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On November 1, the OCC issued a bulletin on “commercial loans to early-, expansion-, and late-stage companies,” which it referred to as “venture loans.” The OCC explained that although “venture lending supports new business formation and can improve access to capital for growth companies… new business ventures have a high probability of failure.” Accordingly, the bulletin, which “applies to all OCC-regulated banks, including community banks, that engage in or are considering engaging in venture lending,” provides guidance on the agency’s expectations for risk management and risk-rating of venture loans.
The bulletin expressly exempts “[f]ully monitored and controlled asset-based loans (ABL) to early-, expansion-, and late-stage companies,” from the guidance. In addition, the OCC does not categorize the following types of credit as venture loans:
- Loans to businesses that primarily rely on internal cash flow, rather than equity investments, for their growth;
- Loans made under government-backed lending support programs where federal, state, or local guarantees sufficiently reduce credit risk (e.g., SBA guarantees); and
- Loans made under special purpose credit programs (SPCP).
On June 29, the FDIC, OCC, Federal Reserve Board, and NCUA, in consultation with state bank and credit union regulators, jointly issued a final policy statement addressing prudential commercial real estate loan accommodations and workouts for borrowers experiencing financial difficulty. The policy statement applies to all supervised financial institutions and supersedes previous guidance issued in 2009. Building on existing supervisory guidance, the policy statement advises financial institutions “to work prudently and constructively with creditworthy borrowers during times of financial stress.” The policy statement (i) updates interagency supervisory guidance on commercial real estate loan workouts; (ii) adds a new section on short-term loan accommodations (for purposes of the policy statement, “an accommodation includes any agreement to defer one or more payments, make a partial payment, forbear any delinquent amounts, modify a loan or contract, or provide other assistance or relief to a borrower who is experiencing a financial challenge”); (iii) addresses relevant accounting standard changes on estimating loan losses; and (iv) provides updated examples on how to classify and account for loans modified or affected by loan accommodations or loan workout activity. The policy statement takes effect upon publication in the Federal Register.
On August 24, the SEC issued a cease and desist order to a bank for allegedly misstating representations regarding the securitization of commercial real estate (CRE) loans. According to the order, from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2019, the respondent bank made filings with the SEC in which it reported gains that it received from the sales of loans included in five CRE securitizations. Among other things, the SEC alleged that the bank: (i) “failed to document adequately and incorporate all reasonably available market data into its valuation assumptions for the CRE certificates” it received as consideration in the CRE securitizations, and (ii) “omitted and misstated material information related to the certificates and the assumptions that it had used in valuing those certificates in certain of its quarterly and annual financial statements.” The SEC noted that the bank allegedly improperly used unreasonably low assumptions for the prepayment risks applicable to the CRE certificates. In particular, the SEC alleged that the bank used baseline prepayment assumptions of 0 percent or 5 percent constant prepayment yields (CPY) while not properly documenting why other approaches were not adopted, such as the existing convention of using 100 CPY, or using available market research which indicated comparable loans generally exceeded 30 percent CPY. Without admitting or denying the allegations, the bank agreed to pay a $1.75 million civil penalty. The company will also cease and desist from committing or causing any future violations of the Exchange Act.
On August 3, the FDIC released its summer 2022 issue of Supervisory Insights, which contains an article discussing financial performance and examination observations about commercial real estate (CRE) lending risk management practices and an article describing the application of capital, investment, and financial reporting requirements for the issuance of and investment in subordinated debt. The article, Commercial Real Estate: An Update on Bank Lending Amid the Evolving Pandemic Backdrop, discusses the financial performance of banks concentrated in CRE lending as well as examination observations about CRE lending risk management practices. The article also describes the FDIC’s forward-looking supervisory focus for banks with significant exposure in this sector. The FDIC noted that inflation, rising interest rates, and supply chain challenges are possible determinants of increased risk. The article, Subordinated Debt: Issuance and Investment Considerations, “is intended to help financial institutions better understand the applicable capital, investment, and financial reporting requirements for the issuance of and investment in subordinated debt.” According to the FDIC, a key takeaway of Subordinated Debt Investments is that “[i]nstitutions may generally only purchase investment grade subordinated debt securities that are permissible investments for national banks.”
On August 2, the FDIC, OCC, and NCUA (collectively, “the agencies”) issued a notice in the Federal Register soliciting public comment on an updated policy statement regarding accommodations and workouts for commercial real estate (CRE) loans whose borrowers are experiencing financial difficulty. In 2009, the Policy Statement on Prudent Commercial Real Estate Loan Workouts was issued by the FFIEC, which the agencies view “as being useful for both agency staff and financial institutions in understanding risk management and accounting practices for  CRE loan workouts.” Among other things, the statement would include (i) a new section on short-term loan accommodations; (ii) information about changes in accounting principles since 2009; and (iii) revisions and additions to examples of CRE loan workouts. The new updated statement would also “address relevant accounting changes on estimating loan losses and provide updated examples of how to classify and account for loans modified or affected by loan accommodations or loan workout activity.” Specifically, the agencies seek input on how the document reflects sound practices in CRE loan accommodation and what additional information can be included to optimize the guidance of managing CRE loan portfolios.
On March 29, the OCC issued Bulletin 2022-7 version 2.0 of the “Commercial Real Estate Lending” booklet of the Comptroller's Handbook. The booklet rescinds version 1.1 of the booklet of the same title issued in January 2017 and Bulletin 2013-19, “Commercial Real Estate Lending: Comptroller's Handbook Revisions and Rescissions.” Among other things, the revised booklet: (i) indicates changes to laws and regulations since the booklet was last updated; (ii) reflects the agency’s issuances published and rescinded since the booklet was last updated; (iii) provides clarifying edits regarding supervisory guidance, sound risk management practices, and legal language; and (vi) resends certain content for clarifying purposes.
