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Agencies adopt final rules excluding community banks from the Volcker Rule; simplify regulatory capital rules
On July 9, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed), CFTC, FDIC, OCC, and SEC adopted a final rule implementing sections of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act to grant an exclusion for community banks from the Volcker Rule, which generally restricts banking entities from engaging in proprietary trading and from owning, sponsoring, or having certain relationships with hedge funds or private equity funds. Qualifying financial institutions must have fewer than $10 billion in total consolidated assets and total trading assets, as well as liabilities that are equal to or less than five percent of their total consolidated assets. The rule also permits, under certain circumstances, a hedge fund or private equity fund organized and offered by a banking entity to share a name with a banking entity that is its investment advisor that is not an insured bank or bank holding company. The rule will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register.
The same day, the Fed, FDIC, and OCC also finalized a rule “intended to simplify and clarify a number of the more complex aspects of the agencies’ existing regulatory capital rules” for banks with less than $250 billion in total consolidated assets and less than $10 billion in total foreign exposure. Among other changes, the rule alters the capital treatment for mortgage servicing assets, certain deferred tax assets, as well as investments in the capital instruments of unconsolidated financial institutions. The final rule will be effective as of April 1, 2020, for the amendments to simplify capital rules, and as of October 1, 2019 for revisions to the pre-approval requirements for the redemption of common stock and other technical amendments.
On July 1, the OCC issued Bulletin 2019-31, which describes the process for federal savings associations to make an election to operate as “covered savings associations,” with the rights and privileges of national banks under the May 24 Home Owners’ Loan Act (HOLA) final rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the OCC issued a final rule—pursuant to section 206 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, amending the Home Owners’ Loan Act (HOLA)—which establishes standards permitting federal savings associations with total consolidated assets of $20 billion or less as of December 31, 2017, to elect to operate as “covered savings associations,” with the rights and privileges of national banks. The final rule provides that associations who choose this election will retain their federal savings association charters and existing governance frameworks, and will generally be subject to the same duties, restrictions, penalties, liabilities, conditions, and limitations that apply to national banks.
Bulletin 2019-31 reminds entities of the July 1 effective date of the final rule and provides details on the process for making an election pursuant to the rule. Additionally, along with the Bulletin, the OCC released a set of Frequently Asked Questions covering the final rule.
On June 28, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-19-17, which provides new funding fee guidance to lenders and servicers concerning Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loans (IRRRLs). The new guidance, effective immediately, requires, among other things, that: (i) a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) be obtained for IRRRLs to ensure the funding fee exemption information is up to date at the time of closing; (ii) lenders ask active duty servicemembers if they have a pre-discharge claim pending, and, if so, contact the Regional Loan Center to request assistance in obtaining a proposed or memorandum rating in the event the servicemember is eligible for a funding fee exemption; and (iii) if a lender or servicer is notified by the VA or the veteran of an overpayment of a funding fee, such lender initiate a refund request in the Funding Fee Payment System (FFPS) within three business days.
On June 28, the CFPB updated its Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Payday Lending Rule, which covers the payment-related requirements of the Rule. In addition to technical corrections, the update reflects the delayed compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the Rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, on June 6, the Bureau released a final rule to delay the August 19, 2019 compliance date for the mandatory underwriting provisions of the Rule. Compliance with these provisions is now required by November 19, 2020.
On June 25, the CFPB held its “Abusive Acts or Practices Symposium,” the first event in a symposia series covering a range of consumer financial services topics. The event had two panels of experts discussing unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices (UDAAP)—the first was a policy discussion, moderated by Tom Pahl, CFPB’s Policy Associate Director, Research, Markets and Regulation; and the second, examined how the “abusive” standard has been used in practice in the field and was moderated by David Bleicken, CFPB Deputy Associate Director, Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending. Director Kraninger began the symposium noting that it will help to “inform the Bureau’s thinking as to whether the Bureau should use its rulemaking or other tools to provide clarity about the general meaning of abusiveness—and, if so, which principles should be applied to determine the scope of abusiveness.”
