most complex, and most interconnected banking firms because their failure poses the greatest spillover risks to the broader economy.” Furthermore, banks that do not qualify as global systemically important banks (G-SIBs) should also be granted some measure of regulatory relief, Quarles stated. Existing G-SIB tests and surcharge indicators could be used for measuring cross-border activity, short-term wholesale funding, as well as nonbank activities while the Fed determines adjustments for less complex banks between the $100 billion and $250 billion range. “This review should ensure that our regulations continue to appropriately increase in stringency as the risk profiles of firms increase, consistent with our previously stated tailoring goals and the new legislation,” Quarles said. “The supervision and regulatory framework for these firms should reflect that there are material differences between those firms that qualify as U.S. G-SIBs and those that do not.” Moreover, according to Quarles, while the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act mandates an 18-month deadline for regulators to issue proposed changes, the Fed plans to “move much more rapidly than this.”
On July 11, the FDIC issued Financial Institution Letter FIL-38-2018 announcing the implementation of revisions to several interagency forms. The updates, based upon recommendations from representatives from the FDIC, Federal Reserve, and the OCC, reflect new laws, regulations, capital requirements, and accounting rules. The changes are intended to improve the clarity of the requests, delete unnecessary information requests, and add transparency for filers concerning information required to consider a proposal.
The following revised forms may be used going forward for all applicable applications filed with the FDIC and are effective immediately:
- Interagency Biographical and Financial Report
- Interagency Bank Merger Act Application
- Interagency Notice of Change in Control
- Interagency Notice of Change in Director or Senior Executive Officer
On July 5, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), the primary global standard setter for the prudential regulation of banks, released an updated version of its Global systemically important banks: revised assessment methodology and the higher loss absorbency requirement. The BCBS conducted a review of the original framework—first published in 2011 and updated in 2013—and noted that, based on its review, member jurisdictions’ experience, and feedback received during a public consultation last year, “the framework is meeting its primary objective by requiring [global systemically important banks (G-SIBs)] to hold higher capital buffers and providing incentives for such firms to reduce their systemic importance.” BCBS further stated that the core elements of the framework will be maintained to enhance the stability of the regulatory environment following the finalization of the Basel III post-crisis reforms.
Among other enhancements, the framework provides the following updates:
- amends the definition of cross-jurisdictional indicators consistent with the definition of Bank for International Settlements consolidated statistics;
- introduces a trading volume indicator and modifies the weights in the substitutability category;
- extends the scope of consolidation to insurance subsidiaries;
- revises disclosure requirements;
- provides further guidance on bucket migration and associated higher loss absorbency surcharge when a G-SIB moves to a lower bucket; and
- adopts a transitional schedule for the implementation of these enhancements.
The framework is expected to be implemented in member jurisdictions by 2021.
District Court rules South Dakota banking regulator exceeded authority in revoking payday lender’s license
On May 29, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota denied a motion to dismiss filed by the director of the South Dakota Division of Banking (defendant), ruling that the defendant exceeded his authority when he revoked a payday lender’s (plaintiff) operating license instead of initiating a cease and desist order, and that he failed to provide sufficient opportunities for the plaintiff to respond. According to the court, the defendant “had good cause to revoke [the plaintiff’s] money lending licenses,” having determined that late fees on the plaintiff’s loan product violated the 36 percent finance charge cap in the state’s 2017 payday lending law. But the court also held that the defendant committed a “procedural error” when he chose to “revoke the licenses rather than afford a hearing or [give the plaintiff] an opportunity to bring its practices into compliance. . . .”
The court further granted the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment “on the violation of procedural due process” for a period from September 13 through September 28, 2017—the date that the defendant issued a limited stay on the license revocation allowing the company to collect on loans issued before the South Dakota payday lending law went into effect. “In short, [the defendant’s] Order did not meaningfully advance the interests of the state (and indeed contravened state law), and the ‘substitute procedures’ sought by [the plaintiff] (and required under state law) would have accommodated the competing interests, provided due process, and not needlessly compromised the private interests of [the plaintiff],” the court wrote.
