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On March 10, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger testified at a Senate Banking Committee hearing regarding the Bureau’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress. The hearing examined the report (covered by InfoBytes here), which outlines the Bureau’s work from April 1, 2019, through September 30, 2019.
In her opening remarks, Kraninger pointed to the newly announced measures that the Bureau has initiated to carry out the CFPB’s mission to prevent consumer harm, including the advisory opinion program, the updated Responsible Business Conduct bulletin, and proposed legislation to begin a whistleblower award program. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In response to questions about the constitutionality of the CFPB’s structure, Kraninger stated that she was “incredibly encouraged” when the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Seila Law as it should provide “certainty and clarity.” Kraninger also addressed the Bureau’s COVID-19 preparedness by saying that the financial regulators are in “routine contact with the institutions we regulate” and that they maintain a steady flow of information with the Treasury Department, as well as with OPM, CDC, and FEMA to ensure coordinated operations. A number of Senators asked about the effects of COVID-19 on the economy, including with respect to new scams designed to take advantage of panicked consumers, consumers losing pay and benefits due to employer shut downs, and whether financial institutions are making accommodations for consumers during this time. Kraninger responded that financial institutions will have “supervisory flexibility” to help consumers and ensured that the CFPB is taking steps such as encouraging the public to attend the Bureau’s events via webcast. She also confirmed that the Financial Stability Oversight Council, of which she is a member, will meet this month. Other covered topics included small dollar loans and payday lending, supervision and enforcement, and the timeline for rulemaking on amendments to the qualified mortgage and ability to repay requirements. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
On December 4, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) issued final interpretive guidance to revise and update 2012 guidance concerning nonbank financial company designations. According to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, the guidance “enhances [FSOC’s] ability to identify, assess, and respond to potential risks to U.S. financial stability. . . by promoting careful analysis and creating a more streamlined process.” Among other things, the guidance (i) implements an activities-based approach for identifying, assessing, and addressing potential risks and threats to financial stability in the U.S., allowing FSOC to work with federal and state financial regulators to implement appropriate actions when a potential risk is identified; (ii) enhances the analytic framework for potential nonbank financial company designations, which includes a cost-benefit analysis and a review of the likelihood of a company’s material financial distress determined by its vulnerability to a range of factors; and (iii) enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of the nonbank financial company designation process by condensing the process into two stages and increasing “engagement with and transparency to” companies under review, as well as their regulators, through the creation of pre- and post-designation off ramps.
FSOC also released its 2019 annual report to Congress, which reviews financial market developments, identifies emerging risks, and offers recommendations to enhance financial stability. Key highlights include:
- Cybersecurity. FSOC states that “[g]reater reliance on technology, particularly across a broader array of interconnected platforms, increases the risk that a cybersecurity event will have severe consequences for financial institutions.” Among other things, FSOC recommends continued robust, comprehensive cybersecurity monitoring, and supports the development of public and private partnerships to “increase coordination of cybersecurity examinations across regulatory authorities.”
- Nonbank Mortgage Origination and Servicing. The report adds the increasing share of mortgages held by nonbank mortgage companies to its list of concerns. FSOC notes that of the 25 largest originators and servicers, nonbanks originate roughly 51 percent of mortgages and service approximately 47 percent—a notable increase from 2009 where nonbanks only originated 10 percent of mortgages and serviced just 6 percent. FSOC states that risks in nonbank origination and servicing arise because most nonbanks have limited liquidity as compared to banks and rely more on short-term funding, among other things. FSOC recommends that federal and state regulators continue to coordinate efforts to collect data, identify risks, and strengthen oversight of nonbanks in this space.
- Financial Innovation. The report discusses the benefits of new financial products and practices, but cautions that these may also create new risks and vulnerabilities. FSOC recommends that these products and services—particularly digital assets and distributed ledger technology—should be continually monitored and analyzed to understand their effects on consumers, regulated entities, and financial markets.
