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On June 24, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced that financial regulators from 23 states have now agreed to a multi-state compact that will offer a streamlined licensing process for money services businesses (MSB), including fintech firms. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in February 2018, the original agreement included seven states. According to the announcement, 15 companies are currently involved in the initiative, and as of June 20, they have received 72 licenses. The 23 states participating in the MSB licensing agreement are: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi. North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.
On June 18, the California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) announced a $7.8 million settlement with a mortgage servicer to pay allegedly overdue escrow interest to more than 94,000 California homeowners. According to the stipulation reflecting the settlement, the allegations result from a 2017 CDBO mortgage servicing examination, which found that the servicer “had failed to pay [two percent] interest on escrow impounds in violation of” California Fin. Code § 50202(d) and California Civ. Code § 2954.8. The settlement requires the servicer to pay the two percent interest for the period of July 1, 2014, through December 31, 2018, to 94,483 borrowers with escrow impound accounts. The servicer also agreed to pay two percent interest on escrow impound accounts for California residential mortgages going forward, although it reserved the right to stop paying interest in certain circumstances, including a final civil order or decision from the California Supreme Court or U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit finding that Financial Code Section 2954.8 is not applicable to national banks or their subsidiaries.
On June 13, the Nevada governor approved SB 161, which requires the Director of the Department of Business and Industry to establish and administer the “Regulatory Experimentation Program for Product Innovation.” If the Director approves an applicant to participate in the Program, the participant’s product or service will be generally exempt from certain statutory and regulatory requirements related to financial products or services. Under the legislation, any consumer of the product or service must be a resident of Nevada and not more than 5,000 consumers may be provided the product or service during the period of testing, unless the Director approves up to 7,500 consumers. Participants must make certain disclosures to consumers, including, if applicable, that the participant does not hold a license to provide a product or service outside of the program and method of submitting a complaint to the Director. The Director may also require additional disclosures. The legislation also authorizes the Director to establish participant-reporting requirements by regulation and generally limits participation in the program to 2 years, although a participant may seek an extension of this period to apply for any license or other authorization otherwise required for the product or service. The legislation is effective on June 13 for the purpose of adopting any regulations and performing any other preparatory administrative tasks that are necessary to carry out the provisions of the bill, and on January 1, 2020, for all other purposes.
On June 5, the Nevada governor signed AB 466, requiring the State Treasurer to create a pilot program, authorized to operate from October 1, 2019 through June 30, 2023, for the establishment of one or more closed-loop payment processing systems that enable certain persons to engage in financial transactions relating to marijuana.
The closed-loop payment processing system established under the pilot program must be designed to, among other things: (i) provide marijuana establishments and medical marijuana establishments a safe, secure and convenient method of paying state and local taxes; (ii) prevent revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and drug cartels, and; (iii) prevent lawful financial transactions relating to marijuana from being used as a cover or pretext for unlawful activities. The bill requires the State Treasurer to adopt regulations to carry out the pilot program and requires that the State Treasurer submit a report concerning the pilot program on or before December 1, 2020, and every 6 months thereafter.
On February 21, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) issued a request for information (RFI) on issues related to state money transmission and payments regulation as state regulators begin coordinating model legislation for all 50 states to adopt in whole or in part. CSBS’ RFI is based upon recommendations made by the Fintech Industry Advisory Panel (a part of CSBS’ Vision 2020 previously covered by InfoBytes here) and seeks feedback on several areas of law and regulation to help states create harmonized definitions and interpretations on a national level. According to the Advisory Panel, “despite the general similarity of state money transmission laws, each state defines and interprets money transmission and its exemptions differently.” The RFI solicits comments framed towards outlined policy standards and risks on the following issues:
(i) The scope of covered money transmission activities and applicable exemptions; (ii) the change in control process, including the personal vetting requirements for individuals deemed new control persons; (iii) prudential regulations—in particular, permissible investment, net worth, and surety bond requirements; (iv) supervision processes; and (v) coordination—in particular, how states can ensure the areas outlined above are implemented consistently without state-by-state policy diversion or needless duplication of effort.
Comments on the RFI are due April 20 and will be made publically available here.
Colorado regulator exempts certain cryptocurrency exchanges from money transmitter licensing requirements
On September 20, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Division of Banking (Division) issued interim guidance exempting certain types of cryptocurrency exchanges from the state’s money transmitter licensing requirements. Under the interim guidance—which outlines the Division’s interpretation of Colorado’s existing Money Transmitters Act (the Act)— the Division determined that the Act regulates the transmission of money, meaning legal tender, and that cryptocurrencies are not legal tender under the Act. As a result, virtual currency exchanges operating in Colorado do not require a license if transmitting only cryptocurrencies without any legal tender issued and backed by a government (fiat currency) involved in the transaction. However, if fiat currency is present in a transaction, then a virtual currency exchange may require a license. Additionally, a virtual currency exchange must obtain a license when it performs all of the following: (i) it engages in the business of selling and buying cryptocurrencies for fiat currency; (ii) it allows a Colorado customer to transfer cryptocurrency to another customer within the exchange; and (iii) it allows the transfer of fiat currency through the medium of cryptocurrency within the exchange. If a virtual currency exchange offers the ability to transfer fiat currency through the medium of cryptocurrency, the Division encourages the exchange to contact the Division to determine whether it must obtain a license.