The policy panel focused on whether consumer harm was required for a practice to be considered abusive. One panelist noted that while the Dodd-Frank Act statutory definition of abusive does not specifically require proof of consumer harm, it would be surprising if consumer harm wasn’t a priority in weighing enforcement claims. As for what principles the Bureau should apply in determining the scope of abusive acts and practices, one panelist identified three: “fidelity, autonomy, and modesty,” meaning the Bureau should follow the statutory language, protect autonomy of consumer decision-making, and be careful not to tie its hands prematurely based on current market information.
The practitioners’ panel focused on whether there was even a need to clarify the abusive standard, as it is already statutorily defined. Most panelists agreed that a guidance document or policy statement would be an important first step for the Bureau in providing clarity to the industry. Specifically, the panelists noted that the industry has struggled with examples of how abusiveness is different from unfairness or deception, arguing the Bureau has been “inconsistent at times” in the application of the abusive standard. One panelist explained that the Bureau often brings abusive claims in connection with a claim of deception or unfairness, stating “while this may work for the Bureau’s litigation strategy the market looks to enforcement for guidance on the policy. Standalone abusiveness claims that show how abusiveness is different from deception and unfairness would provide direction to staff and industry.” Because the standard is unclear to industry, a panelist argued that many companies choose to limit products or offerings to avoid unknown compliance risks.
An archived copy of the webcast will be available on the Bureau’s website.
On June 24, the CFPB and the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) announced a final rule amending Regulation CC to adjust dollar amounts cited in the rule for inflation. The Dodd-Frank Act requires that the dollar amounts be adjusted for inflation every five years by the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The agencies selected July as the CPI-W month and will use July 2011 to July 2018 as the initial inflation measurement period. If there is no aggregate percentage increase in the CPI-W or it is negative, the dollar amounts will not be adjusted. The final rule also implements certain measures of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act , including extending coverage of the Expedited Funds Availability Act to American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.
The compliance date for the adjustment amounts is July 1, 2020. Other amendments are effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On June 24, the FTC finalized the “Free Electronic Credit Monitoring for Active Duty Military Rule,” which implements the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act requirement for nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to provide free electronic credit monitoring services for active duty military consumers. The proposed rule, issued in November 2018 (covered by InfoBytes here), defined the term “electronic credit monitoring service” as a service through which the CRAs provide, at a minimum, electronic notification of material additions or modifications to a consumer’s file and requires CRAs to notify active duty military consumers within 24 hours of any material change. The proposal noted that CRAs may require that active duty military provide contact information, proof of identity, and proof of active duty status in order to use the free service and outlines how a servicemember may prove active duty status, such as with a copy of active duty orders. Additionally, the proposal prohibited CRAs from requiring active duty military consumers to purchase a product in order to obtain the free service.
In response to comments on the proposal, the final rule refers to the definition of “active duty military consumer” in the FCRA, which requires that the servicemember be assigned to service away from their usual duty station, or be a member of the National Guard, regardless of whether the National Guard member is stationed away from their normal duty station. The FTC noted that commenters requested the requirement that the servicemember be stationed away from their normal duty station be eliminated but “the statutory language limit[ed] the Commission’s discretion on [the] topic.” However, the FCRA does not apply the same duty station requirement to the National Guard. Additionally, the final rule, among other things (i) requires CRAs to provide free access to a credit file when it notifies an active duty military consumer about a material change to the file; (ii) extends the amount of time the CRAs have to notify an active duty military consumer of a material change from 24 hours to 48 hours; and (iii) prohibits CRAs from requiring that active duty military consumers agree to terms or conditions as a requirement to obtain their free credit file, unless the terms or conditions are necessary to comply with certain legal requirements.
While the final rule goes into effect three months after publication in the Federal Register, CRAs will be allowed to comply with certain portions of the final rule by offering existing credit monitoring services to active duty military consumers for free, for a period of up to one year from the effective date.