On August 22, two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury requesting that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) consider designating the three leading providers of cloud-based storage systems for the financial industry as systemically important financial market utilities. The letter is in response to the recent data breach announcement by a national bank (covered by InfoBytes here), where an alleged former employee of the bank’s cloud-based storage system gained unauthorized access to the personal information of credit card customers and people who had applied for credit card products. According to the Congresswomen, 57 percent of the cloud services market is “cornered by” three main providers, and “a lack of substitutability for the services provided by these very few firms creates systemic risk.” The letter argues that cloud services are not currently subject to an enforced regulatory regime and, “[w]ithout a dedicated regulatory regime proportional and tailored to their very unique structure and risks, cloud comparing companies will continue to evade supervision.”
White House releases 2020 budget proposal; key areas include appropriations and efforts to combat terrorist financing
On March 11, the White House released its fiscal 2020 budget request, A Budget for a Better America. The budget was accompanied by texts entitled Major Savings and Reforms (MSR), which “contains detailed information on major savings and reform proposals”; Analytical Perspectives, which “contains analyses that are designed to highlight specified subject areas or provide other significant presentations of budget data that place the budget in perspective”; and an Appendix containing detailed supporting information. Funding through appropriations and efforts to combat terrorist financing remain key highlights carried over from last year. Notable takeaways of the 2020 budget proposal are as follows:
CFPB. In the MSR’s “Restructure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” section, the budget revives a call to restructure the Bureau, and proposes legislative action to implement a two-year restructuring period, subject the CFPB to the congressional appropriations process starting in 2021, and “bring accountability” to the Bureau. Among other things, the proposed budget would cap the Federal Reserve’s transfers to the Bureau at $485 million in 2020.
Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). The 2020 budget proposal requests that Congress establish funding levels through annual appropriations bills for FSOC (which is comprised of the heads of the financial regulatory agencies and monitors risk to the U.S. financial system) and its independent research arm, the Office of Financial Research (OFR). Currently FSOC and OFR set their own budgets.
Flood Insurance. The Credit and Insurance chapter of the budget’s Analytical Perspectives section discusses FEMA initiatives such as modifying the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to become a simpler, more customer-focused program, and “doubling the number of properties covered by flood insurance (either the NFIP or private insurance) by 2022.” Separately, the budget proposal emphasizes that the administration believes that “flood insurance rates should reflect the risk homeowners face by living in flood zones.”
Government Sponsored Enterprises. Noted within the MSR, the budget proposes doubling the guarantee fee charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loan originators from 0.10 to 0.20 percentage points from 2020 through 2021. The proposal is designed to help “level the playing field for private lenders seeking to compete with the GSEs” and would generate an additional $32 billion over the 10-year budget window.
HUD. The budget proposes to eliminate funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, stating that “[s]tate and local governments are better equipped to address local community and economic development needs.” The proposal would continue to preserve access to homeownership opportunities for creditworthy borrowers through FHA and Ginnie Mae credit guarantees. The budget also requests $20 million above last year’s estimated level to help modernize FHA’s information technology systems and includes legislative proposals to “align FHA authorities with the needs of its lender enforcement program and limit FHA’s exposure to down-payment assistance practices.”
SEC. As stated in both the budget proposal and the MSR, the budget again proposes to eliminate the SEC’s mandatory reserve fund and would require the SEC to request additional funds through the congressional appropriations process starting in 2021. According to the Appendix, the reserve fund is currently funded by collected registration fees and is not subject to appropriation or apportionment. Under the proposed budget, the registration fees would be deposited in the Treasury’s general fund.
SIGTARP. As proposed in the MSR, the budget revives a plan that would reduce funding for the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) “commensurate with the wind-down of TARP programs.” According to the MSR, “Congress aligned the sunset of SIGTARP with the length of time that TARP funds or commitments are outstanding,” which, Treasury estimates, will be through 2023. The reduction reflects, among other things, that less than one percent of TARP investments remain outstanding. This will mark the final time payments are expected to be made under the Home Affordable Modification Program.