On August 24, 13 state banking supervisors sent a letter asking congressional leaders “to consider legislation that creates a safe harbor for financial institutions to serve state-compliant [marijuana] business, or entrusts sovereign states with the full oversight and jurisdiction of marijuana-related activity.” According to the letter, while 31 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana use as of August 1, many financial institutions choose not serve marijuana businesses due to a perceived threat of asset forfeitures or criminal penalties. The letter notes that this results in inadequate regulation, cash transactions that are difficult to track, “a diminished ability to identify operators acting to circumvent federal and state licensing and regulatory frameworks,” and concerns for public safety. In addition, according to the state regulators, the rescission of the 2013 “Cole Memo”—which outlined the DOJ’s marijuana enforcement priorities and was relied upon by a limited number of financial institutions—has led to greater uncertainty for banks that serve marijuana businesses. The letter also discusses the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s 2014 guidance—which clarifies expectations under the Bank Secrecy Act for financial institutions providing services to marijuana businesses—and further stresses that “the Rohrabacher amendment prohibiting federal funds being used to inhibit state medicinal marijuana programs [is] an impermanent approach that requires a permanent resolution.”
In July, and as previously covered in InfoBytes, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued guidance which encouraged New York state chartered banks and credit unions to consider establishing relationships with regulated and compliant medical marijuana and industrial hemp-related businesses operating in New York. NYDFS stated it will not impose any regulatory action on a New York financial institution that establishes a relationship with a regulated marijuana business as long as the institution also complies with other applicable guidance and regulations.
On July 24, the Washington Department of Financial Institutions adopted new mortgage-related provisions of the state’s Consumer Loan Act (CLA). In addition to technical changes and certain definition modifications, the rulemaking, among other things, (i) adds a requirement that if electronic records are stored using a closed service, the service must be located in the U.S. or its territories; (ii) prohibits certain servicing activities, such as receiving payments and collection activities, from being conducted outside the U.S. or its territories; and (iii) requires servicers to maintain a compliance management system with the functionalities that are described in the CFPB’s Supervision and Examination Manual. The rulemaking is effective September 1.
Georgia Department of Banking and Finance issues cease and desist over licensing violation involving bitcoin
On July 26, the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance (Department) announced the issuance of a cease and desist order against a bitcoin trading platform. According to the Department, the company allegedly engaged in the sale of payment instruments and money transmissions without first acquiring a valid license or applicable exemption in violation of the state’s financial institutions code. Licensure requirements in the state apply to persons engaged in transactions involving virtual currency.
Conference of State Bank Supervisors supports legislation to coordinate federal and state examinations of third-party service providers
On July 12, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) issued a statement to the Senate Banking Committee, offering support for legislation that would “enhance state and federal regulators’ ability to coordinate examinations of, and share information on, banks’ [third-party technology service providers (TSPs)] in an effective and efficient manner.” H.R. 3626, the Bank Service Company Examination Coordination Act, introduced by Representative Roger Williams, R-Texas, would amend the Bank Service Company Act to provide examination improvements for states by requiring federal banking agencies to (i) consult with the state banking agency in a reasonable and timely fashion, and (ii) take measures to avoid duplicating examination activities, reporting requirements, and requests for information. Currently, 38 states have the authority to examine TSPs, however, according to CSBS, amending the Bank Service Company Act would more appropriately define a state banking agency’s authority and role when it comes to examining potential risks associated with TSP partnerships. In its statement, CSBS also references a recent action taken by eight state regulators against a major credit reporting agency following its 2017 data breach that requires, among other things, a wide range of corrective actions, including improving oversight and ensuring sufficient controls are developed for critical vendors. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The House Financial Services Committee advanced H.R. 3626 on June 24 on a unanimous vote.
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Navigating the challenges of the latest data protection regulations and proven protocols for breach prevention and response" at the ACI National Forum on Consumer Finance Class Actions and Government Enforcement
- Tim Lange to discuss "Ease your pain at the state level: Recommendations for navigating the licensing issues in the states" at the Online Lenders Alliance Compliance University
- Amanda R. Lawrence, Aaron C. Mahler, and Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Expanded role for the FTC ahead: Implications for bank and nonbank financial institutions" at an American Bar Association Banking Law Committee Webinar
- Buckley Webcast: Flirting with alternatives — Opportunities and challenges created by alternative data, modeling, and technology
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Reporting requirements for credit unions: CTRs and SARs" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions BSA Seminar
- Daniel P. Stipano and Moorari K. Shah to discuss "Vendor management: What is the NCUA looking for?" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions BSA Seminar
- Sasha Leonhardt and John B. Williams to discuss "Privacy" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions Summer Regulatory Compliance School
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss "CRA modernization" at the National Association of Industrial Bankers and the Utah Association of Financial Services Annual Convention
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" 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
- 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
- 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
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Data privacy litigation" 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
- 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
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Navigating FHA rules and regs" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "The state’s role in fintech: Providing an industry framework for innovation" at Lend360
- 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