VA issues policy guidance on VA refinance loans in response to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act
On May 25, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-18-13 discussing the impact of “The Protecting Veterans from Predatory Lending Act of 2018” (the Act), which was included in the recently enacted bipartisan regulatory relief bill, Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, S. 2155, previously covered by InfoBytes here. The Act addresses “loan churning” of VA-guaranteed refinance loans and sets out new requirements for VA eligibility. As of May 25, a lender (broker or agent included), a servicer, or issuer of an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) must, among other things:
- Recoup Fees. Certify that certain fees and costs of the loan will be recouped on or before 36 months after the loan note date;
- Establish a Net Tangible Benefit. Establish that when the previous loan had a fixed interest rate (i) the new fixed interest rate is at least 0.5 percent lower or (ii) if the new loan has an adjustable rate, that the rate is at least 2 percent lower than the previous loan. In each instance, the lower rate cannot be produced solely from discount points except in certain circumstances; and
- Apply a Seasoning Period. Follow a seasoning requirement for all VA-guaranteed loans. A loan cannot be refinanced by an IRRRL or a VA cash-out refinance (if the new principle amount is less than the loan being refinanced) until (i) 210 days after the date of the first payment made on the loan and (ii) the date of the sixth monthly payment is made on the loan.
The circular is rescinded on January 1, 2020.
On May 24, the OCC released its Semiannual Risk Perspective for Spring 2018, identifying and reiterating key risk areas that pose a threat to the safety and soundness of national banks and federal savings associations. Priorities focus on credit, operational, compliance, and interest risk, and while the OCC commented on the improved financial performance of banks from 2016 to early 2018, in addition to the “incremental improvement in banks’ overall risk management practices,” the agency also noted that risks previously highlighted in its Fall 2017 report have “changed only modestly.” (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)
Specific areas of concern noted by the OCC include: (i) easing of commercial credit underwriting practices; (ii) increasing complexity and severity of cybersecurity threats; (iii) use of third-party service providers for critical operations; (iv) compliance challenges under the Bank Secrecy Act; (v) challenges in risk management involving consumer compliance regulations; and (vi) rising market interest rates, including certain risks associated with the “potential effects of rising interest rates, increasing competition for retail and commercial deposits, and post-crisis liquidity regulations for banks with total assets of $250 billion or more, on the mix and cost of deposits.” Additionally, concerns related to integrated mortgage disclosure requirements under TILA and RESPA previously considered a key risk have been downgraded to an issue to be monitored.
House passes two bipartisan bills to increase transparency for regulatory appeals process and tailor regulations based on size and complexity
On March 15, the House passed H.R. 4545, the “Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act,” which would amend the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council Act of 1978 to increase transparency and accountability for financial institutions. Among other things, the bill will require federal financial regulatory agencies to comply with deadlines established in the bill to improve the timeliness of examination reports and exit interviews, and will establish the Office of Independent Examination Review to adjudicate financial institutions’ appeals and complaints concerning examination reports. The bill further “requires the establishment of an independent internal agency appellate process at the CFPB for the review of supervisory determinations made at institutions supervised by the CFPB.”
Separately, on March 14, the House passed H.R. 1116, the “Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk Act of 2017” (TAILOR Act), which would require federal financial regulatory agencies to tailor regulations to a financial institution’s size and complexity. The TAILOR Act would apply not only to future regulatory guidance and rulemaking but also to regulations adopted seven years prior from February 16, 2017. According to a press release issued by the House Financial Services Committee, the TAILOR Act “moves financial regulatory agencies away from the current one-size-fits-all approach to instead consider additional factors such as an institution's risk profile, unintended potential impact of implementation of such regulations, and underlying policy objectives of the statutory scheme which led to the regulation.” In registering her opposition to the bill, Ranking Member of the Committee, Representative Maxine Waters, D-CA, argued that it would “weaken important safeguards established since the financial crisis” and “provide all financial institutions, including the largest banks, with opportunities to challenge any and every regulation in court if they felt it was not 'uniquely tailored' to their business needs.”
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Trends in regulatory enforcement" at the ABA Banking Law Committee Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fair access to credit in today’s innovative environment" at the ABA Banking Law Committee Meeting
- Andrew W. Schilling to moderate "Expectations of in-house counsel from their law firm partners" at the ACI's 7th Annual Advanced Forum on False Claims and Qui Tam
- Buckley Webcast: Tips for navigating changes to the FHA recertification process
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "A 20/20 view on 2020’s legislative and regulatory outlook" at the ACAMS Anti-Financial Crime and Public Policy Conference
- Kari K. Hall and Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Overdrafts and regulatory trends" at the CLE Alabama Banking Law Update
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Industry open forum session on NMLS usage" at the NMLS Annual Conference & Training
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Regulating innovative consumer lending products" at the NMLS Annual Conference & Training
- Daniel P. Stipano to moderate "Washington update" at the 17th Puerto Rican Symposium of Anti Money Laundering 2020 conference
- APPROVED Checkpoint Webcast: CFL overview
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Pathway of the SARs: Tracking trajectories of suspicious activity reports from alerts to prosecution" at the ACAMS moneylaundering.com 25th Annual International AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Which bud’s for you? A deep-dive into evolving marijuana laws" at the ACAMS moneylaundering.com 25th Annual International AML & Financial Crime Conference