Student Loan Reform. As with the 2019 budget proposal, the 2020 proposed budget seeks to establish a single income-driven repayment plan that caps monthly payments at 12.5 percent of discretionary income. Furthermore, balances would be forgiven after a specific number of repayment years—15 for undergraduate debt, 30 for graduate. In doing so, the proposal would eliminate subsidized loans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, auto-enroll “severely delinquent borrowers,” and create a process for borrowers to share income data for multiple years. With certain exceptions, these proposals will only apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2020.
Treasury Department. The budget states that combating terrorist financing, proliferation financing, and other types of illicit financing are a top priority for the administration, and $167 million has been requested for Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence to “continue its work safeguarding the financial system from abuse and combating other national security threats using economic tools.” The proposed budget also requests $125 million for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to administer the Bank Secrecy Act and its work to prevent the financing of terrorism, money laundering, and other financial crimes. An additional $18 million was proposed for strengthening and protecting Treasury’s IT systems.
On May 3, Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commissioner Rostin Behnam emphasized that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) should take the lead in evaluating the future of oversight and regulation of the fintech industry. In his keynote address to a financial regulatory conference in Washington, D.C., Behnam highlighted the rise of cryptocurrencies as an example of the need to “identify and craft an appropriate path forward for ensuring that legal issues resulting from these technologies are identifiable and solvable before they cross the horizon.” According to Benham, FSOC, due to its mandate in the Dodd-Frank Act, has the authority to, among other things, convene financial regulators for collaboration and propose policy direction based on input from all stakeholders. Acknowledging the need for all market participants and regulators to be aligned when it comes to fintech regulation, Benham stated that “anything less than decisive action by policymakers in the short term” will lead to uncertainty.
Houses passes two bipartisan bills to ease stress test requirements and nonbank challenges to SIFI designations
On April 11, by a vote of 245-174, the House passed H.R. 4293, the “Stress Test Improvement Act of 2017,” which would amend the Dodd-Frank Act to modify stress test requirements for bank holding companies and certain nonbank financial companies. Among other things, H.R. 4293 prohibits the Federal Reserve Board’s (Board) to object to a company’s capital plan “on the basis of qualitative deficiencies in the company’s capital planning process” when conducting a Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), and reduces the frequency of stress testing from semiannual to annual. As previously covered in InfoBytes, on April 10, the Board issued its own proposed changes intended to simplify the capital regime applicable to bank holding companies with $50 billion or more in total consolidated assets by integrating the Board’s regulatory capital rule and CCAR and stress test rules.
Separately on April, 11, the House passed H.R. 4061 by a vote of 297-121. The bipartisan bill, “Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) Improvement Act of 2017,” would require FSOC to consider the appropriateness of subjecting nonbank financial companies (nonbanks) designated as systemically important to prudential standards “as opposed to other forms of regulation to mitigate the identified risks.” Among other things, the bill would also require FSOC to allow nonbanks the opportunity to meet with FSOC to present relevant information to contest the designation both during an annual reevaluation, as well as every five years after the date of final determination.
President Trump releases 2019 budget proposal; key areas of reform include appropriation shifts, cybersecurity, and financial crimes
On February 12, the White House released its fiscal 2019 budget request, Efficient, Effective, Accountable, an American Budget (2019 budget proposal), along with Major Savings and Reforms (MSR) and an Appendix. The mission of the President’s budget sets forth priorities, including imposing fiscal responsibility, reducing wasteful spending, and prioritizing effective programs. However, the 2019 budget proposal has little chance of being enacted as written and does not take into account a two-year budget agreement Congress passed that the President signed into law on February 9. Notable takeaways of the 2019 budget are as follows:
CFPB. Under the MSR’s “Restructure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” section, Congress and the current administration would implement a broad restructuring of the Bureau to “prevent actions that unduly burden the financial industry” by restricting its enforcement authority over federal consumer law. Among other things, the proposed budget would cap the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) transfers this year at $485 million (an amount equivalent to its 2015 budget) and eliminate all transfers by 2020, at which point the Bureau’s appropriations process would shift to Congress.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). As stipulated in the Appendix, the budget proposes legislation, which would authorize the CFTC to collect $31.5 million in user fees to fund certain activities and would bring the Commission’s budget to $281.5 million for 2019. According to the administration, if the authorizing legislation is enacted, it would be “in line with nearly all other Federal financial and banking regulators.”