On February 16, the New York governor signed S898, which amends the state’s recently enacted commercial financing disclosure law to expand its coverage and delay the effective date. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in December 2020, the governor signed S5470, which establishes consumer-style disclosure requirements for certain commercial transactions under $500,000. The law exempts (i) financial institutions (defined as a chartered or licensed bank, trust company, industrial loan company, savings and loan association, or federal credit union, authorized to do business in New York); (ii) lenders regulated under the federal Farm Credit Act; (iii) commercial financing transactions secured by real property; (iv) technology service providers; and (v) lenders who make no more than five applicable transactions in New York in a 12-month period. The law is currently set to take effect on June 21, which is 180 days after the December 23, 2020 enactment. As noted by the sponsor memo, prior to signing the law, the governor “expressed concerns about the reach of the bill and the time needed to implement the required rulemaking.” After enactment, the legislature introduced S898, which contains the “negotiated change to the underlying chapter [to] address those concerns.”
S898 increases the coverage of the consumer-style disclosure requirements to commercial transactions under $2.5 million and creates a new exemption for certain vehicle dealers. The law also extends the effective date to January 1, 2022.
On December 15, the FDIC approved a final rule (with accompanying fact sheet) that requires certain conditions and commitments for approval or non-objection to certain filings involving industrial banks and industrial loan companies (collectively, “industrial banks”), such as deposit insurance, change in bank control, and merger filings. The final rule is substantially similar to the proposed rule issued by the FDIC in March (covered by InfoBytes here) and applies to industrial banks whose parent company is not subject to consolidated supervision by the Federal Reserve Board. Specifically, the FDIC is now requiring a covered parent company to enter into written agreements with the FDIC and the industrial bank to: (i) address the company’s relationship with the industrial bank; (ii) require capital and liquidity support from the parent company to the industrial bank; and (iii) establish appropriate recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Additionally, the final rule requires prospective covered companies to agree to a minimum of eight commitments, which, for the most part, the FDIC has previously required as a condition of granting deposit insurance to industrial banks.
The final rule makes four substantive changes to the proposal: (i) requiring compliance from covered entities on or after the effective date of the rule rather than only after; (ii) requiring additional reporting regarding systems for protecting the security, confidentiality, and integrity of consumer and nonpublic personal information; (iii) increasing the threshold limiting the parent company’s representation on the board of the subsidiary industrial bank from 25 percent to less than 50 percent; and (iv) modifying the restrictions on appointments of directors and executives to apply only during the first three years of becoming a subsidiary of a covered parent company.
The final rule is effective April 1, 2021.
On December 8, the New Jersey attorney general announced an action against a merchant cash advance provider, its parent company, and six other associated entities (collectively, “defendants”) alleging the defendants violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) and the General Advertising Regulations through the marketing and transacting of their merchant cash advance (MCA) product. (The defendants are currently facing similar allegations from the FTC, covered by InfoBytes here.) According to the complaint, the defendants engaged in “unconscionable business practices, deceived consumers, and/or made false or misleading statements” by marketing and advertising an MCA product, which was allegedly structured as a short-term, high-cost loan. New Jersey argues that the MCA contracts contain terms that “eliminate the distinctions between loans (with fixed regular payments over a defined term) and legitimate MCAs (with variable payments tied to actual receivables and an undefined term).” New Jersey asserts that traditionally, MCA’s do not have a finite repayment term and thus, the fixed repayment period was the equivalent of a loan to its customers. Moreover, the agreements’ “fixed daily payments extracted from Consumers’ accounts have little to no relation to the businesses’ receivables.” Additionally, New Jersey asserts that the defendants allegedly engaged in unconscionable collection practices, including requiring consumers to sign, in their individual capacity and on behalf of their business, an Affidavit of Confessions of Judgment to obtain the MCA, which would allow judgment against both the Consumer’s business assets and personal assets in the event of a purported default. New Jersey is seeking a permanent injunction, civil penalties, restitution, and disgorgement.
Notably, the New Jersey complaint follows a recent enforcement action against a merchant cash advance provider in California (covered by InfoBytes here), where the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) found, in apparent contrast to the New Jersey action, that MCA agreements with an indefinite repayment period, among other things, operate as a loan equivalent by, placing the “risk of repayment on the merchant by leaving the repayment period open until fully repaid (with fees and interest).”
On November 12, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued a consent order with a commercial financing company, resolving allegations that the company’s merchant cash advance (MCA) product was structured as a lending transaction and offered to California merchants without first obtaining a license as required by the California Financing Law (CFL). According to the DFPI, the MCA agreements in question provide the company with “broad authority to declare ‘default’ on its merchants and when doing so may use extensive recourse allowed under its [a]greement,” including in the event of insufficient funds requiring the full funding amount to be repaid, which DFPI argues, “does not put the risk of the ‘purchase’ of receivables on [the financing company]’s shoulders, but rather the risk of repayment on the merchant’s shoulders, just like a loan.” Moreover, the agreements provide for an indefinite repayment period, placing the “risk of repayment on the merchant by leaving the repayment period open until fully repaid (with fees and interest).” The consent order distinguishes between outstanding and future receivables, noting that under California law, commercial financiers purchasing a share of a merchant’s outstanding receivables without recourse (e.g., factoring), is generally not considered lending, but there is no similar recognition by the legislature or courts with respect to future receivables.
The consent order requires the company to (i) desist from lending in California unless and until licensed under the CFL; (ii) refund fees or payments collected from California merchants in excess of the 10 percent state interest rate cap for non-CFL licensees; and (iii) pay $20,000 to the DFPI to cover the cost of the investigation.