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On October 31, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced, after a multi-year effort, the inclusion of policies for its Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program in the Single-Family Housing Policy Handbook 4000.1. The FHA indicated this is the first time that all HECM program requirements will be available in a single place. According to the FHA, consolidating these programs eliminates more than one hundred individual policy documents and assist with strengthening the understanding and implementation of the HECM by lenders. New sections include Section II.B covering FHA policy for the origination through post-closing and endorsement of HECMs; and Section III.B, covering FHA policy for the servicing of HECMs and loss mitigation options to assist HECM borrowers who are behind on their HECM obligations. Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner Julia Gordon stated that the “completion of the HECM sections of our Single Family Handbook reinforces FHA’s commitment to the HECM program and is part of a larger effort to retool the program for long-term success.” The FHA also updated model documents, frequently asked questions, and training and expects the online version to be available soon.
On October 25, the Fed announced a proposed rule that would lower the maximum interchange fee that a debit card issuer with at least $10 billion in total consolidated assets can receive for a debit card transaction and would also establish a regular process for updating the maximum fee amount every other year going forward. Moreover, the Board approved the release of its latest biennial report which sets forth data collected from larger debit card issuers on interchange fees, issuer costs, and fraud related to debit card transactions.
Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Fed is required to establish standards for assessing whether the amount of any interchange fee received by a debit card issuer is reasonable and proportional to the costs incurred by the issuer for the applicable transaction, which results in the Fed setting an interchange fee cap. The FRB developed the fee cap in 2011 using data provided by large debit card issuers with $10 billion or more in assets. But since that time, the Fed has found that certain costs incurred by such debit card issuers have declined dramatically, yet the interchange fee cap has remained the same. As such, the Fed (i) proposes to update the interchange fee cap based on the latest data reported to the Board by large debit card issuers, and (ii) proposes to update the fee cap every other year by linking the fee cap to data from the Fed’s biennial report of large debit card issuers.
The comment period will close 90 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.
On October 26, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas entered an order granting intervenors’ motions for preliminary injunction against the CFPB and its small business loan rule.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the district court entered an order in August enjoining enforcement of the rule pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Fin. Serv. of Am. and extending the rule’s compliance date to account for the tine the stay remained in place. The court, however, limited that relief to the plaintiffs at that time—a bank and two bank trade associations—and their members. In the wake of this ruling, separate trade associations representing small business lenders asked the CFPB to take administrative action to ensure that the compliance date for other lenders would be adjusted commensurately. The CFPB declined their request.
In response, separate groups of intervenor plaintiffs, including trade associations representing other types of small business lenders, intervened in the action and filed motions seeking to expand the scope of the preliminary injunction to all affected lenders (or at least their members), claiming the court’s decision to spare some from the rule put them at a competitive disadvantage. The CFPB opposed those motions (covered by InfoBytes here).
In its most recent order, the court reasoned that the preliminary injunction should extend to intervenors because the CFPB lacked evidence supporting its argument that that greater harm would result from a stay on its 1071 rule and “its intended benefits for small businesses failed to tip the balance in their favor.” The court reasoned that the purpose of the statute underlying the Bureau’s final rule is the equal application of lending laws to all credit applications to avoid disparate outcomes, presuming uniform application to covered financial institutions. Therefore, to exempt plaintiffs and not all other covered financial institutions would undermine the statute, leaving “non-exempted lenders subject to the discretion of an agency whose very ability to act is a matter of constitutional concern pending resolution on a nationwide scale.” Under that reasoning, the district court granted plaintiffs’ motions for preliminary injunction, enjoining the CFPB from implementing its 1071 Rule for small business lending.
On October 24, FDIC announced a proposed rule to implement the Fair Hiring in Banking Act (FHB Act). The proposed rule amends 2 C.F.R. part 303, subpart L, and part 308, subpart M. The Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDI Act) prohibits a person from participating in the affairs of an FDIC-insured institution if he or she has been convicted of an offense involving dishonesty, breach of trust, or money laundering, or has entered a pretrial diversion or similar program in connection with a prosecution for such an offense, without the prior written consent of the FDIC, among other provisions. The proposed rule would incorporate several statutory changes to the FDI Act, such as:
- Excluding certain offenses from the scope of the FHB Act based on the amount of time that has passed since the offense occurred or since the individual was released from incarceration;
- Clarifying that the FHB Act does not apply to the following offenses, if one year or more has passed since the applicable conviction or program entry: using fake identification, shoplifting, trespassing, fare evasion, and driving with an expired license or tag;
- Excluding certain offenses from the definition of “criminal offenses involving dishonesty,” including “an offense involving the possession of controlled substances”;
- Excluding certain convictions from the scope of the FHB Act that have been expunged, sealed, or dismissed. While existing FDIC regulations already exclude most of those offenses, the proposed rule would modestly broaden the statutory language concerning such offenses to harmonize the FDIC’s current regulations concerning expunged and sealed records with the statutory language; and
- Prescribing standards for the FDIC’s review of applications submitted under the FHB Act.
The proposed rule also provides interpretive language that addresses, among other topics, when an offense “occurs” under the FHB Act, whether otherwise-covered offenses that occurred in foreign jurisdictions are covered by the FDI Act, and offenses that involve controlled substances.
Comments will be accepted for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On October 20, the Fed issued a joint press release with the FDIC and the OCC announcing the extension of the comment period on proposed rules to expand large bank capital requirements. Earlier this year, the agencies announced the proposed rule which would implement the final components of the Basel III Agreement. The components would revise capital requirements for large banking organizations, among other things. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Adding an additional six weeks (from the original 120-day comment period set to expire on November 30), the new comment period deadline is by January 16, 2024.