Cybersecurity. The 2019 budget proposal requests funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to execute efforts to counter cybercrime. The DOD funds would go towards efforts to sustain the Cyber Command’s 133 Cyber Mission Force Teams, which “are on track to be fully operational by the end of 2018.” Furthermore, the administration states it “will improve its ability to identify and combat cybersecurity risks to agencies’ data, systems, and networks.”
Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). Currently FSOC (which is comprised of the heads of the financial regulatory agencies and monitors risk to the U.S. financial system) and the Office of Financial Research (OFR) (FSOC’s independent research arm) receive funding through fees assessed on certain bank holding companies with assets of at least $50 billion as well as nonbanks supervised by the Fed. However, the 2019 budget proposal would require FSOC and OFR to receive their funding through the normal congressional appropriations process.
Flood Insurance. Outlined in the MSR is a budget request that would reduce appropriations for the National Flood Insurance Program's flood hazard mapping program by $78 million. The funding reduction is designed to “preserve resources for [DHS]’s core missions”; however, the administration plans to work to “improve efficiency in the flood mapping program, including incentivizing increased State and local government investments in updating flood maps to inform land use decisions and reduce risk.” Additionally, contained within the Appendix is a proposal for a “means-tested affordability program” that would determine assistance for flood insurance premium payments based on a policyholder's income or ability to repay, rather than a home's location or date of construction.
Government Sponsored Enterprises. Noted within the MSR, the budget proposes doubling the guarantee fee charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loan originators from 0.10 to 0.20 percentage points from 2019 through 2021. The proposal is designed to help “level the playing field for private lenders seeking to compete with the GSEs” and would “generate approximately $26 billion over the 10-year Budget window.”
HUD. The 2019 budget proposal eliminates funding for the following: (i) the CHOICE Neighborhoods program (a savings of $138 million), on the basis that state and local governments should fund strategies for neighborhood revitalization; (ii) the Community Development Block Grant (a savings of $3 billion), over claims that it “has not demonstrated a measurable impact on communities”; (iii) the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (a savings of $950 million); and (iv) the Self-Help and Assisted Homeownership Opportunity Program Account (a savings of $54 million). The budget also proposes reductions to grants provided to the Native American Housing Block Grant and plans to reduce costs across HUD’s rental assistance programs through legislative reforms. Rental assistance programs generally comprise about 80 percent of HUD’s total funding.
SEC. As stipulated in the MSR, the budget proposes eliminating the SEC’s mandatory reserve fund and would require the SEC to request additional funds through the congressional appropriations process starting in 2020. According to the Appendix, the reserve fund is currently funded by collected registration fees and is not subject to appropriation or apportionment. Under the proposed budget, the registration fees would be deposited in the Treasury’s general fund.
SIGTARP. As proposed under MSR, the 2019 budget would reduce funding for the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) “commensurate with the wind-down of TARP programs.” According to the proposal, “Congress aligned the sunset of SIGTARP with the length of time that TARP funds or commitments are outstanding,” which, Treasury estimates, will be in 2023. This will mark the final time payments are expected to be made under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). As previously covered in InfoBytes, SIGTARP delivered a report to Congress last month, which identified unlawful conduct by certain of the 130 financial institutions in TARP’s Making Home Affordable Program as the top threat to TARP and, thus, the agency’s top investigative priority.