On June 20, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a final interim rule amending its Reporting, Procedures and Penalties Regulations, which set forth the standard reporting and recordkeeping requirements, license application, and other procedures relevant to the economic sanctions programs administered by OFAC. Among other things, the final interim rule: (i) expands the information that must be included in reports on blocked property and rejected transactions; (ii) includes details on the information that must be included when OFAC requires a report that property has been unblocked; (iii) revises procedures for (a) reporting on rejected transactions; (b) licensing of otherwise prohibited transactions; and (c) releasing blocked funds; and (iv) clarifies rules governing the availability of information under the Freedom of Information Act. Importantly, the revisions clarify that all U.S. persons must report transactions that have been rejected for sanctions compliance reasons. Previously, the requirement was thought to apply only to U.S. financial institutions. The final interim rule will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for June 21.
On June 19, the OCC issued Bulletin 2019-28, which highlights “core lending principles” for banks offering higher loan-to-value (LTV) loans. The Bulletin rescinds 2017 guidance from the OCC—Bulletin 2017-28, “Mortgage Lending: Risk Management Guidance for Higher-Loan-to-Value Lending Programs in Communities Targeted for Revitalization”— noting that “banks have engaged in responsible, innovative lending strategies that are different from [the previous bulletin’s] specific program parameters while being consistent with its goals.” The new guidance instead covers core lending principles that banks should consider when offering higher-LTV loans in an effort revitalize communities. Among other things, the OCC states that higher-LTV loans (i) should be consistent with safe and sound banking and comply with applicable laws and regulations; (ii) performance is effectively monitored, tracked, and managed; (iii) should be underwritten consistent with the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending and the bank’s standards for review and approval of exception loans. The Bulletin notes examples of sound policies and processes for higher-LTV loans, including underwriting standards and portfolio limits for the aggregate amount of higher-LTV loans. Lastly, the Bulletin emphasizes that marketing and consumer disclosures should describe the potential financial impacts and marketability of a higher-LTV loan where the value of the property is and could remain less than the loan amount.
On June 11, Len Wolfson, the Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at HUD sent a letter to Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA) specifying that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are not eligible for FHA loans. According to the letter, HUD has not implemented any new policies changes during the current Administration with respect to FHA eligibility requirements for DACA recipients. Wolfson asserts that, “Since at least October 2003, FHA has maintained published policy that non-U.S. citizens without lawful residency ‘are not eligible for FHA-insured loans,’” and determination of immigration status is not the responsibility of HUD. Therefore, Wolfson argues, “because DACA does not confer lawful status, DACA recipients remain ineligible for FHA loans.”
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "BSA program reporting, management and board of directors responsibilities" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Ethical guidance in conducting internal investigations – The intersection of Yates and Upjohn" at the American Bar Association Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Recent developments in fair lending and avoiding the pitfalls" at the Arkansas Community Bankers/Bankers Assurance 2019 Compliance Conference
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Risk management in enforcement actions: Managing risk or micromanaging it" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Valerie L. Hletko to discuss "Banking on guns ‘n drugs: Social policy meets financial services" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Navigating the conflicting federal and state laws for doing business with cannabis companies" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Tim Lange to discuss "Services and value" at the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association Annual Conference
- Katherine L. Halliday to discuss "UDAP, UDAAP & the Map rule compliance basics" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "How to ace your TRID exam" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Data privacy litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Navigating FHA rules and regs" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Washington regulatory overview" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "HMDA data is out, now what?" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "The state’s role in fintech: Providing an industry framework for innovation" at Lend360
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending" at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions" at the Institute of International Bankers Risk Management and Regulatory Examination/Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fintech regulatory developments, crypto-assets, blockchain and digital banking, and consumer issues" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "How to balance a successful (and stressful) career with greater personal well-being" at the American Bar Association Women in Litigation Joint CLE Conference