On October 19, FinCEN announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that identifies international Convertible Virtual Currency mixing (CVC) as a primary money laundering concern. In its NPRM, FinCEN highlighted the prevalence of illicit actors, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who use CVC mixing to fund their illegal activity, and how increased transparency can combat their efforts. According to FinCEN, CVC mixing is used to conceal the source, destination, or amount involved in transactions. The proposed rule would require covered financial institutions to collect records of, and report suspicious CVC mixing transactions, as defined, to FinCEN within 30 days of initial detection. The proposed rule would not require covered financial institutions to source additional report information from the transactional counterparty, adding that the information required for the report is similar to information already collected by financial institutions. FinCEN also noted this is its first ever use of its authority under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act.
FinCEN invites comments for the proposed rule, including responses to questions addressing the impact of the proposed rule, definitions, reporting, and recordkeeping. Comments must be received by January 22, 2024, and they can be submitted via instructions found in the announcement.
On October 24, Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Department of Treasury Graham Steele delivered remarks at the Gov2Gov Summit to discuss the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the financial services sector.
First, Assistant Secretary Steele discussed the role of cloud computing and cloud service providers (CSPs) in supporting financial institutions’ work, following the Department’s release of a February report which discussed the financial sector’s adoption of cloud services. Assistant Secretary Steele indicated, among other things, that while cloud services can offer more scalable and flexible solutions for financial services institutions to store and manage their data, financial institutions have struggled to understand clearly and implement the cloud services they are purchasing from large, market-dominating CSPs. Assistant Secretary Steele stated that the Department is working toward a model that will allow financial institutions to “unbundle” cloud service packages so that financial institutions can provide more individualized services.
Next, Assistant Secretary Steele discussed the potential advantages and disadvantages of the use of AI among financial institutions, which use AI for tasks including credit underwriting, fraud prevention, and document review. Among the benefits AI offers to financial institutions are reduced costs, improved performance, and the identification of complex relationships. The risks of AI, according to Assistant Secretary Steele, fall into three categories: (i) the design of AI, which can raise discrimination concerns, such as in consumer lending; (ii) how humans implement AI, including the possible overreliance on AI to render financial decisions; and (iii) operational and cyber risks, including the dangers around data quality and security, as AI consumes significant volumes of data.
Last, Assistant Secretary Steele discussed how policymakers are addressing privacy and discrimination concerns with AI. He mentioned the White House’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, which would require, among other things, regular assessment of algorithms for certain disparities and biases. Assistant Secretary Steele also cited regulatory actions that can address the risks of AI, including a CFPB rulemaking under the FCRA and Federal banking agency guidance on third party risk management.
On October 24, the Fed, FDIC, and OCC issued an interagency announcement regarding the modernization of their rules under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a law enacted in 1977 to encourage banks to help meet the credit needs of their communities, especially low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods, in a safe and sound manner. The new rule overhauls the existing regulatory scheme that was first implemented in the mid-1990s.
For banks with assets of at least $2 billion (Large Banks), the final rule adds a new category of assessment area to the existing facility based assessment area (FBAA). Large Banks that do more than 20 percent of their CRA-related lending outside their FBAAs will have that lending evaluated in retail lending assessment areas, i.e., MSAs or states where it originated at least 150 closed-end home mortgage loans or 400 small business loans in both of the previous two years. All Large Banks will be subject to two new lending and two new community development tests, with lending and community development activities each counting for half a bank’s overall CRA rating. Banks with assets between $600 million and $2 billion will be subject to a new lending test. Large Banks with assets greater than $10 billion will also have special reporting requirements.
Additionally, the rule (i) implements a standardized scoring system for performance ratings; (ii) revises community development definitions and creates a list of community development activities eligible for CRA consideration, regardless of location; (iii) permits regulators to evaluate “impact and responsiveness factors” of community development activities; (iii) continues to make strategic plans available as an alternative option for evaluation; (iv) revises the definition of limited purpose bank so that it includes both existing limited purpose and wholesale banks and subjects those banks to a new community development financing test; and (v) considers online banking in the bank’s evaluations.
Most of the rule’s requirements will be effective January 1, 2026. The remaining requirements, including the data reporting requirements, will apply on January 1, 2027.
On October 19, the CFPB announced a proposed rule that it said would accelerate a shift toward open banking, would give consumers more control over their financial data, and would offer new protections against companies misusing consumer data. The proposed Personal Financial Data Rights rule activates a dormant provision of law enacted by Congress more than a decade ago, Section 1033 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act. According to the CFPB, the rule would “jumpstart competition” by prohibiting financial institutions from “hoarding” a person’s data and requiring companies to share data with other companies at the consumer’s direction about their use of checking and prepaid accounts, credit cards, and digital wallets. This would allow consumers to access competing products and services while ensuring that their data would be used only for their own preferred purpose. Among other things, the proposed rule would ensure that consumers: (i) can obtain their personal financial data at no cost; (ii) have a legal right to grant third parties access to information associated with their credit card, checking, prepaid, and digital wallet accounts; and (iii) can walk away from bad service. Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before December 29, 2023.
On October 16, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced it will revise how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSE) single-family mortgages are treated for borrowers who have entered Covid-19 forbearance under the GSEs’ representations and warranties framework. Under the revised policies, loans for which borrowers elected Covid-19 forbearance will be treated similarly to loans for which borrowers obtained forbearance due to a natural disaster. The GSEs’ current representations and warranties framework for natural disaster forbearance allows for consideration of the period during which a borrower is in forbearance as part of their demonstrated satisfactory payment history for the initial 36 months after the loan's origination. This framework will now be extended to loans with Covid-19 forbearance. FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson said, "Servicers went to great lengths to implement forbearance quickly amid a national emergency, and the loans they service should not be subject to greater repurchase risk simply because a borrower was impacted by the pandemic."
The updates will be effective on October 31.