Student Loan Reform. Under the 2019 budget proposal, a single income-driven repayment plan (IDR) would be created that caps monthly payments at 12.5 percent of discretionary income. Furthermore, balances would be forgiven after a specific number of repayment years—15 for undergraduate debt, 30 for graduate. In doing so, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and subsidized loans will be eliminated, and reforms will be established to “guarantee that all borrowers in IDR pay an equitable share of their income.” These proposals will only apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2019, with the exception of loans provided to borrowers in order to finish their “current course of study.”
Treasury Department. Under the 2019 budget proposal, safeguarding markets and protecting financial data are a top priority for the administration, and $159 million has been requested for Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence to “continue its critical work safeguarding the financial system from abuse and combatting other national security threats using non-kinetic economic tools. These additional resources would be used to economically isolate North Korea, complete the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center in Saudi Arabia, and increase sanctions pressure on Iran, including through the implementation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.” The budget also requests a $3 million increase from 2017 to be applied to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s authority to administer the Bank Secrecy Act and its work to prevent the financing of terrorism, money laundering, and other financial crimes.
On January 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed an appeal by the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) after both parties filed a joint stipulated motion to voluntarily dismiss the case. The litigation began in 2015 when a national insurance firm sued FSOC over its designation of the firm as a nonbank systemically important financial institution (SIFI). In March 2016, the district court issued its opinion agreeing with the insurance firm and finding the FSOC determination arbitrary and capricious because it failed to consider the financial impact the SIFI designation would have on the firm. FSOC appealed the court’s ruling but after a change in FSOC leadership, agreed to jointly dismiss the appeal with the insurance firm.
For more InfoBytes coverage on SIFIs, click here.
On December 14, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) released its 2017 annual report. The report reviews financial market developments, identifies emerging risks, and offers recommendations to enhance financial stability. Highlights include:
- Cybersecurity. The report notes that financial institutions need to work with regulators to improve cybersecurity resilience and better understand risks. FSOC encourages the creation of a private sector council of senior executives to work with government officials and focus on ways cyber incidents may affect business operations.
- Marketplace Lending. FSOC acknowledges that marketplace lending is still an evolving model with potential risks, such as the misalignment of incentives. However, the report notes the platform’s potential to reduce costs and expand access to credit.
- New Technology. The report discusses challenges for supervision and regulation of virtual currencies and distributed ledger technology. FSOC observes that current regulatory practices were designed for more centralized systems, in comparison to the decentralization of data storage in this new landscape.
On July 21, the Treasury Department announced that on Friday, July 28, Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin will preside over an executive session of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). According to a Treasury press release, the preliminary agenda includes:
- a discussion about Volcker Rule recommendations presented in the Treasury’s June 2017 report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Banks and Credit Unions”;
- an update on annual reevaluation requirements for designating nonbank financial companies; and
- a discussion regarding pending litigation brought against FSOC.
Consistent with FSOC’s transparency policy, the meeting may be made available via live webcast and can be viewed after it occurs. Meeting minutes for the most recent FSOC meetings are generally approved at the next meeting and posted online soon afterwards.
Meeting minutes for past meetings are available here.
Readouts for past meetings are available here.
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Critique of direct examination; Questions and answers" at the American Bar Association Section of Litigation Anatomy of a Trial: Murder Trial of Ziang Sung Wan
- Hank Asbill to discuss "What judges want from trial lawyers" at the American Bar Association Section of Litigation Anatomy of a Trial: Murder Trial of Ziang Sung Wan
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Understanding OFAC sanctions" at a NAFCU webinar
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss "Key takeaways from proposed CRA modernization" at the New York Bankers Association Technology, Compliance & Risk Management Forum
- Garylene D. Javier to discuss "Navigating workplace culture in 2020" at the DC Bar Conference